Back in 1954, the original Godzilla taught us many things.
Mess with nature and nature will always mess back. Give a monster a motive and the audience is yours. Get the atmosphere right and no one will notice the cracks in your budget. Or at least care.
Created as a vehicle to sustain director Roland Emmerich's blockbusting momentum after Independence Day, the last Hollywood version of Godzilla taught us something else entirely: Special effects can't single-handedly carry a giant monster film and it can't simply rely on big named actors either. Which is why nobody's seen Mr. Emmerich since 1998.
As the creator of 2010's acclaimed sci-fi-on-a-shoestring "'Monsters"' and now the director of this hopeful franchise-reboot, Gareth Edwards has clearly learned from these lessons – for the most part.
But while the blood of "Monsters" runs through it, it's pretty obvious where – or rather who – this 2014 Godzilla's greatest inspiration comes from.
From the "War of the Worlds" plotting and inevitable nods to "Jurassic Park" to sundry small but "Close Encounters" (note the shape of those sonographs), it's got Spielberg's baseball cap all over it. The 2014 reboot of Godzilla is a hugely serious business starting in 1999 with a genuinely wrenching tragedy at a Japanese nuclear facility that leaves scientist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) torn from his wife (Juliette Binoche) and son Ford.
Fifteen years later, army lieutenant Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is on leave with his own son and wife (Elizabeth Olsen) when he is summoned back to Japan to get his now-paranoid dad out of jail.
Convinced that the events of 1999 were part of a massive cover-up, Joe has made a nuisance of himself ever since. But with the truth almost in his grasp, Joe drags Ford back to the abandoned city they once lived to retrieve the last pieces of the puzzle.
They find all the evidence they need. Much more. As do the researchers at the heart of the conspiracy (Ken Watanabe and the spare part-like Sally Hawkins).
And as if one hundred-story, radiation-absorbing, evolution-defying menace wasn't enough for the world to deal with, there are more.
On top of that, like every other recent global threat film that doesn't take place in New York, they're all heading for San Francisco. Where Ford's family happens to live.
Yes, Edwards even throws in the old 'packed schoolbus on a bridge' routine as everything between Hawaii and Vegas is caught in a devastating pincer movement that renders the US Armed Forces as impotent as a basket of neutered puppies.
Like previously mentioned, a blockbuster shouldn't live and die by it's special effects, but in many ways that's often as much as Godzilla has going for it, alongside a number of exquisitely composed and atmospheric shots.
The visuals are astonishing, whether it's the creatures tearing down entire cities or a tsunami devastating Honolulu.
The first big sighting is just about worth the wait and the one thing Edwards certainly manages to get right are the reveals. As Godzilla or the M.U.T.O.'s appear from out of smoke or out of the sky to maul each other or a skyscraper, he's able to deliver a handful of truly jaw- dropping sequences. Godzilla is huge and really quite unsettling as a presence, and in one or two moments the film touches on being a proper intense film, posing genuine danger from these massive beasts.
And how they love it, supplementing their smash-and-trash campaign with bursts of electromagnetic mayhem that leaves cities powerless and – in one eerily impactful scene – causes planes to drop out of the sky.
And yet it's often to be found skimping on the action, cutting out early from the scraps and only showing us the aftermath rather than the main event. As a result the first two-thirds consist of an awful lot of teasing, which, in less capable hands, could have been a blockbusting mistake.
Although it could be argued that an all-out assault would be exhausting in a Transformers or Pacific Rim sort of way.
A little lightness of touch might have worked wonders too. It's an entirely humorless affair, which makes you question the point of having something as silly as two hours of monsters hitting each other when it doesn't try to make you smile once. Enjoy the thrill of the few times when Godzilla lets rip with all his might, but mayhem isn't really enough if you're not having fun with it.
Godzilla, after all, is the reason you're here. But like most bill- topping acts, and with millions of years of pent-up, FX-fuelled frustration to release, he's worth the wait.
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This is a film of ideas... It's just that so many of them are bad ones
Wally Pfister has been in the game since long ago, but not as a director. He's been Nolan's go-to cinematographer in every film since they first hooked up for Memento. So we know this guy can deliver some amazing shots but does he cut it taking on the director's chair orchestrating a high-caliber cast in the big-budget sci-fi thriller Transcendence? You might guess the pedigree, because it's a terrible movie Some movies reel you in with dazzling dialogue and plots, some movies turn you upside down and tie your brain in knots, some movies overwhelm you and leave you speechless in mid-sentence – then there are those awful films with a wasted all-star cast – like Transcendence.
