Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sanctum (2011) 3D

Sanctum is a 3D adventure drama film directed by Alister Grierson and executive produced by James Cameron. It's a survival story of a small expedition group*  that gets trapped inside an underwater cave. They suspect the air pocket they're trapped in will be filled with water before they would be rescued, so the group decides to take the risk and try finding another way out.
*(George, Carl, Victoria, Frank and his son Josh, played by in the same order: Daniel Wyllie, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Parkinson, Richard Roxburgh and Rhys Wakefield)

Sanctum has got many very beautiful scenes in the underwater caves, and this way it makes good use of the 3D effects. On the other hand, there are many annoying details in the 3D such as the ones I mentioned before, tree branches etc., and also in some scenes there are a huge amount of these 3D air bubbles, which are mostly distracting instead of being nice to watch.

The movie is easy to follow, because the plot is fairly simple. The side plot between the father and son wasn't bad either. Now that I think about it, the storyline is also quite repetitive. After the group is trapped inside the cave, practically the same few main events keep happening till the very end of the movie. Despite the repetitiveness, the movie does take a good hold of the audience and doesn't have many boring or uninteresting dialogue scenes. It has got a very strong and tense atmosphere throughout the adventure, and some diving moments are literally breathtaking (heh). Could say there are a few quite shocking moments aswell.

There are a few minor points which I didn't find very reasonable. For example the scene with the deadly foamy water pool inside the caves, it wasn't explained at all, the movie just expects the audience to believe these kind of underground geysir-vortexes exist. Secondly the fact that they didn't seem to have any safety plan or alternate measures made to escape the cave in a worst case scenario, even though they knew a huge rain storm is coming! Yet another odd thing is, that there just "happened" to be a rock big enough to block the only entrance to the part of the cave they were having their exploring camp in, and it just "happened" to start moving when this particular rain occured.

The cast of this movie is pretty much unkown to me. In my opinion, they did a fine job as the characters. In the beginning the acting and dialogue reminds of some sort of a soap opera, but it got better later on. And once again, when there are interesting side characters, the movie gets them killed them as soon as possible. Annoying.

As a conclusion, Sanctum does meet the expectations pretty well, it has some exciting moments and it's overall entertaining. I think it is worth watching in 3D, since it doesn't have those annoying "flying towards the camera" effects.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

3D movies

As I mentioned some weeks ago, that I'll go to see two more recent movies this month. The first one was True Grit, and for the second one I decided to wait for this new 3D movie, Sanctum. I hadn't seen a 3D movie before, so that's pretty much why I chose it.

So.. How was the 3d? At first it looked a bit strange to me, it took like 20 minutes for my eyes to get fully used to the 3D picture. The 3D glasses weren't very comfortable either. There were some cool effects, but sometimes it looked like there were multiple 2-dimensional layers in a 3d space, it's a little difficult to explain. Another thing which I found a bit annoying was the objects placed very "near" in the corners of the screen, such as tree branches or computer screens. They were annoying because they were blurry. I guess it's are supposed to create some sort of 3d impression, but they often cover like 1/4th of the screen and you can't focus your eyes on these objects, because they're intentionally blurred.

Overall I think the 3D was "ok", some effects were really cool, but there were so many distracting details which you don't have to worry about in a normal film. And the 3D video quality didn't look as high as you could expect. So while the 3D techniques are still under developement, I'd probably watch ordinary films rather than 3D.

I also made a short review of Sanctum. But to avoid too long posts, I'll post it separately later on.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Platoon (1986)

Let's continue with the Charlie Sheen movies shall we? Although this time it's not a comedy.

"Platoon is a 1986 American war film written and directed by Oliver Stone and starring Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen & Keith David. Stone wrote the story based upon his experiences as a U.S. infantryman in Vietnam, as a counter to the vision of the war portrayed in John Wayne's The Green Berets." (Wikipedia).

The movie follows a volunteer infantryman Chris Taylor's (Charlie Sheen) perspective of his platoon's encounters in the Vietnam war. The movie creates a very ruthless image of the nature of Vietnam war. While having very tense and realistic atmosphere in the war scenes, it also shows the developement of the soldier's psycological and ethic values, and the significant decrease of the value of human life. How the inexperienced newcomer struggles to retain his sanity while turning into a cold blooded killer.

The acting performances are surprisingly good in this movie. According to IMDb, the actors had to go through a real 14 day bootcamp practice, including night patrols etc, before they started filming the movie, and it shows. I think it's actually pretty clever idea to create more authentic look and behaviour to the characters. Charlie Sheen seems to be a bit lost once in a while, but it's probably intended since his character is a "newcomer". He does also a good job as the narrator. The other main characters, Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) and  Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) do great job aswell, and give also very interesting personalities to the characters, other being more compassionate and friendly, and the other a harsh and obstinate psychopath.

