Trailer Park: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)


Verdict: I would buy my ticket today if I could!

Director: James Gunn
Screenwriters: James Gunn & Nicole Perlman
Main Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, David Bautista, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Benicio Del Toro, John C. Reilly

Wow-zers that was a great trailer, now one month off its release I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a marvel film. Was I excited for Captain America: The Winter Soldier? yes, but Guardians of the Galaxy is new territory for Marvel which makes it all that more intriguing. A lot of people have been saying it’s their riskiest film yet and I’d agree but I still think it’s going to make the big bucks. Not only because Marvel films have been killing it ever since The Avengers but because the marketing for this film has been incredibly smart. What makes this film risky is that no one is familiar with the characters, it’s Marvels first property since 2011 that isn’t a sequal. In terms of trailers they’ve done the smart thing in building up from telling us who the characters are to giving us an insight of the plot and the world that they live in.

The first trailer shows the Guardians lined up in a prison booking room where we are introduced to each of them and given background information about who they are. In a way it’s as if they’re previewing the roster just like a football match, and the ultimate effect is to arouse excitement. With this trailer we’re already going in having established who the characters are and what tone the film will take, and we leave with a better understanding of why they exist, the world they’re attempting to save and the villains they will come across, and it’s absolutely awesome. The set and costume design looks incredible, the CGI looks top notch and the characters look badass. In terms of tone it’s not something we’re unfamiliar with, and I get the feeling that we’ll be getting a film with a perfect balance of comedy and action as opposed to Thor: The Dark World which was inconsistent. Originally I was afraid of this approach as it could grow tiresome having seen it before in previous Marvel films. But having James Gunn involved, director of films like Super and Slither, it gives me a lot of hope for this film, as he obviously knows how to balance out the dark with the light, but more importantly he seems to know how to make a fun film. Having Chris Pratt as our lead is also a reason to feel positive about Guardians as he is killing it at the moment and as a fan of Parks and Recreation I couldn’t be happier for him. Overall we could be in for a great popcorn flick to come off a more politically thrilling Captain America film. On the other hand this could be a film that we’ve seen before and may be the first of the Marvel properties to not completely win the hearts of the public.

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Off The Radar: Grand Piano (2014)

grand_piano_still_a_lRoze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

Tom Selznick branded as the most talented pianist of his generation returns on stage for a comeback performance after five years of retirement, as a result of nightmare performance that halted his career in an instant. To add to his ongoing nerves, during the opening of his concert he discovers a message on his score sheet stating that he will be killed if he makes a mistake. While playing in front of a large audience, Tom must figure out who has him at gun point and for what reasons.

This isn’t your average thriller as the premise may suggest, and that may be why the film isn’t a complete flop. That being said behind the preconceived premise, the twists and turns that take place may not be as inventive as one hopes. What saves it from becoming a generic thriller is the direction of Eugenio Mira and performance of Elijah Wood, who has relished his freedom lately and taken up a number of low budget projects. Grand Piano is set in one location and is filmed in real time, yet it remains engaging and is rarely dull.

As classical music is, the camera work is elegant in its movement and is reluctant to use the same angles excessively keeping the location fresh but also working hand in hand with the music as a way of expressing the chaos taking place in front of a clueless audience. The cinematography as a whole is a good enough reason to watch this film. The editing is also masterfully utilized on occasions to symbolize violent acts, such as suddenly cutting to the stroke of a bow along a cello’s strings to show what crime had just occurred. Without the sophisticated camera work, Grand Piano would lack the thrills and tension which make the film at times exciting.

Upon doing some research I was surprised to find out that Elijah Wood has limited piano playing abilities and that most of what was filmed was the craft of his hands, and that alone merits praise for his performance. Having to concentrate on his precise hand movements, acting and listening to John Cusack via an earpiece takes some major multitasking skills and it totally succeeded. Despite not seeing much of John Cusack, his voice succeeds in being convincingly menacing.

