"Horrible Bosses" (2011)

Horrible Bosses (2011)
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Running time: 98 minutes

Now I bet most of you were expecting a review of Cowboys & Aliens this week since I stated last week that I missed my opportunity to see it and would need to make up for it; but this is not the case! I had a choice between Cowboys & Aliens and Horrible Bosses and I decided to go with Horrible Bosses for two reasons: 1. because my girlfriend was more inclined to see it over Cowboys & Aliens, and 2. I haven’t reviewed many comedies if you don’t include laughably awful films like The Notebook and I felt I should give it another go. Most of the comedies I have reviewed I haven’t really reviewed too favorably (for example, The Hangover Part II), and I had high hopes for this film so I thought this could be my chance to review a comedy positively….

And boy am I going to!

Now Showing this week is Horrible Bosses, directed by Seth Gordon. Horrible Bosses tells the story of three friends named Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) who all hate their bosses: Dave (Kevin Spacey), Julia (Jennifer Aniston) and Bobby (Colin Farrell) respectively. These bosses are all terrible in their own way, Dave being a controlling psychopath, Julia being a nymphomaniac with no boundaries and Bobby being a greasy cocaine addict. Nick, Dale and Kurt all decide that their lives would be easier if their bosses just suddenly ceased living so they embark on the journey to kill their bosses. And good lord is it funny.

This film really made me sit down and figure out what it is in a comedy that is funny, or at least the funniest. And after a good long think I decided that it is chaos. Wait, scratch that, it is uncontrollable chaos that makes a comedy funny. And I think that the greatest way to generate chaos (at least in my opinion) is to give ordinary people a reason to want to commit a crime. I’ve looked back at all the comedies that I’ve watched and the ones that truly stick with me all involve a bumbling fool/s trying to pull off a crime. And I think that the reason crime works so well is because it actually has dire consequences attached to it all going wrong. When the scene is simply “quick, get untangled from each others’ clothes so your fiance doesn’t find you doing something that looks homosexual!”, what is the worst thing that could happen? She dumps him and he goes home and is really depressed for a while, but will eventually get over it. It may be funny, but not really a dire consequence. But if you’ve murdered someone and then have to convince a police officer that they are still alive by badly puppeteer-ing  their corpse to look like they’re still alive, what is the worst that can happen? You can go to prison or (in certain countries) be sentenced to death! Those are some dire consequences, and that scene would be very funny.

It is the latter kind of humour that makes up Horrible Bosses, and it works really well. There is the occasional joke involving graphic sexual humour, but most of them are in the context of Jennifer Aniston’s evil character which works for the plot. In fact, the odd situation of a man feeling sexually harassed in the workplace was one of my favourite things about this film!

On a final note, the cast of this film is fantastic. The three lead guys all perform admirably, my only complaints would be that Dale’s high pitch whine can get a bit annoying and Jason Bateman seems to have fallen into Michael Cera’s trap of just having one character in almost everything he’s in; but Jason Bateman’s stock character isn’t annoying beyond Arrested Development like Cera’s is so I can forgive him somewhat. And Bateman’s character actually makes sense for this film so it could be worse. The three bosses, however, are the real stars of the show. Kevin Spacey is wonderful as the psychotic Dave Harken, he just oozes his ego-maniacal bile with such precision. Jennifer Aniston’s sexed-up Julia is just brilliant and Colin Farrell’s coked-up Bobby is so disgustingly politically incorrect it made me jealous! I highly recommend this film to anyone out for a comedy that is actually of a decent caliber, especially after that atrocity known as The Hangover Part II. See you next time!

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"Pitch Black" (2000)

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Pitch Black (2000)
Directed by: David Twohy
Running time: 109 minutes

Hello everyone. I was planning to review Horrible Bosses this week as I thought it would be released by now but it turns out I was a week ahead of myself and it doesn’t come out in Australia until next week. So since I also didn’t get the chance to watch Cowboys & Aliens either, I’m reviewing an older film that I watched on Blu-Ray earlier in the week. Enjoy!

