Sunday, July 26, 2015

TERMINATOR GENISYS



TERMINATOR GENISYS is a straight forward film that makes no sense. In its first half hour we are in 2029 AD, in a post-apocalyptic world where a rebel leader called John Connor (Jason Clarke) leads surviving humanity in a fight against a sentient computer programme called Skynet.  The rebels destroy the computer but not before it sends back a Terminator robot to 1984 to kill John Connor's mother.  So he sends back his number two, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), to intercept the Terminator and save Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke).  The surprise is that Sarah and an aged Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) are already tooled-up and ready, both for the original Terminator (young CGI Arnie) and Reese.  In the second half hour of the film, Good Arnie, Sarah and Reese realise that they haven't prevented Judgement Day, the day when Skynet killed humanity, but merely postponed in to 2017.  The humans time travel forward to 2017 and are greeted by an even older Good Arnie and a suspicious  J K Simmons with a plan to blow up Skynet again before the release of its deadly Genisys programme.  The third half hour sees the biggest plot twist in the film which, once you see it, you'll know it was coming. And this sets us up for the inevitable action packed showdown at Skynet.

LAUDA: THE UNTOLD STORY


Niki Lauda was an Austrian Formula One driver in the 70s and 80s most famous for suffering an horrific crash at the Nurburgring in 1976.  His scalp, upper face and right ear were burned off, he inhaled toxic fumes that poisoned his body, and his lungs didn't work.  Not only did Lauda survive bet he went on to race at Monza just 33 days after the crash, placing fourth. He later retired from Formula One and went on to be a successful entrepreneur and retained an influence in racing.

His story, and particularly his rivalry with the flamboyant British driver, James Hunt, was recently told in fictionalised and simplified form by Ron Howard in RUSH.  And the wider story of how this crash was part of an era in which the car tech advanced faster than the safety controls, was told in the superb documentary, 1. That doc was a comprehensive and beautifully made story of the evolution of Formula One racing as something that could kill you to the safer sport we enjoy today.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

JURASSIC WORLD


I'm not entirely sure what the producer's saw in Colin Trevorrow's indie comedy SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED that made them think, "this director has what it takes to direct a big budget effects-heavy action film" but boy, he can! JURASSIC WORLD is the best film in the franchise since the original, and while not entirely without its problems, it's a handsome way to spend a couple of hours in the cinema. 

The movie picks up as if the events of the second and third film hadn't happened.  We are twenty years on from the "teething problems" on Isla Nubar and arrogant money-hungry humans have learned nothing.  Jurassic World is now a successful theme park, but in order to keep the customers happy, park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) has sanctioned the genetic modification of dinosaurs to create a new attraction - the Indominus Rex. Oh, and by the way, those insanely violent Velociraptors are still in the park because some idiot wants to use them for military purposes. Naturally, the Indominus escapes its enclosure and we soon learn that a) it's not socialised and b) it can plan complex strategic attacks.  All of which the wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt) had warned them of. And this being a Spielberg film, into the mix we throw two kids - brothers Zach and Gray (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) and a T-Rex.

Everything about the dinosaurs, action, soundtrack and sense of awe and wonder is perfect in this film. It's less scary than the original, which I rewatched recently, but it's going for a younger audience.  The problems start when we look at the characters and the relationship between Claire and Owen in particular.  Dear Hollywood, does every successful businesswoman need to be emotionally frigid?  Does every powerful really woman really just need a hunky old-fashioned man's man to sort her out?  And it's not like Chris Pratt has it any better as Owen - shorn of the humour that made GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY such a hit, he's essentially just an objectified beef-cake.  And where the two kids in the original movie had a really lovely mixture of vulnerability and moxie, here they're essentially just Macguffins for the adults to protect. 

Still, for all that, I do like this film. It has all the cynicism about human nature that infected Michael Crichton's book. And where that dark element was only channelled by Jeff Goldblum in the original film (I HATED the transformation of the park owner into a cuddly wide-eyed grandpa) at least in this version Irrfhan Khan has the evil charisma of a true DNA-meddling entrepreneur.

JURASSIC WORLD has a running time of 124 minutes and is rated PG-13. The movie went on global release the weekend of June 11th and finally rolls into Japan on August 5th.

MINIONS


You can listen to a podcast review of this film here or subscribe to Bina007 Movie Reviews in iTunes.

THE MINIONS, as any fule kno are the ridiculously and surprisingly popular side-kicks of Gru, the star of DESPICABLE ME. These yellow-bean-like energetic, gibberish-speaking cheeky chappies arguably already hijacked that franchise, as evidenced by the fact that they, not Gru and his daughters, were on most of the posters. So I suppose it was inevitable that we would get a spin-off.

