Saturday, 26 September 2015

Everest

A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm. 


Mount Everest is fascinating, even though I have no particular desire to ever climb it. I guess it must be exhilarating to stand on the highest point on Earth. I've read that the odds of dying while climbing Everest differ based on how it's calculated, but seems to break down at about one for every 61 attempts. People pay thousands of dollars to take that risk. It's so dangerous that, if you die, they just leave your body there. It's like riding Space Mountain and seeing trails of dead bodies from people who did not finish Space Mountain. This is something viewers will have to wrap their mind around while watching people fight for their lives. This isn't a plane crash; no one forced these people to climb the tallest mountain in the world. Their fight for survival was completely their own doing. For the 99% of us who will never climb Mount Everest, this new 3D Imax drama provides plenty of vividly illustrated reasons to keep it off our bucket list. In fact, watching this film is all the experience with Everest I will ever need. However there are quite a few good reasons to see this solid dramatisation of the 1996 disastrous trek of the world's tallest mountain.


First of all, the cast is rock-solid. Not knowing who survives and who doesn't beforehand, I did find myself rooting for characters, because they are real people. Including multiple characters sufficiently humanised to create real concern for their fates. With a gallery of individuals - some of whom are destined not to make it - you could say Everest is a disaster movie in the old Hollywood sense of the term, but it doesn't quite feel like one. And that's a good thing. The fact that some engaging, friendly Aussies are front and center as the main tour organisers and guides may account the competent, reassuring type you'd feel good entrusting yourself to on such an expedition. It's sometimes impossible to identify who's who under all the coats, hoods, goggles and masks. Moreover, Jason Clarke is an actor generally cast as the bad guy or hothead, but not here. His character, Rob Hall is the smart, capable, responsible professional. He has to enforce discipline and make his team of paying customers realise the dangers of doing something unnatural as scaling Everest. Plus, Josh Brolin's character becomes kind of a gag, masking real vulnerabilities.     


You expect the movie to be centrally about Clarke & Gyllenhaal and their friendship or enmity, as they begin the film by having a tense conversation about approaching Krakauer and whether their rivals team should co-operate. But this idea disappears into the snow as well. Jake Gyllenhaal has a role which is surprisingly peripheral and small. The poster appeared to give him third-wheeling. It's hardly that. His star power means that fans and even non-fans alike will be waiting for him to save the day or fail to save the day in some interesting way - or do something, anything at all. Director did a very good job at keeping the action coherent and involving. Everest seems bigger and more complex than anything he's done before. In narrative terms it's a little messy - as true stories tend to be. The dramatic focus is split around half a dozen characters based on real people and it's not clear who we should root for, or why this exactly particular expedition went as wrong as it did compared to all others. Everest doesn't go in for cheap shots or sensation for sensation's sake. Remaining close to the women and men who get to the top of the world. beginning with the eye-popping, you-are-there visual techniques that make you feel glad that you're not actually up there with them.     


Attention to realistic detail gives the film texture. Plus, In a way that is engagingly welcoming rather than just informational, the film provides an account of the 40-day-prep period. Where camaraderies develop, fear are exposed, anxieties and anticipation appear. The very fact that climbing Everest had become bu the second act of the film, if not simple, at least somewhat commonplace, is part of what led to the disaster that has been effectively condensed at the end. The second hour is devoted to the final ascent and its aftermaths, which is all quite intense. I also wonder if anyone will watch this movie and think to themselves "You know what..? This looks great! I now want to climb this mountain and give it a shot!" I would guess no but climbers are wired differently than I am. 


Overall Everest is beautifully shot (one of the few times I'd recommend watching a movie in 3D) but despite its height this film doesn't quite delivers the edge-of-your-seat thrills that many were hoping for and all those moderately engaging characters means that there is no centrally powerful character.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Man from U.N.C.L.E

In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.


The Man from U.N.C.L.E is directed by Guy Ritchie, stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer. This films is the adaptation of a classic 60's TV show of the same name. I really was looking forward to see this film because Guy Ritchie has a very unique style that can make a very conventional movie, unconventional. The film is pretty simple: it's a fun spy movie that archens back to the old cold war spy movie, it's very silly, it's a great throwback to the 1960' spy movie that don't take themselves too seriously. It is a tribute to such late 60's movies as The Thomas Crown Affair or The Italian Job. However, sometimes the movie tries too hard to make its way for modern audience while being a 1960's throwback, it targets an audience who is too young to remember or even know the classic spy show that inspired it. Though, it goes from fun spy film to serious drama where Armie Hammer's character has those bounces of incredible anger.   


