Movie Reviews

Fury (2014) – Grace.C

Check out my review of Fury on Filming You In :)

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fury-slice-five-new-fury-clips-brad-pitt-michael-pena-and-shia-lebouf-look-intense-in-war-flickFury is part action-adventure movie with tanks, and part anti-war movie that depicts the horrors of World War II. The first thing you’ll notice about this movie is that it is very quiet. There is no booming soundtrack to buoy us into an emotional high as we watch bullets flying across the screen. Instead, we hear the heavy clank of artillery being loaded into guns, the tinkle of a soldier pissing into a can with four other guys around him, and the squelch of the tank’s treads grinding a nameless, already pulp-ified corpse into the mud. We see terror twist men’s faces and sweat bead down their brows. It’s not a pretty movie.

It is 1945, and the Allied forces are making a final push into Nazi Germany. We the audience live the story through the dewy eyes of Army typist Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), who is unwillingly assigned to…

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The Maze Runner (2014) – Grace.C

Spoiler-free review of The Maze Runner.

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The Maze Runner has a great premise. A boy wakes up inside a rickety elevator with no memory of who he is or how he got there. The elevator dumps him in a glade in the middle of an enormous maze, where he finds himself amongst a group of other boys who have come to the glade in the same way, with no memory of their past lives except for their names.

Released on 19th September 2014, the film is an adaptation of the 2007 young adult dystopian novel by James Dashner, and stars an ensemble cast of wide-eyed, artistically-grubby, good-looking young stars. Dylan O’Brien portrays the main character, Thomas, who never really settles into the civilisation of the Gladers, but is mesmerised by the mysterious, looming presence of the maze. We are tantalised by the information that the maze is guarded by the deadly creatures known as ‘grievers’…

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Movie Review: Made in Australia

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I first met Matthew Victor Pastor on a train station platform in Melbourne, perhaps seven years ago, when he was a film student. Since then, Pastor has gone on to create several award-winning short films, as well as his self-exploratory full-length feature, Made in Australia, which won Best Guerilla Film at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival 2013.

Made in Australia is a tell-all autobiographical tale that engulfs the viewer with its rawness and intimacy. We are compelled to keep watching this downward spiral of colliding relationships almost out of a sense of voyeurism and horrified curiosity. The lines between fact and fiction are blurred, as some actors, or “players”, portray themselves, including Pastor, his Hong Kong amour Janice Keung, and his parents.

Pastor takes the viewer on his coming-of-age story. From the opening scenes of Janice, naked and sobbing in a bathtub, and Pastor, standing nude on a beach with all his imperfections in front of the camera, the viewer knows at once that this is a film that won’t hold back. We travel with him from his present-day relationships back to the Hong Kong of several years ago, and to his tumultuous affair with an older woman. The film explores themes of humiliation, “losing face”, identity, the collision of Western and Chinese cultures, and the full spectrum of human emotion. Pastor doesn’t shy away from showing the messy, bitter nature of intimate relationships, and the way they fall apart.

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Pastor plays himself commendably. He has a manner that is wonderfully self-deprecating and yet, somehow, narcissistic and over-dramatic. His youthful character, who gives way to all his emotions, runs into traffic impulsively, and shouts out unrealistically melodramatic phrases almost as though he just wants to see their effect on the other, contrasts with the reserved, composed, sad, and fascinating Janice, who has a story of her own that we only glimpse in pieces.

One of the best moments of the film was a freeze-frame in the midst of heightened tension, when Pastor’s voiceover states “people act very strange when they lose face”. Pastor prods at the Asian phenomenon of “losing face,” ie. losing respect, dignity, sense of self-worth, but never really pursues this theme further. The film has several of these moments that hint at more powerful themes but ultimately zooms back in to the tale of the protagonists.

I enjoyed the patient, tense editing of Made in Australia and the wonderful use of silence, static and basic colours. The gritty feel of Hong Kong was also conveyed through detailed shots of apartment blocks, abandoned lots, discarded rubble, views of the bay, hotel rooms, elevators and little details inside the apartments.

Overall, Made in Australia is a striking debut film that is brutally honest and bursting with lust and emotion. It’s an interesting exploration of the lies we tell ourselves and others, and the various faces we wear in the hope of achieving happiness. Pastor has a clear obsession with personal stories, emotions to the brink of madness, and relationships. He tells his own tale unflinchingly.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Grace.C

Check out my review of Guardians of the Galaxy on Filming You In!

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What can I say about this movie? Rotten Tomatoes has already given it a 92% rating, and who can argue with that cinematic authority of spoiled vegetables? If you’re looking for a big, fun adventure in space, then get yourself a ticket to the 10th instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, stat.

I must admit I’ve been waiting for this movie for months. A ragtag ensemble of interstellar heroes, somewhat scruffier and edgier-looking than the clean-cut Avengers in their capes and spandex, reluctantly banding together to defend the galaxy to the classic tunes of Blue Swede’s Hooked On A Feeling…what more could one desire?

Guardians of the Galaxy tells the story of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a kid who gets abducted from Earth in 1988 by a gang of space pirates called the Ravagers and ends up becoming a carefree, womanising, wandering thief. After stealing a very important…

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Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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What can I say about this movie? Rotten Tomatoes has already given it a 92% rating, and who can argue with that cinematic authority of spoiled vegetables? If you’re looking for a big, fun adventure in space, then get yourself a ticket to the 10th instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, stat.

I must admit I’ve been waiting for this movie for months. A ragtag ensemble of interstellar heroes, somewhat scruffier and edgier-looking than the clean-cut Avengers in their capes and spandex, reluctantly banding together to defend the galaxy to the classic tunes of Blue Swede’s Hooked On A Feeling…what more could one desire?

