I want my two hours back – Alex Cross

Alex Cross - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Alex Cross – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Alex Cross (2012)

Director: Rob Cohen
Writers: Marc Moss (screenplay), Kerry Williamson (screenplay), and James Patterson (novel “Cross”)
Stars: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox and Rachel Nichols

I could write an essay on all the reasons why this movie is now in my top three worst ever films I’ve seen list. I’ll try and convince you not to spend any time, energy, money, or basically anything other than reading this blog on the so-called film Alex Cross in a shortish blog.

This film did everything wrong. From the music to the script, to the casting and the pace. It basically started out being really bad and then got unbelievably worse. Let me start by mentioning the script and the direction. I’ve never read a James Patterson crime thriller before but I’m sure not going to now. The adaptation of the script was so bad that pretty much every line was cringe-worthy. There was only one line in the entire film that was good and even then if it had been in any other film it would’ve sucked. The pace of the film was slow and they tried so hard to develop the characters so much that rather than liking the characters I just wanted them to get off the screen and let me have my life and imagination back. The screenplay may have looked fine on paper, actually no, I take that back, it would not have looked fine on paper unless you’re a two year old and need to be walked through every little thing that happened. It was amateurish in everything apart from the quality of the camera and the lighting. I could have written something better and I know that I’m not a great writer. It was so painful to sit through and I began to shrink in my seat as each scene progressed only to rise when something was so ridiculously stupid that you couldn’t help but laugh.

The music was cheesy and agonizing. It had the awful sappy music when someone was having a deep, “character defining” moment, or “fast-paced” when there was a bit of action. It stood out like a sore thumb, which music in film should never do other to compliment the scene. This music took away from the film.

Tyler Perry needs to take some lessons on how to bring truth to characters, his “performance” of Alex Cross was not good, to say the least. I didn’t care about his character or what he had been through. For someone that has been in a lot of films it makes me sad that I know so many of my friends that could’ve played that character better, and they aren’t actors. Oh and then there is Edward Burns who plays his best friend/partner and he was just as bad. I wanted him to die at one point because he was so freaking annoying. I don’t usually wish death on characters but this movie pushed all the wrong buttons for me. And then the two main female leads get killed off quite quickly, yep, thanks for that one guys, push the women out of the picture, well done. I mean I don’t mind a bit of damsel in distress stuff in films, but to kill off the characters altogether, that’s just low. The only one that I give any credit to with his acting ability is Matthew Fox (Jack from Lost). Fox is creepy and scary and redeems the film just a little only to have it come crashing down on him via bad directing. There is one moment where he looks at the camera to deliver a line and you just have to ask yourself: WTF whose decision was that and can someone please get them out of the film business immediately?! And finally there is John C. McGinley (Dr Cox from Scrubs) who just shouldn’t do drama, ever. Stick to comedy John, you really really shouldn’t do drama. I didn’t care that his character got blown up, he was annoying and at this point I just wanted the film to be over.

I’ve seen a lot of B-grade action films, but this isn’t even making the B-grade, this gets an F. It is so bad that it is now trumping Vanilla Sky on my list of worst films ever. I can’t express how truly wretched and unendurable this film was. I’m so glad I got to see it with critics and didn’t have to pay for a ticket, I would’ve walked out and asked for my money back. When there are so many other great independent, or even Hollywood, films that are way way way better than this shite I just want to question those who are making the decisions of what to make and what to show in cinemas. This doesn’t deserve to go to DVD.

DON’T SEE THIS FILM.

-500/5

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Rookie, are you ready? – Dredd 3D

Dredd 3D - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Dredd 3D – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Dredd 3D (2012)

Director: Pete Travis
Writers: Carlos Ezquerra (characters), Alex Garland (screenplay), and John Wagner (characters)
Stars: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey

There is something to be said for knowing what a film is about before stepping into the cinema. I made the rookie error of going to see a film without realising its history, even though I knew it had one. Even knowing the original starred Sylvester Stallone didn’t stop me or make me think twice. I just thought it would be like other action films I’d seen. Apparently there is a large difference between M15+ films and MA15+ films.

