Friday, 23 August 2013

Cinema Review - Elysium

Neill Blomkamp sprung onto the scene just a few years ago as he presented the world with a staggering vision of sci-fi in the supreme District 9. Now, armed with a bigger budget and a larger platform, the director brings to us Elysium, but can he work his magic once again in the genre?

Elysium sees the world in 2154 as it has changed vastly, with Earth a wasteland and only home to the poor, with those who can afford the luxury, living on Elysium, a brand new space station world with no disease and maintaining a fruitful way of living. 

On Earth, Max (Matt Damon) is looking to live as best as he can working an honest job, but when he is exposed to extreme radiation poisoning, he has little choice but to find a way up to Elysium for a cure. His only way of doing so is doing one last illegal job as he dons an electronic suit of armour that gives him super strength and is the key to his survival. Unfortunately, on his trail are Secretary Of Defence Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her hired bounty hunter Kruger (Sharlto Copley)...

There's no denying that Blomkamp is certainly at home when it comes to the sci-fi genre. His imagery and focus on an engaging story within a ravaged world is once again at the pinnacle, and with Elysium he is allowed to broaden his horizons in comparison to the slums of South Africa in District 9. That extra allowance is arguably a welcome sight, with the film among one of the most beautiful sights to behold this year, but at times it does feel a little too big.

While the spectacle is for the most part impressive, Blomkamp's casting is a mixed bag. Damon is undeniably brilliant in the leading man mould, as ever, his character evolving from helpless citizen to the one man who can make a difference is definitely what a blockbuster of this magnitude requires. So too is the villain of the piece, Copley, whose rather soft-hearted accent is quickly shunned by a truly intimidating, blood-lusting individual whose dangerous motives and sheer anger easily strikes that level of fear into the audience that we expect. 

On the flip side, both William Fichtner and, more surprisingly, Jodie Foster bring the bad, with wooden performances and, in Foster's case, an awful accent. At times, in fact, it almost appears that Foster's dialogue is being dubbed somehow, slightly perplexing the audience.

Those negatives aside, Elysium is certainly an applaudable second entry from Blomkamp and continues his strength in the genre, especially when it comes to thrilling set pieces. Any film that contains guns that simply evaporate people and a brilliantly poised grenade explosion to the face should be worthy of accolades.

Film rating: 4 out of 5 F's

Monday, 19 August 2013

Cinema Review - Kick-Ass 2

In a world where Marvel have taken comic book movie domination to a whole new level, it was great to see Mark Millar's Kick-Ass spring onto the scene a few years back. Now, with a reputation to withstand as somewhat of an underdog in the comic world, Kick-Ass 2 hits our screens with new director Jeff Wadlow handed the reins from Matthew Vaughn.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has fully embraced his alter-ego as crime fighting Kick-Ass, and in representing good in the city, soon finds that more costumed heroes are out there fighting the good fight. But as Dave joins forces with Justice Forever, led by Colonel Stars And Stripes (Jim Carrey), Mindy McCready (Chloe Grace Moretz) looks to hang up her cape as titular hero Hit-Girl.

With Kick-Ass teaming up with his new gang of superhero friends, Mindy experiences the tough reality of high school as she butts heads with the popular girls, an experience she is far from familiar with. Meanwhile, the villain formerly known as Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is determined to kill Kick-Ass once and for all, creating himself a new persona as The Motherfucker. Hankering for a slaughter, the self-proclaimed 'world's first ever villain' creates his own team, The Toxic Mega-C*nts and sets out to wreak havoc.

Kick-Ass 2 is certainly a return to familiar territory for fans of the original, with the stakes and the character numbers heightened. In doing so, director Jeff Wadlow slightly lets the ball slip but it would be very unfair to say this sequel is one that is far from its predecessor in terms of quality and its all-important fun factor.

Filled to the brim with belly laughs, outrageous violence and projectile vomiting, Kick-Ass 2 is a brilliant continuation of the series and produces yet more magic from its leads in Johnson and, without a doubt, Moretz. In fact, this is very much Hit-Girl's show, with Moretz returning to bring yet more obscenities and over-the-top youth violence, with her slashing her way through leagues of villains in some of the best action sequences in the film.

That's not to say Kick-Ass and the rest of the gang don't have their fair share, much to the contrary as a great array of new colourful characters add depth to the proceedings. Carrey may be slightly underused but he utilises his screen time well and the likes of Night Bitch (Lindy Booth) and Doctor Gravity (Donald Faison) offer up new and refreshing servings. On the villainous side, Mintz-Plasse hams it up just as he should do but Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) is the beast that towers above all both physically and in her performance. A truly formidable foe if there ever was one.

Kick-Ass 2 may not quite be as good as its predecessor but Wadlow knows how to make his audience tick and manages to forge together elements of the first film along with some new ideas to create a riotous affair. Kick-Ass may be around for one last bow but it's certainly Hit-Girl who we want to see more of.

Film rating: 4 out of 5 F's

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Review - The Conjuring

My blog has been out of action for a few months now so I thought it best to revisit this barren wasteground with some new reviews. First up is James Wan's frightfully brilliant, The Conjuring.

The Conjuring continues James Wan's rich vein of form as one of horror's best directors around today. Based on true events, we follow paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) as they enter the home of the Perron family. 

Mother Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and father Roger (Ron Livingston), along with their five young daughters, begin to experience strange goings-on within the house as it becomes apparent that paranormal entities are running rife. As the experiences become worse, the family, along with their aid begin to uncover further secrets within the house.

The Conjuring is quite simply one of the most terrifying horror experiences you will have this year, but not quite as you would expect it to be. While many directors within the genre rely upon cheap jump-scares, James Wan cleverly weaves a web of intrigue as he walks the corridors and rooms of its focus house and ramps up the tension throughout. Never does he indulge in these often overused ploys to get audience reaction, favourably choosing the pulse-pounding terror of silence and visuals to really hit home hard.

It's easy to stick to clich├ęd realms of paranormal activity in films and, whilst it does feature many of what we've seen before, Wan delivers everything with a great poise and certainly stamps his own unique mark on the genre. Coupled with his fantastic direction, both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga prove their metal with superb performances, along with the rather larger-than-usual family featured in such films. 

Tense, eerie, heart-pounding terror the way horror should be done, The Conjuring is without a doubt one of the year's best horrors so far and if Wan continues this way then Insidious: Chapter Two will be brilliant. Here's hoping...

Film rating: 4 F's out of 5