Tag Archive: Steven Spielberg


Steve JobsSteve Jobs (Dir: Danny Boyle)

The case of Steve Jobs has been a perplexing one. A promising limited release in the States was colouring this to be the hot awards ticket that many expected it would  be. Yet when Universal made the decision to push wide earlier than scheduled, the film bombed. Now, while certain to be present this award season, this Boyle/Aaron Sorkin joint simply doesnt seem to be burning up among movie-goers. Discussion of it is limited almost to nothing. Which is a shame because it is one of the most finely acted, sharply scripted and energetically directed films of the year.

Focusing on three separate product launches, from the Mackintosh in 1984, to the ill-fated Next System in 1988 and culminating with the release of the i-Mac in 1998, Sorkin’s screenplay keeps all the drama backstage in the build up to each of Job’s presentations, demonstrating his relationships with colleagues, friends, lovers and the girl who he refuses to admit is his daughter.

Through focusing on issues both technical and personal, the film attempts to give a portrait of Jobs as a man without following the tropes of a more conventional bio-pic. It is a structure that feels more accustomed to the stage, and while it may feel repetitive at times, the film is undoubtedly unique, bold, and uncompromising in the way it wishes to proceed. Much like the man himself.

Each back-stage encounter allows Jobs, evoked rather than imitated by Michael Fassbender, to interact with all the key players in his life, from devoted assistant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), old friend and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniack (Seth Rogen), CEO of Apple John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), his former girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) and his supposed daughter, Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, and Makenzie Moss at different ages). Each back-stage walk and talk sees Jobs encounter everyone, battling with some and reconciling with others, allows Sorkin’s dialogue to truly fly, delivered by a fine cast of actors, arguably the finest assembled to deliver Sorkin’s words. No one puts a foot wrong, but it is by far Fassbender’s film, doing so much to make us see this version of Jobs as both a portrait of one of the most significant men in the modern age, and as a character who lives and breathes thanks to his presence.

Being a Sorkin script, the film is incrdibly dialogue driven, which is why the choice of Danny Boyle as director seems a bit strange, as he is a man often applauded for his visceral kineticism as a director. Somehow, though, it works. Boyle finds movement and pace through his camera work and through his clever and bombastic visual tweaks which highlight points and drive home Jobs rhetoric. Shooting on era appropriate flm stock and moving to digital gives the film a unique aesthetic, while Dnaiel Pemberton’s score does wonders to punctuate the faultless editing in numerous sequences of heightened drama.

The repetitiveness of the structure and Sorkin’s occasional lapse in to crafting lines of rather cringe-worthy prohesising of the future of Apple, Steve Jobs is nothing if not indulgent; but it is entertaining in only the way a Sorkin scripted movie can be. His energy is paired somewhat brilliantly with Boyle’s developing a film which is entertaining throughout and a wondrous master-class of actorly craft. 4/5  

BlackMass

Black Mass (Dir: Scott Cooper)

Black Mass has been particularly highlighted as marking a return of Johnny Depp as a ‘serious character actor’ after a string of performances which which require little of him beyond the ‘Jack Sparrow’ routine, and that’s without acknowledging that none of them have been particularly well received at the box office. Black Mass certainly does offer a role for Depp that allows him to flex more than he has in recent years, and he certainly delivers what is asked of him. The problem is that the film itself ends up asking little of hi in a scattered and un-focused snapshot of one of America’s intriguing criminals.

Depp plays Whitey Bulger, a Boston Gangster, who manages to use the powers of the FBI for his own gain when child-hood friend Agent John Connelly (Joel Edgarton) approaches him with an offer to help take down rival gangs in the city. Bulger managed to orchestrate for himself an untouchable empire, and managed to evade capture for many years despite being responsible for many violent crimes, and taking many  people’s lives. While the figure is undoubtedly interesting and worth exploring, Scott Cooper’s film fails to truly land on a point of focus, leading to a frustrating and wholly generic gangster pic that could have been so much more.

