Debug (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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I love David Hewlett. I have loved him since seeing him on Stargate all those years ago, and I even got an autograph from him once. So, when I heard he was making another film, I just had to check it out. Having seen bits and pieces of his process (from youtube, twitter postings, etc.), I still didn’t know what to expect. Well I needn’t have worried, because Hewlett has made an epic film and I have given it a rightful score of 4/5.

Debug is a film that follows six 20-something year old computer hackers whose job sends them aboard a broken and abandoned space freighter. But it is not as empty as they thought. The hackers are forced to fight for their lives against an AI (artificial intelligence) that is desperate to become human, and will kill for the chance.

Having been a fan and a part of science fiction projects before, David Hewlett has seen how it is done, and he knows how to improve upon it. Debug is an awesome film that is scary, intelligent, and one you can’t miss.

The casting was also brilliant, bringing a mix of known-actors and fairly-newcomers. Like with his first film A Dog’s Breakfast, Hewlett has been able to get actors and actresses he has worked with before to take on these new roles. Jason Momoa (who plays the AI), is the same as we have seen him before – i.e. a fighting baddie – but still different to what he has done before. His growing popularity from Game of Thrones should also help bring more viewers as well. Kate Hewlett (David’s acting sister) is also brilliant, and it is awesome to see the siblings working on another film project together.

Hewlett has also written a smart script. It deals with current issues and worries we have about technology and where the line then comes between human and machine.

It does have some violence and blood, but it shouldn’t be enough to dissuade anyone from watching it.

With the reach and reliance on social media growing more and more everyday, Hewlett has grabbed hold of this and really connected with his fans. He has talked about the film – which he is rightfully excited about – and has made everyone feel as though they have been included in the process. This makes you more inclined to see it.

There have not been many reviews yet, but what is out there have been quite mixed. It may not be the newest idea – Hewlett said he watched 2001: A Space Odyssey when he was younger and wanted to make a film from Al’s perspective – but Hewlett has made enough changes to make it different and relatable to viewers of this generation.

There are no two ways about it: you must see this film. Hewlett has done a brilliant job of transitioning behind the camera, and he knows what he is doing. Check it out and be entertained!

4 out of 5 stars

A Walk Among The Tombstones (2014) – Review

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No, this is not another Taken film, but it does seem close. This film is darker than that franchise, and is an improvement that shows off its star – Liam Neeson’s – immense talent even more. It is an old-school action film, and Neeson is plain and simply awesome.

A Walk Among the Tombstones: Neeson is Matt Scudder, a former cop turned private eye. After first refusing the job, Scudder finally agrees to help a known drug dealer find the men that not only kidnapped his wife, but killed her after the ransom had been paid. Scudder soon learns that this is not the first time the group have done this, and when they kidnap another girl, he sets out to find them and make them pay.

Any review on this film should begin with: Liam Neeson is awesome. There is no denying it. He has been very kick-ass in his film role choices, and he more than deserves all of the roles he has been getting lately – not to mention all of the attention. He is not just a brilliant action-genre actor, but has shown over the years that he can pretty much play any role they throw at him. With A Walk Among the Tombstones, he is more than capable of turning a generic good-guy-bad-guy action film into something more than just entertaining.

However, the film couldn’t be as good as it is without a good script. The story – based on the book of the same name by Lawrence Block – is full of moments of suspense and plot twists that make the finished product more than just shooting and car chases.

The look and feel of the film is gritty and noir-esque, which makes it more interesting. The director Scott Frank (who also wrote the screenplay for the film) hasn’t done as much directing work as he has done writing work, but with the cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., they have created something striking.

It is not usual for films made from books to be successful, but this one is doing quite well for itself. It has been a long time in the making – since around 2002 – and it was back then said that Harrison Ford was originally going to play the lead. Ford is a great actor too, but the novel’s author had always pictured Neeson among his top choices for the lead character.

Reviews have been adequately positive. There has been much praise for Neeson’s acting, the directing, and the script. The cliche aspects have also been criticised, though its improvements of the story and perfecting of the genre have compensated for this.

