December 31, 2013.

This blog is now closed. After three years and 311 posts, I have decided to end this blog. I have enjoyed watching the films, reviewing them, and interacting with global readers.

If you are interested in contacting me, you can do so by commenting on any of the posts. The blog will remain live on the web.
Thank you to all the readers for your comments, ideas, and thoughts. They were helpful, stimulating, and enriching. This is Alene, signing off.

August 31, 2013

The Colony (2013)

When it’s over, imagine the next ice age when survivors must seek refuge below ground. Food is grown hydroponically, and small livestock are bred and stored underground. The endless snowfall and frigid temperatures make venturing outdoors dangerous. If you can imagine this, then you are imagining The Colony. Briggs, Sam, and Mason (Laurence Fishburne, Kevin Zegers, and Bill Paxton) are residents of Colony 7. When they receive a distress signal from Colony 5, they travel to their neighbouring friends, and discover something worse than the ice age. This is a low-budgeted film that has great potential, but a lack of a compelling characters keep the film cold and buried. Without giving away too much of the plot, I have to point out that the villains are not menacing enough to make them stand out from other gang-attack-like films. They remind me of Mad Max look-a-likes. Their acts are heinous, but they do not look atrocious. Based on their behaviour, they should have deformities that separates them from other humans. The heroes, Briggs and Sam, are one-dimensional and boring, while Mason is the stereotypical trigger-happy individual whose end is predictable. All three of these main characters could benefit from some backstories and personality traits that will better define them,  such as, fears, regrets, phobias, or a personal calling that pushes them to act and react. Give me a multi-dimensional character, and I will care, and their motivations and deaths will have greater meaning. Lastly, the ending is all wrong. This is a film that needs resolution. I need to see the “thawed” colony, which the survivors mention in several scenes and are trying desperately to get to. To leave this detail out makes the film incomplete.

My rating: 2 out of 5

Elysium (2013)

When it’s over, a sci-fi film with plenty of political undertones that comment on society’s world issues. Much like District 9, Director Neill Blomkamp highlighted the themes of isolation, segregation, and power. Max(Matt Damon) lives on Earth, overpopulated and ruined, but dreams of getting to Elysium, a man-made space station, where the wealthy live luxuriously. After being exposed to radiation and imminent death, Max risks everything to embark on a dangerous mission that will save his life and bring balance to the polarized worlds. The story was so-so.  Damon’s performance was better than I had expected.  Jodie Foster’s talent in portraying Delacourt, a government border control official, was wasted. I cared little for her role or the hard accent that became increasingly annoying as the story developed. Sharlto Copley as Kruger, Max’s nemesis, proved to be the most interesting character and best portrayed. Where action films and baddies are concerned, Copley’s performance was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. He was like a wave of bad air that made you stop and cringe. He made me hate him, but also made me chuckle. He was so evil, that even when he tried to be kind, he came on as cruel.  If Max had the kind of presence to equal that of Kruger’s, then the film would have the emotional charge it lacked. On that note, the film attempted at a love story, but it felt more like a friendship than devoted love. The slower moments when the plot tried to explore the relationship between Max and Frey (Alice Braga) felt rushed, and the couple never seemed to get “their time” together. Elysium was an entertaining film, and I would not discourage anyone from seeing it. The visuals and set designs were well thought out and very believable. Blomkamp took me to two different worlds as what he envisioned 2154 to be. When I look back on this film, it was the visuals that kept me most interested, and not so much the characters.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

August 24, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

When it’s over, simple story with complex issues. It’s not your typical high school story about boy/girl issues, but dares to address mature topics such as homosexuality, death, and sexual abuse. The film is never too depressing or judgemental, and offers just the right amount of humor in the right places to bring me closer to the characters, making me care about their circumstances. Charlie (Logan Lerman) is in his first year of high school. He is bullied and lonely, until he meets Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), two seniors who show him the real world. The characters are beautifully cast and portrayed. Miller continues to impress me with his versatility. After portraying Kevin in We Need to Talk about Kevin, he shows he can be liked as well as feared. I forget Watson was once Hermione, because she becomes this very insecure, tortured soul. Lerman is the big surprise. Charlie is a huge departure from Lerman’s usual action hero roles. His turn as Charlie proves he can act, and makes me remember how good he was in 3:10 to Yuma, opposite Christian Bale. The soundtrack plays an integral part in the storytelling. With songs by XTC, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, David Bowie, The Smiths, and New Order, I can’t help but be pulled into the 1980’s when Director/Writer John Hughes’s coming-of-age films were all the rave. This film reminds me of Hughes’s style of storytelling – intense and sensitive. The soundtrack, plus music orchestration by Michael Brook, lures me into an euphoric tunnel of delirium, bliss, confusion, and sadness. This film is a journey, and I highly recommend it.

