‘Kandahar Break’

2009 (General Release: August 2010 [USA] / September 2010 [UK])
Director: David Whitney
Starring: Shaun Dooley, Tatmain Ul Qulb, Dean Andrews

“Pfft. More Social Commentary On The Middle-East…” ….Think Again!
So, you hear the title ‘Kandahar Break’, and your mind is instantly drawn to preconceived comparisons to all the war films of recent years you have seen. Trying to artistically, and/or factually, portray the horrors of the middle-east that have occurred over the past decade. But don’t worry, you’re not the only one who did this. I did too, what else do you expect? With films like ‘Jarhead’, ‘The Hurt Locker’, and ‘The Green Zone’ all having their crack at taking an artistic stance on the current political situations masked with their own stories.
So why would you even bother to watch another one of these many types of films?
Perhaps, because unlike the others, there aren’t any gun-toting militia displaying vague humility and fighting for their country to highlight patriotism, entice us with script and visuals, and perhaps tell us how bad things are as well.

Kandahar Break, is in fact, a simple drama centered around love. But not your simple ‘Pride And Prejudice’, oh no, one enshrouded in corruption and intrigue. In fact, could you call it a love story? Perhaps not, a survival story perhaps? Culture clashes?
For what you initially perceive to be a standard ‘war film’, in fact comes at you with many a surprise. It’s very refreshing to see someone break away from archetypical expectations and use these settings for something a lot more interesting.

But in implying this film has a romance at its core, it shouldn’t be assumed that this film is a “date movie” or any such like. This actually has the potential to appeal to a variety of tastes. It is not without its social commentary, but that is to say the film is not focussed on it. These things happen in the background while something much more seemingly simple in terms of plot happens in front. It feels as if all the complex scenarios of the environment have been shoved aside. But this I see as an incredibly positive thing. This strengthens the emotional intent of the protagonist and allows you to open a window into perceiving his priorities.

Some of the acting can leave a little to be desired, though under the circumstances this isn’t such a deterrence. The story in fact is gripping enough to be able to allow you to set aside the very minor discrepancies in performance, at least on first viewing. Though with this being David Whitney’s debut feature, there is a lot to be commended for, as filming in Pakistan was not without its troubles. Some of the dangers shown on screen, in actuality, happened to the crew themselves. With four of the Pakistani crew members being wounded after being shot at by Taliban, the shoot had to be relocated to Tunisia to finish the film. Not only does this make the film an on-screen adventure, but a very real (and dangerous) one too.

After winning awards at Newport Film Festival (UK) for Best Film and Best Actor, as well as for Best Feature at the Philadelphia Film Festival, it’s apparent that all this effort was not wasted. Though it doesn’t need to win awards to prove this. Despite small flaws in some performance, this an immensely impressive first feature from a new director, and shows tremendous potential for a future career.

A fantastic colour palette, original, superbly directed, well written and brilliantly executed. This is an 8 out of 10, a film not to be missed.



Director: Larry Charles
Starring: Sasha Baron Cohen

‘Like Borat…But, Brüno.’
Anyone can see from the trailers that this is pretty much following in the same vein as Cohen’s previous hit film ‘Borat’. This might be really off putting for many people, but I assure you, if you enjoyed ‘Borat’ and are tolerant of some graphic homo-erotic imagery, then you will love ‘Brüno’ just as much!

‘Brüno’ follows pretty much the same formula to ‘Borat’ and on a structural basis can be deemed as uninventive, even down to the chronology of character impacting events occurring in the same sequence. Cohen essentially took the idea from ‘Borat’ and applied it to his Austrian character.
But does this mean it’s no good?
Not at all!
Whilst formula movies are the forefront of mainstream cinema, there are very few which manage to emanate their own form of individuality. For example; Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler movies, while mostly greatly entertaining, broken down there is nothing special across the board with many of them. So it is only natural to expect to see the same thing from ‘Brüno’; but what probably isn’t expected, is Sasha Baron Cohen’s satirical stab at the western conception of the “Celebrity”.

‘Brüno’ loses his career in Austria, and so he goes to America to make a living as a Celebrity. On this journey, he puts himself in many embarrassing, ridiculous, odd, and hilarious situations backed up with some very stereotypical views of a homosexual man, and very graphic imagery on top. Which all combined, make for a film so painfully and tearfully funny.

