Thursday, 30 June 2011

Cinema Review - Transformers: Dark of the Moon 3D

The Transformers franchise has seen somewhat of a criticism storm since the drivel that was Revenge of the Fallen. Michael Bay was criticised for lack of a decent plot, boring characters, unnecessary humour, to be honest the list could go on. Let's fast forward to present day and the release of his third, and final (apparently) outing behind the lens of the robot-heavy trilogy. 

This turn around he takes note from recent superhero success X Men: First Class and incorporates his story into real life events; the landing on the Moon in 1969. According to the story, the mission to the Moon was not simply for history purposes, it was indeed to recover evidence of an alien spacecraft crashing on the far side of the moon. The spacecraft, known as the Ark, contains pillars with the technology to save Cybertron and these are recovered by NASA and kept under lock and key. 

Cut to present day and low and behold, with the Autobots now working closely with humans as allies, the Decepticons are once again planning their next move. Their plan soon surfaces that they aim to recover the hidden pillars and wreak havoc by transporting Cybertron to Earth and ruling over the human race. The one thing they require to do this is the recently recovered Sentinel Prime (voiced by Leonard Nimoy), whom Optimus Prime and his crew have recovered from the Ark on the moon and resurrected. Sentinel is one of the most respected Autobots of his race and his knowledge is of huge importance.

Meanwhile, while the serious events occur, we are reminded of Earth's 'hero' on two occasions, Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf), who has a new girlfriend in the beautiful Carly (Rosie Hunitington-Whitely) but is still on the search for a job following his abandonment by the government. Cue some job interviews including some hilarious cameos from the likes of John Malkovich, and a star turn from creepy work-mate Ken Jeong. 

Soon enough, predictably Sam and Carly become embroiled in the raging battle between the Autobots nad the Decepticons, with Chicago turning out to be the battlefield for what turns out to be an epicfinal hour of the film, coming to a fantastic climax.

So Transformers should be your run-of-the-mill action movie with plenty of bang for your buck and generally an enjoyable thrill ride. For all the action-filled scenes in the movie Michael Bay hits the nail on the head with no problems, after all action and explosions are his speciality. It's just a shame that he still manages to fall short in the third outing with a lack of direction and some really disposable characters, most notably the Witwicky clan and Sam's girlfriend. 

The Witwicky's; exceptionally irritating with their apparent humour and Shia LeBeouf appears to just want to speak at an extremely fast rate and tries to replicate Star Wars' famous 'Nooooo' with the screaming of 'Optimus!'. And as for the Megan Fox replacement, where do you start. Rosie Huntington-Whitely is a Victoria's Secret and should stick to the day job. There is no doubting her credentials as a stunning woman but acting-wise she clearly does not make the grade and cannot command a scene to save her life, Bay lost out when Fox walked out believe it or not. 

As for the 3D, well this is the single most breathtaking 3D experience that you will have the pleasure to watch since Avatar. Visually, Michael Bay has it perfect, with some fantastic slow-motion transformation scenes and switches from vehicle to robot. Also is has to be noted the scene in which we witness and follow army personnel in wingsuits flying across the Chicago battlefield, one of the unforgettable 3D moments of recent times.

In terms of action and 3D ability Transformers 3 is a great success but with flailing performances from some of the film's leads and some extremely unnecessary scenes totalling the film up to a 2 and a half hour running time the film is massively let down. 

Film rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Lowdown: Certainly a huge improvement on the previous installment but still does not touch the original franchise opener. If only you could just watch the final hour and you would have a highly entertaining action movie, unfortunately a dragged out storyline lets us down. Autobots roll out!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Cinema Review - Green Lantern

DC comics' films have been very few and far between compared to the comic book-to-movie juggernaut that is Marvel. With Batman and Superman (in the very near future) carrying the torch for the company it was time for a new player to enter the game, in the form of Green Lantern. 

With 'Mr Charisma' Ryan Reynolds in the role of Hal Jordan supported by Gossip Girl's Blake Lively on paper the green hero didn't really have much going for it, with more of a teen drama look about it. But if there was one man to bring the Lantern to screen it was Martin Campbell, the man who brought to screen possibly one of Bond's greatest outings. Unfortunately this was far from the case.

The film opens with a somewhat convoluted world of characters explained in a little less than a few minutes, where we are introduced to the planet Oa, home planet of the Green Lantern Corps. The Corps contain an individual from each sector of the universe who have the responsibility of retaining peace and order. Some time ago, one of the Green Lanterns, Abin Sur, defeated a fearsome enemy known as Parallax and imprisoned him, only for the bringer of fear to escape in present day and fatally wound the Lanterns' most influential protector. 

Abin Sur, close to death, crash lands his ship on Earth and is soon found by irresponsible test pilot Hal Jordan. It soon becomes apparent that the ring that all Green Lanterns wear has chosen the first ever human to join the Corps after Abin Sur passes away. Jordan is then transported by the ring to Oa where he experiences the world of the Green Lanterns and becomes acquainted with some of the warriors from other galaxies including Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush) and Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan). Finally he meets the leader Sinestro (Mark Strong), who opposes the idea of a human as a Lantern. 

