"The Reef" (2010)

The-Reef-poster-2011

The Reef (2010)
Directed by: Andrew Traucki
Running time: 88 minutes

Howdy readers! My apologies for the lengthy gaps between reviews recently, I have had a very busy week at uni (often staying until late at night) for rehearsals. And given I did two reviews in the one week last time, I decided to have a break and come back to it today. So here I am! Let’s cut to the chase shall we?

Now Showing this week is The Reef directed by Andrew Traucki. It is an Australian film showing just how dangerous the Australian wildlife is by telling the story of five people who are out sailing onto the Great Barrier Reef. While they are out there, their boat is punctured by some coral and it capsizes. This then leaves them stranded and with a difficult decision: do they stay with potentially sinking wreck, or do they swim north through open water to an island that they believe to be there. Those that decided to swim find themselves being hunted by the ultimate predator: the Great White Shark.

I should just get this out of the way: I am a huge sucker for shark movies. Ever since I was little I have loved sharks; particularly the Great White, it was always my favourite. I was always fascinated by the fact that they are some of the oldest animals on the planet (going back to before the dinosaurs) and that meant that they are the perfectly evolved predator. They can sense a single drop of blood in a million drops of water, from miles away! Their speed and agility is unmatched in the ocean. I suppose my love of them as a child came from the classic childish competition of “my favourite animal could beat your favourite animal!”. And in my case, I was right! Unless the other kid’s animal was a killer whale, then it would have to come down to a thumb war.

Anyway, the movie! I was very impressed by how tense the scenes in the open water were. My body was extremely tense for the duration of those scenes, and the friend I watched it with was curled up in a ball for majority of the film. And the aspect of it all that I would attribute this to would be the cinematography. The cinematography was nothing special, it wasn’t the rotating corridor in Inception, but it was the fact that the director clearly knew what were expecting to happen. The audience is expecting to see a fin pop up in the distance that the characters don’t notice; they’re expecting to see the shark in the distant gloom of the ocean. And the cinematography lined up these shots (some in the distance above the surface and looking back at the people or a point of view shot underwater checking for danger) but then nothing happens! And you’d think that would be a relief, as in “the shark’s not around, we’re fine!” kind of thing, but no. It just raised the tension even more, and when the shark comes out to play it is just adrenaline pumping.

Sadly, however, the actual talking parts of the film left a lot to be desired. There are plenty of cliches that result in the necessary lead up to shark time, but there were numerous attempts to make us actually care about the people and their back story which were pretty awful. One of the men and one of the women were “on a break” in their relationship and it is never exactly clear why or how serious they were together. Their private conversations were simply a series of short/single word responses and some very out of place kissing. If anything, I don’t think I identified with the characters at all; more I saw them as blank slates that I could substitute for myself in the situation. And that’s where the real horror came from for me, the idea of how I would feel out there in the middle of the ocean, at the mercy of my favourite animal.

But who the heck watches shark movies for the people?! Sure the characters were bland and boring, but they performed admirably well at being stalked and eaten by the shark so the main part of the experience was excellent. That’s what I signed on for and that’s what I got, an adrenaline pumping eighty minutes with a Great White Shark. I would recommend this film to anyone else looking for the same thing, but perhaps you should fast forward the opening half an hour until the tension starts to build. Then again, if I suggest you have to skip the beginning then it can’t have been a good film. So maybe it wasn’t, but I thoroughly enjoyed the latter sections with the shark. Man, it’s rare for me to be this torn between liking and not liking something. Anyway, enough pondering, I shall see you next time!

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"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" (2011)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)
Directed by: David Yates
Running time: 130 minutes

Right, I can already tell this is going to be a long one so let’s just skip my introduction and go straight into it! I will however put a HUGE SPOILER WARNING here as I do plan to go into major details of the plot, but I’m assuming that’s not a problem since I would say you probably either have already seen the film/read the book/don’t really care.

Now Showing this week is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, directed by David Yates (who directed most of the Harry Potter films), and is the conclusion to the ten years in the making franchise. I guess I am now able to say: about bloody time! Don’t get me wrong, I liked Harry Potter in the beginning (mainly the books, some of the films); but I found that after the book The Prisoner of Azkaban that I was finding little nitpicks with books and after The Order of the Phoenix I was just outright bored with them. I remember reading The Half-Blood Prince one night and putting it down for the night to suddenly notice I was two hundred pages from the end and nothing had really happened! So I guess for me I was done with Harry Potter after my disappointment with the sixth book and that was a long time ago back in 2005. So after six years, I’m happy the rest of the world can move on too.

