The Spectacular Now (2013)

82be1a35bdd197cdb228bea4120f7e72Roze-Rating: 5 / 5

Every year I watch a shiz load of films, ranging from the brilliant to the utterly terrible, but there will always be that odd film that some how finds its way to me and strikes the sweetest G-Chord within my heart. The Spectacular Now is that film for me of 2013.

Ever since The Descendants I knew I was an instant fan of Shailene Woodley and had been waiting to see her follow up film for quite a while. And what a film. Just as The Descendants was, this film is down to earth and totally real. Miles Teller plays Sutter Keeley, a kid on the brink of adulthood. We meet him as he struggles to begin his college application, unsure of how to put his life into words. He seems like he has his sh*t together as we indulge in his large personality and his way of words, but once we’re exposed to his constant alcoholism we know something is up. What makes this such a relatable film is Sutter’s predicament. He’s lived in the now for all his life and has struggled to do anything productive with it. He may have heaps of fun but during a time of his life where a future plan matters he becomes stuck. His girlfriend dumps him for the pure reason that he has no ambition. Then Shailene Woodley’s character Aimee Finecky comes along and gives him a bit of a pick me up. Aimee is the complete opposite of Sutter, she’s down the chain on the social ladder and has dreams of finally leaving for college although stunted by her mother. Sutter befriends her in the hope of helping her out.

There’s films out there which make you wanna cry because devastating stuff happens in them with that sole outcome in mind, but then there are some films which make you wanna cry because you connect so much with the characters and the films themes that they are more tears of inspiration than sympathy. I wont lie, by the end of the film I felt quite emotional. It was odd because I’ve never felt so emotional for such a character triumph. Something so simple yet profound. I’m at a similar time in life as this Sutter kid which is why it probably felt so relatable, and because of that I may have left the film slightly a better person.

What I like about this story is that there’s no defining character that helps grow Sutter. From watching past coming of age films there’s usually a father figure or someone that can be looked up to who knocks some inspiration into our lost soul, but in this film, it took getting to his lowest point to finally grow. Sure there were characters along the way which were important but at the end of the day if you can come to terms with your problems then you can look for a solution. That’s what makes the final scene so good, it’s ambiguous but does it really matter? (You’ll see)

The cinematography is earthy capturing the human element of young love and uncertainty pleasantly. Along with the score which slowly develops from upbeat to endearing to melancholy.

As for performances, Miles Teller has the potential to be the next Vince Vaugn of sorts with his natural ability to bring charisma to a character. Saw him for the first time in Footloose then 21 & Over this year. He has no problem with running his mouth rampant and when put in the right film, it comes out positively. Hopefully he sticks to movies such as this and doesn’t over do this type of character as some actors do. Shailene Woodley co-stars and offers another great performance. Really looking forward to her new franchise film next year, Divergent, I don’t care if it seems like a Hunger Games copy, I’m sure she will bring something to the films.

What really makes these performances stand out though is the chemistry between Woodley and Teller. The last time I saw legitimate awkwardness and realism brought to teen love was last years Amazing Spider-Man, maybe I need to watch more films if that’s the case. But everything about their interaction is something I’ve been through, and for that reason it felt so real.

The Spectacular Now is a coming of age tale that starts off upbeat then hits you with emotional substance. It’s engaging and totally relatable with great leads and raw chemistry. One of my favourites of 2013.

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G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

GI-Joe-Retaliation-after-credits-large-v3Roze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

After the events of the nano-byte wars, Duke is now commanding officer of the G.I. Joe tactical force. With Zartan and Storm Shadow still roaming the earth free men, danger remains imminent.

I’m not a fan of the toys or the franchise in general but I did thoroughly enjoy the first G.I. Joe film. It had it’s faults such as the CGI and acting but I managed to find the charm in it. Never intending to be anything more, it was fun and extremely entertaining. Just as this sequel is. I wanted to bump this up to four stars because I actually quite liked the film but after watching it for the third time I couldn’t get past a few things.

