Saturday, August 27, 2011

Colombiana

Movie Name: Colombiana
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Olivier Megaton
Stars: Zoe Saldana, Michael Vartan, Cliff Curtis, Jordi Molla, Callum Blue, Lennie James, Max Martini, Amandla Stenberg, Monica Acosta, Graham McTavish, Jesse Borrego
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4

Synopsis:
Luc Besson has steadily become one of the busiest producers working in film. The films with his imprint no longer are limited to his directorial efforts, who are now far and between, but his writing and producing skills have been used in a stream of films, from the "Transporter" series to others such as "Taken" and even "I Love You Philip Morris". Olivier Megaton, director of "Colombiana" has collaborated with Luc Besson on "Transporter 3" - the style is very similar. The quick pacing of the narrative, dynamic editing, all coming from the style of Tony Scott.
The film follows the story of Cataleya and her family. Cataleya lives in Colombia and witnesses her parents being shot as a little girl and promises revenge. Growing up in the US, Cataleya becomes a lethal assassin, discrete and able to be almost invisible. She has almost no ties of any kind, save for a man she starts having a relationship with and her remaining family, who also gets shot by the same people who destroyed her life in Colombia. Cataleya decides to revenge her loved ones and stops at nothing to do so.
"Colombiana" has a mix of different films and different styles. It's equal parts "Nikita", "The Bourne Identity" and "The Professional". Olivier Megaton doesn't care much about character development or getting to explore the dynamics of the characters - most of the characters are thin as paper, and obviously cliches, save for Cataleya who we are given a brief glimpse of where she's coming and why she's so focused on her targets. But even her story is a backdrop for action scenes that showcase her lethal and precise capabilities as a killer. It's a film that has a B-style to it, and that manages to achieve some of it's goals as an entertaining one, but it's not enough to create a good and memorable experience.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Help

Movie Name: The Help
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Tate Taylor
Stars: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Ahna O'Reilly, Cicely Tyson, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, Anna Camp, Mike Vogel, Brian Kerwin, Leslie Jordan, Aunjanue Ellis, Chris Lowell, Mary Steenburgen
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:
"The Help" adapts the best seller of the same name by Kathryn Stockett. The film follows the story of Skeeter, a young woman from Jackson, Mississippi, who comes back to her hometown after being in college, during the 1960s. Skeeter longs to be a serious writer and starts writing advice columns for the local newspaper. She realizes that Jackson, Mississippi is ruled by old conventions and that the inequalities that always existed between the two main racial groups are still rampant. She decides to write a book from the perspective of the help, a group of African-American women who always cared for the houses and children of the white privileged society of that area. She enlists the help of two women, the strong but silent Aibileen and the sparky and spunky Minny, both of whom work for women who Skeeter knows, in particular the stone cold Hilly. Their book, changes the lives of everyone in that small community.
Tate Taylor has a career built mostly as a character actor, having only two other directing efforts to his name. With "The Help" he has decided to touch sensitive issues in the history of civil rights movement, of how life used to be for African Americans in the south of the country. The film captures a time and the changes that were coming, with President JFK and Martin Luther King. "The Help" is mostly a female perspective of very agitated times, and wisely focuses it's attention on the three main lead characters: Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. Around them a plethora of women try to adjust to these changing times, some resisting the change and being hypocritical, which is the case of the cold Hilly, some being genuine and embracing people for who they are, like Celia. The film though limited in some of the cliches that displays, it allows for great work from some great actresses, namely Viola Davis as Aibileen, Bryce Dallas Howard as Hilly and Jessica Chastain as Celia. An interesting film that showcases a slice of history, from a different perspective.