I suppose I should place a quick plot premise here: Harry, Ron and Hermione are still trying to locate the last of the Horcruxes (objects that contain the fragments of villain Lord Voldemort’s soul) so they can end the conflict between the good guys and the Death Eaters before they completely trash Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. They are in a race against time as they must defeat Voldemort before he can gain the complete power of the Elder Wand (the most powerful wand in the world, and one of the three Deathly Hallows). Gigantic battle ensues.

Now, given what I’ve said earlier, I’m not saying that the films are terrible because they aren’t. They are watchable, they are good fun with some witty script work but their main appeal is the special effects. And this film had them in force! The battle sequences were breath taking, and a refreshing viewing of colours rather than simple browns and explosions. Here there are greens, reds, blues and many, many other spell colours flying through the air and causing much carnage. So, props to the visual effects department, they earned their stripes with this one.

The acting in these films has also been top notch. I know a lot of people had issues with the actors because they didn’t fit their dream imagining of the characters from the novels; but (as an actor myself) I’ve got to hand it to Daniel Radcliffe for undertaking the challenge of portraying one of the most beloved characters in history and coming out the other side with a solid performance. That takes a lot of confidence and skill and he should be congratulated on that. In fact, most of the main characters should be.

However, as I have said earlier, I had some issues with the last two books, especially the last one. There were some things that didn’t make sense to me but I do admit that sometimes specific details can pass by me when reading a book so I thought that this film would clear them up for me. Yeah, it didn’t. The film still had the major issues I had with the novel, which didn’t really surprise me as I would assume the film would be faithful to the novel! So, here we go:

I’ll just get a general one out of the way first: Voldemort is just terrible in the films. The way he speaks like a raspy child molester and looks an idiot just majorly detracts from the power he should have over the audience. And that power should be that he is terrifying! We are supposed to fear him! I thought that this was just an issue with me personally, perhaps another “I imagined it differently in the books” scenario, but oh no! I can now confidently base this claim off the audience of hardcore Harry Potter fans at the midnight launch I attended because they were laughing at Voldemort during his triumphant, imposing and villainous moments. LAUGHING! Unless I’m gravely mistaken, that’s the last thing you want your audience doing when the bad guy is seeming to have won the battle.

Ok, now we’re on to the huge one and that being the overly complicated methods to gain control of the Elder Wand. Let me see if I got this right: the Elder Wand was buried with Dumbledore’s body, which was dug up by Voldemort and stolen. However, the wand only answers to whomever defeated the previous owner of the wand, so Voldemort promptly kills Professor Snape (who killed Dumbledore). But the wand still doesn’t work for Voldemort because Draco Malfoy was the first person to disarm Dumbledore on the night of his death, so the wand will only answer to him. But in the last film, Harry disarmed Malfoy so the wand will only answer to Harry. Ergo, the wand won’t work for Voldemort unless Voldemort defeats Harry.

Now, there are a few problems here. The biggest one for me is the fact that when Malfoy initially disarmed Dumbledore, Dumbledore was not using the Elder Wand since he takes it to his grave and the Death Eaters didn’t take it. And even if he did have it with him, Malfoy wasn’t using it when Harry disarmed him (since the wand was in Dumbledore’s grave at the time); so pretty much this wand can switch owners even when the owner isn’t using it. Meaning I could have possession of the Elder Wand, but I’m attacking you with a knife while the wand is safely in my vault. You disarm me of the knife and wand says “oh wow man, you couldn’t keep hold of your knife, you’re not worthy of me anymore!” and decides to not work for me when I get it out of my vault. How stupid is that system?! You can earn the most powerful wand, without having to face the person while they are wielding it?! Come on J.K. Rowling, how pathetic is that?

Furthermore, let’s just say that system is OK (cause the books and films seem to think so!) and that Harry has control of the Elder Wand the entire time. Then surely that would have changed when Voldemort killed Harry! Voldemort defeated the person who had control of the Elder Wand, therefore by the book/film’s own logic, he now has complete control of the most powerful wand in the world. But he doesn’t, given Harry comes back from the dead and uses a simple Expelliarmus charm to defeat Voldemort’s Avada Kedavra (I see what you did there J.K.!) curse. How has this just slipped everyone by?!

Speaking of Harry being killed, what the hell brought him back to life? I know everyone is going to say “the Resurrection Stone!” but that can’t be right, again by the book/film’s own logic. In the story of the Deathly Hallows, it is said that the man who asked for the Resurrection Stone killed himself because all the stone can do is bring back a ghost of a loved one, not actually resurrect the dead. So I ask again: what the hell brought Harry back to life?! Do you know? Because I don’t!