You can look at this film two ways, a piece of pure entertainment, or something very clever that has launched itself into the mainstream box office to cunningly get a message across about the sorry state of what is considered a ‘Celebrity’. To highlight the point, ‘Brüno’ becomes so desperate to become a celebrity that he commits a highly controversial act to make it big in America.
The thing is with this, is that there are a lot of awkward moments when the realisation emerges of just how desperate some of the REAL people can be to become lauded by the masses. If the imagery wasn’t shocking enough, then this is too, but on a different level.

Cohen needs to be praised for this though, his intense and vulgar visual humour can be quite blinding to the point his message is hidden, and it’s possible that the imagery is the core for the majority of negativity towards the film. It would appear that excessive homosexual behaviour is just too much for an ordinary straight guy to handle, and this is even demonstrated in the film itself several times; in particular the final scene.
There have been some quotes flying around in the detrimental spectrum of comments saying things such as “The film is ideal if you’re a homosexual.”, there was even one stating that fifty percent of the movie is just “homosexual sight gags”. But, surely, that would have been obvious giving what the character of ‘Brüno’ is all about.

I would think that it would be reasonably safe to assume that an adequate bulk of negative comments originate from the male viewers.
Yes, there is boundless homosexuality to the point that might make some people sick. But it would seem for the most part that this could be an issue of pride. I’m sure we all know someone who doesn’t quite know how to behave around anything involving homosexuality, someone who feels very awkward in any kind of situation relating to it. It’s possible, perhaps even on a subconscious level, that the male audience members who proclaim to hate the film, say it because they don’t want to be deemed homosexual for witnessing such a film, given its intense imagery and core concept.
There is sound reason for being disgusted by such visions on the big screen right up in your face, but intolerance is not one of them. It is fair to say that the imagery is simply way too much for some people to handle, but it’s likely for the most part that some people didn’t give the film much of a chance to make its point because of this; hence the aforementioned blinding.
If anybody is even vaguely familiar with Cohen’s methods, then ridiculously stereotyped exaggeration and deliberate shock should be anticipated, as this is what he is all about.

This film is not for the homophobic, or intolerant. If you are able to set aside your prejudices and realise that Cohen is mocking the stereotypes of homosexuality then you’ll be able to get by. The film has been quoted as “gay porn” several times, and this is an unfair comment to make. It’s a film, and Cohen is a straight man, all the visual events in the film are nothing but farcical simulations intentionally designed to shock and perturb those audiences members who weren’t uncomfortable enough already. If you realise and accept this, then you can put it aside and find the funnies, and when you find the funnies you can witness its deeper meaning and look at that next copy of ‘Heat’ magazine in an entirely different perspective.

This is a film that needs the right kind of mentality; it will likely be a film which becomes very subjectively love/hate based primarily on its ardent visuals.
Despite having the same formula as ‘Borat’, ‘Brüno’ is a great film in its own right, and Cohen has once again made another satirical triumph with a great balance of over the top shock tactics protruding in the foreground.
Visually stupid, but actually very clever – 10 out of 10.


‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’

Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Ryan Reynolds, Liev Schreiber

Not Bad For A Spin-Off, But Not Great Either.
Spun off from the trilogy started by Bryan Singer, the plot ‘X-Men Origins’ is all in the title; how ‘Wolverine’ became to be.
Having heard of the production of this film in its early stages, I started taking more of an interest in the comic book world. I’m not a reader of comic books, so used Wikipedia to familiarise myself with the mythos of numerous comic book characters, both DC and Marvel, heroes and villains. ‘Wolverine’ was one of them, and I was pleasantly surprised to a degree that the writers toyed with his existing continuity.

The trailer for this film showed some definite promise, lots and lots of action. Despite the films phlegmatic opening build, that was really all this film portrayed. The character of ‘Wolverine’ is based upon a certain level of aggression and complex emotional conflicts which lead to a level of apathy, cynicism and quick wit. These are some of the key components to the character which make him so popular, and are ones amicably displayed within the previous ‘X-Men’ trilogy.
However, in the case of ‘X-Men Origins’ the reasons for these aspects are well described, yet they never show a suitable form of impact upon the character of ‘Logan’. This led to a somewhat disappointing performance from Jackman; whilst he seems to be a fairly love/hate actor amongst many people (often irrationally); he is a good actor despite any personal feelings towards him. Playing the character ‘Wolverine’ for a fourth time, you’d expect him to be familiar with the character inside out to the point where reactions and actions would, to a degree, come naturally to him as an actor, but he just didn’t feel on form. His performance wasn’t as great as it has been before. It was still a great performance nonetheless, just lacking something; this could possibly be down to the fact Jackman has to put the character in a less damaged and basic mindset which is out of the normal for the character, but could equally be down to director Gavin Hood possibly looking for something different in a character Jackman knows well.

