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Sunday, July 29, 2012

[8.50/10] The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Brief review: Even if it doesn't quite meet the high expectation set by its predecessors, Nolan's long-anticipated conclusion to his "Batman" trilogy is still a great way to end the franchise. In spite of its 164-minute running time, "TDKR" never fails to entertain, thanks to the clever writing and gripping narrative, enhanced by the film's visual depth. In the same fashion as "The Dark Knight", "TDKR" has little to no 'comic book feel' about it, simply because its director tries to keep everything as realistic as possible. Unfortunately, that combined with the lack of humor makes it seem a bit too serious at times. Execution-wise, "TDKR" is nothing short of masterful, but considering Nolan's amazing skills that's not a surprise. Pfister's muted, almost noir-ish cinematography and gritty camera work match perfectly with both the movie's dark tone and Gotham City's grim atmosphere, and Nolan's refined, yet vigorous direction maintains the intensity of the story. While far from epic, the action scenes are well-shot and thrilling to watch, and the CGI work is first-rate and intentionally kept to a minimum. The acting is superb. Although a bit underused, Christian Bale turns in his best Batman performance yet. Anne Hathaway steals every scene as the seductive, yet shifty and manipulative Catwoman, Tom Hardy does an outstanding job as the astounding villain, Bane, and Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are at their very best.

Overall summary: Pretty much humorless and tad overlong, yet never boring, "The Dark Knight Rises" is a beyond satisfying conclusion to Chris Nolan's worldwide acclaimed "Batman" trilogy, that boasts a deeply thoughtful script, strong characters, and top-notch execution.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

[6.50/10] [REC] 3 Genesis (2012)

Brief review: Five years ago, Spanish directing duo Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza blew all horror fans away with their 'found footage' phenomenon "[REC]" - arguably the scariest movie ever made. Than in 2009, they brought us an imaginative sequel, that went in a direction no one saw coming. In "[REC]³ Génesis", Paco Plaza goes solo for the very first time, in order to show us his own vision for the franchise, and for better or worse, "[REC] 3" differs vastly from its predecessors, in terms of concept, style and execution. That may be disappointing on one hand, but on the other, it feels completely refreshing. The 'wedding party goes wrong' storyline is pretty straightforward and lacking in twists, and the religious explanations do not always make sense, but at least the movie doesn't take itself too seriously and has an unexpectedly great sense of humor. After a 20-minute-long opening sequence, shot in a POV style, Paco Plaza throws the hand-held camera away and gives the movie a 'standard' look, which increases the quality of the visuals and makes them more vibrant. Unlike its predecessors, "[REC] 3" ain't frightening at all, however, the thrills are there, and so is the gore, and the gruesome, cool-looking zombies, which make "[REC] 3" a bloody fun ride of a horror film. The movie also features an entirely new cast of actors, with Leticia Dolera and Diego Martín doing an awesome job in the lead roles.

Overall summary: It's not the horror masterpiece the original "[REC]" was, nor is as inventive as "[REC]²", but Paco Plaza's "[REC]³ Génesis" is still a refreshing entry into the popular franchise, with enough action, thrills and slick gore to please the fans... and everyone else.

This review is also featured on TVFilmNews.com

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

[6.25/10] Detention (2012)

Detention (2012)

Brief review: "Detention" is a slasher / time travel / sci-fi / teen comedy mash-up that has too much going on, but still manages to keep you thoroughly entertained throughout, even if the movie itself often can't cope with its own ambitious creativity. From the sarcastically hilarious opening scene and super-cool opening credit, you could tell that Joseph Kahn's "Detention" intends to be one "smart ass" of a horror movie. And it kind of is. Aside from its talky script it successfully makes fun of most stereotypical teen characters and some overused horror cliches in an ironically cruel, yet funny way, and that alone makes it quite enjoyable to watch. "Detention" has tons of cool gore and blood splattering, but it lacks scares big time, as it relies purely on its visual impact, instead of trying to build any sort of tension. Technically, "Detention" is a hit and miss. Even though there are some truly interesting directing choices and some flashy editing, Joseph Kahn's direction ends up being all over the place. The lack of focus may confuse some viewers, but at the end of the day it becomes pretty clear that this directional chaos is completely intentional, and Joseph Kahn deserves credit for his risky, yet innovative approach. "Detention" also boasts a colorful cast of young actors, but sadly none them can act decently, maybe with the exception of TV series star Shanley Caswell and the wildly underused Josh Hutcherson.

