Oblivion is pure science fiction. Its environment, gadgets, people, and everything else all don’t feel like they belong in the world we live in, but in this universe that was created by Kosinski. It’s a world that I really loved to marvel at. For all of the film’s opening act (about forty-five minutes), it is spent introducing us to what is left of Earth through Jack. He’s an engineer who fixes broken drones that patrol the zone Jack lives in. What we get to see is beautiful set piece after beautiful set piece. It’s stunning what Kosinski and his team was able to accomplish here. I feel like they actually traveled to this future Earth and shot this film there. It’s a nice effective route that introduces you into his world, but it could possibly scare you from the later acts. As beautiful as it looks, it may come across rather boring. He had this problem with his last effort, Tron: Legacy. Stunning world, but nothing ever happened. The worries should flourish because once it hits into that second act, things start moving, for better or worse.
Gone are the massive set pieces and along comes crumbled buildings and come the twists of the film. You should have no problem guessing most of them. This isn’t a science fiction film blowing you away with originality. Their selling points are the amazing visuals, which is why the second half fluctuates for me. I found some of action pieces to be pretty dull and lifeless, but when it was more calculated action involving just Cruise himself, it worked well. The twists and specific plot points may have some screaming copycat, I think it pulled from numerous films and put it together to create a pretty good film. Its ending may feel a bit generic, but I enjoyed the impact it left for me.
Tom Cruise plays Jack. After MI4 and Jack Reacher, I have come to really enjoy him again. He comes off a little dry at first; the perfect little soldier. Slowly he breaks away from that shell and before you know it, he wins you over and gives you someone to root for. It’s a performance we’ve seen from him before and have enjoyed. Why change now? The only other notable performance comes with Andrea Riseborough, playing Jack’s partner. She has the hard task of playing someone who comes off cold the entire film. Where Cruise gets to pull away from that little pawn soldier, she has to stick to it. She plays it well. I wish they could have managed more meat to her role. The rest of the cast feel like throwaways that felt so small and depleted, they could have been played by anyone. That’s a damn shame because I’d love to see Jamie Lannister in more things than Game of Thrones.
I really enjoyed what Joseph Kosinski managed here. It’s highly ambitious in terms of visuals and just blows them out of the water. Easily one of the most beautiful films I’ve watched. With technology, he’s only going to get better. The story here is far better than Tron: Legacy, but there are some sections that seem to care more about the look then the content. Once he nails them both, I can’t wait to see what he can achieve. That said, if Oblivion winds up being his best work, that’s not a totally bad thing to say. It’s pretty damn good.
Overall Score: 8/10
Looking at Harmony Korine’s track record as a director, it’s just about shit, and Spring Breakers didn’t look like it would stray too far from his style. It featured a bizarre looking James Franco in what can only be described as dirty. Everything about the film can best be described as dirty. By all rights, the film shouldn’t be enjoyable, it shouldn’t be watched, and it sure as shit shouldn’t be good, but against the odds, its one hell of an experience whether you wind up enjoying the film or not.
Things start off pretty quickly. The girls need to go on spring break and come up with a fool prrof plan of robbing a restaurant to get the money to get there. Once there, the party begins and the world seems perfect. That is until they get arrested. That’s where the film really kicks into gear. It happens rather quickly too. Everything I just described is the first twenty five minutes or so. They get bailed out by a wannabe gangsta named Alien. In doing so, chaos becomes the norm, montages come often, guns become toys, and the real party begins. There really is no true plot. It’s just a lot of acts of violence mashed together as an excuse to have a good time. It winds up working out most of the time.
When it doesn’t work out it’s because of repetition. I’d need more fingers on my hand to count the amount of times a voice over was played on a loop paired with a filtered repetition of previous scenes. It was creative at first, but it does it so often, it takes you out of the film for a bit. Both my friends and I afterwards commented on just how stale it became. It also has some trouble with its finish. It builds up to this amazing looking scene. I mean just beautiful to watch, but its execution feels rushed and left a better ending on the table. It doesn’t make the film much worse, but it could have been a legit great film with the proper kind of ending. I absolutely loved watching the world that they created here; so bright and filled with excitement.
