rebecca-ry

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Reviews

Whiplash
(2014)

A Very Well-Made Film
Whiplash follows a first year music student who is talent spotted by the school's most fearsome teachers. Now one of the drummers in his class, Andrew (Miles Teller) is under pressure to become the best he can be, and more.

Making a film solely about drumming at least somewhat interesting can be a difficult task because it is such a niche interest. Whiplash manages to make a fantastic film about drumming. Please do not be put off by this film's subject; even if you know nothing about music or drumming, this is still a thoroughly entertaining film to watch and enjoy.

One of the reasons this film works so well is that the performances are all great. J.K. Simmons obviously steals the show as the terrifying Fletcher, whose rants are appallingly personal to the extent where you eventually start cringing at every drum solo, just waiting for him to stop the music and begin his bullying once more. Miles Teller also gives a great performance, although his hasn't received awards recognition, it is still a solid performance that proves he can do more than comedies.

Of course, it is not just the acting in Whiplash that makes it so successful; the direction of this is so effective that you can literally be on the edge of your seat during some of the drum solos. The only way to describe these scenes is as being almost like action scenes. The camera work at these moments is so fast-paced it creates a fantastically tense atmosphere. These are the aspects of the film that make it so great, it is difficult to convince most people to go see a film about drumming but hopefully people will give Whiplash a chance.

Prisoners
(2013)

Not What I Expected
'Prisoners' tells the tough story of two young girls who are kidnapped on Thanksgiving. Both sets of parents struggle to cope as they are left helpless and have to rely on Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) to work on finding their missing daughters.

The story starts off a little too rosy and 'happy families.' This is soon over and the atmosphere and tension build up as the families realise their children are missing, presumed kidnapped. The film has a very bleak tone and is initially quite gritty. However, the story soon turns into a Hollywood tale rather than a heart breaking story.

'Prisoners' is really a film of two parts; the first is following rule-breaking Detective Loki as he tries to find the girls. His side is quite interesting and doesn't really have any negative aspects to it - it simply is what it is, an investigation. Hugh Jackman plays the father of one of the missing girls; he is understandably frustrated after the suspected kidnapper is let go due to a lack of evidence. He takes the drastic step of kidnapping the suspect and chaining him to a sink in an abandoned house to torture him. This is obviously to make the audience ask themselves the question 'what would I do in that situation?' As the film progresses, things get more and more extreme. It gets to the point where you realise no one in real life would ever do something like this and that is when 'Prisoners' looses its audience. Things just get too silly and unrealistic.

Hugh Jackman gives a really good performance but his character's actions become too bizarre. Terrence Howard is really bad which is surprising. He plays the other father and has to cry and be upset in numerous points of the film. He just does not look like he cares at all though - his crying scenes look incredibly forced and unnatural. The two mothers are shown to be useless which is a little disappointing and slightly offensive; Viola Davis could have gave a fantastic and powerful performance here but all her character does is stare into space. Maria Bello lies in bed the whole time because her character becomes depressed but doesn't really revive from it - it would have been good to see her beat the illness. Jake Gyllenhaal gives an admirable performance - although it is quite similar to that in the brilliant 'Zodiac,' he plays an investigator who has never failed to solve a case with his brash approach and his 'f**k-it' attitude. He is the only character in the entire film who isn't one-dimensional. Paul Dano also gives a great performance; he somehow manages to be creepy and seem so innocent at the same time.

The film could have focused more on the slow yet inevitable breakdown of the families rather than the endless - and ultimately pointless - scenes of torture. It was briefly mentioned in the beginning that Hugh Jackman's family are struggling financially - this is never mentioned again and it is fairly evidence that Terrence Howard's family are very wealthy. It seemed like such an obvious foreshadow that the two families would end up arguing at some point but they don't.

A lot of reviews have questioned the ending, many have found it annoying or weird. It is a strange way to end the film but, in context it is the most positive ending possible.

Overall, 'Prisoners' is quite disappointing; the story is unnecessarily complicated and becomes ridiculous. Most of the performances are good - particularly the leads. For a film like this you would expect there to be some really harrowing points - there were hardly any.

The Call
(2013)

Promising Start, Disappointing Finish
'The Call' is a drama/ action film starring Halle Berry who plays a 911 operator. She goes through a traumatic day at work after failing to save a young girl from being kidnapped and brutally murdered. Six months on, she finds herself in that situation again and is determined to save the killer's next victim.

A lot of films now take the 'everything approach' - where the story involves an entire city under siege or a full country in peril. 'The Call' does not do this; it has a very niche story which really only revolves around three characters - the victim, the serial killer and the call operator. Despite the small scale, it proves to be gripping. The opening act where we see Jordan (Halle Berry) try her best to protect a teenage girl from the killer intruding her home is tense and becomes quite scary. Because the audience goes through this ordeal with her, they can understand why she has been left so shaken and doubting her own ability.

Six months later she is training new recruits and finds herself taking a call from yet another terrified teenage girl who has been kidnapped. Suddenly, she is thrown back into her old job and has to try to make sure history does not repeat itself. Most of the film is the phone call between Jordan and Casey (Abigail Breslin) who is trapped in the boot of the killer's car. Having over an hour of exchanges via phones can make a boring movie but 'The Call' keeps you interested every step of the way as you see the pair think of new ways to draw attention to the car.

Halle Berry gives a good performance; with most of the screen time dedicated to her it would have been easy for her to become boring. She portrays her character in a very realistic manner for most of the film unlike the rest of her workplace. Her colleges are overly friendly, strange people who do not appear to do anything else but watch Jordan with pride, all misty-eyed. Her 'hard-ass' boss doesn't actually act like a hard-ass at all! In fact, she is very understanding and helpful! Abigail Breslin gave a decent performance - all her character did was cry and scream but if a person was stuck in the boot of a car, all they could do is scream and cry anyway. The serial killer does not really get enough time to cover his back story; the audience gets brief flashes of a shrine in his office for his dead sister and there are also a few possible hints of incest. He just looks like a normal guy you could walk past on the street. His performance starts off pretty restrained and creepy but slowly develops into more of a maniac in a horror B-movie.