We initially seem to be taking on the perspective of a leg-man in Whitey’s ranks, played by the ever-dependable Jesse Plemons, before then jumping into to Whitey’s personal life with his mother and publicly adored Senator brother (Benedict Cumberbatch). That is until it takes more of a focus on Connelly, on his desire to both impress Bulger and rise in the ranks of Federal officials. It never settles on any one character, leaving many thinkly sketched, relying on the admitteddly very talented cast to paint in more than the script actually allows them.

Thankfully for the film, the cast is up to the challenge. Edgarton is on particularly fine form as Connelly, delivering great nuances and conflict in a man who never seems to have grown up from being a small boy admiring the strength and control exuded by Bulger. Depp himself disappears behind heavy prosthetics to present a monstrous image of one of America’s criminals, but is let down by the film which seems to only want to depict him as a sneering, unmerciful killer come the final third, despite their being shades of something much more complicated.

There is a strong film here, with many separate moments proving affecting thanks to stellar work from the actors, and Cooper is certainly a director who knows how to send a chill down your spine. The main issue is that it all feels too disjointed to come through as a convincing character study, something which it seems entirely un-interested achieving. 2/5 

 BridgeofSpiesBridge of Spies (Dir: Steven Spielberg)

Trust Spielberg to be the one to make it like they used to. With a dash of Capra, a lashing of Carol Reed and a good dose of his own sensibilities, Spielberg has crafted a refreshingly old-fashioned Cold War drama which is pure Americana in its most purest and un-cynical form.

Lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is called upon to represent a suspected Soviet Spy named Abel (Mark Rylance) in the face of the Cold War. After showing great strength and resilience in upholding the constitution despite representing what many deem to be the enemy, Donovan is once again tasked with the impossible; he must negotiate a swap for Abel after a US fighter pilot is caught taking aerial photographs over Russia. The location of the swap: Soviet Occupied East Berlin.

A wonderfully complex moment in Cold war history, Bridge of Spies tells its tale vicariously through the eyes of Donovan, a man of unshakeable moral ethics, a decent and honourable man who could perhaps only ever be played by Tom Hanks (in another era, this would be a Jimmy Stewart picture). Partnering with Hanks for the fourth time, Spielberg uses his star’s persona to power much of the characterisation of Donovan, and it quite simply works. Hanks is wonderful in a role which relies upon his natural confidence and charisma. We need to believe Donovan is a man who can talk himself out of any situation, all the while never bending his ethical and moral code, and having someone as established and as dependable as Hanks in the role firmly establishes Donovan as such in a believable way.

However, as a result, it is often difficult to feel there is all that much at stake; history is written and its Tom Hanks, of course he will win out against the obstacles that stand in his way. Spielberg therefore frames his story as a moment of courage and resilience in a complicated political climate, and as a reminder that neither side may be right. Donovan may be American, but he sees how Abel’s own resilience is something to admire, despite him being part of ‘the other side.’ Rylance’s quietly assured and affecting performance enables this mirroring and duality to take place, offering Abel as a character of sympathy, not one who should be judged.

Spielberg is now rather effortless at establishing his aesthetic, working with tried and tested crew members to produce a finely crafted picture. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski often chooses high key lighting to give the film an almost dream-like quality at times, while producing some truly chilling imagery come Donovan’s entrance into East Berlin.

The second half of the film moves away from the Capra-esuqe courtroom drama of the first hour. We witness an eye-catchign moment of spectacle as the US Fighter pilot is shot down, we enter East Berlin and the sense of danger is palpable. It is in these moments that the script contribution of the Coen Brothers can truly be felt, presenting us with ridiculous figures of military authority and obscure beats of dark comedy. This combination of Coen wit and Spielberg driven visuals allows Bridge of Spies to stand as something quite special for both sets of respected auteurs.

