Posted tagged ‘Film Review’

Insidious Film Review by Sam

May 22, 2011

I have always struggled to distinguish between the genres of horror and thriller. When someone asks me to tell him or her if a particular film is a thriller or horror, I am never quite sure what answer to give. Well, what does the dictionary say?

The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary defines the word horror as a “painful feeling of loathing and fear” and thriller as “exciting or sensational,” which therefore leads me to, well not much of a conclusion.

I guess, perhaps, a film can be both ‘thriller’ and ‘horror’. To me, when I think of thriller, I think of jumpy scenes and twists, whereas horror seems like it’s more of the gory stuff.

Why am I trying to define horror and thriller films, I hear you ask? Well, quite plainly it’s because I’m trying to decide what sort of film Insidious was. Which leads me to my first film review of the year (I know, that’s horrendous it has taken this long).

Insidious Film Poster

I’d like to say I’m a follower of both James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s career, mainly because I absolutely loved their first feature film (you may have heard of it, it’s a little film called SAW), and because, like me, they’re both Aussies. So needless to say, I was anticipating Insidious quite a bit.

Let me highlight what I did and didn’t like about it.

Firstly, similarly to SAW, it had a tight budget of around $1 million, but unlike SAW, I could tell. It may have been their intention, but it just felt a like it struggled on some of the technical aspects. For example, whilst for the most part the cinematography was quite good, I just felt there was a lack of quality to the image – it just didn’t have that cinematic feel like most films do. Secondly, it felt to me as if there were a lot of missing elements, the most obvious were some sound effects. Perhaps they ran too tightly to the budget and so they had to skip out on a few elements, or maybe it was an intentional choice made by the director, but I found this to be somewhat distracting.

I thought the director; James Wan handled the content of this film brilliantly. His work on this film was extremely unique and there were so many exceptional stylistic elements that I found fascinating. Wan did succeed in achieving the ‘old-style,’ classic thriller he was going for, and I think it takes huge talent to pull off what he did.

On another note, the story could have been a bit better. Now, in saying this, I realise I should have known full well that this was going to be a supernatural film, but I felt it just went a little too far. The entire build up during the first half of this film was good, although it did at times feel like a professionally filmed version of Paranormal Activity. Additionally, as the film progressed I felt that rather than leaving things to the imagination of the audience, the filmmaker’s became too blatant with what they showed.

The highlight of the film was the comic relief that came in the form of the screenwriter Leigh Whannell and fellow Aussie actor, Angus Sampson. Whilst displaying great performances, they also provided many laughs, and I was thrilled with their inclusion in the film.

The ending was quite good also. Whilst the film didn’t do the full 180-degree twist as SAW did (which was a little disappointing that it didn’t), it did have this extra element, which gave the film a thrilling finish; so props to the writers for that.

Whilst I am aware that the filmmakers are trying to escape from the identity that SAW has given them, I believe that they should remain on the path of ‘plausible’ films, rather than supernatural thrillers. I believe they succeeded extremely well at pulling of a classic supernatural thriller film (which seems to be a tough thing to do these days), but I just feel that there’s just more scope for them outside of this supernatural genre.

Nonetheless, it was a successful supernatural thriller, but due to the fact I am not a huge fan of this genre, I give it 3 film reels out of 5.



Predators Film Review by Sam

July 18, 2010

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve seen Arnie strut his stuff in the original Predator and whilst that film wasn’t the greatest work of art I’ve seen, I was still quite intrigued to see Predators. Before we jump into the review, I would like to answer some questions people may or may not be thinking about the film. Firstly, Predators isn’t a remake or prequel. It’s a sequel to the original two Predator films. Secondly, Predators disregards any information revealed in the Alien vs. Predator films, as the director himself states, “it was… the AVP films we’ve dismissed.” 1

Now that that’s clear, let’s move forward with the review.

Whilst I was intrigued to see Predators, I didn’t have a whole lot to go on. I think the best I had was a few T.V. spots here and there. I didn’t know what it was about, and I wasn’t sure where it was going with the franchise, it just looked like it could be a bit of fun.

And that’s what it was, a bit of fun. The story line was actually interesting; a group of people are thrown off a plane onto an unknown island and start getting hunted for some reason, (let me assure you, there is a reason). It reminded me a fair bit of The Condemned, where people are thrown onto an island to fight in a battle to the death, and I actually enjoyed that film, so naturally I was pleased with the set-up provided in Predators.

The direction of the film was fine, and it made the film easy to understand. The location was great for a film like this. Some of the effects were a little under par, which was a little distracting at times, but luckily the film didn’t rely heavily on special effects – so it wasn’t overly frustrating.

Adrien Brody portrays the hero in Predators.