Guardians of the Galaxy tells the story of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a kid who gets abducted from Earth in 1988 by a gang of space pirates called the Ravagers and ends up becoming a carefree, womanising, wandering thief. After stealing a very important orb that attracts the attention of bad guys Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and Thanos (Josh Brolin), a very big dude with a very big jaw who sits in a very big floating chair, Quill falls in with several other misfits: a green-skinned lethal assassin and daughter of Thanos, Gamora (sci-fi screen queen Zoe Saldana); a genetically engineered super-smart raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper); Rocket’s devoted sidekick, Groot the living tree (Vin Diesel); and Drax the Destroyer, a tattooed muscleman hell-bent on revenge (Dave Bautista). Karen Gillan also plays a key role as Nebula, sibling rival of Gamora, a bald and blue-skinned fighting machine.

Guardians manages to pull off a perfectly wonderful mash-up of rock classics and science fiction which, along with the grungy-looking interior of Quill’s spaceship, and the futuristic but gritty technology, gives the movie a great sense of nostalgia and realism. It’s a rollicking, fast-paced adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

There’s nothing much new or unpredictable about the story of Guardians. Frequent jokes tease mildly at heroic stereotypes but the plot ultimately doesn’t stray far from the sugary, upbeat staple of big budget productions. The highlight of the movie is almost certainly the delightful prison break scene. The visual effects, fight scenes and fantastical locations with grungy place names are also commendable. The final battle and resolution, though, fall a little flat.

What makes the movie worthwhile are the characters. Quill, also known as Star-Lord (mainly to himself), is a planet-hopping, rascally scoundrel of the Han Solo type, but more quick-witted than he seems. Gamora, unfortunately allotted the role of the “token girl” in the team, holds her own as a character with an intriguing past. The irritating, cynical and hilarious Rocket is also surprisingly poignant. Drax definitely had the best one-liners and impressive pan-faced delivery. And Groot—well, everyone falls in love with Groot: wholeheartedly sweet and innocent whilst being able to smash a dozen men against a wall with one twisty arm. Each of them have hints of a fascinating backstory.

My only quibble with sci-fi blockbusters is the relative sparseness of female characterisation. Gamora fills the shoes of the Strong Female Character well, but apart from her, the only women are Nebula, Nova Prime, Quill’s sickly mum and the bed-haired girl in a T-shirt whose name Quill couldn’t remember.

Nevertheless: lots of laughs, lots of action, and a feel-good romp through the galaxy. Worth a trip to the cinema.

Movie Review – Her (2013)

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Theodore’s moustache is possibly the most disturbing thing about this film.

Just kidding. Apologies in advance if this review is a bit of a thought-splat. I’m a bit out of whack due to my sleep cycles being out of whack due to the World Cup. On to the real review!!!

Her is a movie written and directed by Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are) and released in December 2013. I would probably describe Her as a science fiction film in essence, though the screenplay unfolds with the melancholy patience of a self-reflective drama.

The year is 2025. Theodore Twonbly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a sensitive, socially isolated man coming to terms with the breakdown of his marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Catherine (Rooney Mara). He finds solace and understanding in the unlikely form of his computer operating system, an artificial intelligence designed to respond and develop uniquely to each user. Theodore’s operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) has a female voice and personality, and calls herself Samantha. Over time, Theodore finds himself falling in love with Samantha…and she, believe it or not, with him.

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Jonze has crafted a smart and subtle film that surprises viewers gently. You can approach this movie from so many angles and find so many questions–I think each person takes away something different depending on their own life experiences and biases. What role does technology, especially in our modern and progressive world, have in intimacy and relationships? What role does it play in perpetuating, or possibly increasing, loneliness? Is it right to regard someone else’s joy as false, when they are not hurting anyone? What boundaries may we place on love and intimacy, and how fluid will those boundaries be in the future? Is it possible for an artificial intelligence to love, to comprehend its own fate, to become exponentially more than what it was designed for?

There are some memorable moments in this film. The scenes of commuters encapsulated within their private, technology-dominated worlds strike a chord, as do the flashbacks of tender moments with Catherine. The dialogue between Theodore and Samantha is sweet without being sickly, and there are some complex ideas thrown in here and there which I did not contemplate too deeply given that I watched this movie at 2am in the morning post pizza and Maccas. Scarlett Johansson’s voice brings the perfect balance of sweet, sexy, perfectly empathetic and caring, and just the slightest bit frightening. The way that Jonze crafts a tangible relationship between the two is impressive.

The aesthetic of Her is modern and pleasing to the eye. Everything is bright and preppy. Everyone dresses like a Google employee. It’s a believable imagining of the world just a few years from now, and the way that technology might seamlessly interface with our lifestyles.

I found this movie different, a little unsettling, and subtly powerful in that it stays in a back corner of your mind and niggles and never fully goes away. Worth watching!

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) – Grace.C

Check out my review of Edge of Tomorrow (2014) on the awesome movie review blog, Filming You In!

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Edge of Tomorrow
is fast-paced and punchy. It’s headlined by two big names: established action hero Tom Cruise and rising English star Emily Blunt. There are robotics and giant swords and glowing alien special effects. But let none of the flashiness detract from the fact that this movie is the essence of science fiction. It takes an interesting premise and asks: what if…?

Based off the Japanese novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (which I desperately need to get my hands on), Edge of Tomorrow depicts an Earth that has been at war for five years with aliens called Mimics. William Cage (Cruise) is a major in the United States Army who shies away from the frontlines and prefers media relations—he talks of heroism and victory and encourages people to enlist in the fight against the Mimics.

Through a couple of unwise choices, Cage ends up stripped…

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