My last problem was with the death of Voldemort. They defeated all the Horcruxes which means that Voldemort is now vulnerable to death. He and Harry fire curses at each other, Harry’s a non-violent disarming curse while Voldemort’s is the killing curse, and the two spells clash in the middle. Somehow Harry’s disarming curse bests the killing one and he takes the Elder Wand from Voldemort. Then Voldemort just fragments into nothing. Wait a minute, what? Sure Harry disarmed the guy, but my understanding is that they still need to kill him with a killing curse now that the Horcruxes are gone. Or did J.K. Rowling just kill her major villain of seven parts with non-lethal disarming charm? I suppose I wouldn’t put it past her at this point.

Alright, if you haven’t read the books and are keenly awaiting the conclusion of the film series then you’re going to like this film. It isn’t a bad film, I enjoyed watching it, it’s just that these plot holes and inconsistencies lead to a disappointing conclusion to a ten year long saga, in my opinion. I began reading the books when I was eleven, the age Harry Potter is at the start of the books, so I was growing at Harry’s rate and loving the adventure. And to get to the end of this huge saga that I literally grew up with and have such a jumbled and illogical ending like that? You can imagine my disappointment and rage. On that note, the epilogue is just as vomit-inducing in the film as it was in the book; yet another terrible idea from J.K. Rowling. But I must say, the film wasn’t awful but it just wasn’t amazing either. Unlike many of the people in the audience I saw the film with, I shed no tears at the conclusion of this franchise. See you next time!  

"Bridesmaids" (2011)

Bridesmaids (2011)
Directed by: Paul Feig
Running time: 125 minutes

Hello internet! My apologies for not bringing you a review of a current blockbuster film, but the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 does not launch here until tomorrow night. So instead I’m going to review a film that is guarenteed (unless something amazingly crazy happens tomorrow night!) to be a better film than Harry Potter 7.2: Bridesmaids! So, on with the show.

Now Showing this week is Bridemaids, directed by Paul Feig, and is a film I wasn’t particularly expecting to like. I know it’s not good to go into a film with a preconception as to it’s quality, but I must say when I heard that it was about a bunch of middle aged bridesmaids having crazy shenanigans I did have a little doubt as to the amount of enjoyment I would receive from watching it. Well, I must tip my hat to Bridesmaids, because I enjoyed it very much! The plot revolved around a woman named Annie (played brilliantly by Kristen Wiig, who also co-wrote the film) who’s best friend Lillian is about to get married and has asked her to be her Maid of Honour. Unfortunately, one of Lillian’s new friends, who is also a bridesmaid, is stealing all of Annie’s thunder and is threatening to replace her as Lillian’s best friend. I guess that’s the premise in a nutshell.

Now I know that that premise sounds like the biggest snooze-fest in history, and that the actual act of watching the film would cause one’s sperm count to drop; but, when you couple that scenario with some excellent character depth on Annie’s part and some excellent comedic material, and sir you have a film that might actually increase your sperm count! I rather enjoyed the depth of Annie’s character. From the tragedy of her failed business to her inimacy issues, she made for a very interesting character.

But the main focus of this film is the comedy, which makes sense given it’s a comedy. Bar a few situations, the humour wasn’t simple gross out gags but actual examples of wonderful comedic delivery and wit. This was especially true of the character Meagan, an overweight bridesmaid. Again bar a few instances, her humour was not about the fact that she was overweight but from her quirky and hilarious personality. And to top her off, she even had a beautiful serious moment that took me by surprise. Also, an honourable mention goes to the rivalry between Annie and Lillian’s new best friend, it is often priceless!

I did have a few issues with the film however. As I have mentioned, there were a few moments where they just made fat jokes or a vomit gag. And while most of them were relevant to the events of the film, there was one during the credits that was just unnessecary and made me a little disappointed that they kept it in the film as it was just unpleasent. The film was also a bit long. Not “oh God, just end already!” like The Fighter, no no; more in the sense that I suddenly realised “wow, I’ve actually been sitting here for a fair while!”.

But if those are the only complaints that I have then that’s pretty good. This film reminded me of the first Hangover film; a film I wasn’t expecting to be any good but turned out to be a really good comedy that I thoroughly enjoyed. But I also believe, just like The Hangover, that they should not make a sequel as it will never be able to achieve what the first one did. So, go see Bridesmaids, it is really enjoyable (especially the entire section on the plane!). See you next time for overly long titled Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2!

