Category Archives: Short Reviews

Short Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

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It’s hard to not like this movie when you consider the previous film to be Michael Bay’s valedictory address. Transformers 3D (yes, I’m still sticking to that title) is a culmination of everything Michael Bay has learned in filmmaking (for better or for worse). To suddenly go back to the franchise when it was effectively concluded in the third film just reeks of everything rotten in the current Hollywood system.

“But Evil Dr. Bok,” some of you minions would groan, “You enjoy Michael Bay movies, The Rock, Bad Boys 2, and Transformers 3D to be exact. You even told your students that watching Michael Bay movies is to expect nothing but explosions explosions explosions. Heck, you enjoyed The Expendables, a movie which is essentially a corny 80s action flick made with contemporary sensibilities. Why the hate surrounding this movie?” The answer is simple; Bay-isms can only take the film so far.

Transformers 3D had a story, and that alone saved the film. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen had absolutely no direction in the plot, character, etc. While you may accuse Transformers 3D of committing the same atrocities, its crime to story-telling isn’t anywhere  near as criminal compared to Revenge of the Fallen. Age of Extinction’s plot is Revenge of the Fallen bad. What makes its frustratingly bad is that there are slivers of brilliance in the script. The idea of humans going against their saviors is actually a stroke of genius story wise. It actually challenges the Autobots’ faith in humanity; if humans will turn against their saviors, why save them to begin with? This is where Cade’s family enters. Yeah, it’s a cliche but it can work given the proper storytelling.

And let’s not forget about Lockdown, the primary Cybertronian antagonist in the film. This is actually one Cybertronian I’m scared of. This dude is scary; he’s ruthless, he’s badass, he’s cool. He holds no loyalty for the war between Autobots and Decepticons; that makes him scary.

These nuggets actually made the film for me, but they were unfortunately drowned in the excesses Bay usually presents in his films. The explosions are there; they still look gorgeous in typically Bay fashion but they lack something which was present in the earlier Transformers films. I can’t really pinpoint what it is, but I am under the impression that this film somehow lost the charm the three previous ones had. Everything here, except for the two points I mentioned, seems so disconnected. The film somehow feels half-baked, similar to how Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was. Sad to say, this film, I believe, is what Michael Bay makes when he is on auto-pilot. Yes, I’m saying it; despite my ultra low expectations for Transformers: Age of Extinction, this film is a bad film, even by Michael Bay standards. Do yourself a favor and wait for it once it reaches cable.

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Short Review: “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (In Question and Answer Form)

rs_634x939-140324091106-634.jennifer-lawrence-x-men.ls.32414I won’t be the harlot that I was in my Godzilla entry. Is X-Men: Days of Future Past any good? It depends on what you mean by “good”. If you consider ANY X-Men film better than X-Men: The Last Stand as good, then yes, this is a good film. If you think that a comic book film that perfectly captures the feel of a comic book reboot ala Crisis on Infinite Earths is good, then yes, Days of Future Past is good. If you think that a film that apologizes for the debacles that were X-Men: The Last StandX-Men Origins: Wolverine, and arguably The Wolverine, is considered good, then yes, X-Men: Days of Future Past is good. If you think that a movie which tries to be an Avengers is good, then yes, X-Men: Days of Future Past is good.

“But Evil Dr. Bok,” you guys ask, “is it THE best X-Men movie made?” I answer, “No, it would still be X2: X-Men United“. “Is it the best superhero movie ever made?” you continue. “No,” I reply, “that would still be Spider-Man 2, arguably The Dark Knight, and The Avengers“. I wouldn’t call X-Men: Days of Future Past overrated; I just enjoyed the earlier superhero films more. For now, I would say that the best superhero film of the year would still be Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Other than that, consider this a recommendation. 😉

 

Thoughts on “The Desolation of Smaug”

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Yes, I understand that Peter Jackson will never capture the lightning from The Lord of the Rings films, but that shouldn’t give him an excuse for a bloated, extended, and poorly plotted film that is The Desolation of Smaug. And for the record, I think the liberties taken in this film are a bit too distracting that to call this The Hobbit would be somewhat a disgrace to the source material.