Unfortunately, 'The Call' takes a turn for the worst; the final act jumps off realism and dives down into the depths of stupidity. It becomes less gripping and more befuddling to the audience as we see Jordan take matters into her own hands and set out to find Casey herself. When we see the killer's lair (which literally looks like every other killing room in movie history) the audience gains a better understanding of his motive. There is a terrifying sequence where he prepares his victim and we realise he was more than one murder under his belt. Despite being given some more information about the killer, a lot is left out and by the end the audience still does not fully understand his reasoning.

The final act is quite generic and boring and sends the film spiraling downhill as a result. It is very reminiscent of the finale of 'Silence of the Lambs' as it turns out Buffalo Bill and this killer are not so different. The last 20 minutes are not all bad; there are some scenes thrown in to really creep the audience out and bring back the suspense and tension. 'The Call' is a thriller with an ending better suited to a 'Saw' film - it does not fit with the tone of the film and it does not seem like something the characters would do. Without giving too much away, it is a dumb and lazy ending that appears to have been written up in the last minute. It is quite deflating because it doesn't quite give the audience a satisfying conclusion or give them any further information about the killer's motives.

Overall, 'The Call' had a fantastic and promising start that was dampened by its lazy ending. The story was simple but executed well and just needed a simple, positive ending to make it succeed. Unfortunately, it would appear the director and writer thought the film would be a bit too bland and tried to mix things up by adding an ending that just did not fit.

Pain & Gain
(2013)

Hollywood's Dumbest Director
Pain & Gain is Michael Bay's attempt at a smaller, story-based film. The movie follows three dirt-poor bodybuilders who decide to live a life of crime in order to fulfil their vision of the American Dream.

Michael Bay's films tend to be action-packed, explosion-filled blockbusters with very little intelligence needed to understand them. Pain & Gain was supposed to be the film that would leave critics astonished and amazed at how he really could make a decent film. Critics were indeed astonished but not in the intended way. The film has proved that Michael Bay simply cannot make an intelligent film.

The story itself is interesting and could have made a decent movie. Three men resort to torture, violence, drugs and murder to live expensive lifestyles. The men believe they are not doing anything wrong – they are simply doing what they can to achieve their warped view of the American Dream. There have been plenty of films outlining the basic modern-day flaws of the American Dream but Pain & Gain could have taken a different angle. A bizarre decision was made to make this film into a comedy. Whether or not it is supposed to be a black comedy is anyone's guess since the plot is all over the place tonally. One minute there's some light-hearted banter, next there's an apparently hysterical scene involving a man explaining why his toe has been shot off (stealing money to fuel his Cocaine habit) then, before you know it, two people have been murdered and the laughs keep on coming...

The audience is reminded of the fact that this is indeed a true story. The film is even paused for a moment so a caption can pop up saying 'Yes, this is still a true story.' This was actually a good idea to highlight just how odd the story is and perhaps shows that Michael Bay was trying to provoke incredulity rather than laughter. He failed in both of these aspects, unfortunately. The main mistake is that the director is clearly trying to ridicule these characters for having such shallow personalities (all they want is drugs, girls and booze). However, the film is laced with half-naked women standing in provocative positions for the audience's amusement, showing that the director also likes this. Why does he ridicule the characters yet also use these aspects as gimmicks in the film?

It is difficult to gage performances in this film simply because almost every aspect of it is chaotic and messy. Mark Wahlberg is a great actor who is incredibly talented yet still makes some shocking career moves. Every actor has a bad film under their belt but he has more than a few. Luckily, he has managed to survive so far. One of his best performances is his tiny role in The Departed, which is so good he is the one you remember at the end instead of acting heavyweights like Leonardo Dicaprio and Jack Nicholson. There are only so many mistakes an actor can make however – who is looking forward to Transformers 4? Anyone? Dwayne Johnson has a promising start in Pain & Gain, playing the born-again Christian who is determined to live out his life as a good person. His character is soon dragged down to the low depths of stealing, murder and drug addiction. Surprisingly, he gives the best performance in this film. Rebel Wilson is typically able to make any one laugh as she is a very talented comedy actor but, all of her jokes fall flat here to the point where it becomes incredibly awkward for the audience. Trying to work out her purpose in this film is tricky; she gets married to one of the criminal bodybuilders but her entire dialogue is penis jokes and dirty talk. Her character isn't realistic and doesn't really serve any great purpose.

Fans of Michael Bay may enjoy this film, but they may be the only ones. It is a surprisingly boring film that appears to have taken tips from independent, smaller action films on appearance only. The film looks very good but its content is just disastrous. Pain & Gain is a shallow, boring and moronic film which hopefully will soon be forgotten. It is a poorly edited, clumsy mess filled with unnecessary slow motion, naked women for the audience and director to leer at and bizarre comical violence. All of this is included in a story that is supposed to be true. It simply does not work.

World War Z
(2013)

Disappointing but not terrible
World War Z has been talked about in critics' circles for over a year now; it was widely publicised that the project went through development hell, there were several re-writes and re-shoots of the ending. All of this, plus the fact that it was given a mere 15 age rating, meant that most zombie horror fans and fans of the book were worried.