Bridge of Spies is one of the more wholly satisfying cinematic experiences of the year; it is simply a well crafted tale that revels in an engaging and complex moment in history with a confidence that perhaps only Spielberg can exude. The Spielberg-schmultz ending feels earned, a feat many of his films struggle to achieve. Compelling, entertaining, and filled with old school charm. 5/5 

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JurassicWorld-1The term ‘development hell’ has rarely been more appropriate than when used to describe the history of getting Jurassic Park 4 to the big screen. In numerous stages during the 14 year gap between Jurassic Park 3, JP4 has taken many forms, with scripts from the likes of John Sayles and William Monahan never quite getting off the ground (if you can, give them read, always interesting to see what DNA survives across scripts). But now, after many years of false starts, we are finally able to revisit a universe that so many of us hold very fondly to our movie-going hearts, and have been nervously anticipating for over a decade. Thankfully, it has been worth the wait.

Isla Nublar, the island which played host to John Hammond’s failed Dinosaur Park project 22 years ago is now a fully functioning Dinosaur theme park, displaying the cloned dino’s in all their carefully exhibited (and sponsored) glory. With the pressure on to deliver fresher and scarier attractions, park operator Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is preparing to unveil a new genetically modified hybrid, the Indominus Rex, built within the on-site lab led by Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong). Of course, none of this can go well, as the highly intelligent I-Rex manages to escape from containment on an island with thousands of daily visitors. Claire, with the aid of Raptor-trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), sets out to ensure the safety of the island’s patrons, including her two young nephews (Nick Robinson & Ty Simpkins).

Trying to develop reasons for why anyone would want to go back to a land full of dinosaurs is something which hindered the two sequels to Steven Spielberg’s original classic. Yet now, with so much time having passed, theJurassicWorld-2 concept of having the park fully functioning seems like a definite no-brainer when it comes to re-introducing this franchise to modern audiences. While it is impossible to recapture the sheer awe of seeing the dinosaurs for the first time in Jurassic Park, director/co-writer Colin Trevorrow manages to construct something similar through seeing John Hammond’s dream come to such full and exciting life. This is a park that I want to visit, despite the fact that many of the attractions would rather eat me than pose for a selfie. IT is a park which clearly borrows inspiration from the likes of Universal and SeaWorld, but one that looks inviting none the less.

Trevorrow also employs a welcome self-awareness in regards to having to capture a sense of awe, and it is this concern that the Indominus Rex spirals from. The Indominus has come from a desire to provide something bigger, more terrifying, something with ‘more teeth.’ The mystery surrounding her genetic make-up allows her to be a curious creature, while her up-bringing, as the world-weary Owen fully acknowledges, has made her into a confused, curious and lost being, un-sure of her place in the world. It is this dilemma of whether it is natural to create such a creature which gives Jurassic World some kind of philosophical debate, but not one that is as finessed or delivered as memorably as the Chaos Theory ramblings of Dr. Ian Malcom. Yet, these discussions do allow for the character of Dr. Wu to be further fleshed out to match his character from Michael Crichton’s original novel. It is moments like these, as well as more obvious call-back moments to the franchise, that help Jurassic World to form as something worthy of its 1993 predecessor.

While the argument can most certainly be made for Jurassic World as a self-aware blockbuster, what with self-conscious branding, as well as both an indulgence and un-packaging of old-fashioned adventure movie clichés, what works and what makes this truly a success are the feelings it inspires within yourself (particularly your ‘fanboy/girl’ self). No film has quite made me feel like an 8 year-old kid discovering his new favourite movie for quite some time. It is wonderful to have such a feeling, and Trevorrow concocts JurassicWorld-3it through well-placed beats of nostalgia, as well as upping the factor in crazy dino-action. What we see here is ludicrous, without a doubt, but the image of Chris Pratt riding with a pack of Raptors in order to engage with a big bad beast left me giddy with excitement (an excitement which only grows in the last act, which is fan-servicing in all its glory). Be it sites of the old park, or the unforgettable cues of John Williams’, it is hard for you not to get caught up in the action of an adventure that feels welcomingly familiar, but also exciting and fresh.