I first heard about it last year, it was too good to be true – the director was the guy who'd shot all those amazing Nolan films for the past decade. Surely he must have picked up some things?
When I first read the synopsis a year back, I thought it sounded very intriguing. I mean it had everything a sci-fi fan could ask, from its highfalutin title to its all-star genre cast. And to top it all of it had Johnny Depp! The actual acting version, not the dressing up and playing a "coo-coo" character guy. That fact alone sold me on this movie, I wanted to see it. And adding a little dose of Morgan Freeman couldn't hurt either.
So the day it finally came out, I bought tickets with trembling fingers, having isolated myself from any ratings or reviews so that I could give it my own honest and fair judgment without influence. Then I sat back and prepared ourselves for set-pieces and zingers. I watched it. I sat there. I looked around and said, "Wait, it's just about some asshole who gets sucked into the web?"
Look, I like Pfisters other work and he's proved an ideal collaborator for Nolan; together, in their Dark Knight films and the moody thrillers between them, they've cultivated a distinctive look that Transcendence often apes, full of crisp compositions, velvety shadows, and blown-out exteriors. He also does enough dew-falling-into-puddles shots to make Terrence Malick jealous. What I'm getting at is that creating a visual palette is never a problem for Pfister; telling a story is. His scenes are often flatly utilitarian, with blocking and dialogue interactions clunky at best — though he's certainly done no favors by the script, from first-timer Jack Paglen, which is as dopey as the day is long.
It concerns Will Caster, a rock-star scientist who speaks in the kind of dumbed-down-for-the-multiplex-audience platitudes that wouldn't get him a remedial science teacher job at a junior high. He and his scientist wife Evelyn are working at the cutting edge of artificial intelligence, so when a radical "neo-Luddite" group dooms Will to a slow death via radioactive poison, Evelyn concocts a scheme to keep him alive by uploading him into their A.I. system. A colleague did it with a monkey, she informs fellow scientist Max, which prompts the gracelessly overwrought response, "He's not a monkey!"
She does all of this in a conveniently abandoned high school that somehow also has enough electricity to power such an operation. Those pesky Neo-Luddites, led by Kate Mara (whose character seems primarily defined by her smoky eye makeup), kidnap Max and pinpoint the location of the system, but Evelyn manages to save Computer Will by uploading him to the Internet, where he is able to access everyone and everything, which throws the movie into a tailspin of Jaron Lanier-style technological paranoia, wrapped up in an understanding of "being online" that's barely more sophisticated than that of The Net.
In other words, this is some mighty goofy stuff — which would matter less if it didn't take itself so very seriously. Yet it's all very solemn and 'faux'-prescient, even when Computer Will is using his scientific brilliance and wireless networking to create an army of indestructible self-healers (yes, seriously), but there are enough plot holes to fill the giant underground data center that Computer Will and Evelyn somehow construct in a week or two without anyone noticing.
So why did Pfister want to make the movie? It's hard to say. Its concerns about technology and privacy aren't unfamiliar (they echo the climax of The Dark Knight), and it is indeed refreshing to see a science fiction film with some science in it — but it's all done at the most elementary level, the kind of bare-bones Science Talk that gets unintentional giggles from even the most lay of audiences. Sure, in fairness and even admiration, it must be noted that it is a film of ideas. It's just that so many of them are bad ones.
He certainly doesn't get much out of his cast; when I asked a writer friend why so few cinematographers make the transition, he replied simply, "They don't like talking with actors." That seems to be the case here — Depp turns in another of his untethered performances that substitute oddity for character, with hair that seems to have been combed with a wooden spoon and errant gum-chewing in important scenes, but doesn't seem to have received much help either; a key moment where Hall weakly insists "I've gotten everything I ever asked for" is way overplayed, the line pounded out between four different facial tics. A good director pulls that back — if they're paying attention to content rather than composition.
Transcendence manages to put up one eye-catching image after another, yet never engaged me for more than a moment, therefor it received a rating of 5/10 from me. And with all the great films being released around this time, I wouldn't recommend this as a priority viewing.
