Staring contest: Twilight: Eclipse review

I’m not ashamed to say I have read the Twilight books. Hell, I kinda liked them. They aren’t exactly great literature, but they are entertaining and easy to read, and the characters are far, far more likeable than the wooden cut outs we are offered in the latest film installment to the series.

For those that haven’t read the series, this was the one to watch. It has action, intensity, all the issues between Edward/Bella/Jacob finally come to a head. Unfortunately, director David Slade opted to go with 2 hours of teenagers staring moodily at one another while Bella bites her bottom lip.

The story this time centers around Bella and Edward staring at one another, whilst Jacob continues to wear no shirt and pine after Bella. Flame haired vampire Victoria is back for revenge, this time with new sidekick Riley and his vampire army at her command.

So what was wrong with the film? To be honest, I couldn’t find much that was right with it. The characters are so unlikeable, I found myself genuinely more interested in the villains, which is saying something. We wait nearly the entire movie to see the final showdown between the Cullen clan/werewolves and Victories army, and I can tell you now, it is not worth the wait. It reminds me of childhood experience of making a sparkler bomb. You watch the little fuse wind it’s way to the powder, and when it gets there… Nothing happens. You sit and wait, and keep watching anxiously for the fireworks, and they never come.

The wolves to me are a great disappointment. There just seems to be no weight behind them, they don’t seem to be great warriors like they are described in the book, but rather, more like giant Labradors.

I think I am agreeing with many people when I say I do not dislike Kristen Stewart or Robert Pattinson. I think they are both very capable actors, but both of them are let down in this film but a totally lifeless script. I don’t have the same high praise for Taylor Lautner, who once again does nothing in this film but wander around shirtless attempting to make tween girls sigh (judging by the box office scores, he is doing his job well at least).

One of the only highlights for me is the inclusion of Australian actor Xavier Samuel. Samuel plays new vampire Riley, and whilst he isn’t given to much room to grow, he at least relishes his role. He is evil, yet we can still sense the innocence of someone who has been drawn into this supernatural world unwillingly. He exudes a certain charisma that a certain other Australian star seems to be severely lacking (Sam Worthington, I’m looking at you). I sincerely hope that I get to see more of Samuels in the future, hopefully in something a little more interesting.

There is still one last chance for the series to redeem itself with the final installment, Breaking Dawn. Breaking Dawn lacks the conflict and action of Eclipse, but without wanting to spoil it for anyone, let’s just say that there are some interesting scenes that could make for a rather absurd film.

All in all I found Twilight: Eclipse to be bloated, boring, stiff and lifeless. I contemplated leaving well before the supposed climax, and did actually leave before the film finished (due to an unforeseen emergency). For some reason fans of the books seem to love the movie series also, which baffles me entirely, as the film betrays every good scene the book created, and leaves so much much wanting in terms of the characters.

Maybe they’re all just content to sigh at Jacobs abs?

1/5

Where do old toys go?: Toy Story 3 review

It’s been 11 long and lonely years since Woody and Buzz last graced the big screen. It’s been 15 since they first appeared. Believe me, I would know, I still remember sitting in that cinema as a 5 year old and falling in love with the toys from Andy’s room. I may also remember writing Andy on one of my shoes, but that’s beside the point.

So for me, there was no room for error on Toy Story 3. I needed Pixar to get this right, to ensure that there is still one series from my childhood that will remain in my mind as fantastic from beginning to end. So did I enjoy Toy Story 3? Unreservedly.

Toy Story 3 is yet another jewel in Pixars ever expanding crown. From the opening moments of Toy Story 3, I was hooked, just as I was all those years ago. The fantastic characters, the perfect score, the rich animation and colour ensured that I could not tear my eyes from the screen from opening credits till close. There were moments of pure elation and gut wrenching sadness. If you have loose tear ducts, I would suggest taking some tissues.

Toy Story 3 see’s Andy’s (John Morris) toys face one final adventure. Andy is headed for college, deciding to take childhood partner Woody (Tom Hanks) with him, whilst the Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of the gang are headed for the attic.

