Wonder Woman – Review

An action-adventure film that is worthy of the praise it’s getting, Wonder Woman is a excellent example of what we could hope to see from more DC films.

Wonder Woman tells the story of Princess Diana of Themyscira, an island paradise secluded from the rest of the world, who yearns to see the world of man. One day, Steve Trevor, an spy for the Allies crash lands just off the island and the world of man comes to Themyscira along with news of the ‘War to end all Wars’. Diana travels to Europe with Steve in an attempt to find the god Ares, who she believes is behind this War.

In a way, unfortunately some what foreign to the previous DC Films, Wonder Woman features a coherent story line that follows the hero’s journey’s three act structure. Which worked so well for this film. A lot exposition was required to set up this world, and it was mostly worked in to dialogue between characters which is never something I’m a huge fan of. For example, Amazons saying to each other, “We have not had to fight in a war for 2000 years.”, they already know this, stuff like that wouldn’t naturally come up in conversation. Some of the exposition was delivered as a story told to Diana as a child – this, I enjoyed.

More unnecessary dialogue was worked in between Diana and Steve in attempt to set up their relationship, it wasn’t bad but it slowed down the pacing of the film a little.

Parts of Wonder Woman felt like your ‘swords and sandals’ movie, while others give off a good War movie vibe. The contrast between Themyscira and World War I was noticeable and featured similar dull tones and muted colour palate that the ‘world of man’ has had in previous DC films. It makes me think that the image of Mera from Aquaman that is full of vibrant colours, will be in Atlantis making these two magical locations the most interesting parts of the DC universe.
Gal Gadot really brings it as Diana. The former soldier, turned model now actress might not have the strongest acting ability but her physicality makes up for any minor short falls there were, though I think her delivery of dialogue and facial expressions were good. Chris Pine was great as the almost-sidekick to Diana and key to her transition to the world of man. The supporting characters worked well and I don’t think anyone necessarily phoned it in.

Patty Jenkins directed this film very well. It’s so focused and it sticks to the narrative. There’s great action scenes that were also paired with some good dialogue and character driven scenes she also added a little slow-mo, unassumingly to fit in to the DC mould.

With out going into too much detail in to the film, in order to avoid spoilers, I’ll say that the film was a good action-adventure film that served as a ‘coming of age’ for Diana, its a way to show how she became the fierce warrior we see at the end of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Her character progression and development is such an important part of this film and its one of the key elements of this film.

Wonder Woman is an excellent example of what we could hope to see from more DC films. It is a near-perfect story of Diana’s first steps in to the world of man, and a nice origin story in a day and age where ‘origin stories are over-rated’. Wonder Woman is a character I want to see more of in the coming DC universe films. She is, so far anyway, the best character they currently have and I hope Justice League will continue to show her in the light that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Wonder Woman has.

Wonder Woman is in Cinemas now.

3.5 Stars

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Alien: Covenant – Review

A solid return to the Alien franchise.

I enjoyed Alien Covenant. The film bridged some story elements between Prometheus and Alien, it answered some questions and asked a few more. Just when you thought you had the story worked out, some subtleties in the film made me doubt that I knew what was going to happen (a trait in a movie that I absolutely love).

The film brought some surprises from the first scene. I would recommend watching the two Prelude videos you can find on the Fox YouTube Channel. It sets up the film nicely. Visually, Alien Covenant has the tone and visual style of Alien and Aliens, mixed with the visual effects and cinematography of Prometheus.

The acting in Alien Covenant was solid. Katherine Waterston served well as Daniels, the protagonist, again, like the movie itself, a bridge between Dr Elizabeth Shaw and Ellen Ripley. Danny McBride worked well, despite my fears that he would add unnecessary comedic elements. The absolute stand out for me was Michael Fassbender as both David, the synthetic android from Prometheus, and Walter, a newer version of android, based on the David model. His performance as both these characters was incredible, his robotic movements are realised in different ways for each character, based on individual programming.

The different forms of Xenomorph we see are as usual, scary, deadly and familiar with just a slight twist – something I come to expect from the Alien franchise. While the action scenes with the various Xenomorph forms seem a little re-used, it feels that Ridley Scott wanted to establish more of the backstory in this film. Don’t get me wrong, some of the deaths are pretty wicked and violent, but in my opinion, nothing we haven’t seen already in Prometheus or the earlier Alien films.