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This Spider-Man is indeed amazing - But the web spun around it feels clumsy
This Spider-Man is indeed amazing, but the web spun around the film is somewhat clumsy, with too many fuzzy strands to do the wall crawler justice.
Okay, now that the obligatory Spidey metaphor is out of the way - Amazing Spider-Man 2 is in my opinion stronger than it's predecessor but falls far short of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 benchmark. Might not be a fair comparison though since I still contend that Raimi's Spider-Man 2 is in my top 5 comic book films of all time. Garfield is cutting the perfect figure as the web slinger and sharing an infectious on screen chemistry with Emma Sone as Gwen Stacey.
But my beef with this films lays with two main problems - the writers and the director. Sure, there was some bad acting as well, but I believe that was due to the script the actors were handed.
Let me say, I enjoyed this film, in fact I really enjoyed this film but I do have to talk about the parts that I didn't enjoy first so I can get to the good stuff later.
Okay so problem number one, the writing in this film is bad, like blatantly bad. I mean, they nailed Spideys comic-book-perfect sarcasm but other than that.. nope not cutting it. I looked the writers up on IMDb to see the rest of credits... mystery solved! It's scripted by the same duo behind the Transformers franchise - suddenly it's shortcomings become more understandable. Kurtzman and Orci are masters of ''whizz-bang'' ''oohs'' and ''aahs'' shoehorned into a mechanical plot provided to advance the story but nothing more. All the baddie origins here make you wistful for the Sandman creation sequence in Spider-Man 3, which isn't something I thought I'd ever say. Electro is lumbered with a shockingly clichéd birth with Foxx struggling (and failing) to make him anything more than the film's time bomb to be diffused. The electric effects are great though if that makes up for anything, and his face-offs with Spidey really do pop.
Problem number two is that of director Marc Webb - Webb struggles to maintain a coherent tone, often veering between hyper-real CGI mayhem and soft-focus Twilight-esque teen dreaminess. This is what really threw me off - one second you're watching this great spectacle of an action scene, and then within literally seconds the scene along with the dialogue turns to this really cheesy nonsensical Twilight-esque love scene but with Garfield in tights. I guess the best way to describe it would be like squinting to focus your eyes – all the elements are there but you just can't quite see them all at once. You could tell the film is designed to attract audiences of all demographics, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing - if only it didn't make everything feel shoehorned in. It basically struggles to be it's own thing, even if Raimi's incarnation weren't to your taste, the films did clearly have a defined style that made them distinctive.
I feel kind of like saying more would spoil the film and it's still good enough to avoid doing that.
Aaand finally we get to the things I liked about the film, credit where credit is due.
This Spidey flick does go places that the previous incarnation shied away from and even tweaks the tear ducts ever so slightly at points. Comic-book fans will certainly be pleased to see some elements - Spidey's sarcasm - be more in line with the comic books.
The film opens with public support growing in the web heads favor as Parker graduates high school and starts college. However, Spider-Man finds himself up against a new foe - Electro played by Jamie Foxx. Meanwhile the return of his childhood friend Harry Osborn played by Dane DeHaan threatens to throw his life into even further chaos. As to be expected, cue plenty of plot twists that anyone with half a brain could see coming from a mile away and mayhem on a city-wide scale. You certainly can't fault it for its scope.
People have been so scared of the amount of villains in the film, pretty much everyone I know was expecting another Spider-Man 3 fiasco – but I have to say, the clutter of villains is actually more about setting up spin-offs and further sequels than overcrowding. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the villains work though – they are hampered by mechanical plotting which of course leads back to the writing that also holds Webb's film back from really hitting the heights it could've.
At least Webb and the writers do wrap up and tie a bow on the somewhat irritating parents-as-spy-scientists story thread, thankfully not robbing Peter of his ''ordinary Joe'' back story as the first film threatened to do. With the past dealt with, you realize how much time has been spent on it and with the middle of the film getting dangerously close to being boring. This is especially frustrating when we're rushed into the final reel, ruing the lack of time for stronger character work that could have made the ensuing drama even more impactive.
As the credits roll, the exciting action and Spidey's comic-book-perfect sarcasm stay longest in the mind, just winning the day, along with Garfield and Stone's genuinely effective relationship. It's just a shame they're not better served by a film that isn't the sum of its often- inspired parts.
