Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Looper (2012) Review

With universal acclaim of 93% on RT and being a sleeper hit, I still had low expectations of Looper as it could have turned out to be over-hyped. It turned out to be rightfully rated.
  Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) in the lead along with Hollywood A-star Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt. The film is based in 2044 where if the mob wants anybody dead they send him back 30 years into the present for execution. The killers are known as Loopers and things get topsy-turvy when Joe Simmons (Levitt) encounters his future self.
  By the trailer the movie looks too cliched or kind of like this year's Total Recall. But this sci-fi venture packs more than a bunch of futuristic guns. The plot is original and the follow-through is unpredictable. The timing of events is notably brilliant, owing to the top-class direction. Although Blunt (pictured below) gained much acclaim to her acting I reckon Willis was more of a perfectionist. Maybe it was the swearing in almost all of his dialogues that didn't make the cut with critics. Levitt was also fine and this is his shot into the limelight for good having previous side roles in big productions. It was also amazing how the make-up artist got Levitt's facial features to resemble that of Willis'. No one could've thought of creating that pairing.
Action is guaranteed but less than promised in the teasers to put more emphasis on story. The settings are bleak but uncanny enough. On a lower budget it can't exactly become Inception.
However, there are noticeable flaws. The running time is too high. This could've easily been a 90 minutes picture so people wouldn't be hesitant of buying the ticket. Plus, pacing is too slow for a sci-fi action or even thriller. If these negative points were dismissed then Looper would've been perfect.
  In conclusion, Looper made $132m worldwide off $32m at the end of its theatrical run, and I expect DVD and BR sales to be sky high. Written and directed by Rian Johnson being his third film and the first in this genre, he did a fancy job and hope he doesn't plunge into the depth of H-wood nonsense later on.

IMDB: 8.0/10.
Roger Ebert: 3.5/4.
BO101: 3/4.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Yes, the title certainly catches your eye. America's most popular president had a hobby of slaying vampires? This movie proves that the rumour is a true piece of fiction.
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov who has features such as Wanted under his chair, and produced by the likes of Tim Burton, so the chemistry is impressive. Written by Seth Grahame-Smith based on his own novel of the same name proves he is a newbie to screenwriting. The film was distributed by Fox studios and although the studio faces gross problems the movie managed to make $108m off $69m also being shot in 3-D.
  Also owing to its financial success is that the novel was a bestseller. Starring Benjamin Walker in the titular role, the film follows Abraham Lincoln from early life to presidency with vampire throat-slashing in between. The main source of motivation being that his mother was killed by one.
  The plot is original featuring a new theme to real-life presidency. Indeed newer films could be based on the same theme: Barack Obama - Oil Hunter for instance. The originality lacks in how the film times most of its scenes. It seems very unfocused and that the novel's length was not properly adjusted for the 105 minutes. The dialogues are average and timings of certain events are not so well timed. It also never reveals the power behind Lincoln's strength in detail. The first half is a bit boring although it gets quite interesting in the latter stage. The action scenes are over-done and too unrealistic. And it's not even scary. Vampires are averagely depicted.
  The pros are the acting. Walker played Lincoln well especially when he gets into the full person hats, beard and all. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who starred in The Thing remake, plays the wife decently showing that she can actually act. But the best performance was by Dominic Cooper (The Devil's Double) who is a brilliant thespian and hope the best is to come for him. Although the flick seems predictable at start-up it becomes unpredictable afterwards. The ending was also awesome given the OK beginning. Though I still question Lincoln handling an ax so skillfully.
  In conclusion, Abraham Lincoln is a completely passable neither good nor bad. It has no replay value. Also, pieces of Lincoln's life, adding to the war, were not peacefully put together. 3-D was a proper addition.

BO101: 2/4.
Rotten Tomatoes: 35%.
IMDB: 6.1/10.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

90 minutes of my life Stolen

As the heading suggests, a low-budget film such as Stolen must be viewed with caution. Not for what not to expect but for what to expect.
Stolen (2012) is directed by Simon West who also shot this year's The Expendables 2 which proves a film-maker should not concentrate on two action projects annually. Written by David Guggenheim who wrote the super-hit Safe House earlier this year shows that he only retained his dialogue delivery in the script. Nicolas Cage stars as an ex-thief who's just gotten out of jail to find his daughter kidnapped and shoved inside a taxi's trunk. 
  The plot is reminiscent of 2008's Taken without Liam Neeson's charisma or perfect plot-pacing. This was less than half of the film that Taken was. The only thing it succeeded in was with the similarly-themed title. Stolen does have its good points: Action cinematography is decent although I sincerely doubt that a robber who deals in bank theft has so much combat experience. Dialogues are hilarious and cynical, with fun exchanges between the main FBI officers. Josh Lucas acted top notch outshining all the other who couldn't shine anyhow:
  However, these are only distractions. Stolen has a mediocre plot. The follow-through after the kidnapping is weak. The opening scenes promise much but the later running time disappoints badly. West directed this feature well but the mediocre screenwriting flawed it all. Predictability is just another word for Stolen.
  Unless you have nothing else to die or are a die-hard fan of Cage, you can bare to watch this. The box office revenue was so bad it was shipped out of US theatres after just a couple of weeks. That's what happens when a film makes just a petty $304,318 off $35m. The film co-stars Malin Akerman and Danny Huston.
  Cage hasn't had great role since 2009's Knowing. This is 2nd worst film after The Wicker Man. And only the possible National Treasure 3 or the confirmed The Expendables 3 can save his career. Simon West created box office genius with 1997's Con Air comprising of Cage but did the complete opposite with this one.