"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (2011)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
Directed by: Michael Bay
Running time: 157 minutes

Hello everyone! Before I get started, I just wanted to announce that “Now Showing” has it’s very own Facebook page! It is located here:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Now-Showing-with-Tom-Heath/194109547304981

On the page you can recieve all my blog updates without having to be my friend on Facebook, as well as get links to things I find that are interesting in the world of film and TV. So please become a fan of the page and make you’re reading experience so much easier! And now that that is out of the way, on to the review!

Now Showing this week is Transformers: Dark of the Moon, directed by Michael Bay who directed the previous two films in the trilogy. If you read my last review then I’m sure you’re all dying to know if I thought this one was any good given I hated the previous film. Ok, you probably weren’t dying to know, but in answer to the question I have to say: no, it wasn’t that good. BUT it was a hell of a lot better then Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen! Also, I might just throw up a spoiler warning here just in case. I don’t plan on spoiling any major plot points, but just on the off chance I say more then a spoiler free person wants to hear, you have been warned!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon continues the adventrues of Sam Witwicky and his involvement in the ongoing war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. This time around, Sam is struggling to find a job as well as contentment in his life since it seems dating/sleeping with Carly (played by Victoria Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, look her up) isn’t enough for him! Meanwhile, the Autobots have discovered that humanity has known about an Autobot spacecraft wreck up on the surface of the Moon and that the Moon landing of 1969 was the initial mission to discover it’s power. That power being an Autobot named Sentinal Prime and his “pillars” that can teleport anything from Cybertron to their location. So of course, Megatron and his crew want to get their hands on them so they can get an army of Decepticons to kick Earth’s ass!

Let me begin with some positives, the action was very good. I was only confused once as to who was fighting whom in the battle sequences and the sequence involving a squad of marines, a toppling skyscraper and Decepticon Shockwave, was fantastic! I did not go see the film in 3D and was fully aware that that was against all other critic recommendations. The fight scenes in the previous films were hard enough to comprehend in two dimensions, I ain’t gonna tackle three! Also, I guess the acting was good, no real complaints. All the performance problems were not acting related per se, just the characters being terrible!

Now on to the good stuff! First complaint, does everything in the Transformers films now have to be funny? I don’t mean that I hated that it was very comedic; I mean that every single plot development had to be comedic, there wasn’t a single one that wasn’t! Military honcho Frances Mearing briefing Optimus Prime on the Moon landing situation involving her saying: “the bag?” to her assistant, the assitant saying awkwardly while holding lots of bags: “which bag?” and then Mearing replying by hurridly whispering the brand and material style of the bag. Sam has a watch placed on him that transmits everything he hears around him to the villains and also electricutes him if he disobeys orders. While wearing it, he is constantly trying to warn people he is wearing it and it shocks him, causing him to turn bright red, seize up and his arm the flail wildly. Sam meets a NASA informant who wants to secretly pass him information, but he’s played by Ken Jeong (one of the worst things to happen to cinema in recent years) who must be loud and insinuating homosexually by cornering Sam in toilet cubicles.

Is any of that necessary? No! Mearing and her bag is just sexist: “don’t worry folks! The strong, confident women is still obsessed with accessorising!”. Sam and his watch is just so stupid and it also makes every other character look even more stupid since it would be bloody obvious to anyone with even a quarter of a mind to notice something was wrong with him! And as for Ken Jeong, that’s just there to get some awkward “ha ha, everyone thinks he’s gay now!” jokes into the film. Trust me, Jeong’s demise made me say, aloud, “thank god for that!”

Second complaint, plot holes. They didn’t learn from the last film it seems, as there are some major plot holes in this film as well. The big one is that given the nature and details of the Decepticons evil plan, why the heck are they only implementing it now? They clearly knew about the damn pillars since the beginning of the first film, so why not start the plan after they gained a chunk of the All Spark by the end of the first film? The writers seem to have actually made the second film redundant! There are some other plot holes but to explain them would involve further details to plot twists so I shall not go into them.

Lastly, there were some serious issues with editing in conjunction with the story unfolding. The biggest example of this, for me, was when Megatron says “seal off the city!” and then cut to a shot of Chicago, and then suddenly cut to another section of Chicago at night time, then cut to another section of Chicago being bombarded by giant Decepticon spaceships flying around! Um, where the crap did the spaceships come from?! I could guess as to where (from the teleport device), but the film doesn’t show it or offer any explanation of it’s own. All we see come out of that device is Decepticon foot soldiers, not flying death machines!

I guess now I’m being too picky, but it was very jarring for me. So, all in all, the film was pretty bad. Not Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen bad, but bad nonetheless. It still had a lot of the same problems: plot holes, unnecessary (lame) humour, the parents being really annoying, the whole package. But, I can say with much relief that the incredibly racist “Twins” were not to be seen! See you next time!