But here's the big question - If you find yourself standing at your cinema with a choice between The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Captain America 2, Marvel still triumphs in my opinion. Spidey is always worth watching though and admittedly did leave me with a desire to see more.
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Sunshine is a visually stunning, suspenseful science fiction thriller, taking a turn for somewhat of a horror towards the end. But it takes a humanist approach to its subject. This dystopian future is set in 2057, where a team of international astronauts are sent on a dangerous mission to "re-ignite" the dying sun with a nuclear fission bomb on board a giant spacecraft called Icarus II. Very clever name, I must say, for those of you who don't get the pun please watch the film and then google the Greek myth of Icarus. But anyway, the sun has started unexpectedly to lose its power, throwing the Earth into a perpetual winter, compelling humanity to send a spacecraft (Icarus I) that carries a stellar bomb payload intended to re-ignite it. But the Icarus I was lost for reasons unknown, having failed in its mission. So Earth had to send a second spacecraft with a new payload, the Icarus II, in a final attempt, as the Earth has been exhausted of the materials necessary to make the bomb. The Icarus II must now strive not to end up with the same faith, making the crew humanity's last hope.
The movie stars Cillian Murphy as Capa, an astronaut physicist charged with the mission of exploding a large, extremely powerful nuclear device into the sun to re-ignite it and save the Earth. However their plans go quite awry, as Icarus II nears the sun, the crew discovers a distress signal from another spacecraft the Icarus I. Having been previously lost seven years ago, there is no way the crew could have survived, but even if the crew there are dead, the spacecraft is still armed with the same payload as the Icarus II and this may give the crew two chances to re-ignite the sun if the first was to fail. Captain Kaneda, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, lets Capa make the decision seeing as he is the only physicist on board and therefore knows more about the physics behind the bombs. Capa runs a simulation of the bomb's deployment and detonation, which like all previous runs is inconclusive due to the unpredictable variables inherent in the physics inside a gravity well. After a risk assessment, Capa decides the chances of the first attempt being successful are too slim to risk the faith of mankind, so they go for it. But as you'd suspect, things start to go wrong, setting the crew's nerves, as well as the viewer's, on edge.
The special effects of Sunshine are amazing, the set design and editing are on the same superb level. The story is tense, exciting and gripping. Even though the revelation of what happened to the crew on the first spaceship is somewhat uninspired at best. There are not enough good things to be said about Danny Boyle, I think I've done nothing short of love every movie of his I've seen. From Slumdog Millionaire to Trainspotting, he truly has an impressive body of work. Even though the last act of the film took a giant turn in tone, becoming more of a horror/thriller, which I wouldn't have had that much of a problem with had the main antagonist not been really really far fetched and somewhat ruined my suspension of disbelief for what otherwise was an amazing film. But I blame Alex Garland for poor writing on that part.
But the score in this film.. holy wow, it is insane how good it is. I saw some trivia for the film on IMDb mention that over ten other major blockbuster films borrowed the score, including the trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past. But wow is it understandable, some of the shots and scenes coupled with this score is truly iconic, and will probably be imprinted in my mind as one of the top spots whenever I reflect on epic cinematic moments.
Fun fact, Cillian Murphy said working on this film is what tipped him over from agnosticism to atheism.
All things considered, I'd give this film a strong 8/10. Would've been 9/10 if it wasn't for that last weird act probably.
Not just a comic book movie, but also a political action-thriller!
With Rogers, Fury, and Romanoff having already been previously established, Joe and Anthony Russo do a pretty damn good job directing the expansion of these characters by providing more depth to understanding their actions and how they will affect future stories – of course, this is a comic book film so there is always going to be some underdeveloped characters there to advance the plot or deliver snappy one-liners.
I enjoyed Sam Jackson as Nick Fury more in this film than previously, I felt he had a stronger presence this time around. I never quite understood what Nick Fury does, I mean think about it. He assembled The Avengers and all, he sometimes gives them orders but other than that? He always felt somewhat underdeveloped to me, like a character who could only exist in the presence of The Avengers and who would disappear and reappear as they came and went. That's why I love what they did with his character in this film, validating Nick Fury as a main staple in the Marvel Cinematic Universe among the big boys.
Chris Evans is pretty much as you'd expect from what you've seen him do, he truly was the best casting choice for Captain America. Is he amazing, acting wise? – No, not by a mile. Is he good enough? -Yes definitely. This is a comic book movie, we're not exactly going for an Oscar for best leading actor. That being said, Evans portrays the earnestness of Captain America's black and white moral with a decent enough finesse.
