Category Archives: Blu-ray

Inception

Some films are there to purely entertain, some are to encourage you to think and ask questions.  It’s a rare flick that manages to include both elements to sufficiently please a diverse crowd of people.  I knew the basic premise of Inception before I watched it,  and I was expecting to be confused after hearing some comments.  But it’s not actually a confusing movie.  I was expecting to be left asking questions when I saw the ending, but for me personally, I think the questions were answered.

Inception is a story of dreams and the people who can enter them to extract information.  Much more detail than that and you begin to ruin the story, which I’ll try to avoid.  It’s set in a contemporary or very-near-future setting, and sees our main protagonist Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) unable to return to his family and seeking employment as an extractor.

This leads us on a journey across continents and into dreams, where we being to question what is truth and what is real, along with Cobb and the supporting cast.  The story is truly interesting, the characters are engaging and the pace is pretty solid.  There are some moments where I felt things were under-explained, not to add mystery but almost because they ran out of time, but overall it’s a solid, cohesive story.

I didn’t find the visual effects particularly breathtaking and I think too much emphasis has been placed on them in the trailers or hype running up to the film.  This is a pretty personal story and any effects are really there to encourage us to believe what we’re seeing is not real.  There is however one set of scenes in which one of the characters operates in zero-gravity, that I thought were exceptionally well done.  This isn’t an action movie, although it has a lot of action, and it’s not a sci-fi movie although it has some speculative fictional elements, and it’s not a love story despite a core element of it being about a relationship between two people.  It’s hard to place it into a single genre.

What it is, is very engaging.  You do have to think, not to keep track or work out what is going on, but to question what you’re seeing and why, and if what the characters believe is even true.  Through multiple layers, both on a story level, and a dream level, we are encouraged to consider whether what is happening is real or not, at every stage.  It’s very hard to write a review without giving away too much.

I enjoyed watching it, and I’ll want to watch it again to see nuances I may have missed first time, but it didn’t leave me punching the air or grinning like a fool.  It left me considering Nolan’s brilliance, and the performances of some of the actors (personally I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt is excellent, and likewise Ellen Page), and the self referential ending.

The movie starts with the concept that ideas are like viruses, and it ends with a question that plants an idea and leaves you wondering, if you want to.  Well worth watching, well worth talking about, and considering it’s an original screenplay, pretty impressive stuff.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I didn’t see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World in the cinema, because at the time there were some other movies that I felt would be better on the big screen.  Scott Pilgrim looked, from the trailers, like it would do okay on the smaller screen.  I was wrong.  This is why.

Scott Pilgrim is visually the most memorable and exciting movie I’ve seen since The Matrix.  Sure, Avatar was pretty to look at and the CGI was a step beyond anything we’ve ever seen.  Yes, 300 was a revelation in terms of colour and style.  I agree that Sin City brought us comic book visualisations like we’d never really seen.  But Scott Pilgrim vs. The World presented a mixture of real life, comic book and computer games in a single visual package that blew me away.

The clear craftsmanship that went into every single shot, the attention to detail, the mixture of sound effects, on-screen visuals and cinematography working together in a way I’ve just not seen before.  If Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was an ice-cream flavour, it would be Strawberry Mint Choc-chip with Raspberry Ripple and Cookies.  And it would work.

Stunning visuals alone don’t make a good movie, and therefore it’s with some relief that we discover Scott Pilgrim has a heart, a plot, an excellent sound track and some very funny and touching moments.

Based on a graphic novel, the reasonably simple story plays out thus.  Scott (Michael Cera) plays in a band, hangs out in the arcade, and finally meets the girl of his dreams.  But early in their relationship he discovers he must battle and defeat her seven evil exes in order to date her.  The brilliance comes from the mixture of the real and the unreal.  The fights are done very much in the style of computer games, the movie is strewn with on-screen flashes of comic book style text and computer game style popups.  They never get in the way – they simply enhance the sense of involvement.