Before going in, I read that this would be Selena Gomez ditching her Disney reputation for that bad girl vibe, but I don’t think they could have been more wrong. She still plays the good girl kind of character and winds up disappearing for over half the film. It was something I didn’t see coming and wound up for the best because the characters storyline brought nothing chaotic to the story that the other three did. The true trouble makers in the film come from Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens. The pair were just walking talking white trash, and they looked sexy doing it. I came off impressed with them more walking out than I did walking in. The real star of the show goes to James Franco as Allen or as he likes to call himself Alien. He transforms his appearance but you can still see that Franco grin upon his face, but he seems to be having a blast and brings you along for the ride. He brings a ton of laughs with his absurd dialogue and antics with an over the top performance that could have easily came off as shit but walked the fine line into fandom.
If you havcne;t gotten a chance to see Spring Breakers, maybe that is for the best. I can see just as many people hating it, probably even more, then people who enjoyed it. It is such a bizarre experience and film that one simply couldn’t describe it in entirety through words. Harmony Korine gives us an art house party flick featuring one of the best montages I’ve got to see.
Overall Score: 8/10
Last year Brit Marling teamed up with Zal Batmanglij to make The Sound of My Voice. It was a really well made pure indie thriller about a cult. This year comes their next collaboration together with The East, another movie centered on a cult. This time they actually had some money that you can clearly see in the film. Where one took place largely in a small house, The East tackles large corporations all over the place in a variety of ways.
The film begins with a weary attack on an oil tycoon led largely by a Ellen Page voiceover promising more havoc on those willing to harm the planet for profit. It’s a little preachy at times, attacking the way America runs and accomplishes things, but it is never just lazily thrown in front of the camera. Everything they do and say comes from reason and motivation to move the plot forward. It really didn’t bother me as much as some of the fellow viewers I watched it with. On a smaller scale, the film follows Marling as a corporate spy attempting to break into the underground scene and catch this cult that is responsible for the attacks. When she finds them, the always predictable plot ploy of falling for them and their cause comes into play. She has to weigh her options and make a choice you might come to regret. Sides must be chosen, but at times you almost don’t see enough of one side to make it a fair debate. It seems to heavily way into one side. Then a bit past the halfway mark, the film takes a turn and begins to peel away the goodness of the cult, making the decision much harder for Marling. It was a well needed and good change of pace.
Brit Marling turns in another good performance in another creative and intriguing project. She continues to force your attention on her and one to look forward too. I cannot wait till the day a studio has the faith to hand her millions of dollars to make a film for them. Alexander Skarsgard is the leader of this cult, and while I enjoyed it, the characters fate and actions were a bit confusing as to how they played out partly because of him. He seemed to jump emotions at a fast pace and I really had no clue how he was actually feeling in many scenes. Ellen Page as his hand was something you come to expect out of her. She’s solid and brings emotions into their attacks. Without her, they might have come off as cold-hearted and disinteresting. Toby Kebbell was a potential standout, but was out of focus too often to become a factor.
The East might be my least favorite Brit Marling film, but that really shouldn’t come off as an insult. I just really loved Another Earth and Sound of My Voice. It was fighting an uphill battle from the start and didn’t really have a chance. It can be a bit messy, a bit muddled at times, but I found myself enjoying The East quite a bit. It slowed down towards the end but is a fairly entertaining film that attempts to be bigger than it could afford to be.
Overall Score: 7/10
Snitch isn’t a movie you would expect it to be. It has a cast of familiar faces that never hit it big all surrounding the big bulky Rock in a film involving taking down a drug cartel. Naturally you would assume Dwayne Johnson would just go in there, kick a bunch of ass, take down the kingpin and save his son, but it’s almost the exact opposite. It may not be the movie you thought it’d be, but it’s for the better. It takes the time to show things you wouldn’t normally get in a typical by the numbers action flick. I was pleasantly surprised by it.