Another factor for this is the script, written by Skip Woods and David Benioff, which was actually relatively empty. As mentioned, the film focuses more on the action than anything else, and made for most dialogue based scenes to be quite tedious once the film gets going, though there were a few good lines and exchanges, accumulatively most of it felt lost. This is quite surprising, considering both Woods and Benioff have written screenplays with great success.
While it is senseless to seek such depth within a film such as this, the depth should really be there considering modernised criteria for the ‘Superhero Movie’, as well as the existing character depiction of ‘Wolverine’ within the comic world and previous ‘X-Men’ films.

This film seems to be trying to do two things at once; giving a chance to many non-familiar cast members as important bit part characters, whilst simultaneously trying to add more to the existing ‘X-Men’ trilogy (greedily cashing in on popularity is negligible, as it’s to be expected). This is pretty clever, as there isn’t really any risk involved with doing such a thing; with Jackman on board playing a much loved and recognised character for another run, this film was destined to get funded and shoved into the mainstream box office, regardless of quality, as well as the previous trilogy providing another safety net for this film.
Even ‘Black Eyed Peas’ member Will i Am was given a chance to display acting talents, who actually wasn’t as horrendously bad as I had anticipated.
However, most of these bit parts and granted chances were a bit pointless as there was never really enough time to assess acting talent aside from the main cast, but then again, that doesn’t really matter within the mainstream box office; if you can get someone on board and say “They were in the last ‘X-Men’ film which was very successful” during your pitch, then you’ve probably won yourself an investor. Some of these bit parts might get a career boost from this; I for one will be keeping an eye out, and give them a good chance to prove their talents in the future.

Liev Schreiber gave a great performance too, playing ‘Sabretooth’. Many fans were disappointed that they didn’t get Tyler Mane who played this character in the first ‘X-Men’ film (just for the sake of continuity), but seeing Schreiber in various non-action based roles before, it was nice to see him expand his talents into the action genre and actually come across very well. Unfortunately, a fair few of his character motions were not executed with much grace; certain acts of wire-aided running and wall-scaling came across as relatively laughable, but thankfully it didn’t hinder the character too much. Along with Jackman, these were the two best performances.

Regardless of all these points, this is still only a film designed to entertain, it does this, but through nothing other than visual stimulation. This made the slow, drawn out, opening pointless and hindered the film severely; as well as actually managing to take something out of the action.
This isn’t a great film, and doesn’t match up to the previous ‘X-Men’ trilogy (particularly the first two movies). As far as entertainment goes, this is acceptable, and worth seeing if you are a fan of ‘Wolverine’. Hardcore comic fans will be disappointed that it isn’t faithful to the existing mythos depicted within the comic books (especially that of ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Weapon XI’), but if you enjoy writers incorporating their creativity and experimenting with existing continuities, then it can be interesting to a certain degree.
Visual stimulation, some unintentionally humorous moments, small doses of ‘cheese’, and perhaps a little try hard (or not hard enough?); 6 out of 10


‘Requiem For A Dream’

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Ellen Burstyn

‘Drugs Are Bad…Mkay?’
Aronofsky’s first film after ‘Pi’ details the demise of 4 interrelated characters due to one common factor; the use and abuse of drugs. ‘Requiem For A Dream’ tries to detail some tragic life experiences, encouraged with stunning visuals, whilst sustaining a reasonably decent plot…While each aspect is individually intriguing, accumulatively they mean nothing.

There’s a rational aura of amiable expectations present with this film. I remember seeing ‘Pi’ when I was quite young, I don’t remember it too well, but I do remember liking it a lot; added to this, Aronofsky has just made huge success and taken another step up the ladder with his hit ‘The Wrestler’, not to mention apparently being signed on to direct the remake of ‘RoboCop’. A critically acclaimed director, some may say, and with good reason, as he actually has talent.
So let’s read the synopsis…“‘Requiem For A Dream’ is a tale of four human beings each pursuing their vision of happiness. Even as everything begins to fall apart, they refuse to let go, plummeting with their dreams into a nightmarish, gut-wrenching freefall.”
Sounds pretty interesting, right?
It is definitely an interesting film, but unfortunately, it’s just a couple hours of abeyance.