But first, is this film worth watching? Right now, I would say, “Yes but not entirely.” Fans of the LOTR films (that is, those who just saw the films and not read the books) shouldn’t find anything wrong with this movie. Peter Jackson manages to keep things engaging with his direction and, admittedly, creative staging of the action sequences. Visually, the picture looks really pretty, and the HFR (high frame rate) isn’t as intrusive like it was in An Unexpected Journey. The 3D isn’t much though so I guess this is still something you’d equally enjoy on non-3D cinemas.

My biggest issue, though, is the pacing in between the action sequences. There are long moments where nothing happens. We have character developments and info dumps which doesn’t contribute much in advancing the plot or in the storyline whatsoever. More time was spent on the new character, Tauriel, which could have been used more in depicting the Bilbo/Ring dynamic. There was one scene which showed the Ring’s corrupting effect on Bilbo, and it was brilliant. We could have needed more scenes like this because this is a story about Bilbo; The Hobbit. I’m guessing these problems are inherent in STRETCHING a single book into three different movies, but it could have been fixed by focusing on the novel’s themes, and choosing the APPROPRIATE events from the Tolkien legendarium in developing and creating the cinematic Middle-earth.

Like I said early on, I wouldn’t go so much to say that this is an atrocious film. It isn’t a bad film, nor is it a good one. At its worst, this is a mere fantasy flick; a decent presentation of sound and fury, but not something which sticks to you, unlike The Fellowship of the Ring.

Hitting Two Birds with One Post (mostly Catching Fire and an underrated James Bond film)

First of all, I have finally seen Catching Fire on IMAX with my girlfriend a few days ago. For now all I have to say that it was pretty good. It is certainly an improvement over The Hunger Games, but overall, it’s at best just another YA film adaptation. It doesn’t break new ground, nor does it offer something life changing. At its best, it’s a pretty entertaining film, though a bit overlong at times.

Additionally, the Arena sequence was shot in IMAX so you can really see the screen filled up. I have reservations about this as the image quality isn’t that all impressive. At most, the IMAX resolution seemed to highlight the obviousness of the CGI so, yeah, it wasn’t all that impressive. I’m guessing the benchmark would still be Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (at least for the Burj Khalifa scene) for IMAX feature presentations. Still, check it out; it’s definitely sorth the Php401.

Secondly, I’ve been going on a James Bond marathon of sorts. So far I’ve seen Dr. NoFrom Russia with LoveGoldfinger, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (I’m planning to skip all but one Roger Moore flick). For films made in the Sixties, I definitely expected to see how certain aspects of the filmmaking have aged, especially the first three Sean Connery Bond flicks. However, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (OHMSS) was one which surprised me: while I admit that this film seemed to have aged, it didn’t age as much as compared to the first three ones.

Now, I don’t want to delve too much, but I really think that OHMSS is one of the best Bond films ever made next to Skyfall and Goldfinger. The character development is top-notch (though not necessarily George Lazenby‘s acting), and the action sequences are actually quite modern. There is a reason why Christopher Nolan did an homage to it in Inception; the ski-chase is indeed a well-photographed sequence, and despite certain aspects of it being aged, still hold up till now.

Thoughts on “Captain Phillips”

Before I proceed, I acknowledge that there are some out there who say that the film and the source material it came from are false and fabricated by the titular Captain Phillips. Regardless of whatever controversies this film might have gotten, I am giving my thoughts on Captain Phillips as a film and not a documentary.

That said, I think that the documentary approach to the film-making, while efficient in the first half of the film, kinda outstayed its welcome in the latter half. Don’t get me wrong: the film was decent, suspense-filled, and well-acted (though I would have to say that Tom Hanks‘s performance in Forrest GumpPhiladelphia, and Cast Away would still be the gold standard). Unfortunately, I get the feeling that it was maybe a bit too overlong, especially in the second half once Captain Phillips got himself kidnapped by the pirates.

The best parts of the film would have to be the initial hijacking attempt, and the actual hijacking. If anything, director Paul Greengrass deserves an Oscar just for those two scenes alone (emphasis on the word ALONE). The dynamics of trying to defend a merchant vessel without  using guns is hard enough to imagine, yet the film’s presentation of it (editing, Henry Jackman‘s score, and cinematograph) makes for an extremely suspenseful sequence which in the hands of a less-talented director would border on parody.

The problem was just the film got a bit dragged on in the last 40 minutes or so. I think maybe the director was opting for a very documentary approach to it, but somehow it got tiring. It could be argued that this is the point; to make us feel the fatigue that Phillips and the Somali pirates felt during that time and it might not be an issue for others, but for me at least, it felt like a punishment.

