For Your Consideration Posters for Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity.
New Poster for Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac.
Two New Posters for Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac.
Remakes are a tricky business. The only times that a remake is justifiable is if the people involved find a distinctive way of re-telling a story, and that this distinctive way will say something new about the source material. As most of us are aware of, this is not the reason behind many of the remakes nowadays which is why they are for the most utter shit. Very few get it right, and Spike Lee’s remake of Oldboy gets its terribly, insultingly wrong.
After being imprisoned for 20 years in a room, Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) is finally released. Determined to find the people responsible for his imprisonment, Joe starts investigating and on the road meets Marie (Elizabeth Olsen), who decides to help him. During his investigation, he not only discovers the person responsible for his most unfortunate 20 past years, but also a secret that can jeopardize his newfound freedom.
Let me start by saying that the original Oldboy was my introduction to South Korean cinema and the main reason why I’m obsessed with it. That film is masterpiece in every sense of the word. So from the get-go it makes little sense for there to be a US remake since there is honestly no way anything could come close to the original. Now considering the talent involved in this remake, I was anticipating that while the US Oldboy would not be great that it would at least be entertaining and interesting. It is none of those things, in fact it is such an atrocious piece of shit that I felt personally insulted while watching it.
So how do you fuck up what is already a pretty fantastic story? In many, many, many ways as it turns out. I know Spike Lee is a very respectable director but in my opinion he is one of the most uneven directors around. When he gets it right it is marvellous but when he gets it wrong it is a shit storm of stupidity. Oldboy belongs to the latter kind. His direction is non-existent since there is nothing about this film that showcases his style. Watching it you get the sense that some nobody directed it. Lee handles a lot of things terribly in this film, but the worse offence comes with the story.
If you ever wanted to see a film where every single aspect of it serves only to further the plot, then you should watch Oldboy. First there’s the fact this film moves at a rapid pace which leaves very little to no room for characters to breathe and be developed. As such every decision the characters make, especially those of Elizabeth Olsen’s Marie, feel entirely forced. Her meeting with Joe is laughably generic and the way she gives herself to him is uncalled for and nonsensical. What are her motivations? Who cares since she’s a slave to the plot and does what the plot requires of her. It is extremely pathetic to see and at times borderline insulting. I mean, are you seriously telling me that after a woman is almost ganged raped that in the span of a few hours she would have sex with a man whose is responsible for her attempted rape? Get the fuck off.
Elizabeth Olsen’s character may be a joke, but alleviating her uselessness is how every other character is also a joke. Samuel L. Jackson is just there because why not. He adds nothing to the proceedings and is the epitome of forgettable. Josh Brolin seems to be perpetually expressing one emotion: anger. There is so little depth to his character that as protagonist we care very little for his plight. Even though we are supposed to feel sympathy for his suffering, Brolin is so uncharismatic and dull that you almost want him to just fail. He does handle the action right, but since there’s very little of it and what there is sucks who cares. Furthermore, Brolin tries to instil some quirky moments into his performance but besides feeling untrue, they also undermine everything else he does.
But the worse offender is Sharlto Copley. Imagine the most generic villain: it would be someone who is well-dressed, speaks with a condescendingly proper vocabulary, has an aura of overtly stereotypical homosexuality, displays facial hair that he can almost twirl when speaking, and screams douche. Copley’s villain is all of those things and it sucks. I don’t mind campy performances, but there is a point where camp turns to outright over-the-top insufferable idiocy. That’s what this performance is, it is an complete insult to the viewer. I swear that I expected a white cat to suddenly appear for Copley to pet. It is such an atrocious performance that I have no idea why anyone allowed him to carry on with it. It does a massive disservice to the story since instead of threat, what this villain makes us feel is embarrassment.
This remake of Oldboy can be utilized to demonstrate why Americans should stop remaking films, especially those from Asia. There is a specificity to the Korean version, a style that is unique and creates such a splendidly fucked up experience that American directors could never emulate. For whatever Spike Lee is worth, he totally botched this film. Every decision made was the wrong one, every claim that this film would follow the source material and not the Korean film were false. US Oldboy wants to desperately be the Korean version and what it ends up being can’t even be considered a shitty bastardization of it. It is an abysmal failure that no one should ever watch. Oh and the product placement in this film is worse than in a Michael Bay film.
You should ask someone else. There’s no happy ending with me.
Film Review: ‘Catching Fire’ Surpasses Its Predecessor and Delivers an Exciting, Visceral and Memorable Experience.
While not perfect, The Hunger Games got many things right from the spot-on casting to adequately introducing audiences to this universe ruled by oppressive and destructive ideals. It was financially successful and made a fan of people who didn’t even know the book trilogy existed. I enjoyed it a lot and the film propelled me into reading the rest of the book, which I honestly recommend doing. Much like Harry Potter, the books stand on their own splendidly and deliver an increasingly enjoyable experience. Catching Fire is my favourite book of the three, so I was really looking forward to the film treatment and suffice to say that it does not disappoint in the slightest.