The girl of Scott’s dreams is the enigmatic Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).  The character is both engaging and interesting.  The supporting cast around them is also excellent, the rest of the band in which Scott plays, and a small circle of friends and past-partners.  Alison Pill (as Kim Pine) steals every scene she’s in though, she is superb and delivers some of the funniest moments in the whole movie.

As we and Scott work our way through the various evil exes we learn more about all the characters, and in parallel we watch the band (Sex Bob-omb) rise in status.  The interplay between the characters is really the soul of the story and I’ve intentionally not mentioned a lot of that.  While the battle against the evil exes is the part the trailers focus on, the real story is the continuing personal development of everyone involved.  That’s where the heart of this story lies.  Although not constantly laugh out loud the movie has some excellent comic moments.  But again, it is the quality of the shots, the care with which each frame has been prepared and the beautiful cinematography that give that soul and comedy something to stand on.

The finale is both brilliant and satisfying and the final outcome was just what I hoped for.

Not everyone will like this movie.  It speaks in a language that may put some people off (some gaming culture and comic book references), although it’s more accessible I think than Watchmen.  I get that, it’s fine.  But a world with only one flavour of jam would be a terrible place (even if it was Strawberry).  And likewise, a world in which we only see huge action movies do well in the box office, or even get funding, would be a sad place.  I should have gone and supported Scott Pilgrim at the cinema.  Not just because it would have been an incredible movie going experience, not just because it’s probably the most enjoyable movie I’ve seen for a very long time, but because it deserved to get better box office numbers to show that people do want this kind of stuff.

And we do.  The DVD / Blu-ray sales will be excellent I’m sure.  But it should have gotten better box office takings.  I already apologised to Edgar Wright for my part in that.  You can do your bit.  Buy this movie, watch it, love it, and next time, go and support movies like it in the cinema.

Predators

When Arnold stepped out of the jungle, covered in mud, and stabbed the alien predator thing in the face (metaphorically), he was doing so with the weight of the 80’s action movie genre behind him.  Any movie which tries the same post year 2k does so with the weight of the 80’s action movie clichés crushing them from above. The 80’s gave us the new face of the Action Movie, and then it was caved in mercilessly during the 90’s and early 2000’s by the likes of Tarantino and the Wachowskis.

In the late 90’s and 2000 onwards, the action movie had to smarten up and add something new.  And it needed to be cool, otherwise it just got slated and slotted into the ‘another 80’s cliché movie’.  But these days, it seems to be okay to relive the glory of that decade.  Sometimes you have to poke a little fun at your age (The Expendables, Red) and sometimes you need to accept the clichés and deliver some interest and excitement anyway.

Predators is an ensemble movie which takes us back to the jungle and pits a group of natural killers against the universe’s paramount hunter.  There’s no apology and in fact the whole movie setup apes the lack of depth- our ‘heroes’ are dropped into the jungle unconscious, to wake up (hopefully) as they fall from the sky, their parachutes opening at the last moment.

Nimród Antal (director) couldn’t have made the point any clearer – don’t worry about why these folk are here, don’t worry about where they came from, or who they are.  Worry about how they’re going to survive – that’s all they’re doing.

If you do that, and if you settle back to enjoy an action movie which knows that’s all it is – then you should enjoy this.  A collection of unlikely heroes who slowly get hunted and killed by the Predators.  Surprise alliances, surprise treachery and some madness along the way.  The action is exciting, the dialog is kind of interesting and Laurence Fishburne turning on all he has for the lone survivor stint adds some grit.  Adrian Brody pulls off action hero better than I thought he would.  A simple complaint is that although I don’t think anyone should artificially bump up or down gender roles in a movie, would it have hurt to have a few more women in the pack of killers?

The surprise turn is from Topher Grace but I’ll leave you to guess why.

The pace is quite tight, it doesn’t try to tease us with aliens we’ve already seen, and it adds plenty of fun.  Predators is better than I expected, and as good in it’s own way as the original movie it makes reference to.

Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex is a very short movie.  I can’t help but wonder where the rest of it went.  The film is carried by Josh Brolin, his onscreen presence propping up an otherwise ordinary story.