Whilst a majority of the film’s dialogue was well written, and served what the creators of the films were going for, I felt that Adrien Brody in his role as the hero had a lot of cliché lines. His delivery didn’t help too much as well, so I guess it was a combination of him trying to be the tough guy and the writers wanting him to be the hero that made it somewhat corny. I will say that it was pretty cool to see Brody as the action-hero as oppose to a lot of the other roles he has done in his career, just thought I’d mention that.

It was interesting to note how many famous people were in this, Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne and Topher Grace (best known for his work on That 70’s Show). I actually thought it was pretty cool when each of these characters were introduced, and I though to myself, “hey, it’s that guy, I didn’t realise he was in this.” Respect for their contribution to this film.

Predators has done a good job of rebooting the franchise with a fresh and unique approach to the film, whilst also maintaining the elements we loved about the original. This film, like its predecessors will most likely steer clear of critic adoration and acclamation, and probably won’t win many, if any of the most esteemed awards, but for me, it was great fun, and good entertainment.

3.5 film reels.

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Toy Story 3 Film Review by Sam

June 29, 2010

I told myself I wouldn’t do a review of this film, and do you know why? Because this movie was so bloomin’ good! It was so flippin’ good that I thought I might ruin it for myself by writing a review. Plus, I didn’t know what to say, and I thought I should just leave it as an indescribable film-going experience. But, I eventually thought I should at least give you a small little taste of what I thought.

Let me stress, this is not a normal review, more like a heads up to go and watch this movie as soon as you possibly can.

Toy Story 3 Poster

I felt so joyful watching this film. Being reintroduced to all the characters, of which I adored when I was a young little tot, brought a strong sense of excitement inside of me, a feeling I don’t think I’ve felt when watching a film for some time.

The story was brilliant. Totally suitable for a final instalment, yet also leaving it somewhat open; should the producers decide to pursue more sequels. The old characters were their same, lovable, hilarious selves, and the new characters were a great addition to the series.

I’m not going to say anymore, you’ll just have to wait to go and watch it yourselves – and you should go watch it whilst it’s still playing at the cinema.

I wasn’t going to give this film a rating, but what the heck:

5 out of 5!

Animal Kingdom Review by Sam

June 24, 2010

To be honest, I feel very fortunate to have been able to view the new Australian film, Animal Kingdom. It was recommended to me via my sister, who said she had heard some pretty good reviews in regards to it. Being an Aussie film, I was naturally sceptical at first, considering the fact that a good Australian made film is a rarity, and I haven’t watched a solid one since, I don’t know, Gallipoli? Naturally, I decided to watch the trailer to see what all the fuss was about. It was intrigued, and the biggest element that pulled me in to watch was the fact it had Guy Pearce in one of the leading roles. I then decided I should watch the film, and make my own assumptions – and I’m definitely glad I did.

Animal Kingdom Poster

Let me just quickly point out that I am generalising Australian cinema when I say that a good Australian made film is a rarity. There have been loads of exceptional films brought to you from the land down under, Gallipoli, The Piano, Babe, Shine and The Castle just to name a few pre-21st century ones, and I am in no way saying that there has been a lack of great Aussie films. Rather, I am stating that there has been a recent lack of brilliant Aussie films, and Animal Kingdom is the first in a long while.

To tell you the truth, I don’t think there was one thing about this film of which I didn’t enjoy, and I hold almost every element in high regards. So with that in mind, don’t expect to read about the negatives of this film, as I can’t think of any. Here we go.

Guy Pearce in Animal Kingdom

Guy Pearce - a strong drawing point.

The biggest stand out for me personally, and I’m sure for anyone who watched this film, was by far the acting. Every single person in this film did an outstanding job with the script, and rather than being aware that I was watching people act, I felt like I was simply watching people live, that is; the actors became who they were portraying. This was superior to any Australian film I’ve watched in a long time, and it was such a relief to not have to think about that element in a negative way. I want to give special mention to the protagonist, played by James Frecheville. Frecheville was outstanding, and the fact that this film was his debut came as a large surprise to me. A quick note also to Joel Edgerton and Guy Pearce, both of whom excelled in the characters they were portraying.

Additionally, the script was superb. Let me just say that for an Aussie film, it usually lacks a strong budget, which will in turn result in the lack of top notch actors and top notch cinematography and everything else, and so the script is usually all it has going for itself. So despite the fact Animal Kingdom had some good backing (money-wise) from the government and other various sources, the script still rates up there with one of the best Australian scripts in a long while. It was a great thing to know that whilst they did have some money, they didn’t just rely on that to create something good. It was obvious that writer and director David Michod put a lot of effort into the script.