Once again there is a mix-up (I’m looking at you Andy’s mum, get it together!) and the toy’s end up at Sunnyside Daycare, seemingly a utopia where there is never a shortage of children to play with them. Unfortunately, paradise it ain’t, with the daycare being run by the evil teddy Lotso, who lives the good life by ensuring new toys are in the firing line, whilst he and his cronies live the easy life in the butterfly room.

To be perfectly honest, there is very little to fault this movie on. The voice work is amazing, Pixar once again dazzled with their visual mastery, and the story is almost seamless.

Perhaps my only issue with this film is with one of the films most powerful scenes, towards the end. The scene is emotive, captivating, and actually quite frightening. I can’t help but think that this scene may be more than a little overwhelming for young children, I know that more than a few young children have been pretty scared by this scene.

I know that some people dislike the 3D aspects of modern films (Roger Ebert I’m looking at you), and many believe that the implementation of 3D dampens the colours of the films. This is certainly not an issue for Toy Story 3, with Pixar’s fantastic colour pallete once again wowing audiences.

Whether you are 10, 20 or 80, I have no qualms in recommending this film to anybody, because plain and simple, it’s fantastic.

5/5

Have you seen Toy Story 3? What did you think of the final chapter in this great trilogy?

Soft Spot Cinema: Jumper

Yes that’s right, it’s time for another installment of Soft Spot Cinema, the feature where I attempt to defend the films everyone else loathes. Also, as an added incentive to readers, if you despise this film as much as I love it, send me a review (try not to make it too long) and I will post it on the site (unless it’s really good, in which case I will just pretend I never got it. Saves embarrassment).

This time I’ll be doing my best to defend the 2008 sci-fi adventure, Jumper.

Jumper follows the story of David Rice (played mostly by Hayden Christensen) a young lad who one day discovers that he has the ability to instantly transport himself anywhere in the world. Cue scenes of bank robberies and fantastic holidays. Lunch on The Sphynx and dinner in London. Of course, at some point the fun has to end, and that’s where we meet Roland (Samuel L. Jackson) a man dedicated to hunting down Rice and those like him. I could tell you more about the film, but I think to do so would spoil the fun (it could ruin the plot, but there isn’t much of that in the first place. Or is there too much?)

Jumper for me is an interesting film. Obviously for it to qualify for this segment I have to acknowledge that this film is bad. In this case, there is little getting around that fact. The scripting is relatively two dimensional, the plot line is somewhat confusing, with very little being explained. The film doesn’t really reveal where the conflict comes from, just that it is there, and the love interest seems to serve no purpose other than to be the love interest, a card board cut out is given more character depth.

So yes, on paper, this film is bad. But in reality, it’s exactly what I want from a mainstream sci-fi film. The first, and definitely most enticing factor is the concept. The ability to teleport to anywhere in the world, whenever you want? Yes please.

The film looks slick, with some fantastic scenery being used (Rice is seen surfing big waves in the morning, eating lunch atop the Sphynx and rounding out the day swinging from Big Ben in London), and despite majority opinion, I didn’t despise the acting at all. Christensen is generally considered to have a limited acting ability, however, I count myself in the minority that think he isn’t half bad, and I think he is actually quite well suited to this role. He is arrogant, yet still likeable, and also possesses the naivety of someone who has grown up without fully grasping the implications of his ability.

However, it is not Christensen, but Jackson that is the stand out for me in this film. I am unable to think of a film where I didn’t enjoy Jackson’s over the top acting. He is one actor that takes whatever character he is given and truly runs with it. Here we see Jackson as the self righteous Roland, who along with his cronies, has dedicated his life to hunting down “Jumpers”, a small group that Rice is now a part of.

At the end of the day, despite the mangled religious message (I’m still not entirely what the film was trying to get across in that regard), this is a film that is highly enjoyable as a non-thinking escape, something that many people seem to forget is a viable excuse for a film. It looks good, the acting is more than tolerable, the concept is enticing and there are some genuinely exciting moments in the film. This is not the sort of film you leave with thoughts about the directors interesting take on the modern social climate in regards to religious fascism, but rather, with the sole thought of “Man, what would you do if you had those powers?”