Max Brooks' novel is in a format that would be almost impossible to convert into a faithful film adaptation. It was always going to be tough but World War Z is an adaptation in name only; there is hardly anything derived from the book included here with exception to some film locations and the decision to just call the zombies 'zombies' rather than walkers, biters or any other name that films and TV shows have done. The political satire has been left out (it is hinted that the virus began in South Korea rather than in China) and the film takes place at the beginning of the war rather than ten years after it. These decisions have been made with the best intentions, to make the film more entertaining. This is a good idea but, as with any book adaptation, it will anger fans of the source material. The movie chose to jump right into the chaos so there was no suspicious news reports of riots in distant towns, and Brad Pitt and his family were completely surprised when they found ordinary people trying to have a chomp at them.

The fact that World War Z is not an 18 is a very poor studio decision; the main terrifying feature of a zombie is their ability to tear people to shreds, the result of this would obviously be a lot of blood and gore. There are several scenes of people being bitten, people being shot and even one scene where someone has their hand amputated to prevent the spread of infection – none of these scenes contain a drop of blood. Luckily, the zombies are still quite creepy; the sound of their teeth snapping at people is really unsettling and the way they twitch is just ghastly. These are seen in the final act, which is where you get a chance to properly look at the zombies. Before this, all action scenes are either in the dark or are so fast paced and quickly edited that you have no idea what is going on. The first action scene will remind people of director Marc Forster's previous editing misadventure – Quantum of Solace.

The opening act began quite well; Brad Pitt has shown he is great at playing the average family man – he and Mireille Enos build up a believable family setting. A not-so-wise decision was made to make their children behave significantly younger that their actual ages – they look about 13 and nine but both act about four years old! Brad Pitt's performance becomes more and more laborious and doesn't quite look as effortless as it did in the beginning. It is actually quite surprising to see him act in a film that you can tell he just doesn't care about any more – you can tell that in some scenes these were filmed just as the production was running into problems.

The supporting characters were all very disappointing; there were some fairly big actors who got hardly any screen time and their characters were severely under-developed. James Badge Dale makes an appearance for five minutes and in that tiny amount of time we are supposed to care about him and what happens to him, this was impossible. Even the brilliant Peter Capaldi features but his talent is wasted on a basic character that is not even given a name!

Aside from this, most of the action was well-paced but the computer generated zombies make the massive action scenes less realistic and therefore less scary. There are some genuinely tense moments that make you want to hide behind your chair – the plane scene is definitely where the film peaks.

The film gets better as it continues but the ending is very deflating; there is a 15-minute long tense sequence where people are sneaking around an abandoned laboratory which is teaming with 'dormant' zombies. All of this leads up to the controversial decision to introduce a solution to the zombie apocalypse (one of the horrifying aspects of the book was that there was no real solution apart from building bigger forts and killing the infected one by one). When Brad Pitt makes this discovery, the film ends after a few minutes of cheesy family reunion with 'our war has just begun.' This is sadly nothing more than a reason to create a sequel and you are left at the end thinking 'is that it?'

Overall, World War Z was the best possible zombie movie you could make with such a low age rating. It was fast paced, tense, thrilling and riddled with jump scares. Brad Pitt starts out promisingly but his performance becomes more tiresome as the film goes on. The film is not very recommendable, simply because the ending is so lazy it ruins the little sparks of talent that it had.

The Great Gatsby
(2013)

Surprisingly Faithful
'The Great Gatsby' is the latest film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel. It follows Nick Carraway as he meets a new crowd in illustrious 1920s New York City.

The novel is a classic in American literature and it is seen as an unfilmable book due to its subtlety. Unfortunately, this means that there is no way everyone who read the book will be happy, simply because the characters are so interesting and everyone has their own different opinion on them. The book could be portrayed as quite dull but thankfully 'dull' isn't exactly Baz Luhrmann's style; the ultra-glossy look of the film works really well in portraying the time period. The costumes are beautiful and the soundtrack is bizarre yet it somehow works. A major problem was the CGI; there were some points where it was glaringly obvious and drew you out of the story. Gatsby's house, the ocean and some parts of New York City looked really cheaply made because of this (this may not be quite as noticeable if it is seen in 3D). Another technical problem I noticed throughout was with audio synchronisation; there were lots of moments where the words you were hearing were clearly not being said by the actors, it was poorly dubbed in this case. I wouldn't have mentioned it if it had only happened a few times but there were definitely more than ten occasions where I noticed this. The decision to show this in 3D is really odd; yes, with Baz Lurhmann his direction is highly visual but when you go to see and American classic novel adapted for film, do you really want a silly gimmick distracting you?

This is one of the few films where there were no disappointments whatsoever in the acting. Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed Gatsby brilliantly and it is one of his best performances. It now seems obvious that he was the perfect choice for this role. Tobey Maguire also gives a great performance and managed to make me like him as an actor for a change! Carey Mulligan played Daisy well but her character was written to evoke sympathy from the audience, she wasn't as selfish and vapid as she was in the novel. Joel Edgerton was quite entertaining as Tom and really portrayed the character well. Initially, I was quite worried about Isla Fisher playing Myrtle but she did very well despite only being in the film for about five minutes.

Overall, this is a very faithful adaptation; nothing major has been left out and the majority of characters were portrayed as they were in the book. However, almost everyone has a different perception of the novel so this may not be the case for other people. If you haven't read the book, this is still a very enjoyable film with some really heart- breaking moments as well as some comical moments too.

Star Trek Into Darkness
(2013)

Great Follow-Up
'Star Trek: Into Darkness' is the follow-up to J.J. Abrams' 'Star Trek' in 2009. It follows the crew as they face a deadly ex-member of their own organisation who is out for vengeance.

The story isn't very different from the previous instalment; the relationship between Spock and Kirk is slightly different and of course there is a different villain. The dialogue between the characters was a lot better in this film however, it was very funny but it was also very dark as well.

The darkness is brought by Benedict Cumberbatch with a creepy voice and outbursts of extreme violence – all of this hidden under a façade of courteous English manners. He definitely steals the show here and it would be great to see more of him in sequels. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Simon Pegg are all back and do a great job here; they all work really well together.

