Tag Archives: action

Film Review : Elysium

Elysium PosterEarth of the mid-21st century is a giant slum. All the rich people live lives of luxury on a giant space station, Elysium, and access is tightly guarded with lethal force. The best part of living on Elysium is a amazing medical technology that can reconstruct bodies and cure almost anything in seconds. Everyone wants it but it is not available to anyone from Earth. Especially not to Max, ex-gangster gone straight, who has just received a massive dose of radiation that will kill him in 5 days. But Max’s ex-gangmates have a mechanical exoskeleton and a plan…

Elysium is the latest film from Neill Blomkamp, the director of District 9. Like the previous film, Elysium lays on the social commentary with a trowel but the tone has been sweetened (or perhaps watered down) into a more Hollywood-style consistency. This is much more of a straight action flick than District 9, and much more over-the-top.

The characters are pretty stock, but infused with just enough spark to be interesting. Matt Damon plays Matt Damon (a role he was born to play), Jodie Foster hams it up as the ambitious boss, and District 9‘s Sharlto Copley seems to be enjoying himself as the designated eeevil Sosth Aphrikan.

In these days of bloodless PG13 blockbusters, it is almost refreshing to actually see blood in a violent film. I am not sure where Hollywood got the idea that you can show all sorts of horrible events but still be suitable for young children so long as the consequences are kept just off screen. Elysium is not actually that violent as these things go, but it does have short sequences of gore appropriate for a R16 rating.

A big disappointment was that Elysium spent a lot of time establishing the pretty neat concept of an exhausted Earth and a pristine space habitat and then did almost nothing with it. The same film could be made substituting an island for the space station without changing the script. Where was the low gravity journey through the non-spinning hub sector, or people drilling through the outer hull into the super-structure? Instead we get a by-the-numbers Hollywood fight scene and a literally Deus Ex Rebooting-machina ending.

So Elysium is perfectly acceptable action fare, with a decent enough story that is well paced and somewhat free from plot holes. And it certainly looks good. It doesn’t make waves like District 9 did, but it doesn’t batter the audience’s intelligence too much either. A solid film if not a great one.

Recommended if you like this sort of thing

Film Review : Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim PosterA rift between dimensions has opened up somewhere under the Pacific Ocean, and every so often a giant monster comes through. These monsters wade out of the ocean and lay waste to any coastal city. With millions dead or displaced and the world economy ruined, humanity turns to the only obvious solution: build giant piloted robots to take the monsters on hand to hand. It works pretty for the first few years, but the monsters keep getting bigger…

On the surface, Pacific Rim is a deliberate throwback to the old Godzilla films – heavy on the action set pieces and wanton destruction. The characters are all hilariously over-the-top, most of the dialog is terrible and almost universally delivered at high volume in unplaceable accents by actors that look like they are having fun. Even the side plots areand entertaining. Pacific Rim’s charm lies in its apparent simplicity.

But beneathblockbuster exterior lies complex filmgently exploressubtle interplay between peoplein existential forces threaten to struggling with internalmotivations express masterclass in restraint

Highly recommended if you like this sort of thing.

Film Review : World War Z

A day that starts normally by taking the children to school in Philadelphia suddenly turns to mayhem as a virulent zombie plague breaks out. It soon becomes clear that the problem has spread world-wide, and ex-UN special investigator Brad Pitt is forced on a desperate mission across the globe to find a solution.

The poster for World War ZWorld War Z had a troubled production, with last minute reshoots and widely-reported script problems. But the finished product is a taut thriller with plenty of well-directed and suspenseful scenes as Brad Pitt navigates his family through hostile city streets. Later, when he is reluctantly sent back into the field from a position of relative safety, the film gets even better as Pitt follows uncertain leads, jumping around the world finding no sanctuary.

The one aspect that really stands out in World War Z is the varied locations, which are very well used. Different countries handle the plague in different ways, and the film takes little moments to reflect on the ramifications of these decisions. But not for long, World War Z is pretty much non-stop action.

I also appreciated that World War Z, although filled with all sorts of action, was not gory. For a zombie film there was almost no blood, which makes a nice change from the normal splattery fare. All the really bloody stuff happens just offscreen, or milliseconds after the camera cuts away, but it is cleverly done and the action still feels visceral without the viscera.

I was totally blown away but how great World War Z was, with fantastic special effects, good acting, and scary action. But all good things must come to an end. Unfortunately for World War Z this point comes about three quarters of the way through the film, not at the end credits as one would hope. At a certain point the film just slams to a halt, and the last 40 minutes seem to have be grafted on from a different, much less interesting production. The script changes tone and quality, becoming more of a cheap made-for-tv horror film; even the acting gets worse.

It is such a shame, because World War Z would have been a stone-cold classic if it had managed to maintain the pace and epic scale of the first 2 acts. I would still recommend this film, but prepare for disappointment.

Film Review : Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 PosterTony Stark, still stressed out from the events the occurred in The Avengers, picks a fight with a mysterious terrorist known only as The Mandarin. Stuff happens and he eventually wins.

I really enjoyed the first Iron Man film, it managed to be a witty counter-point to the dour hero cliché. Iron Man 2 was weakly plotted rubbish, but Tony Stark was the best part of The Avengers. So it is at least theoretically possible that Iron Man 3 could have been a fine film. Sadly, the film makers seem to have forgotten what made Iron Man so much fun.

First the good parts. Iron Man 3 is well put together and contains lots of fairly well directed action. Fans of things zipping around and exploding will not be disappointed. The acting is appropriate with Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin being a particularly entertaining standout.

The main problem with Iron Man 3 is the plot. The villain is suitably comic-booky, but his plan doesn’t really make a lot of sense and Tony Stark only gets involved for the most tenuous of reasons. This leads to a long sequence where Stark bonds with a kid who teaches him the real meaning of Christmas. Or something. I don’t know, it was pretty lame and saved only the kid actually being a pretty good actor. There are a few laugh-out-loud moments but the film jumps tone so often that it is had to make out what the producers were going for, action comedy or just gritty action. It is a little jarring.

Of course, it all comes to a suitably grand finale which might have been a neat surprise if it wasn’t spoiled in the trailer. At least Pepper Potts gets her own subplot, even if it goes nowhere. Also, Iron Man 3 contains the single most blatantly silly product placement I have ever seen, I hope Oracle paid well because they certainly got some screen time.

Iron Man 3 is not a terrible film, just a very forgettable experience. Recommended only if you like this sort of thing.

Film Review : Oblivion

Poster for the film OblivionAliens arrived and tried to take over Earth. The humans beat them back, all-but destroying the surface in the process. Now decades later, a couple is assigned to look after the massive reactor plants producing the fuel required to power humanity’s migration. The fuel plants need protecting because some of the aliens are still around and seem pretty bitter about losing.

Oblivion is a decent attempt at an action sci-fi blockbuster. It is entertaining in all the right ways and gorgeous to look at. The design work is fantastic from the cool house in the clouds that the couple live in to the blasted landscape of the ruined Earth, to whatever process they used on Tom Cruise to make him look 20 years younger. It all looks impeccable.

You may not want to read the rest of the review, so I will just up front say that Oblivion is a decent film if you like this sort of thing, with a few lapses that prevent it from becoming really great. Oblivion really isn’t clever enough to avoid spoiling but if you really don’t want to know anything stop reading now…
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