All-in-all Alien Covenant is a good film that fits nicely in to the Alien universe. It gives more validation to Prometheus as an instalment in the franchise and sparks more interest in Ridley Scott’s plan for the future Alien films.

3.5 Stars

Alien: Covenant is in cinemas now.

Prometheus – Review

Ridley Scott returns in all his epic moviemaking glory with his return to the Alien universe, Prometheus.

The year is 2089 and Dr Elizabeth Shaw and her small expedition team are on a dig in Scotland. Inside a cave they find a pictogram. The last peice to their puzzle. This pictogram resembles other ancient drawings from almost all of Earth’s early civilizations. The pictogram features a constellation that Shaw believes is a map leading to the Origins of humanity. Begin Project Prometheus. A trillion dollar expedition to the system identified in this map, Funded by Weyland Industries to explore the possible creation of us.

After a two year expedition on board exploritory vessle Prometheus the crew of 17 find the moon that according to long range scanners can support life. The Prometheus lands near some ‘pyramids’ that seem to be man (or something like it) made. So sure enough there is life on this world… Are they the engineers of our existance? The answer to that question is the least of the crew of the Prometheus’ problems.

After 33 years, its great to see Scott’s return to the the franchise and sci-fi films in general he helped create. Prometheus IS linked to the Alien franchise, do not listen to those who say otherwise… From the moment Weyland industries was attached to the online marketing it was obvious.

Now to the film itself.

Visually… Amazing!

The Sound… Cinema Shaking!

Narrative… Leaves a lot to be desired.

Shot in 3D this film is one to see with the glasses on, stunning. The narrative of the film honestly feels like half of a film where more questions are asked than answered. To avoid any other spoilers I’ll leave that there. Acting is brilliant! Four stand out roles seem to be the characters that are fleshed out the best. Noomi Rapace (famous for the Swedish Millenium trilogy films) plays the protagonist, the inquisitive Dr. Elizabeth Shaw who has a very interesting and powerful scene around about half way through the film. Michael Fassbender (famous for being born) eerily plays the android David who looks like T. E. Laurence of Arabia and successfully pulls off an emotionless android. If you’ve never visited the uncanny valley… welcome. Idris Elba plays the captain of the Prometheus, Janek who has a few laughs in the film as well as being very serious when the time comes. Finally to round out my favorite four Charlize Theron plays Meredith Vickers, a Weyland representative who is overseeing the mission… she’s definitely got an ulterior motive. Notible mention to Guy Pearce for playing an old guy… Peter Weyland… If you want to see Guy’s best as this character, see the TED talk.

Which brings me to the marketing. Very cool, very meaningful, lots of back story to the back story. Definitely worth a look.

Prometheus is a beautiful film, don’t get me wrong, I was in awe of the shots and the locations. The story left a bit to be desired, was sort of hoping for more… and to be honest, I still am. But all-in-all a good film.

3.5 Stars – Because of the entire experience: Marketing (Official and Viral), Hype, Visuals, Storyline (Somewhat) etc.

Prometheus is in Cinemas in 3D now.

Iron Sky – Review

In 1945 a secret Nazi space mission saw a colony of Nazi’s establish a base on the dark side of the Moon. It is now 2018 and America is heading back to the Moon one reason, to get the president re-elected.

Christopher Kirby plays James Washington an African-American Male Model, is sent into space as one of the astronauts in the Moon mission, he is hired purely because of his ethnicity, a marketing ploy by the President’s ridiculous PR and Campaign Advisor, Vivian Wagner (played brilliantly by Australian, Peta Sergeant). While on the Moon Washington is ambushed by the Nazis, captured, and forced to help the Nazis return to earth and steal handheld computing devices crucial in the Nazis plan to launch their space-warship, the Götterdämmerung (literally translated to Twilight of the Gods). The some of the Nazis, Klaus Adler (Second in command – The Next Führer) played by Götz Otto and the stunningly beautiful Renate Richter played by Julia Dietze travel to Earth where they are used in a Nazi-Style campaign by the US President (played by Stephanie Paul) that actually seems to work. But the Nazis have their own plan. The dynamics of the characters change and the film becomes something hilariously epic.

