Category Archives: Film

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

120px-film-strip2Despite a night with no sleep courtesy of a vomiting baby, we staggered into the Glasgow IMAX screen for the 11:00 showing. Best seats in the house, as well!

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

“Soon, everyone in the city will know how it feels to live in a world without power, without mercy, without Spider-Man!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: The continuing adventures of Spidey, the return of Harry Osborn and the rise of Electro

See it if you like: Seriously? You need this information about a superhero film?

This films seems to be dividing the film-going public, at least as far as those I know who’ve caught it. Personally, I really enjoyed it. Gillian pretty much enjoyed it. One of my pupils labelled it “alright, I suppose” while a facebook friend dropped it into the “shit” box. Even so, the one thing most people do seem to agree on is that it’s better than the previous installment.

One point to make clear – and a thing that was worrying me from the trailer – is that the film doesn’t feature that many villains, at least certainly not all at once in a big battle or anything. It’s all the better for it, too. You can have too much of a good thing, and with a character like Spiderman, plot is as important as action. I’d not want to see him battling four villains simultaneously – it would just be messy.

Instead, we have one main villain in Electro (Jamie Foxx) whose development and origin are paced and explored much as Spidey’s was in the last film. I won’t spoil too many details of the others in the film!

Visually, this is one of the best superhero films I’ve seen bar none. Especially in 3D on an IMAX screen, the web-slinging scenes of Spiderman (Andrew Garfield) swooping and tumbling from location to location are staggeringly well done. Perilous drops, acrobatic flips and physically accurate (as a “proportionate strength of a spider human being” can be, I guess) movement.

There are moment where I felt that the pace dropped a little too low, but this was offset with plenty of little references to keep an eye/ear out for and the excellent comic timing and intonation of Garfield. People have generally responded negatively to his portrayal of the Webbed Wonder, but in this film I think he’s nailed it. Definitely not trying to be Tobey Maguire, instead marking his own territory.

When I’m absolutely exhausted, I usually don’t enjoy watching films much as I’m too tired and fidgety. Despite this, I really did enjoy this outing for the Webslinger and would happily recommend it. But, as I say, you may not fall on the same side of the fence as me.

One disappointment – the mid-credit teaser for another film (I won’t spoil the surprise) is not included in the IMAX presentation. You’ll only see it on regular screens. Boo.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier / The Raid 2

120px-film-strip2We managed to get early showing tickets for The Raid 2 so decided to try and cram in the new Marvel film before it. And almost managed. Courtesy of the usual delays (work, kids, traffic), we missed the first ten minutes *grumble*

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

“This isn’t freedom. This is fear.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Fury and Rogers are framed for treason while bad guys try to take over the world.

See it if you like: Jason Bourne with super-strength

Producer Kevin Feige described the film as “a 1970s political thriller masquerading as a big superhero movie.” And I agree completely. There’s more of a story here than you get in many superhero films and the leading characters very much come across as pawns in a much bigger game.

Sure, it’s full of explosions and incredible CGI – plus one of the best car chases I’ve seen in recent years. And, yes, there’s a guy with a metal arm and another with a shield made of indestructible metal (how do they forge that stuff anyway?) who can fall 20 storeys without dying. But it’s still a thriller at heart and not a bad one.

As far as action films go, it’s up there with the best of the child-friendly ones. The fight sequences are very well done and I gather that as little CGI as possible was used for them. It shows, with realistic movement and punches and kicks that really crunch.

If there’s an issue, it’s that it’s just a bit too predictable. Macguffins are visible a mile off and as soon as certain plot aspects are revealed, the remainder of the story unfolds in your brain an hour before it’s happened. “Oh, right – so that’s the bad guy, that’s the plot, he’s really that person, those need to be dealt with, he’ll end up there…”. Without troubling you with a spoiler, if the hugely prominent “man filling vending machine” doesn’t make you realise that it’s going to be used as a plot device shortly then you need to watch more films.

Chris Evans is good as Cap, and seems to have improved with each film. Scarlett Johansson brings the Natasha Romanoff character through from Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, and cements her place in the big scheme of things leading up to the next Avengers movie. Cobie Smulders also plays a part in linking elements of the Marvel Universe together, playing AGent Mariah Hill as she has done in the S.H.I.E.L.D. show on TV as well as Avengers Assemble.