The opening sequences are pretty good; it’s a good way to start the film (despite the unnecessarily large quantity of opening credits), and it sets the theme of a visually stunning film with some nice cinematography.
What would initially be construed as a good aspect, is the fact we are not introduced to the characters immediately seen, they are just there, doing certain tasks in front of us which appear to be quotidian to the characters at hand. However, this lack of introduction ultimately leads to the films most horrific impediment…The ability to empathetically engage with the cast.
Attempts to establish these characters also failed somewhat, there was just never anything which the audience could relate to on such a level which would enable even a minimal level of pity to at least fester.
One of the attempts to establish the characters were to try and make everybody outside of the main four characters to come across as horrible people; in particular, doctors and various medical workers who were made to be incredibly negligible and implausibly cold-hearted, sometimes vicious, and empty people. This is quite an undesirable aspect which just seems distinctly unreal, as well as a poor device to try and strengthen the qualities of the protagonists.
Introducing a character is a very typical formula for making a film in general; there aren’t many films which can get away with not using this aspect. Whilst I do not suggest that every film in existence should acceptably introduce its characters, this film perhaps should have taken a few moments to do so.

This lack of empathy hinders the films ability to detail the experiences viewed, and is further held back by the plot of the film. There is nothing wrong with the story telling, whilst it arguably took too long to actually get into the heart of the plot, it did flow fairly well. However, this plot seemed like an undercurrent, and felt a little underplayed. It is clear this film is trying to focus more on the experiences of people, whilst also trying to entice the viewers with a tale, but the balance between both aspects actually has the inverse result of its intentions. Both elements were intended to strengthen and encourage the other, yet this actually impaired them to a point where both felt like a slab of lost potential.

Though, in regards to strengthening certain situations, the visual style did a good job at exasperating certain situations. For example, a point in the film where someone is in pain; the screen shakes as they scream in agony. This is an unexpected way to worsen the situation in front of you, which actually worked really well.

Generally, the visual artistic style is brilliant here, not to mention mixed really well with the soundtrack. I refer mostly to the sound effects used.
Whenever one of the characters used drugs, they displayed a set of rapid inserts with odd sound effects over the top, sometimes appropriate, and sometimes deliberately exaggerated. Whilst it can get a little annoying after a while, the purpose is inventive, and practically perfectly used.
However, the one low point to the soundtrack is the use of Clint Mansell’s composition around Mozart’s ‘Summer Overture’, which is actually a little out of place from time to time. I’ve always been familiar with the title of the song being ‘Requiem For A Dream’, I am unsure as to whether this is a title Mansell added for the purposes of the film, or whether it was something Mozart chose – If it is the latter, then it seems the song was used simply due to the title. There were times where it fit beautifully, but it is a very dramatic piece, and during moments of distinctly low tension, it felt severely misplaced, and thus, can be deemed fairly overused. Though, when in the right place, it did add something special to the film.

Performances were generally pretty good in the film; Leto and Connelly did well to display some good scenes of emotion and physical discomfort within their characters situations. At first they seemed quite mediocre, but they actually emerged to perform very well. Marlon Wayans isn’t so great in his role, he seems very familiar. More specifically, parts of his character ‘Shorty Meeks’ from ‘Scary Movie’ seem to bubble to the surface every so often, which (if you have seen the film) actually brought a bizarrely vague ambience of humour around some of his scenes; particularly the drug use.
Ellen Burstyn possibly gives the best performance, despite the overall lack of emotional connection, her individual plot and demise is actually quite an engaging plot, if only purely observing, and can be enough to sustain interest.

While there are certain implausibility’s with the individual plots, they are actually fairly reasonable concepts. They do a great job of getting you to understand why the characters do some of the things they are doing, it’s just a terrible shame that you don’t care what it is they are doing.
This film had great potential, but Aronofsky seemed too distracted with sight and sound than getting the audience to engage on a deeper level than pure superficiality. Visually and audibly, this is a fantastic film; but it severely lacks the depth and emotion that it really needs. It’s disappointing, Aronofsky clearly does display great talent here; he just tried to be too clever, by making a critical error which cost the film the merit of a ‘masterpiece’. A nice concept, with some good characters, good stories, nice development, mix of pacing…Just generally aesthetically brilliant; it’s just a shame you couldn’t care less – 6 out of 10.

