3 Days to Kill (2014)

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Director: McG

Writers: Adi Hasak, Luc Besson

Starring: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen

Rating: ★★

3 Days to Kill, which got its UK released over the weekend, didn’t make the explosive impact it aimed to have despite a well-known cast and crew. Writer Luc Besson who contributed greatly to both the Transporter and Taken franchises, alongside McG a well-known TV director made up a well-supported personnel which also included an aging Kevin Costner. The film follows a very stereotyped action-genre, and whilst being completely predictable, its balance of action and drama was misjudged and left for a very dull running time which seemed to be further dragged from some poor comedy attempts and characters.

Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is a life-time international spy, earning high stakes for killing dangerous men; however he is matched with a bigger fight when he is told a terminal illness means he has a maximum of three months to live. Retiring from the CIA he decides to reunite with his estranged wife and daughter (Connie Nielsen, Hailee Steinfeld) in an attempt to build a closer relationship before it’s too late. However he is roped into doing one last mission, finishing off his previous assignments by hunting down the world’s most ruthless terrorist with the prize of obtaining a possible cure for his illness, but trying to rekindle a connection with his teenage daughter could be his toughest test after he is left to look after her for three days for the first time in ten years whilst his wife is out of town.

3 Days to Kill is a film we’ve all seen time and time before, and if I’m honest we will probably see another one just like it in a few more months’ time. If it had a simple premise it would be Die Hard meets Taken with hints of Big Daddy, and the latter simply puts the nail in the coffin and says it all. Costner’s Ethan is very much based on Liam Neeson’s famous Taken protagonist, and no surprise either as the writer of both is involved; a deep husky voice, tough-cookie attitude, a soft spot for his daughter, and a bunch of angry eastern Europeans which get in the way of his fathering nature all make up 3 Days to Kill which is only an iconic “I have a certain set of skills speech” away from being a hidden and lost draft for Taken. It then has classic Die Hard elements, bad Russians, big explosions, crazy stunts all captioned with so very bad comedy lines that only Bruce and Die Hard can get away with, whilst in terms of Big Daddy, Ethan and his daughter, Zooey, have some rather out-of-place one-to-ones of how to ride a bike, deal with bad hair days and boyfriend issues.

It is not only so predictable and somewhat lazy, but for me 3 Days a Kill has a really misplaced story highlighted by a very bad balance between fast-paced action and slow-burning drama. It seems to be a classical action release as we ease into the opening half-hour, but as we soon move on I was completely lost and was too busy focusing on Ethan and Zooey having bonding time on some fair-ground swings I forgot completely about the mission to kill this so-called lethal terrorist. If I’m honest I also think Ethan himself got confused as only an occasional frisky meeting with his boss in a strip club interrupted his usual bike riding, dancing and hot chocolate drinking routine. When the predictable and overused link brought both plots back into one for the final sequences, a really anticlimactic final sequence unravelled, which left more questions than it did answers.

Kevin Costner’s only fault was that he wasn’t Liam Neeson, for a role which was obviously based on the Irishmen; however Costner was great and deserves a lot of credit; he played a very good mix between a hard cold hitman, to the not so hard comedy dad. The rest of the cast however were not poor but neither great; whilst Amber Heard who played Ethan’s boss “Vivi” although executing her character well, was by far the most annoyingly written character I have witnessed in a long while as she attempted to play a cool, cold, and brutal woman.

McG direction was nothing too stand-out, however the few action scenes that did occur were handled well whilst the effects on Ethan’s hallucinations was the only other highlight. 3 Days to Kill wasn’t helped either by its soundtrack which apart from a funny inclusion, (well the first few times at least) of a certain teenage ringtone, was largely out of place although of course, that does match the story.

I guess for me 3 Days to Kill was largely disappointing, it achieves it aims very well, becoming a very template action film with a more drama-like story, however it just wasn’t what I wanted, and for me what I wanted was some much needed change to this tired genre. Although you could label writer Luc Besson as slightly lazy, the cast and crew are no more than good. I suppose 3 Days to Kill is something which needs to be taken with a light-hearted approach so that it can be enjoyed, despite being fairly entertaining and having its fun moments, It wasn’t to my liking and something I won’t be going back to for a second viewing, unless it’s to warn everyone else off.

One Year a Blogger!

