Sunday, 12 February 2012

Cinema Review - Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D

The Star Wars galaxy has seen its fair share of re-releases, special editions and amendments to cover a lifetime but once again George Lucas and his team have felt the need to tamper with the films that have made one of the biggest film franchises of all time. 

With old classics getting the 3D makeover treatment slowly becoming the latest craze, it was inevitable that at some point we would experience a galaxy far, far away in all its third dimensional glory, and low and behold, Lucas has done just that. Is it necessary? Well, let's just pose the question, were the 'special edition' versions of the films necessary? Exactly.
Despite being the most lambasted episode of the six entries, anyone who's a Star Wars fan is likely to view this one on grounds of intrigue as to whether the 3D conversion can actually work against the backdrop of the Star Wars universe. 

Just think, The Phantom Menace has a lot of opportunities to show 3D in all its glory. An adrenaline-fuelled pod race scene, the fight against Darth Maul, the scenes at the gungan City, the epic battle finale, surely this was a film born for the conversion. 

Unfortunately not. In fact, you can probably count the number of valid 3D moments worth noting on one hand. It's a disappointing affair that unfortunately shows the difficulties with converting to films to the extra dimension rather than filming with 3D cameras from the off. That said, the pod race scene does benefit, with some good moments where it clearly escapes from the normal realms of the screen but it is all too minimal to remove that bitter taste from your mouth from the rest of the film.

Sadly, the Star Wars 3D re-releases don't quite have the potential to dominate quite like The Lion King did when unleashed again using the technology and really the only recommendation for watching is to see your favourite characters and film series back on the big screen with its booming soundtrack once again captivating. Watching the titles scroll up the screen still give that great feeling from when you first saw it and John Williams' soundtrack is as ever a marvel but these are highlights we can enjoy without the unnecessary conversion to the 3D format. 

Film rating: 3 F's out of 5

Cinema Review - The Muppets

They've been missing from our screens for 12 years and finally they are back to conquer yet again. That's right the loveable bunch, The Muppets have returned for another screen outing, out to put laughter back in the aisles and smiles upon faces. And, unsurprisingly, they achieve exactly that. 

We're in Smalltown, USA and introduced to Gary (Jason Segel) and his brother Walter, who just happens to be a Muppet. The brothers are practically joint at the hip, they do everything together and have relied on each other their whole lives. Growing up, they both were massive fans of Kermit The Frog and The Muppets, but Walter's obsession was strongest of all. Possessing all possible memorabilia and constantly watching the shows he could only be described as an uber-fan. 

So, when Gary and his girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams) are set to head off to Los Angeles to celebrate their anniversary it's agreed that Walter join them in order to finally visit the famous Muppet Theatre. Unfortunately upon arrival the theatre is derelict and Walter discovers that it has been sold to evil businessman and oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) who plans to destroy it in order to drill for oil, rather than turn it into a Muppet museum as promised.

Walter, Gary and Mary then find themselves in a situation where they must search out the Muppets in order to  stage one final show to raise $10 million which would save the theatre and keep it as the birthplace of the motley crew. Finding Kermit and persuading him to get the rest of the gang together we are thrust into a world of montages, upbeat musical numbers and a whole lot of Muppet madness for what could be their last ever show!

Director James Bobin knows exactly what his audience expects from the film and without a doubt he delivers in aces. There's no need for a convoluted plot when you have characters like Kermit The Frog and Miss Piggy fronting the show. The film thrives on its bubbly characters and they all serve as perfect companions for this jolly ride. As well as our main characters it's hard not to mention the sheer number of cameo appearances, each contributing wonderfully to add even more star-quality to the proceedings. From Jack Black, to Dave Grohl, to TV comedy stars Donald Glover and Jim Parsons, we have a wide array of talents lending their time to the cause. 

It also wouldn't be fair to write about the film without mentioning the spectacular soundtrack from Flight Of The Conchords' very own Bret McKenzie. With songs such as 'Man Or Muppet' (rightly Oscar-nominated) and 'Life's A Happy Song' his work on the film increases that feel-good factor and hopefully we will experience more of his work in the very near future. 

A welcome return to screen for adults and children alike, The Muppets always capture the hearts of the nation and this is no exception. A simple premise is all that's needed for what is essentially a feel-good movie of epic proportions. The musical numbers are stellar, each character is as captivating as the next and a whole host of cameos show that The Muppets still have the appeal that they possessed so many years ago.

Film rating: 4 F's out of 5

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Film Review - Chronicle

2012 is the year of the superhero. With Ghost Rider, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man all hitting the big screen this year a dark horse is emerging out of nowhere, Josh Trank's Chronicle. And without doubt it is currently the year's most impressive film by a long stretch.

There are no extraordinary individuals involved in Chronicle, we are in the presence of everyday people who find themselves in a world that they could never have imagined. Matt (Alex Russell), his loner cousin Andrew (Dane DeHaan), who incidentally has started to document everything in his life via video camera, and popular school friend Steve (Michael B Jordan) are at a party one night when they discover a crater in some woods. Heading into the the darkness they discover something glowing under the surface. Something that gives them amazing abilities, specifically telekinesis, the ability to fly and invulnerability.

At first the guys have some hilarious fun with their new-found powers, mocking locals by moving their cars, scaring children with floating teddy bears and removing chewing gum from inside a guy's mouth. But when Andrew goes a little too far and causes a car accident the three realise that their powers are getting stronger by the day and they must curb their use in fear of the bad things they could cause.

Matt and Steve are in full agreement but troubled Andrew, plagued by his abusive drunk father and his dying mother, feels a new calling in life and proceeds to grow in stature, with his powers becoming stronger than either of the other guys. With his abilities increasing, Andrew begins to let the power go to his head and soon he becomes more of a threat than anyone could ever imagine.

For those who are expecting 'just another found-footage movie' there is no doubt you will be pleasantly surprised. Chronicle is one of the freshest and most gripping sub-genre offerings you can get. Managing to maintain its level of realism from start to finish, the camera-work is to marvel at and in terms of characters you have three individuals who much of the audience can relate to. From popular Steve, to relative loner Andrew, to his regular nice guy cousin Matt, we have a decent mix of three different characters each with their own ways of coping with the powers bestowed upon them.

In addition to some interesting characters it cannot go without saying that the camera-work works to perfection. Whether it be the camera simply in place on its tripod, the superb flight scenes or the excellent coverage of the action via helicopter footage, each scene flows into the next fluidly and continues to reach out as an almost true-to-life story. Admittedly at times it is questionable as to why the cameras would be used in different situations but ultimately this becomes a thought in the back of the mind in favour of the events that unfold. 

Surprisingly Chronicle probably wouldn't be half as entertaining if it wasn't filmed in the way it is and with that put into use we are delivered one the year's most refreshing and exciting films so far. Maintaining it realistic edge and the use of its three power-embracing characters it could well be the joker in the pack of more established superheroes set to step up to the plate this year. 

Film Rating: 5 F's out of 5