Overall summary: More funny than scary, Joseph Kahn's "Detention" is a creative, yet rather messy and unfocused horror comedy, devoid of any proper scares, that shouldn't really work at all because of its head spinning over-the-topness, but in the end, it somewhat does.

This review is also featured on TVFilmNews.com

Sunday, July 22, 2012

[8.50/10] The Amazing Spider-Man [3D] (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man [3D] (2012)

Brief review: Let's be clear - this ain't a remake of Sam Raimi's version from ten years ago, simply because Raimi didn't invent the story - Marvel did. Therefore, Webb's "The Amazing Spider-Man" should be considered a reboot, and as such, it takes the franchise to whole new heights. Yes, it comes way too soon and it's far from necessary, but the new director Marc Webb manages to refresh the series and put his own cool spin on it, in a way no one had expected. Аpart from the lack of originality, "The Amazing Spider-Man" is not only way slicker in execution and technically superior to the 2002's "Spider-Man", but also bigger, better, smarter, funnier and much more accomplished. Eat your heart out, Sam Raimi! Webb skilfully balances strong character development with thrillingly innovative action, and his uber-stylish direction features an exceptionally dynamic and diverse camera work that sets the energetic pace of the movie. The humorously witty script contrasts with the dark visuals, which are absolutely stunning, and the use of 3D is effective, without being overpowering. As Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield is much more engaging and sympathetic than Tobey Maguire, not to mention the incredible Emma Stone, who draws the viewer's attention every time she shows up on screen. Compared to Dr. Octopus from "Spider-Man 2", the Lizard is not as memorable, but is still a decent and worthy enough villain.

Overall summary: Although it comes only 10 years after the 'original', "The Amazing Spider-Man" not only does Marvel's original story justice, but surpasses Sam Raimi's version in terms of execution, visuals, acting, entertainment value, action and CGIs, as it's amazing indeed.

Monday, July 16, 2012

[6.75/10] Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2012)

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2012)

Brief review: Adapted from Paul Torday's novel of the same name, "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is yet another 'winner' from "Chocolat" director Lasse Hallström. Balancing drama and comedy well in a film is undoubtedly a hard thing to do, and many filmmakers in the past have struggled to produce successful movies that fit into this hybrid of a genre. That's not the case with Swedish director Lasse Hallström, who manages to pull it off quite effortlessly and naturally in "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen", and he deserves credit for that. Thanks to his flair and skills and Simon Beaufoy's clever, well-adapted script, this movie has as much heart-wrenching moments in it as it has laughs. Yes, it gets a bit too sentimental at times, and its romantic bits often aren't as emotionally powerful as they should, but "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is still an intelligent piece of cinema that fully benefits from its strong source material. Furthermore, Hallström's subtle direction, combined with Terry Stacey's super-smooth cinematography that features many breathtaking landscape shots, make this film as pretty as a postcard. To put such a talented cast in one movie is a winning move, and director Hallström takes full advantage of the their acting skills. All the actors involved work brilliantly together, with Blunt and McGregor sharing a believable on screen chemistry, and Kristin Scott Thomas bringing the laughs.

Overall summary: Although not always as enjoyable and emotionally-engaging as it's supposed to be, "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is still a warm, charming, beautifully-crafted and wonderfully-acted dramedy with heart, soul, brains and pretty sophisticated sense of humor.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

[7.00/10] Ice Age: Continental Drift [3D] (2012)

Ice Age: Continental Drift [3D] (2012)

Brief review: Blue Sky Studios continues to provide us with steadily solid sequels to the original "Ice Age" movie, which quickly became a world-wide favorite back in 2002. Now ten years later, the studio brings us "Continental Drift" - a worthy sequel that proves the series still has a lot of potential, despite its rather narrow premise. Being obviously set in the ice age, this franchise is limited by its own concept, which doesn't allow its creators to run their imagination wild, plot-wise. For that reason, "Ice Age 4" doesn't shine with much originality in terms of storytelling, but compensates that with high entertainment value, wittily written script, amusing characters and gorgeous visuals. The animation has definitely evolved since "Dawn of the Dinosaurs", becoming much more polished. Yes, the color palette lacks that in-your-face vividness, and the visuals aren't particularly vibrant, but considering the icy CGI surroundings, that's kind of understandable. Sadly, the 3D isn't that great, and barely elevates the visuals to another level. Our beloved protagonists Manny, Diego, and Sid are just as funny and likable as we remember them to be, but if you think Scrat steals the show yet again, you're wrong, because all the glory belongs to one newly introduced character - Sid's Granny. She brings the biggest laughs with her mega-cool, free-spirited attitude and funny looks, and in fact, saves the flick from being average.

