Escape Plan

escapeplan

As the 80’s action star team-up film becomes more prevalent from Hollywood, what we are getting is quite the mix of good, bad and just plain bland.  One of the films that is going to end up in the bland category is ‘Escape Plan’, featuring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The problem with films like ‘Escape Plan’ is that it would have been an amazing sight twenty years ago, but today feels like actors just looking to collect a pay check, much to the dismay of audiences everywhere.

Had this film come out twenty years ago, hell, even ten years ago, it would have been a marked improvement over what we ended up.  Part of the fault of this current system is the fact that European directors are looking to make a name for themselves in North America by using aging action stars in films that the actors have no interest or emotional connection to the characters that they are portraying.

Truth be told, the two people I feel fore the most in this film are in fact Stallone and Schwarzenegger.  At times you get the feeling that they are both trying to figure out exactly how to portray their characters, as if they are caught between doing their best to make the characters come to life, and horrible directing that completely drains them at other times of any desire to do the roles justice.

A tighter script and a stronger director and ‘Escape Plan’ could have actually been a fun romp with both Stallone and Schwarzenegger along for the ride.  As it is, it’s a bland two hours that could have ended up being so much more.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Captain Phillips

captphillips

Films based on true events always carry a little bit of risk at theatres, but when you can land an actor of Tom Hanks’ caliber, that risk can definitely be lessened, and that is exactly what occurred with ‘Captain Phillips’.

Tom Hanks, a five-time nominee for the Best Actor Oscar and a two-time winner for ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Forrest Gump’, is at his best as Captain Richard Phillips in this film and I don’t see how he will not receive a sixth nomination for this role.  For the most part, Hanks is a presence during his scenes, but right at the end of the film is where he earns all the praise for his portrayal, and that alone is more than enough to see ‘Captain Phillips’.

One of the most underrated aspects of this film is the direction from Paul Greengrass.  Lauded in the past for his excellent job directing ‘The Bourne Supremecy’ and ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’, Greengrass has managed to take a story where the ending is obvious right from the beginning, even to anyone that was not familiar with the true life basis of the film, and inject it with enough tension and uncertainty to make the ending not be a foregone conclusion.

With that being said, there was a definite possibility that this film could have shaved ten to fifteen minutes off of its two hour plus run time, and it would have still had the same overall impact as it did at the current run time.

My other real complaint about ‘Captain Phillips’ is on a personal level, and may be more indicative of the fact that I am still a popcorn movie guy at heart.  That issue comes to the fore when you realize that a film like this, with Greengrass at the helm, could really have been done as an action film, and while the film had a high level of tension, a lack of action took me out of it at times.  I hate to say it, and it probably is not fair to the film at all, but that is the biggest issue I have with it.

In the end, ‘Captain Phillips’ is a must see for one reason, and one reason only, to see another tour de force from Tom Hanks as a leading man and what really should end up being his third Best Actor Oscar to equal the mark that was set at the most recent Oscars by Daniel Day-Lewis.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Gravity

gravityThe big breakout film from 2012 , that no one knew what to expect from, was Ang Lee’s ‘Life of Pi’.  What was considered unfilmable ended up with Lee winning his second Best Director award at the 85th Academy Awards earlier this year.  I mention ‘Life of Pi’ as it seems to be a good correlation to this year’s surprise hit, ‘Gravity’, from Alfonso Cuaron.

If you are looking for what is more than likely the best visuals you can find in a film this year, than ‘Gravity’ is definitely the film for you.  Simply put, there have been very few films that have been must see in the 3D format since James Cameron revolutionized the format with ‘Avatar’, but Cuaron has added a definite must see film to that list.

The downside to all of this talk about the visuals and the 3D is that the acting is actually a tad sub-par in this film, and that is mainly due to writing that manages to take away from the film, instead of adding to it.

‘Gravity’ will more than likely go down as another ‘Avatar’ in the end.  A stunning film visually that covers up for writing and acting holes that are small enough to miss at times.  For the imaginative and risk-taking notion of setting the film almost entirely in the weightlessness of space, and pulling it off in a manner that sets the film apart as a must-see in theatres, Cuaron will most definitely be a nominee for the Best Director Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards next year, and should be one of the two favourites at the end of the day.

As for the rest of the film, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney feature as the only two actors present in ‘Gravity’.  This is another risky element of the film but one that works in tandem with the setting.  By limiting the number of people seen on screen, Cuaron really is able to set the scene and setup the thriller aspect of the film.

