John Wick (3 Stars)

Probably not a film to be praised about for it’s script of plot line, it is a simple enough storyline. John Wick (Keanu Reeves), is an retired assassin who has just loss his wife. His wife who knew she was dying organises a gift to her grieving husband in the form of a dog. Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, Theon Greyjoy in a Game of Thrones) sees Wick’s car and offers to buy it. When Wick refuses, Tarasov breaks into his house and steals the car and kills Wick’s dog.

Unbeknown to Tarasov, he didn’t just break into anyone’s house, he broke into the Baba Yaga (The Boogeyman)’s house. Wick comes out of retirement and back his assassin’s ways to seek revenge for the murder of his dog.

The film is gripping and some of the stunts of brilliant. I think Keanu Reeves is very well suited to the film and gives a great performance, maybe because he has so much empathy with his character giving his personal experiences with loss.

It’s not a film to win for screenplay but in terms of all out violence and a good dose of ‘What the Hell’ did he just do! It’s well worth a watch.

 

Munich (3 Stars)

It’s funny that even when I am taking a break for working on German history I am drawn to German history film topics. Although this film focuses a little more on Israel than Germany. In 1972, The Summer Olympics are held in Germany, during which members of a Palestinian terrorist organisation known as Black September. Walk into a very relaxed Olympics Village and kidnap and eventually massacre 11 members of the Israeli Olympics team in what is known as Operation Iqrit and Biram (which were two Palestinian Christian villages forcibly obtained during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and became part of the State of Israel). The film dramatically shows those events in the opening film.

In revenge for the massacre, Israel launches Operation Wrath of God, under Mossed control. What is surprising is that this is one of Spielberg’s lowest grossing films, one of the reasons for that could be arguably the nature of the topic. It was quite a controversial topic choice, and one which in 2005 had received very little debate of discussion about. Perhaps in somewhere making the film helped bring it out in the open to be discussed. The film itself is interesting and has a lively dialogue throughout and at some points is very white-knuckle interesting. However, I found elements of it quite difficult to follow, and in some areas it became confusing – particularly around the breakdown of the operation.

Elements I particularly liked about this was Eric Bana’s character Avner Kaufman, who is the leader of the operation and his ‘breakdown’ as the operation continues. There are elements of this film I really like and I think it was great, however I don’t think key actors – such as Daniel Craig, were well cast in this film and I don’t think those bad casting decisions bought much to the film.

I thought it was a good and interesting attempt, but it wasn’t brilliant.

Cinderella (3 Stars)

Although a predictable Storyline and one you’ve probably all watched before I did enjoy watching this version of Cinderella. I really like the Brother’s Grimm and I am trying to read them in German at the moment so it is nice to watch them as a film as well. Although largely based on the Children friendly version of the story, this film just breath new life in the beginning of the film – so it is not a rematch of previous films. It also adds new breath with great performances by Cath Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter. It also had some lovely costumes.

Four Minutes (3 Stars)

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Four Minutes had an interesting enough storyline, an elderly woman, Traude Krueger (Monica Bleibtreu), is a piano teacher within a Women’s prison, uptake on the lessons is slow so the warden encourages her to find new students. One woman, Jenny Von Loeben (Hannah Herzsprung), with a severe attitude problem turns up and Traude refuses to let her play the piano. With this refusal, Jenny throws a fit of rage and nearly kills a prison warden, but she succeeds and is able to gain access to the piano – where she plays fantastically. Traude senses the Jenny’s talent and agrees to teach her. Traude begins to learn about Jenny and her life whilst together they try to nurture the girl’s talent and overcome her defence mechanism as they try for a prestigious music competition, where the young woman has just four minutes to prove her talent.

The film itself is a little slow, painfully slow in fact and whilst it is interesting I did feel that it’s lack of momentum failed to sustain my interest throughout the film. I don’t suppose the added situation of a very elderly cat, when is losing his marbles helped either. I would have to pause the film every 20 or so minutes to sort out one of his various demands (Food, Outside, Food, Outside, Entertainment, Sort out Confusion, More food…you get the idea). I guess this added level of distraction made the film drag on even longer, which I don’t think was the films fault.

Whilst Bleibtreu and Herzsprung gave gifted performances, I think a lack of script failed to develop this into a true winner of a film, which is a pity.

In the Heart of the Sea (3 Stars)

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I am being very generous with the three stars for this film, whilst I think it is a good film I have one overwhelming gripe with it.

The backing sound track was much too loud, all too often there would be music or waves and it made it incredibly difficult to hear the dialogue. I know this is a film set a sea and yes there were times there was a storm and it would have been incredibly difficult to hear, so I accept that it may have been necessary. Yet, there were times when for no logical reason the background music was jus too loud and I missed passages of dialogue. I would have given it two and half stars because of the annoyance. However, I thought it was a little unfair, had the backing music being better this film would of been a 4 star film. The music just spoilt this film for me and I felt I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would of done.

Daddy’s Home (3 Stars)

Brad Whitaker (Will Ferrell) has always wanted children but unfortnately cannot have them. However, he hits the jackpot when he marries Sara (Linda Cardellini) and becomes Step-Dad to her two children Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro). He is the perfect Dad, creating lunches and taking comfort that he is only severely injured in one of Megan’s photos and not already dead. All this changes however, when Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) discovered his ex-Wife has moved on and remarried. He returns the next day to check out the new man in his family’s life and take back his family.