From the opening moments of the film I realised that I wasn’t going to like this film as much as I’d hoped. I think I’ve been spoilt by seeing clever action films. Christopher Nolan, Tony Gilroy, Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott have something to answer for with their clever camera work and screenplays. I was not ready for the amount of visual violence. I was not ready for how much violence would be shown in great detail. It was sensory but senseless. I had to force myself to stay in the cinema at one point because I was not going to let my money go to waste. I am usually okay with violence on film, one of my all-time favourite films is Fight Club and I grew up watching action films with my older brother, but this was a whole other level of violence for me. I think it was that it wasn’t just alluded to but you are shown in detail the violence, death, and torture of the characters. The camera reveals the awfulness of violence so extensively throughout the entire film. The use of slow motion and 3D heightens the visuals and shows the audience the violence explicitly.

The storyline is thin, the characters are underdeveloped and it seems that the main point to the film is to have Judge Dredd sentence one person to death but in the meantime get everyone else killed. It doesn’t really make sense to me that this would be a film that appeals to a wide audience nor a cult following, however I am informed that my suspicions are wrong and that this is actually a big deal in the action film world. I don’t rate it highly. It’s indelicate and unsightly. It’s full of one-liners that are delivered with such seriousness that it made me laugh (I’m not sure if I was meant to laugh or not…).

I wouldn’t recommend seeing Dredd 3D. The only thing that is worth seeing it for is its use of 3D. They have used 3D the way that I’ve wanted a film to use it – I may have ducked at one point to avoid being splattered by blood, yes it sounds as disgusting as it was but I appreciate them making the experience immersive to some degree. I just wish it wasn’t this film that made me like slow-motion and 3D again. It was cleverly filmed if nothing else.

2/5

Laugh or Avert? – Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Killing Them Softly – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Killing Them Softly (2012)

Director: Andrew Dominik
Writers: Andrew Dominik (screenplay), George V. Higgins (novel)
Stars: Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins

There is something both beautiful and terrible about this film. It shows violence in both beautiful and awful ways, sometimes at the same instance, such that you end up both wanting to look but cringing at the scene at the same time. It is a split-second reaction of awe and disgust which gives this film it’s cred. You have the high profile actors, the well plotted storyline and the brilliant and non-Hollywood-style director, but it isn’t a film I would recommend for non-film-buff friends.

I’m going to be a little negative about the film now, but hear me first say that this is a good film, well crafted and executed, with many positives.

I had spoken to one of my film critic friends about the movie before going to see it and he mentioned that he thought that the violence wasn’t glorified like it is in some Hollywood blockbusters. I think he is both right and wrong here. There are a lot of slow motion moments in the film and moments where lighting and effects are used to replicate a drug-induced haze, which is fine and clever, but it makes the whole world they live in a bit of a fairy-tale. It brings the awfulness of drugs to the forefront and makes the violence look pretty and controlled. The chaos comes through the drugs but the clarity comes through the violence, which isn’t the best message to be sending out into the minds of people.

Then there is the background noise of the economic downturn in America with constant chatter of televisions and radios broadcasting Bush and Obama’s political speeches surrounding economic issues. To be honest it could have been a little less obnoxious. It becomes such loud background noise that it gets in your face at times and I found it to be a little punishing on the narrative and action of the film. I know they were trying to make a statement about how the economy falling effected everyone, but it wasn’t done in a way they made it seamless with the film, it stood out too obviously. There were moments in the film which I really enjoyed but then they would be ruined by some TV or radio chatter of Obama or Bush talking about how awful the economy in the US was doing and how strong the American people were. It was irritating.

There are three things worth seeing this film for:
1. Brad Pitt, of course;
2. The shooting/car scene with Pitt and Liotta, it is incredible and extremely impressive;
3. The humour in this film is minimalistic and giggle-out-loud, it’s very understated but is also hilarious.

Rating: 3/5

Murphy’s Law Embodied in Film – Argo

Argo - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Argo – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Argo (2012)

Director: Ben Affleck
Writers: Chris Terrio (screenplay), Joshuah Bearman (article)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman

As I sit in my comfortable bedroom feeling safe and warm, I write with a heaviness of heart for the parts of the world that live in true terror, not knowing if their streets will be safe tomorrow. I have become desensitized to war, crime, death, riots. I do not know what it is like to fear for my life. And yet I surround myself with entertainment that reveals these terrors to me; that engage and entertain me; that help me escape from my mundane and uneventful life. Argo is a film that has shocked the reality and terror of war and military resistance back into my heart and mind.