Iron Sky is hilarious, stupid, and grossly politically incorrect. But that is what makes it so fun. If you know your world politics, this film take pot-shots at so many countries, and many one liners reference points in history briefly and some of these may be missed by the general audience. The studio shots for this film were shot in Queensland, so there’s an Australian element involved too! This film is a brilliant political satire/black comedy and I recommend everyone sees it.

3.5 Stars

Iron Sky is released in Australia on May 10th in selected cinemas, check your local guides to see where it’s playing.

Contagion – Review

It all started with a bat.  Unfortunately, not of the man variety.

Be prepared to freak out a little more when your next cold strikes.  When it does, you’ll have Steven Soderbergh’s new biological drama Contagion to thank.  At the very least, shifty eyes will occur to the next poor sod whom sniffs or coughs.

The disease in question inflicts seizures, frothing at the mouth, and radical damage to the central nervous system.  The bodies pile up worldwide as an expert team of scientists and government officials frantically search for a cure, quarantine the infected and keep a population in panic from violently revolting.

The performances, as you’d expect from actors of this calibre, are fantastic.  Therefore this section is extensive, as is the star-studded cast.  First to the good.  Matt Damon as the immune average Joe whose family and life crumbles in a matter of minutes is touching, as the protection of his remaining daughter becomes the sole reason for existence.  Gwyneth Paltrow’s role as Damon’s cheating wife, illustrating the horrific symptoms as one of the first cases, is cleverly manipulated as the catalyst for the forthcoming events and ties it together seamlessly.  Laurence Fishburne plays Dr. Ellis Sheever straight laced and determined to bring the virus down, working alongside Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) who sacrifices her own safety in the name of science.  In his desperation Sheever brings in Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), an expert on epidemics and refreshingly blunt.

Now the not-so fantastic.  Marion Cotilliard is Dr. Leanora Orantes, whose kidnapping is mainly the only significant event to happen to this character.  Unfortunately she is underutilised, and her storyline is left gaping open.  At one point I actively forgot the character existed, having not made an appearance on the screen for at least half an hour.  Jude Law makes an appearance as well as cockney Alan Krumweide, technologically rebelling against the scientists and touting his own remedy.  Found it impossible to warm to this character, even moreso as time progresses.  Maybe it was just the rotten tooth he was sporting, but there is something entirely unsavoury about him.

And I think that’s just about the lot of them.  Take a breath.  Continue.

Contagion hinges on realism.  The thrills come from the notion that this, should a similar event occur, could be the actual protocol.  Scarier still is the day count that appears in each new sequence, illustrating how quickly viruses can spread, and how rapid bodies pile up.

The cinematography is bleak and desaturated when the outbreak emerges, making it feel sterile and generally horrible.  Effective when what you’re seeing is mass graves and more people sniffling than a hay fever sufferer at Floriade.

About three-quarters of the way through the film loses its pace.  Loses something.  You start twiddling your thumbs and looking elsewhere.  I am aware that this film is not one resulting to cheap thrills or explosions to gain your attention, however the story needed to progress a little quicker.

By far the highlight of this film is its conclusion.  It’s realistic.  It’s not over-exaggerated, nobody screams in anguish or triumph.  The cycle is sewn up tight in a neat little package, bringing completion to the film by beginning it.  The initial symptoms are all ones we’ve seen and experienced before.  Coughing, sneezing, general signs that we are not perfect specimens.  God help the unfortunate individual who sees this film whilst afflicted with a cold.

You’ll be washing your hands a little more vigorously after this one.

3.5 Stars

Contagion is in Cinemas now.

This review was by Danielle Muir.

Andy X – Review

Jim Sharman, the eccentric mind that brought us everyone’s favourite sweet transvestite, delivers his latest uber-retro musical ‘Andy X’ with lashings of sex appeal, sass and delicious visuals.

Pop art is digitised with this tale of Andy Warhol, switching between hooded man, multi-coloured splotch ridden man and wigged man.  All sharp as a tack and exaggerated perfectly.

The performances are pitch perfect.  Akos Armont is spot on as everyone’s favourite pop-artist, his performance quick and versatile, and keeping pace with the fast-moving pace of the film.  Fast tracking the journey from a young man to the Warhol phenomena is a joy with Armont at the helm.

Sheridan Harbridge is a joy as Valerie, a rough-talkin’ American with an itchy trigger finger.  She also plays other smaller roles throughout with the same vigour as the rest of the cast.