When we meet Rodgers in the film he has matured since The Avengers, in The Avengers he was almost immediately thrown in to this huge task of saving the world along with the others after just being awakened. Here he has had time and is now stronger, faster, wiser, he understands modern technology (to an extent) and he is now also equipped with better fighting skills. All around he is basically now a much more refined soldier. Whilst having brought up Cap's improved fighting skills, just a quick FYI, this movie is clearly the most superior Marvel film yet when it comes to the fighting choreography. Just splendid.
The film introduces a band of new characters, some heroes, some foes. But all of whom play a more significant role than previous Marvel films have given their side characters, which helps create a more layered and conceivably real film (and cinematic universe).
The Winter Soldier's presence is terrifying when it comes to any action sequence, Sebastian Stan really does do a remarkable job holding his own in the intense fight scenes. The connection between Rogers and The Winter Soldier is dealt with true care and excels the story of Captain America from the first film brilliantly.
I have to mention something that really caught me by surprise. This is not just your average comic book movie, this is also a political action- thriller. And one that is done well at that, it's hard making a good comic book movie and the Russo's did it with elements of a political action-thriller. That alone, earns it a spot in the top 3 Marvel's Cinematic Universe films for me so far. Tonally, The Winter Soldier is dark. Grimm. I've noticed this seems to be the tone aimed for by Marvel in phase 2, Thors sequel was "darker" than it's predecessor as well. The film raises a lot of deep-seated questions about the government and the soldiers of war while also taking Rogers on an emotional journey.
What still baffles me is the fact that the Russo brothers come from a background of directing television comedies such as Arrested Development and Community, I remember seeing the directorial announcement Marvel/Disney put out about bringing them on to direct and I was instantaneously turned off by the idea. Don't get me wrong, I love Arrested Development and Community and I think what they did there was amazing bit I just couldn't see the reason they's put them up to this. It's extraordinary how well they handle a big budget action blockbuster from cinematography to pacing. They do infuse their own style of comedy with fun references and a cameo other than Stan Lee, functioning properly within the confines of the tone and story. The score was also awesome, not the most memorable ever but awesome nonetheless. Henry Jackman composes an adrenaline pumping score that sets the right mood every time.
Now, I did have some gripes with the film and the main one being this one.
The Winter Soldier does not address the whereabouts of other heroes or where we are in terms of the time line of the other movies. Why can't Captain America call on Tony Stark to help him out or even Hawkeye who is a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. himself. It's even illogical for them not to receive a call from Cap given what Cap learns and how vital that info would be to anyone who is working or has ever worked with S.H.I.E.L.D. This is a recurring problem we have seen throughout Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World. Marvel Studios needs to acknowledge this hiccup if they want us to continue to believe all of these characters live in the same universe together, otherwise the viewers will drop their suspension of disbelief. You cannot exclude these characters once you have opened Pandora's Box.
Marvel Studios has hit this one out of the ball park with yet another gripping adaptation for fans to enjoy. It is the perfect set up for future films and at the same time it increases the value of its predecessors.
Be sure to stick around for the credits because there are two after credit scenes. All things considered, this film will receive a strong 8/10.
Good film, but if this would've won Best Picture perhaps the con would've been on us
American Hustle is written and directed by David O. Russel
So, here comes what most critics like to pick as the Oscar favorite – it shouldn't be, greater films than this has been released since (IMO), however there is no denying that this film has already been laden with a ton of award nods and a good amount of award wins. Such as award wins via the Golden Globes, the SAG etc. And a good amount of nods via the Oscars, BAFTA Awards etc.
This could be described as director David O. Russel's own mini-avengers, he re-teams with his actors from The Fighter (Bale and Adams) and Silver Linings Playbook (Cooper and Lawrence) to bring you a 70′s period comedy/crime piece, some of which "actually happened", according to an on screen caption at the start.
Now, here's my thought and opinions on the film, but first off let me tell you that it is OK for me and you to disagree in some areas, that's what makes the film community so great and awesome. All film is subjective. That being said, let's jump in.
American Hustle is a good film with more comedy than perhaps you'd be expecting – BUT it's just that, a good film. Not the masterpiece critics have been raving about. Its over-the-top nature is very evident in many places of the film, and tonally, occasionally I can see how that would wrong foot the audience.