It’s been exactly one year now since I started this blog, the thought occurred to me as I found myself constantly giving people my opinions on the latest and greatest films I had just seen, thinking to myself “why don’t I just do reviews”. I didn’t know whether it would stick and if I would just find myself doing this for a month or so (like most five-minute wonders I show interest in), but a year on I can safely say I think I will continue to do this. I didn’t ever think people would want to read my posts, especially not as many as I have doing so now, so I am amazed to nearly have gained 6,000 views and 253 great followers over the past year. I have just finished celebrating my 18th birthday along with the official end of my exams and college years this week, over the next year I will hopefully be focusing more than ever on film as I attempt widen my knowledge and portfolio to gain experience for the film industry where I desire to work.  Blogging has helped me a huge lot, its made me develop a writing style, whilst also feeding my passion for film, but mostly by reading other’s posts and other’s commenting on my posts its made me realise what I need to do to get to the next step. With that in mind I would like to thank all of those who read my blog, even if its just secretly, and a bigger thank you to those who continue to comment and like! Hopefully I will be closer to my goal and dream career this time next year, but I will most definitely be posting just as I’ve done today and the previous 364 it followed.

 

Fight Club: Subliminal Tyler

Fight Club is David Fincher’s 1999 classic which is listed as an all-time great and is a certainty to be found on many peoples personal favourite films lists; however it’s not only it’s iconic story, great characters and extraordinary film-craft which makes Fight Club stand-out, it is the extreme detail in which it dives into, become not only a modern-classic; but a post-modern filmmaking master class. Its display of post-modernism is highlighted as within the opening sequences, before we are officially introduced to Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a series of subliminal styled flashes occur showing our character, the idea that it is post-modern is due to how Tyler himself shows us later within the film how filmmaker’s can achieve subliminal messages. As we find out later in the film, its Jack (Edward Norton) who  creates Tyler as a manifestation of his sub-conscious, to cover-up and to cope with his unhappiness due his slowing fading life which is looked at as pointless; however the very moments where Tyler flashes on screen is carefully orchestrated and very telling.

The Office is the first time we see Tyler Durden; his expression is very confused and dazed; as if he had just fallen into a different universe wondering where he is. Jack’s lines “Everything is just a copy, of a copy, of a copy” as he scans work through a photocopier, it’s all very telling, urging us to realise Jack has just made Tyler! Tyler is just a copy of Jack; they are the same people!

Tyler is then seen next in the Hospital, the doctor tells Jack “Swing by First Methodist Tuesday nights. See the guys with testicular cancer. That’s pain.” but Tyler stands behind with a grin, almost laughing at him. Is he laughing at Jack’s issues? The Doctors advice? or simply the idea that people think they know what pain and trouble is.

Tyler carries on mocking our cast and characters, this time in the Therapy Sessions he appears, the leader orders “Let’s all of us follow Thomas’s example and really open ourselves up.” Tyler with his arm around the guy, looking smug but once again a face of ridicule; thinking to himself Jack’s not going to find answers here; these aren’t men!

Tyler then stands in between Marla and Jack as the pair seem to walk away and gaze at each-other after a very textbook meet-cute. He’s obstructing them, showing Jack the one thing he make’s him promise later on.. Stay away from Marla!

Then Tyler appears in Jack’s hotel welcome video, he is on the far right on the front row, screaming welcome almost telling the audience he is soon to appear, as Jack slowly looses hope.

Then we see Tyler, not a flash but a long drawn out shot just before the two officially meet. He’s wearing his hyper-real clothes, but the way it is filmed is important, Tyler almost emerges out of thin air but more so straight from Jack’s body as the two pass on the escalator! The camera then follows Tyler all the way up as if he was our main character.

Then Tyler and Jack finally meet side by side on the plane and the first line Jack says is “Look we have the same briefcase”, or in other words, “Look we are the same person”.

 

 

 

 

Wolf Creek 2 (2014)

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Director: Greg Mclean

Writer: Greg Mclean, Aaron Sterns

Starring: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Shannon Ashlyn

Rating: ★★½

Wolf Creek 2 is the sequel to the disappointing and amazingly dull Australian horror of 2005 Wolf Creek, which is another exhausting horror in which we see the predictable become even more predictable. Unfortunately I can’t say that Wolf Creek 2 takes a whole different approach, however it is slightly better, despite a problematic story for more than a few reasons, it provides gore, horror and a few thrills; taking the one positive from its original and focusing purely on replicating it.

Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) is still roaming the Australian outback with his hunting knife and sniper, chasing down tourists making it an unsafe place, and one to be feared. After setting his sights on a German couple which he soon captures, he is then interrupted by Paul (Ryan Corr), an English tourist who when driving down the highway stops and picks up a blood covered and fearful woman (Shannon Ashlyn). Mick Taylor chases the “pommy” around the outback, destroying his car, invading his hideout before eventually being one on one within his torture house, but will Mick Taylor lose out on another kill once more.