Overall summary: Yes, it all feels overly familiar, but for a third sequel "Ice Age 4" offers enough wittiness, funny gags, eye-catching visuals and exciting action to stand out from its predecessors, plus, it features one of the funniest, most hilarious animated characters ever.

You can read an extended version of my "Ice Age: Continental Drift 3D" movie review over at White Cat Magazine. The brief version of it is also featured on the site TVFilmNews.com.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

[6.75/10] StreetDance 2 [3D] (2012)

StreetDance 2 [3D] (2012)

Brief review: Forget about all the dance flicks you've watched so far, because this one is the real deal! UK's answer to the "Step Up" series, and this successful sequel in particular, tops everything you've seen in any dance movie, in terms of choreography, creativity and execution. "StreetDance 2" is not just another movie about hip-hop, as it boldly infuses Latin dancing in its routines to set itself apart from the bunch. You think Latin is boring? Well, think again, because this flick will change your mind completely. "StreetDance 2" may have the exact same issues most movies of this genre do - it's shallow, its plot feels fabricated, and the acting is sub-par - but who cares, since "StreetDance 2" is all about the dancing. The Latin routines are sexy, very passionate and beautifully choreographed, each and everyone of the hip-hop routines is inspired, hard-hitting and massively entertaining, and both combined lead to a spectacular result - a dance fusion that is not only creative, but also a pure joy to watch. "StreetDance 2" is also much more stylish than its predecessor in terms of execution. Duo Giwa & Pasquini's direction has become much more versatile, the use of lighting is amazing, the music score is exciting , the 3D works and the dance routines themselves are wonderfully-shot. The cast definitely dance better than they act, but the hot Sofia Boutella makes you overlook the flimsy performances.

Overall summary: It's contrived, superficial and basically plotless, but "StreetDance 2" makes up for that with jaw-dropping dance routines, innovative choreography, adrenaline pumping music score and attractive cast, and the end result is a hugely entertaining dance flick.

This review is also featured on TVFilmNews.com

Monday, July 9, 2012

[6.00/10] Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted [3D] (2012)

Madagascar 3:
Europe's Most Wanted [3D] (2012)

Brief review: While certainly a slight improvement over its average predecessor "Madagascar 2: Escape from Africa", Dreamwork's second sequel to 2005's crowd-pleaser has its flaws and lacks the punch that made the favorite original film so memorable. As disappointing as it may sound, "Europe's Most Wanted" contains very few good laughs, and it's not nearly as funny as its promising trailers suggested it to be. The script is well-written and moderately clever, but let's be honest - a couple of witty lines and clever jokes do not make a smart movie. On the other hand, the story is entertaining, tremendously adventurous, briskly paced and heartfelt, so there's zero boredom. The newly introduced characters are just as likable and adorable as our favorite animated protagonists, and the villain, Captain Chantel DuBois, lifts the movie to another level. At least visually, "Madagascar 3" hardly disappoints. While the execution is far from being super-slick and on-par with the best Dreamwork / Pixar animated features, the CG animation itself is bright, vivid and colorful, and with enough details and stunning CGI backdrops to leave a huge impression on the viewers. The breathtaking 'flying circus' sequence towards the end deserves a special mention, as it certainly has the 'wow factor'. The use of 3D in this particular scene is remarkable, and overall the 3D effects in this animated romp add to the visual experience.

Overall summary: It's entertaining, amusing, adventurous and at times delightfully witty, and the animation is crisp, but "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" is neither as smart nor as hilarious as it's supposed to be, and in fact, it's not particularly memorable nor very inventive.

This review is also featured on TVFilmNews.com

Sunday, July 8, 2012

[6.50/10] Big Miracle (2012)

Big Miracle (2012)

QuickRating: Inspired by actual events, "Big Miracle" is inspirational indeed. While its execution is far from 'miraculous', the wonderful storytelling keeps you engaged the entire time and makes you care about those trapped whales as well as the likable main characters. All political cynicism aside, this is a deeply moving family drama with a nice old-fashioned feel to it, that will certainly appeal to all ages. Hands down, one of the better 'feel good' movies of the year so far.

[5.50/10] Safe (2012)

Safe (2012)

QuickRating: UK's Jason Statham proves himself a capable action star yet again, Catherine Chan is just as captivating as she is cute, the on-screen chemistry between them both is unexpectedly great, and most of the action sequence are handled quite well, but the cliche-ridden script and slightly overdone execution sadly let this movie down. Having said that, "Safe" is by no means a terrible movie. It's just a mediocre, forgettable one, that has nothing original to boast with.