Now Showing this week is Pitch Black which was directed by David Twohy and had its cinematic release back in 2000. It told the story of a working class transport ship that, while travelling through deep space, came in contact with some loose debris from a nearby comet. The debris punctured the hull, through the captain’s cryo-stasis tube and killing him, and cause the ship to begin losing pressure. The navigation officer Fry (Radha Mitchell) instigates a rather destructive emergency landing on a nearby desert planet. They suffer heavy casualties but a small group of survivors made it out alive. However, one of the passengers on board the ship is an escaped serial killer named Riddick (Vin Diesel) who was being transported back to jail, and since the crash he has disappeared. Now the survivors must find a way to either call for help or fly off this planet, all the while a dangerous serial killer is on the loose. The survivors also get the impression that there are creatures living under the ground of the planet, unable to come out into the sun. The planet having three suns means that they shouldn’t be an issue; but with a title like “Pitch Black”, one assumes that the daylight is only temporary…

This film was a favourite of mine when I was a kid, simply because I love a good monster sci-fi movie. But watching it now, I realise that there is more in it then I originally saw at 10 years old. The development of Fry and Riddick was not really apparent to me when I originally saw it. And while Fry’s development was a very simple “jaded at the beginning of the film, but compassionate by the end” sort of deal, Riddick is a very interesting character. You’d think he would be a simple “monster at beginning, human being by the end” character, but he actually goes through several changes back and forth. But then I ask myself, does he really? Perhaps he was a monster for the entire thing, just a very clever monster. I’d have to spoil the film to explain further, so I won’t, but I found him to be a very interesting character (particularly for a Vin Diesel character!).

The one major complaint I would have for this film is the lighting. Not that it’s too dark, for a film called “Pitch Black” I would expect it to be dark, just when the suns go down behind the other planets there is sometimes more light on screen then could be believably created by the survivors. Most of the time these are explainable by a tiny glow of the suns on the rim of the planet in the sky; or the slight twinkle of stars; but there are a few times when you look at the film and think “wow, they are quite well lit for a bunch of people carrying burning liquor bottles!”.

But if that is my only complaint for the film then I reckon that isn’t too bad. Everything else is quite good: the monsters are scary (and mainly hidden, which is a plus for horror!), the acting is fine and so is the character development. Now, the character development isn’t like Lord of the Rings or something; but the opening sections, before the monsters come out, give the audience an indication of the kinds of people each one of the survivors are and that later justifies the actions they make once the film gets into motion. A lot of them don’t develop since their flaws get them killed, but they all make sense which is something I appreciate. A character doesn’t necessarily have to develop across a story as long as all their decisions make sense to the audience based on their established character traits.

In closing, I suggest you check Pitch Black out. Just don’t check out the sequel: The Chronicles of Riddick. It was disappointing like having a great meal at a restaurant, and then on returning for a second time all you were served was the chef’s excrement on a plate. See you next time!

"Green Lantern" (2011)

Green Lantern (2011)
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Running time: 114 minutes.

Hey howdy everybody! So I know this review will be coming a bit late to those of you in the United States, but we only just got this film over here in Australia so I’ve only now seen it. And man did I go into it with low expectations due to critic responses from over on your end! Some of those reviews were brutal, particularly a reviewing favourite of mine MovieBob’s over on the Escapist. So, on with the show!

Now Showing this week is Green Lantern, directed by Martin Campbell, and an addition into the DC comics films that isn’t Batman or Superman (finally!). Don’t get me wrong, loving the new Batman movies (Christopher Nolan is a genius!), but I was keen to see something different that I also knew nothing about since I have never read a Green Lantern comic book in my life. But the result, sadly, is a very big sigh….

Green Lantern tells the tale of a fighter pilot named Hal Jordan (played fairly well by Ryan Reynolds) who is chosen by a dying alien to join the “Green Lanterns” and to fight against an enemy known only as “Parallax”. Parallax has been absorbing the fear of countless planets, growing ever stronger, and is heading towards Earth. Clearly, it is up to Jordan to figure out how to defeat him.