Nostalgia can easily blind one to legitimate criticisms, as is somewhat the case here, as Jurassic World, despite having a great cast, doesn’t have too many memorable characters to speak of, largely due to their characterisations. While I think everyone has a little bit more going on to them than their conventional surfaces would first lead you to believe, no one quite strikes the same chord as Alan Grant or Malcolm did back in the 90’s. But the performances do impress, with Bryce Dallas Howard proving to be a bit more playful than we were led to believe, while Chris Pratt has an air of an old-fashioned movie star about him, what with his Fairbanks moustache and natural charisma turning Owen into an engaging, and macho, screen presence.

The leap that Trevorrow has made from sweet indie flick Safety Not Guaranteed to big budget movie fare is not a task that many would agree to do, as the change in business and film-making dynamics almost mark his two experiences within two separate industries. He tackles Jurassic World with confidence and style, with his choice to shoot on film providing a pleasingly earthy palette to the jungles of Isla Nublar. Much of the dino-action occurs in huge moments of chaos, and here Trevorrow deploys a macabre glee that is not unlike the work of Joe Dante. He knows that audiences have come to see dinosaurs eat people, so he makes it his intention that such action beats impress. His script, with writing partner Derek JurassicWorld-4Connolly, also attempts to provide these beasts with a little more personality than we’ve seen before, which works for the most part, even if some scenes use such a factor in ways which do stretch credibility, even in a franchise such as this.

What is ultimately the greatest success of Jurassic World  is that it is a sequel that manages to feel like a Jurassic Park movie whilst also providing an adventure that feels new, with a sense of excitement and wonderment that is all its own. Yes there are plot holes, and yes it is all a bit silly, but heck, it’s a dinosaur movie, and one that delivers on both fleshing out the concept of a functioning park and as a wholly entertaining popcorn thriller. Its thunderous success should be celebrated, as a once thought extinct franchise has managed to strike an incredible chord with audiences, something which feels almost a privilege to be a part of. When life finds a way, you’ve just gotta endorse it.

4/5- A nostalgia heavy adventure is one that is also exciting, thrilling and just the right amount of ludicrous; Jurassic World leaves its mark and dares other blockbusters to do better.

Godzilla regretted lighting his farts...In 1954, a cinematic icon of spectacle was created in the form of Toho’s Godzilla. Since his first incarnation, the big guy has faced many a foe, ranging from King Kong, to Mechagodzilla, to Roland Emmerich. The radioactive reptile was ripe for another crack at the big screen, and in an age where everything from your childhood is getting re-sized and re-booted, it was only a matter of time before Godzilla got a chance to stomp around city landscapes once more. The man for job? The director of indie-breakout hit Monsters; a lo-fi Sci-Fi set within a Quarantined Mexico which has become host to a race of Extra-Terrestrial beings. The film carried with it a subtle grace and wellrealised creatures which gave the film a unique personality all its own. His Godzilla, on the other hand, is not quite as unique a beast. While serviceable to a degree, this Godzilla rarely plays to its strengths, resulting in a lot of foreplay, but little in the way of a satisfying climax. (Quit giggling in the back).

When a series of unexplained Earthquakes demolishes a Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, claiming the life of his wife, physicist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) spends the next 15 years of his life trying to find out what caused the event. On the brink of a break through, he is reunited with his estranged Navy Lieutenant son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) just as all hell is unleashed. When a mysterious creature is awoken, Joe and Ford  find themselves in the middle of an event which could send the human race back to square one. Determined to return to his family, Ford helps with the fight on the ground. But, nature has its own secret weapon under its sleeve in the form of Godzilla, a prehistoric being who looks set to restore balance to the order of nature.Fear struck the pair as they realised Godzilla wouldn;t be coming in for another hour.

Much of Edward’s Godzilla aims to evoke blockbusters of the past, namely those courtesy of Steven Spielberg, as demonstrated by the progression of the first act of the movie, which aims to convey a similar build-up of tension akin to the likes of Jaws and Jurassic Park. We are teased appearances of the big man himself for quite some time, with the opening third seemingly more committed to fleshing out our human characters, with whom we spend most of our time with. The only problem though is that they are in no way interesting enough to both hold our attention and justify why we are spending so much time with them. It it a commendable move to frame a Godzilla movie from the ground of the people involved, but if you’re going to do it you’re going to need characters with an interesting dynamic, the charisma of a Tom Cruise, the appeal of a strong female character, and so forth. This film simply does not have the strength in character it needs for such an undertaking to occur, and much of that comes down both to script issues and casting choices.