The early 60's styles are chic, the European locations are elegant and the music is fantastic. In fact this film is filled with seductive settings and an equally attractive cast. Characters are portrayed in an entertaining way. The core of the movie being the relationship between Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. There's a terrific opening action sequence that really set the tone and both of Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer characters. It shows their chemistry. This chase scene provides a colourful means for the two committed spies to introduce themselves to another. They work very well with one another and on top of all they are funny together. Armie Hammer is pretty good in the movie but he's not a major breakthrough. If you liked him before you are going to like him now. If you did not, you will probably like him a little bit more now. Plus, Henry Cavill is very energetic, even though he comes across more British than American in his tailored-suit appearance and Cary Grant behaviour - at least until Hugh Grant surfaces late in the film. I completely understand at this point why many people saw him as James Bond. We all love him, this guy is Superman. Last but not least, the villain barely get a word in and seems too abstract to be a real threat.


Moreover, you have heard and seen this cold war spy plot a billion times before. Some scenes reminded me of Ocean 11, when a guy comes after something happened and he's like "That's not how it happened, let me revert back a few minutes" and a flashback starts and you are like " Oh, it's clever". Even during rapidly edited chase sequences, there's a clear visual logic at work. The film is as fetishistically detail oriented as many Wes Anderson's movie are; and yet Guy Ritchie engineers the experience to privilege characters and action over their environments. Finally, the battle of brains, energy, cars and wit is entirely delightful and if the rest of the film had been on that level, this film would become a classic of the genre. 


Overall, by the end of the film Guy Ritchie and his cast have established a funny, bright world that feels quite unlike any other gritty, handled spy franchise.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

The Transporter Refueled

In the south of France, former special-ops mercenary Frank Martin enters into a game of chess with a femme-fatale and her sidekicks who are looking for revenge against a sinister Russian kingpin.


With Jason Statham having paid all dues, Luc Besson here reboot his handy chauffeur franchise with a catalogue model lead and so much product placement for - among other - one German luxury care manufacturer, you wonder why they didn't sell ad space in the title. This reboot winds up looking like an Audi S8 commercial. Between that movie and Hitman: Agent 47, Hollywood really wants us to buy an Audi. This film has a lot of problem, right from the beginning I knew this movie was going to be a mess. The Transporter Refueled is here to remind us that it is still the first weeks of September. Though, it's a little bit better than I thought it would be, mainly because this film is so bad that it's good. It's hilarious. I laughed for the entire movie. There are few scenes I just cracked up as it was so terrible. Gratefully it's funny so you don't sit there hating yourself and wanting to leave. 


What exactly is the point of a Transporter movie without Jason Statham? His persona was the series key selling point. Upcomer Ed Skrein (Ajax in the forthcoming Deadpool) thankfully doesn't butcher the role but once again Statham is so tight to this role that he wrestles with the thankless task of filling his suit and step in his shoes. Even the father dynamic is broken. They do not work at all as father and son. In fact, all the Transporter movies are gleefully stupid, even the first two (which are the best I guess). Transporter 2 has Statham turning his car around after he launched it up a ramp and then a hook get the bomb off of it. They know what they are, including this one. However, this film is moving along, but not interestingly. There are efficient - or acceptable - inconsequential car chases with bikes sequences, cop cars and - most notably an aeroplane. Fight choreographer tried to make the actor use his environment as a weapon but man he's not Jackie Chan. Finally, fight scenes lack personality as indeed does the entire movie. 


Overall The Transporter Refueled is a terrible movie but you can at least watch it and laugh at it. It's so silly no one or nothing is memorable.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Hitman: Agent 47

An assassin teams up with a woman to help her find her father and uncover the mysteries of her ancestry.


Hitman: Agent 47 is directed by Aleksander Bach and stars Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware and Zachary Quinto. This film is based on the successful Hitman video game series. Writers and producers are trying to reboot a film which basically failed at starting a franchise the first time. This former film was yet not good at all, the critics and people weren't very of it. I'm confused because there are so many other great stories that could be turned into movies beginning with Metroid or even Zelda for God sakes! Eventually Rupert Friend is good at portraying the Hitman but his character is so boring, it's frustrating. Plus, Zachary Quinto really disappointed me as well. This film isn't that great and it eventually sucks. It's written by Skip Woods, the man who wrote X-Men Origins: Wolverine, A Good Day to Die Hard or Sabotage. Do I need to say more? The exposition is about 20minutes long, explaining the world of the movie to the audience, trying to overload us with information and yet you are supposed to care about these characters. Epic fail because you genuinely don't. Moreover, the film "profits" from modern day rapidly edited and quick-cut scenes but the thing is, we need to see things happened in an action movie. No one wants to wonder what their looking at. No one wants to see a blur of an action scene done with horrible choreography and fake stunt work. Each time this assassin pulls his guns out or shoot at things, it's in slo-motion. In fact, for every gun shoot scene, you have three to four dumb scenes. Finally you begin to deconstruct the movie and when you do that, you're not enjoying it.


Overall I enjoyed mostly the Hitman himself, Zachary Quinto would have made a good villain if he weren't to deal with this script. Hitman: Agent 47 is a big mess.