It is an unusual film but that’s what gives it character, providing quite a pleasantly unique viewing experience. It’s tense when it intends to be and quirky in others, despite underwhelming twists and perhaps a payoff too, it’s a film definitely worth watching as a guide on how to make a low budget film that looks classy and is as intriguing as any other blockbuster thriller; and hey it make even convert you into a classical music enthusiast too.

The Lego Movie (2014)

the_lego_movie_2014-wideRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Emmet is your average construction worker living life by the rules, always sticking to the instructions enforced by president Business. What Emmet isn’t aware of is that his mind is capable of so much more than conforming with everyone around him, and that he has the potential to be just as special as the people he looks up to. Unaware of the coming onslaught of President Business and his Kragal, Emmet finds the “piece of resistance”, the key to saving the universe they live in.

Coming from the directors of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and the “21 Jump Street” franchise, The Lego Movie clearly have Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s footprints embedded into it, from the quirky humor to the larger than life action sequences. Finally a film utilizing it’s ensemble cast to its full potential. Up and comer Chris Pratt is the highlight of the film, voice acting as Emmet, and for anyone who’s a fan of “Parks and Recreation”, will be pleasantly treated to a character with hints of Andy written all over it. We are also treated to the likes of Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Morgan Freeman and Will Ferrell, and other big name cameo’s on top of that. The cast may be large but they all have their moments providing laughs for both adults and kids.

The major highlight of this film has to be the animation which has reached new grounds making each piece of Lego look real enough to grab from the screen. As Lego should be, the aesthetics are colourfully glossy with no limits to imagination. The way the pieces move and assemble is masterfully animated, taking the old timers back to their childhoods and entertaining the kids, possibly giving them ideas for their next big creation. That is where this film succeeds, the Lego really are the stars of the film. Exuding a sense of nostalgia for the older audiences while creating an atmosphere of fun for everyone else.

Both Lord and Miller acknowledged that their first effort in film lacked heart and a true connection between audience and character, although Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a success for its humor, this time around they’ve successfully found the best of both worlds. What I like about this film is that they never forget what Lego is all about and what it represents and in a way it’s a homage to the toy itself. President Business (Will Ferrell) is the bad guy, enforcing rules and instructions on the public with the ultimate goal of making things permanent. The film illustrates the endless possibility of Lego and encourages imagination and individualism going beyond the instructions you’re given, despite it being based on Lego, it goes for all things in life and that’s as big a connection you can make with an audience.

On top of the messages, what makes this film one of the best of the year, are the little details representing the nuances of playing with Lego, making it so relatable and real. for example the odd manual sound effects as a detachable building floor flies away, or the use of everyday household objects as toys, clueless to what they’re actually for. It’s a definite must watch film of 2014, and has Academy Award nomination written all over it.

Oscars Throwback: No Country For Old Men (2007)

Movies_Movies_N__006313_Roze-Rating: 5 / 5

Llewelyn Moss is a Vietnam veteran living in the desolate lands of Texas. One day during a hunting session, he finds what would be a drug deal gone wrong. Along with dead corpses and a wounded man begging for water, he finds a black satchel with 2 million dollars inside. He takes the money and hides it in his house knowing people are going to be looking for it. His conscious gets the better of him as he wakes up in the middle of the night to bring water to the wounded man, a mistake as he gives vital clues to the one man with no morals when it comes to getting what he wants.

No Country For Old Men is an absolute gem of a film. For me, it ticks all the boxes for a perfect thriller with a wild west edge. As a shallow viewer it has enough suspense, violence and action to enthrall for the full viewing time. Even with its quiet, barren land demeanor. But for the sometimes sophisticated side of my brain, the narrative has enough substance for me to have come out with a much richer experience of the film.

As the title and opening monologue from old timer Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) would suggest, it’s a film about the changing times. How a land which was once relatively safe has now become a harsh environment. Whenever we see the older generation on screen, they seem to be bogged down by unusual information or just odd behavior. A sign which says, times are more complicated and not as straight forward as before. Even for Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, he fails to put the pieces together quick enough to solve the drug deal gone wrong case. This isn’t to say he’s incompetent, he is the opposite, but it says that crime in the modern times are a lot more overwhelming.

