Showing posts with label reviews #. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews #. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Review: 3:10 to Yuma

Don't miss this ride
The Westerns are truly back. I know, because I saw neither spaceships nor pirates (a la Serenity, Star Wars) in 3:10 to Yuma, the latest cowboy flick since maybe Unforgiven? (Brokeback Mountain does not count.) For the young folks, a "Western" is a movie set in America circa mid nineteenth century, when cowboys rode horses around deserts shooting each other for money or revenge. They called it the "Wild West" for a reason. The movie's about ex-soldier Dan Evans (Christian Bale) who joined a group of people escorting notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to the town of Contention, where they're sending him off on the three-ten evening train to Yuma prison. Evans needs the money from this gig to save his ranch and feed his family. Complicating matters are Wade's second-in-command, Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), who is leading Wade's gang in pursuit, and Evans' son William (Logan Lerman), tailing his dad against his wishes.

3:10 to Yuma is a remake of a fifty-year-old classic, so, not to worry insecure hetero males, it's not jumping on the Brokeback Mountain bandwagon. It's more of a combination of the Hollywood Western and Sergio Leone's Italian Westerns, with the romanticism of the former and the gritty realism of the latter. The resulting concoction is a straightforward but enthralling men-on-a-mission movie, with the requisite action sequences tucked in between scenes. But it's the story and characters that drive the movie. You can't help but feel for Evans, who is like the nerd to Wade's jock, getting the hard times while Wade gets the money and chicks. Not only is Evans not getting any respect from his wife or son, but they actually got a little smitten over the ever-charming Wade. Kind of like real life, where nice guys finish last, while chicks still dig bad men. Just ask Mel Gibson, Jackie Chan, or Russell Crowe too, who are still in everybody's good books despite their prejudices, infidelity and violent tendencies respectively. As consolation, the good guy still gets his day at the end, and even the villain was more than a little moved by Evan's righteous grit. The code-of-honour theme is so John Woo, a Western fan himself, I'm surprised he wasn't offered to direct this movie.

Not surprisingly, the acting is stellar in 3:10, with resonating performances by Crowe and Bale. But the man who stole the show was Ben Foster. (Yes, Angel from X-men 3!) All your attention centres on his Charlie Prince whenever he appears. People have been calling him effeminate in the reviews and forums, but apart from his high-pitched voice, this guy swaggers like a badass throughout the movie. When Charlie rides into town with six of the meanest-looking hombres, you can still tell that he's the boss of the outfit just from the way he carries himself. If that isn't badass, I don't know what is.

I truly regretted not seeing this one before making my Best of 2007 list, because 3:10 to Yuma is definitely the best 2007 movie I've seen and would have taken the top award instead of Atonement, although that one's really good too. Thus, it gets a special consolation prize as an apology for my gross oversight. - BMF

Directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, Identity) and screenplay by Halsted Welles (The Hell with Heroes, A Time for Killing), Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (Catch That Kid, 2 Fast 2 Furious). Stars Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Logan Lerman, Dallas Roberts, Ben Foster, Peter Fonda, Alan Tudyk, Gretchen Mol and Kevin Durand. Based on the short story by Elmore Leonard.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Review: 10,000 B.C.

A really stupid caveman movie

(Spoilers ahead!)

I'm fine with movies that have silly premises. Movies like Blade, Underworld and Resident Evil offer a hodgepodge of scientific and supernatural themes that border on unintentional parody. But the stories are often excuses for stringing a few fun action or special effects sequences together, and for the aforementioned movies, the action is almost always the best thing about them. The preposterous story of a vengeful black half-vampire goes down much easier if you're having too much fun watching Blade eliminate vampires with his silver samurai sword. Roland Emmerich's 10,000 B.C. is just as ludicrous, probably more so, but unfortunately it failed to impress in every aspect that mattered.

Thus, It goes without saying that 10,000 B.C.'s weakest attribute is its storyline. It's a shameless rip-off of Apocalypto's first half and Stargate's second, also an Emmerich movie. Circa 10,000 B.C., a group of horsemen pillaged a tribe of mammoth hunters, and captured some of its people, including blue-eyed prophecy child Evolet (Camilla Belle). Her boyfriend with the rapper-sounding name D'Leh (Steven Strait) immediately embarks on a rescue mission, together with mentor Tic'Tic (Cliff Curtis, who's in everything these days), rival hunter Ka'Ren (Mo Zinal) and recently-orphaned Baku (Nathanael Baring). They travel beyond the mountains of their icy plains to discover Africa, and then, within walking distances, Egypt. There, he finds his people being forced to work on building pyramids for a mysterious, god-like figure. D'Leh may lack modern weaponry and Kurt Russell, but luckily the Egyptian slave masters don't shoot plasma bolts from their staffs. He manages to round up an army of African natives to help him, because, conveniently, he also happens to be the Chosen One. He proves this by making friends with a sabretooth in one of the most intellectually insulting sequences ever. But it can't beat the one where a witch doctor revived a dead person by exhaling a misty puff of breath from hundreds of miles away. Meanwhile, D'Leh's hot girlfriend gets thrown into the company of thousands of deprived and depraved primeval men without causing much incident, a la Rambo 4 and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Faring badly too are the action sequences, which managed to take the best from Jurassic Park, Stargate, and 300, and actually made them worse. For example, it cribbed 300's spear-throwing finale, but lacking 300's editing sensibilities, 10,000 B.C.'s scene just plainly unfolds without ever bothering to build any semblance of suspense. Next thing you know, the villain's dead, and... that's it? The one action scene that we don't often see elsewhere is the mammoth hunt, which should have been the movie's highlight. But the ferocity of these ancient creatures barely even registers, which made the hunt no more exciting than if they were hunting regular-sized elephants. Although I like action, I'm not a gore lover, but this is one instance where a movie might have benefitted from some blood-letting.