Many are lauding the acting job of Sandra Bullock and proclaiming her as a possible nominee for Best Actress, and depending on what other films produce for possible nominees, I can definitely see Bullock earning a nomination, based solely on the fact that she is the only person on screen for almost the entirety of the film.

George Clooney, very much in the same position as Bullock, could be a possible nominee for Best Supporting Actor as he really sets the stage in the film as the retiring, experienced astronaut and a major plot device as well.  This is a definite possible award winning role for the former ER star.

That being said, I do believe that the best lock for ‘Gravity’ at the Academy Awards will be in the Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects categories.  Not bad for a film that was post-converted to 3D.

In the end, ‘Gravity’ should become the poster film for post-converting in 3D, as it is truly the first film to nail down that approach to 3D and is on par with ‘Avatar’ for taking your breath away.

Once again, ‘Gravity’ is the type of film that cinema is made for and to do this film justice is to see it on the biggest screen you can find and in the best 3D you can find as well.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Rush

rushWhat I rate to be the best film of 2012 was a film that was set in the 1970’s, based on true events, and starring an actor who has appeared as a Marvel comic book character.  Well, the early forerunner for that title in 2013 is a film set in the 1970’s, is based on true events, and also stars an actor who is a major character in Marvel’s cinematic universe.

‘Rush’ from director Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth, best known for his role as ‘Thor’, and Daniel Bruhl, is at this point in time, the best film that I have seen so far in 2013 that was released during this year.

Set during the 1976 Formula One World Championship season, and featuring some interesting back story build up from the years prior to that, ‘Rush’ highlights one of the more interesting seasons that Formula One ever had, all during a period of time when Formula One racing still had a foothold in the United States of America.

As a result of the past that Formula One racing once had in North America, this film is clearly geared towards those who will remember racers like James Hunt and Niki Lauda and their exploits, but younger audiences should not let that deter them from seeing this film.

Ron Howard has crafted a wonderful retelling of the 1976 season, hitting on all of the critical junctures of the season with pitch perfect reaction from the involved parties, including the final falling out of Hunt’s marriage and the beginning of Lauda’s shortly thereafter, and how those two events drastically changed the 1976 Championship.

As for the actor’s, first off: Chris Hemsworth is James Hunt.  No two ways about that. If you look at video of Hunt living the playboy race car driver life, Hemsworth looks like he could be his son.  The role is just perfectly cast physically, and it is quite easy to see Hemsworth living that lifestyle as it just seems to suit him wonderfully.

As Niki Lauda, Daniel Bruhl just seems to ooze the unlikeable, cold demeanour that Lauda was known for, all the while allowing his team’s to build the best cars possible based on his technical feedback.  Lauda was a superior driver and Bruhl translated that amazingly to the screen in what should be considered a breakout role.

Another great aspect of this film were the visuals.  For a film based on 1976 technology, ‘Rush’ looks simply amazing.  This is a testament to the time and effort put into this film not only by Howard but by his entire crew.

A mix of vintage and replica cars were used during filming, and filming also took place on the Nurburgring to showcase the season turning events of the 1976 German Grand Prix.  Other key aspects shown on film were the injuries that were suffered by drivers in crashes and the carnage that these crashes wrought on the cars as well.  All of this was wonderfully presented on screen and helped to enhance the telling of the story as well.

In the end, ‘Rush’ is currently at the top of my film tally for 2013, and is a wonderful tour de force from Ron Howard that shows stunning acting range from both Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl.  A must see in theatres that anyone that has ever dreamt of driving a Formula One race car should run to see.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

meatballs

Animated sequels can be very hit and miss, as generally most stories in animated films are supposed to be one and done, and 2009’s ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ definitely seemed to be one of those films.  Still, animated sequels are an easy sell to most families, even following a summer of over-saturation.

That being said, the marketing for ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2’ was wonderful, but left out telling us what the film was actually about, and after having seen the film, that was a good call by Sony’s marketing department.  The plot of this film was weak and the antagonist was flimsy and took me out of the film every time he appeared.

Had ‘Cloudy 2’ stuck to a natural progression from the first film, which was what half of it actually did, this could have been my third favourite animated film of the year.  In the end, it played heavily towards children, both of my sons loved it, and did not have enough humour to make even its 95 minute run time seem necessary.

‘Cloudy 2’ takes a huge dip from the original, which I can still watch to this day and find new things, and it’s re-hashed scenes from the original and a cringe-worthy antagonist make this film one that will suffer in the long term.

If you have a child that loves the original, and with the next family friendly film not out until mid-November, I would recommend ‘Cloudy 2’.  But for the rest of us, hold off on catching this in the theatres.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.