The most successful thing about Wolf Creek for me was Mick Taylor and it was a positive to see director and writer Greg Mclean spotting this and wanting to develop his outback slasher into a bigger and better sequel. However there is a huge problem, not only does this lead into a slightly repetitive and predictable storyline, but it creates an issue with the films message along with who the audience should be identifying with. The first half of Wolf Creek 2 is something which censorships would probably be worried about, as Mick Taylor kills of a few police officers, who were in retrospect being a little bit mean and harsh, he has a little “pig hunting” catchphrase producing laughs, and therefore making the audience side with him. His first victims then speak German, making them completely un-relatable to us as an audience whilst once again Mick cracks out his book of jokes; it takes far too long before Paul to appear for the audience to then realise that we should be classing him as the protagonist, instead of Mick Taylor. Now this shouldn’t really be an issue in terms of entertainment, but something which caught my eye as slightly risky writing by Mclean and Sterns.

Wolf Creek 2 as previously mentioned is very predictable, however to cover-up this flaw, as much action as possible is crammed in to make it both thrilling and entertaining. In comparison to the original much more deaths occur and this time round they become much more extreme and gore-like, with bullets to the head and knives slitting throats. The chase between Paul and Mick is a real highlight and does provide some thrills with some fast-paced scenes, something Wolf Creek lacked. As Paul finds himself in Mick’s torcher den we see a host of dead guests, some still barely breathing and whimpering, and some cold, stuffed and made to act out scenarios, making Mick Taylor look like the sick sadistic serial-killer he told us he was within the original.

John Jarratt’s portrayal of Mick Taylor is brilliant, his sniggering laughs and jokes are all very fun, although a problem of course, it does make for both a very creepy, but fun character. His performance was typified in the tortures scenes, as he quizzes his victim, reveals his intentions and whilst slashing and stabbing remains cool, calm and keeps on laughing. Ryan Corr is likewise good, practically unknown he handles his role well and gives off a reasonable performance.

McLean’s direction isn’t anything special, the way he chose to shoot the death scenes for the police were a nice touch and a highlight. However Wolf Creek 2 did shine through its use of special effects and make-up with a lot of work obviously going into creating a host of dead bodies, guts and gore.

Wolf Creek 2 isn’t anything great but is a slight improvement on its prequel. The horror manages to capture what it set out to, and that’s a gore-filled, thrilling experience focusing on a fun but deluded outback killer. However it doesn’t create anything new, exciting or unique with everything being seen and done a thousand times before, creating for me a very predictable and average watch. Wolf Creek 2 should be avoided if possible, but the experience of watching Mick Taylor might just make it slightly worth-while.

 

Oculus (2014)

Genre: Horror

Director: Mike Flanagan

Writers: Jeff Howard, Mike Flanagan, Jeff Seidman

Starring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff

Rating: ★★★

Oculus was a horror that I was really anticipating after some positive conversations and a very chilling trailer was released not too long ago, however as the genre keeps producing in recent years, I was once faced again with a very typical and exhausted film, despite evidence of potential. Based on Mike Flanagan’s short story the writer turned director, was responsible for both the good and the bad behind Oculus, whilst the ugly was provided by a very shell-shocked Katee Sackhoff portraying Marie Russell. A mixture between psychological terror and minor-gore provided for a very thrilling horror and watch, but one which I felt was over-complicated in story.

Kaylie Russell and Tim Russell (Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites) were subject to witness violent events as children at the hands of their once loving parents, in the present day, Tim has just been released from a psychiatric ward after being convicted of murdering his father, and under the suggestions of his doctors his has been told to reunite with his sister Kaylie. Kaylie however since the incident as a child has been obsessing over a mirror who she believes is responsible for a list of supernatural events, including the possessing of her father and mother which led to those awful events those years ago. In an attempt to prove to her brother than it wasn’t truly him who killed their father, she sets up a plan to film the mirror and show him its supernatural powers on a night where seeing isn’t always believing.

Oculus consists of a very good set-up story, which it approaches very well in the introduction, however as the mirror’s powers are displayed it soon shows how false-realities are made as our characters see what they want to see, however as an audience and especially for me, this became very confusing and problematic. It seems that the film and the writers have over-complicated a very decent story which holds much potential, and as I viewed Oculus, as much as I wanted to understand and enjoy the film, I was left frustrated with the constant change in truths and realities.

The film however was slightly different to many horrors recently released, there wasn’t too much supernatural action or visual gore until the final climaxes, yet it still obtained a very creepy and eerie feel, something which was a success. However when the gore came and the supernatural beings, it was achieved and used well, producing more thrills and a few gasps. Katee Sackhoff, who played Tim and Kaylie’s mother within the film, was in particularly the most horrifying aspect in Oculus as she haunted the old house, and history was shown.