Based on a declassified true story set in 1979 Iran. The U.S. Embassy has been stormed and hostages are held for 444 days. Six American embassy workers escape and find refuge in the Canadian embassy. The rest of the film unfolds as the adventure of how they get out of Iran without being found and executed for being spies for the U.S. Affleck has composed a film that builds slowly and steadily the tension and stress of these people as the CIA tries to get them out as a Canadian film crew. With parts verging on the ridiculous side of tense, the film plays out Murphy’s Law in every way possible. It is a movie that you have to buy popcorn, because you will stress eat the entire way through the final third of this film.

What really made this film brilliant for me was the reactions of my friends sitting either side of me. It made me realise how unfeeling and desensitized to violence and war that I’ve become. This film captures the way fear and anxiety can play in war and uprising, and how innocent people can get trapped in the middle of military and government games. It’s the horrible truth of war and our world that people who have not called war upon themselves are thrust into the horrific arena of government power plays. You take the side of the Americans naturally throughout the ordeal of the film without considering much of what the Iranians were uprising against, and without wanting the American government to do what the Iranians want. I want to sit and question this position because I don’t know where I stand on this. Is it right for a country to play in the affairs of another country if it demands the people of that country to rise up against their authority because of oppression? Should they be held accountable for their part in the mess? What part does diplomacy play? I don’t have answers for these questions but I’m glad Argo has made me think about it.

All in all this is a brilliant and dramatic film with moments of both terror and humour. Affleck has brought to life a fantastic epic and has created a film that will be nominated for awards and will (in my mind) hopefully win a few. It is gritty and deals with a point in history that we don’t look at much. If you like action, drama, humour, hollywood, history, documentary or war themed films, go and see this. It’ll be a great adventure for you and will make the journey back to reality a great relief.

Sadness and Pity – The Words

The Words - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Words – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Words (2012)

Directors: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
Writers: Brian Klugman (screenplay), Lee Sternthal (screenplay)
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Dennis Quaid, Zoe Saldana and Olivia Wilde

There are moments when a movie trailer can win me over enough to send me to the cinemas. The Words wasn’t even on my radar and I’m usually not a huge fan of Bradley Cooper or Dennis Quaid. It was the story that was told in the trailer that caught my attention. (Watch it here)

The story of a stolen novel and a stolen life. The composition of the film is beautiful and tragic. You know from the moment the film begins that it won’t have a wonderful and happy ending but neither do you know what will inevitably become of the young man who dreams of being something more than what he is. This isn’t a fast moving, action packed film, nor is it an utterly tragic drama, and yet it left me with a feeling that I cannot fully explain. I left the cinema with a heaviness and depth of pity and sadness for the men in the film that I haven’t felt before, which makes me ask the question: why?

It wasn’t the most amazing film I’ve ever seen, it wasn’t even hitting in my top twenty or fifty necessarily. However, it was able to convey something that I hadn’t experienced before. The darkness of fame, the twisted shame of lies, the hurt and pain of loss, the need for redemption and to right our wrongs, and the emptiness that comes with keeping a secret that tears apart your life. That is what the film left me with. The simple truth that we do wrong and we have to live with the consequences.

The way that Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal composed this film brought into light that if a story is worth telling then do it simply, without grandiose or theatrics. Just tell it like it is, let the characters be real and true and awful. I felt the pain and shame of Bradley Cooper’s character; and the hurt and loss of Jeremy Irons old man; and the love and fear of Zoe Saldana’s character. There was depth to the narrative and development of the characters without being obvious or over-the-top. It meant that the heart of the film was able to shine through without being tarnished by me thinking about the film making techniques or script. It was a beauty and sad story told simply and graciously.

I really recommend you see this film. Not just for the gorgeousness of Bradley Cooper’s blue eyes, but for the feeling that this film leaves you with when the lights go up at the end of the film. It may not change your life, or stay with you forever, but it will make you feel something different.

