Friday, 31 January 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: ENDER'S GAME



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In future the earth had been almost destroyed by the alien attack. The government is harvesting “gifted children” who has the ability to “understand” the enemy. As Alien forces prepare for the deadly strike, the first after fifty years, a boy named Ender fights his way through the hierarchy of cadets to become the commander in chief. But in the world where everyone is for themselves, what is game and what is real?

In our age where starving artists are trying to sell to Hollywood the original ideas and being rejected because these ideas are “unsellable” how does a major studio invest into a film with the potentially “unsellable” script?

This is what we a dealing here with… a lot of training. A lot of game playing. Then more of game playing. Nothing is really at stake until some nonsensical revelations in the end (at least they seem nonsensical in the film) and a “weird” ending that belongs in the low calibre art-house cinema.

Asa Butterfield plays a very unlikable Ender. This one will do anything to achieve his goal. He has the mind of a true strategist however, so even his spontaneous actions such as rebellious escapades against commanders and "sincere" bonding with co-students target one aim only - to win at all costs. Here is the kid I would enjoy to bully myself if I had a misfortune to end up with him at the same class (same school even).

Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley are not even worth mentioning here. Both of them do not bring any depth to the tyrant teacher roles they were intrusted with. They would probably annoy you more as characters if Ender himself wasn’t twice as annoying.

There’s little good to say about ENDER’s GAME. The Steven Jablonsky soundtrack is beautiful but repetitive. The visual effects are stunning, but when most things that happen on screen are just silly training, the effects seem redundant. The idea of allegory of war where one can understand the enemy so well that starts loving him falls on deaf ear. All because the movie is so detached, emotionless and boring. The original book, that featured the future of much elder Ender had so much more in store!

Imagine Hunger Games with no Hunger Games or love triangle (or any romance for that matter) and you will have a pretty good idea what Ender’s Game is like. At the end you feel as if you had been watching someone else playing an Xbox game for two hours. Badly.


A true disappointment indeed.

MOVIE REVIEW: BANSHEE CHAPTER




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When her friend disappears after injecting himself with a strange substance which anonymously arrived in the post, a young journalist is on a journey to solve the mystery.  Strange voices on the radio, grotesque shapes lurking in the night and the aftermaths of secret government experiments are all connected and leading her towards some terrible truth.

BANSHEE CHAPTER is the proof that a good horror movie can be made on a shoestring budget if it is well written, directed and inspired.  It’s plot is simple, its heroine believable and atmosphere is creepy. Add to the mix a bat-shit crazy revolutionist writer as a sidekick and a few nods to the classic Lovecraft horror stories and you get a pretty solid flick. 

The main best quality of any horror film remains the ability to scare you, to make you cringe in your seat. The first time director Blair Erickson definitely knows his business. Can't wait to see what he does next!


Saturday, 25 January 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: HER




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Reclusive Martin lives a life that consists of work, playing games, sleep and rare meetings with his two neighbours-friends. He is going through a divorce and doesn’t seem to enjoy his life very much. That is before he buys an operating system assistant (an OS). She calls herself Sam and turns his world upside down. Thus begins an unusual love affair,  strange but possible in a world very much like our own.

HER is a satirical love story placed in not so distant future. The unsettling part is how possible it all looks. Does your partner think that you are having a love affair with your new ipad? When did you last leave home without your mobile phone? And what about SIRI? In HER devices infiltrated everything, this world has accepted them as a part of life and even a love affair with and OS system seems like a normal thing.

In modern movie making to have a high concept is not enough to make an exceptional film. What makes HER exceptional is tightly written script (it took five months to write) a hilarious dialogue and characters that take seconds to identify with. The movie feels original, even when it follows the familiar territory of any love story: romance - break up - reunion. The details of the “world”are incredible. While Shanghai as a background “city of the future” is very much recognizable, it is fashion details (high waist men’s pants anyone?), interior designs, computer interfaces and game consoles make this world real.

The voice of Scarlett Johansson is warm and reassuring. You do not get a glimpse of her, even once, although it is strange that SAM, who is upset not having a body, did not draw a computer generated version of herself.

Phoenix’s  Martin is a little awkward, but probably the kindest and most generous character seen on screen in recent years.
Supporting cast of Rooney Mara as Martin’s old flame, Amy Adams as a girl next door and Olivia Wild as a “hot date” are all fantastic and make the most of the short screen time given to them. These ladies have one thing in common - they are all single a little pushy pseudo-intellectuals in their late thirties, who believe that having a relationship is essential at their age and part of being someone successful. It is not random that crowd shots in the film mostly showing single people walking the streets, talking on their phones (or to their phones), as if highlighting that in this world true loving relationships are rare.


HER is a movie that increases its value after multiple viewings and it will be entertaining to watch with different friends and see what they think about it. Some movies are impossible to grasp in a short review. The characters of HER are not real, just like the OS system, but definitely worth to fall in love with, even if it’s just for a short time.  

Sunday, 19 January 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT



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JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT is an attempt to invigorate Tom Clancy’s legacy. A best selling author who has died sadly last year left many books that could become great films.  SHADOW RECRUIT re-invents the saga of JACK RYAN, placing him into 21st century and giving him new enemy - the war on terror. The first forty minutes of the film establish the reasons why Jack joined CIA, the origins of his relationship with his glamorous girlfriend (Keira Nightly) and why being a simple analyst he can fight and kill like 007. Then we go straight to Moscow where action begins. Little surprise there, with all conventional kidnappings, car chases and face off with the psychotic russian villain  (Kenneth Branagh). While many characters of the film speak absolutely incomprehensible fake Russian, Branagh is pretty good (I am Russian myself so I can judge), but when he speaks English his fake accent is terrible. Being from aristocratic family this Russian villain could speak pure Oxford English and remain believable. 

Branagh’s directorial work is better than his acting. With a rather simplistic and weak script (think one hour episode of 24) he manages to produce a very tight movie, adding sentimental touches to both villains and protagonists’ story lines.
The photography has a realistic touch to it and avoids much hated by me but ever so popular nowdays shaky camera trick.

The soundtrack by Patrick Doyle, Branagh’s collaborator on Thor, is a good stand alone listening  and lifts up the film where required.


While the final act of SHADOW RECRUIT is very enjoyable and worth the wait, the end result cannot withstand second viewing. Would Tom Clancy be happy with the latest instalment? Unfortunately he is not here to tell.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY


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AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY refers to the month and the place - a rural area in Oklahoma. Here three sisters arrive to support her strong willed, but cancer ridden, drug addict mother when her husband, their father, disappears from home. Then a tragedy strikes, old wounds are opened and demons are unleashed.

Maryl Strip in the role of the cruel family matriarch Violet has outdone herself. Stripped of all glamour (pardon the punt) she is an unstoppable carriage heading for derail. She is incredible to watch, but so is Julia Roberts, who plays the oldest of the sisters - Barbara. The “Barbara - Violet” stand against each other is the core of the movie.

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY may be intimidating to watch. The power play of so many good actors in one film can be a little overwhelming but too much of good acting cannot be bad, right? OUSAGE COUNTY has been pushed to the heights of the blockbuster because of all the famous people involved. An intimate play at heart it seems to be taking hard coping with entertain millions. A movie about a family of misfits who lie and abuse each other is an acquired taste…  Or is it?


If for a moment we forget the production values and look at the play itself we can see many melodramatic twists that belong in daytime TV and not on a big screen. However stranger things had happened. One thing OSAGE COUNTY does well is to make you think better of your own life. And you thought your own family is messed up? Think again!