The fantastic news is that the movie more than stands up on its own two feet.  Despite the quasi-unintelligible talk, we absolutely understand that our protagonists, Stuart, Kevin and Bob, are different personalities.  This is more than helped by an hilarious deadpan witty voice-over from Geoffrey Rush (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN) at the start of the film.

We open with a natural history of the minions - starting as little amoeba in the opening credits - haplessly following whoever is the Big Bad of the moment, until the dinosaurs become extinct and they have to find evil men to follow.  In classic minion style, their eagerness overmatches their competence and they end up stuck in an icy waste having followed Napoleon into Russia.  At this point, the story truly picks up, with three minions going on an adventure to find a new evil henchman to follow. They sail to the USA and journey to Villaincon (a wonderful satire on the insanity that is Comicon) where they fall into the service of Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock in a self-satirising villain role).  I guess the moral of the story is be careful what you wish for - and through a series of accidents Bob becomes king of England, and then has to rescue the nation from Scarlett and find their new master on the way.

Kudos to co-director Pierre Coffin who also voices ALL of the minions  - creating separate characters and also enough actual language that we can keep up with them.  The movie has wit, a warm heart and is a worthy addition to the DESPICABLE ME world.  There's nothing here not to like!

MINIONS has a running time of 91 minutes and is rated PG.  The movie was released in June in Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Armenia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Croatia, New Zealand, Slovakia, Uruguay, the UK, Ireland and Poland. It was released earlier in July in the Netherlands, Sweden, Argentina, Austria, Colombia, Germany, Denmark, Israel, Estonia, Spain, Finland, Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Belgium, France, Iceland, Jamaica, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Hungary, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mexico, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Canada, Cuba, India, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Romania, Taiwan, the USA and Vietnam. The movie opens in Cambodia on July 14th, in Peru & Portugal on July 23rd, in Albania on July 30th, in Japan on July 31st, in Serbia on August 20th, in Italy on August 27th, in Turkey on September 4th, in Greece on September 25th, in South Korea on October 15th and in China on November 25th.

THE CHOIR aka BOYCHOIR


The hackneyed story of an angry kid called Stet (Garrett Wareing) from literally the wrong side of the tracks who's dumped in an elite choir school by his philandering rich father and of course turns out to be a musical prodigy who defies his hard-ball music teacher (Dustin Hoffman) to become the star.  

It's the sort of movie that tells you a kid comes from a bad home by having his his mum literally wake up in front of a bottle of vodka, and literally has him throw rocks through a window. Dustin Hoffman portrays uptight harshness by walking out of every meeting and then giving the kid one of those "you don't want this" speeches at an elevated emotional pitch that comes out of nowhere. Naturally he is also hurting, because he wanted to be a concert pianist. Naturally, the two end up bonding and the choirmaster helps the kid overcome his stage fright.

There are pompous speeches about the power of communal singing and affecting an audience and mistily filmed scenes of faux-English school buildings in the manner of DEAD POET'S SOCIETY.  The evil nemesis (well, the cocky current choir-leader) even has a dodgy peroxide blonde dye job like Draco Malfoy.

So it is clear than from a cinematic perspective there isn't much new or to like here.  But the film isn't entirely unwatchable because it at least takes the movie takes music seriously, not least in being directed by Francois Giraud,  who is also an opera director. And if you were in a serious choir at school, as I was, the familiarity of the rehearsals, the concerts, the repertoire will at least add a nostalgia factor.

BOYCHOIR has a running time of 103 minutes and is rated . The film played Toronto 2014 and was released earlier this year in Singapore, Canada, the Netherlands, the USA, Croatia, Serbia, Portugal, Turkey, Kuwait, Israel and Greece.  It is currently on release in the Philippines, the UK and Ireland.  It opens in Hong Kong on September 3rd, in Germany on September 10th, in Japan on September 11th, and in Italy on December 3rd. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY


The celebrated Hollywood director and raconteur Peter Bogdanovich returns to our screens after a 17 year hiatus with a romantic comedy that one can only generously describe as "inspired by" Woody Allen romantic comedies. It's set in New York. The opening credits feature an easy listening track from the 1950s.  The lead character is a young prostitute with a heart of gold and a over-egged Noo Yoick accent in the manner of Mira Sorvino.  She's forms a relationship with a much older successful married man.  People have irritable but witty conversations on side-walks and disparage the irritatingly perfect weather in Los Angeles. Psychoanalysis features. There's even a wise-ass voice-over and a knowing love of Hollywood convention.

