Grace of Monaco (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

Grace-of-Monaco-German-Poster

Yes I am Australian, but no, I’m not much of a fan of Nicole Kidman. Unlike what some may believe, it is not a requirement of citizenship. The film has definitely had a rough go by the critics, and despite the locations and costumes being beautiful, the film as a whole just isn’t up to the standards set by others.

Grace of Monaco is obviously a story about Grace Kelly – a former Hollywood star. She is constantly surrounded by adoring fans, protective guards, wanting producers, and desperate photographers. She is married to Prince Rainier III (Tim Roth), and becomes what many little girls dream of being. However, there are issues with France’s Charles De Gaulle and a looming French invasion, the royal’s marriage is struggling, and Kelly desires a return to Hollywood.

There are aspects of this film that were done well. You do feel like you are back in the glamorous days of Hollywood, with flowing gowns, men in suits with slicked hair, and big personalities. The costumes were true to the time and the props made you feel nostalgic – even though I wasn’t born for another 30 years.

The locations and sweeping landscape shots were perfect, and echoed the magnificence of the lives of most Hollywood starlets.

Now, about the acting. Not all of the performances were spot-on. As I said before, I’m not much of a fan of Nicole Kidman, but she wasn’t ‘too’ bad. It’s a very difficult job to play a real person, and even more so when the person was loved so much. Most people have also probably heard of a lot of the cast, and they have shown they have acting chops.

The part of the film that lets the rest of it down is the issue of authenticity. Though, Kidman has said that the film is neither a documentary nor a biopic, and is instead more about Grace Kelly’s “vulnerability and humanity”. Grace Kelly’s children have also been very vocal about their dislike for the film, requesting changes and condemning it for its over-dramatics and lack of facts. There have also been fights between the French parties and the American parties over what to include, which does not make the finished product sound very promising.

The film has received very negative reviews – mostly online. As an aspiring film-writer, I shudder to think that the months (if not longer) that everyone spent on this, comes down to such bad words. For the most part, however, the critics seem to just be overly protective of Kelly, and so they might be more inclined to find fault.

These kinds of films are not particularly my favourite, but this one was not completely unlikable. I don’t know exactly where the film deviated from the factual events, but you will never get something like this that is perfect. Overall, not a bad movie, and I think it might be more well-received by the general audience than by the vocal critics.

3 out of 5 stars

WolfCop (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

Wolfcop-Poster

Let me begin by saying that Teen Wolf is one of my favourite television shows, and comes from one of the best movies the 80s has to offer. As per the natural reaction, when hearing the name WolfCop, immediate thoughts do not go to ‘award winning’ and ‘influential’, but that does not mean you will not enjoy yourself. This film is a perfect mix of comedy and horror, and is the next in line of popular B-Grade films.

The film follows Lou, an alcoholic policeman who has a habit of making a mess of things. While he is used to waking up in unfamiliar places, when he begins to become hirsute, even he knows there is something strange happening. With turning into a werewolf just part of a bigger, scarier, story, Lou will need to figure out how to save the day, and hopefully become a better man.

The story is interesting, but has trouble working as a full-length feature. Lowell Dean (the director) had won a trailer contest that gave him $1 million USD to make the film, but it probably would have been better as a slightly-longer short film. Parts of the story were fleshed-out, while others were only granted a short screen-time before we were moved along.

B-Grade films have been rising in popularity over the last couple of years – including Sharknado and Piranha – and WolfCop is definitely set to be one of them. It does not try to be anything more than what it is, and allows the audience to escape their lives for two hours and have some entertainment.

The actors are not A-listers, but they play the characters well. When it comes to films, personally, I like it better when I am not seeing the same actors over and over again. Even though this film is far from realistic, not knowing the actors makes it more believable.

Creating a mix of genres is where a lot of films fail. WolfCop was not too bad. Its horror was more gory than scary, but some lines can get a chuckle.

The filming style/technique of WolfCop is also notable. While other feature films are spending millions of dollars on computer-generated imagery, Dean instead used practical effects. This not only let them work on a much-lower budget, but also allowed the team to have greater control over the production.

The reviews have been quite mixed. There are always going to be those that do not appreciate a B-Grade movie for what it is, and mock it for its style. But for those that see these types of movies for what they are, they will understand how brilliant it is.

