Monday, 31 December 2012

Most anticipated films of 2013

Happy New Year's Eve everyone!

2013 is shaping up to be a good year for blockbusters and dramas. I've compiled a list of films I'm looking forward to seeing next year. Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

10 most anticipated films of 2013 in no particular order:

The Great Gatsby - So much hype. Hopefully it's worth it. Such a classic book and Baz has assembled a great cast so he's half way there already.

Django Unchained - Tarantino and Leo together at last. It was released in the US on Christmas Day and has been doing very well. I'm expecting great things.

Gangster Squad - Looks like so much fun. I get excited every time I see the trailer.

The Wolverine - It promises a lot. I hope it can deliver especially since the previous Wolverine film had so many mixed reviews.

Safe Haven - I'm a sucker for Nicholas Sparks novels so I have high hopes for this film despite recent disappointments of film adaptations of his books.

Oz: The Great and Powerful - The trailers look good. Fantastic cast lined up for this film too.

A Good Day To Die Hard - Just because I miss John Maclane.

Iron Man 3 - Any excuse to watch Robert Downey Jr being swauve and cool is good.

Jobs - I'm still wondering whether Ashton Kutcher can act. This will be the test.

Life Of Pi - A lot of people who have already seen this film have said they loved it. It opens on New Year's Day in Australia and should be a success.

Honourable mentions:

Thor: The Dark World - The first film was a surprise success and Chris Hemsworth was fantastic in The Avengers. It should be good to see Thor back in action.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - The first film took too long to establish itself but came together quite nicely in the end. The sequel should be equally as visually stunning and fans of the novel will know the story gets more interesting too.

Inside Llewyn Davis - Not a blockbuster, but this looks like an interesting film. It's no secret I champion Garrett Hedlund as an actor so I'm looking forward to this one.

12 Years a Slave - Michael Fassbender reunites with Steve McQueen and brings Brad Pitt along for the ride. I'm expecting a lot of intensity from this film.

Then there are films I am interested to see but hold some trepidation:

Anna Karenina - I'm fairly certain the worst actress in the world (Keira Knightley) will ruin it for me just as she ruined Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. But I'm hoping I will be wrong.

World War Z - After so much great work from Brad Pitt in 2011, he hit a couple of stumbling points in 2012, especially with that Chanel No. 5 ad. People are already hating this film before anyone has even seen it. Let's hope it's not as bad as we all dread.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For - Many enjoyed the first film, but have they waited too long for the sequel?

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Best and Worst Films of 2012

It's annoying when films that were released in the United States in 2011 don't get released in Australia until early 2012. So, a few of these films were part of last year's Oscar buzz.

Top 10 best films of 2012:

1) Les Miserables – One of the world's most beloved stage musicals has finally been adapted well onto film. Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway should win Oscars for their performances.

2) The Artist – There's a reason it won best picture at the Oscars.

3) The Avengers – After several disappointing superhero films of late, writer/director Joss Whedon finally showed the world what a real superhero film should be. A flawless film.

4) Hugo – This is essentially Martin Scorcese's love letter to cinema. It's beautiful.

5) Argo – Based on a true story, this film is exciting and bizarre. Hollywood helped the US and Canadian governments rescue people trapped in Iran during political turmoil? Really? Amazing.

6) The Dark Knight Rises – A great conclusion to Christopher Nolan's epic Batman franchise. But is it too late for fans to demand more films? They're all so good.

7) Carnage – Hilarious; easily the best comedy of the year. I never thought watching Kate Winslet throw up could be so entertaining.

8) Looper – Mind blowing and entertaining, this film will keep you on the edge of your seat. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fantastic and Bruce Willis is his usual tough guy self.

9) The Intouchables – Yes it's a foreign film, a French film in fact, but I promise it's worth seeing. A funny, sweet and sincere story with an unusual bromance between a quadriplegic and a man from the wrong side of the tracks.

10) The Way – A beautiful, heartfelt and unconventional road trip film. Very moving and the cinematography is stunning. A passion project for Emilio Estevez and his father Martin Sheen.

Notable mentions:

J Edgar – An underrated film. Leonardo DiCaprio is fantastic and this film offers a rare insight into the life of one of America's most secretive, feared and respected men.

The Descendants – Daggy Clooney is almost unheard of and Daddy Clooney is definitely unheard of but we get both in this film. Great performances and great cinematography.

On The Road – Garrett Hedlund stole the show. I almost believed he was Dean Moriarty. It's a shame he has been overlooked for awards. Die hard fans of the book will always have some scepticism of the film but the cast helps make this film a winner.

Lawless – Two words. Tom Hardy. Amazing performances from all the leads. This film is a fun and gruesome look at the prohibition era.