In short, I ate this film up.  Catchy, sensual, exaggerated and luscious, it was a piece of unashamed fun and frivolity.  Sharman has done a fabulous job of bringing the life of Warhol to the screen in the only manner in which it would have done the man justice.

I managed to see this as part of the previews that ran during the Brisbane Festival 2011.  I realise just how much of a privilege it was to see such a new work, by such a grand director.  Thankyou, Mr Sharman, for giving me a shot of digital pop-art straight into my arteries.

If ANYONE has the opportunity to see this film, do it.  Your witnessing something rather special.

3.5 Stars

Andy X is due for online release later this year.

This review was by Danielle Muir.

Super 8 – Review

Super 8 is written and directed by J. J. Abrams, the brain behind movie and tv shows like Cloverfeild, Mission: Impossible 3, Star Trek, Alias and Lost. This guy is no stranger to the high concept film and blockbusters, and Super 8 is no exception. Originally believed to be a sequel or a prequel to Cloverfeild, and while some elements of the films are similar, I found Super 8 much more enjoyable. Another trait Abrams is famous for is his promotional campaigns, the viral marketing released before the trailer conveyed a very different movie and had me thinking, “Oh great, another Cloverfeild. Come on J.J., pull your head in.” But when a hidden ‘playable’ trailer appeared on Portal 2, I was thinking, “Hmm what an interesting way to market a film, look out Nolan (but i’m still not sure what this is about)”. Finally the trailer came out which revealed the true plot and look of the film… changed my perception of the film and boy was I interested.

Four months after Joe’s mum dies, he and his friends are working on a short zombie flick for a Super 8 film festival. While filming a scene at a train station, shit goes down… A wayward car runs into a train and after a truly epic crash scene a door flings open and something escapes one of the train carridges. The only sighting of what escaped was recorded on the Super 8 camera. The story continues as mysterious happenings start hitting the town, people going missing, dogs running away to neighbouring towns, and electrical equipment just vanishing. It’s not until the US Air Force start hiding everything from the sheriff’s department and the town that the kids who stumble on the secret try to find out more. The Air Force commence ‘Operation Walking Distance’ and evacuate the town… Only one problem, the object of Joe’s affection, Alice, goes missing, Joe and his friends go back into town to save his young love and find the secret of what was in that carridge.

The cast is prodominatley children and they do very brilliantly… I suppose maybe these kids appeal to me becuase they are filmmakers and i would wish that this story could happen to me but who knows… The stand out character was the comic relief and eventual hero, Ryan Lee, a slightly pyromanicle teenager who also has a knack for playing a zombie. The lead, Joel Courtney, and his love, Elle Fanning (Dakota’s little sister), also do a good job, and are apart of (in my opion) a proper relationship for their age. They never kiss, they take things slow, their like 13, and I think it’s good to finally see a relationship like this. Very impressed J. J.!

Ultimately, Super 8 is a great movie for the family with the execption of 1 f-word being dropped so probably an older family with kids no younger than 12. This movie I hope will cement J. J. Abrams in his rightful place as a storytelling master and a true filmmaker for the 21st century. I want to see more like this… Mr. Abrams, keep it up! It’s a new age E.T. and with the Executive Producer Steven Spielberg on board it generates more of that feeling. The Lens Flare Is Back In A Big Way!!!

3.5 Stars

P.S.

Keep an eye out for the the short zombie flick during the end credits entitled ‘The Case’, it’s the competed film that the kids were working on and it’s a lot of fun.

And, for a little bonus, the ‘Playable’ Trailer…

Batman Returns – Review

PART TWO: Batman Returns

Directed By: Tim Burton

Written By: Bob Kane, Sam Hamm and Daniel Waters

Starring: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michael Gough and Michelle Phiffer

Gross: $282,800,000 (Worldwide)

Production Co: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release Date: 19th June 1992 (Australia)

Runtime: 126 min

Batman Returns is more dark, more whimsical and more cartoon like than its predecessor, despite this it is a very good quality movie and definitely worth watching unlike some of the other Batman movies. Danny DeVito plays a very unusual Penguin but a perfect character for the movie. The Penguin plans to make his presence in Gotham City known and masks his true intentions to rule the city with heroic acts that make the city fall in love with him. Meanwhile Media Mogul, Max Shreck’s assistant is murdered and is resurrected by cats and becomes a feline vigilante who brings her own form of justice to Gotham City.