Like the first one, the film works for both fans of 'Star Trek' and those who have never seen it – there's lots of little references to the series and films and a few major ones as well that fans will enjoy. Aside from this, there is a great amount of action, great funny scenes and this film is very entertaining overall… ease up on those lens flares though, they make some of the action scenes a bit difficult to follow.

21 & Over
(2013)

Doesn't pretend to be anything other than a dumb comedy
'21 & over' is the latest buddy comedy inspired by 'The Hangover.' It has a similar story to 'The Hangover' except the drinking rampage is the story rather than the morning after.

This film was surprisingly good! I think the last film I saw was 'Movie 43' and that made me lose faith in laughter and happiness… Anyway, '21 & over' certainly isn't the funniest comedy ever but there are a decent amount of laughs and cringe moments. Of course, towards the end the story does go totally over the top. This is a modern classic aspect of American comedies these days so I guess it is just something we will have to get used to. Thankfully, it doesn't really send the film into a downward spiral as it is still redeemable.

The characters in this film are all pretty funny in their own way and the characters you are supposed to like are genuinely likable. The story deals with a lot of important issues in a bizarrely light-hearted manner which is quite odd. A lot of the supporting characters are really funny so you're glad to see them each time they pop up throughout the film. I anticipated a lot of rubbish, cheap racist Asian jokes to be dotted all over the script but only a few did and they were from a character that seemed like the kind of person who would say those kinds of jokes. This was quite relieving, the film did its best to make jokes and references that people of a similar age would recognise and find funny.

Overall, this film is nonsense but the people who created it know this and don't try to pretend it's anything else. This is a good film to watch with your friends and I imagine, once it is released on DVD, will be a popular film for drinking games. Beer Pong anyone?

Olympus Has Fallen
(2013)

A less awesome Die Hard meets a less awesome Team America
'Olympus Has Fallen' stars Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart. North Korea infiltrates the White House and takes several hostages including the President.

It's not difficult to see where people have made the connection between this film and Die Hard. Some things here almost mimic it! From scenes where Mike Banning (Butler) and Kang are exchanging threats via remote or the scene where Mike is hurt and talking to the stand-in President (Freeman) telling him that he is alright. These scenes provide some unintentional comic relief – as do the vomit inducing patriotic scenes which I like to refer to as 'Americuuh! F**k yeah' scenes.

The action is really what saves this film. It is thoroughly entertaining, quite violent and sometimes shocking. I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed that the CGI is quite cheap looking; the jets, helicopters and large guns look almost cartoon-like. I don't think this film was released in 3D at any point and the film looks like it would have a fairly large budget so I don't understand why the CGI was so bad but it was quite distracting. When it comes to acting, Gerard Butler should definitely stick to action films; it's where he is best. Aaron Eckhart gives a decent performance as the President and actually suits the role really well.

Overall, the plot is pretty dumb; it's sometimes too stupid to even comprehend and it is of course extremely far-fetched but the action is pretty good and really entertaining. It won't become a modern classic like Die Hard but it is a good film to watch with friends.

Evil Dead
(2013)

Not a 'terrifying' experience but still worthwhile
'Evil Dead' is a remake of 'THE Evil Dead,' it follows five teenagers who unintentionally revive a demon who attempts to possess them so he can rise.

The original Evil Dead never really had a story; it is considered a cult classic because of this, there's a paper-thin story but the excessive amounts of cheap looking gore make up for this (the cheap gore simply added to the overall charm of the film). This new film also has this going for it, okay the gore isn't obviously fake or cheap and looks a lot more realistic, but it was still excessive and over the top. You don't see many wide release gore films today; the past decade is thought to be known for increasing the popularity of 'torture porn' but even those films tend to not contain spectacular amounts of blood and guts. This is certainly the goriest film in the last five years – since Paranormal Activity, most wide release horrors have been supernatural thrillers filled with tedious jump scares. The Evil Dead was part of the 'video nasty' phase in film which is undoubtedly where torture porn stemmed from. The violence in this film is so over the top you cannot help but laugh sometimes and realise how much you have missed this type of horror.

As remakes go, this is one of the better ones. You can tell Fede Alvarez (director) really did admire the original but has taken the brave step of trying to take the film/story in a new direction. I wouldn't say he is completely successful in this however since the story overall is pretty much the same. There were some interesting new touches though; the girl goes to the cabin to quit her drug addiction, the fact that the main protagonist was a woman, the brief story behind previous events in the cabin – these are all interesting additions but none are really explored thoroughly. It would have been nice to see some more references to the girl's drug habit, particularly towards the end.

I did like the new plot point where certain things had to happen before the demon could rise; skin had to be burned with boiling water, faces had to be cut off etc. – it was interesting and it meant that not all of the violence was completely nonsensical. There were undoubtedly some creepy scenes dotted throughout the film and some not-so-subtle references to the original – though if the producers of a remake are the director and star of the original then this is bound to happen. The director did try his best to make us care for the characters but there was no way that was going to happen; character developments were left suspended – I thought there was some angry tension between Olivia and *insert blonde girl here* but nothing ever happened with that – and some characters got next to no dialogue at all.

Overall, 'Evil Dead' is a pretty good film. If you're paying to see gore then it will be money well spent. The characters are basic, the story tries to be not so basic and the overall experience isn't terrifying but it is worthwhile. I don't really see the need for a sequel however, you won't be routing for Mia quite as much as you would for Ash.

Oblivion
(2013)

Any Film + Tom Cruise = Top of the box office
'Oblivion' is the latest Tom Cruise movie that is currently doing extremely well in both the US and UK box offices. Tom Cruise is – for some reason – one of those actors who will attract the masses to a film no one would otherwise care about.