Karen Gillan, who is very well-known for her role within Doctor Who, performed well and her portrayal of Kaylie was successful. This is the first film I have seen Gillan in, and the first acting display away from Doctor Who; but she lived up to expectation and achieved the obsessive, interesting and bold character she needed to. Brenton Thwaites’ as Tim was also good, with the unknown actor handling the fast-paced haunting scenes very realistically. However the two members of the cast which deserve most credit are Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan who played younger versions of Kaylie and Tim in the many flashbacks within Oculus; the duo handled the job well and produced both believable and professional performances.

The highlight of Oculus however was in the hands of Flanagan who’s directing has made him a much more common name within film, and deservedly so. Oculus achieves a directing style which is rare for horror films; it was refreshing and unique with a range of shots and angles which were all used very well. The look was also brilliant, whilst special effects and make-up, especially on Katee Sackhoff was a real highlight.

It is a shame that for all the good which Oculus achieves it was let down majorly by a story which was repetitive, over-complex and frustrating. I feel that due to this everything else was very limited, in what was a high potential thrilling horror. Oculus is still a film which is very worth-while to watch, although not the most flawless it is an entertaining and cinematically appealing and different. Flanagan may have not hit the big-time with his writing, but his original concept and directing was certainly impressive. Horror disappointed last year in cinema and Oculus seemed to have followed in the average footsteps left behind.

 

22 Jump Street (2014)

Genre: Comedy, Action, Crime

Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Writers: Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, Rodney Rothman, Michael Bacall, Jonah Hill, Patrick Hasburgh, Stephen J. Cannell

Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube

Rating:★★★★

22 Jump Street was a release I was anticipating after enjoying it’s refreshing and hilarious prequel, 21 Jump Street, however there was a part of me which was nervous, a degree of doubt crept in telling me that this was going to be a sequel which shames all what came before it, however I was wrong. A very post-modern comedy, one which doesn’t take it self seriously, recognises its potential flaws and mocks them until they turn into positives is exactly what this film achieves and is about. A bro-mance relationship between duo Tatum and Hill once again provided wonders, whilst the many writers and the duo directors provided the genius touch to make 22 Jump Street a laugh-out-loud, entertaining comedy rollercoaster which is definitely worth seeing.

At the end of the 2012 hit, 21 Jump Street, Ice Cube’s Captain Dickson barks “This time, you’re going to college” and that’s exactly what 22 Jump Street revolves around. The film starts with a “previously on…” flashback which reminds us what we loved so much about its prequel whilst also mocking how the film has been based on a TV series, in which becomes the first of many references which laughs at and mocks itself.

Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) once again fail to be real policemen on real cases, and since they look far too old to go back to high-school they find themselves at college doing the same mission, in the same way, all over again; find the drug dealer, find the drugs; stop the drugs, “save kids’ lives”.  As they join MC State College it soon appears how Jenko seems to fit in more than Schmidt once again putting pressure on their partnership, just as we’ve seen before. However this time it’s different, there are no rules or boundaries, ink-squirting octopuses and amazingly bad Mexican accents. Jenko becomes a football-hero jock whilst Schmidt becomes an art-geek but as they seem to be running in circles with the case and they are at risk of failing as their budget runs low, both their relationship and the case seems stronger than ever.

The thing which makes 22 Jump Street stand out for me is its ability to mock itself but at the same time make it a real positive by being very funny. Watching an interview with Tatum and Hill it seemed clear that this was their aim, to create a film which notices how bad it could be and how bad other films are. In one scene Jenko having a conversation with Captain Dickson says, “So you’re telling me, it’s going to be exactly the same as before but cost twice as much?”, referencing the film itself something I couldn’t help but laugh at. Schmidt when walking into the new office says “wow, this building like a big cool cube of Ice” whilst directly speaking to Ice Cube himself, whilst the extra-added special ending (which I won’t ruin) sums up the brilliance, wit and light-hearted approach taken by the directors and host of writers.

The comedy which this film brings is great, matching its prequel which I was really impressed and pleased by. The opening sequence, which will be familiar from the trailer, kicks things off with a big comedy bang, whilst 22 Jump Street then continues with a host of other hilarious scenes, one of my favourites being Ice Cube’s shock realisation. Although not always being greatly funny, I feel there was always something to laugh at in each scene and even each frame but it felt very natural and flowing, something adding to the viewing experience. Lacking the refreshing element which was found before, is replaced by the self-reflection and mockery, whilst Ice Cube seemed to play a much more prominent role and the constant references to its prequel tied-together a well-written and comedic screenplay.