This film was ok, it was funny in places. A lot of it was mostly ridiculous and there was the cheesy perfect ending to the movie. The acting is okay and I didn’t find it overly brilliant. It’s not one to rush and go see but it is a good way to spend a rainy post-Christmas afternoon, especially better than going to a pantomime.

Batman Returns (3 Stars)

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The legendary film where Michelle Pfeiffer wears the famous cat suit, apparently 40 cat suits were made for this film because they were so scarred of it ripping (with the cat claws and trying to get Pfeiffer out of the costume) but apparently it didn’t rip.

The film is like any other superhero movie – it has a formula and the formula works. It begins with the story of The Penguin (Danny Devito) whose been abandoned as a baby and raised by Penguins (yet somehow managed to learn English as well…we’ll suspend are disbelieve for this film). I loved the Burton feel to these scenes and the music by Danny Elfmann, it reminds me very much of other Burton films and I just like his style.

33 years later at Christmas he along with his the Red Triangle Circus Gang cause a riot at Christmas (so naturally it’s up there as a good Christmas film!). Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) a prominate business man is kidnapped and threatened into helping The Penguin. In the process, Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) stumbles along some of Shreck’s plans and he attempts to kill her. She survives but suffers a mental breakdown, and takes on a new alter-ego of cat woman. Enter Batman (Michael Keaton) and ensuring plotline to stop The Penguin an Max Shreck’s evil doings.

The film is ok, it’s like most batman films. I particularly liked the Batman costume in this one – it looked more vigilante that the more modern Batmans (although Bruce Wayne has enough money to make an awesome Batman costume as we see from the later films).The script is nothing special, I didn’t find the acting that inspiring either. Danny Devito did look amazing in this film, I loved his makeup and costume and thought he looked particularly creepy as a villain. I did get a little bored towards the end of the film, it just wasn’t fast flowing and punchy enough. Keaton wouldn’t be my best Batman and despite a good attempt by Devito he is also not my favourite Batman baddie.

It’s ok as a film, but it’s brilliant as a Christmas film, saves you having to watch some other Christmasy films. I’m not a Christmasy person so unless there is violence in it I don’t want to watch it (the notable exception to this is Muppet’s Christmas Carol).

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (3 Stars)

I was disappointed with this film. I loved the first one and it seemed somehow above the usual quality of Hollywood – yes it had all the plot twists of a Hollywood and the glamour, but the messages that came out of it for me were powerful. Especially working as I do within Third Reich and Holocaust studies. People can sit there and say why didn’t people stand up to the Nazis. Well some didn’t because they believed what was being said. Some didn’t because they feared losing their positions. Some were just trying to live there lives in a quiet and as safe a way as possible. Others tried to fight against the Nazis, they either fled for their lives or they ended up dead. It’s always noble to have hind sight and say you would do things differently, but when forced into the situation, when you have to make the choice, what would you do?

In this film there are no lasting moral questions. The film was very much just an average Hollywood film – it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t as good as the first one. This one just felt rushed. Like you know it was building to something at the end, so the details were just skipped over or rushed through to get to the end bit, the important bit.

Stonehearst Asylum (3 Stars)

The film centres on Dr. Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) who has travelled to his first appointment as a Doctor, in the remote and gothic looking Stone Asylum. There Newgate meets a seemingly strange bunch of people, later to be the groundskeeper (David Thewlis)  who greets him with a gun. Later, Newgate meets the Doctor in charge, Dr. Silas Lamb (Ben Kingsley) who seems more concerned about making his patients happy and comfortable…and often indulging in their fantasies over treating them…a very unusual practise for 1899. Dr. Silas Lamb even has a woman, Lady Graves (Kate Beckinsale), who seems completely normal though he refuses to label her as sane, to seemingly protect her from her husband. Is Dr. Lamb a very caring doctor in an age when medicine is particularly barbaric to the patient’s care or is there something more than meets the eye?

The film boasts a good cast, which makes me suspicious of my why I’ve not heard of the film before. I randomly stumbled across it on Netflix but you can also get it on Amazon. I guess it came out whilst I was in Austria for an extended period and thus did not keep up to date with films, anyway…the film might be relatively obscure because it’s an average film, although I do enjoy a period drama. If you like the Illusionist then I recommend watching this one.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (3 Stars)

Normally I stay clear of horror films, it’s not because they scare me. Quite the opposite in fact, they normally bore me to sleep. For that reason I have never watched any of the Paranormal Activities before that, although I have heard that they are better than previous films, in that they are scarier.

I decided to give the sixth one a go – normally when a franchise has gone on to six films – they are kinda getting a bit stale by this point. I thought this was the third film going in – that’s how much I knew about the franchise. We were sold tickets to this being a 3d film and we got the glasses. However it didn’t start off 3d…and for a while we thought we’d be mis-sold it and ended up taking off the glasses. It turned out some 3d stuff did happen later in the film.

The film begins apparently when the last film ended (I was told by my friend who had watched the previous ones), so I felt a bit like the recent Bond, that there was going to be part of the storyline I was missing out on. Luckily it is a stand alone. I didn’t feel that in not watching the previous ones I had missed a ton of storyline. The plot itself for a horror film was pretty interesting. I liked the spooky video camera and the guys getting interesting in it. I liked the effects and thought the film was ok.

If I was to pick a horror I would probably give another Paranormal Activity a go. They are never going to win film of the year but for a stick something claiming to be scary it’s worth a shot at trying to get you scared, even if it doesn’t it won’t bore you whilst it attempts to scare you.