This film however is a film people will genuinely be interested in seeing regardless of Tom Cruise. Joseph Kosinski has written a fairly solid story here; it has been a while since there has been a decent sci- fi film out that hasn't been linked to a film or book series. However, the film does seem like Moon, Total Recall, The Matrix and 2001: A Space Odyssey rolled into one. There are points in the film where nothing really happens, this does not mean they should have replaced them with action sequences, because there were a decent amount of them and they were very well done. There were way too many flashback scenes that were very boring, they showed the same flashback almost a dozen times but with no extended parts that taught us anything, it was literally the same scenes over and over again. There were a lot of instances where I was bored but it was not all the fault of the writer.

Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko are the blandest pair of actors ever it would seem. Andrea Riseborough's performance is fine; her character was supposed to be quite cold and tries her best here. Cruise and Kurylenko have no chemistry whatsoever and you simply do not care what happened to them. This is where the major flaw of 'Oblivion' was noticed; the story was pretty good, the effects and props were amazing – though it would seem aliens have discovered Apple – and the sets were just fantastic and really interesting to look at but the actors were just too dull! Morgan Freeman gave the best performance, his most interesting one in a while, but unfortunately had next to no screen time.

Overall, 'Oblivion' is not a bad film. It was clearly made by someone who has a love and respect for sci-fi but it could have been so much better had two other actors been given the lead roles.

Trance
(2013)

Fine film making
'Trance' is the latest film by the brilliant Danny Boyle. We follow a man who works at an art auction and helps a gang of criminals steal a priceless painting. When he is hit on the head, and the criminals discover he has hidden the painting somewhere, he now cannot remember where. They hire a hypnotherapist to help, who soon becomes more involved than anyone wanted.

The plot initially on paper seems fairly basic – a man has been hit on the head and now can't remember something important. However, the story becomes stranger as they all try and figure out where the painting has been hidden. In the middle of the film you're sort of in the same position as James McAvoy because you have no idea what is going on! In the end however, everything ties in and makes sense in an unbelievably bizarre yet brilliant fashion. There are some great action sequences towards the end that are thoroughly entertaining.

The acting is pretty good; James McAvoy does here well here but his performance is overshadowed by the brilliance of Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson. The characters were all interesting enough and it is nice to see a film with a solid, female character that is smart, cunning and is not just thrown in as the love interest. Danny Boyle has said he wanted to revive the Femme Fatale in film; well he has done a perfect job.

Overall, 'Trance' is up there with the best of Danny Boyle's films and it is one of the best of 2013 so far. The acting is sound, the story is intelligent and unique and even the soundtrack fits perfectly. It's just a brilliant film.

The Croods
(2013)

Funniest Kid's film so far this year
'The Croods' is DreamWorks' latest animated production. It involves a family of cavemen as they are forced to venture out into the open after their cave is destroyed.

The story is quite well written; it starts with you thinking it is going to revolve around teenage girl Eep (Emma Stone), with her journey, falling in love blah blah blah. However, the story develops into one about how sometimes fathers have to learn lessons and acknowledge that they can be wrong about things. Although it is only a voice performance, Nicholas Cage is brilliant and provides 90% of the comedy here. You can tell he had a great time working on this film. As children's films go, this is probably the funniest one in a while, the story is not insultingly basic and it teaches some decent life lessons along the way. The only thing that really bugged me was the Belt character – I didn't get what was so funny about a small creature shouting 'dundunduuuuun!' at various moments throughout the film in scenes where it didn't really fit. It seems to be a necessity in children's films now to have a little sidekick randomly make a funny noise of come out with some naff pop culture reference these days.

Overall, the film is probably the best kid's film out so far this year. There are a lot of really funny scenes and a couple of tear-jerking moments too.

Safe Haven
(2013)

A Little Bit Bland
'Safe Haven' is from the same author as romantic classic 'The Notebook.' 'Safe Haven' is not exactly as generic as 'The Notebook' but it does qualify as pretty boring in terms of cinematic exploration.

Despite the story – on paper – seeming fairly interesting and relatively unique to the romantic genre, the film still manages to bore you for the first hour of it. In fact, the last 30 minutes of the film are sadly the most interesting. Before that we have endless conversations that seem pointless and clichéd, naff romantic gestures and unrealistic characters. Domestic abuse is sadly a very real problem for many but this film somehow makes the issue seem very unrealistic and as something so dramatic it could never happen in real life. Beautiful people deal with their problems in a beautiful, idyllic small town very quickly and very easily, it isn't exactly interesting.

The acting was a lot better than I had expected; Julianne Hough was a bit flat in some scenes but her performance wasn't bad – just not memorable. Josh Duhamel gave a fairly good performance; he was not playing a pretty face with zero background like he has done in other films and he managed to show he can act with at least a little depth. David Lyons gave the best performance in the film but unfortunately had the least amount of screen time. Playing the creepy, alcoholic, abusive husband, he made the final act worth watching and was quite scary.

Overall, the film certainly is not a bad film; it just isn't a very interesting or memorable one. It's full of clichés and there are not many emotional, heart-warming scenes so it is a little bit bland.

Oz the Great and Powerful
(2013)

The Wizard of Wonderland
'Oz: The Great and Powerful' is the prequel to 'The Wizard of Oz.' Carnival magician Oscar – known as Oz – gets caught up in a tornado whilst in a hot air balloon. When he escapes the storm, he finds himself in a magical land where he is to be the king as long as he defeats the wicked witch.

The story itself is very loosely based on L. Frank Baum's stories of Oz but the film works well in tying in with its predecessor. The story is very cleverly shows how the magician tricks people into believing he really is a wizard with the use of illusion. There are a lot of nice little references to 'The Wizard of Oz' here but not too many and they are very subtle. One thing I will note however is that CGI Oz is nothing compared to the original setting. There was something magical about the hand-painted flowers and real yellow brick road that really captured people's imaginations, because you knew Judy Garland was really looking at these things instead of standing infront of a big green screen. The CGI is not that impressive here which is surprising, it reminded me of Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland,' which was also largely full of computer graphics and no real settings. The film is very similar to 'Alice in Wonderland' and it seems a bit pointless, did anyone ever wonder about the wizard of Oz? I didn't. There are some scenes where the CGI is quite obvious and cartoon-like, there are scenes where it is really obvious that there is nothing really behind the actors – there are even a few instances where you can see little green lines outlining the actors which make the effects look shockingly cheap.