After the news of Parallax's escape is confirmed by Sinestro, a galaxy-wide search begins for the evil fear-bringer. Meanwhile on Earth, an autopsy of Abin Sur's body by Dr Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) unleashes an evil, with a sample of Parallax's DNA from the body of the hero transferring to the doctor. This evolves constantly inside Hammond and eventually he gains powers of mind control, fuelled by the fear-inducing DNA inside him. 

Hal is soon summoned into action by this evolution in Hammond and is forced to protect the woman he loves, Carol Ferris and the people around him before the bigger threat of Parallax arrives on Earth, hell-bent on ridding the galaxy of the planet. His time to prove himself as a Green Lantern arrives. 

After viewing various trailers for this superhero romp the expectation levels were not high at all and following the viewing of this film nothing changed. It is fair to say that Campbell has created nothing more than an average film, with few positive points to surface. Granted, the CGI used can look impressive at times but is immensely over-used and it is almost as if Campbell is trying to stick two fingers up at Branagh's Asgard, albeit greatly underwhelming compared to the Marvel option. 

Reynolds is in usual lead character form, with humour ruling over all else and his jokes soon grow tiresome, the pick of the worst being a reference to Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear. Equally, if not more disappointing is Lively as love interest Carol Ferris, wooden, uninteresting and easily spared, Lively does not command her scenes whatsoever and is an unnecessary distraction. 

One outstanding performance does shine though, and that is from the hugely underrated Peter Sarsgaard, who portrays the unwanted Hector Hammond pristinely as a tormented soul under the influence of evil. Despite Sarsgaard's stellar performance, Lantern's villain duo is weak and hardly threatens our main hero with much oomph. 

DC comics foray into new territory for viewers is a welcome change but unfortunately such a complex universe as Green Lantern's required much more explanation and depth. Reynolds and Lively are far from perfect in the lead roles and a pitiful villain all contribute to what is just another below-par superhero film.

Film rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Closing comments: Green Lantern is easily forgettable amongst many far superior superhero outings on the big screen. Ryan Reynolds should have stuck with Marvel and focused solely on adapting Deadpool.  

Friday, 3 June 2011

Cinema Review - X Men: First Class

After the critics reception to the third X Men instalment and Wolverine, the Marvel franchise needed somewhat of a refresh and this came in the form of an origins story revolving around the main two characters in the X Men Universe, Magneto and Professor X. If ever there were two characters in X Men that needed their pasts delved into it was these two and Matthew Vaughn has made this possible; but is it a story that is worth paying attention to?

Enter the 1960s, John F Kennedy is President, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is on the brink of becoming a professor and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) is on a path of destruction in order to get to his mother's killer, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). When it soon becomes apparent that Shaw and his associates are looking to start World War Three the government reaches out to Xavier to put together a team of mutants to stop humankind's biggest threat. 

In pursuit of Shaw, Xavier and the government, including best friend Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), the future Mystique, soon cross paths with Lensherr and, despite his willingness to release his anger at every possible moment, agrees to band together with them to stop Shaw before war is unleashed. A sparkling friendship soon develops between Xavier and Lensherr and a mutant team is banded together in an effort to restore peace. 

With Shaw also having his own team of mutants to hand he pushes the boundaries to get what he wants, humankind once again suffering, but not if Xavier and Lensherr have anything to do with it. Once Shaw's plans are unveiled it is full hands to the pump and other mutant heroes, the apprentices of Xavier's school of mutants come to the forefront and the foundations are laid down for the new future of the X Men.

Without a shadow of a doubt the X Men franchise has been re-ignited and is stronger than ever. In a bold move to invigorate new life into the saga, Vaughn has unleashed a fantastically mesmerising film that gives a great insight of two of the great comic book characters.

It is simple to say that he also hit the nail on the head with casting, a charismatic Michael Fassbender leading the way with his superb showing as Erik Lensherr and an equally impressive turn out from James McAvoy as Charles Xavier. Both are convincing in their roles and support from the likes of the excellent Kevin Bacon and rising stars Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult (as Raven and Hank McCoy, respectively) just enhance the viewing pleasure.

The two hours runtime flows seamlessly, with Fassbender commanding each scene with such personality and a great turn from tamed lion to unleashed evil. McAvoy mirrors Patrick Stewart's wise and calculating Professor X down to a t and Kevin Bacon's Sebastian Shaw is a suitably evil nemesis. 

As the second Marvel release of the year, First Class easily surpasses the earlier success of Thor and is a clear front runner early in the field for the best superhero movie of the year, better yet Fanatical Film would regard it as the best in the X Men saga, including X2 which was a pure gem. So we know just ask for one more thing, continue the saga with yet again another massively gripping and genre defining sequel.

Film rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The lowdown: Matthew Vaughn has brought to screen a perfect origins story and the great combination of powerful story, superb characters and flowing action make this the superhero movie to beat this year.