Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Transformers (2007)

Image is property of Dreamworks Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Transformers – Film Review

Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel, Rachael Taylor, John Turturro, Peter Cullen

Director:  Michael Bay

Synopsis: When a teenager buys his first car, which turns out to be a Transformer, he gets dragged into an ancient war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, and a battle for humanity’s survival.

Review: Making an adaption of a popular toy franchise, one that has been around since the mid 1980s, would seem like a safe bet for cinematic greatness. After all, when said franchise has spawned a plethora of spin off TV shows and an animated movie among other things, that have had a very loyal fan-base down the years, it was always bound to get the live action film treatment, and a popular toy franchise fused with live action must equal greatness, right? Well, not quite.

As this is a tale of two factions of alien robots, disguising themselves as regular Earth vehicles, doing battle over a transformer cube artefact, this is very much a popcorn flick where you leave your brain at the door. No thought-provoking themes to be found here, just sit back and watch at the metallic mayhem that director Michael Bay throws at you, which should for the most part leave you very well entertained as it truly is breathless stuff at times. There is a plot, of sorts, but it’s all pretty much irrelevant once we arrive at what we signed up for. Basically, the Autobots and Decepticons battling for possession of this cube, set in human territory, and Sam Witwicky (LaBoeuf) is at the centre of this fight.

Not your regular bunch of vehicles…

Bay certainly likes to tell his stories with some explosions, or ten, and when its all out Transformer Battle Royale, in a scrappy fight to the death, it certainly is pulsating stuff. Bay certainly favours quick cut editing, and it is used to great effect here. What is also truly excellent is the CGI, especially when the robots are transforming, it all looks absolutely superb.  What’s not as interesting however is the bits in between with some of the human characters. LeBoeuf is interesting enough as the human lead, even if he is a bit of a dork. The chemistry between him and and Mikaela Banes (Fox) is shaky at first to say the least, it’s not the best it could be, but it’s not the worst that’s ever been put to screen, although some of the initial dialogue between the two is just uncomfortable to watch, for all concerned. Leading the military contingent is Josh Duhamel’s Major Lennox, who certainly carries the most charisma amongst all of the human contingent.

Despite a mixed bag of human characters, the action that Bay delivers is more than enough to leave the viewer satisfied. Casting the OG voice of Optimus Prime Peter Cullen to reprise his role was a smart move to win over the fans, as Cullen’s deep voice brings an aura of authority to Optimus which being the leader of the Autobots, is kind of important. Similarly, as he is no stranger to playing bad guys, Hugo Weaving as the voice of the Decepticon big gun Megatron, another superb choice. Many of the Decepticons are in many ways very disposable, but in terms of the Autobots, there’s a good contingent of memorable friendly bots that you definitely want to root for.

It may not be perfect, in fact some of it is extremely cheesy, but when the action is this good, that’s really what matters as that is precisely what you sign up for. For fans of the original, they might have some nitpicks, but it cannot be denied that Bay delivers the sort of dumb, loud popcorn entertainment that you want from this sort of film, and Steve Jablonsky’s brilliant score complements it perfectly. There’s nothing more than meets the eye about this,it is big, loud and ridiculous fun and it does what it exactly says on the tin.

The script was clearly not high on the agenda of the production team, and it didn’t need to be, as Bay delivers precisely the sort of popcorn entertainment that you signed up for.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

No Country For Old Men (2007)

no-country
Image is property of Miramax Films and Paramount Vantage

No Country For Old Men – Film Review

Cast:  Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Woody Harrelson, Kelly MacDonald

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Synopsis: When a man stumbles across a drug deal that has gone sour and finds a suitcase with a large amount of cash, he finds himself being pursued by a relentless hit-man who will stop at nothing to reclaim the cash…

Review: What would you do if you happened to come across a substantial amount of cash that you found in the desert? Chances are you’d probably take the loot and run as fast as you could for the hills. Yet what if you knew (somehow) that the money was the subject of a drug deal that had gone just a bit awry? Would you think twice? You might well do if you knew that there was a psychopathic man after you, who will stop at nothing to recover the loot from said drug deal.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, at the centre of this thriller is Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) who upon finding the aforementioned loot does decide to bag the cash and make a run for it, along with his wife Carla Jean (MacDonald). However his pursuer Anton Chigurh (Bardem) is the crazy mofo who is after the cash, and possess machine like determination in order to hunt Moss down and reclaim the cash. Thus this gives the audience a game of cat and mouse, that is brilliantly written and expertly brought to the screen by the Coen brothers. Right from the moment the chase begins, the tension begins and never abates until the credits role. The dialogue is minimal in some scenes but the tension remains high throughout the two hour run time as you watch this chase unfold.