Unlike many newer war films, Platoon doesn't have much of bloody gore, severed limbs or blood splatter. And tbh, it doesn't need that. It's still extremely brutal and ruthless, could say it's more brutal than Saving Private Ryan.

It's interesting to see Charlie Sheen in a serious role after seeing so many comedies. In many movie ratings Platoon is considered as one of the best war films ever made. Have to agree, I actually liked it more than Full Metal Jacket or Apocalypse Now.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mr. Nice Guy (1998)

I had a little trouble finding a movie to make a review of, so I decided to review the next film I see on the TV. The next film was a Jackie Chan movie, "Mr. Nice Guy", directed by Sammo Hung. Immediately when the movie began, I knew this would be one of those silly late 90's action flicks. But since I had decided to review it, so be it.

This time there's no need to hide any spoilers, if there was any, so I wrote a bit longer scene-by-scene type of review. For tl:dr -> the last paragraph.

The movie starts when a news reporter Diana (Gabrielle Fitzpatrick) and her colleague manages to record footage of a drug deal between a group of mafia and drug gang members. Although the drug deal goes wrong and the shooting reveals the hiding journalists. Diana escapes with the videotape but gets chased by the crooks. And when she's just about to get caught, she bumps into Jackie (Jackie Chan). We see a few fast paced and some what clever fighting performances by Jackie, and endless amounts of stereotypical "stupid villains", who speak with throaty voice and can never aim nor shoot their guns properly. Jackie helps Diana escape, and it turns out that Jackie is actually a famous TV chef. The crooks recognized him and thus he gets involved with the mess.

The mafia boss Giancarlo (Richard Norton) wants to get his hands on the tape, because otherwise it would reveal his drug businesses. Ofcourse after being chased, Diana is stupid enough to go straight to her home, where she learns that the videotape has been changed with one of Jackies cooking tapes. Meanwhile the villains had interrogated Dianas captured colleague, and so they get to know where she lives. Diana ends up getting caught by the criminal mob.

"I'm the bad guy and you should know that by now!"

Another chasing scene follows as Diana escapes the crooks, again, but now they know Jackie has got the tape, so they try to ambush him while he's doing his TV show. What a surprise, this attempt fails once again and we see yet another fast paced chasing+fighting scene, filled with low-fps slowmotions. This time spiced with horse wagons.

The mafia boss isn't pleased to hear about the failures, after a sequence of some serious over acting and yelling, he punishes his underlings by slapping them to the face with a tie. A F*king TIE, now this guy must be serious! We did see him shooting and punching people before, but now he's using a tie! whew.

Jackie's girlfriend Miki (Miki Lee) gets kidnapped in the previous hassle, so Jackie agrees to make a trade. The trade fails, surprise, and we see a chasing scene once again, with an inexcusable amount of low fps slowmos! This time Jackie chasing the crooks. The kidnappers escape with Miki, but another group returns to pick up Jackie aswell. Jackie beats up the group in an awkward van grappling scene, also causing severe car accidents.

Jackie finds out that Miki is being held in a construction yard. Jackie immediately appears to the right location, it's never explained how he got there, my guess is teleporting. Again Jackie beats up all the gang members in a flashy and actually quite well performed fighting scene. Jackie gets into a tight situation and is forced to surrender.

Mafia boss brings Jackie to his mansion (why?) and beats him up a bit. After Jackie appears unconcious, he orders his men to "take him to the guest house" also known as "execute him by leaving him in an open car and crush it with a giant truck". How convenient. Who would have guessed that this plan isn't Jackie-proof? Jackie hijacks the giant truck and crushes Giancarlos' mansion along with all his sports cars and limousines. Ofcourse Giancarlo also kept the drugs in the mansion, so the police could have evidence to arrest him.

"Who the hell hid explosives inside the ceiling lamp??"

And that was it. It was pretty much exactly what I expected it to be. A silly Hollywood comedy action flick, and nothing more. It does have a few good moments, Jackie Chan doing amazing stunts and fighting, as he usually does in this kind of movies. The rest of the movie is just so poorly put together. Add together the stereotypical and uninteresting villains, mediocre acting, annoying slowmos and jokes that just aren't funny, unless you're heavily drunk. Overall, there are many better and more entertaining Jackie Chan movies to watch.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lyrics and music

A few days ago I had an interesting conversation with one friend of mine. We mostly talked about some bands we like to listen to, the lyrics of their songs and what kind of live shows they do.