The acting was fairly well done; Michelle Williams was probably the best in it as she gave a truly brilliant performance as the good witch. James Franco's performance is difficult to judge because at some points he is really funny, very emotive and his character is very believable. However, then there are other moments where he over-performs and it becomes a bit embarrassing because every other actor here take their roles very seriously. The same can be said for Mila Kunis, in the beginning her performance is decent enough but, when her character develops into the wicked witch of the West, her performance goes downhill. Obviously, it is going to be extremely hard to find anyone who can match Margaret Hamilton's performance. Mila Kunis does try her best but it simply doesn't work; she's not scary, not menacing and she's not even laughably bad which is unfortunate.

Overall, this is a fairly decent film; it's really funny, unpredictable and it's not a terrible insult to 'The Wizard of Oz,' but it is very bloated, drawn out and quite anti-climactic. There seems to be a need for kids films to be turned into big-budget ultra-blockbuster films (see Hansel and Gretel, Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman and Jack the Giant Killer), this film is primarily a children's film and it tries to make it entertaining for adults but it simply isn't needed – we all remember loving the Wizard of Oz and we go to see this to be reminded of that experience. It doesn't quite live up to this expectation, it could have been a lot worse but thankfully they have done a good job here.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
(2013)

Mildly Entertaining
'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters' is a dark re-telling of the popular fairy tale where two siblings are captured by a witch. The twist in this film? Hansel and Gretel are now adults and are professional witch hunters.

The original fairy tale is pretty dark as it is, child abandonment, kidnapping, attempted cannibalism, people being burned alive, this film tries to make it darker simply by splashing blood all over the place… and that's about it. The fairy tale has been adapted to tie in very cleverly with their latest mission and it isn't that far-fetched; it makes sense, there's some good plot twists and it isn't too stupid. The stupidity comes in other forms; you've got electricity, gramophones, tasers, and oh yeah, insulin! I still don't understand why it was necessary to include the fact that Hansel has diabetes as a result of the infamous witch feeding him too many sweets as a child. Note that in the flashbacks he wasn't really overweight at all. The insulin we see him inject into himself throughout the film appears to have the same effect on him as spinach had to Popeye. Despite this weird addition, the film is fairly entertaining though it is fairly naff. The fight scenes are graphic but interesting and at some points are pretty funny.

The acting is okay, Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton do all that they need to do here but their performances aren't anything memorable. Famke Janssen is probably the best in it but even her performance can be a bit embarrassing at times. Maybe if director Tommy Wirkola sent everyone a memo telling them what accent was necessary it would have been better. There were American accents, English and even German – with Gemma Arterton switching between English and American throughout the film.

Overall, 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters' is mildly entertaining but it is pretty forgettable. If you just want to watch a film with absolutely no thinking involved and you just want to relax with some popcorn and have a chuckle at heads being squashed, then this is perfect.

Mama
(2013)

Something a bit different
'Mama' tells the story of two little girls who are abandoned in the woods for five years and somehow manage to survive. After being found and put back into society under the care of their uncle and his girlfriend, their carers begin to realise someone had been taking care of them all along.

The film is certainly not the scariest film ever; it won't exactly give anyone nightmares. However, there are a few jumpy scenes – but these aren't anything special, this kind of scare is all too common in horror films these days. The story itself is quite interesting; stories of children being cared for by overly protective ghosts appear frequently in TV shows but not so much in films. The story works quite well in feature film length and it doesn't feel too bloated or drawn out. You can tell this is not your average Hollywood horror film; the suspense that builds up works really well and the unconventional ending shows that there is a lot of Spanish/ European horror influence here that has made 'Mama' so unique.

The acting in this film is extremely well done. Jessica Chastain is fantastic here and has proved her skills yet again, this time playing a bass player in a rock band with an attitude. The two little girls also perform really well here – particularly Isabelle Nelisse who played the younger girl, Lilly.

Overall, 'Mama' is a pretty good film with a few decent scares and a plot that goes against boring convention. It's unpredictable, interesting and different from what we usually get.

Wreck-It Ralph
(2012)

Great Fun
'Wreck-It Ralph' is a Disney movie that could easily be mistaken for a Pixar film. It is about Wreck-It Ralph who is a bad guy in an arcade game who is tired of being the villain and leaves his game to get a medal in order to be respected by the good guys in his game.

The film has some great vocal performances by John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch. The story itself is entertaining for both children and adults simply because there are jokes in it that suit both groups. As far as children's films go it is actually quite unpredictable as there are a few revelations and funny scenes that you don't see coming and they take you by surprise. The soundtrack also fits this film perfectly; a mixture of popular songs that everyone will know and enjoy with some other arcade-sounding music that works really well in the fast pacing scenes.

Overall, 'Wreck-It Ralph' is a really nice, heart-warming film that is enjoyable for both children and their parents. There are also lots of funny video game references dotted throughout the film that a few people will get.

Warm Bodies
(2013)

Entertaining from start to finish
'Warm Bodies' is a fantastic film about a zombie named 'R' who falls in love with a human and tries his best to protect her from the rest of the zombies.

The plot is very strange but if you embrace its weirdness and eccentricity then it is brilliant. A lot of people have described it as being like Twilight except with zombies but it is far better – there's depth to the characters, a lot of really funny and embarrassing scenes but there is also a lot of really frightening parts which I did not expect. I am glad there were some scary moments, with zombies you expect a little scare here and there regardless of the genre but, I am surprised at the films' 12a rating. The plot is well paced and you're not bored or waiting for something interesting to happen – the film entertains you from start to finish.