Obviously this is not a film suitable for kids, and there are many out there that do not like horror and gore. Me, I am in the latter category, but for everyone else, this is sure to be a mindless and enjoyable film.

2 out of 5 stars

Manny (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

maxresdefault

Floyd Mayweather Jr., Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier. We have all heard of these world-renowned boxers. But there is one name that is quickly growing in fame and popularity, and that name is Manny PacquiaoManny is one of the better feel-good and inspirational sports films that has been released of late, and is one that can be watched by everyone in the family.

The film Manny follows the life of Manny Pacquiao. This – for some time relatively unknown – Filipino boxer has his story translated by Hollywood alum, telling the tale of his rise from impoverished teen who began his boxing journey just to feed his family, to a thirty-five year old eight-division world champion. We follow him as he becomes known by the world, and furthers his career, entering politics and film. The film deals with the ups and downs that go with becoming a professional athlete, and the more personal side of it.

Even from just watching the two-minute trailer, you can feel the way the film gathers you and inspires you. It does more than make you want to watch the film, but also to get out and make something more happen for yourself. If Manny can do it, you can do it.

This film has some Hollywood bigwigs behind it, powering it out of the plain ‘documentary’ world, and onto the stage with other feature films. The famous faces help us to connect with the rising figure that many probably haven’t heard of before. These stars include Liam NeesonMark WahlbergJeremy Piven and Jimmy Kimmel, who aid us in relating to a film that is in another language. Manny also featured original music by Lorne Balfe, whose name is on Inception, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man – to name a few. To have this kind of power backing you, Manny Pacquiao must be a big thing.

The colour and cinematography of the film also raise it to another level. It feels like a feature film with the odd-angles and slow-motion sequences, and it makes the experience all the more entertaining and enjoyable.

One thing people need to remember before taking their young children to see this film, is that it definitely involves violence and blood. For some, it is inappropriate, and for others, it just isn’t their cup of tea. However, there are also those that will only care about the boxing and not about Manny’s political, etc., successes and aspirations.

There is a lot of anticipation and expectation around this film, which comes to me as a surprise. I was surprised by the attention, by the A-lister stars, and then by the story. Manny has what it takes to be a hit. The film points out how successful Manny Pacquiao has been in boxing, politics, and as the representation of the low-income people of the Philippines, and it wouldn’t be too much of a leap for Manny to gain a healthy film following too.

3 out of 5 stars

Dinosaur 13 (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

Gigkeg79_400x400

Dinosaurs are something not just loved by nerdy little boys. There are so many questions surrounding their types, way of life, and death, that it is a mystery that attracts all. In Dinosaur 13 (not as cool of a name as the 2002 book from which it comes – Rex Appeal), we look back twenty-four years, to a group that were looking back even further. This documentary had all of the interesting points – discovery, dinosaurs, and even an apparent big-scale conspiracy theory – but still found itself lacking in entertainment.

The film follows the story of Peter Larson, a palaeontologist whose group makes the biggest dinosaur discovery before or since. The event occurred in 1990, but it was what happened afterwards that turned it into the bigger story. Two years after excavating an almost-complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton – named Sue – the team found themselves battling the United States government, museums, Native American tribes, and other palaeontologists. The film follows the ten-year battle, that saw fossils taken, careers in jeopardy, and one member of the team in prison. Why was this discovery so controversial, and how would it all end?

For the most part, this film wasn’t bad. It had its moments where it dragged and the audience could easily lose interest, but the story was an interesting one, and you wanted to see how it would all end.

Like I said before, dinosaurs aren’t just a topic of interest for little boys, but the seriousness of the film and the emphasis more on legal/political matters, might not make it the kind of film that will be for everyone.
The video quality is oftentimes quite poor as well, as some of the footage was taken back in the 90s before cameraphones and HD video. This might turn-off some of the younger audience members who weren’t alive then.

Dinosaur 13 does, however, have a strong way of gathering the Davids in the hope of slaying Goliath. They do well in making you want the ‘little guys’ to win and find out the real reason behind why all of these events had to happen. But, they tend to play the sympathy card a bit too much. Sure, we feel bad for them in that their whole lives were turned upside down, but there are a lot more important things going on in the world. They also focus more on emotion, than on logic. There were more angles – like the deeper legal implications – that were simply not explored as thoroughly as they could have been.

