Saturday, 25 March 2017
ALONE IN BERLIN
By Brett Haynes 25/03/17
Alone in Berlin is the first of a number of films set during WW2 to hit Australian cinemas in 2017. The film is based on a true story and shows that ordinary Germans did what they could to help defeat Hitler even if it didn’t seem like much at the time. The courage to pursue what they believed in is powerful stuff even when they knew if caught they would be killed.
Alone in Berlin is the English title of the novel Jeder stirbt für sich allein (Every Man Dies Alone), which was written by Hans Fallada in 1947. The story was based off a Gestapo file given to him by his friend Johannes Becher. Upon its release, the book became a best seller in Germany being taught in schools and turned into 4 different films.
It was finally released in English in 2009 and now we have the 5th film version. This one is a multi Anglo European production with six producers behind it (French, German, Dutch and American). The Director is a Swiss-Frenchmen (Vincent Perez) and the main actors are Irish (Brendan Gleeson) and English (Emma Thompson). This could have quite easily been a total disaster but where the faults with this film lie aren’t with anything behind the scenes but it’s with the way the story itself is told.
Set in the early 40’s, Otto (Gleeson) and Anna (Thompson) see themselves as good Germans. Their son is off fighting for the fatherland, Otto is a member of the party and Anna is a member of the woman’s branch. That all changes when they receive an official letter from there post lady Eva (Katrin Pollitt). Their son is dead (being shot in France). Anna turns on her husband saying, “You and your Nazi ideology killed him”. Otto buries his emotions and goes off to work at the factory.
Eva ex husband Enno (Lars Rudolph) tries to rob the last Jewish resident, old Frau Rosenthal (Monique Chaumette) who soon takes her life after this. Everyone watches everyone movements and Otto decides to take his stand. He writes postcards, disguising his handwriting and criticizing the Nazi party. Anna learns what his up to and soon joins in. It’s a small act of resistance which when he started wouldn’t have made a difference. By the end of the film he has written 286 cards over the span of 18 months.
Where this film falls down is during the middle section which is just them writing and placing cards and nothing else happens. There is no payoff, as we know how this ends. There are no twist or turns as it just slowly reaches its conclusion. While both Gleeson and Thompson put in fine performances which often cut through the emotional cushions this film has set up its really Daniel Bruhl as head of police who steals the show. He s personally affected by these cards as he slowly sees’ the truth of the Nazi dictatorship.
It’s a tribute to people who sacrificed everything to bring down the Nazi but told in a dull and unenthusiastic way. It should have been a lot better.
Images owned by Filmwave
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THE CURE FOR WELLNESS
By Brett Haynes 25/03/17
One thing you can say about Gore Verbinski newest horror film is it’s differently something original. It’s a psychological thriller that throughout its advertising really didn’t give a lot away. It tried to lure you in with the mystery behind some the bizarre images they showed. As far as visuals go this is a very visually stunning film but it is the perfect example of style over substance.
Our main character is Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), a young and ambitious financer from Wall Street who has just made it big at his firm. Unfortunately for him, they have found out that not everything he has done has been by the books. They send him to a Wellness facility in Switzerland to retrieve the firms CEO Pembroke (Harry Groener) whose absence threatens a multi million-dollar merger for the company.
Right from his arrival at this facility you can tell something not right. There are nods to classic horror films throughout, the biggest being Dracula and Stanley Kubrick The Shinning. The facility is situated in the Swiss Alps so the background is gorgeous to look at. His first interactions are with an older historian (Celia Imrie) whose obsessed with the history of the castle and a young girl named Hannah (Mia Goth) who is a special case at the facility.
The history surrounding this castle is bought up several times throughout the film and is really part of the main plot. They do a good job interlocking the mystery and the history together. We learn via Lockhart Chauffeur that the villagers burnt the castle to the ground 200 years ago when he tried to impregnate his sister.
When we meet Dr Volmer (Jason Isaacs) he is creepy enough to pick out that he is the bad guy. In fact all of the doctors and nurses in this place look like they would be titled SS officer number 1 if this were any other film. It’s really from this moment that Lockhart is trapped in this labyrinth trying to discover what is really going on in this facility.
This leads to one of the biggest faults of this film and that’s continuation. Throughout the first two hours of this ridiculously long 2.1/2 hour film is Lockhart explores the facility, finds something he shouldn’t, gets put back in his room by Volmer and we start all over again. By the second or third time it gets to the point of you thinking either kill this guy or let him go. Lockhart is not a vey intelligent character as there really is nothing keeping him there. He can come and go as he pleases and never does he think of leaving and coming back later with help. There are other moments as well where you just shake your head in disbelief.