Shame – Unique and complex, with a powerful performance from Michael Fassbender.

Bully – Interesting documentary that should encourage further debate about how to tackle bullying.

Top 10 disappointments of 2012:

1) The Master – Easily the most overrated film of the year. Nothing engaging about this tale.

2) Mental – Worst Australian film of the year in what was a pretty bad year for Australian films. Missed the mark completely and was quite offensive.

3) The Darkest Hour – Felt like it went on for several hours. Nothing scary about this film. Just lame.

4) Wrath of the Titans – Sam Worthington said he wanted to make this film to improve on the first film. Clearly, he failed.

5) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – As ridiculous as its title would suggest.

6) Rock Of Ages – So cringe worthy I laughed in the first minute. Talk about butchering 80's rock music.

7) Wuthering Heights – Painfully slow and disappointingly only told half the story of the classic novel.

8) Man On A Ledge – The title sums it up, really. Not a good year for Sam Worthington.

9) A Little Bit of Heaven – Who thought it would be a good idea to make a romantic comedy about a dying woman?

10) Alex Cross – You know it's a bad film when you can't even sympathise with a protagonist who has lost someone he loves.

What are your hit and miss films of the year?

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Les Miserables

WRITTEN BY: William Nicholson
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfriend, Eddie Redmayne
RATING: 5 stars

It is the unfortunate fact that many musical theatre productions fail to be successfully adapted to film. There are certain things that work on stage that do not work on film. Les Miserables is one of the most iconic musicals in history delving into themes of love, compassion, redemption, justice, human rights and courage. Thanks to the genius of Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech), audiences can finally enjoy a masterpiece musical on film.

Based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel and the musical theatre production, Les Miserables is set in 19th Century France just after the revolution. Prisoner 24601 Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released from prison after 19 years but is soon hunted by ruthless policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) after he breaks parole. Valjean is able to turn his life around and become an entrepreneur and mayor. He agrees to care for Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of factory worker turned prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway) but Valjean and Cosette are forced to live their lives on the run as Javert continues to track them down. Meanwhile, Cosette shares a romance with Marius (Eddie Redmayne), much to the heartache of Eponine (Samantha Barks) who pines for him. Plus, a group of young men, including Marius, plan a political rebellion.

There are several things that audiences must be aware of before they see this film. First, there is hardly any spoken dialogue. Almost every line is sung and the actors did it live on camera – there was no lip syncing to a recorded track. It works fantastically, and while some have been critical of Hooper's style of camera work, I enjoyed it. Also, the film is quite long, running close to three hours, but the time flies quickly with the complex plot sure to keep you interested.

Valjean is one of the most heroic characters ever created in literature. Although I've seen the theatre production several times and own a copy of the original soundtrack, it's hard even for me to imagine anyone else being able to pull off a performance more convincing than Jackman who lost so much weight and spent much of his time displaying vast emotions through facial expressions. It really is the role he was born to play and if he doesn't win an Academy Award, the voters are blind. Hathaway is equally powerful and should also win an Oscar. I cried watching her sing I Dreamed A Dream with heartfelt pain. Crowe is not as vocally strong as his counterparts but is very menacing in his role, while Redmayne again brought tears to my eyes when he sang Empty Chairs At Empty Tables and Seyfried was also quite moving.

Many actors who portrayed characters on stage have taken on roles in the film, including a small but beautiful performance from Colm Wilkinson who plays the bishop. He played Valjean in the original London and New York stage productions. Barks also reprised her stage role as Eponine and again the tears flowed when she sang On My Own. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are also entertaining as the Thenardiers and provide some much needed laughs to break up the misery without interfering with the flow.

I can't say enough how much I loved this film. Hooper has assembled an amazing cast to do the book and the stage musical justice.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

WRITTEN BY: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro
DIRECTED BY: Peter Jackson
STARRING: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett
RATING: 3.5 stars

Orcs, trolls, elves, wizards, giant spiders and dwarves are just some of the mythical wonders we encounter in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I was 12 years old when I read the book (known as The Hobbit and also There And Back Again) and immediately embraced the fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien. So, I was quite excited to see this film and I'm happy to say that fans of the book will probably enjoy it. The film stays relatively true to the novel but director/co-writer Peter Jackson has taken some liberties with it. I suppose he had to considering the film is the first of a trilogy and the book is only about 250 pages long. There just isn't enough material like there was for his previous The Lord of The Rings trilogy. However, the way he has added more characters and substance to the story works because he brings characters from his previous films to please fans of that trilogy and link the franchises together quite nicely.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey takes place about 60 years before Frodo (Elijah Wood) began his quest to return the "precious" ring in The Lord of The Rings. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) enjoys a simple life until wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) chooses him to help 13 dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. It is during this adventurous journey that Bilbo meets Gollum (Andy Serkis) and discovers the ring.

