All About biggest_loser
Reviewed on May 9th, 2013
Universal presents a film directed by J.J. Abrams
Screenplay by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch and Simon Pegg
Running Time: 132 minutes
Released: May 9th, 2013
In 1966 Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek as a TV series and coincidentally this was the same year that director J.J. Abrams was born. The show was pitched as a space Western in the vein of Wagon Train, which was a Western mystery show set on the Frontier. Star Trek converged with the start of the Vietnam War. Roddenberry had already seen action as a fighter pilot in World War II. To counter Vietnam, his version of Earth was a society without conflict and in space there were galactic truces, race relations and a sense of unity aboard the ship the Enterprise. As with any good Western, there was moral code of ethics between men, no matter how pointy their ears might have been. Roddenberry believed in a disciplined society that could be unaffected by war or religion. Spock for example was said to be modelled on a police Chief he knew when he was part of the LAPD.
After many years as a TV show and dozens of films, someone decided Star Trek should be reinvented yet again and Abrams was hired to transform it into a glossy action film. As a filmmaker J.J. Abrams is somewhat of an enigma. One of his heroes growing up was Steven Spielberg. When he was a boy he was hired to repair some old film footage for him. Spielberg would later produce Abrams most personal film Super 8, a movie that typifies the director's career. Part of the film is a loving tribute to home movies and geek culture, while the other is a bombastic, overblown blockbuster, short of any personal imprint. He's a slick filmmaker, I enjoyed his TV show Alias until it became ridiculous, but he struggles to find the balance his idol has between action and character. Into Darkness is a better film than the messy 2009 film though. The best scenes overcome the generic, simplification of the action genre by retreating back towards the essence of the original show: a morally ambiguous grey zone, where the values of the characters and their races are tested. However, the characters are still bound by a rigid story structure, where at least ten elaborate set pieces take full precedence over the human and Vulcan drama.
The most interesting aspects of the plot are when Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Kirk (Chris Pine) butt heads over their different beliefs. Kirk is tasked with tracking down a rogue agent named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is now essentially a terrorist bomber, causing havoc in London by using desperate people to do his bidding. This leaves a chilling, lasting impression, particularly when the film adds a layer of complexity, with Spock insisting that Harrison should be captured and trialled first. He's at odds with the order of the mission and Kirk, who wants revenge for the death of a colleague. Cumberbatch is frighteningly good in the film, a massive improvement over Eric Bana's villain in the first movie. The tension he brings through his menace, his arrogance but also his ability to cast doubts in the minds of the protagonists about who the baddies really are, is a magnetic quality that is hard to prepare for prior to seeing the film. What a terrific find he's become over the last few years.
However, by ingraining itself in the structure of an action film, a lot of this ambiguity is undone. Whereas action and moral ethics fought and overlapped persistently in The Dark Knight, Into Darkness' rhythm is too discrete and foreseeable. The action is timed acutely to follow a stretch of exposition, dividing itself between moments of ideology and combat, and the emphasis on set pieces means the lines between good and evil become transparent again and remove the crucial shades of grey. Abrams also seems more interested in choreographing lavish action sequences than exploring the personal side of the drama. His imagination in the set pieces is limitless. He employs an array of frenzied techniques, including rapid cutting, tilting cameras, overhead shots and quick pans, to breeze through the action. Yet when the characters stop to face one another and talk his direction has none of the same flair or creativity. The actors sit or stand still, with the camera perched on their shoulders for dull reverse angle shots that don't heighten the tension.
Rarely do we ever see these characters in their downtime either. Without any inner life they become ciphers for voicing conflicting moral ideas, like instinct against logic or law and these conflicts are often resolved within a scene of one another. After watching Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan recently, which Into Darkness borrow from, it's also fascinating that Kirk is viewed as an ageing man who has to start thinking about death and his legacy. In this film he's more on par with Tony Stark, able to bed two alien girls with tails at once. That amplifies where they're aiming this film at, in spite of the occasionally intriguing layering of the story. For a franchise that prides itself on going where no man has gone before, the Enterprise is starting to travel in circles.
Reviewed on May 2nd, 2013
Icon presents a film directed by Harmony Korine
Screenplay by Harmony Korine
Starring: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and James Franco
Running Time: 94 minutes
Released: May 9th, 2013
In 1995 Harmony Korine wrote the screenplay for the Larry Clark film Kids, an unflinching drama about kids engaging in underage sex and drug use. Two years later, Korine made his directional debut with the bleak, apocalyptic Gummo, which charted more absurdist waters in a post-apocalyptic world of boredom and young people running amok. Troubled youths is a reoccurring theme that has stayed with this former skateboarder right up till now.
