Monday, 23 April 2012

Review: Gone

Rating: 15
Duration: 94 mins

Director Heitor Dhalia follows suit with another unintelligible thriller that believes it's far cleverer than it actually is. Couple a fairly brainless, run-of-the-mill script with the teen appeal of Amanda Seyfried, and you've got the ingredients for a film aimed solely for the teenage demographic.

Jill (Seyfried) becomes paranoid when her sister Molly (Emily Wichersham), goes missing one night, that it's the same abductor who imprisoned her two years ago. She sets out to prove it, but is ignored by the dismissive police leading us to question whether her sanity is all as it seems.

We're presented with a Veronica Mars style detective, hell-bent on snooping around and asking questions, when in reality she'd no doubt be stopped in her tracks with her nosey disposition. What's even more unbelievable is how she manages to evade the authorities so nonchalantly throughout the film: including local detectives and a multiple police car chase.

Because it strives so hard for accessibility over intelligence, it therefore suffers in engaging on a maturer level: we see a slightly demented Seyfried scurry round, chasing clues and following leads as she manages to completely evade the detectives and police force that are after her. It almost feels like it's trying to replicate a Bourne style caper, albeit it an adolescent one.

Clearly aimed towards a younger, perhaps more susceptible viewer; the script unintelligently slots all the pieces of the puzzle together far too neatly: it feels like a mere paint-by-numbers rather than anything possessing any weight or depth to the mystery. In fact, the plot is so thinly laid out and divulged that any associations with the genre are quickly dispelled and replaced by an unengaging, dull and frequently laborious nothingness.

Yes, Amanda, we're just as baffled as you are
Exposition-wise, it is terribly vague in contextualising any of the featured characters: Seyfried's Jill comes across as slightly neurotic and potentially insane, but we're left to ponder over this. Other characters that should bare more significance are painfully underdeveloped to the point where you simply don't care what happens to them either way, as you're given nothing to work with in the first place.

VERDICT: Gone attempts to throw you off, but this join-the-dots thriller exudes zero intensity with its adolescent style. Seyfried does her best with a woefully dull script and silly dialogue, but can't save it from simply becoming another teen orientated, throwaway mess.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Review: Battleship

Rating: 12a
Duration: 131 mins

Much like Michael Bay, Peter Berg bastardises the Hasbro name for both filmic and monetary purposes, albeit to a lesser extent with his latest big budgeted film, Battleship. It may be early on in the year for said blockbuster types, but at around $200m someone must have been extremely confident that this would appeal to the masses, or simply didn't care once it had been green-lit.

So far, Battleship appears to have done its job; having strolled to the top of the UK box office with ease. However, the way one approaches this film can bare relevance, especially surrounding the 'willingness' factor.

What Berg dishes up is a cheesy, action packed and utterly brainless maritime romp, with the likes of Liam Neeson,  RiRi and John Carter (that's provocative pop princess Rihanna and Taylor Kitsch to you and I) to take us on an epically silly journey.

Whereas the likes of Robocop and Starship Troopers were presented with a whiff of satirical mockery, you'd be seriously tested whether Battleship in fact does the same. Indeed, if this is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek take on the sci-fi genre, then this oceanic farce really hits the spot: the goofy lines and character actions are, at times, hilarious as viewing it as self parody will generate a lot of laughter throughout.

However, the other (and probable) perception is that this is a genuine attempt to make a serious film, which is a somewhat disturbing notion indeed. Surely an entire cast and crew can't make such a laughably daft movie and not see right through its paper-thin nothingness, or can they?

There's a very basic plot in that a fleet of ships, headed by Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), are out conducting naval training exercises when a series of objects fall from space and crash into the ocean. Navy wild man Alex (Kitsch), is heavily involved alongside Raikes (Rihanna) in taking down whatever hostilities come their way. Suffice to say that shit hits the fan once they boisterously begin to poke around.

RiRi screams constantly when holding a massive weapon
Using the term 'heavily involved' for these two characters is no understatement, either. Alex and Raikes are not only overtly placed as the film's heroes, but astonishingly they can do pretty much anything that needs to be done: from operating everything aboard the entire ship, to their impeccable hand-to-hand combat, to precise weapons training, to superior intelligence (debatable); the pair put past all-action champions like Arnie and Van Damme to utter shame. Again, this makes for some entertaining viewing as we see there's literally nothing these characters cannot do (besides act).

Another fantastic addition is the use of product placement. These completely random shots that separate some action sequences are priceless. Take for example a scene of destruction: we cut to a shot of a young girl holding a drink from Subway towards the camera, before we simply cut back to the action. Brilliant stuff.

Mr. Kitsch showing off the ship's additional gun
Regardless how you read Battleship, one thing is for sure: it's a bad film. But look beyond this and will yourself to believe it is meant to be like that, and you'll take something completely different from it. Surprisingly the 131 minute running time doesn't drag, which is a credit to the movie.

VERDICT: To summarise: Battleship is loud, dumb and utterly brainless. If you approach it thinking that it is intentionally mocking itself in the most subtle of pastiches, then you're likely to happily embrace and enjoy the experience.