On the note of David Michod, his direction of this film was great, and the decisions he made served the plot well. His dark and gritty style gave the film a realistic tone, which was great for the pacing of the plot, and emphasised the lifestyle these characters were leading.

Australian Cinema

Click for more iconic Australian Films

Some may think that the only reason I enjoyed this film so much was because it is an Australian film and in comparison to a lot of other recent Aussie films, it was great. In one sense, I will say that this is something that has crossed my mind, and yes it is true that this film is great in comparison to a lot of other Aussie films made in the past. But, I think that I would have enjoyed this film no matter where it came from, and no matter who, or what country for that matter made it. I just wanted to point that out.

One final thing before I dish out my rating, is that I believe this could be a possible contender to bring back the Aussie films into the Academy Awards spotlight, hopefully with a foreign film nomination (yes, Australian films can get this type of nomination), or even some other, more prominent awards.

Whew, okay, that’s done, and I can now give the rating.

I give it 4.5.

4.5 Film Reels

You may be asking what it the reason it didn’t get a 5 out of 5 when all I did was praise it? Well, let me just say, when I walk out of a cinema, I know when I’ve seen a perfect film, in my own mind that is. This happens very rarely, and is a unique feeling; one I cannot describe. But for Animal Kingdom, I did not experience this feeling, hence the 4.5

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Film Review by Sam

May 29, 2010

When preparing myself to watch the somewhat anticipated Prince of Persia, I was in the mood to be entertained. So I purchased some drumsticks with a mate, took my seat, and relaxed. For this film, I didn’t want to have to think too much about complicated plot lines and lots of character development. I needed a break from this, as it’s all I’ve been watching of late. Luckily for me, Prince of Persia was exactly that, an entertaining film, nothing more, and nothing less.
Prince of Persia Poster
Firstly, this film was very heavy on the CGI, and didn’t hold back, even when they probably should have. Was this necessarily a bad thing? Not entirely. It fitted with the style of the film, but I guess a more realistic approach could have made the film even just a little bit better. There were a couple of scenes in which I could quite clearly tell that it was CGI and not real, and this caused me to be momentarily pulled out of my viewing experience, but it was nothing too drastic or too delayed, and I whilst a quick thought concerning the authenticity of the scene would pop into my head, I was able to quickly get back to the film.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia

Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia

The performances were so-so. Jake Gyllenhaal was good in the titular role, but not great He managed to pull off the crazy martial arts action hero, but not so much his accent. It’s not that it was all over the place, but more so it just felt like it didn’t fit in every scene. Mind you, I was pleased to see he went for an accent a bit more left of field, rather than just doing the cliché American, tough guy accent. The rest of the cast were okay too. I don’t think the performances were meant to be Oscar worthy performances, which is why I will let it slip the one time.

Some of the scenes were a bit too corny and cliché. The delivery and placement of some dialogue was what we’ve all seen too much before, and it was a shame they couldn’t put their own unique twist on these particular scenes. None-the-less, as I mentioned before, these scenes did provide entertainment, and some comic relief, which is okay for them to do.

The story was fine, and was paced quite nicely. From the get-go I was drawn in to the action, and at no point did I feel the film dragging. For an action packed film, this is what a viewer wants.

For a film that is based off a video game, it does well for itself. Although it could have been great, and some may have even called it the next Pirates of the Caribbean. It decided to take the easy option and just go with the typical blockbuster movie formula. That’s not necessarily to say it wasn’t good or entertaining, which I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that I did indeed think this film was entertaining, but I’m just saying it the potential to kick start another franchise that not only captured the hearts of avid blockbuster fans, but even the hearts of the harshest of critics.

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean

Regardless, I give it 3 film reels.


A Single Man Film Review by Sam

May 25, 2010

Well, what to say about A Single Man? Although most wouldn’t classify this film as an art-house film, in my professional opinion, plainly speaking: it is.

A Single Man Poster

Let me just say, I had a very frustrating viewing of this film. For the entire first half of the film, the speakers were playing at a level quieter to the volume I have my television set to back at home. This meant that I struggled to hear a lot of what was happening, and every time someone ate a chip or rustled a packet of confectionary, you couldn’t hear a thing. The second issue was this large humming/buzzing noise that came into the movie about a third of the way in. This meant in any scenes that were meant to be silent for effect, I heard this constant drone, and I was pulled out of my watching experience. Very frustrating!

Onwards to the review.

It’s a very different type of film, not so much in the story that it tells, but more so in the way that the story is told. By that I mean the techniques that were put in place to evoke emotion, to grasp audience members and to delve into what could be considered a strange film on many proportions.