Spring Breakers is a more accessible and commercial film than Gummo but its short of a narrative and it lacks the matter-of-fact treatment of Kids. There's a memorable visual style and a bizarre, entertaining performance by James Franco, but not enough story or insight to certify its importance. The film is long and flabby, its characters and plot underdeveloped and Korine's direction lacks certainty. Is this a critique of a self-absorbed generation, a comedy, a thriller or just an exercise in perversion?
The film is about four bored college girls named Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson) and Cotty (Rachel Korine), who want to party during spring break. When they can't pool enough money together for the trip, they decide to rob a diner. They reach the spring break destination, only to be arrested by the police and then bailed out by a man calling himself Alien (James Franco). He is a drug dealer that encourages them to join him on a crime spree and wipe out a nearby rival gangster.
In an interview with the Australian movie magazine FilmInk, Korine discussed his intentions for the film: "I make movies because I like the story and the characters. I'm not making a movie that's an indictment on American culture, or a movie that's about boobs or guns - those are parts of that world and that fabric, but it's not about that." As Korine suggests, the film's point becomes extremely elusive, particularly when the filmic style is separated from the theme, and his direction relies on technique to substitute plotting.
The early scenes work to instill feelings of belonging. The long shots of the still, tired, grey and empty college grounds reflects the girls' isolation because they fear they won't experience anything new or meet anyone exciting as everyone has already left for spring break without them. These shots are juxtaposed by the party scenes, which are filmed through the extensive use of montage, with music playing over slow-motion and highly saturated images.
It provides these ugly scenes of drinking, drugs and senseless nudity as a dream-like vision of paradise in the minds of these morally corrupted girls. "Pretend it's a video game...act like you're in a movie," one of the girls says to further highlight their detachment from reality. The night scenes reflect darkness in mood and lighting but also moral decay, with only the fluorescent colours of the girls' costumes brightening the screen to suggest their belief in their own self-importance, while the broader landscape of society fades into the shadows.
However, the film's voyeuristic disposition reveals Korine's apathy towards character development and narrative thrust. Korine's costume choice of leaving the girls in their swimsuits for most of the film, and the way that his camera lingers over those raunchy party scenes, evokes an unintentionally creepy sense of perversion. Apart from the opening scenes, the elaborate neon visuals eclipse the story and characters, with the repetitive vision of raunchy partying making the film seem excruciatingly long and banal.
Selena Gomez is the only standout of the girls, proving that she can act by showing some believable emotion. However, the religious symbolism of her character barely registers as one-dimensional and the other three girls, despite their intimidation factor, are underwritten and lack distinction. James Franco provides the most memorable role of his career as Alien, a cross between a hip-hop rapper and the Devil, who has a cornrows haircut, gold teeth and dresses like a gangster.
He's utterly mesmerising and funny, but what exactly does his character want? He uses the girls for crime jobs but never really needed to as he has his twin henchmen. Sex is an option he fulfils, but not straight away either. A promising seed of conflict is planted when the girls look as though they'll rob or kill Alien, only for the moment to fizzle out. He embodies a bastardised version of the American Dream: to take everything you want, while you can, but not understand what to do with it. In a very funny scene, he showcases all of the useless things he was able to obtain, including several kinds of shorts, a looping copy of Scarface, and nunchucks.
Alien's artlessness is amplified strikingly through the film's best and strangest scene, where he sits at a piano, surrounded by the girls dressed in pink balaclavas, carrying assault weapons, and declares Britney Spears as one of the best singers of all time. He starts singing Britney's song "Everytime" and then a montage opens with the song playing over images of the girls' crime spree. Decadence is visualised magnificently but in the end the film is hypocritical: a hasty attack on a pop generation when the film itself is not art but poorly disciplined and morally questionable.
Reviewed on April 27th, 2013
Hopscotch presents a film directed by Ben Nott and Morgan O'Neill
Screenplay by Morgan O'Neill
Starring: Xavier Samuel, Robyn Malcolm, Myles Pollard, Sam Worthington and Lesley-Ann Brandt
Running Time: 113 minutes
Released: May 2nd, 2013
Drift is a breezy Australian surfing film that doesn't break any new ground or take too many chances but the surfing scenes are spectacularly photographed and the performances are as colourful as the scenery. Like many local films, it is extremely well made and acted with professionalism, even when the story isn't revolutionary. The opening scenes in the Sixties are filmed in black and white. This is a fine visual touch, recalling Oz the Great and Powerful, because when the film forwards past the childhood of its central characters Andy and Jimmy and enters the 1970s, the film explodes with vivid colours being cast over a giant wave.