At some point one of my friend's other friend joined us while we were discussing about some band's lyrics. He soon declares that in his opinion the melodies and talented playing are far more important than the lyrics of the songs. Kind of an interesting point of view I must say, but also a bit funny. Atleast we had a nice discussion about it, and he did have a few good points to back up his opinion.

I think it is understandable, kind of, since we were talking about metal music, where you often have to look up the lyrics yourself from the album booklet or from the internet. Because, tbh, most of the time your ears/mind can't extract the words from the vocalist's performance.

Anyways, the funny thing was, that the person I was talking with only knew the names of the songs of a certain artist, but had no idea what the songs were about. I was a bit amazed of this, because I've usually kept the lyrics as one of the main reasons to like or dislike a band/song. I mean, if the lyrics were really something close to utter bs, it immediately decreases my interest towards the band. Ofcourse this is a rather extreme example and it doesn't apply in all cases, but you get the idea. Atleast I would find it a little strange to cheer for a band that praises something in its songs I fully disagree with.

In the end, I think we managed to convince him to take a closer look to the lyrics of the bands. I hope so. Not necessarily memorize all the lyrics, but atleast to get a faint idea what the songs are about. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New layout !

Ok, here's the first attempt to upgrade my blog's layout.  I think it already got a significant improvement compared to the previous one, although there are still some details I'd like to add / change.
And what comes to improvements, here's an awesome song made even more awesome!

I recommend checking out vadrum's other videos too. Very impressive classical music drum adaptations.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)

This time it'll be a parody film, Hot Shots 2! Directed by Jim Abrahams.

The movie begins when a rescue team is trying to ambush the enemy headquarters, but end up getting caught and imprisoned. It turns out they were sent to rescue the previous rescue team(s), whose mission was to rescue hostages from a prison camp. The President Benson (Lloyd Bridges) decides to send yet another rescue team. Because they suspect their missions are being sabotaged, they send the best soldiers they have. Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen) is chosen to lead the squad, but he is retired and living a simple workers life in a monastery, so they send a CIA agent Michelle (Brenda Bakke) and Toppers old superior, Colonel Walters (Richard Crenna) to persuade him. Eventually Topper agrees, and they're sent to Iraq for their mission.

Since it is an over the top parody film, it's hard to judge the technical flaws or plot holes, because most of them are obviously left there on purpose. About the comedy aspect of this movie, it's nice how it points out almost every cliché and mistake an action movie can have, and there are actually a few pretty clever jokes aswell. Ofcourse there are also many jokes that are either out dated or over used in other parody films, they might be funny on the first time you watch the movie, but later on they tend to become boring.

What I liked in this film, is that it isn't filled with over the top stupidity, like many other (new) parody films. It actually has got a plot. They have Richard Crenna (the same actor who played Rambo's trainer and superior officer in the First Blood movie) playing the superior officer of Topper, despite it's just a minor detail, I think it adds quite a lot to the parody value. I also liked how Lloyd Bridges played the president, being a bit goofy senior politican, and a complete nutcase at the same time. Charlie Sheen does also good work as a "Rambo+Steven Seagall mixture".

Overall, this movie does a good job blending together all the great action films of the late 80's and early 90's. Considering the genre, it is an entertaining movie, and compared to other parodies of the same concept, in my opinion it stands out being "the better parody movie".

Monday, March 14, 2011

Internet fail

Sorry for not making new posts for the past few days. Last week I had some dns problems with my internet connection. It got worse on Friday, and the connection has been completely down since Saturday. Hopefully it'll be fixed today.

On the bright side, due to broken internet, I managed to finish some school work during the weekend because I had nothing better to do. :)

 +Music to ease boredom.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

True Grit (2010)

Ok, so just I went to see this movie, True Grit. Now I'll try my best to pull my thoughts together into a reasonable text. Here we go..

I didn't really know what to expect from this movie, I hadn't read any reviews, only heard some of my friends saying it's a good movie, and ofcourse the many positive comments about it which you guys posted to my last entry. Thanks.

At first, the beginning of the movie felt a bit patchy. Many short separate scenes, which had so much information to tell in a very short time. Luckily, the movie soon found back on it's track of telling the story. For the rest of the movie, the editing is good, doesn't bother the viewer at all. The camera work is also great, many scenes have very artistic sceneries which are very pleasant to watch.