The characters are also a great part of this film, the three main characters signify something different. We have the Sheriff who is an obviously good man. He has a loving wife and is also good at his job. Just like the old time’s, he’s laid back and composed but nothing less than a good person. There is the antagonist Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) who is a total psychopath, from the worst hair cut ever in film to his lack of remorse when killing people, he is the bad of the film. Since we are unaware of where he’s from and it’s apparent that he isn’t local, he seems to signify the unpredictability of modern evil and crime, sometimes referred to as a ghost. This may refer to the how the future is and what makes it so unsettling. He has no moral compass but believes in the power of fate, apparent from his coin toss game. As for Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), he is right bang in the middle, as Uncle Ellis refers to some of his cats as half wild or outlaws. Moss is your every man, he’s been through a lot and understands the harshness of life. I like how he looks at the money with no expression and sighs “yeah” as if he already knows what he’s getting into but can’t protest against it. There’s some form of inevitability to it.

This film really is a cat and mouse thriller. Except the mouse is a cat too. Predator vs predator. It’s refreshing because we have characters who aren’t stupid. They’re all intelligent and know how to cover their tracks, they know how to defend themselves and when it comes to doing the deed, they can do it. Just as you think a character is missing something they respond with intelligence. It’s awesome to watch a film where you find it hard to criticize characters decisions but instead be left wondering “why didn’t I think of that”.

As for performances, well you have Javier Bardem in one of his first major English roles and will probably stand as his best for awhile. Think Silva from Skyfall but even crazier. I like that opening scene of him where he’s strangling that cop, just from his facial expressions you can tell that he’s a heartless bastard and it’s not the first time he’s attempted to kill someone. As good as Bardem is, Brolin totally knocks it out of the park for me. There’s something about his portrayal of the character. He’s just so slick and such a guy, a guy we all wish we could be. If I could pull off boots and a cowboy hat, I would, wouldn’t have to think about it, I’d be walking around looking like a total badass. (Brolin) “you got socks”, (Shopkeeper) “We only have white”. (Brolin) “That’s ok, whites all I wear”, that’s what it means to be a man right there. Tommy Lee Jones is business as usual and it was nice seeing some Woody Harrelson as well to make up a really great cast.

This was totally deserving of the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Javier Bardem) Oscars. A film back in the day that I wouldn’t have wanted to watch, purely because it’s absent of music. Thanks to more appreciation for films, that lack of music only adds to the film, putting us in the west with the characters and surprisingly adding suspense to the films more thrilling scenes. No Country For Old Men is truly a great film.

Oldboy (2004) vs Oldboy (2013)

OldBoy VS

I chose to watch the remake before the original and immediately regretted that decision after realizing that this isn’t your average revenge flick. It’s a lot darker and filled with more surprises than I first anticipated. Going into the original knowing the general storyline and plot diminished the effect of the first half of the film, luckily due to changes in the remake there were still a few pleasant surprises and twists that I didn’t see coming. I think if I would have been a bit smarter and chose to watch the original first I would have instantly loved it.

The initial reasoning behind watching the remake first was to give it a fair chance so that I wouldn’t be comparing the two constantly, but this is just one of those films where this can’t be prevented. Firstly the story is unique providing plenty of plot twists to keep us guessing. Once knowing these twists, it’s hard to stop waiting for them to happen in the original. Luckily the remake didn’t stay completely true to the original and made a few plot changes but those were the only changes made. That’s what makes the remake incredibly pointless in my opinion. It didn’t offer anything new, apart from a western cast and a neo-noir tone. Why remake a film and change virtually nothing about it. Usually what you’d like to see in a remake is perhaps a unique style true to the director or something different creatively but the 2013 version felt lackluster and ultimately not worth filming especially when you have a pretty perfect counterpart.