Let me begin with the cinematography. Yes, it was good in parts, but I could only deal with it in small portions. I’m not sure if this film was filmed on film (yes I know I just used the word film three times in the space of five words), or if it was shot on digital, but either way, there was a large amount of grain in more than a few scenes. Usually, I enjoy a bit of grain, and I think that it adds a certain realistic aspect and tone – but too much can get distracting, as was the case with A Single Man.

For a directorial debut, Tom Ford did a good job, but you can tell he will only get better from here. One thing I would like to comment on was Ford’s use of the flashbacks, and how he portrayed them. This element was really all over the place. Some flashbacks were more saturated in colour, some had the same colouring as the rest of the film, and some were in black and white. I wasn’t sure what Ford’s intentions were for doing this, and it had me confused. Other than that, Ford did fine, and his direction served its purpose well.

I would like to make a comment on the editing and the way the audio was incorporated. Firstly, there were a few jump-cuts that looked intentional, but just felt out of place, which therefore came to me as a distracting feature. Additionally, there were some scenes where the audio cut back to just one sound – let me explain. So one scene in which this takes place is when Colin Firth’s character breaks down and runs through the rain to Julianne Moore’s characters’ house. During this scene, no footsteps running through the rain can be heard, no panting from Colin Firth’s character, no knock on the door and no comforting voice of Julianne Moore’s character – only the heavy rain falling down. At first I thought the cinema’s speakers were playing up again, but then I realised it was a deliberate technique the director had used, and I’m still not too sure why. Again, it was a distracting feature, and had me somewhat frustrated.

To me, the story was not that interesting, save for very few elements. It developed very slowly, and it wasn’t til the end that I felt some sort of satisfaction.

The only real element that saved this film for me was the acting of Colin Firth. Firth delivers one of the greatest performances of his career, and shows such immense emotion that it creates a great deal of sympathy within the audience. Firth proves that he is one of the greats, and he is still got a lot more in his career to come – and he garnered himself with an Academy Award nomination. The supporting cast were so-so, some were great (Julianne Moore), some were good (Matthew Goode), and some were a little on the corny side (Nicholas Hoult).

Colin Firth in A Single Man

Colin Firth delivers a great performance in A Single Man

So, to briefly wrap up, it wasn’t a film that jumped out of the screen and grabbed me, it was a little strange, and the technical elements were a little too distracting. Colin Firth made this film ‘pass’ in my opinion, and so I give it 2.5

2 and a Half Film Reels

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Review by Sam

May 5, 2010

The title of this film made me quite sceptical when going in to watch this film. In all honesty, I thought it was going to be a marshal arts type film that dealt with a master training a young protégée to become a great fighting hero. I had heard nothing of the film, I hadn’t seen the trailer, and was only viewing the film because it was assigned by my University lecturer. Not only that, but when I heard the film ran for over 160 minutes, I became even less enthused.

Well, let me tell you that I was quite surprised. Now this isn’t to say I loved the film, but it was not what I thought it was going to be at all.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Poster

Rather, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a foreign film, a Swedish film to be more precise, that focuses on a murder-mystery, that has now become a cold case, and concentrates on the lives of a middle aged man, Mikael Blomkvist trying to get to the bottom of who it was that committed the crime. The film also directs its attention and a young woman, Lisbeth Salander, who has an extremely difficult life, and who is a secret hacker that joins forces with Mikael to solve the case.

This film is extremely confronting and quite graphic. The way certain scenes are portrayed are done so in an enormously realistic way, which made a lot of the scenes difficult to watch – and that’s coming from an avid lover of psychological-thrillers, in which I never have an issue with the content that’s shown on screen. In a way, this realistic content did convey a message, whether a key message or not, in an extremely effective way. But on the other hand, it left me feeling quite disturbed, and the scenes felt unnecessarily drawn out.

The script and story were extremely well thought out, as a film based on a book usually is, and the suspense was great – which I always enjoy. One thing that is contrary to what I usually say, is that the character development was too intense, and too in depth. They could have easily cut out a lot of the films running time by shortening scenes and leaving elements up to the audience to figure out, rather than showing everything as plain as can be – which I found quite irritating.

Additionally, the film had about five different endings. At one point I thought the film was complete, and as I looked at the time, I realised there was still a comfortable 45 minutes of the films duration remaining. It could have been done in a way that left the audience wanting more, and therefore it wouldn’t have surprised its audience by giving us another few endings. This was another somewhat confusing element of the film.

Other than these few elements that I found fairly disappointing, the film as an entirety was entertaining, thrilling, and had a great amount of twists and turns, of which I thoroughly enjoy in films. The cinematography was pleasing, the acting was more than satisfactory, and the sound and music, well apart from the nicely timed suspense scenes, I didn’t really notice them, which meant they served the plot well and were not distracting – always a positive.

Putting the positives, of which I only briefly spoke about, and the negatives together –

I give it three reels.