First of all for an action film this is as good as it gets. We get heaps of awesome action sequences in a variety of forms. There’s hand to hand combat, shoot outs, stealth operations, boat chases and loads of explosions. The editing is great and the choreography better. It wont let you down there, and for that reason I didn’t hate the film as others did. I mean there’s some badass sh*t that goes down, and I’m pretty sure you’d let out the odd “daym” when you see flint skidding underneath an obstacle just to shoot a guy.

As for the plot, yes it’s about a bad guy wanting to take over the world, nothing wrong with that in my books. The method of it, is where the problems exist. It’s not meant to be realistic or anything but the nuclear angle of taking over the world is growing tiresome and overdone. And in the end the execution is too illogical to look past. When you have endless opportunities for a film of this nature, then I would hope for something a little different as the first one was.

Usually little things don’t annoy me but why does Storm Shadow put on clothing just to take it off during combat. If he finds it that uncomfortable to fight in it then don’t wear it in the first place! He is the definition of “poser” in the ninja sense. I won’t mention the other thing as it is a spoiler. It involves Storm Shadow and his past, all I will say is, how does it take over two decades to figure something out which only took under a minute when actually thinking about it properly. There’s quite a lot of illogical nitpicks throughout the film.

The weakest link of the film is Flint. He’s a cool character in terms of what he can do in combat but outside of that he is totally one dimensional and boring. He has nothing to offer at all. This is probably largely due to the script as he hardly had anything to say. It was disappointing as he seems quite entertaining during the films opening as he partakes in insubordination and I noticed they deleted a scene where he gets his ass kicked for it. Looking back I think that was decided as he seemed to have too much of a personality. That being said D.J. Cotrona didn’t give his best performance but I will give him the benefit of the doubt as he probably had nothing to work with.

This film as the G.I. Joe action figures are, is largely targeted at the male gender. It’s pretty apparent that the male target was always in sight as we’re presented with Adrianne Palicki in tight clothing, skimpy jogging gear and a sexy red dress. That being said I found her to be one of the main highlights of the film. I’m liking modern action films even more nowadays as women are being empowered with badass roles a lot more. The likes of Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers), Antje Traue (Man of Steel), Jaimie Alexander (Thor) and Anne Hatheway (The Dark Knight Rises) show that being a total badass is sexier than playing the girl next door. In that respect I hope to see more of these characters in the future. Adrianne Palicki, if going down the action film route will do well. That being said women will get the opportunity to drool over Channing Tatum and The Rock doing their thang.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is far from being perfect but for an action flick it provides enough badassery and sex appeal to make it an entertaining night in.

The East (2013)

The-EastRoze-Rating: 4 / 5

Sarah Moss (Brit Marling), former FBI agent, starts her new career at an intelligence agency forcing her to go undercover and collect information from anarchist group The East. All members of the group carry aggression against massive corporations that harm the environment around them. Determined to make an example of their careless actions they plan a number of “jams” to expose their true contributions to the world. During her undercover work Sarah grows attached to the groups cause, although disagreeing with their methods. 

The East is as much a political thriller as it is a study of humans in modern society. Throughout the film we contemplate who the bad guys are, who we should root for and our way of life. We are presented with two sides, self righteous anarchist group The East with good intentions but questionable actions and the corporations who on the surface look like they want to aid the world but ultimately want to help themselves. At first one side seems the obvious bad guy as they are branded as terrorists but once we get to know them as individuals and their reasons we question the word terrorist. They may not do anything drastic as all they want to do is give the corporations a taste of their own medicine (LOL) but eventually the seeming leader of the group (Alexander Skarsgard) gets too deep into the cause. 

It may not be as thrilling as you’d like it to be but it does hold some thought provoking questions backed up with fascinating scenes exposing an idealistic view of human life. For that reason this film is an enticing watch. One scene that got to me was a quite freaky but weirdly beautiful scene of the group eating at dinner, once you see it you’ll understand. The film holds an eerie tone from the ghostly score to the bleak cinematography. It looks and sounds fitting to its premise and message giving these scenes of human nature more than it appears. 