Not helping Warner Bros' cause for a hundred million dollars is its hundred-dollar computer effects and production values. It has been three years since Chronicles of Narnia's fake-looking lion, but it seems like the development of computer generated felines never progressed. The mammoths were better animated, but looked like they lacked definition and seemed blurry at times. The man-eating birds are the only ones that get a passing grade, but it's probably because they whisked across the screen too fast for closer scrutiny. The set (or was it all blue-screen?), character and costume designs are a notch higher than Xena: Warrior Princess', but they are still as unauthentic, unless you believe dental care and sailboats had already been invented before the mammoths were extinct.

Probably the only way to stomach 10,000 B.C. is to think of it as one of those cheesy Eighties Conan The Barbarian-type of movies. But Apocalypto is clearly the better ancient-civilisation-action-movie. 10,000 B.C. is as pointless as the rave scene from The Matrix Reloaded. - BMF


For the record:

Emmerich movies: Stargate > Independence Day > The Day After Tomorrow > The Patriot > Universal Soldier > Godzilla > 10,000 B.C.

Directed by Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow, The Patriot) and screenplay by Emmerich and Harold Kloser (debut). Stars Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Affif Ben Brada, Mo Zinal, Nathanael Baring, Mona Hammond, Marco Khan and Omar Sharif as The Narrator.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Review: 300

I am not really entertained

Frank Miller’s comic book 300 is a stylised re-imagining of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Greece, where the titular 300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), stood their ground to defend their country from an invading Persian army of thousands despite objections from the Spartan councilmen. Meanwhile, Leonidas’ queen, Gorgo (Lena Headey, looking a lot like Connie Nielsen’s Lucilla from Gladiator) has to deal with the underhanded councilman Theron (Dominic West), who may be able to convince the council to revoke their decision and dispatch the rest of the Spartan army to support Leonidas’ position at Thermopylae.

Director Zack Snyder, who famously and miraculously escaped the wrath of Dawn of the Dead fans by actually doing a pretty good job with the remake, created a visual feast of a movie, similar to another Frank Miller creation, Sin City. His movie adheres to the imageries and designs from the book, but improves on them with a crisp, CG sheen over it. The director also carried over the book’s heightened sense of reality, menagerie of freaks and megalomaniacal displays of omnipotence. He was also successful in recreating Frank Miller’s trademark atmosphere of decadent sleaziness with the scenes involving Xerxes’ crib and the Ephors.

So, why is 300 only getting an Average rating from the Big Movie Freak, you say? As a picture book, or even a video game, the visual quality would have been enough to impress. But as a movie, despite all its flourishes 300 was surprisingly boring. Matching the action with equal excess were the lengthy stretches of expositions. Characters would stand in place and deliver long, dreary speeches that often stop the movie cold. They'll go on and on, and again and again with the same damn speech about strength and honour and whatnot like it wasn't clear enough the first time. It may have helped if veterans such as Sir Ian McKellen were reciting the dialogues instead of still-not-quite-there-yet David Wenham (playing narrator Dilios) and co. But really, even then the script would still be in dire need of a trim.

Speaking of David Wenham, who was Faramir in Lord of the Rings, at one point the movie did begin to look like a game of spot-that-movie, with not-so-subtle homages ranging from Rings (Giant elephants! Gollum!) to Zhang Yimou’s Hero (Arrows! Lots of them!). Even Tom Sizemore-lookalike Vincent Regan (the Captain) is playing the same second-in-command lackey role he had in Troy. This movie is more deserving of the title of Déjà Vu than that Denzel Washington picture from last year.

I have to admit: it has its moments. I liked the prologue explaining the harsh, badass Spartan culture, and I enjoyed some of the action sequences, particularly the first wave of attack, the one with the über Immortal and the final showdown. I appreciate the exaggerated, grotesque beauty of the Persian King and his minions. But overall, it’s a second-rate swords-and-sandals epic at best, no thanks to a fundamentally marring and overzealous script. - BMF

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Review: 24 (Season 1, TV)

This is the longest day of my life

In this high concept series, Special Agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) of the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) has only twenty-four hours to prevent an assassination attempt on Presidential candidate David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert), find his missing daughter, and identify the mole inside CTU.