The movie spends quite alot of time following the main character Mattie's (Hailee Steinfeld) actions in the town, maybe even a little bit too much,. It included many interesting and cleverly written scenes, especially what I found very well thought was the horse trading scene. But there's some unnecessary scenes aswell, mostly just attempts to ease the atmosphere, or scenes practically labelled "look it's a western movie!".

I think the "journey" part is the better half of the movie. I really liked the encounters they had with the strange medicine merchant wearing bearskins, such a shame he only appeared in that one single scene. Also I liked the style how some of the scenes were made, keeping the tension high and viewer on his toes for a long time, suspecting that something is going to happen, but not sure about it. Then BAM, something unexpected totally gets you off guard. (The scene with the two bandits in the small hut).

For the most part, all the acting performances were really good, even Matt Damon did a fine job as "LaBoeuf" the Texas Ranger. But the special mention goes to Jeff Bridges as the marshall Rooster Cogburn, great performance for a well written character. The only less convincing acting was Hailee Steinfeld's performance as Mattie, but considering that she actually is only 14 years old, I'd say her performance is still very good. Finally, what comes to the rest of the cast, the character of the thug gang leader Lucky Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper) was a very interesting one, it was a pity that there were only little introduction and explanation of how the marshall knew him from the past.

Overall, True Grit is a very nice film. It's a nice change compared to typical western films. Even though the plot is fairly simple, the characters of this movie play a major role making it memorable. If you haven't seen this movie, I would definitely recommend watching it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Recent movies

I happened to get two movie tickets to the local movie theater. I couldn't decide which movies I should go to see and the tickets expire at the end of the month, so there aren't so many movies to pick from. I was also thinking of writing a short post of them.

Here's some of the movies they're playing this month. I haven't seen any of them, which ones would you recommend?

Another Year
The Rite
The King's Speech
Black Swan
True Grit

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Memorable songs of the 80's

I'll come up with more movie reviews once I get some time to write them. Writing them has actually turned out being a quite time consuming process.

Anyway, I happened to hear a Blue Oyster Cult song on the radio today, I had almost totally forgotten about this awesome band! Because of this, I got a suddent urge to dig up some other classics which I haven't listened for a long time. Here's Veteran of the psychic wars!

The second pick is a bit late, but in memory of Gary Moore (1952-2011), Victims of the future (live).

And the last but definitely not the least, Def Leppard - Coming Under Fire!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beowulf (2007)

When I first saw the trailer of this movie, I actually thought it was a video game commercial. I didn't know it was a full CGI animation. Already thought to myself "Oh no, not another Eragon". I wasn't familiar with the directors Robert Zemeckis previous work, so it was just a first impression based on the trailer. Fortunately, the first impression was proved to be wrong.

Beowulf is based on the old English/Danish poem of the same name. The movie takes place in 6th century, a small kingdom haunted by a repulsive monster Grendel. After Grendel attack, The King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) offers half of the gold in his kingdom for the one who takes Grendels head. The rumor of a big reward for the hero who slays the monster reaches Beowulf (Ray Winstone) and his group of Geats, they travel to this kingdom, and agree to slay Grendel. However, after completing this deed, it turns out there were something worse in the depths of Grendels cave, it's mother (Angelina Jolie). Sadly they never showed her true form, only some scaled arms and the beautiful mirage it creates.

The director, Robert Zemeckis does fairly good job, the scenes are well designed and the behaviour and interaction between characters feels natural, thanks to the Performance capture technique used to create the characters. The CGI textures are very detailed and nice to watch, most of the time, there are some minor details which brings out the "video game" look, such as the forests have nothing but trees, no smaller growth at all, but it doesn't bother much. Probably the biggest problem is the weghtlessness, in some scenes it's not bad, but the worst is most likely Beowulfs movements when he is grappling with Grendel, he's literally flying.

The voice acting is surprisingly good, only a few times there's something 'not right', and even then it's the side role characters.

The actual story of this movie is kept fairly simple, which is good in this case. But there are some problems aswell. I don't know if it's just me, but I couldn't find much of developement in the characters, mostly because there were very little introduction to any of them, I'd have wanted to know more about the previous king Hrothgar, and Wiglaf (Brendan Gleeson), the "bodyguard" of Beowulf. I understand the story is based on a poem, so there might not exist any backstory at all. This leads into some small flaws in the storytelling.

Compared to other fantasy movies, Beowulf doesn't really stand out from the crowd. It does have an appealing serious style of telling the story, but it feels like it's just scratching the surface of the story by fast-forwarding the life of Beowulf. Nevertheless, despite the CGI and story flaws, I think it is a decent and entertaining fantasy movie.