Fright Night

Movie Name: Fright Night
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Craig Gillespie
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco, Will Denton, Sandra Vergara, Chris Sarandon, Lisa Loeb, Brian Huskey
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:
"Fright Night" was originally directed by Tom Holland and released in 1985 - this remake directed by Craig Gillespie updates the original concept and adds more thrills, more fun and great actors. The film follows the story of Charley and his mom Jane, both of whom live in Las Vegas. Their new neighbor is a handsome and attractive man named Jerry, whom Charley realizes is a vampire. Jerry is building a nest of vampires, and comes after Charley, his mom and his girlfriend Amy. It's up to Charley to defend himself and the ones he loves, all with the help of entertainer/occult savant Peter Vincent.
Craig Gillespie directed previously the quirky and enjoyable "Lars and The Real Girl" and also a few episodes of "The United States of Tara". He infuses the screenplay of "Fright Night" with a lightness and simultaneously a swift pace that is engrossing and also menacing. "Fright Night" knows how not to take itself seriously, poking fun at the whole "Twilight" generation, but also has enough thrills to truly engage the audience. It's an intelligent thriller, with a humorous side! The actors are all great, from the young Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots, to the charismatic Colin Farrell and the always great Toni Collete.  A very entertaining film!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Year of Release: 2011
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Stars: James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Andy Serkis, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Tyler Labine, David Hewlett, Jamie Harris
Genre: Action, Thriller, Drama, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Synopsis:
The franchise "Planet of the Apes" is back, after the series of films that started being produced in 1968 with Franklin J. Schaffner at the helm and Charlton Heston as the leading actor. The latest attempt at reviving this series was directed by Tim Burton in 2001 with disappointing results, so this relaunch goes back further in the series, a prequel of sorts.
The film follows the story of Will a young scientist trying to discover a cure for Alzheimer's, since his father is suffering from that ailment and is getting progressively worse. Will has been trying the experimental drug on chimps and is successful in making a baby chimp develop extreme cognitive response. The chimp grows up (in stature and intelligence) in Will's house and due to a series of misunderstandings, finds himself in a county animal shelter where due to abuse and mistreatment, grows a progressive sense of liberation. Caeser, ends up leading a rebellion of apes yearning for freedom, charging against everyone who dares to oppose his force.
The film has an interesting premise, one where humans tampering with technology alter the course of nature. It's a recursive theme for many science-fiction films, but this film stops short of what could have been a very interesting insight into what the dynamics of society would change with such a revolutionary concept. The screenplay and the director opt to for the uprising of the apes and how the action set pieces function. The special effects are indeed fantastic and extremely realistic, and that ends up being the best thing of the film. Andy Serkis playing Caesar is the highlight amongst the actors, though John Lithgow is reliable as always. A conventional film worth investigating.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens

Movie Name: Cowboys and Aliens
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Jon Favreau
Stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Adam Beach, Paul Dano, Chris Browning, Keith Carradine, Noah Ringer, Walton Goggins, Ana de la Reguera, Abigail Spencer, Brian Duffy
Genre: Action, Adventure, Western, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4

Synopsis:
Director Jon Favreau follows the disappointing "Iron Man 2" with another big blockbuster, filled with special effects and big stars, this time Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. The film follows the story of Jake Lonergan, who wakes up in the middle of the desert, without any memory and with a strange device on his wrist. Jake tries to remember who he is, but gets chased by everyone due to a past he doesn't recollect. When he's about to be taken to respond for his past crimes, extra-terrestrial forces attack, destroying the small town and kidnapping people. Jake and his odd wrist-based device, manage to battle those creatures. In the end, it's up to Jake and the rest of the people in the town to go after the aliens and salvage the kidnapped people and save the world itself.
"Cowboys and Aliens" is based on a comic book by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg and the screenplay has been written by a huge team comprised of writers of big blockbusters as "Transformers" and "Star Trek", to name but a few. Oddly enough, with this pedigree, the screenplay for "Cowboys and Aliens" touches all the cliches there are for a film that could have been quite surprising and different. Sadly as the film progresses, no sense of novelty is to be found - the film feels tired and unimaginative. The actors try their best to infuse some life to their characters, but there isn't much depth in any of these cardboard characters. Harrison Ford in particular deserved a better film where to shine his talent. A wasted opportunity for everyone involved.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Year of Release: 2011
Director: Joe Johnston
Stars: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Haley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Michael Brandon, Natalie Dormer, William Hope, Samuel L. Jackson
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Synopsis:
After the failure of "The Wolfman", director Joe Johnston is back with the adaptation of another Marvel comics character, this time the iconic "Captain America", created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon in 1941. The character is intricately associated with the war effort of the Second World War, but the character managed to surpass the test of time and was later on added to the super group "The Avengers". This film follows the same concept, it introduces the character and establishes the context for the upcoming "Avengers" film, currently being shot.
The film follows the story of Steve Rogers, a young man desperately trying to join the Army in order to fight with his friend Bucky against the Nazi forces in Europe. Steve is however physically inept, dues to his multiple ailments and height, which always prevents him from joining. With the help of a scientist, Steve is the subject of an experiment that turns him into a super soldier. It's up to Steve and his friends to stop Hydra and it's main leader, Red Skull from destroying the world.
Joe Johnston has tried with this film to build an old style adventure, filled with over the top action sequences, but also filled with a sense of nostalgia for a time that has gone by. As usual in his films, the results feel under-developed and underwhelming. Though Chris Evans tries his best to play Steve Rogers as the iconic and simultaneously tender hearted Captain America, most of the remaining cast is just on auto-pilot, mostly due to a screenplay that hits all the cliches and has not a single spark of irreverence. The film lacks a true sense of adventure and discovery, and all the action scenes end up being used as filler, ultimately adding nothing to the film itself. Joe Johnston has never been a particularly gifted director, but this film needed a bit more of the charm he brought to one of his first efforts, "The Rocketeer". As is, the film is just an average action film with a convincing lead.