Even though I knew what was coming in the plot, it only made me frustrated at how slow-moving the first 45 minutes were. It took far too long to establish itself with a drawn out dinner scene with Bilbo and the dwarves. Anyone not familiar with the story was probably even more bored and wondering how they were going to stay awake for the next few hours. But, once the story was finally set up, the plot moved a little quicker and was at least consistently action-packed with adventure and entertaining battle scenes. The film, like the book, is a lot lighter, funnier and child-friendly than The Lord of The Rings trilogy. Having said that, some of the creatures may still be scary for young children, so keep that in mind. The film is also visually stunning. If there's one thing Jackson knows how to do, it's create beautiful cinema. The 48 frames per second 3D effects were also top notch and it's worth paying a little extra to see it in 3D. Some may find it a little uncomfortable at first, but most will quickly adjust and enjoy the 3D technology.

The scene where we meet Gollum is probably my favourite. It's creepy, hilarious and fun to watch. Serkis is wonderful. Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee all reprise their roles too and there is also a few other cameos. Ian McKellen is as entertaining as ever returning as Gandalf and Freeman is a great choice to play Bilbo. Armitage is also convincing in his performance as the heroic yet arrogant and pained Thorin. Unfortunately, the film doesn't develop some of its characters enough, especially Thorin's fellow dwarves. There are so many of them and few have any real personality.

While I still have my reservations about the length of the film, which is nearly three hours, I still enjoyed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I'm not sure how Jackson will sustain two more films that are around the same length, but we shall wait and see.


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

This Is 40

WRITTEN BY: Judd Apatow
DIRECTED BY: Judd Apatow
STARRING: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Megan Fox
RATING: 3 stars

I'm going to warn you now, like every other Judd Apatow film, This Is 40 suffers from being too long. I don't know how long film fans will have to whinge before Apatow employs someone to help him edit his films more effectively. Like his other comedy/dramas (Knocked Up and Funny People) This Is 40 is an enjoyable film and strikes a good balance between believable real life humour and every day dramas. It's just unnecessarily long. About 100 minutes into the film I was feeling fulfilled with the story and thinking Apatow may start to uncharacteristically wrap things up so the film may be a more standard length. Instead, he introduced a spanner in the works that dragged the story out further. This Is 40 is one of the better Apatow films, but it still has it flaws.

This Is 40 sees the return of peripheral Knocked Up characters Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as they struggle with turning 40 and raising two children. Debbie refuses to admit she is aging, while Pete is distracted with trying to make enough money working in a self-indulgent job that is getting him nowhere. The family is facing bankruptcy but Pete doesn't want Debbie to know. Meanwhile, they deal with every day dramas with their children Sadie (Maude Apatow) and Charlotte (Iris Apatow) who are constantly fighting with each other.

What makes the film so enjoyable is its cast. Rudd is so lovable in his own goofy and quirky kind of way. He's the kind of actor who is attractive enough to be a leading man but then he makes a fart joke and you realise he's far more comfortable making audiences laugh at and with him. Mann is also impressive and seems to feel most at ease and perhaps most like herself in this film. But the stand out performers are Mann and Apatow's children, Maude and Iris, who obviously enjoyed acting with their mother and even getting to argue with her on screen. They are very funny and entertaining to watch. Melissa McCarthy also has a small but memorable role as a parent of another child at the school. Be sure to watch the credits for some great improvisation from her. Jason Segel is also very funny as Debbie's personal trainer, while Megan Fox spends most of her time prancing around and being sexy. I'm fairly certain that is all she is capable of doing as an actress and she should probably just stick to roles like this. John Lithgow and Albert Brooks are also good, playing two very different types of fathers-in-law. For all its length though, the film didn't have enough of Chris O'Dowd who is always a delight to watch.

The main issue I think many people will have with the film, other than the length, is that the characters are only mildly likeable and are often a little annoying. Debbie is a nagging wife and acts like she's in high school at times, often sneaking off for a secret cigarette break. Pete is also not very "grown-up" for an adult. You have to wonder at times how this couple managed to raise two children and have a happy marriage for so many years when they fight so much and seem to hardly know each other in some scenes, like when they debate music tastes. Surely that debate happened years earlier in their relationship? Having said that, there is some very good dialogue and witty moments that remind you of how clever Apatow can be. It is these moments that save the film from being a disaster.

Fans of Apatow's previous work will probably enjoy This Is 40. Everyone else will probably be too busy dealing with their own lives to want to bother being sucked into the lives of Pete and Debbie.