Riding this enormous wave is Jimmy (Xavier Samuel). Jimmy and his brother Andy (Myles Pollard) moved from Sydney to Margaret River in Western Australia with their mother Kat (Robyn Malcolm) to start a new life together. Andy works long hours in a timber mill, while his brother rides hard in professional surfing competitions. Seeing the lousy treatment of the older folks of the mill, Andy decides to quit his job and help start a surf shop with his brother, selling surfing gear like boards and wetsuits. This is at a time just prior to when surfing competitions started awarding serious prize money.
Andy is angered to discover that Jimmy has done a small time job for some local bikie crims and urges him to return any stolen material. Yet these bikie thugs refuse to leave their friends alone and one of them becomes involved in drugs. Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans) plays a hippie surfer named JB, who befriends both the boys. JD's Hawaiian hippie friend Lani (Lesley-Ann Brandt) also takes a romantic shine to Andy. Beneath its sunny exterior, the film is about the relationship of these two brothers and poses the question of whether a hobby makes for a satisfying and financially sustainable living.
The film has more than sand between its ears, realising that a compromise has to be made when it comes to approaching sport as an occupation. This is reflected by JB, who has the film's funniest and smartest line: "Its Darwinian man. We adapt, we survive." It would be impolite to say that the story by Morgan O'Neill exists merely to showcase the surfing because there is more narrative than just sun. It's more of a question of the familiarity of many individual story elements.
This is very much a rerun of the underdog story: the little business that could, faced against impossible odds like evil bikies and a stuffy bank manager. The bikies are a blessing and a curse for the film. They're total caricatures but also helpful in providing some danger to the script through some flat spots, where it feels as though there could be more risk involved. The bikies handout a few thuggish beatings and there is a drug subplot, which gives the film a grittier shade in contrast to lightweight, jovial tone and relaxed, pleasant performances.
The film even retreats to that plotline where a contest is handily giving out a large monetary prize so that the little people can save the farm. Are these contests deliberately organised around places of low socioeconomics and general lucklessness? The organisers must have prior knowledge of people's banking woes, such is their convenience. I also couldn't see the necessity of the romance between the Lani and Andy. Lani serves to ties the global relations between Australian and the US neatly (in a perfectly square ending) but any potential conflict between the brothers never eventuates over her.
What many people will see the film for are the stunning, exciting and beautiful surfing sequences, which are filmed by Ruck Rifici and Rick Jakovich: two highly experienced and talented water cinematographers. Filmed with great width, there are some gorgeous and hair-raising waves showcased here. The actors in the film performed some of the surfing, while real surfers were employed as stunt doubles too. An interesting fact is that despite how vivid and colourful the film is, it was actually filmed in winter so that the waves would be bigger and therefore more dramatic. They're a huge part of a great looking movie so that even when the pacing slumps or the story seems corny, it's never been so easy to dive into the surf.
My Recent Reviews
A look at some of the most talked about titles of PC Gaming in 2008 - the year that was.
Bioshock 2 Teaser Trailer
A new motion picture, detailing the turbulent relationship between Alyx Vance and Gordon Freeman. (Contains spoilers)
May 15, 2013 12:58 am GMTbiggest_loser posted in the topic Anyone going to the Sydney Film Festival? on the GameSpot AU Discussion board
May 13, 2013 2:35 am GMTbiggest_loser posted in the topic Racist Comic Book Nerds - Cracked.com on the Off-Topic Discussion board
May 12, 2013 10:39 pm GMTbiggest_loser posted a new blog entry entitled Star Trek Into Darkness - Film Review
May 8, 2013 12:03 pm GMTbiggest_loser added Fuse to their wish list
May 7, 2013 11:14 pm GMTbiggest_loser began Following Wolfenstein: The New Order
May 6, 2013 1:44 am GMTbiggest_loser posted a new blog entry entitled Spring Breakers - Film Review
May 2, 2013 2:20 pm GMTbiggest_loser began Following XCOM: Enemy Unknown
May 2, 2013 12:29 pm GMTbiggest_loser began Following Remember Me
May 1, 2013 5:52 pm GMTbiggest_loser began Following Call of Duty: Ghosts
May 1, 2013 5:51 pm GMTbiggest_loser began Following Shadowrun Returns