It really is a film of moral high ground, leaving it to us to make our own choice about who takes that place at the top. Although towards the end it may have chosen for us. I felt it had too much of a Hollywood ending; it just didn’t fit the ambiguity of the film. Nevertheless the themes of human nature, relationships and politics make it an enjoyable film.

Despite having to strain my ears to understand some of the actors, the performances were solid. I felt there was too much mumbling and not enough projection in their speech but maybe I’m going deaf from all these loud action films nowadays. Anyways kudos to Brit Marling, previously saw her in Arbitrage playing a minor role. After researching more about her I learnt that this is her third written project, previous projects being Another Earth and Boxers & Ballerinas, which brings me to the assumption that she is massively talented. I’ve not seen all of her films but I look forward to it as she’s done a great job acting but also co-writing this film. She’s more than eye candy but someone with real potential in both the written and acting side of film. Her character has substance, she has a hard exterior but sees arrogance as a weakness; I like how she was branded as perhaps “not soft enough” for The East. In the end that balance gives her a greater moral conclusion to the problems expressed. I’d also like to see Toby Kebbell in more things, loved him in Rock’n’Rolla.

If you liked The International (Clive Owen) but thought it was too out there, then this film will bring you back to earth and maybe even further. 

Prisoners (2013)

maxresdefault (1)Roze-Rating: 4 / 5

Prisoners is a suspenseful thriller that plays off the tragedy of two families and the dedication of one detective. The film follows two main protagonists, Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman during their antagonizing search for two missing girls. They both offer compelling performances giving us a raw insight on how the mind works in situations illustrated in this. It’s a film about the lengths we would go to in order to protect our children, how far is too much? and is it really worth it in the end? Jackman portrays a man so consumed by his emotions that he takes matters into his own hands, ultimately committing the same crime he is mourning over. We’re left wondering if his actions are counterproductive as he neglects the very people that are in it with him. Gyllenhaal plays a cop with an 100% record for solving cases. From the go we know that he isn’t committing to a family or a girlfriend as he sits alone in a restaurant making small talk with a waitress. His exaggerated blinks expose his tiredness and accepting a call without hesitation reassures us that he’s a legitimate cop.

I can’t say I enjoyed this film as much as I wanted to. I found myself trying to connect with the characters and relate to their emotions a bit too hard. This could be down to not having kids myself but that being said I’ve definitely felt similar emotions having lost my little sister for a split second, not pleasant (bad brother). We’re introduced to the (going to be) lost children during the opening act and a lot of emphasis went to them allowing us to get to know them and ultimately tap into their parents emotions once they are missing. It’s executed perfectly as the suspense is heightened emphasizing their parents increasing fear. The following scenes are emotional as we see these two families searching for their children. Unfortunately for me what follows disconnected me from the film slightly. It starts to focus on Jackman’s character and his gradual surrendering to his dark emotions . His story is compelling but I felt we needed more insight to the other characters within the two families in order to get a well rounded sense of the family’s well being. Eventually I kind of forgot about them.

I would say this is more of a crime drama than anything else and that’s what I liked about it the most. The search is realistic, we never really know what’s happened til the end and the suspense is masterful. In terms of characters I resonated more with Gyllenhaal’s character more than any one else, I think you rarely see a film where you feel like your in the detectives shoes and this film explores that really well.. When his character is faced with the parents you feel for both of them since you can understand the frustration that’s expressed by the parents but you also sympathize for the detective for having to deal with aggression coming from the very people your busting your ass to help. I’ve not really seen that in cop films very much.