Lavished with Oscar nods for acting, it's fair to say that in my opinion Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper are the only ones who deserve the nods. Now, I don't think either of them deserve to win (perhaps Bale), but at least I think they both deserve it more so than Adams and Lawrence. Lawrence who I fear may be going home with her second Oscar this year, which would be undeserved for this role. Had she been nominated for HG: Catching Fire, I might have been a lot more OK with it.
From the start, Bale convinced me as the film opens with a long one-take scene (which I love) whilst he exerts massive effort to create the perfect comb-over.
Lawrence, as Irving's young wife who behaves like a brat (and admittedly brings some funny moments) plays her character kind of over the top, I got the sense of over acting, this isn't to say she was bad but definitely not as good as she is getting cred for. I mean even Jeremy Renner puts her to shame with a very quietly dignified character as someone who's trying to do the best for his people and the city.
Now something I think should only be used to a certain degree in a film like this, is the use (or rather over-use) of voice overs. Now, in a film like The Wolf of Wallstreet the story is told from a single and specific POV, that's why it works. It is him telling us his side of a story.
But in a film like this, no.. The over-use of voice overs leads to feelings of dizziness and convolution in the story. I think on some level Russel aimed at disorienting and confusing the audience, perhaps it was to take our minds away from the fact that you never really cared all that much about most characters in the film, and as the story unfolds it's almost as if Russell is determined and will stop at nothing to stop you from keeping up.
In fact, American Hustle is really a simple story. It is a simple story that has been put layer upon layer of unnecessary convolution. At its heart, it's about the pursuit of the American dream, but that does not shine through in the end. The movie has some pretty good comedic elements to it, and I think Louis C.K. is to thank for a lot of it. I've seen some critics call this David O. Russel's version of "Goodfellas", personally I think it might be his attempt at making his own classic but it does not come close.
All in all, American Hustle is all about the spin; ultimately shallow but with some great performances, admittedly it's a very intriguing choice for such awards success, because whilst it's still a solidly showy film, it's not a totally engrossing one, with costumes, scenery and era recreation taking centre stage.
Maybe best costume or set design or something like that, maybe (but not really) even best cinematograpghy.
But if this movie wins Best Picture, the con is perhaps, on us.
Gravity is visually amazing, but the dialogue is far from perfect
Gravity is written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón along with his son Jonás Cuarón and George Clooney collaborating on a sequence of the films script.
Just like American Hustle, Gravity is nominated for 10 Oscars and is the front runner in a lot of categories according to critics.
What stands out me, is the nomination for best actress in a leading role for Sandra Bullock. Whilst I think Sandra Bullock is an amazing actress and all, I do not think she deserves an Oscar nom for this, I would even go as far as to say she was quite bad in some parts but I'll get into that later.
What I do think this movie deserves however, is without a doubt a win for best visual effects, this really blew everything out of the water. If it turns out the award goes to one of the other noms, I think that would be more than lame.
Gravity is overall a great film, it had a lot of great aspects to it but got a little brought down by some not so great aspects.
On the great side, there was the visual effects, they were stunning. Especially seeing it in IMAX 3D, I usually prefer seeing films in 2D but man this movie used it to perfection.
There was also the great directing, Alfonso Cuarón really got it right with this and deserves pretty much all the praise he is getting right now.
However on the not so great side, there's the screenplay. It was very inconsistent, you could tell that the two people writing it were just not on the same level.
The dialogue was more than cheesy at some points, it got pretty bad. At some points it was great, and at some point maybe even awful. Yep, definitely felt inconsistent.
This is why I feel it might be a little unfair of me to say that I don't think Bullock deserves an Oscar for this, pretty much all of her weak acting was in the sequences with the poor writing and there isn't much an actor can do about a poor script. But yeah.. I'm sticking to my opinion.
Clooney on the other hand, I loved and I think it has a lot to do with how moderately his character was used.
From what I've heard from people who's met actual American astronaut "veterans", he embodies it perfectly. He definitely had some great line delivery and did very well with his facial acting.
Overall this film was great, does it deserve to win for best picture however?
Perhaps, I wouldn't be jumping out of my chair in anger if it did. But definitely best visual effects, without a doubt.
But maybe leave your son out of the loop on your next project Alfonso..