What did you think of Jumper? What films do you love that everyone else hates?

I love it when a film comes together: A-Team review

From the moment I saw the first promotional poster for The A-Team, I was a little bit excited.

Liam Neeson looked fantastic as John “Hannibal” Smith, and after having seen him in Taken, I was more than convinced he could turn up the action when required. Bradley Cooper was perfect for the charismatic Templeton “Faceman” Peck (who for the record, was always my favourite A-Team member), his turn as Phil in the comedy hit The Hangover proved that he was more than able to crank the charm up to 11. Sharlto Copely and Quintin “Rampage” Jackson as “Howling Mad” Murdoch and Bosco “B.A” Baracus respectively were outsiders to me. I hadn’t seen much of Copely other than in District 9, and I’d seen nothing of Jackson’s acting, only his brawling (though a quick imdb search told me that he was in the 2008 Bradley Cooper film, The Midnight Meat Train, which I actually quite liked, though I can’t remember Jackson in it for the life of me). Still, I couldn’t deny that even these two looked the part.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was not expecting this to be a cinematic masterpiece pushing for an Oscar. This was clearly designed to be a fun, easy action film. And in that regards, it succeeds. The action is entertaining, the jokes are funny, and the story followable.

The opening scene sets up the relationship between the characters perfectly (and also explains why B.A is scared to fly, something I never understood from the show), and also seamlessly slots the characters in to more modern times (the original TV show was set during Vietnam).

From the opening scenes in Mexico (where, believe it or not, a plan comes together) we move 8 years in to the future and to Iraq, where the foursome are now the closest of friends, having completed over 80 successful missions together. The team is sent to reclaim stolen U.S treasury Plates that are being used to print counterfeit bills. Unfortunately, after what is seemings to have been success, the team is betrayed and framed, with the team being subsequently stripped of their ranks and imprisoned. The role of the framer is not entirely revealed until later in the film, but needless to say, it was a twist that I was not entirely expecting, but was not so far-fetched as to turn me off the film.

One of the bigger issues stemmed from two of the actors. I felt that Jackson seemed to struggle with the more emotional scenes in the film/ He is believable as the tough guy, and we laugh at his jokes, but when it comes to the serious moments, he just doesn’t quite have the acting chops of his comrades. I also couldn’t quite get a grasp on Jessica Biel’s character, who is in charge of reclaiming the stolen plates. She is also an ex flame of Coopers Faceman, though the full details of this are not revealed. I felt that for a hardened military woman, Biel just wasn’t that, well, hard. Don’t get me wrong, I could gladly watch Biel on screen all day, but I just wasn’t quite buying her character in this one.

The amount of pure action in the film keeps it ticking along nicely, with vital plot points and character development being scattered between explosions and scenes of flying tanks.

Ahh yes, the flying tank. This seems to have been one of the most prominent issue that people had with the film, and it’s true, it is ridiculous. But that’s the point of the movie. The A-Team (as Jessica Biel’s character so perfectly puts it) specialise in the ridiculous. We know that you can’t pilot a tank using one parachute and the main gun, but the logisitics of the scene aren’t the point.

And besides, if anyone can somehow fly a falling tank whilst simultaneously engaging two jet fighters, it’s The A-Team.

3.5/5

What did you think of the A-Team? Leave your thoughts on the film in the comments section.

Soft spot cinema: 21

So in my time I have been known to like a fair few crap movies. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of good ones as well, but for some reason there seems to be a bank of crappy films that I can’t get enough.

So with that in mind, I introduce you to my newest segment, Soft spot cinema.

In this segment I will post reviews of some of these horrible films, and try to justify why they entertain me so.

In the inaugural segment I present to you: 21.

21 is the work of director Robert Luketic, a director with a less than stellar career to date (The Ugly Truth and Monster-In-Law were both helmed by Luketic), though I like to think that this film operates on a slightly higher level than his distinguished past pieces.