Channing Tatum’s and Jonah Hill’s relationship within the film is fantastic and completely natural, being one of If not the, best comedy relationships I’ve seen in a while really adding again to the overall greatness of 22 Jump Street. Ice Cube’s greater involvement as mentioned added something funnier and different, whilst the other characters all seemed to slot and fit in well.

There was so much to love about 22 Jump Street but it did have some flaws and annoying elements that brought it down a notch or two. Some scenes seemed overly long or dragged-out, not with the comedy but with touchy scenes meant to be a bit more serious, however I just wanted it to end and move back onto the funnier stuff. The character of Mercedes, a key role in the case, was completely annoying and frustrating, with annoying dialogue, actions and even facial expression, making a really hate-filled character.

22 Jump Street is a film which needs to be seen for a really fun-filled laughing experience which almost everyone can enjoy and relate to in some aspects. Everything which was successful with 21 Jump Street was transferred and reflected here, self-mockery, great writing, acting and overall comedy makes for a hard to hate comedy release which I couldn’t help but enjoy.

“We Jump Street, and we ’bout to jump in yo ass.  Jenko: Mmmm-hmmm. Schmidt: Right in the crack.” It’s a Must-See.

 

 

Lego Movie (2014)

Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Writers: Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, Will Ferrell

Rating: ★★★★½

The Lego Movie is all about reconnecting to the creative, imaginative, fun and happy childlike mind-set you were in as kid when playing with one of the world’s most famous franchises. It’s an absolutely hilarious film the crafting being complete genius, making for a hundred minutes of laughs and reminiscing. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously and that is what makes for such a great and entertaining watch, alongside some brilliant film references, famous voices, and a well-thought and written concept and ending making for one of the most surprisingly good films I’ve seen in recent years.

Emmet (Chris Pratt) is just an ordinary construction worker, following the instruction manual just like every other Lego mini-figure living in a whole world made from Lego bricks, blocks and bits. After his work-shift Emmet spots something strange but before he knows, he is kidnapped and taken away by Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), under the order of Lord Business (Will Ferrell). Emmet is seconds away from being melted into a tiny block of plastic when he gets rescued by WildStyle (Elizabeth Banks) who enlightens Emmet about him being the prophesied “Special”, the only person who can save the Lego Universe from the evil tyrant Lord Business. As Emmet goes on an adventure to save the universe he must both learn how to use his special gift whilst defeating and avoiding the traps of Lord Business.

The story is fun and entertaining, as Emmet adventures on through his mission he meets all kinds of people from batman, superman, and green lantern, to even a repressive happy pink unicorn. Eventually the film fizzles out to an ending which reminded me of the much famous Star Wars, the ending rounds of the film very nicely whilst showing of some brilliant thoughts and film-writing.  Lego Movie gives off a very nice message, for me it was all about being free to create what you want and to be what you want in life, doing what makes you happy without following the instruction manual.

The characters were all fantastic, all being hilarious, well written and well voiced by some famous names. Emmet was fun and well written; although Pratt voice didn’t jump out too much I felt overall it worked well. Liam Neeson as Good Cop/Bad Cop was by far my favourite; it was outrageously funny and genius. As his faced changed from good to bad or from raised eyebrows to angry, I couldn’t help but laugh whilst Neeson’s voice couldn’t have been more fitting. Writers and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, comical geniuses in my eyes, deserve a lot credit for what they have made, whilst fellow writers Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman shouldn’t be forgotten.

The way in which Lego Movie has been made is film craft and animation at its finest, not a detail missed and this only increased my admiration. The water scenes were for me most impressive, with each splash being a handful of blue little bricks thrown up into the air. Every block and Lego-made character brought back memory after memory of childhood fun, and it amazes me how all this came across on a big screen.

It’s hard to find things I disliked about Lego Movie, it had everything from humour  to great visuals however I found its theme song, “Everything is Awesome” one of the most annoying aspects and one of, if not the, most annoying film song I have heard for a long while despite it being ridiculously catchy. It brought a very silly aspect to this film with it also reminding me how this is a kid film, despite its appeal to the older viewers, this was also something it seemed to dodge and avoid throughout but couldn’t for a few frustratingly catchy scenes.

Lego Movie I’m sure will be remembered for a long while by both children and adults alike, not only for its song but for a fun-filled film which relights childhood feelings making it too hard not to enjoy. Written and directed greatly, a host of well-known voices and an overall concept which aims to please makes Lego Movie a surprisingly enjoyable film and one of the biggest and surprising releases this year so far. It is a must-see entertaining watch which won’t disappoint!