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‘Sam Gang Yi’ (‘Three…Extremes’)

Director: Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike, Chan-Wook Park
Starring: Ling Bai, Byung-Hun Lee, Kyoko Hasegawa

Definitely Worth Watching

‘Three…Extremes’ is a collaboration horror from three highly acclaimed directors of different countries; Fruit Chan (Hong Kong), Takashi Miike (Japan) and Chan-Wook Park (South Korea). The idea behind this is a sequel to the 2002 film called ‘Three’ (Also a collaboration, with different directors); however, the directors of that were not as established at the time. This collaboration consists of three 40 minute segments entitled ‘Dumplings’, ‘Cut’, and ‘Box’; each have their own stories and their own themes, taking you on a pretty disturbing ride.

The first segment is ‘Dumplings’, directed by Fruit Chan. Later released as a feature length production, this tells a story evocative of ‘The Fountain of Youth’ in which a woman, ‘Mrs. Li’, seeks to restrain her aging process; she meets ‘Aunt Mei’ (Ling Bai) who claims to make dumplings which will grant her wish, and also implies she is living proof. However, the dumplings are not all they seem to be.
So, we have a rather familiar tale with a slight twist on it, what’s the big deal?
Well, it’s part of a collection of horror segments, so you’re instantly expecting something a little more than the ordinary ‘drink this cup of water, and tada, you’re 18 again’.
The initial audio is quite cliché, a typically ‘horror’ sounding composition played over the opening shots of the film, which can instantly throw off a viewer into an early sense of dismissal. Though, if you have patience and an open mind, it can become a fairly enthralling piece.
Trepidation does come into it at certain points, but isn’t really that consistent. There are also a couple small sub-plots within this short film that aren’t really developed upon in such a way that makes you care about them, there are also some minor points to these side stories that don’t altogether make complete sense; the storytelling of this segment isn’t particularly well done. The film doesn’t seem to flow that greatly, and this leads to suspicions that these 40 minutes may have just been edited out of the longer piece, meaning the full feature might have more depth and clarity.
This is the first time I’ve personally seen ‘Bai Ling’ with anything more than a bit part, and she gives an incredible performance in her profoundly sinister role. A fair bit of her dialogue in the early portions of this segment is fairly cryptic, and somewhat adverse, leading you into a form of suspicious discontent. Though, based on some of this dialogue, predictions start to cultivate about the secretive aspects of the plot. But it’s more a case of foreseeing what might happen, and not wanting it to be true. However, this element still has the potential to placate some of the tension.
One of the nuances of the Asian horror market (if only for me personally), is its tendency to visually stun; ‘Dumplings’ does not disappoint, offering some excellent cinematographic work which often brings about some highly disturbing and creepy imagery.
The intentions of ‘Mrs. Li’ are quite unclear though, questionable, and lay out a theme of vanity. Questions will be asked after the end of this segment.

The film then shoots pretty much straight into the next segment, ‘Cut’ directed by Chan-Wook Park. A popular and established film director is kidnapped by one of his extras, and forced to play a dark game with him. If he starts losing the game, his wife is harmed in front of him.
The opening scene of this is transitioned well from the previous section of the collaboration; dissonant to initial expectations, it carries through the disturbing climax of ‘Dumplings’ amiably, partly through the use of soundtrack.
After this introduction, any existing disturbed emotions evaporate quickly by stepping into some slight satire on the film industry – a complete flip into a humorous dimension. However, some of this humour can be slightly obvious and quite unfunny; maybe more so for people with reasonable knowledge of the film industry, but nonetheless, it brings a pleasant feeling and its purpose is well suited. As the film goes on, the humour veers off into a more ominous inclination, it hasn’t really changed vein, but the situation in which the director is in makes it relatively macabre.
Park is incredible with his imagery, after seeing some previous projects, ‘OldBoy’ and ‘I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK’, it’s clear to see Park has unique ideas of what he wants visually; these come through well, and draw you right into the heart of the film. (I can’t say for certain with ‘OldBoy’, it’s adapted from a Manga; they’re often beat for beat replications, and I’ve not read the book). ‘Cut’ is the most graphic of the three films, and can have you quite physically tense during some of the progression.
The whole plot is a much exaggerated lurid satire upon the film industry, which again is probably a fairly familiar concept, but this is in the horror genre. ‘Dumplings’, ‘Cut’ and ‘Box’ have these slightly unoriginal base premises, but the simple act of projecting the tale through a different genre has an immediate effect, and such a device is used perfectly in all cases.
Like ‘Dumplings’, questions are asked, but these are more themed questions in the sense of what drives people to vengeance, what causes certain impulses, as well as discovering the extent of ones adulation.