Nicholas Hoult is brilliant in this; it must have been difficult to do this role – especially without blinking most of the time. It's good to see that he is making it in large popular films now because he fully deserves it. Theresa Palmer is also really good; it's nice to see a female lead have some humorous scenes for a change compared to the mind- numbingly dull Bella in Twilight. Dave Franco was also really good here but he was not in the film for very long which is a shame because he can be really funny.

Overall, this is a really funny film with a decent amount of horror included. If you are considering taking children between 8 and12 you should know that there are some pretty frightening scenes. There's a fairly small amount of gore but the 'boneys' can be quite scary – particularly towards the end. However, the film is really nice, funny and even heart-warming sometimes.

Movie 43
(2013)

Why?
'Movie 43' is a series of short films tied together by a story about three teenagers trying to find the most outrageous video on the internet (UK version). The advertising campaign for this film was pretty much just showing everyone all the famous faces that are in it. It was quite clever actually… pity none of this intelligence came out in the film.

The humour in this film is very basic, very childish, very disturbing and very un-funny. Some segments had potential and were funny to start with but then they took it too far. Examples of this are the sketch with Liev Screiber and Naomi Watts and also the segment with Halle Berry and Stephen Merchant. There's toilet humour, jokes about incest (I'm not kidding), jokes about racism and about sex. It's just ghastly.

The cinema I was in at the time was fairly busy but people kept leaving throughout the film so by the end about half had gone. It's not a funny film; it's advertised for adults but has the same level of intellect as a goldfish. A lot of actors will have disappointed a lot of their fans here; Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Liev Schreiber, Kate Winslet, Emma Stone – they were all respected actors! Why would they do this? Even Johnny Knoxville was too high-brow for this! Apparently a lot of actors tried their best to get out of the project – Colin Farrell succeeded and was replaced by Gerard Butler. He isn't a terrible let down here as he says yes to any script anyway and has pretty much already sold his soul to Hollywood.

Overall, very few people will find this funny; even less will find it really funny. Its toilet humour without the humour… which makes it just toilet, I guess.

Zero Dark Thirty
(2012)

Gripping
'Zero Dark Thirty' is director Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to the brilliant 'The Hurt Locker.' It's based on the events which led up to the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

The film can be looked at from two angles; one is that the film is nearly three hours long and sections can go on for quite a bit. The second angle is that it's trying to tell a story which spanned over ten years and there's an awful lot of source material to try and squeeze into a film. Personally, I didn't mind the film's length; it was gripping, interesting, the acting was very good and the information revealed was useful and showed how painstaking the process was. However, three hours can be a long time for some people, regardless of the film's content. The script was very well written; the dialogue seemed realistic enough. It is split into chapters which works very well and means it's easier to keep up with the time line.

The acting is a lot better than I had expected; Jessica Chastain was truly fantastic and I'm now rooting for her to win big at next month's awards. Even the smaller roles played by Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Mark Strong, James Gandolfini and Joel Edgerton were very well done. One thing I will not however is the really weird cameo from John Barrowman in one scene. For British people and maybe some Americans this will seem really random and I honestly don't even remember what was discussed in the scene he was in. All I remember is saying "Wait, is that John Barrowman? Why the hell is he there?" For what it's worth though, he does deliver his two lines very well.

When it comes to controversy and this film I really don't get it. Yes, there are scenes of torture but they don't glamorise it or try and make it seem like it was crucial to finding Bin Laden. They show scenes of torture because, in the early 2000s, it was seen as acceptable in terms of terrorist treatment. It would have been wrong for Kathryn Bigelow to gouge it out of her script. Bare in mind, these scenes were set in a time where the then President Bush jr. did not see water boarding as a form of torture…but then, George Bush says a lot of ridiculous things. Anyway, torture is shown and it can be quite uncomfortable to watch but it needed to be in the film.

Overall, the film is very good. If you like films like 'The Hurt Locker' or even 'Argo' then you will probably enjoy this. It's an interesting film with great performances and, given that the wounds Osama Bin Laden inflicted on the USA are still very raw, it is an issue that remains a huge talking point for people.

Gangster Squad
(2013)

Mediocre at best
'Gangster Squad' tells the 'true' story about a small group of LA police officers who try to take down crime boss Mickey Cohen. It's full of action-packed gun fights and bar brawls and almost every movie cliché you can think of.

There's a huge cast in this film which is probably why it has done so well at the box office. Most actors do the best they can; Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone and Nick Nolte have all proved they are talented actors before this but the extraordinarily bland, predictable and cheesy dialogue prevents any of their talent from shining through. Sean Penn's performance is the most embarrassing, mainly because you can tell he is taking the role way too seriously and he clearly thinks he can make this film the next 'Goodfellas'. Instead, his performance makes the entire film seem like the next swashbuckling adventure with Peter Pan – Penn being Captain Hook of course. He is so over the top here he changes the tone of the film with his terrible attempts at catchphrases – 'Here comes Santy Claus'….really? Aside from this disastrous performance, the rest are pretty basic and will probably be used as examples in acting 101 classes.

Again, the script is mediocre at best. It's predictable and you can tell from the beginning who will die and who won't. Conversations are boring and basic, monologues have all been done before and there's nothing new here. The film is littered with plot holes and unexplained revelations which you think will be dealt with later at some point but don't. Someone described this film as being like every gangster film rolled into one but it wasn't even as interesting as that. The whole film is like a big smug pat on the back for director Ruben Fleischer and co. despite it being completely undeserved.