My rating: 4 out of 5

GI Joe: Retaliation (2013)

When it's over, all brawn and no brains – exactly what I was expecting. When the G.I. Joe team is terminated by order from the president (Jonathan Pryce), the surviving members must defeat Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) and his followers in order to save humanity. Don’t see this film if you are a Joe fan. You will be sorely disappointed. And if  you just want to see some action, I would still say “skip it” or be warned, because the action was mindless. Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson, and Channing Tatum couldn’t rescue this film. Actually, both Willis and Tatum were in less than 20 percent of the film, leaving Johnson to carry all the weight. He did the best he could with the poor script and was the main reason why I sat through this film. (There is something about Johnson, that even in the worse films, he makes it tolerable.) The want-to-be love story between Joes, Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), felt forced into the storyline and served no purpose to move the plot forward. Popular characters, like Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park), were not exercised to their fullest potential. The fight choreography were not bad, but poor editing made them look too “planned out.” Also, I thought Storm Shadow died in the first film, Rise of Cobra? He showed up in Retaliation with no explanation on how he survived. If Retaliation was supposedly the continuation of Rise of Cobra, there was nothing concrete linking the two films, except for the presence of the characters. Retaliation was not complete fodder. It did have one memorable scene, the scene when Snake Eyes and Jinx (Elodie Yung) try to escape from the ninjas on the ice capped mountains of Asia. That scene was done well, lasting about 15 minutes, and was something different entirely, perhaps the only gem in the entire film.

My rating: 2 out of 5

August 16, 2013

White House Down (2013)

When it’s over, I liked this film. I have heard so much criticism, that I wanted to see for myself why there was so much bad press. While touring the White House, Policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) is separated from his daughter, Emily (Joey King), when the White House if overtaken by a team of paramilitary. It is up to John to save Emily, President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx), and the world. Quite a lot for one man to pull off, but he did, with the help of the people he was trying to save. WHD was not a one man show, but a collaboration of the trio, with some added help from a stuffy White House tour guide (Nicholas Wright). WHD was not mind-blowing or original, but it was fun. I liked it for its patriotism and the love story between father and daughter. There were two symbols defining patriotism – the American flag and the White House – both represented throughout the film and played crucial roles in moving the story forward. The love story made sense and was believable, since John had made a lot of mistakes with his daughter in the past, he was determined not to let her down, at all costs. With many people comparing this film to Die Hard, stating that it was a “knock-off”, I did not see the similarities or agree with the criticism. My advice would be to go into this film without expectations. Don’t expect a political thriller with depth, because it was not a thinking film. It was a summer action flick that was meant to entertain, and it did.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Call (2013)

When it's over, State Your Emergency would have been a better title. Halle Berry is Jordan, a 911 operator who is determined to save a young woman (Abigail Breslin) from her kidnapper (Michael Eklund). The filmmakers took great care to show the world of 911 operators and the daily grind and pressure the job puts on them. There was nothing hidden in this film, making it predictable from beginning to end. The film was not concerned with surprising you, but rather keeping you hinged to the story. It was not a story about solving a case or hunting down a serial killer, but instead, a story about the pursuit of a lead, provided by Breslin's character, Casey, who was trapped in the trunk of the kidnapper's vehicle. There was plenty of suspense, keeping me at the edge of my seat. The state of urgency in each scene kept the story racing, as the viewer was pulled into the search for Casey. Berry and Breslin were believable as they took their characters through the emotions of fear, anger, and courage. Eklund's character, Michael, started out as just your usual stereotypical serial killer, but evolved into a sick calculating madman, that took some skilled acting to convince the viewer. The trio were the driving forces that kept the tension escalating, but it was the ending that made The Call disconnect. The abrupt ending was all wrong. I enjoyed the first 85 minutes, but it lost me in the end. Note: the film was 94 minutes long. Certainly, I would recommend a viewing, because the suspense will be worth it, just don't expect the ending you want. 

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

August 10, 2013

After Earth (2013)

When it's over, Director M. Night Shyamalan failed to convince. After a crash on apocalyptic Earth, Kitai (Jaden Smith) must venture on a perilous journey to signal for help in order to save his father, General Cypher Raige (Will Smith). There were three things that plagued this film – Jaden Smith, the creature, and Earth. In essence, this was a sci-fi coming-of-age story, but it did not feel like one. Jaden Smith was a weak carrier for the film. His performance was not convincing nor believable, and frankly, I really did not care whether he lived or died. With all the CGI available, why would a big budgeted film have a creature that resembled something out of a Starship Troopers film? The Ursas were large, blind predatory creatures that hunted by sensing its victim's fear. The only way to defeat them was for a person to “ghost,” to disconnect their fear. The creatures lacked originality or intelligence and simply existed to be a challenge for Kitai. I thought the Ursas were pivotal to the story and should have been carefully developed and interwoven into the entire story. Finally, Earth seemed to look the same, and the animals have not evolved. This was disappointing, because I did not feel I was transported 1000 years into the future. Will Smith pushed aside the humor and offered up some good scenes, mostly confined to his chair after his ship crashes. There were some interesting elements in the film, such as the concept of thermal shifts, where temperature varied in different pockets in the terrain; and the idea of “ghosting.” The mother condor proved to be the bravest character, and the only emotional link I had with the entire film. Bottom line, it came down to believability, and After Earth did not make me believe. 

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

The Last Stand (2013)

When it's over, Arnold Schwarzenegger took his stand. A small border town sheriff must stop a cartel boss from crossing the U.S. border into Mexico. This was Schwarzenegger's first major film since leaving office as Governor of California. It was a decent comeback, and definitely not one of his better films, but the usual Arnold stuff were there - one liners, big guns, and violence. Much of the film's shortcomings came from a weak supporting cast, and if they were removed, the story would remain unchanged. It was clear the film was all about Schwarzenegger, as he carried the entire film from beginning to end. For gun enthusiasts, there were plenty of classic firearms featured including: the Colt Dragoon, Colt Thompson, and the Vickers Machine Gun, which all packed big punches. The Last Stand was not a thinking film nor was it realistic, but it was entertaining and it gave me what I needed after a long busy day - some diversion.

My rating: 3 out of 5