‘Box’ is the next segment, directed by Takashi Miike, who’s most popular work within the western world is the 2003 film ‘One Missed Call’ which was remade for the western market for 2008.
‘Box’ is an exploration of reality, in which a young woman, ‘Kyoko’, has insistent recurring nightmares where she is buried in a box. This is a tricky plot to sum up without spoiling anything; it’s a very artistic take upon the horror genre, with some great imagery throughout which constantly appears to manipulate timeframes. Though, nothing seems to be what it actually is. It’s crazy, but in a good way.
Unlike ‘Cut’, this doesn’t carry through so well, this segment starts off ridiculously slowly and doesn’t retain the emotion of the previous segment. This can throw you off, and place you outside of the film, but if you’re patient, it gradually draws you back in. Its slower pace becomes not only acceptable, but perfect for what the film becomes. However, the pacing does feel a bit too slow, and often the prolonged shots that highlight such a feature don’t contain enough emotional strength to be deemed appropriate.
This is heavy with the art (for a horror film, at least), though it is fair to say that Miike may have tried a bit too hard to be artistic with his storytelling, and in doing so may have lost some impact amongst some viewers.
There’s some excellent use of silence, which at times can bear moments that really make you jump, though sometimes this absence of soundtrack is unnecessary. Miike tries to tell the story through more visual methods rather than through dialogue which makes you uncertain as to where the plot is going to go, but it can be seen as an inconsistent feature. There are also some instances in which you are lulled into a false sense of security, and for an artistic horror film, that’s a fantastic aspect.
The climax, however, is perhaps a little disparate to the main body, definitely not to everyone’s tastes in terms of “closure” (mind you, the same could be said for each segment), but it does make some sense when thought about. Unlike the others, this might not leave you asking too many questions, but it can provoke thought into the events viewed. ‘Box’ requires the most open mind, and compared to the pacing of ‘Cut’, this one needs a lot of patience to sit through due to its unnecessarily torpid celerity.

As a complete set, this is fantastically gripping, and an excellent display of the talent at hand. Its trepidation is cumulatively considerable, and isn’t for those not used to horror films or sensitive to being disturbed. This is most definitely highly recommended for those with idolatry for the horror genre, especially those infatuated with the Asian horror market in particular. Though, even if you’re not inclined towards the horror genre, it is undoubtedly worth giving a chance.
Each segment is unique, and incredible in its own way. Whilst it is not without flaws, its individuality can’t be faulted, objectively this is 7 out of 10, but personally I love it, and in my eyes it’s 10 out of 10!

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Director: Alex Proyas
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Nadia Townsend

Give It A Chance
A time capsule is opened at ‘William Dawes Elementary School’ for its 50 year anniversary. Inside are a large collection of pictures of what children in 1959 thought the future would be like, as well as a huge list of numbers, which are in a pattern, predicting with startling accuracy, when certain catastrophic events will happen…And then it gets worse.
Alex Proyas (‘I, Robot’) directs this interesting supernatural thriller, questioning certain life aspects that are taken for granted, or simply ignored.

Nicolas Cage, to start, is poorly miscast; his talents are generally not of which to display a certain sense of versatility, but he can thrive amiably in the right role (‘Adaptation’ being my personal favourite, where he plays screenwriter Charlie Kaufman). But in the case of ‘Knowing’, he didn’t fit; the character of ‘John Koestler’ was not horribly written, that is to say he had a certain level of acceptable depth to his character, and certain nuances which were acceptable, but Cage simply couldn’t perform the character in a sufficient manner, making it hard to be instantly gripped by the film.