Oldboy-5
Oldboy (2013) –
Roze-Rating: 3 / 5

We’re introduced to Joe Doucett leaving a lunch meeting drunk, what first seems acceptable turns unacceptable as he urinates in public and adds more booze into a soda cup before returning to work. He later shouts at his wife for nagging him to attend his daughters 3rd birthday party and hits on his clients wife who has no interest in him. It’s safe to say that he isn’t a pleasant man at all. We’re not meant to like him but we can tell that not even he likes himself as he spits at a mirror while staring at his reflection. He seems to have given up on himself. After a booze filled night he’s snatched off the street and awakens in an unfamiliar room which he’s trapped in.

We don’t really get a sense of that revenge until he is released from the room. Whilst in the room it’s more about his self improvement and redemption in order to be worthy of his daughters forgiveness when he is let out. I suppose that is what prevents him from going insane.

Without giving anything away this film tackles some dark themes which would make a lot of people feel uncomfortable, but this film lacked grit and an appropriate tone to support it. It felt too mainstream and lacked style, the cinematography, characters and locations felt generic which ruined what was supposed to be an eerie film about revenge. Instead it came off as your average blockbuster film.

What I liked about this film was the added noir tone. It felt appropriate during the scenes where Brolin and Olsen are trying to figure out who trapped him in that room. But then there would be an abrupt change in tone during Brolin’s hammer to skull combat scenes. Sometimes it would feel out of place especially the iconic hallway tracking shot. It was always going to be a hard scene to pull off and unfortunately it looked awkward. Having not seen the original before this, I can say that was my first reaction. Brolin was awesome but the extra’s made the scene feel gimmicky with over the top reactions and unrealistic movements, some moments were cool but others were off. Talking about extra’s, they seemed to burden the film with below par acting. Not only the iconic fight scene but a couple of flashbacks too. If someone points a shotgun at you, I’m pretty sure you’d flinch, at least a little bit.

Josh Brolin proves to be one of the few positives coming out of this film , showing that he can be a strong lead and carry a film. Another positive is Sharlto Copley, now cementing his status as king of accents. It may be slightly off in this film but his stiff interpretation of Brolin’s mysterious enemy makes him an intriguing character. It was interesting seeing Elizabeth Olsen for the first time, it gave me the chance to see if she’s Avengers worthy. She was solid but maybe due to the script she felt monotone. We don’t really sense her troubled past or any hardship, the only time we sense it is when it’s spoon fed to us or the first scene we see her with Brolin where she’s wearing a scruffy torn T-shirt, then minutes later we see her wearing a nice blazer. The only thing that signified to me was whether she was homeless or not, not every druggie has a torn up shirt!

Oldboy-3


Oldboy (2004) – Roze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Oh Dae Su is an obvious alcoholic as we’re introduced to him at a police station being a nuisance. He says all he does is try to get through the day, which suggests he struggles in life and in a way might have already given up. He may be unhappy but he shares a sweet spot for his daughter despite continually being absent from her life. From the opening we know he’s done some bad things and may not be a pleasant person. Before we know it he’s been picked up from the side of the street and trapped in a room.

Compared with the newer version, the transition to his entrapment is a lot quicker, you could say the remake spoon feeds the audience the plot and also gives us a more direct interpretation of the character. With Oh Dae Su we can understand him the way we want to. There’s more emphasis on his growing insanity within the room which the remake didn’t touch on, to put the cherry on the top there’s an explanation to why he never gave in to the insanity which is what I was wondering the whole time. When he’s released he saves a man from committing suicide but it becomes apparent that he hasn’t completely changed, he still lacks compassion but he’s fitter and driven with only revenge on his mind. In that respect there is more emphasis on revenge which the remake didn’t have.

Themes of vengeance are relevant throughout the film, when we learn more about the person who trapped Dae Su. We learn the extent to which revenge can go and what holding a grudge can do to a man. For Dae Su, remorse slowly creeps in on him once he figures out who the mystery man is.

Performances are great from everyone in the cast. The lead Min-sik Choi is phenomenal, a character which will stay with me for a long time. He finds the perfect mix of grit, anger and insanity. Gang Hye-Jeong plays the female supporting role convincingly, we buy into her loneliness and hurt, making her a character we believe in. Playing the mystery man is Ji-tae Yu who is portrayed as this charismatic, suave, insane, evil man. In terms of antagonists, this is as good as it gets.