After winning the last Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is having a difficult time with survivor’s guilt and with maintaining the facade of tragic lovers with Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Complicating things further is President Snow (Donald Sutherland) threatening Katniss to calm the waters as uprising seems to be in everyone’s minds in all the other districts, or face the horrible death of the people she loves. Unable to succeed in this during the victor’s tour, Katniss and Peeta are once again reaped and send to the Hunger Games alongside past victors.
Many of the mistakes from the first film were the result of bad choices by director Gavin Hood. Things like the sloppy special effects, the epileptic and distracting shaky camera and the atrocious handle of the love story. All of these things are rectified thanks to I Am Legend and Constantine director Francis Lawrence. To say that he does an excellent job in Catching Fire would be a severe understatement. The man elevates this film to such a degree of brilliance that the whole experience of this film is immensely more affecting and memorable than anyone expected. So let’s get right down to it.
The special effects in Catching Fire are awesome, especially the ones you don’t notice. The capital sequences in the first film felt uneven and with the citizens’ crazy costumes the setting felt like a Tim Burton convention. While this time around the crazy costumes still appear, they are dialled back and the focus is placed elsewhere like in the architecture of the capital. The scene were all contestants march take place in this wide arena resembling the Roman Empire with no-so-subtle splashes of Nazi Germany. As a result, we get a greater sense of the hypocritical nature of the capital and how lost these citizens really are. The way they value superficial things over anything else adds a layer to hopelessness to that environment. It’s very reminiscent of our current society.
However, the special effects take centre stage during the Hunger Games where the arena becomes an increasingly hostile area. This is one of the aspects that the first film failed at, since it didn’t provide us with a good image of how seriously dangerous the games’ setting can be. This time around the threat is not so much the contestants, but the place itself that offers up insidious challenges after another. You get the sense that Katniss and co. are actually fighting the capital itself, and I personally loved that the cruelty of the capitol is in full view during the game. From the poisonous smoke to the blood rain to the absolute worse of all: the mockinjays mimicking the suffering screams of love ones. There is a palpable sense of danger during the game, one that is so powerful you almost feel like everyone is going to die.
With Catching Fire, the reality of the world of Panem is in full effect. This is a terribly oppressive world where defiance is repaid with a bullet to the head. It’s a horrible world where people work like slaves, must remain silent in service to the capital and simply accept the fact that they will forever be treated like worthless animals. It’s a frightening and unjust environment that the film does not shy away from. If it could be r-rated then I bet you this film would be right at the top of possible Oscar contenders without a doubt. But even with the PG-13 rating the film does push things as much as it can. The scope and danger this time around is present, and it makes for some really tough scenes like Gale being wiped almost to death. There’s rarely any comedy here, which I think is appropriate since this fucking horrible regime is no laughing matter. Catching Fire takes things seriously and in the process becomes an even greater film.
Similarly, the acting this time around reaches new heights of brilliance. The film continues its spot-on casting with Jena Malone’s Johanna and Sam Claflin’s Finnick Odair. Malone is a powerhouse here and steals every scene she’s in. She perfectly nails the character just like Caflin who adds layers and layers of complexity to Finnick. Returning cast members also have more room to grow and deliver great performances. Woody Harrelson is great as expected and so is Jennifer Lawrence. Josh Hutcherson does the impossible and actually makes Peeta a much more compelling character. To be honest, I hated Peeta in the books and in the first film but in here I found myself rooting for him. Liam Hemsworth is still great, but the biggest surprise for me was Elizabeth Banks’ Effie. Effie was never a particularly interesting character in the books, but in this film Banks turns her into this tragic individual who will literally shatter your heart. For all of Effie’s rules about playing the fame game, she actually does love Katniss and Peeta and feels terrible that such terrible things keep happening to such lovely individuals. The scene where she says goodbye to them killed me as it did her face during the reaping. You could just see her anguish and regret for even being a part of this system. This is Elizabeth Banks best performance to date.
Donald Sutherland’s President Snow is also given more stuff to do here. If there is one thing I loved about the first film was that it placed Sutherland’s President Snow front and centre. The dude does such a fine job playing the villain that it makes sense for him to be given more scenes. Some people have trouble with President Snow, saying that he is too one-note but I think that’s the point of his character at least up until now. As compelling as he may be, once you get right down to it President Snow represents the worse of humankind. I was very happy the film included the mouth/lips blood. Then there’s Philip Seymour Hoffman who everyone was super excited to see. He is good in the film, but his performance feels pretty phoned in. Still when Hoffman phones in a performance it is better than most but you almost wished he had done more.
Catching Fire is not only one of the best sequels in the history of cinema, but it is also one of the highlights of 2013. The film finally exposes the greatness of the books and it does in an incredible powerful fashion. All the themes about oppression and consumerism are in full effect here. Director Francis Lawrence has crafted a beautiful film that makes us think, appeals to our desire for cinematic spectacle, and delivers a deeply human story. This film is elevated by its brilliant and interesting production design, the serious of surprisingly affecting performances and genuine sense of scope and danger. The stakes are much higher this time around and even after reading the book, I was glad that the film still managed to surprise me constantly and add even more interesting aspects to my knowledge of the story. Catching Fire is amazing and I’m glad Francis Lawrence is returning for the last two films.