And that’s really all there is to the plot really. Sure, there’s a romantic subplot, but it’s such a massive snooze-fest that we don’t really seem to care about it. I mean, Jordan is mildly interesting and at least he’s entertaining, but Carol (Blake Lively) is so boring and incredibly UN-interesting that the whole romance part of the story is just pointless and merely a reason for Jordan to receive a few speeches about overcoming fear.

Oh yeah, that reminds me, I had a real issue with how stupid the thing about where everyone get’s their power from was. I mean, I know it’s a superhero movie, so I can accept the idea that they draw on qualities about themselves for power. The Green Lanterns gain their strength from their fearlessness and courage, and Parallax literally feeds off of the fear of his victims. However, when a character utters the words (and I kid you not!): “and he harnessed the yellow power of fear, and thus became Parallax!” I believe the occasion calls for a face-palm! “The yellow power of fear”? Seriously?! I’m sorry, but the idea of it being the colour of the bad guy being the weakness of the heroes is unbelievably awful. Just awful. And if you’re all jumping up in arms saying “that’s how it is in the comics!” then the comics are awful too. The yellow crap aside, I found the villain Parallax to be pretty cool. He was a lot cooler before you got a good look at him however. Or at least, he was a lot more intimidating.

There was another villain in the film who, now that I think about it, wasn’t really necessary. He was this scientist who has a thing for Carol and he ends up getting infected with part of Parallax and mutating. And that’s really all he does (as well as some creepy stalker-ish hair sniffing). I mean, we have a huge, destructive, intergalactic cloud of fear coming to destroy to planet; do we really need this other guy? It’s not like he actually did anything to further the story, he just hung around getting steadily uglier.

On a positive note, I did appreciate how different Jordan (or all the Green Lanterns for that matter) is as a superhero. You look at Batman, Captain America, Thor etc. and they’re all just really good at punching and kicking people, with the occasional special ability to aid them in more punching and kicking. Jordan on the other hand, he has a ring that allows him to create any weapon or thing that he wants! It was pretty cool to see him first make a pool of water to save a falling person and then jump into a giant set of anti-aircraft canons and start pummeling the bad guy with it; rather then watch him simply be really good at kung-fu for a few minutes. This whole “anything he can imagine” thing does lead to a giant loop hole that he could simply imagine “a gun that can kill clouds-of-fear-monsters in a single shot” and then boom; however I did find it refreshing to see something different, even if it isn’t perfect.

Lastly, the Green Lantern suit itself looked really bad, since the production team decided to add it using CGI onto Jordan’s body rather then actually making a suit for him. This made it look weird since it didn’t always crease in places it should crease when he moves around etc. Just a poor decision really. But I did appreciate how Carol pointed out that “just because I can’t see your cheek bones” didn’t mean she didn’t recognise him. That got a chuckle out of me.

In closing, this film is pretty terrible, I don’t blame you guys in the US for thinking so. I don’t agree that it is such an insult to cinema as many people did, but it is quite awful. All the really good actors had minor roles (such as Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan, Mark Strong, etc.) and Ryan Reynolds had very little to work with. Blake Lively was just terrible, she was bland and had a constant monotone that was painful to sit through. Ok I guess that isn’t true; it wasn’t painful, but she was really bad. The film was watchable, but if you actually have your brain switched on, even the tiniest bit, you realise how bad the whole thing really is.

See you next time!

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (2011)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Running time: 105 minutes

Hello readers, I hope I am finding you well. I’ve had an interesting week in terms of film watching as I have seen a wide range of things. Not wide in the sense of numerous, but more in the sense of diversity. I re-watched the 1990 film Misery, based upon the Stephen King novel of the same name, which is fantastic. It is an unbelievably suspenseful tale of a writer held prisoner by his “number one”/psychotic fan and is well worth a watch. I also watched The Myth (2005) in my Asian Cinema class at Uni, which was a combination of kung-fu film and Indiana Jones style adventure. It was weird seeing Jackie Chan speaking Asian languages but still enjoyable, if a bit ridiculous towards the end. And lastly I have just seen the overly long titled: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And that latter film is the one I have chosen to talk about today, so let’s get to it!