Reviews have been quite mixed. It obviously has struck a cord with an audience, giving it a wider release than previously expected. The online reviews have been predominately positive, and it’s sure to be played in a lot of schools all over the world.

Overall, this film is worth taking a look at.

3 out of 5 stars

Million Dollar Arm (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

Million_Dollar_Arm_poster

I am not an athlete. I played team sports in school, but it was not something I was passionate about, nor particularly skilled in. That being said, for some reason, I find myself drawn to sports films; and this is my kind of sport film. Like the series Friday Night LightsMillion Dollar Arm is a sports film that is not about sports. The film is based on true events, which I hadn’t heard about before. The story is quite simple, but enjoyable.

Disney’s Million Dollar Arm is the story of sport, triumph, and unity. JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) was a successful sports agent. He worked because he loved what he did, and he had a good time doing it. That is, until the playing field became a lot less fair and even. Faced with the prospect of losing his business, JB searches for any way to save it, and finds it: cricket. JB and his partner head to Mumbai, and come back with two eighteen-year-old boys with throws that can knock the breath out of you. Will this be enough to save JB’s business? Is baseball ready for a change? And will these boys get signed to a major league team?

I will begin by saying how good the acting was in this film. The lead – Jon Hamm, who shot to fame from the series Mad Men – definitely plays a different character, and is a likeable leading man. The Indian teenagers are also brilliantly acted by Madhur Mittal and Suraj Sharma. They have both acted before, but do not have extensive film backgrounds. It was not particularly surprising for them to be able to hold their own, as recent films like 12 Years a Slave and Captain Phillips (review HERE) have shown that Hollywood casting is pretty spot-on, even for those that haven’t acted much before.

The story and script was also engaging. There were some very funny moments and lines were delivered seamlessly. There were no visual effects or special camera movements; just a good story.

I also like their mix of cultures. There have been a recent slew of American/Indian films – mainly starting with the roaring success of Slumdog Millionaire, and continuing with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Hundred-Foot Journey – and it seems to be working well.

Reviews have been mostly positive. I would be surprised if they won any major awards, but it does what it sets out to do – educate and entertain. For the most part, the criticisms have claimed that Disney dulled the story down for a younger audience, and that India was only shown from a ‘tourist’s-eye’, such as disregarding the very low-income areas. But in defence of the film, I don’t think they needed to give a history of India just to have characters come from there.

You might not want to bring little kids, because it does contain some swearing, but otherwise, I think most people will enjoy it.

4 out of 5 stars

20 Movies Coming in 2016

As you can tell, I love movies. I love the storylines, I love the characters, and I love being taken away to another world.

So far, 2016 looks to be a great year for the big screen. Youtube is filled with trailers for upcoming movies, and I wanted to share some with you. I will be going into them more in-depth at a later time, but for now have a look at the videos below and let me know what you think.

1. Midnight Special

Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi.

2. Victor Frankenstein

Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi.

3. The Legend of Tarzan

Action, Adventure.

4. The BFG

Family, Fantasy.

5. The Jungle Book

Adventure, Drama, Fantasy.

6. Angry Birds

Animation, Action, Comedy.

7. Popeye

Animation, Children’s.

8. Goosebumps

Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy.

9. The 5th Wave

Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller.

10. Bilal

Animation, Action, Adventure.

11. Eye in the Sky

Drama, Thriller, War.

12. Captain America: Civil War

Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller.

13. Hail, Caesar!

Comedy, Drama, Musical.

14. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Action, Horror, Romance.

15. Central Intelligence

Comedy.

16. X-Men: Apocalypse

Action, Adventure, Fantasy.

17. Jane Got a Gun

Action, Drama, Western.

18. The Little Prince

Animation, Fantasy.

19. Eddie the Eagle

Drama, Sport.

20. I Saw the Light

Biography, Drama, Music.

Which one is your favourite?

Let me know in the comments below.

Earth to Echo (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

bg

Earth to Echo is one of those films where you watch the trailer and see the poster and you honestly do not know what to expect. The poster, for some reason, reminded me of Wall-E, while the trailers reminded me more of Super 8 and E.T. None of these things are bad, but film is a medium where audiences always want something fresh and new. For me, Earth to Echo was different enough to make it entertaining, but this probably will not be the same for every viewer.