The film is bolstered immeasurably by the performances of its three main actors, all of whom give excellent performances, Tommy Lee Jones is perfect as the gruff Sheriff Ed Tom Bell who becomes involved in the chase between Moss and Chigurh, all the while becoming horrified with what the world has become. Brolin, as the mouse in the chase, is also excellent determined to do whatever it takes to survive, mainly due to the strong love of his wife . Yet, it is undoubtedly Bardem who gives the most impressive performance. Here’s a man who could make the most innocuous conversation sound utterly terrifying, such as a conversation about the toss of a coin. He hunts his prey with Terminator like efficiency with even a terrifying haircut! He will spare no one in his quest to reclaim the cash, and is certainly remains one of the finest psychopathic, menacing villains that has ever been put to the big screen.

chigurh

The Coens masterful writing, lifting McCarthy’s novel from page to screen excellently, and their exquisite direction is aided by the usually flawless cinematography from Roger Deakins, marking his incredible 8th collaboration with the Coens. Both were recipients of Oscar nods for their incredible work, and in the case of the Coens, it was three times a charm as took home the prizes for directing, writing for an Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, as well as a well earned triumph for Bardem for Supporting Actor. Sadly Deakins did not take home the gong for cinematography, but the sheer quality of his work remains crystal clear. What also remains clear is that this is one of, if not, the finest pieces of work from the Coens. The ending leaves much open to interpretation, as such, it may jar with some, but when you sit down and assess everything you have witnessed, it is absolutely perfect, a word that could be used to describe just about every aspect of this extraordinary film.

Anchored by three outstanding performances by its leads, with brilliant dark humour thrown in for good measure, this is the Coen brothers’s masterpiece, without any question of a doubt.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

order-of-the-phoenix
Image is the property of Warner Bros Studios and Heyday Films

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Rickman, Evanna Lynch

Director: David Yates

Synopsis: With Voldemort now back in power, The Ministry of Magic is making every effort to dispel rumours of Lord Voldemort’s return, all the while Hogwarts finds itself under intense scrutinisation from the Ministry.

Review: The latter years of a person’s time at school certainly have their fair share of difficult situations such as puberty and undergoing the stress of exams, all of which can take a very heavy toll on an individual. Yet for one Harry Potter, these are somewhat minor when at the end of the last film, he had a bruising dual with the newly risen Voldemort and he must now contend with the fact that the wizard who killed his parents is back and out to get him once more.

With every year that goes past for Harry, the mood in and around Hogwarts keeps getting darker, and Harry is becoming a bit detached from those closest to him. And after a bruising hearing before his fifth year has begun, it isn’t long before things at Hogwarts are going a bit wrong, which doesn’t exactly help matters after his brush with death. The Ministry refuses to believe Harry’s claims that the Dark Lord has returned, and this is also applicable to some at Hogwarts. In addition to their refusal to believe Voldemort is back, the newly appointed Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge is taking matters at Hogwarts into her own hands, and indeed that of the Ministry’s as well.

Incoming new director David Yates, along with new screenwriter Michael Goldenberg manage to compress what is the longest of Rowling’s novels into a solid and compelling film, that despite the ever darkening tones and mood surrounding Hogwarts do their best to weave humour into the script whilst also keeping the focus on the core story. By this point you are completely invested in all things Hogwarts and that interest is maintained with more great action sequences. We got a glimpse of an exciting duel between Harry and Voldemort in the previous chapter and there are plenty more brilliant wizarding duels to witness and Yates helms these exciting battle sequences in this chapter with great style as his predecessors such as Newell and Cuaron did.

As ever with a new Potter film, there are a number of new additions to the cast, and yet again, the casting is excellent. Of the new arrivals the stand out by far is Imelda Staunton’s Umbridge, a woman of some rather twisted principles who is out to do the Ministry’s bidding. You thought you disliked Voldemort, but you WILL HATE Umbridge. She has such a loathsome on screen presence that it may want you to hurl something at the screen whilst shouting a lot of expletives. It is full credit to Staunton, as she gives the franchise a really memorable antagonist besides Voldemort of course. Also a new arrival for the Dark Lord is Helena Bonham Carter’s crazy (in every sense of the word) Bellatrix Lestrange, a witch and close associate of Voldemort. These ladies are in many ways the stand out performers of a cast of which each and every one delivers a sterling performance.

With some dramatic turn of events taking place, the suspense and excitement is maintained throughout through a solid script and excellent directing from Yates. The stakes are getting ever darker in the Wizarding world, and it is certainly gripping to watch these characters that you know and love go through tough times. By this point the Potter machine was casting its all powerful spell on its audience and as the franchise was reaching its climax, the audience were holding on to their metaphorical broomsticks, because as we will find out, things are about to get very interesting at Hogwarts.

It’s almost a cliche to say that with each film the Potter franchise gets darker, but there is effective use of humour, all the while ensuring this magical universe gets another compelling adventure.

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