The blend of violence and dark humour is emphasized by the films overall offbeat tone. It gives the film consistency and style which the remake lacked. The screenplay is also better with narration, memorable quotes and metaphoric messages that move the narrative along nicely. There’s no question to why this is a cult classic, I’ve not seen a film as interesting, fast paced and intense as this in a long time.

Oldboy-4


Verdict

The original is miles better than Spike Lee’s remake. I’m all for a remake, but only if it’s justified. Foreign films have been adapted before, it’s not uncommon, but usually there’s a unique spin on them. For instance Prince Avalanche and The Departed. What makes the original so much better is the script, it has all the plot holes filled which the remake had. I don’t understand why you would take a film with a perfect story line and change little things like making the protagonists imprisonment 20 years instead of 15. Little things that create plot holes. As for the characters, as good as Josh Brolin is, he doesn’t come close to beating Min-sik Choi and his awesome hair. But even overall the characters are richer in the original. I didn’t like Elizabeth Olsen’s take on the female role at all. I didn’t buy into her vulnerability as much as Gang Hye-Jeong’s Mido. As for the antagonist, Sharlto Copley was absolute gold but it didn’t feel appropriate for a film like Oldboy, he felt gimmicky. Ji-tae Yu was just as suave as Copley but his anger and desire for vengeance felt real, you almost feel for the character. Overall Chan Wook Park’s film smashes the remake… in the skull… with a hammer.


Rush (2013)

130910155412-rush-movie-poster-horizontal-galleryRoze-Rating: 5 / 5

Rush is based on the true rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the racing season of 1976. It’s a story about two sportsmen with different outlooks on life and racing. Despite their seeming hatred of each other, there’s one thing that set’s them apart from other rivalry’s, they respect the effect it has on their lives.

What makes this film great is the attention to detail given to make this true story as real as possible on the big screen. If you are unaware of this rivalry and Formula 1 in general then I wouldn’t advise to go looking up the story. For me, not knowing anything about these two guys made it a much more thrilling watch. Your constantly wondering how far these drivers will push themselves to win, and whether or not they will go too far. It definitely makes that last race an edge of the seat moment. After the film though, having done some research and youtube-ing, it’s quite remarkable how much detail went into this film. From the costumes to the accents, almost everything about this film is spot on. Of course parts of the film are dramatized but it’s essential to telling this story as effectively as possible.

The casting is great, as a result of this we get two of the best performances of 2013. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl don’t only look like the famous drivers they are portraying but sound like them too. Hemsworth captures the bad boy persona of James Hunt perfectly, with a you-only-live-once swagger. You buy into his character because he doesn’t race because of the lifestyle it brings, he races because it supports the lifestyle he lives. He respects the dangers of F1, therefore sympathizing for the men that get into accidents every season. Niki Lauda of course is the complete opposite. Bruhl presents Lauda as a cold, calculated racing driver, always acting on statistics and not emotion. If a fellow driver spins out or crashes, he shows no compassion but criticize their technique. He may sound like an antagonist but his conflicting behavior between winning and actual happiness gives us a reason to care for this character.

The cinematography is brilliant throughout the film, giving us the perspective of the driver during these relentless races. It makes the racing scenes more of an adrenaline inducing experience. As for it’s overall look, the shiny shades of orange and colour filtering make it great to look at. It feels as if we are in the 1970s as well as watching a documentary about it. Everything from the camera angles and the colours used to the back commentary and interviews.

It’s definitely one of the best rivalry stories I’ve seen on film. I like how the story doesn’t make the rivalry dirty or unpleasant but rather inspiring for both drivers. They use it as a way to push each other harder, a way to learn from each other and ultimately a way to feel alive. During the journey of the season, we realize that there’s a lot more respect within the rivalry than we think. That’s what makes the final scene quite a compelling moment.

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.