Overall, this film is still a recommended watch. It might not be Paul Greengrass’s best film (it would still be United 93 and , arguably, The Bourne Supremacy) but this is still something you guys ought to see.

Thoughts on “Man of Steel”

*This will be extremely short as I’m in the middle of something.

I’ve got to hand it to the marketing department of Warner Bros. If anything, Man of Steel is such a well-marketed piece of work that it definitely succeeded in creating a buzz. Add the fact that it was produced by Christopher Nolan, we’ve got a film that will be highly anticipated. And it’s usually when a film is heavily marketed that I can’t help but feel that something quite possibly be wrong.

Before I hear the multitude of angry mob crying out for my blood, let me quell down the incoming hate as this film wasn’t the extreme disappointment that is Prometheus (seriously, I can’t believe I fell for that film’s marketing). But it doesn’t change the fact that I can’t help feel that this film is somewhat lacking in something.

If there’s anything I enjoyed about the film, it’s Zack Snyder‘s staging of the action sequences. He doesn’t revert to his “Snyder-Cam” for his action sequences: the action in Man of Steel is relentless. It’s a brawl. It’s a fistfight on steroids. It’s, well, manly. And it’s really refreshing to finally see Superman fight brigands as strong as he is. There are other good things about the film, but most of what I have to say have already been mentioned in other reviews. For now, all I can say is that I enjoyed the fact that I’ve finally seen Superman in action.

On the other hand, I can sense some comic book fans that what they saw on screen isn’t Superman. One of my friends said that “for me, Christopher Reeve is STILL Superman.” Obviously he didn’t like the film but I can see where he’s coming from. Superman fights for truth, justice, and the American Way. Superman is a boy scout. Superman, with all his strength and morality, makes him an admittedly bland character. And David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan’s attempts to reinvent the character to be relevant in today’s cynical age, while interesting, resulted in a character who you know is the Last Son of Krypton, but isn’t. This Kal El is too brooding and too humorless to be relateable to the fans, and this, I understand, can be quite difficult for some people to get over.

Overall, however, Man of Steel is a well-made, decently written re-imagining of a classic character. I certainly got some minor issues with Superman himself in this film, but Snyder’s direction of the set-pieces, as well as the world of the film, got me hooked in it that it makes the film experience worthwhile. It’s certainly no Dark Knight, Spider-Manor Avengers (and thankfully isn’t Superman Returns), but this is still a solid superhero film for the summer.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (A Short Review)

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For those wondering why it took me long to write this review, here are a couple of reasons. First, I have a PS3, and I’m currently running through Mass EffectSecondly, I still had work when I first saw the film (yes, first, I watched it twice… more on that later) and didn’t have time to write. Finally, it’s the Christmas season. What that means is Christmas shopping, early 4:30 am novena masses, and lots of food. Yeah, these are lousy excuses but shut up, I run this blog!

I’m gonna keep this short. The film wasn’t the disaster I was expecting it to be. It had just to right amount of pacing for a 3 hour film, with things getting exciting during the actions sequences. Additionally, cheers to the make-up department for the varied dwarven designs, considering that my image of dwarves would be like Gimli.

On the negative, I think that while shooting this film in 48 fps was an interesting experiment, that’s all it is: an experiment, and a not so successful one at that. The image quality admittedly looks pretty, but there’s still something off with the characters’ movements on the screen. It’s pretty difficult to describe, but the best way would be if you remember how strange your movies felt like when you first played them on your HD TV. Everything looks so clean, so bright, and so artificial that the artificiality of the image stands out. Like I mentioned, the images look stunning, but it’s because of the visuals that this experiment fails. You don’t let an individual film element stand out, they must work in unison with the narrative. The higher frame-rate just draws the attention from the story to the visuals.

Additionally, the non 48 fps 3D on the IMAX doesn’t add too much to the experience as well. At worst, some of the scenes were a bit dark (not the Gollum scene, however), and there was blur during the action sequences.

The Verdict

 

Let me say that while this film isn’t as bad as I hoped it would be, it isn’t as good as Fellowship of the Ring as well. At best, it’s an entertaining first chapter of an unnecessary trilogy almost ruined by a technology which ultimately distracts the viewers from the story.

Best see this film on 24 fps 2D when you can.