Just don’t think about it too much – Looper

Looper - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Looper – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Looper (2012)

Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt

Time travel is always a tricky idea to play with. It can do your head in a bit if you think about it too much. There is always the “what if you change something that changes the course of history which means you can’t have been sent back in time to change it?” thing. To be honest I like not thinking about that, it’s nice to just go along with the flow. But when a film demands you think about it and you are thrown into the mystery of chasing the future and changing the past at the same time it’s hard not to like getting swept up into the thrill of it. And it really is thrilling.

Looper is a film that makes your head hurt a little bit after and leaves you Googling for answers. Luckily the writer Rian Johnson is happy to give answers (yes I went to Google as soon as I left the credits started rolling). However, in saying this, I did think too much during the film. A friend had said that she was confused by it, and so I spent most of the second half of the film trying to work out the twist. If I hadn’t done that I would’ve found it less troublesome at the end. Looper is a real adventure and you do get swept away with Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his life as a looper, an assassin from the future.

Looper makes a massive comment on the value of life and the problems that hurt, pain, and killing cause for future generations. This is what stuck with me when all the time travel stuff had subsided. The fight to live and the acceptance of death are powerful mental and emotional drivers that can determine the way we make decisions and the way we think about the consequences of our actions.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has proven once again why is one of the most in-demand actors. His performance throughout the film is captivating, even with prosthetics. Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt are incredible drivers of the emotion and complexity of life. But the actor that steals the show is little Pierce Gagnon. He is simply terrifying and adorable at the same time. He performs in such a dark and violent film with such maturity and truth that it is a little scary to see. I was blown away by him.

This film isn’t as confusing as some other films that have come out in recent years (yes, Christopher Nolan, I’m looking at you sir) but it takes a great idea and conveys it with conviction and continuity which can be the most troublesome thing for a futuristic time travel film. I really enjoyed getting swept up in the world that Johnson brings alive on screen and he grounds it in the present enough for it to be realistic which is something I always love about futuristic dramas, if it looks like today then I will buy in to your idea.

I really recommend this film. It’s a great escape and an adventure, although be warned there is a lot of splattery blood…

Competition is Cruel – Party Animals

Party Animals - Poster

Party Animals – Poster

Party Animals (2007)

Creators: Robert Jones, Ben Richards
Stars: Andrew Buchan, Shelley Conn, Andrea Riseborough and Matt Smith

There is something wonderfully foreign yet altogether too familiar about seeing the behind the scenes of political parties. I mean we kind of see it on the news every night. Someone has offended someone else which then makes their policy look better and so on and so forth. And with the familiarity of most of the western world with The West Wing and it’s glorious success, there wasn’t really much going for Party Animals. But I didn’t really know anything about it going into it. All I knew was that it had Matt Smith in it before he went and became the eleventh Doctor on Doctor Who.

Party Animals is a British TV show that ran for only 8 episodes. With it’s main characters based in politics it has a West Wing-esque feel but with a British swing. With main characters Scott Foster (Andrew Buchan), lobbyist, his brother Danny (Matt Smith), researcher for a Labor MP, and Ashika Chandirimani (Shelley Conn) the head researcher for the Tory MP opposition to Danny. Their story intertwines in real and dramatic ways as they all go up against one another professionally whilst trying to work out how to succeed in work and love. With big themes of friendship, loyalty, politics, love and grief, it has a dramatic core with an ever-shifting outer coating of political intrigue and romance. Each character throughout the season is faced with heavy moral and ethical questions which provides us viewers with a real insight into what politicians and lobbyists must have to deal with to be successful.

I really enjoyed the series and was left with a hole in heart for the characters. All the actors are brilliant in their portrayal of their characters and the production of the series is done with a British grittiness and lightness that reminds me of Skins and Spooks. It is both enjoyable and painful to watch as it brings the characters lives alive on your screen. You really end up caring deeply for Scott and Danny’s relationship and the future of Ashika as she deals with the fall out of her life choices and losses. It throws into light the darkness of high powered and pressured occupations and how they take their toll on everyone differently.

I really recommend getting your hands on this brilliant yet short series. It’ll give you a new perspective on politics and the difficulties that come with the job of all involved, especially the women.