What really makes this film are the performances. Without the high caliber performances we wouldn’t be getting these raw emotion on screen pushing our emotional buttons. Hugh Jackman gets so intense I was just waiting for those wolverine claws to spring out. I mean this guy can be scary when he wants to. Jake Gyllenhaal is a total badass, from his no nonsense demeanor to his slick haircut. Little details like his hard blinking make his character real, great performance. A performance that may get overlooked is Paul Dano’s interpretation of a troubled kid slated as the main suspect for the kidnappings. I mean I’ve never felt sorry for a person that frustrates me and creeps me out at the same time. There’s a hint of innocence in that performance that I don’t think many people could do.

Prisoners may get frustratingly slow at times but it makes up for it with it’s gloomy tone and still camera work. The suspense will get your heart racing and the performances will engage you. Even though it may be a bit too long, it’s still worth a watch as one of the better dramas of 2013.

Man of Tai Chi (2013)

Man-Of-Tai-Chi-18Roze-Rating: 3 / 5

Keanu Reeves makes his directorial debut with this relentless martial arts film exposing the powers of Tai Chi. It follows the transformation of Tiger Chen from an honorable man of the martial arts to a greedy underground fighter. Manipulating him through this journey is Donaka Mark (Kaunu Reeves), who exploits Tiger’s transformation to a select few. What Tiger doesn’t know is that Mark is not in it for the fighting but for the killing.

This film may not satisfy the few craving a kung fu flick with strong characters and an exciting narrative as Man of Tai Chi lack in those departments. The premise is quite straight forward, a man strives to take Tai Chi beyond its limits. A sketchy millionaire offers him money to fight in random locations, allowing him to release the beast within himself like never before. Once getting too addicted to hurting people he realizes he has crossed the dishonorable line of the martial arts code. Thereon he tries to redeem himself. The characters are also quite one dimensional as well, except for the protagonist. He experiences quite dramatic moral changes. Other than that there are no other characters to be interested in.

What the film lacks it gains in badass fight scenes which are practically all throughout the film. I suppose compared to your odd Kung Fu flicks the fights may not be too unique but they are nonetheless exciting to watch. Keanu Reeves does a great job in filming these fights and making them easy to watch but also exciting. What stops it from getting boring is that Tiger Chen fights a number of different fighters with particular fighting skills which gives the fighting sequences diversity. Tiger also grows as a fighter as the fights go on, he gradually gets more intense until he eventually explodes.

Tiger Chen puts in a great performance turning from stuntman to lead man. What makes it that more awesome is that he does all his own stunts but he isn’t that bad of an actor either. That could be me blinded from all the subtitle reading but from what I saw he wasn’t too shabby. Keanu Reeves plays a man of very few words, I suppose that was to give him a constant ominous demeanor but ultimately it felt kind of odd. Nevertheless he makes a badass fighting opponent.

Man of Tai Chi is a story about a man of innocence being turned into a man of evil after experiencing too much power. It takes awhile but once realizing he has lost all integrity of what Tai Chi really is, he manages to dig deep and become the master he has been training for all his life. Decent modern kung fu flick but nothing unique. That being said it’s not a bad first directorial attempt by Keanu Reeves.

Europa Report (2013)

europa report 4Roze-Rating: 3 / 5

Europa One will be the first spacecraft to carry Men and Women deeper into space than ever before. Their mission is to board one of 63 of Jupiter’s known moon’s, Europa, one of the closest habitable places in our Solar System. The crew set out for a long journey to their destination leaving them alone in space after communication breaks down with earth. They have to conquer the danger’s of space but also their mental well being.

Europa Report adopts the found footage style of film making, and with editing it literally feels like a documentary/news report. Since the premise sets up a groundbreaking time for mankind and space travel, camera’s are set up within the spaceship so that earth can follow the crew’s every move. This gives the films style a rational reasoning. For its low budget I think this was a pretty smart move because it made little weaknesses in special effects forgiving and added some form of realism to the film. Overall we’re given an even better insight to life in space, if not thrilling it is definitely interesting.