The film is actually surprisingly enthralling as it goes on though, but there is a certain level of suspension of disbelief required, which actually comes naturally as the film goes along. The film succeeds well in establishing its own sense of plausibility, and this is mostly brought about by the protagonist as we start to accept the way in which he perceives things. This makes it so that soon enough you’re able to disregard any scepticism for certain issues dealt with via the film, and just…Go with it. Once this portion of the film comes to light, the tension surely follows, the tension is executed adequately. There is something about Proyas’s films in general from the 3 I have seen (including ‘Knowing’), where he successfully protrudes a sense of “I feel like I know what’s going to happen, but all the same, I’m not entirely sure where he is going with this.”, this is quite a nice aspect and negates some of the predictions you may formulate before or during the film (although, that isn’t to say some parts of it aren’t predictable.)

Predetermination, or a string of random events – How do you perceive life to be?
This is the initial question put forth by ‘John Koestler’, part of instigating the suspension of disbelief is through getting the viewer to open their minds a little to certain theoretical cosmic orders. Personally, I have a fairly open mind to such things anyway, so I was a fairly susceptible specimen of the films own realm of plausibility. In this sense, the film is probably more aimed at people with a more open mind to certain principles as fate, or divine intervention, or perhaps even people who solidly believe in such notions. If you’re a person who has stubbornly decided they are in control of their lives, and there is no higher power, and so on so forth, then this probably isn’t a film for you, as it will just irate you into why they haven’t focused upon the other side of the story so much. But then, generally, such people shouldn’t really be watching supernatural thrillers anyway.

After you’ve bought into the story and the early intentions of viewer captivation, then the plot itself actually becomes quite enjoyable, you start to care about the events that follow in the film and curiosity looms amongst the existing tension, and keep you watching, as well as wanting to know what happens, regardless of any predictions developed. It’s funny how a film based on premonitions and predictions can have certain aspects in it so anticipated…Intentional?
However, having personal views on predetermination aside, religion also comes into this film. It’s quite an undesirable aspect, as it focuses solidly on the Christian faith. These elements aren’t specifically obvious, but they are a consistently underlying theme which the film could probably have done without. It makes references to the tales of ‘Noah’s Ark’, ‘Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden’, as well as the use of glacial pebbles. For a viewer heavily familiar with these stories, and well endowed with knowledge of the meaning behind glacial pebbles, then the film can be construed as predictable…In this sense, the aforementioned point possibly was intentional.

It’s amazing, thinking about it now, how a film with such a poor trailer and to be in the mainstream box office, has turned out to have quite a reasonable level of depth to it. More specifically, the script is surprisingly well written if you allow yourself to accept the films own internal credibility. However saying this, there’s a fair set of dialogue which is quite bad, and sometimes humorously so. For example “Don’t let him watch the news.”, “The caves won’t save us!” and “We have to go where the numbers tell us!” to note a few. These lines make sense during the later portions of the film.
Also, some of the CGI didn’t really match up to modern day expectations, but nonetheless, it’s acceptable. Especially during an early plane crash scene, the CGI seemed fairly poor, but the cinematography that followed in the aftermath of the crash was superb, and quite possibly the highlight of the film, if only for me personally.
On top of this, the climax to the film is severely misplaced, having done such a thoroughly good job of bringing the audience into the realm of the film, the ending is so dissonant from the rest, that you just have to draw the line and question ‘Hang on…What?’. To some, the films plausibility is a stretch upon the imagination already, and then the climax more still. But I couldn’t help but think about an earlier Proyas film by the name of ‘Dark City’ (which I’ve also reviewed), that also had a somewhat anomalous consummation, however ‘Dark City’ seemed to do a better job at letting you believe it. This is a peculiar point to make though, seeing how Proyas wasn’t involved in the actual writing process of ‘Knowing’.

Everything about this film (with the exception of the plane crash scene and a couple other scenes involving visual effects) seems to just be a string of ‘acceptable’ sequences, and nothing that yells greatness or individuality. It is a greatly entertaining film though, but not one worth going out of your way for. This’ll be a 7 out of 10, it’s quite well structured, reasonably well written and its attempts to draw in the audience work fantastically. It’s nothing to make time for, but it’s worth giving a chance. If you do, you must go in open minded.