Overall, this is your average gangster film. There's nothing new, nothing controversial, nothing ground-breaking here. It has been advertised to the wrong crowd; the all too frequent but sometimes funny scenes would appeal to a younger audience yet they have thrown in bizarre graphic scenes of violence which means only people over 15 can see it. A 12 year old is more likely to enjoy this film. The only reason you should go to see this is if you're a boy and you want to see Emma Stone or, if you're a girl, to see Ryan Gosling for a few hours. Instead of watching Gangster Squad, watch 'Goodfellas' or anything that doesn't make you wish you had just gone to see 'Les Miserables' for a second time.

Django Unchained
(2012)

A little bit cluttered
'Django Unchained' is the latest film by the brilliant Quentin Tarantino which tells the story of recently freed Django who becomes a bounty hunter and tries to free his wife from slavery.

Tarantino usually brings out the best in actors and this film is no different; Jamie Foxx gives an admirable performance in the lead role here but his performance is overshadowed by those of Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson. You may remember Waltz's performance in Tarantino's 'Inglorious Basterds' where he was absolutely fantastic and fully deserved his Oscar for best supporting actor. Unfortunately, I don't quite understand why he has been nominated now; although his performance is good and he is very funny, I think it is appalling that Leonardo DiCaprio has no Oscar nod – his character is horrible, cruel, and evil and he plays it perfectly! He makes you shudder sometimes with his callousness and makes you laugh at his stupidity. Samuel L. Jackson is great here; I've never seen him do a role like this but he was brilliant and I'm a bit disappointed that he hasn't received any awards recognition here either. One performance that wasn't up to scratch was that of Tarantino himself; with a small role as an Australian (I think). He does redeem himself a little with his grand exit but I think he should stick to playing corpses next time.

A major problem with this film is its length; this is where 'Django Unchained' fails the most. There are several points where you think scenes should have been cut just because they don't really play a huge part in the overall story. The dialogue is genius and it is a real pleasure to listen to it because it is so well written. The action sequences are so well choreographed (as always) and are really funny at some points and genuinely horrifying at others. The issue of slavery is dealt with in a very professional way here; at no point does Tarantino attempt to glamorise or romanticise the slave trade and the slaves themselves. He does a great job of showing slavery in its true horror and portrays the ghastly nature of some people during those times. I cannot think of any other film which has dealt with this issue in such a way but I'm really pleased someone finally showed how awful it was. The story overall is interesting but it doesn't run very smoothly because there are at least two moments where you think the film will end but it doesn't and you begin to get a little bit exacerbated at how long it is.

Overall, this is a great film but it is far too long. I absolutely love Quentin Tarantino and he has done a great job here but a lot more should have been cut. It is a brilliantly funny and powerful film that is just a little bit cluttered.

Les Misérables
(2012)

Truly fantastic
'Les Miserables' is the film adaptation of the theatre adaptation of the novel by Victor Hugo. Directed by Tom Hooper (The King's Speech), it tells the story of Jean Valjean's (Hugh Jackman) – an escaped convict who adopts and raises a child in the middle of revolutionary France.

The cast, on paper, is quite impressive; everyone will be a fan of at least one member of this ensemble it is that diverse. Thankfully, the great cast live up to everyone's expectations and do a really great job here. Hugh Jackman does well in this; he acts well, provides an extraordinary amount of emotion in crucial scenes and his singing isn't bad either. Amanda Seyfried did well here too but her character does not have a great amount of screen-time despite being the core of the film. Eddie Redmayne really surprised me here; he gives a truly fantastic performance and it is unfortunate that he does not appear to have had any award recognition for his work. Another surprising performance was that of Aaron Tveit, an actor I was not familiar with until I watched this. Of course, Anne Hathaway steals the show as Fantine. Her great singing and highly emotional scenes instantly win over people who aren't really fans of musicals. Russell Crowe is the only actor here who disappoints; you can't really expect excellent singing from everyone because they are actors, not singers. Russell Crowe obviously struggled to do the two things at once because everyone else manages to bring emotion to their scenes whereas his facial expression does not change at all when singing – I'm sure he would have given an admirable performance here if he did not have to sing but unfortunately he chose a musical in which all dialogue is sung.

The endless singing can get on your nerves a little but only when it is not during a huge song piece and they are genuinely just singing bits of dialogue. These moments are few and far between though. It was very brave of Tom Hooper to decide that there should be live singing but it has worked out well and made the film a lot better than it would have been. 'Les Miserables' is almost three hours long but it is not a chore to watch, there is no point where you feel bored or that the plot is moving along slowly. The whole film builds up to a truly fantastic climax that raises everyone's spirits.

Overall, this is a highly emotional musical which I think will bring them back into fashion. If they're all as good as Les Mis then I welcome them.

Berberian Sound Studio
(2012)

A pretentious mess
'Berberian Sound Studio' is a film about an English sound technician (Toby Jones) who is used to creating sound effects for children's TV shows, who travels to Italy to work on a horror film. We follow him as he grows more and more homesick and as he gradually becomes hopeless.

There isn't much in the way of acting in this film but Toby Jones is a very talented actor and does perform well here. The other actors certainly are not poor, they give decent performances but none of them are particularly memorable.

The script is so basic and undeveloped you can practically see the writer shrug and say 'that'll do,' by the end. The first half hour is interesting because you get to see how sound effects are made and the whole dubbing process in general. After 30 minutes this gets tiresome however and I know it is supposed to be cyclical and seem never ending for Toby Jones, but it is so obscure you don't really care. When a film gets to the point where it thinks it's smarter than everyone else it becomes a pretentious mess, leaving you thinking they could have written that same concept with a more understandable and entertaining script. It deliberately tries to confuse you by adding pointless scenes here and there but in the end you realise the film only lasted an hour and a half but seems to last three hours.

Overall, this was quite disappointing. I really wanted to like this film; I had read so many great reviews on it and was looking forward to seeing it. Unfortunately it made me question the judgement of so many film critics that I follow.

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