Now Showing this week is Rise of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Ruper Wyatt. I was extremely wary of this film initially, as from the look of the trailers it seemed like a really cheesy, cliched “science experiment gone wrong” kind of film, and also a needless prequel to an average Tim Burton remake or a film that is long out of the memories of anyone under fifty years old (the film isn’t clear as to which version of the original it is connected to). However, when I went to see Captain America: The First Avenger last week, I saw a new trailer for this film that made it look like a completely different film. And a completely different film it was.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes tells the story of scientist Will Rodman (James Franco), who is trying to create a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and motivated to do so because his father is suffering from it. Rodman is testing his cure on chimpanzees, and after a catastrophic failure involving a loose specimen, he is ordered to kill all the chimps and cease his research. However, one of the chimps recently gave birth and Rodman, not being able to kill the baby, sneaks it out of the lab to the safety of his home. He soon discovers that this chimp (who he names Caesar) has inherited the cure for Alzheimer’s and it has seriously increased his brain function, allowing him to be taught to understand speech, be able to sign a limited vocabulary, and have complex thought processes, over a number of years. Unfortunately, after a series of altercations, Caesar is taken away by Animal Control and exposed to the cruelty some people have towards animals, making him question his loyalties to the human species.

First off, let me say just how brilliant the apes are in this film. The way they have been created in the film is beautiful to watch; their faces are full of emotion and life that allows us to understand what they are thinking and feeling without the need for speech. Caesar himself (played admirably by Andy Serkis of Gollum fame) steals the show with such an amazing performance. On top of their visual beauty, it must be mentioned that the way in which the film handles the whole “intelligent apes” thing is brilliant. Caesar doesn’t become super smart overnight, as the drug doesn’t include an education, just a higher brain function. He is seen being taught all the things he knows, and everything he is taught is not radically outside the capabilities of a real chimpanzee. Apes, as we all know, are fairly close to humans in their physical capabilities, so the fact that he can understand speech as well as respond in sign language (to a primitive degree) isn’t that far fetched with higher brain function. I was petrified that this film was going to be horribly quick with introducing the intelligent apes but it takes its time, and it pays off. The science behind the cure is explained, but I don’t have enough scientific knowledge to know how plausible it is; but in the context of this “not too distant future” reality it works. Caesar is a character that we really connect with on a deeply emotional level.

I cannot, however, say the same about the humans. In comparison to the apes and their relationships with each other, the humans are cardboard cut-outs. Rodman has a character, but he simply plays his role rather than having much depth. All the other characters do much the same without any real character behind them. Rodman’s girlfriend is just there for no real reason; Tom Felton plays an animal hating jerk so as to incite Caesar’s rage etc but none of them have much depth. And they didn’t really need to since most of the story is about Caesar and his struggle with human society. It just would have been nice if the human characters had as much depth in their relationships as Caesar does to, say, his right hand gorilla.

But, the film is quite good, and has really interesting conflict between man and animal. And that conflict really takes you over! I found myself internally cheering the apes on, feeling both scared yet triumphant when they began to fight back. And the third act involving lots of human vs. ape combat is fantastic and not entirely ridiculous as the initial trailers had me to believe. Unfortunately, this all built up to a rather unsatisfying conclusion, but not unsatisfying enough for me to dislike the film. I would recommend this to others, no doubt about it.

See you next time!

"Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Running time: 124 minutes

Since during this last week I have had a record low of pageviews on my reviews, I have discerned that none of you are interested in my reviews of films that are not current and/or not ver well known. Whilst my reviews of The Notebook and The Prestige have had very high views, The Reef and Two Lane Blacktop have hardly any at all in comparision. So I’ve decided that that is probably the reason; that or that I have somehow lost all my fans in a short space of time. Please prove me wrong by “liking” the facebook page at the top of this post, I’d very much appreciate it. But now I shall provide you with the kind of reviews you desire by reviewing Marvel Studios’ latest production: Captain America: The First Avenger!