Action films have always been popular, and A Walk Among the Tombstones is an action film done right. Parents and guardians might not want to have it on while their kids are in the room – due to the violence, etc. – but it’s nothing overly gory. Enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

The Snow Queen (2012) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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With parents taking their children to the cinemas or sitting with them on the couch to watch a film, even children’s animation films need to be created with a range of age-groups in mind. When it comes to The Snow Queen, the film does a good job of entertaining the children viewers, while also including some jokes for the adult guardians. The film is interesting, but I am not sure if it can stand among other notable children’s films like Aladdin, Monsters Inc., and Frozen (which is another telling of the same tale by Hans Christian Anderson).

The Snow Queen: The only thing preventing the evil Snow Queen from completing her act of covering the whole world in ice, is Master Vegard. When he and his wife disappear, Kai and Gerda (Vegard’s son and daughter) find themselves in an orphanage. Before long, they are found by the Snow Queen’s servant troll Orm. A fight ensues, and Kai too disappears to the Snow Queen’s palace. With Orm and her pet weasel Luta in tow, Gerda ventures off to find her brother, and save the world.

Let me begin by saying: This is not a rip-off of Frozen. The Snow Queen is a Russian computer-animated children’s film that was released back in 2012, and is a telling of the Hans Christian Anderson classic tale. As it was originally a Russian film, it has recently been released in English, but the timing is interesting. There have been a lot of films like this that have come out since the massive world-wide popularity of Frozen, and its release does seem to be piggy-backing on that success.

The story is a little hard to follow at times, but, for the most part, it is entertaining. There are some funny moments – especially lines from Orm the troll – so you are sure to give at least a couple of chuckles.

The animation style does differ slightly from other animated films out there, but that isn’t a bad thing. The characters still aren’t overly life-like, but then again, trolls aren’t life-like either.

The film stays quite true to the original story, and that is primarily what these projects are about. It does bug me when the stories are drastically changed, because they could just as easily have created a whole new story and not used a known-name to get their film made.

There have been mostly positive reviews from Russian viewers; but American reviews haven’t been as good, being mostly of mixed opinions.

There are two sequels in the works – The Snow Queen 2 and The Snow King – so you are probably going to hear quite a bit more about it if you hadn’t already. The film is worth watching if you like the classics, but don’t expect it to be as good as some of the earlier 1990s Disney films.

3 out of 5 stars

Wish I Was Here (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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There is no denying it: Zach Braff is a phenomenal filmmaker. Continuing on from his Scrubs fame, and the massive success of Garden State, comes Braff’s newest film. After failing to find a distributor, Braff turned to the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. By allowing the general public to essentially purchase merchandise and experiences, the film was fully funded within 48 hours. For those that have not see it, make sure you add it to your list.

Wish I Was Here is about Aidan Bloom (Braff). He is a man in his thirties who is still struggling to combine what he wants from his life, with the life that he has. Aidan is not the only one suffering, with his breadwinner wife being harrassed at work but unable to quit, and his sick father unable to continue paying for their kids to attend private school, meaning Aidan must now homeschool his children. Through teaching his kids, Aidan must find a way to learn about the world, and himself.

Like I said before, this film is amazing, and that is for many reasons.

If you just want a film to make you laugh or for car chases, then this isn’t the film for you. The film is full of emotion. One moment you will be wanting to cry, and the next you’ll be chuckling.

We know that Braff is a brilliant actor who can probably play any character he ever wants. His adult co-stars – Kate HudsonMandy Patinkin, Donald Faison, and Jim Parsons, to name a few – were all great. The length of their roles varied, but each one brought something more to the story. The kids – who both have quite extensive film resumes – make you feel bad about yourself, because you weren’t as talented as they are at such young ages.

Music is an element of film that is vital, yet often overlooked. Braff’s grasp of music is amazing. Like with his previous film, his music choices and placement furthered the story, and heightened the emotions.

Being an ‘arty’ film, it may not be for everyone, but there are sure to be a lot of people that will love the film. At times I have seen independent films like this, and felt they were trying too hard to be edgy and they only end up failing miserably. You can be sure this is not the case with Wish I Was Here.

Unfortunately, reviews haven’t been overly positive. While there are those that do see it for the brilliant film that it is, others have commented that it is too simplified and generic.

This may sound like a gush-fest…and that’s because it is. There are so many films that have earned millions of dollars that are nowhere near as fantastic as this one is, and are only popular because supposed ‘A-Listers’ are in them. When you can shout your support for a meaningful film like this, you pretty much have to.