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‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’

Director: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro

‘Mere and Writhing in My Armchair’
Adapted from the novel by Hunter S. Thompson, ‘Raoul Duke’ (Johnny Depp) and his crazed Samoan lawyer ‘Oscar Z. Acosta’ (Benicio Del Toro) head to Las Vegas for a story, and in search of the “American Dream” via a drug riddled road trip, taking them all over the place, and into all kinds of situations.

It’s very hard to try to be objective with this film; it has a huge reputation and is highly acclaimed by many people, but it is incredibly hard to see why.
Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp, and Benicio Del Toro; 3 incredibly great people, with incredibly great talent – Naturally one assumes great things from such a movie, and thus high expectations are in order, though these are destroyed, very quickly.
Initially the film starts off driving through the desert; incredibly well shot, captivating, with some nice dialogue and early character establishments, but the film seems to be forever stuck in a consistent loop of everything this opening scene had to offer, destroying its potential and leading into the realms of tedium.

The film sets itself up with great potential, Depp gives an interesting performance throughout, and Gilliam creates some visually stunning aesthetics, which is to be expected. The whole film is discernibly unique, with some amazing special effects intertwined with Gillam’s well known surrealism. But that is practically all there is to this film; and nothing more. These visual elements are simply not enough to sustain a sober and conscious viewer into going the distance of about one hour and fifty minutes.

Depp at times can appear to over-act; his performance is not bad, as it suits his character ‘Raoul’ which is amiable. But this ultimately doesn’t really match up to other great performances he has done before in his career. Del Toro also felt severely underused, he spent most of his time delivering incoherent nonsensical speech, and then thrashing out in fits of rage due to his drug abuse; a very inconsistent character. It is frustrating to see such talent go to waste.

As well as these elements, there is an early contempt developed for all the characters; what they are doing and what they are going to do. Such contempt leads you to badly drop out of the story to the point where you question what the story is, and where it is going. The film lacks the ability to grab the viewer and follow a story; this cumulatively gives a string of random, surreal scenes in the space of roughly two hours with no real progression. The characters don’t seem to progress either, I would hardly call using more and more drugs a form of character development, and whatever the story was, this didn’t seem to go anywhere either. Every expectation preconceived instantly became annihilated at a snap of the fingers.
Sure, to some, the visuals might be enough; but for someone like me, personally, I need a form of depth, or at least a story with an endgame.

This loss of depth is possibly down to my personal lack of experience in the whole drug culture. The film feels aimed at these sorts of people; people with hippy views, or people with at least a decent knowledge of different blazons of narcotics. Without such a thing, the whole base premise of the film is lost.
Now, I don’t want anybody at all blaming the discrepancies of this film on the heavy and insistent drug use. Such a thing feels like an obvious counteraction to specified incongruities upon this film. “Depp overacted, Del Toro was inconsistent, the story is lost, there is no depth…But it’s OK, they’re all on drugs so what do you expect?!”. I’m sorry, but in a film, this excuse simply does not fly. In the real world, yes – But in a form of art, no.
The drug use is not a problem; this is what the film is about. But it just seems like it has been used as a device designed to be an excuse for everything wrong with this film, to the point where people will blindly watch this for the visuals, and quote depth and incredibility via a farcical pressurised mitigation emanating from the film.
There is no point nor reason for the heavy drug use, other than to be surreal, shocking and perhaps controversial – Such a thing is very bland, horrid logic. You can do those things if you like, I like them too, but at least give me a story that I want to follow as well.

This whole lack of everything except visuals leads to ultimate ennui, leaving you ‘clockwatching’ after about half an hour. But as mentioned, it is hard to be objective. This seems to be one of those films that you will either love or hate, with very minimal chance of an equidistant grey area. Regardless of all its basic flaws, the subjective opinion will always prevail in such a movie. This movie can neither be quoted as “good” nor “bad”, because unlike other films, such a description cannot be impartially incurred.

Here is my advice for anyone considering watching this film; if you are easily susceptible to stunning visuals, and/or have a good knowledge or (hopefully not) good experience with drugs, then this is a film for you. I cannot give you a rating for that, you’ll have to go in open minded.
However, if you’re more like me and crave to be captured by the film, given a deep story on top of the crazy visuals, as well as occupying a lack of decent knowledge of drug culture, then this is a 2 out of 10; tedious to the point of fretfulness. I am sorely disappointed given the amazing talent at hand.

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August 2018
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