Now Showing this week is Captain America: The First Avenger, directed by Joe Johnston. Captain Ameria tells the story of a feeble man named Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans), a man who has been denied by the US military five times during World War II, and how he came to be the man chosen to be part of an experiment to create an army of American super-soldiers. The result: Captain America, an incredibly muscular, clean cut super hero who is ready to kick some Nazi ass in the name of the US of A. Meanwhile, a Nazi extremist scientist codenamed “the Red Skull” (played by Hugo Weaving) is experimenting with an artifact called the Cosmic Cube, which those of you paying attention in the previous film Thor will recognise as an object from Thor’s father Odin’s vault. Red Skull is trying to harness it’s power so as to, you guessed it, destory the entire world.

Now I must say that I rather enjoyed this film. It wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot, but I thoroughly enjoyed it despite it’s faults. It’s chief fault for me was the corniness of the whole thing, as the entire film was coated with a “God bless America! *tear*” sensibility. But I suppose that was unavoidable given that (from what I’ve learned from the living comic book encyclopedia MovieBob) the Captain America comics were created during World War II as a means to give Americans hope with a super strong man, bearing the ol’ patriotic red-white-n-blue, could give Hitler a punch in the face and that there was still hope that the Allies could conquer the Nazi forces. It just would not be based on it’s original source material if it wasn’t this corny, and to be honest, it didn’t really detract from the film. It was actually kind of entertaining and uplifting, and I’m Australian! However, it was very hard not to laugh nor take anything seriously whenever anyone said: “let’s hear it for Captain America! YEAH!”

Storyline wise, I find it hard to fault the film. It definitely isn’t the cerebral mind bending thriller of the year, but each sequence of events and character decision made logical sense to me. Okay, so the whole Captain America being a propaganda/entertainment symbol was a bit unnessecary and wasn’t a logical choice by the characters (I mean, you just made the world’s strongest man so why not, you know, make him go punch Hitler in the face?), but other then that it worked well enough. Which in this day and age of stupid illogical plot progressions (I’m looking at you Transformers 2 & 3), it’s a refreshing turn around.

One complaint I heard in regards to this film was the fact that there was so much futuristic technology in the 1940s, and I have to say that I disagree for several reasons. The first being that without these technologies, there would be no film! You can’t have Captain America without there being the technology to create him, can you? Secondly, the film’s villain is harnessing the power of technology created by the freakin’ Norse gods! I don’t think a failure of a hover car is too much of a leap. And lastly, in films such as Iron Man, which are clearly in the same timeline given all these films are linking up to next year’s The Avengers, there are giant fusion reactors and the kind of technology to create a self powered super suit that can fly, go into space and carry lots of missles that can destory tanks! All that tech had to start somewhere, so why not with Howard Stark’s (Iron Man’s father) experiments back in the 40s? Seems to work for me, or at least within the logic the films have presented us.

Lastly, the special effects in this film were quite impressive. For one, the entire Harry Potter film series could learn from Captain America because it managed to achieve something that Harry Potter did not. And that is to have a villain who is bald, with no nose and still be intimidating, creepy and not look like a weak, chemotherapy retard! Red Skull looks fantastic, and Hugo Weaving is barely recognisable once he is in true form. Further on the special effects side, however they made Chris Evans look like a skinny, short weakling was very impressive but failed to be believable because he still had Chris Evans’ voice. They made him look amazing, you could honestly believe there was an actor that looked like him only tiny on set, but the fact that he still had a deep, tough manly voice just seemed plain wrong.

Captain America: The First Avenger (dunno why they needed that subtitle, it’s a bit pointless) is not as good as Iron Man or Thor were; but it was still enjoyable and fulfilled it’s purpose of introducing us to the character of Steve Rogers before he appears alongside Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Nick Fury, Black Widow and Hawkeye in the upcoming The Avengers. Now to me, The Avengers seems like something that is so ambitious and so huge that without some epic talent behind the writing and directing it will flat on its face. I’ve been afraid of this being the outcome in the past, but ever since I heard that Joss Whedon is handling both tasks of writing and directing, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. The man is amazing, and with the possible exception of Christopher Nolan being in charge, I couldn’t think of a better man to put my faith in. So yeah, I’m keen for May 2012 to come around. Very keen indeed.

See you next time!