Dehaan tries but isn’t really given anything to work with. All of the good scenes go to Isaacs who genuinely looks like his having fun playing this over the top villain. They have a sort of cat and mouse thing going on with Isaacs character always being 2 steps ahead and Lockhart being so stupid that he often plays right into his hands.
While Verbinski is trying to do a horror movie this isn’t really a horror movie. It’s not that scary. It’s creepy as hell and some moments in it that might make you lose your lunch but it’s never scary. It’s a film that tries to do much and tries to trick the audience more then surprise them.
The editing in this is all over the place with scenes being placed together which don’t match. We get one scene where his on a train to the facility and the next his back in New York. It’s jarring and often takes you out of the film. Also the pacing is awful. There is no reason that this film should be two and a half hours long. They try to stretch this out for all its worth and at times they do bite off more then they can chew. It ask way to many questions which it rarely takes the time to answer. Instead it just shows us a girl in a bathtub with eels. It’s way to ambitious for its own good.
Images owned by Fox
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Friday, 24 March 2017
By Brett Haynes 24/03/17
If you’re like me and you happened to get the trailer for Life followed by the trailer for Alien Covenant, you might be mistaken to think that they are the same franchise. Hell its hard not to think that this a blatant rip-off of the original Ridley Scott classic. The plot is about 6 astronauts who are forced to survive when an alien life form gets on board their ship. While Life is nowhere near as good as Alien, it does have enough going for it to make this an entertaining sit.
A crew of 6 astronauts/scientist are situated on the International Space Station (ISS). The team is made up of American’s Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds) and David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), Brits Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) and Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), Japanese Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada) and commander and Russian Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya). They receive a soil sample from Mars and discover that there is a living organism inside. When exposed to oxygen and glucose, it begins to grow and becomes bigger and smarter. The creature is called Calvin, made of equal part muscle and brain matter eventually begins to lash out at its human examiners and begins killing them off one at a time.
There are a few scenes, which look very reminiscent to Alien, and watching this thing tear through the ship is a lot of fun. The design of the alien looks cool and is at times really creepy (not as much as the Xenomorph, but it has its moments). He takes them out in very bloody and unique ways. Another difference this has not just to Alien but to other sci-fi films is that there’s no real main character here. This is a collective effort as who ever left sticks together. It also makes it a bit harder to predict who will go first. I was thinking throughout who of the surviving members would be the Ripley like character to come out and save the day but that character never comes. Which I think as far as sci-fi films go, that makes this one a little more realistic.
A lot of what makes Life work is its characters and the actors who play them. All of the characters are given particular jobs to do on the ship and we learn a little bit about each of them before shit gets real. Each character also gets the right amount of screen time and it never feels like one character is being focused on more then another. This is an impressive feat and something not a lot of ensemble films get right.
Acting wise everyone gives us a fine performance. The script allows both Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal to be charming as always. Reynolds gets most of the comedic material (classic Deadpool). After having her break out in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, Rebecca Ferguson is once again in fine form here. Her character might seem like a cliché but Ferguson brings a level of humanity and intelligence to the role that not a lot of other actresses might have been able to.
With all that works in Life favour, its third act is where this film starts to fall apart. In its first two acts, it was a smart claustrophobic horror film but by the third act it becomes an escape the beast and slowly becomes a much dumber movie. Though saying that, I found the ending to be a nice little twist on what you’d expect from this genre. You might see it a mile away but it got me. Also I feel this film could have been 20 minutes shorter as it did feel at times they were just trying to stretch out the running time.
Overall Life is a fine sci-fi film that has just enough good performances and a creepy looking alien to make this an enjoyable sit. It will get compared a lot to Alien but it does do enough different to be its own thing. With its ending we might even get Life 2.
Images owned by Sony
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Thursday, 23 March 2017
THE BOSS BABY
By Brett Haynes 23/03/17
There was once a time that Dreamworks could compete and even out do the likes of Disney and Pixar. With their last three films, those days are well in the past. The Boss Baby is a weird concept and is the second film in less then twelve months to ask the question, where do babies come from.
The previous being Nicholas Stoller’s Storks, which is a far superior film. In this version they come from Babycorp which is a mystical corporation staffed entirely by babies. You are either born for a family or for the company and the boss baby (voiced by Alec Baldwin) was the later.
Baldwin has had a sort of rebirth in popularity of late after taking on the role of Donald Trump for Saturday Night Life. He is easily the best part of this film and I’ll even go as far to say that the movie really doesn’t start to get going until his character arrives.
The babies stay young by drinking a special brand of formula, which stops them, turning into adults and also allows them to talk. Getting fired from this position results in them being forced to grow up with a family, which to them is a disaster. No one ever mentions how someone acquires a baby, though a few jokes do get made on the topic.