The script, based on a story from David Callahan and formed by Max Borenstein, is hardly the greatest piece of blockbuster screenwriting we have ever seen. It demonstrates very litter concern for developing allegory or a note-worthy degree of social relevance that the ‘grounded’ aesthetic would seem to suggest it contains. Not only that,  it does not allow the strongest characters and performances (namely Bryan Cranston) to be more involved, and seems content to assign some characters to be nothing more than exposition spouters, or individuals who have a hard on for anything Kaiju related (Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe fall prey to these camps), leading to characters who are either poorly motivated and/or one dimensional. The worst aspect though has to be with the very lazily formed characterization of the main lead and his family. The character of Ford has 'Move bitch. Get out the way.'very little personality, giving character actor Taylor-Johnson incredibly little to work with, resulting in a bland performance that struggles to convey anything beyond face value. Even worse treated are the talents of Juliette Bincohe and Elizabeth Olsen, both of whom are utterly wasted in small, superfluous roles that do not make the use of their immeasurable talents.

A lot of the issues with character would not have been a problem if it wasn’t for the tone and personality of the film in which they are contained. I adore Pacific Rim, but the characters are stock and cheesy. However, the jovial tone and knowing sense of ridiculousness struck in the film allowed for the ridiculous characters to feel as though they belonged in the universe they inhabited. Edwards’ Godzilla, for all its ambition, occasionally stunning imagery, simply doesn’t know if it wants to embrace the B-movie origins of the big guy’s past, or strive for a more grounded aesthetic. Blame Christopher Nolan for this type of confliction within any franchise reboot in contemporary Hollywood cinema.

The monsters themselves are possibly the film’s strongest asset in terms of personality, but there is still something distinctly Stubbing your toe... even painful for radioactive lizards.lacking. The final fight feels more organic than most monster mash-ups, and it is a relief to finally seem them go a round (hell I wish I could make that plural). The VFX is near flawless, with Edwards background in that department clearly shining through, presenting creatures to awe at, even if the film doesn’t allow you too. It is by no means a failure of a reboot, the first hour builds nicely to a certain degree, and the monster-smash moments are serviceable. But is that enough for this certain Zilla to truly earn his place once again in audience’s hearts? Simple answer; hell no.

3/5- A serviceable kick-off to the summer season, but this is a Godzilla movie that fails to truly leave its mark.

 

 

Greetings folks! My blogging has taken a slump as of late, due to University Work… and just generally forgetting really. A lot of big films have come out over the past three months that I just haven’t had time to cover on this blog, slipped beneath the radar as it were, to the point where it seemed too much time had passed to warrant a full review. So, just before I dive in to another batch of essays, I thought I would deliver a quick round up of films I have seen over these first few months of the year, following up with a full review of a new film that sees nationwide release this Friday (check back soon for that). Well then, lets not beat around the bush, lets do this thing!

DjangoUnchainedPosterDjango Unchained

A new Quentin Tarantino movie is always something to get excited about, and Django Unchained was no different. With impressive buzz, both critically and box-office wise States-side, the tale of Jamie Foxx’s vengeance seeking free slave seemed to be shaping up to be another Tarantino genre-blending classic. And lo and behold, he has certainly pulled off that trick again. Although still hyper-kinetic in its style and editing, there is the sense with this picture (and his last, and arguably best, Inglorious Basterds) that he is becoming a more assured, controlled director. He no longer needs to prove he is the new kid on the block. He now completely owns the block. Sure, he’s hardly a reserved director in the Malick vein, there is just much more of a sense that he is a director whose style and talent has been confirmed, and there is no need for him to show off anymore (hence the abandonment of a non-linear narrative). He can simply make the movies and tell the stories that his soul desires. And while his story of a freed slave joining forces with a bounty hunter to save his wife from an evil plantation owner has received somewhat of a negative reaction from certain people (*cough*spikelee*cough*), Tarantino still crafts a highly entertaining, at times very mature, and exhilarating tribute to all things Spaghetti Western, Grind-house and the wonder of B-movie logic.  Filled with quick-witted dialogue, unforgettable scene after unforgettable scene, all played along to the tune of a cracking soundtrack, supported by a barrage of exceptional performances (I’ll never understand why both DiCaprio and Jackson weren’t nominated), Django Unchained is most certainly in the same league as Tarantino’s classics and will surely go down as one of his best.  5/5 