The film’s hero is young whiz kid Ben (Jim Sturgess), a senior at MIT who wants to go on to study at Harvard Med. The only problem? Ben ain’t too wealthy, and Harvard ain’t too cheap. There is a scholarship on offer, but even with his good grades, Ben hasn’t got anything that “dazzles”, he just doesn’t “jump off the page” as his interviewer puts it.

Then out of the blue (or not, I won’t deny the movie is a tad predictable) Ben is offered the chance of a life time, to join a professional card counting team helmed by one of Ben’s professors, the charming Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey). It takes some coercing from the girl of Ben’s dreams, Jill (Kate Bosworth), who just so happens to be on the team as well.

From there we watch the usual trials and tribulations as Ben begins to change, things start to spiral. This movie, for all its standard formula’s, had me for two reasons. One, I actually quite liked the acting in it. It’s hard not to be a fan of Kevin Spacey, who always puts on a good show, and he is simply perfect as the cunning and dangerous Micky Rosa. When he turns up the menace, we believe that he truly is capable of untold things. Sturgess is well fitted to play been, the naive geek who gets pulled into a world he isn’t quite ready for. Bosworth was actually one of my least favourite actors in the film, I felt that for a major character, we hardly know anything about her at the end of the film, other than the fact the she is beautiful, the object of Ben’s affection, and has two different coloured eyes (at no point does the film point this out, but look closely, one is blue and one is brown). The secondary characters are all solid, especially my favourite, Choi (Aaron Yoo from Disturbia), though Fisher’s (Jacob Pitts) schtick wears thin pretty quickly.

The second reason why I find this film so enjoyable? I’m from The OC generation. I have no qualms admitting it. 21, for lack of a better description, is an extended OC episode with slightly altered plot. There are beautiful people. There is a very trendy soundtrack, there is an outsider who gets in, there is glitz, there is glamour.

This is not a movie I watch to think. It’s mindless self indulgence.

And I love it.

What do you think of 21? What are some films you love that no-one else does?

The Countdown: Dynamic duo’s

Firstly welcome to the first edition of The Countdown, which I intend to make a regular segment of this site.

For the first edition I have created a list of my all time favourite film duo, a who’s who of the partnerships that made me laugh and cry, some of them doing both.

So without further ado, let’s jump in at number 10.

10. Derek Zoolander and Hansel (Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson) – Zoolander

The two most ridiculously good looking models in the business today

Coming in at number 10 are everybody’s favourite models, former darling of the modelling world Zoolander, and the new golden boy Hansel. Although the two of them start off as enemies the pair end up as one of the most hilarious and enduring partnerships in recent cinema. Every time I struggle to open something these days, all I can picture is the pair of really, ridiculously good looking models attempting to open the file “in” the computer.

9. Jay and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes) – Clerks

Like to smoke weed and hang out? These are your perfect role models.

The pair at number 9 would like to do nothing more with their life than hang out in front of the Quick Stop and sell weed. In fact that’s what they have done, with a few adventures on the side. With motor mouth Jay cracking most of the jokes, and his heterosexual life partner Bob tending to stay, well, silent, this pair have appeared together numerous times since their first outing together in Smith’s cult hit Clerks in 1994.

8. Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh (Mel Gibson and Danny Glover) – Lethal Weapon

Riggs wants to know if you think he's crazy, and Murtaugh is just getting to old for that shit.

To this day, these two stand out as the best police partnership to ever grace the big screen. They starred in one of the most succesful buddy cop franchises (even when the series jumped the shark with that cherry bomb stunt), and both became legends of the action genre. We all know that Murtaugh will never actually be too old for that shit, he’s too damn awesome to retire.

7. Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee (Elijah Wood and Sean Astin) – The Lord of the Rings trilogy

The two hobbits as they head for Brokeback Mou... I mean Mount Doom

If this isn’t one of the greatest love stories of our time, I don’t know what is. Seriously, there is some crazy unresolved tension between these two lovable hobbits. But beyond that, these two formed one of the most enduring frienships of modern cinema, with Sam going through hell and back, all to ensure the safety of his pal Frodo. This pair made these movies as emotional as it was action packed.

6. Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan (George Clooney and Brad Pitt) – Oceans 11

Ladies, please form an orderly line

Sure, Danny Ocean had numeous others in his rag tag crew of thieves, but it was undoubtedly the super charming friendship between Ocean and Ryan, played by two of the most charming actors in hollywood. With Oceans quick mind, and Ryans quick mouth, this pair of thieves formed a duo of modern day Robin Hoods that everyone wished they knew.

5. Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson) – Pulp Fiction

I know the one on the right likes burgers, especially them Big Kahuna Burgers.

In keeping with the criminal theme, we find the two quick talking gangsters who are just trying to do a job. With more memorable quotes than one person could possibly hope to remember, these two are more than deserving of their cult legend status. Seriously, if it wasn’t for Vince and Jules, I wouldn’t know what you call a French Big Mac, nor would I be able to quote from the bible.

4. Brennan Huff and Dale Doback (Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly) – Step Brothers

In how many fight scenes do you get to see a grown man use a bicycle as a weapon? Not enough in my opinion.

Yes, I am aware that not many others would include these two on their list of the greatest on screen duos of all time, but to me this is one of my favourite comedies of all time, all because of it’s two man-boy stars. These two 39 year olds are still 12 at heart, and they provide hilarity at every turn, whether it be in their bunk-bed making endeavours or in their attempts to find jobs (it might not be saying much, but best fart scene ever). Also has one of my favourite music scenes in recent times.

3. Han Solo and Chewbacca (Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew) – Star Wars IV, V, VI

I heard that these two made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Impressive.

The super charismatic space rogue and his shaggy partner. Who could possibly forget Han, with his quick blaster finger, and even quicker tongue, or Chewy, his indecipherable co-pilot. To this day, Han remains my favourite Star Wars character of all time (how he beat Jar Jar to the top I do not know…) with Chewy close behind. To say these two were cool is like saying the Millenium Falcon was kinda quick, it does not do them justice. Oh and one more thing, how come Han and C-3P0 are the only ones who understand Chewy? Weird.

2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Paul Newman and Robert Redford) – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Lucky Lefors wasn't out there, or they might have been in trouble

Let me preface this by saying, for the most part, I am not a massive fan of Westerns. But for some reason, this film stands out as one of the coolest films I have ever seen. The direction is superb, the story line rivetting, the setting captivating. That said, the film could have none of these things, and still be fantastic. Uwe Boll could have directed. Michael Bay could have written the script. It could have been set in Adelaide. All of these atrocities could have been commited to this film, and it would still be great. You know why? Because of Butch and Sundance. The bank robbing outlaws. These two have stood the test of time, appearing as infinitely cool today as when they were first introduced to audiences in 1969. I still choke up when I think of the legendary final scene. I still double over with laughter when I think of the river scene. I still smile every time I hear the song “Rain Drops Keep Falling on my Head”. For this, I thank you Butch and Sundance.

And finally, the number one movie duo of all time…

1. Woody and Buzz Lightyear (Tom Hanks and Tim Allen) – Toy Story

They're not flying, they're falling with style

That’s right folks, the number one spot goes to the animated duo from Pixar’s first big hit, Toy Story. For me, Woody and Buzz were heroes. I grew up with them. They made you laugh, they made you cry, they made you think. Starting off as enemies, these two grew too share (in my opinion) the greatest friendship ever seen on the big screen. The pair got in more trouble than your average toy, but through it all, you knew they were gonna be friends. You waited for it. And when it came, you couldn’t wipe the smile off your face. The pair went on star in the sequel (which out performed the original at the box office) and are now set to hit the big screen for a third time. You know I’m going to be at the front of that line, with my Woody hat of course.

Honourable mentions:
Tyler Durdan/The Narrator (Fight Club)
Marty McFly/Dr. Emmet Brown (Back to the Future)
Elwood and Jake Blues

So there you have it, the (not so) definitive list of the all time greatest movie duos.

Who would be on your list of the greatest on screen duos? Do you disagree with anyone on my list?