After numerous years without contact, Gary King (Simon Pegg) convinces his old buddies: Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Oliver (Martin Freeman) to re-try an epic pub crawl they failed to complete during high school. But once they travel back to their hometown, they find that the citizens there are acting strange. As it turns out, all those people have been replaced with droid aliens.
The World’s End is the third and final film of the cornetto trilogy. If you enjoyed the previous two, then you will most likely enjoy this one. It has pretty much everything that the other ones have. The dialogue is hilarious and the chemistry between the main 5 is so palpably effective that you almost want things to never end. The action is arguably the best of the trilogy with Edgar Wright bringing the awesomeness he learned with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. All the fight scenes are pretty cool, especially how realism seems to be thrown out of the window every time they start.
The other notable aspect about this film is Simon Pegg’s performance. Now I don’t agree with all the talk about him deserving an Oscar nomination for it, but I do agree that is easily the best performance of his career thus far. The character of Gary King is a total asshole, but Pegg makes him increasingly sympathetic and empathetic. He communicated beautifully that desperation, desolation and longing. It’s pretty amazing and caps off the trilogy splendidly.
They didn’t cry until I left them.
During a routine voyage to Mombasa through the Gulf of Aden, the American cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama is hijacked by Somali pirates. Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) attempts to secure the safety of his crew by playing along with the pirates’ captain named Muse (Barkhad Abdi). However, as times goes by and tensions rise the hijacking turns even more dangerous leading to a hostage situation.
One of the most promising directors in recent years is Paul Greengrass. He elevated the Bourne series to such successful and memorable heights that it unleashed a new way to approach action. While others have tried to replicate his style, none have succeeded. Greengrass has a knack for creating tension unlike any other director. There is an immediacy to the way he shoots his sequences that draw the viewer in completely. All of that is present in Captain Phillips, a film that I believe to be amongst his very best.
Tackling a real life event has its disadvantages, the prime one being the simple fact that we already know how it is going to end. This case is especially significant because it was the first pirate attack on an American ship in many, many years. I remember when I first heard about it and thinking how absurd it was that piracy still happens nowadays. Such actions are, of course, no laughing matter and the danger is all too real. Greengrass manages to turn a predictable event into something unexpected. We may know how it will end, but I assure that you’ll forget about it while watching this film.
Tension is what elicits that immense degree of unpredictability on the viewer. Like I said before, every scene in this film carries such an overwhelming immediacy that you have very little time to think. All you can do is react to the threat and hope that things won’t end in a bloodbath. While this film isn’t an action film in the common sense, there is so much action happening in the form of mexican-standoffs and hiding from pirates that your heart will practically burst out of your chest like alien. Furthermore, for a two hour plus film it is astounding to experience how the tension rarely dwindles. It really is an intense ride, almost Gravity.
Enhancing the effectiveness of the whole ride are two powerhouse performances. Newcomer Barkhad Abdi steals almost every scene he is in. His skinny physic is such a commanding and intimidating presence that you can tell right away why his pirate comrades respect and fear him so much. He also possess such charm that you almost want him to survive this whole ordeal as well. There is a strong sense of morality within this character that while it may seem warped to the audience, it is actually justified and even understood within the context of his situation. This is a brilliant performance that deserves immense praise and award nominations.
The second great performance comes from Tom Hanks. To be honest with you, for a while I was under the impression that Tom Hanks had lost his edge. For a while he hadn’t delivered the type of performances that made him so renown. That changed somewhat with last years Cloud Atlas and now with Captain Phillips he has established once again why he is one of the greatest actors in cinema. His performance is the one we can all identify with and he does such a compelling job of carrying the film that you can’t help but marvel at his brilliance. This is an intricate performance as Hanks is tasked with the job of conveying different thoughts and emotions at the same time. He has to remain strong for his crew while simultaneously fearing for his life. The moment that really sold his performance though came at the very end. [Spoilers Start] For those who know the story, Hanks’ character does survive the ordeal and after being taken to safety, his character is evidently in shock. I have never seen a state of shock depicted in film quite so realistic. Not only does it shatter your heart, but also seeing how Hanks fully committed to capturing that state both in terms of physicality and psychology truly blew me away. It brought to the forefront the all too realistic life-threatening element of his ordeal. In that moment I was like just give him the Oscar [Spoilers End].
Captain Phillips is incredible achievement for everyone involved. It delivered an intense ride that managed to make the audience forget about the end of this event. We, much like the characters, enter a situation of deep uncertainty that is constantly surprising us and keeping us on the edge. Paul Greengrass has assembled an effectively powerful action thriller that feels very realistic. This is direction at its most masterful and incredible. The performances are fantastic, especially from Abdi and Hanks. They both deserve a lot of praise and I hope the Oscars recognize their performances. Similar to Gravity, Captain Phillips puts us in a extraordinary situation where all the filmmaking elements are working at their very best.