For most of the film, it’s of Dwayne Johnson struggling to accomplish the things needed to free his son of drug charges. It’s weird seeing him get pushed around by higher forces and then get pushed again. That just doesn’t happen with him. It poses the question of how far would you go to save your family. The film has a bit of clichéd background arcs for some of its characters, but watching this one big drug bust slowly be worked together is far more entertaining than seeing a one man wrecking crew impossibly take down a Mexican Cartel. It’s when the film enters its third act things when things get a little shaky. It tones up the action a bit and it’s not very well done, but its length and consequences take an unexpected turn that may be anticlimactic, but at least sticks to its original formula. It’s a pretty solid thriller with some hiccups along the way that hold it back from truly being really good.
I am pretty impressed with Dwayne Johnson. For one of the first times (maybe even the first) he plays a normal everyday man that handles things more closely to a normal human rather than the action star he is. He showed signs that he could handle a drama without having to shoot somebody. I hope he tries to go away diverge more often in the future. The biggest treat comes from Jon Bernthal. Watching him here makes me miss Shane so fucking much; He killed that role. He brings a lot of heart and conflictions to the movie, playing a good guy stuck in a terrible spot. You almost end up rooting more for him than our lead hero. A shout out also has to go to Barry Pepper who I really enjoy, but rarely get to see. He had this just badass beard throughout the movie and later found out it was real. So fucking cool man.
Snitch is solid. That’s probably the best way to describe it. It has a lot of good characters tied into a decent story. It will probably be forgotten as the year keeps going on, but it’s a huge bright spot while we are in this terrible drought to start the year. I can see this being on a few overlooked films of the year lists. That’s the biggest compliment this film is going to get.
Overall Score: 7/10
Hollywood seemed to be banking on this film. I find it funny because it was originally going to be released last year. Had it did, it would have been an even worse bomb than John Carter. The two from a box office performance to the unknown leading characters, they are one in the same. To me this one didn’t do very much wrong to make it bad, but it never took any risks. It was just there with things moving along and eventually ended and you walked out. You’ll never think of it again and you probably rarely thought about it while you were watching it. It’s a totally forgettable film.
One of the things that took me by surprise was the tone of the first half. Things start of seriously. People are getting killed, things are a tiny bit scary, and you think you’re in for something different then you bargained for. Don’t get too excited though because it quickly elevates into a childish comedy where giants pick their noses, humans are rolled up into dough as pigs in a blanket, and giants are “slayed” in childish manners. It’s kind of crazy how quickly they turned. For giants, they sure are weak and easily defeated. When the situation calls for it, five humans can battle a giant in tug of war, giants can barely move around and be defeated by dizziness, and so on. It’s really bad. All of this comes without the title characters story. He loves the princess, but the hand of the king wants to take over the land. What’s weird is he’s going to be king so there was never a need to unleash the giants in the first place. It made no sense. The more I type and think about it, the film becomes worse and worse.
Nichols Hoult is in this. You may know him from About a Boy or First Class. So there’s that. He’s alright. Nothing like he was in Warm Bodies. Stanley Tucci has the villain is stupid. The most puzzling role is from Ewan McGregor. What is wrong with this guy? He has been really good in a lot of things but he somehow works a film like this into his resume every 3-4 years and makes you think of him as crap. He deserves it too because he’s asking for it by doing this crap. As from a CG standpoint, the giants looked good when they didn’t have to interact with real characters, but the minute the climb down the beanstalk, they look like shit. The budget was so high, yet they couldn’t even manage to make it look somewhat respectable.
Jack the Giant Slayer comes a week before Oz, and while both seemed to be targeted at the same audience, this is worse in every way. There are never any moments that elevate it from being poor. It stays that way its entire runtime. It’s the very definition of a failure. I don’t understand how they could let the budget to this get so high, but they were just asking for a flop. Hopefully this is the staple of the fairy tale trend. Maybe they need to start smaller and create character based fairy tale films rather than these big spectacle films they have failed time in and time out. Early 2013 strikes again.
Overall Score: 4/10