One would think the film to be about zombies when you see the way these tweens are addicted to their phones. Not quite. When a group of misfit kids start getting strange text messages and their phones glitch and go screwy, they decide to try and work out what is happening. They manage to decrypt a map, and, with their cameras and GoPros, etc., all turned on, they head for the centre of the disturbance. It is there that they discover an alien – which they name Echo – and find themselves protecting the harmless creature while running from the encroaching authorities.

There are more good then bad aspects of this film, so I will get the bad over with first. I do not know how many more ‘found footage’ films can be made. Surely everyone else is bored with it too? This is essentially a little-kid version of a ‘found footage’ film, however some of the story makes it seem rather inappropriate for kids. Parts of the film involved drinking and underage partying, so parents need to do their homework before deciding to show this to their kids.

Now the good parts. The visual effects were pretty good. I have seen a lot worse, and I could not really find fault with these. Echo was interesting, and who can forget the disassembling and reassembling of the truck?

The script was both funny and clever, with interesting dialogue that sounded real-enough, and not overly fake.

The kid actors did a good job too. None were ‘known’ actors that you had seen everywhere, so it is refreshing to see new talent. They have a good chance at a future in the industry.

Reviews have been pretty mixed. Some see it as good entertainment that will keep the kids happy, with the parents reminded of their childhood and watching E.T. Other reviews have not been as welcoming. With so many similar films that have large fan followings, it is easy to see why some reviewers have been harsher and more protective of previous works.

There are always going to be positive and negative reviews for every film, and the main thing is to check them out for yourself. Earth to Echo is a surprisingly enjoyable film that is intelligently written and should not only keep the kids entertained, but also the parents and guardians who watch it with them.

4 out of 5 stars

Planes: Fire and Rescue (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

planes-fire-and-rescue

So, it turns out that Disney are not quite done with this franchise. This is a spin-off to Disney’s Cars series, and a sequel to Planes, released in 2013. I know this is not targeted towards my demographic – early 20s – but I am really getting sick and tired of these computer-animated kids films that are the same thing over and over again. They might entertain the little kids, but they are a far-cry from the old Disney films that entertained numerous generations and are still enjoyable today.

What began with Dusty Crophopper learning to overcome his fear and racing around the world, is now the famous air racer joining a team of aerial firefighters. Together, they battle massive wildfires and learn about themselves, and what a real hero looks like.

It takes a special actor to bring a character to life with only their voices. They cannot convey anything through body movements or facial expressions, making it a job for a talented selection. Though the children in the audience will not be able to pick-out the names of the actors voicing their loveable onscreen characters, the adults will find a large number of them recognisable. The cast list includes Dane CookEd HarrisJulie BowenBrad Garrett, and Teri Hatcher.

For films to be truly successful, they need to be relatable to kids, parents, and grandparents. If it can do that, it has a better chance at having longevity. Planes: Fire and Rescue had a couple of instances that seemed to be targeted to the adults in the audience. These were mostly comedic one-liners, but might not be enough to compensate for them being dragged along by their kids.

The film’s story is quite general and not complex, though some of the fire scenes and topic might be a bit intense for the younger children watching.

Especially with some recent animated children’s films, it feels more like a marketing opportunity than a film with meaning. It has been pointed out that Planes: Fire and Rescue has a theme reminiscent of ‘the little engine that could’ and perseverance, but it feels kind of flat. As per usual, the shops will be releasing a plethora of toys, bed sheets, and everything else imaginable. They have already announced a video game based on the film to be released on a number of consoles.

The response from critics and audiences have been mixed. The majority of the reviews agree the little kids will fall in love with the characters and be dazzled by the animation, but also that it is not a film for anyone else.

If you have to take the kids to the cinemas, Planes: Fire and Rescue will keep them entertained, and you can be sure they are not being subjected to coarse language and inappropriate themes.

Overall, not the best film, but not the worst, either.

3 out of 5 stars

Dracula Untold (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

dracula-untold

Vampire films are almost always being released, each giving a different idea as to what a vampire would be like. Some portray it as an illness or curse, others a physical creature, and some even as a romantic figure. Dracula Untold brilliantly brings back the fearful creature we know this famed vampire to be, and is a film you’ll want to watch again and again.