What I found is that this film really focuses on it’s science more than cheap thrills or cliched disasters. Europa is actually the closest habitable place in our solar system and could possibly hold some form of life, we have no idea and in that respect it is quite thought provoking. I’m not much of a space nerd but it does provoke questions about space and life that I rarely think about. If your truly into Sci-Fi and enjoy the Sci more than the Fi then Europa Report may be up your ally. To me it’s what diminished the enjoyment of the film, I quite like thrills and good special effects when it comes to Sci-FI and this didn’t offer much. There was definitely a sense of suspense when intended but I’d like to see more out of a film set in a place that’s actually reachable. All the science stuff kinda went in one ear and out of the other because you expect it to be nonsense.

It was nice seeing some familiar faces in the cast. Sharlto Copley probably the bigger of the few, known for his work in Sci-Fi. Of course he plays more of a tame character in a realistic setting this time as opposed to his over the top badass’s. If your a fan of Dexter, it will be quite a reminiscent moment seeing Christian Camargo again AKA Rudy; luckily over his serial killer ways. The rest of the cast includes Michael Nyqvist (Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol), Daniel Wu (The Man With The Iron Fists), Anamaria Marinca (Five Minutes of Heaven) and the lovely Karolina Wydra in her first major film role. In honesty there are no major performances, what the film lacked was chemistry between the group. The only character that seemed to be connecting with other characters was Sharlto Copley. Other than that they were solid.

Gravity (2013)

GravityRoze-Rating: 5 / 5

A group of astronauts are sent out on a seemingly routine space expedition until mayhem ensues. Mission control warns the space crew that a Russian missile strike has just destroyed a satellite causing a chain reaction of debris to head in their direction. Before they can evacuate, the debris destroys their space ship, leaving only Dr. Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski as the sole survivors.

Alfonso Cuaron returns to mainstream film making with this groundbreaking Sci-Fi thriller, avoiding fantastical space adventures and bringing us a terrifying film about the true dangers of space. As far as how factual the film is, it must be the most realistic space film we have had in a long time as we are captivated by zero-gravity and breathtaking imagery. Gravity finally brings us a film where there is no noise in space, and surprisingly it’s a hell of a lot more scarier than having your ears ravaged by loud explosions. Not having that ability of anticipating danger around you and losing that sense makes you more vulnerable than you would think. Seeing that on screen really gets your heart pumping.

Gravity has really pushed the bar for technology in film, that alone has made the film what it is, a special effects triumph. The attention to detail is commendable and would make any real life astronaut less prone to ripping their eyes out during viewing. I don’t know how they did it but I want to know very badly as you get a real sense of that zero gravity and how frustrating it would be floating around up there; cool at first but when disaster strikes, it’s less than ideal. Ultimately that’s what makes Gravity so riveting, it’s realism makes space expedition scary even if the possibilities of the events depicted are very low and that’s why we can’t take our eyes off the screen.

Beneath the engaging visuals and thrilling action sequences is quite an emotional narrative. The film explores the themes of getting through a series of bad situations and the rebirth of our protagonist Dr. Ryan Stone. With the constant orbit of debris, disaster will strike multiple times if you happen to be in the line of fire. Throughout the film we’re wondering if Stone will make it or even have the desire to carry on as we learn of her hardships on earth. There is an important scene where we see Dr. Ryan Stone curled up resembling a fetus in a womb, there on we’re given the impression that there’s an emotional growth to come.

As for performances they were brilliant with added emphasis on Sandra Bullock. Thinking about it, these role’s must be what most actors dream about. Firstly it’s a freaking space film, secondly it’s totally groundbreaking and thirdly you get to wear a space suit. By landing this role Bullock has really shown us what she’s made of, steering away from comedies and doing something a lot more thrilling. I hope she continues making films like this.

Gravity will definitely be getting some awards during award season and rightfully so as this is probably the best film I’ve seen all year. I’m a total sucker for a good thriller with awesome special effects. If you’re into sweating involuntarily throughout a film then Gravity is for you.