Jonah watched his family murdered and vowed revenge on the man who did it, only to find out he died in a fire.  He goes on a bounty hunting rampage, kept alive throughout many gun fights by his desire for revenge and the skills of the local native Americans.

Suddenly the old enemy is back with some overly complicated plan involving a bizarre weapon.  The plan involves somehow crushing the newly formed Union of States.  The president, somehow aware of Hex’s existence has him drafted in to hunt and kill his old enemy.

There’s a beautiful woman involved as well (depending on your tastes) played by Megan Fox and supported, literally, by her corset.  Her role is under-used and reasonably pointless and I wonder if the missing bits of the movie fleshed out (see what I did there?) her role in more detail?

Anyway, there is gun slinging and one liners and fights and bad guys and dark good guys.  It ticks the boxes, no more, and delivers a short but meaningless 88 minutes of nonsense.  Not bad, not good, just present.

2012

I’m not really a fan of disaster movies.  I would describe 2012 as traditional global-disaster movie fare.

  1. We have an estranged family (husband and wife divorced, two kids, new husband in the frame)
  2. We have a growing threat, and a plan
  3. We have a few other key story members with either existing relationships that will be stretched by the disaster or new relationships that will be formed as a result of it
  4. We then get 158 minutes of a single threaded plot, which brings these people together or forces them apart and provides heroes the chance to stand up and be counted while villains perish in fiery justice.

I spent most of the first hour doing something else as well.  Checking e-mails, browsing IMDB, playing Plants vs. Zombies.  It’s pretty predictable, as the estranged husband takes his kids on a camping trip and discovers a global conspiracy over some cataclysmic event.  However, eventually the acting and the action and the shear madness of the whole thing drags you in, and by about the one hour mark I was engaged.

The special effects are impressive, the destruction is amusing, the solution is far fetched and insane and the moments of heroic sacrifice are about as cliche as they get.  It’s not a good movie.  It’s too long for one, and it’s far too predictable for another, but it was eventually engaging.  The only two actors who seemed to have any meat on their roles were John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor.  Cusack managed to bring some life to his character, Ejiofor did the best he could with some pretty slack writing.  No one else stood out, which isn’t to say they did badly, but just that the source material was so entirely bland.

Should you see 2012?  Maybe, if you fancy killing 158 minutes and can’t think of anything better to do, but don’t buy it, rent it for as little as possible.

I love you Beth Cooper

Every once in a while you can be surprised by a film.  I put I love you Beth Cooper on our LoveFilm rental list because the trailer had seemed quite amusing.  I’m so glad I did.

One the outside, this is a reasonably standard coming-of-age American highschool flick.  The main cast, a couple of newly graduated boys and a similar bunch of cheerleaders come together in amusing circumstances and learn lots about themselves, life and living.  But on the inside, it’s an always funny and often heartwarming story which is more than worth the time invested in watching it.

Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) is convinced by his best friend Rich (Jack Carpenter) to be honest during his speech at the graduation.  He extols the virtues of honest during his speech and how people should take this moment to say the things they feel so that they don’t regret not saying them later.  Taking his own advice, he (among other things) declares his love for Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), the head cheerleader and upsets her brawny, meat-head boyfriend in the process.

What follows is a collect of fast pace set pieces full of humour, some truly cringeworthy embarrassments and some entertaining and engaging dialogue.  There are almost no surprises, although you might not guess the exact outcome (which I actually thought worked really well), but there are some true laugh out loud moments and plenty of reasons to want to keep watching.

The wet towel fight is well worth watching.

Not as gross-out as the likes of American Pie or Road Trip, and certainly funnier than some of the more recent American Pie movies, I love you Beth Cooper is something I think I could watch again and again and enjoy every time.  It reminds me of Weird Science, and deserves to be just as much a cult classic.

Twilight

Twilight is targetted directly at a specific demographic, but even if you fall outside that it’s an inoffensive film with some better than expected acting and some shockingly bad ‘special effects’ delivering an unmemorable but peaceful viewing experience.