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.

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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

Dracula Untold (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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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.

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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.

Into the Storm (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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This is far from the first time a story has revolved around ‘the biggest storm we’ve ever seen’, and with audiences demanding unique and fresher entertainment, Into the Storm has quite the challenge on its hands. You can pretty much guess the kinds of things you are going to see – flying houses, screaming children, torrential rain – but the story needs to prove itself with more than just visual tricks. The good thing for Into the Storm, is that it has Richard Armitage.

Never has a day been more exciting, and chaotic. The senior class of Silverton high school are ready and raring for their graduation. Vice Principal Gary Fuller (Armitage) has arranged for his two sons to video-record messages from the seniors to put in a time capsule to be opened in twenty-five years. But the cameras capture a lot more than they were expected to. The small town is mercilously battered by numerous tornadoes, collapsing buildings and decimating the town bit-by-bit. Storm chasers reveal that this onslaught is only the beginning, and things will get worse before they get better. Some run for their lives, while others run for the perfect shot.

Movies like these, especially with the progression of technology, have to have exceptional visual effects. Into the Storm has this in bucketfulls. Despite all other critiques, this is the one area that everyone seems to agree. You can tell a lot of time and detail was put into these effects, and I can’t even begin to imagine how long it took for the animators to make all of the smaller pieces of flying debris that added to the atmosphere just as much as the large flying objects.

Let there be no mistake, I love Richard Armitage. The characters, I’m not overly fond of. I find it hard to think it’s the result of the acting – because I know this cast can all act – so maybe it’s the writing and/or directing. Either way, something feels a bit lacking in the performances.

Additionally, I think the days of ‘found footage’ films are out. Though it is understandable in the story why it was done in this way, it has been done too many times before, and this film didn’t add anything extra to it to make it stand out and unique. It also doesn’t completely make sense why some are continuing to record in such volatile and life-threatening moments (excluding the storm chasers). Yes, we live in a horrible age where people go to concerts and spend the whole time looking at their camera phones instead of actually watching the performer, but I don’t think too many people would risk their lives like this. Also, they wouldn’t have cameras, they would have smartphones. Lastly, it’s also hard to believe their screens are not getting wet and dirty, when mine would be wrecked instantly, not including out of battery.

It would have been nicer to have more character development, but overall, it’s an entertaining film that will be liked by most audiences.

4 out of 5 stars

Harry Potter Spin-Off: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Having read all the books and seen all the movies, I can honestly say that I love the Harry Potter series. But it didn’t start out that way.

When the books first came out, I read them along with everyone else: Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3. But along the way, I lost interest. I don’t know why, I just did.

It wasn’t until 2009 that I got back into it. Within about a month I read them all from start to finish (including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and Quidditch Through the Ages). I was instantly drawn back into that world, and excitedly saw The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 at the cinema, and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 at the midnight premiere.

Of course, when something is popular, everyone wants to know everything about it, and own ever piece of merchandise possible. We had trouble letting go of the story, and saying goodbye to the characters from our youth. So it’s no surprise that we have Pottermore, colouring books (read my post about them HERE), and now another movie.

The trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was released today, and the internet is going wild. The story goes like this:

The story revolves around Newt Scamander’s arrival at the Magical Congress of the United States of America, for a meeting with an important official. Central to the story and this meeting is a magically expanded briefcase which houses a number of dangerous creatures and their habitats. When the creatures escape from the briefcase, it sends the American wizarding authorities after Newt, and it threatens even further the state of magical and non-magical relations, which is already in a dangerous place, due to the threatening presence of the fanatical extremist group that call themselves, in short, “The Second Salemers”. The story tells of what effect this devastating mistake has on the state of wizard/No-Maj (the American term for a non-magical person) relations in New York City’s community of wizards and witches in 1926, the effort to correct the mistake, and the horrors of the resultant increase in violence, fear, and tension felt between magical and non-magical peoples.

We don’t learn all of this from the trailer, but we do get a glimpse of what is coming in 2016.

PROS:

CONS:

  • I’m nervous it was only made because the fandom won’t let go, and I’ve seen that go so badly for TV series and movies.

What do you think? Are you excited to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Let me know in the comments below.