The boss baby mission is to stop a dastardly plot to have puppies take over from babies as the main recipients of human love. Something which would lead to human extinction. The plot really doesn’t make a lot of sense but in the films defence they do make it feel like its being told through the imagination of a 7-year-old boy who’s jealous of the attention his baby brother is receiving from his parents (Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudro).
Though the line between what is real and what’s fantasy is never really made clear. To make matters worst, this is a comedy that really isn’t very funny. Sure there are a few jokes that do work (most of them coming from Baldwin) but for the most part they just fall flat. What’s worst is a lot of the jokes are made about business, a topic which this films target audience would have no idea about.
The Boss Baby is trying to be like Shrek with the animation for the kids and the jokes for the parents but unlike Shrek the animation is nothing special and the jokes are boring. Its got nothing to keep the audience fully engaged throughout. It’s safe to say the golden days of Dreamworks animation is officially over.
Images owned by Dreamworks
Wednesday, 22 March 2017
POWER RANGERS THE MOVIE
By Brett Haynes 22/03/17
With the new Power Rangers movie being released this week, I thought I’d take a look back at the first attempt to bring the rangers to the big screen. I grew up on this and once you take the nostalgia goggles off, this film is really bad. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a lot of the cheese that made the show so great.
In 1993, Saban released the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, an American version of the long running Japanese show Super Sentai. The show became an instant hit combining original American footage with footage from the Sentai. If you watch it back now, it’s quite hilarious to watch Rita attack this American town, which is filled with Japanese people. The show became so big that in 1995 a movie was released. This movie was a big deal like Marvel releases are today. The film grossed $66.4 million dollars at the box office; it was received with mix reviews from both critics and audiences and currently (22 years later) has a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes.
So lets look at the story. The film version stars the main actors from the show as we are introduced to Tommy (Jason David Frank), Kimberley (Amy Jo Johnson), Rocky (Steve Cardenas), Billy (David Yost), Adam (Johnny Yong Bosch) and Aisha (Karan Ashley) as they prepare to skydive for charity. Yeah that’s how this movie starts. A skydiving scene, which really has nothing to do with the main plot. What makes this scene even stranger (well for me anyway) is that this was shot in my hometown of Sydney Australia. So the first shot you see is of the Sydney skyline, which doesn’t look like an American city at all.
It’s basically a 90’s ad for Sydney as the Rangers rollerblade past Darling Harbour, The Harbour Bridge and other Sydney landmarks. The Rangers go up against the villainous Ivan Ooze (played by Paul Freeman) who I will admit is actually an ok villain. His cheesy and over the top which is what you’d expect from a Power Rangers villain. He is freed by Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd and is sent to destroy Zordon and the ranger’s powers.
Before that we get a cheesy 90’s fight scene to really bad 90’s music. The music in this movie is seriously dated. We get to see the rangers morph which leads to a lot of hand movements, flipping and sound effects. Also one of the most annoying things about not just Power Rangers but any of these shows is the bad guy just sits there and lets them morph instead of just killing them. Even when Billy announces his attack, they just stand there and let him beat the shit out of them. This is easily the best scene in the film because it’s the one scene that feels the most like Power Rangers.
Oh also this film has a lot of bad puns. I would put it on the same level as Mr Freeze from Batman and Robin. Ooze destroys the Command Centre destroying the ranger’s powers and forcing them to go to the distant planet of coastal New South Wales to find new powers. Ivan sends a group on Tenga (huge birds) to kill the rangers but they are saved by Dulcea who seems to be the only other person on the planet.
Its here that they receive their ninjetti powers. These consist of the Falcon (Tommy), Frog (Adam), Crane (Kimberley), Bear (Aisha), Wolf (Billy) and the Ape (Rocky). We get an ok fight scene between the rangers and the guardians before they receive the great power. All of the fight scenes in this film are just ok.
Meanwhile back in Angel Grove, Ivan has hypnotised the parents of Angel Grove to dig up his Ecto-Morphicons. Basically huge poorly designed CG monsters. The CG in this film is awful. Everything from Ivan’s monsters to the megazord itself. The models on the show look a lot better then anything they have created here.
There’s a scene where Ooze gets one of the parents to dance (it gets that ridiculous). Once his creations are unearthed, he orders the parents to leap to their doom back at the construction site. This leads to a side plot of young Fred having to get the other kids who really don’t seem to care that their parents are missing in order to save them. I really don’t care about this side plot (show me Rangers fighting things).
The Rangers arrive back to Earth, summoning their new Zords and they finally defeat Ivan once and for all but not before kicking him in the balls (yes that actually happens too). They return back to the Command Centre and since they have the new powers are able to save Zordon and restore the Command Centre back to normal.