B0101: 1/4.
Rotten Tomatoes: 14%.
IMDB: 5.2/10.

(Not an) Expendable review

In 2010, The Expendables was met by critical pressure, yet managed to open up at no.1 in a number of countries including the US, India and so on. That had a roster of famous Hollywood action oldies and the sequel does not only deliver a bigger ensemble cast but also a bigger bang!
  The Expendables 2 grossed $289.2m off a budget of $100m at the end of its theatrical run showing a better performance but with a larger production cost largely due to the actors' salaries. The Expendables had a $80m budget grossing $274m globally so the sequel was more successful although it would've grossed about $330m if not for the mass murder in Colorado this year. Also, if a regular cast was chosen I doubt the production cost would surpass the $50m mark. Directed by Simon West this time around who is well-known for action flicks like Con Air (1997) and badly-known for flops like Stolen (2012). The writing by Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone with a plot following Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) offering the team a jail-free pass if they recover something for him but things get topsy-turvy after encountering the ruthless killer Jean Villain. 
  Willis and Schwarzenegger were both given more prominent roles this time and rightfully so. Chuck Norris was a waste and shows he doesn't have that movie flair any more. Luckily, he declined the 3rd's offer. Sylvester Stallone is known not only for starring in superb action flicks but also writing them. His 2006's Rocky Balboa was brilliant and this one was no less. The Expendables 2 boasts all one can expect: adrenaline-fueled sequences and impressive verbal exchanges between Stallone and Statham. The latter was the best performer from the heroes' side. More humour tones were added to the mix that really impressed the critics this time around. There was also an unannounced female addition this time around (Yu Nan). Dialogue delivery from other cast member is also worth-mentioning, especially from Dolph Lundgren, and it was better than the predecessor. 
  Though the cons of this film cannot be ruled out even with a blind eye. The plot is weak and the follow-through immensely predictable. The villains are played by Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins being more charismatic than the last time around. Van Damme declined the previous film's offer due to the fact he was to lose a fight against Jet Li. The role was changed to meet Lungren's specifications and he carried out well, and did the same this time. The settings were quite similar to the previous one's and the monotonous pacing irritating.
  Also, the mega-brawl between Stallone and Van Damme was disappointing though Statham's no-holds-barred MMA battle with Adkins was the most superior in the franchise. Adkins is a great fighter if you've seen Undisputed 2 and 3.
  But nothing compresses the action-packed mania and the Call of Duty shooting. This film was made specifically for males and whoever has a soft spot for action must catch this one.
  The Expendables 2 is better than its predecessor still not showing any improvement over story. Mickey Rourke who played the tattooist in The Expendables was too busy to show up this time. Nicolas Cage confirmed for the next part (and he so needs a non-straight-to-DVD role). Liam Hemsworth was the only male addition to the heroes' squad.

BO101: 3/4.
Rotten Tomatoes: 66%.
IMDB: 7.2/10. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Rock of Ages - more rock/less story

As the title suggests, Rock of Ages is a rock-themed musical. And that is new in a non-eventful Hollywood. Based on the hit 2011 Broadway musical of the same name. but not being a hit financially itself.
  Directed by Adam Shankman, who is best-known for directing the 2007 remake of Hairspray famously starring John Travolta as a plump female dancer, so he has film-making experience of this type. Written by a total of 3 screenwriters containing the original musical writer Chris D'Arienzo, the film focuses on two main characters: Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough), a small-town girl from Tulsa, Oklahoma with a lot of dreams to make it big in LA. The second is Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) a super-famous rockstar dealing with typical rocker's depression and lyrics writer's block. Though the movie fails to interpret the characters' backgrounds well. They also do not succeed in balancing their roles.
  Secondly, being a rock musical with something distinct to offer, it actually becomes predictable after the first half-hour. Taylor Swift was considered before Hough for her the main role but even though she has a better voice, she doesn't have the beauty or dance moves to shine on-screen. Although, their acting might be identical as Hough definitely needs training. She can't even cry right (in the rain!). Her boyfriend, played by newbie Diego Boneta acted exceptionally with lesser experience. The conclusion was there for the forecasting from the start. The trailer was solid but the material did not give as showcased:

  However, the music playlist was brilliantly selected. All singers performed in top-notch form, also worth mentioning that they're actors by profession. Popular 80s themes are featured such as Every Rose Has Its Thorn by Poison, Paradise City by Guns N' Roses, and the best performance being Wanted Dead or Alive by Cruise, originally by the internationally renown band Bon Jovi.
  Also, Cruise outshines everybody else in his drinking and singing persona. This was the highest fitting feat of a rockstar I have seen. No actor could've mentally dug into his role like Cruise. And his dialogues were the best of the entire script. That being impressive as he had quite a few lines. His singing was also number one having practiced just above three months.
  In conclusion, based in the American Dream go-getter destination Los Angeles with dirty and leather-wearing crowds, church protesters against Satanic Rock, and over-lit streets, Rock of Ages is an above-average musical. Having grossed just $50m worldwide off a budget of $75m it still had one of the highest openings for a musical ever. Surprised it did not make at least $100m featuring the likes of pop singer Mary J. Blige, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti and English comedian and ex-husband of Katy Perry, Russell Brand.

Rotten Tomatoes: 41%.
IMDB: 6.1/10.
BO101: 2.5/4.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

US box office September 28-30 weekend

TWLWTitle (click to view)StudioWeekend Gross% ChangeTheater Count /ChangeAverageTotal GrossBudget*Week #
1NHotel TransylvaniaSony$42,522,194-3,349-$12,697$42,522,194$851
31End of WatchORF$7,812,077-40.6%2,780+50$2,810$25,980,710$72
43Trouble with the CurveWB$7,277,385-40.2%3,212-$2,266$23,473,347-2
52House at the End of The StreetRela.$7,122,347-42.0%3,083-$2,310$22,193,316$102
6NPitch PerfectUni.$5,149,433-335-$15,371$5,149,433$171
74Finding Nemo (3D)BV$4,035,826-58.1%2,639-265$1,529$36,444,806-3
85Resident Evil: RetributionSGem$2,986,356-55.4%2,381-635$1,254$38,691,289$653
97The MasterWein.$2,680,554-39.0%856+68$3,131$9,568,624-3
10NWon't Back DownFox$2,603,370-2,515-$1,035$2,603,370-1

Genndy Tartakovsky is best-known for his association with Cartoon Network creating Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack and many popular others. In 2011, he joined Sony Pictures Animation and his directorial debut has set the record for the highest-grossing September weekend. And it's also refreshing that it grossed above $25m as this month was very slow in earnings.
  Hotel Transylvania stars Adam Sandler as Dracula along with the voices of Selena Gomez, Adam Sandberg, Kevin James, etc. The latter famous for their comedy roles in film. With over $8m worldwide, its opening amounts to $51m.
  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a good actor if you've seen the film Killshot. He was also in Chris Nolan's Inception and The Dark Knight Rises in prominent roles. He finally had a lead role in last month's Premium Rush that flopped but with critical acclaim. His other lead movie Looper has a start-up of $20.8m in the US off a budget of $30m. It also stars my favourite Hollywood action-star Bruce Willis with actress Emily Blunt.
  Looper plot synopsis: In 2027, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is set 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by transporting back Joe's future self.

  The storyline is original and clearly sci-fi. Writer/director Rian Johnson has directed mystery flicks in the past (although without science fiction themes), and episodes of the show Breaking Bad.
  With a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, and with IMDB users citing it as 'best of the year', it has been certified an unofficial must-watch of 2012.
  Dredd has dropped to 11 from 6 predictably and has earned a foreign $21m off $50m and this is disappointing. Still it is cited by both critics and viewers as one of the best action flicks this year, and way better than the original Judge Dredd.
  Pitch Perfect, a musical comedy based on a non-fiction book, opens up at number 6 with lesser-known starrers and will wash away at the American box office by next week. It premiers wide on October 5. Won't Back Down lands at the last of the top. It stars Maggie Gylenhaal (Rachel in The Dark Knight) and is a drama film on education. It looks too typical and thus its BO beginning. The budget is estimated to be $25m with an opening IMDB score of 4.9/10.
  Finding Nemo was re-releasing on September 14 in 3D and its international total is now $914m becoming the 4th highest-grossing animated feature of all time. The first being Toy Story 3. The top 4 were all originally released in the 21st Century except for the 2nd The Lion King (1994)!
  That's all from me folks, check out the trailer for Looper and I'll catch you all next week:

(Chart by Box Office Mojo)