Archive for May, 2009

17
May
09

‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’

2009
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

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03
May
09

‘Requiem For A Dream’

2000
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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