This movie gets closer to the unrealistic and campy form of Batman and unfortunately is probably a reason and the penultimate push that sent the Batman series spiralling in to a world of… wait for it… Joel Schumacher (shudders). Another thing that could have something to do with the downward turn of this movie is Catwoman. To be honest she looked like a character that didn’t really need to be there and again it was a hark back to the 1960’s show where two villains would team up to take down the caped crusader. Her whole existence in the movie seemed, to be honest, a side plot. The imagery in this film is brilliant as Tim Burton turns Gotham City in to his world, a mix of film noir and german expressionism (which are some of my favourite genres and movements) which suits Burton’s Batman so well. Acting is rather alright with the show stolen by Danny DeVito and to an extent, Michael Keaton, who hangs up his cape at the end of this movie to make room for Val Kilmer (but more about him later). Michelle Phiffer… ehh… she was ok and well how could you not love Christopher Walkin? There is just something about him that makes you like him even though he plays the weak Max Shreck.

3.5 Stars

Batman Returns is available on DVD and BluRay and can also be bought in a Batman Anthology with the other three “80′s & 90′s” Batman Films (Batman, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin).

Never Let Me Go – Review

Never Let Me Go is a British film based on a book by Kazuo Ishiguro and Directed by Mark Romanek. The film is set in a sort of parallel world where events happen at different times as this one. In 1952 there was a medical breakthrough that allowed the human life-span to reach over 100 years. However this ‘medical breakthrough’ comes with a price. The central characters are clones, created purely to provide organs for regular humans. The children attend a strange and strict school called Hailsham. Once the children grow older, they leave the  school to go to a sort of halfway house where they wait until they are old enough to donate. The story follows the love triangle between Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Tommy (Andrew Garfeild) and Ruth (Keira Knightly) and how they deal with and are affected by their ‘lives’ as clones, who have an ultimate destiny, to ‘complete’.

This film focuses almost entirely on the three characters. You’ll only get enough information of what is going on around them that you need. However the character development and acting of the brilliant cast are so good you don’t need to know much else. The story is told from the perspective of Kathy H. (Mulligan) but you feel connected to all three characters, the innocence of these characters who have lived a sheltered life, although different to the lives we lead, allow us to connect so well. It’s refreshing to see a film that seems completely down to earth and yet have a hint of Sci-Fi.

The film is visually amazing and the fact that these characters are so good makes this movie well worth the money paid for a ticket.

3.5 Stars

Never Let Me Go is showing in your local cinemas now.

True Grit – Review

The 2010/2011 remake of True Grit was written, produced and directed by the Coen Brothers (and others), who are well known for the films such as O, Brother Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men and many more. The Coen Brothers, in my opinion have mastered a western movie for this generation. Westerns have sadly fallen by the way side in recent years and with this film being as good as it is, nominated for 10 academy awards, hopefully the western is back!

This film adheres to the current film climate, i.e. it is an adaptation, remake or franchise film (sequel and/or prequel), in this case it’s two. Adapted from the 1968 novel True Grit by Charles Portis, the film tells the story of a young girl, Mattie Ross (played by the fantastic Hailee Steinfeld), who seeks revenge from the man who killed her father. To do this she seeks the help of the drunk, yet seriously western, U.S. Federal Marshal, Ruben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (JEFF BRIDGES!) and they set out into the wilds of the Indian Country in pursuit of Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Also on the tail of the cowardly Chaney, is none other than that moo-stached mongrel, Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who has a friendly rivalry with Rooster as they race to catch Chaney.

The film is nominated for 10 academy awards including; Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Jeff Bridges), Best Supporting Actress (Hailee Steinfeld), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing. Hopefully it will take home a bag full as this movie is really worth it. Especially Hailee Steinfeld, such a strong character played so well!

Probably the most outstanding features of this movie is how ‘western’ Jeff Bridges (and in fact all the characters) can be… some of the time funny and some of it all rough and tough, the scenery of the old western frontier and the) pardon the pun… true gritty-ness of the whole movie. A true Period Piece. However it will still appeal to the generation of today. More Westerns Please!

3.5 Stars