Simply, though, it’s a great couple of hours’ entertainment. I enjoyed it easily as much as the first couple of Iron Man films which is high praise, despite the predictability.

The Raid 2: Berandal

“It will be a few months. You can’t know where I am. And I can’t be seen anywhere near you.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: The surviving police officer from the first film is placed undercover working with a gangster’s son to try and uncover corruption… with predictably blood-squirty results.

The Raid was a superb film. Buttock-clenching tension, explosive violence, incredible athleticism and all in a claustrophobic setting. Its sequel takes the lead character (Rama, played by Iko Uwais) and throws him in jail, acting undercover to get close to the son of a gangster so that he can weed out police corruption.

First thing – this is not a rehash of its precursor. No attempt has been made to run with the formula and do it all again. This is a more intelligent film, with more plot twists and characterisation. The downside of this is that there are far too many long, slow sections in between the kick-ass action that we came to the cinema to see.

Funnily enough, this film was supposed to be made before “Redemption”, but funding ran out on that so director Gareth Evans had to switch to a smaller budget option. The script for “Berandal” was thus adapted to take start two hours after the first film ended, so it continues directly on from the action there. A third film is being planned.

The plot itself isn’t terribly complex, but there are a fair few characters to get your head around and – let’s be honest – everyone in the cinema was there for the fight sequences. Thankfully when they arrive, they are not disappointing.

As the film progresses, the violence gets harsher, more over the top and far more bloodthirsty. Slashings, stabbings and so on take over from kicks, punches and twisted limbs which littler the earlier sequences. It’s pretty splattery stuff.

One point in its favour is the final one-on-one fight scene. Where I found its equivalent in “Redemption” to be drawn out to the point where it lost it’s realistic edge, this one is far better. When it ended, the audience I was with almost seemed to exhale at once as if we’d been holding our breath. I heard one “ffuuuuuck….” and one or two people clapping briefly.

Even that, though, is topped by the car chase which is simply lovely. In a “Look at him die! Wow!” kind of way, at least.

Definitely worth seeing, but harder work to appreciate than the first film’s all-out non-stop action.

RoboCop (2014)

120px-Film-strip2Ah, remakes. For when you haven’t got an original idea in your head. After an enjoyable couple of hours at a Yelp! meeting (free food and drinks, yay) we had time to run over to Cineworld and catch the RoboCop reboot.

RoboCop (2014)

“I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Man creates robots. Then Man put man into robots. Then man in robot tries to show he’s more man than robot.

See it if you like: sub-standard rehashes of classic ideas

OK, wasn’t going to compare this reboot / re-imagining / rehash to Paul Verhoeven‘s classic 1987 original. Mainly because, barring the most basic of premises, there’s little in common between the two. However…

The satirical view of a dark future is gone to be replaced by something that looks like it could be set next week but with bigger buildings. The closest to the interjected fake TV ads are the comments running under the news items – and even they are repeated throughout the film. A bit poor given that one news report is supposedly being broadcast months before another. Besides, some of them are just poor jokes rather than biting witticisms.

I can’t fault the cast – it’s not their fault that the story is just so “by the numbers” as to be bordering on dull. The collection of Wall Street-esque self-centred men in suits who care nothing for their cyborg creation has been replaced by one corporate head (Michael Keaton) and a few hangers-on who aren’t even annoying enough to be yes-men.

The special effects are also rather good… mostly. It’s painfully obvious when Joel Kinnaman‘s “man in a suit” is replaced by a fully CGI RoboCop. However, the updated ED-209 units are definitely more evil and realistic than those from 1987.

I enjoyed the opening sequence, but after that the film just lost it with no real central bad guy. The original had two, this one has one bad-guy’s worth of character split between two individuals, one of whom hardly gets any screen time.

Stepping back, it was OK to watch but just nowhere near as satisfying as it could have been. It’s also not as bad as the risible RoboCop 3 (let’s just pretend that didn’t happen). However, they also don’t have the excuse that they had to rush out a quick sequel to make some cash like Orion did back in the day. In fact, the budget for this version jumped from $60m to $120m. Part of the problem is the 12A/PG-13 rating that the studio insisted on, but that can’t be blamed for the unimaginative script.

Taken on its own merits, it’s watchable. Put into context alongside its aging source material and it’s very weak indeed.