Does this blatant channelling of Woody Allen make SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY a bad film?  No. It's not a bad film. It's a fairly dull film - contrived in its chamber comedy set-up - often mis-firing in its humour.  It goes a little something like this.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

AMY

You can listen to a podcast review of this film here, or subscribe to Bina007 Movie Reviews in iTunes.

AMY is the controversial new documentary about the hyper-talented North London jazz and soul singer Amy Winehouse, who died at the age of 27 in 2010 from complications due to long-term bulimia, drug and alcohol abuse. The director, Asif Kapadia, opens the story with Amy as a 16 year old goofing around with her close friends on video, clearly talented, and quickly signed up by manager Nick Shyamsky.  She's evidently steeped in the jazz tradition and wants to make great music rather than achieve a fame that she knows she'll find hard to handle.  She's soon signed to Island Records, brings out her debut album "Frank" and uses the money to first move into a small flat and then into her house in Camden.  The freedom allows her pot smoking to morph into heavier drug use, and she's still bulimic but she's still not on crack cocaine or heroine when her manager and friend, Nick, tries to intervene. This is the first of two pivotal moments in the documentary - the moment where maybe early intervention might have led to the start of recovery because the paparazzi glare, and Blake Fielder-Civil, hadn't yet appeared.  But Amy wants her dad, Mitch, to make a decision, and he says she doesn't have to go, much to Nick's horror, and echoed in the lyrics of "Rehab".  This feels like an early chance foregone, and sets us up to explore Amy's trauma at her father leaving her mother when Amy was 9, and being an absent figure who's approval she still craved.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015 - THE LOOK OF SILENCE


Joshua Oppenheimer is a documentarian of rare patience, empathy and wisdom. He has spent much of the past fifteen years exploring and documenting the aftermath of the military coup in Indonesia in the mid 1960s that resulted in a totalitarian regime coming to power and remaining the source of power to this day. In the months immediately following the coup the military encouraged the ordinary people of Indonesia to create mobs and summarily execute actual and alleged Communists. The numbers are staggering. Hundreds of thousands of people were murdered. And what amazes me, as someone who thinks of herself as fairly well read, is that these events are virtually undiscussed in the West as well as in Indonesia. Those killers returned back to live in their communities alongside the families of their victims. One might wonder how this situation didn’t explode in recrimination and violence but is it any wonder given the combination of a repressive government, an almost pathological desire to forget, and a highly selective narrative taught in schools. 

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015 - THE GREATEST SHOWS ON EARTH

THE GREATEST SHOWS ON EARTH was programmed alongside Joshua Oppenheimer's stunning but tough THE LOOK OF SILENCE for the opening night of Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015.  For most of us wondering up from The Showroom to Sheffield's magnificent City Hall, we were expecting something of a light-hearted palate cleanser.  But we were wrong.  While there is a lot to excite and entertain in THE GREATEST SHOWS ON EARTH, this skilfully edited film of the history of vaudeville and circuses over time and geography was actually quite a provocative and depressing watch. Because in amongst the clown-acts and acrobats was exploitation - of women, children, animals, black people.  And the repetition of these acts, wonderfully highlighted by director Benedikt Elringsson's mash-up of acts over generations, is in itself depressing.  Rather than being an act of unity among cultures it felt like we had discovered the lowest common denominator of humanity.  What is it about us as humans that when we see a lion, we want to prise its jaws open as far as possible and stick our head between them, not only to sure our courage, but actually our mastery over nature?  What is it that makes us want to humiliate a great beast of an elephant and make it stand on a stool?   The whole thing made for rightfully uncomfortable viewing.

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015 - PLANETARY

We here at the blog formerly known as Movie Reviews for Greedy Capitalist Bastards don’t take kindly to being forced to sit through an hour of pro-environmentalist propaganda having been lured into the screening room under the false promise of a film about space travel. But let’s be generous, even if the marketing department got this film room, and it wasn’t our fault for misreading the content of the documentary, the completely heavy-handed, unbalanced and dull presentation of the environmental message was reason enough to hate this film.

So here’s what the deal is. We start off PLANETARY with some cool footage of space shuttle launches and interviews with awe-inspired astronauts talking about the beauty of planet earth and how the perspective of seeing it from space forces you to see our presence on it as part of a holistic organic process. Fair enough. There’s a wonderful Ron Howard documentary called IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON which features extensive interviews with Buzz Aldrin and it really does inspire you with a similar feeling of awe and wonder but also of custody and conservatorship.