When his pride, kingdom, and family are threatened, Prince Vlad is determined to defeat the enemy. He makes the difficult choice, and becomes the villain to be the hero. And the rest…is history.

There are so many reasons why this film is great. Firstly: the acting. For the most part, I prefer to watch TV shows and films where I’m not particularly familiar with the cast. While I love seeing my favourite actors get work, it helps me to enter the new world by not recognising the characters as whoever I have seen them playing previously. This cast also created a dramatic atmosphere. This is a good thing, because even though a story about vampires is clearly false, they still managed to make the audience feel for the characters. To break up this drama, the smaller moments of comedy were excellent, not turning the film into something silly, but showing the multiple layers of the characters.

Vampire stories have been told so many times and in so many different ways across assorted mediums, and yet, just from watching the trailer, I could tell this was going to be different. It was a very cool way of portraying vampires again, that have slipped from being scary creatures/villains, to romantic figures. As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and not Twilight, I appreciate this resurgence of the vampire-as-villain element. The story also reminded me a lot of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which I also loved. The mix of history with fantasy is an awesome thing if done right, and Dracula Untold definitely did that.

With the advancement of technology, films can no longer get away with bad visual effects. The good thing for this film, is that its designers were amazing, therefore making the visual effects just as good.

For the most part, reviews haven’t been too good. While there are some that see and love all of the points that I did, there are others that wanted more; though I don’t know what they were exactly wanting.

The two-hour runtime just flew past, and I was mesmerised by the visual effects, action, acting, and story the entire time. I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen next, and that’s something that I look for in a film.

It’s also interesting to note that this film is slated to become part of the ‘Universal Monster’ franchise, which is a reboot of all these classic monsters, with The Mummy rumoured to come shortly.

All in all, this is definitely a film to add to your collection.

5 out of 5 stars

Before I Go To Sleep (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

701d804549a4a23d3cae801dac6c2c75_500x735

There’s a collective wince every time a novel is adapted into a film, with the literary fans protective of the work. Before I Go To Sleep – starring well-known Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth – is based on the novel of the same name, and is sure to continue the novel-versus-film debate.

The topic of ‘amnesia’ has been done so many times before, and is a good story element that allows the audience to learn about the world they’re entering as the lead character does. This is only good if done right, but the film needs to also have character progression, and in a film like this, proper grasp of the ‘thriller’ genre.

Before I Go To Sleep follows Christine (Kidman), who awakens every morning with no memory of the last number of years. Her husband (Firth) dutifully tries to calm her, and explain to her about the accident that caused her injury. It is only when Christine begins to remember things contrary to her husband’s retelling, that she no longer knows who she can trust. Was she involved in an accident, or something more sinister? Is her doctor really there to help her? And is her husband the caring spouse he claims to be?

Sometimes you can quite easily classify a film as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But then there are times when it’s not so black and white, and instead a rather unsatisfactory shade of grey. Unfortunately, this is where this film sits.

Kidman and Firth have been in the film industry for many years, and have shown that they can handle the pressure of feature films. Both have also had their fair share of mixed reviews. For Firth, his characters are usually popular, charming, gentlemen who makes women’s knees weak. This role is quite interesting for him, and he manages to play it very well. Kidman is also doing well in this darker genre, as she was in The Others (2001).

There are some plot holes and character progression issues. These are all carried over from the novel, but still should have been fixed in the scripting process. In regards to the story, picking a topic like ‘amnesia’ has been done so many times before, and this film then needs to be as good as those that have come before it. Memento (2000) was, and still remains, quite popular. Unfortunately, I don’t see Before I Go To Sleep as being as successful.

For the last few years, cinemas worldwide have been overrun by superhero films with out-of-this-world story lines, explosions, and extensive visual effects. It is good to see a genuine thriller film among the titles, and, however loosely, holding its own.

Critic reviews have also shown a mixed response, with the most common complaint being that the film’s action is too slow to be truly engaging.

This film had promise and good moments, but falls short in more ways. It is clear how these actors have progressed and will be interesting to see how they continue into the future.

3 out of 5 stars.