Disney’s Frozen

120px-Film-stripTime for a kids’ afternoon out to give the wife and mum-in-law some peace and quiet…

Disney’s Frozen

“Some people are worth melting for.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Not so wicked ice queen must be convinced to return summer

See it if you like: the more traditional Disney animations

First thing – if you don’t like cartoons with too many songs, then consider looking elsewhere right now. Having said that, at least none of them run on for too long. I went with our eldest daughter (11) and our son (5). She thought it was too “singy”, but otherwise OK. He enjoyed it but found one scene a little scary.

The story is a decent enough one, and a take on “The Snow Queen”. Two sisters (Anna and Elsa, Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell respectively) brought up by nice parents (king and queen), but discover that one of them can control ice. Well, “control” is a bit of an exaggeration. It’s more like the ice can control her.

After an accident with her younger sister, the two are separated and the eldest hidden from the world… until the day of her coronation when all frost breaks loose.

Foremost, the animation is superb (as expected). The story isn’t too schmaltzy except where the songs are concerned, and it’s not got quite the ending you’d suspect – I liked that.

On the other hand, the animated two-some of Sven the Reindeer and Olaf the Snowman (Josh Gad) who starred in the “trailer” used to advertise the film don’t appear until a fair bit in. By the time Olaf turned up, Little Mister had asked me 3-4 times where he was and was convinced we were watching the wrong movie!

The laughs follow the obvious characters and the story is just different enough from the traditional fairy-tale stereotypes to keep the interest going. Visually it’s superb (no surprises), but those darn songs made me cringe.

Overall a good film and the kids did enjoy it, though they weren’t harping on about it in the car or later on in the day as they have done with other films. So good to keep when quiet for a while, but no lasting appeal.

Do note that there’s a post-credit sequence, but we missed it as Little Mister likes to run out of the cinema the moment the credits come up. Grr.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

120px-Film-stripThis was my birthday treat, though the best seats had gone by the time we booked my actual birthday so we went the day after. Big KFC for dinner and an effects-heavy movie on an IMAX screen for dessert. Lovely.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

“I am King Under the Mountain!”

Plot in a nutshell: Small people approach mountain, old beardy guy stirs up evil things

See it if you like: Well, dur. The other LotR films

Credit must first be given to the poor announcer at the Glasgow IMAX. For reasons that I can’t grasp, they still insist on making one of the members of staff stand at the front with a microphone immediately before each screening whose job is to tell you how big the screen is. I can see the damn screen. It’s huge.

Thing is, despite the screen being brilliant the microphone wasn’t working which the poor sod didn’t notice until enough people yelled at him. Some switch fiddling followed by “Is it working now?”

“No!”

“OK, I’ll have to shout… ENJOY THE FILM!!!”

He got a cheer for that.

Anyway, the film.

It’s the best of the LotR films so far. Honestly. Yes, I know they’ve added stuff in that’s not in the books, such as the intriguing Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), and they’ve stretched a small book out to three films. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to lack entertainment value.

As with the first film in this second trilogy, the effects don’t quite match up in quality to those of the Lord of the Rings films. Creatures, in particular, when in the distance appear to move unrealistically. However, this is only a minor niggle as the effects-work is done incredibly well.

The highlights by a mile are the last thirty minutes featuring the titular Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch who also plays the CGI Necromancer) and the barrel/river sequence which plays out like a computer game according to some of my work colleagues. They’re not wrong, though.

Martin Freeman has taken the role of Bilbo as his own in this film and the character really stands out in a way he didn’t in the first installment. In addition, the other characters – Thorin especially – are really developing.

Add to this the links being forged to events in the previous trilogy (the events of which, of course, occur chronologically after The Hobbit) are both pleasing and well done. They tie things together in a way that Tolkien simply couldn’t do at the time.

It’s far faster-paced than the first installment, and the dialogue is also more entertaining. Peter Jackson makes his obligatory cameo (I won’t tell you where) as well.

The IMAX was worth it for the “surround vision” experience, although not a lot of use was made of the 3D. However, it seems impossible to see anything at IMAX that’s not 3D these days. Thankfully it’s the only 3D that actually works and doesn’t screw with my eyes. Do note, though, that if the only seats available are right at the front or way off to the side that you’re best off skipping the showing. You want to be slap bang in the middle.

I’m very much looking forward to the third and final part which I think is due out in the summer. And I reckon we’ll cough out for the IMAX again.