LincolnLincoln-Poster

The other Awards-Season movie concerned with slavery. Albeit with much less gore. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln may have only won two of its 12 nominated awards on Oscar night; but that does not stop it from being one of the impressive pieces of cinema to come out this season. Sensibly deciding to focus on a landmark moment of Old Abe’s presidency, Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner manage to craft a tense, witty and suitably emotional account of the President’s struggles to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery in the United States. With Daniel Day-Lewis in the main role, you already know that you are going to be in for a film with a high caliber of acting class. And while Day-Lewis vanishes completely into the iconic mold of America’s perhaps most cherished President, it is the supporting players who perhaps stop the film from being simply a misty-eyed love letter to the 16th President. While the first hour is bogged down by a seemingly endless string of anecdotes, the film gets a good old kick up the arse in the shape of Tommy Lee Jones and the shift to focusing on the intricate details that led to the passing of the Amendment. Quite how Spielberg managed to construct such a level of tension around a subject in which we know the outcome is still beyond me, but darn nabbit, the master does! With sumptuous cinematography from Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg demonstrates once again quite why he is the master of iconography; constructing a great sense of grander around the legend of Lincoln, whilst also allowing for a very human portrayal to shine through the long stature and shadow of Abraham. Pacing issues aside, Lincoln stands as Spielberg’s best film since Munich, a film of masterful strokes, powerhouse acting and pure Spielberg-emotion. 5/5

HitchcockHitchcock  

Hitchcock received somewhat of a lukewarm reception from critics upon its release. Which somewhat puzzles me. Yes, it is a little too light and frothy, and yes it barely scratches the service of why Hitchcock was regarded as the master of suspense, as well as being rather slap dash with the rather darker sides to his personality. But is it fun and wonderfully entertaining? You’re damn right it is. Using the making of Psycho as the central plot device, Hitchcock‘s main focus is upon the relationship between the titular Alfred Hitchcock (a heavily prosthetic-clad Anthony Hopkins) and his wife and editor Alma (Helen Mirren), who long had to deal with living in the great shadow of her famous husband. A film with these two talents as the leads says something for the quality of the performances on show; from the undeniably impressive Hopkins, to the stunning Mirren to the little character performances from the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Danny Huston, James D’Arcy (uncanny as Anthony Perkins) and Toni Collette. While there certainly isn’t too much meat on its very glossy bones, the charms of Hopkins and Mirren engage effortlessly, providing an insight into a relationship of Hitchcock’s life that many people may not know much about. The period detail is also incredibly impressive, particularly in relation to its recreation of scenes from Psycho; the attention to detail is second to none. I am sure there is a much better film to be made of the genius that was Hitchcock, but for now, you could certainly do a hell of a lot worse. 4/5

Wreck-It RalphWreckItRalph

The favourite to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar (perhaps unfairly losing out to Brave), Wreck-It Ralph certainly was another film that had a high degree of critical buzz surrounding it, some critics even claiming it to be up there in the league of the Toy Story trilogy. This was somewhat of a big statement to make, and I never believed it would live up to that hype. And it didn’t. But that is not to dis-credit the film, Wreck-It Ralph is one of the most original Disney hits of recent years, and it is most certainly much better then the last two Pixar efforts. The tale of Arcade bad guy Wreck-It Ralph’s quest to be the hero for once is filled with brilliant video game references throughout its glorious first hour, set within the realms of game central before Ralph begins to game hop in order to earn a Hero’s Medal. This is by far the film’s best segment; smart, witty and filled to the brim with nostalgia. Once Ralph beings game-hopping, the concept loses a great deal of its creativity in the world of Sugar Rush. Sarah Silverman is adorable as Vanelloppe Von Schweetz, and the world of that game is still rich with wondrous design, stunning animation and inventive action, but you cannot shake the feeling that a Disney executive may have popped his head round the door and asked Rich Moore’s creative team to ‘Stop right there, gives us something more conventional and child-friendly.’ The older audience such as myself would have been perfectly happy to continue reveling in the joy of spotting all the references, but I suppose there is another demographic to please. There is certainly plenty to explore in this rich and vast world and I for one happily welcome a sequel on the strength of this installment. 4/5