The film ends with a firework display at Darling Harbour. I have no idea how the rangers can afford to eat at that restaurant (its really expensive).
So the Power Rangers movie is awful. For a lot of this movie is just the rangers walking around, they’re not morphed nor are they fighting anything. We don’t see Power Rangers for character development or lame villain plots. Power Rangers is meant to be cheesy and have a lot of fun action in it and that’s something that this film didn’t do.
Here hoping that the new one does have that. I think its safe to say that no matter how bad the new one is it will be better then this one.
Images owned by Saban
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
IRON FIST SEASON ONE
By Brett Haynes 21/03/17
*This Recap will have Spoilers*
Iron Fist finally makes his way to Marvel Netflix universe ahead of the Defenders later in the year. Unfortunately Iron Fist is easily the most under performing series of any of the Netflix shows.
It’s not as bad as a lot of critics are making it out to be. 17% on Rotten Tomatoes is not a fair score. Saying that it does have a lot of problems, which do make this a tough, sit to get through.
One of the main problems that it suffers from similar to Jessica Jones is that there isn’t a lot of superheroness in this superhero show. Where Jessica Jones had an awesome villain and a fun hero to fall back on when the show had its drop, Iron Fist has neither. While I’m not the biggest fan of Jessica Jones it at least had a simple and easy to follow story (stop Kilgrave). Here there are a number of plots going on and they often spend the most time on the least interesting one.
Its really not till episode 6 that we finally get some action taking place. It’s such a drag to get through the first 5 episodes, which is a huge problem for your show. Take something like Daredevil season one or Arrow season one; the pilot episode introduced us to our main character as an ordinary citizen and then as vigilante and we got to learn the backstory as we went. At the end of both episodes he has beaten someone up and shown us just how badass this character is. Its not till episode 3 that we finally get to see Danny have an actual fight. The most of his backstory we get is his parents dying in the plane crash. Just imagine we watch a Batman series and all we see of his backstory is his parents being killed in the ally.
At no point does he look like a badass though. I’m sorry but Finn Jones just can’t carry a series. He was fine in Game of Thrones but here everyone around him just outclasses him. He is written so poorly that in the first few episodes he sounds like a whiny little rich boy more then a warrior. I feel like he will do better in the Defenders because he won’t be the main character and he’ll have others to bounce off of.
It would have helped his character if we had learnt more about his training in K’un-L’un. Its mentioned as this beautiful place that no one would ever want to leave but we never get to see it. Also Danny training to become the Iron Fist is just a quick flashback. If we saw more of this then maybe we would feel more when he is unable to use the Iron Fist for a number of episodes.
On the flip side, his partner/love interest Colleen Wing (played by another Game of Thrones star Jessica Henwick) is so much more interesting to watch. She has so many more layers and when she acts angry or scared it comes off better then when Danny does it and looks like his just throwing a tantrum. Her best performance comes when Danny finds out that she a member of the Hand. Its one of the most passionate scenes in the entire show.
One of the major complaints this show is getting is it spends way too much time focusing on the business side of Rand instead of on the kung Fu elements and I agree with this. Whenever this show feels like its getting going it will cut back to another discussion on business deals or legal mumbo jumbo and lets be honest we don’t watch something called Iron Fist for that. It’s not quick either, they linger on the scene for a while and you just wish for it to end.
One of the saving graces for these scenes is the Meachum family who are manipulative and aggressive doing whatever it takes to stay on top. Tom Pelphrey as Ward Meachum gives one of the better performances as a submissive son to his dominant father Harold (David Wenham). Wenham is one of three villains in this series and is the weakest. To be fair as far as villains in this shared universe go, these are the weakest yet. We do get the return of Madame Gao who we last saw in Daredevil and she is the best of the three villains. The show really should have gone more into her backstory.
Speaking of the shared universe, this is not like the CW DC Universe because this really isn’t a shared universe. This series is about fighting the hand and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) even mentions I’ve had a friend who fought the hand. No mention is given about who this friend is or even having Charlie Cox guest star. If this were the Flarrowverse, that character would have been there in a heartbeat.
The action scenes are not Daredevil good but there ok at times. The fight between Danny and the Drunken fighter was a fun fight to watch as well as Colleen and her former mentor. There is one fight where Iron Fist and his friend Davos takes on the entire hand which is as close as we get to Daredevil like Hallway fight scene.
I know it sounds like I’m hating on this but its not terrible. It’s just slow to get into. The series could have done a lot more and if there is a second season I’m hoping they focus more on the fighting then on the business side. While this season has its problems, it can easily turn around just look at Gotham. If you make it through the first 5 episodes, the rest of the season is really enjoyable.
Images owned by Marvel/Netflix
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