Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cinema Review - Cloud Atlas

When talk of ambitious projects comes up in conversation then the likes of Life Of Pi, Watchmen and others regularly occur, but now it seems that the most ambitious project of all seems to be making waves, Cloud Atlas. Captivating and awe-inspiring, Cloud Atlas looks into a world where all of our lives are linked in some way and tells various stories of love, life and loss as we span decades to witness various individuals experience life-changing events.

Each story very different from one another yet interlinking with pure genius, Cloud Atlas throws up many a sub-plot all combining to create an unforgettable cinematic experience. Spanning across 1849, 1936, 1973, 2012, 2144 and the very distant future, the stories are each their own fascinating entity. Beginning with Adam Lewing’s (Jim Sturgess) morality-questioning story aboard a ship during the age of slavery, the film then heads into the life of Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw), a talented young musician who falls in love with Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy) and looks to complete his masterpiece, The Cloud Atlas Sextet. Heading further forward, we then track the steps of reporter Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) as she meets an older Sixsmith and finds herself embroiled in the uncovering of a nuclear plot as her life is on the line, with a hitman (Hugo Weaving) on her tail.

Heading into 2012, Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) hits the jackpot when the author he represents is sent to prison for murder and sales of his books fly high. Unfortunately for him, his lust for money sees violent men on his tail and a prank played on him that will change his way of living forever. Zipping forward to a more futuristic world, the penultimate story takes us to 2144 where we become acquainted with Sonmi-451, a clone working in a restaurant who finds solace in freedom fighter Hae-Joo Chang (Sturgess). The final story is set in The Valley, where human civilisation has been depleted and there are cannibals wreaking havoc. When Meronym (Berry) calls upon Zachry (Tom Hanks) to aid her in finding the Cloud Atlas communications technology, the pair embark on a dangerous mission through the mountains.

Such a blend of differing stories is bound to confuse even the most challenged of minds but to Cloud Atlas’ merit it does a superb job of making things as clear as possible. Initially setting out each story in chronological order, we soon see things blended and mixed up, but in such a way as to maintain a pace and understanding that things don’t get too overwhelming. It is clear that the directing trio of Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer have carefully planned out and dissected the stories from the book to create a marvelous outing.

Of the stories to follow we will all have our favourites, and the stand-outs for me personally are those of Robert Frobisher and the futuristic world of Sonmi; both hugely diverse yet awe-inspiring. In the case of Ben Whishaw, the actor produces a sublime performance and really shows that he is an actor who is heading for all the right places.  

With Tom Hanks on usual top form (look out for his crazy Irish author!) and the rest of the cast very impressive, Cloud Atlas is an awe-inspiring movie that breaks the boundaries of expectations and ambition. It's just a shame that it is let down by its runtime that slightly meanders into overstaying its welcome.

Film Rating: 4 out of 5 F's

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Cinema Review - Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D

Fairytales have seen somewhat of a resurgence in film over the past year or so, with two Snow White films, a future Jack and the Beanstalk film and now one based on Hansel and Gretel. Released today, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters focuses on the title characters following their encounter with a witch in the famous candy house.

Sworn to protect the people from the witch menace emanating from the dangerous woods, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) soon find themselves up against an evil witch (Famke Janssen) as children are kidnapped in order for a Blood Moon ritual to be complete. It is up to the brother and sister to halt these proceedings before further terror is unleashed.

Forget those lousy reviews that came from America, sit back, relax and enjoy 90 minutes of pure blood, guts and fucking fun. It doesn't take an expert to realise that Hansel And Gretel isn't going to be a masterpiece, instead far from it, but for what it presents itself as it is a complete and utter riot.

Bringing us a brilliant double act in Arterton and Renner, the film oozes style, with the pair appearing comfortable in their roles and creating that brother and sister bond. They get their asses handed to them plenty of times and come out on top on other occasions, and that is exactly how a film like this should be (certainly not like Alice dominating in Resident Evil).

The premise is pretty simple and the continuation of a much-loved fairytale proves to be well set out and developed with a solid villain in the form of the always sultry Famke Janssen. Wielding their unique weaponry, the siblings unleash an unholy amount of violence upon us in glorious 3D as blood, limbs and arrows fire at us from all directions in what is a decent use of the extra dimension.

In all, Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters proves to be a bloodthirsty treat of a film that clearly doesn't take itself too seriously but also offers up its own stylish swagger. Its leads are hard not to enjoy and one cannot help rejoice at a troll stamping on heads and crushing skulls into a bloody pulp. An absolute riot and a fun frolic of a film.

Film Rating: 3 out of 5 F's

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Cinema Review - A Good Day To Die Hard

Just when you thought we were free from action stars returning to their roots another Die Hard movie comes along... 

That's right, John McClane (Bruce Willis) is back for a fifth instalment into the Die Hard franchise with A Good Day To Die Hard, and in truth the title is as ludicrous as some of the scenes within the movie.

Taking a vacation to Russia, McClane is on a search to reunite with his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), but when he inadvertently complicates a mission his son is on for the CIA things take a turn for the worse. Cue a carrot crunching villain, attack helicopters and some rather ridiculous slow motion moments.

In essence, the film is somewhat of a hash of an action movie; clich├ęd from beginning to end, filled with less-than-impressive dialogue, yet featuring some brilliant action scenes early on. Fortunately, the Die Hard films have always been this way and this is what we loved so much about them, but when it enters territory in which John McClane is carelessly jogging away from an attacking helicopter you know the time is up.

That's not to say there aren't good moments in the film. The first half is actually a brilliant spectacle of an action movie, kicking off the adrenaline fuelled proceedings pretty quickly and thrusting us into a breathless car chase. There are explosions, crushed cars and all, and, despite some shaky camera moments that do distract, it provides one of the best chase scenes in some time. Then it all falls apart.

A chief villain who is far from sinister, a plot twist that is simply shoulder-shruggingly uninteresting and Bruce Willis sighing and trudging along like he was forced to be in the movie, much like those in Movie 43. It's all uninspired and doesn't make for a fun watch. Instead it makes you want to rename it A Good Day To Stop A Dying Franchise. 

Film Rating - 2 F's out of 5