I advise you to watch 24 during the weekends because once you start you're not gonna stop, like the M&Ms. The story's not really that original, but they do try to move away from clichés at times. What's great about it is how they build the tension, and always deliver a cliffhanger at the end of every hour so that you're always forced to pop the next disc in. By the way, if you weren’t aware (don't worry, no spoilers here), 24 has 24 episodes, each representing an hour in a day of a terrorist incident. Of course, it's not shot in real-time, but it's made as if though you're following Kiefer Sutherland through every minute of his experience during that 24 hours. Err, got that?

Anyway, Kiefer Sutherland is BADASS, man. You do not want to mess with this motherf*****, although he looks like a nice, sweet guy in front of his family. He has no qualms about torturing someone for information, and will commit murder for the sake of national security. He probably has "years of experience in black ops, assassinations and other shady government businesses" written in his top secret CV.

If you liked this one, wait till you see Season 2. - BMF

Will2k's review:
The first episode is very exciting. What makes 24 good is the dialogue, action and adrenaline pumping moments which are perfectly blended together... it's like having Die Hard and Bourne Identity all in one. But I have to admit that the story line is kinda familiar... it's not something that is totally original... seen it in movies like The Hostage, Die Hard With A Vengeance and etc. Have to give credit to them for still being able to deliver some originality. Jack Bauer looks a bit like Bruce Willis with hair except he doesn't get bruises and cuts everywhere. There's a lot of surprise and twist in the movie... quite intelligent and well done. There's a part where Walsh and Jack were shooting terrorist in the building... it was quite a suspense. Reminded me of Bruce Willis in Die Hard. I would not be surprised if this series actually got the inspiration from Bruce's Die Hard movies, because even the bad guy reminds me of Jeremy Irons in Die Hard With A Vengeance. But still no complains... better than watching Smallville. Not to condemn Smallville, but I'm already bored of watching Tom Welling after Season 2 and didn't even feel a bit addicted watching it after that. However, Smallville is still the best Superman TV series if you asked me.

UPDATE 15/09/06: I've continued to watch 24 last night and I'm very, very pleased indeed to find the intensity and excitement of the series which never failed to provide a neverending mystery and puzzle-solving conspiracy, adding up together like a jigsaw puzzle and everything seemed to link up well in the end. What I really admired about this series is the level of detail they put into it, while the characters in 24 really delivered and lived up to my expectations. The person who created 24 definitely knows what people are looking for when it comes to entertainment. Way to go! Coming to the level-of-detail part, for example, there was this scene where David Palmer confronted two hooligans in the car park and uttered a few 'philosophy and morale teachings' to them - one of the brothers swung a baseball bat towards Palmer, but Palmer (standing 6-feet tall with shoulders that would make Hulk Hogan proud) catched it with his bare hands without much trouble. But afterwards, they showed that Palmer got some cuts in his hand due to the impact. This little detail shows that Palmer is still human after all. That's neat!

16/09/06: I continued my journey on 24 again! There's no doubt about it: I am definitely loving this series each time it draws closer to the ending. I particularly admire these characters: Almeida, Alberta Green, George Mason, Robert Ellis, Richard Welsh, Milo, Victor Drazen, Chapelle, Alexis Drazen and of course, David Palmer. Jack Bauer is of course, the hero, but these other characters are also damn cool.

18/09/06: I've finished 24! Spoilers included! However, I've a sad news about 24. Almost the whole season of 24 is very exciting, until it came to the last two episodes. I was expecting something more, but what I got was something that really looked like some last minute work. Here are my comments...

(spoiler begins!)

At the second-last episode of 24, they revealed that Nina Myers was the culprit all along (Jack Bauer actually realised it at the beginning of the season, but she somehow managed to trick him), but the strange thing is that Nina Myers can't be the mole because after I did some flashbacks on what she has done to Jack and his family, it's not likely she's the mole. Furthermore, if she was the mole, I don't think Jack would had a chance at all, so I find this rather ridiculous. But still, it was quite shocking, I can't deny that. I bet a lot of people found this shocking, but I still can't buy it, I tried to put this matter behind me, but I still think it's not possible. It's like they tried to pull off a big surprise for us, but I wasn't satisfied.

In the ending, there is some John Woo execution style by Jack Bauer (woo hoo!) Jack's been pissed cause he thought his daughter was dead (not really!) So he decided he doesn't give a shit no more and blasted all the baddies to middle's earth (he could have done it before, but they were holding his family). Don't expect the baddies to die in a very ugly manner, that's all I can say. Quick, clean death, the American style.

There are two alternate endings for 24. I preferred the one where Teri Bauer died, because at least one of them died after so many miraculous survivals in the series. It's only fair if one of them dies. The second ending is for sissies who doesn't want to see the hero cry. So, both these endings served a purpose.

However, even though the Nina Myer thing might have disappointed me a little, I won't hesitate to watch Season 2. A miracle, isn't it? Probably they made Nina as a mole for some reason, so, I don't doubt that something exciting might be awaiting in the next season of 24.

(spoiler ends!)

Verdict: 24 still managed to deliver, and convinced me to watch on!