[2.50/10] The Three Stooges (2012)

The Three Stooges (2012)

QuickRating: American film industry really hit the bottom of the barrel with this moronic 'tribute' to the mid-20th century shorts of the same name. There's a lot of slapstick going on in "The Three Stooges", but none of it is even close to funny, and all the jokes fall flat. Moreover, not only the whole story is silly and ludicrous, and the humor doesn't work, but also the entire cast involved either overacts or can't act at all. At least this total misfire has a little bit of heart.

Friday, July 6, 2012

[5.50/10] Lockout (2012)

Lockout (2012)

QuickRating: Guy Pearce's super cool character and his fantastically amusing performance make the movie perfectly watchable and at times even satisfyingly entertaining, and the futuristic visuals, while far from spectacular, work for the most part, but "Lockout" lacks originality big time and often feels like a hybrid of dozen other (and better) sci-fi flicks, and that really brings this otherwise well-crafted and decently action-packed movie down.

[4.50/10] Piggy (2012)

Piggy (2012)

QuickRating: One thing is for sure - Kieron Hawkes' debut UK revenge thriller is nasty, brutally violent and disturbingly realistic, but sadly, it's also boring, tedious, thoroughly predictable, as moody as its washed out cinematography and just as oppressive as its melancholic music score. That being said, "Piggy" is far from terrible and its graphicness is cover-your-eyes shocking, but the weak writing and familiar story leave a lot to be desired.

[3.50/10] Area 407 (2012)

Area 407 a.k.a.
Tape 407 (2012)

QuickRating: Although it sounds somewhat promising on paper, the one dimensional characters, poor production values, clumsy camera work, cheesy special effects and truly unimaginative script quickly put Dale Fabrigar and Everette Wallin's lazy, lackluster effort into the 'found footage at its very worst' category. There's a lot of screaming, shouting and chaos in "Area 407", but barely any scares and suspense.

Monday, July 2, 2012

[6.50/10] The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

QuickRating: Slow-moving and at times unnecessarily dragged-out, yet honest, heartfelt and beautifully filmed, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" not only captures perfectly the unique feel of incredible India and successfully showcases its true colors, but also features a witty script, sweet and deeply touching story, endearing characters and wonderful performances from its amazingly special, super-talented cast of iconic veteran actors.

[5.00/10] Wanderlust (2012)

Wanderlust (2012)

QuickRating: It's easy to watch and completely free-spirited just like the majority of its hippie characters, and both Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd are fantastic in their roles, but "Wanderlust" is less funny than it's supposed to be and even though its director boldly tries something new and different to refresh the genre, the end result is an original, yet rather disappointing comedy with weird mood and lots of unexpected and mostly unpleasant nudity.

[5.00/10] Goon (2012)

Goon (2012)

QuickRating: More violent than funny and more nasty than harsh, "Goon" is a crude sports comedy that may have a big heart, but the sincerity of its human (not humane) characters and Sean William Scott's surprisingly engaging performance can't save this movie from being a so-so slapstick comedy with lots of blood, but very few laughs, made strictly for hockey fans, who will be the only one to fully enjoy the mess that's happening on screen.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

[5.25/10] Extraterrestrial (2012)

Extraterrestrial (2012)

QuickRating: An odd, yet original combination of sci-fi, comedy and romance, the Spanish hybrid of a film is possibly the first-ever alien invasion movie, that is all about the characters and their relationships and not about the aliens at all. The characters themselves are flawed, yet charming and likable, and the movie is filled with tons of amusing situations, but sadly, in its second half, "Extraterrestrial" gets totally lost in its own quirkiness.

[5.50/10] Penumbra (2012)

Penumbra (2012)

QuickRating: Probably the most accurate way to best describe this otherwise well-crafted Argentinian occult horror is "Funny Games" meets "The House of the Devil", but not necessarily in a good way, as Boglianos' "Penumbra" is neither as realistically disturbing as the first, nor as shockingly terrifying as the latter. It is just a talky slow-burner that wastes to much time on building 'tension', and than throws a twisty climax that doesn't really work.

[3.50/10] Apartment 143 (2012)

Apartment 143 (2012)

QuickRating: Arguably the worst Spanish horror movie in years, as well as one of the weakest horrors presented in a 'found footage' style, "Apartment 143" offers nothing new or even remotely original to set itself apart from the bunch. The viewers may struggle to figure out whether it's about a demonic possession, a paranormal entity or a ghost story, plus, it's dull, boring, cheap-looking, far from frightening, and not nearly as creepy as it thinks it is.