N.B. If you're insistent on a serious, straight-up critique, then minus a star. However, look at it in the vein of Paul Verhoeven and you'll laugh your way through this comical farce with great pleasure; in which case, add one on.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Rating: 15
Duration: 95 mins

Buffy and Firefly creator Joss Whedon is the brain behind this modern horror that picks apart everything fans are accustomed with, and offers a very contemporary, yet playfully welcomed edge. As well as the reliable skills of Whedon, Drew Goddard co-writes the script and assumes control as director of what can only be described as a conventionally familiar, but original take on the genre.

With both having a reputable history in fantasy and science fiction, it's perhaps safe to assume that some of these elements are bound to weave their way into proceedings. The set-up is common and simple: a group of youngster go away to a cabin (in the woods) for a weekend of promiscuous frivolity. These conventions are palpable as it consciously acknowledges said clichés that have been tirelessly recycled over the years. It's this awareness and self ridicule that makes the first half of the film mightily fun and entertaining. Combined with a witty and often amusing script, the initial reveal offers an intriguing direction as to where the film will ultimately go. Yes, the film contains a reveal (very early on, in fact), and not a twist. It's this element that (even though shown in the trailer) makes a Cabin review hard to convey without succumbing to potential spoilers.

As far as constructing a typical horror movie goes, Goddard directs and includes exactly what's necessary with tongue firmly in cheek. Exposition is fine, as are the amount of scares, unease and gore you'd expect; it never offers too much, nor too little.

To say Cabin is a 'game changer' is a term devaluing such a meaning. Sure, Whedon and Goddard gift us something very different, ultimately original and never before seen in the horror genre, but to deem it revolutionary is an overstatement. In fact, it actually adheres as a social commentary on something else (and that 'something' shall remain unnamed); plausible in the sense that because it's not actually a typically scary film, drifts away from horror in terms of its focus. It's certainly one to take note of, but feels more like the beginning of a new breed of genre hybrid that'll no doubt become as saturated as the shaky-cam a few years down the line.

The second half of the film intentionally feels detached in the sense that the story progresses in a contrived nature, as the latter part of the film tends to underwhelm more than the strong first. However, the interesting development will keep audiences engaged in what is a uniquely satisfying movie that deserves  to be seen to be appreciated and contextualised.

Cabin is a rather funny and somewhat whimsical film that, with gruesome depictions of horror, proves experimental genre splices can work to one's advantage if executed correctly. The writing is spot on, as is the tone of the acting and narrative, all culminating in a piece that will reinvent, if not completely redefine.

VERDICT: It isn't quite as clever as it thinks it is, but The Cabin in the Woods pulls down its pants and takes a proverbial dump over the horror genre. It's a film worth exploring for its initiative and for capitalising on a think-outside-the-box strategy with its alternative intuition, as opposed to following every other formulaic clone out there.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Trailer Talk: Looper

Rian Johnson's Looper has just hit the Internet and as a sci-fi fan, it looks rather enticing to say the least. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, it appears to have all the mouthwatering elements you'd expect from the genre and the writer/director of Brick.

But don't just take my word, have a look yourself...


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Review: Headhunters

Rating: 15
Duration: 100 mins

Unsurprisingly, Morten Tyldum's Norwegian thriller Headhunters has already been snapped up by the Hollywood machine to churn out what will no doubt be another soulless and take on a film that has no need for a remake. Indeed, it is the European aesthetic that gives this its charm as an art thief thriller movie: if it were set in the bright lights of Las Vegas or the grimy East End of London it wouldn't work.

Aksel Hennie plays Roger Brown; a successful headhunter living way beyond his means: a lavish home and lifestyle to accommodate his pretty gallery-owning wife Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund). Even with stealing expensive pieces of art on the side to subsidise the high-life, his finances continue to buckle; but when Roger discovers that new face in town Clas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), has a priceless piece of artwork sitting in his home, the cliched 'one final job' turns out to be far more hassle than ever imagined.

A noble thriller, Headhunter mixes an enjoyable intenseness with some dark comic undertones. Surrealism plays a part as the twists and turns remain rawly believably, yet enjoyable enough to be swept along with the demands of the script. Not only does the story flow well, but it's often done without the use of dialogue or exposition: our protagonist's actions speak louder than words, often resulting in silent scenes that serve a much more powerful purpose.

Performances are solid - especially from Hennie - as the film builds momentum quickly, the intensity and desperation of the character resorts to some extremes that form some gripping moments and culminates in a Tarantino-inspired climax. Couple the stylistic influences with the scenarios and atmosphere it creates by itself, and you're left with an entertaining thriller that, whilst treading through the motions, does so in a well executed manner.

The conclusion plays out nicely and ties up well. In fact, we are given some endearing explanation to tie off loose ends, which is something a lot of films tend to leave to the imagination. However, here it works, leaving a pleasing and slightly whimsical taste to the whole affair. It certainly bodes a slickness that does its job well, even if it doesn't tread new ground.

VERDICT: Headhunters isn't the most original or greatest thriller you're likely to see, but in the context of the genre, it's a frantic, fast-paced and at times frenetic tale that satisfies with its reveals and succeeds to engage its audiences over an enthralling 100 minutes.