mama-poster1Mama

The last time I watched a Guillermo Del Toro produced horror movie, it was the incredibly silly, stupidly entertaining Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark. While I had fun with that movie, it was hardly what I’d call scary. It seemed like the sort of film that kids would have loved if it had been released in the 80’s (Gremlins-esque in a way). With Mama, I was expecting much of the same thing, and while it certainly does share an old school spirit with Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, it shook me up much more. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself with a roller-coaster of a horror movie; one minute me and my friends were jumping out of our skins before quickly laughing to ourselves at the ridiculousness of our behavior. Jessica Chastain seemed to be having funny letting her hair down (well, cutting it and dying it black) as the girlfriend of a man who after five years of searching finds his long lost nieces, who have grown up in the wild, seemingly alone. When the pair bring the two back home with them, the girls appear to have bought something back from the forest with them in the form of a jealous evil specter known only as Mama. With assured CGI creature design and assured direction in the staging of its jumps and scares. The ending is horribly contrived, with a strong sense that the writers simply did not know how to round off proceedings. Despite this, Mama is one of the more enjoyable horror experiences I have had at the cinema in quite sometime. I know deep down that I really should not have enjoyed it as much as I did, but hell, sometimes you’re just in the mood for a creepy gothic elongated limbed crazy ghost type thing. 3/5

Oz: The Great and PowerfulOz_-_The_Great_and_Powerful_Poster

I was very nearly tempted to write a full review of this film, but I think a lot of the buzz concerning this film has certainly died down very quickly, so a few hundred words should be more than enough to justify my opinion of this latest dive into the wonderful world of L. Frank Baum’s Oz. James Franco is Oscar Diggs, a travelling circus magician/con-man who is magically transported from 1900’s black and white Kansas to the bright and colourful Oz. The inhabitants of Oz soon begin to believe that Oscar is the prophesied Wizard who shall bring peace to the land of Oz. He soon gets in too deep and finds himself tasked with killing the Wicked Witch. Sam Raimi appears to direct this film within a very confined space. This being a Disney movie, Raimi was most definitely working within certain confinements. Yet within these confinements, he does what he can to throw in certain techniques and camera angles to remind the cinema-savvy audience that they are still watching a Sam Raimi movie. This was incredibly refreshing, as I was incredibly worried that Raimi was going to become yet another cog in the Disney machine, but his Oz surprised me. It is neither absolutely spectacular, nor is it a train-wreck like a certain Mr. Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. It is simply a bright, simple, innocent and very sweet yarn with a refreshing old-fashion spirit mixed in with some very impressive (but heavy-handed) CGI work. The cast are also incredibly game, with Franco proving to be a charismatic leading man in a rather unlikeable role. The three witches consisting of Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams all turn in a mixture of charming and deliciously wicked performances (extra points particularly go to Kunis) while Zach Braff and Joey King are very sweet in their respective sidekick roles (a cute flying monkey and a brilliantly animated China doll girl). The only thing that stops Oz from being truly great is its scripts apparent lack of being able to construct a truly memorable spectacle. The plot moves along at a steady and brisk pace, you’re never particularly bored, but you can see everything that is coming your way. The world however, is lavishly designed and the 3-D is definitely worth the extra ticket price, bringing the world to vibrant life, while Raimi is not adverse to throwing many an object at his audience. A fun, good-natured ride with an unmistakeable Disney spirit mixed in with a good dose of Raimi darkness. 3/5