Deepwater Horizon (2016)

deepwaterhorizonposterThis movie was such a pleasant experience that I wanted to write a critique.

From the first few minutes, there was an ease and smooth flow to the movie that made it superbly easy to watch. It was incredibly beautifully shot. If you forget the story, the characters and the setting itself, the movie provides a great viewing experience regardless. I would give the credit to director Peter Berg.

Side note here, I’ve known about him since “Lone Survivor.” After watching that, I went and saw “The Rundown”. With Deepwater Horizon now, I can definitely say he’s on my list of favourite/most respected directors.

The man does a great job there of not getting tangled in the politics, the backstory, the aftermath or extravaganza. This is a movie about what happened in 2010 and a little bit of how and why. It is well written which added to how easy it was to follow, even to someone who had no previous idea of the oil spill disaster. We dive into core of those fateful hours pretty quickly and then unfolds an amazingly realistic reconstruction of what went down on the Deepwater Horizon. The picture quality was so vivid that I am still questioning whether it was CGI’ed or a built-up set. True to his talent, Peter Berg makes you feel the danger, the reactions and the imminent sense of trouble as if you were there. It’s thus no issue to relate to the characters.

Mark Walhberg is very solid as Mike Williams. Kurt Russell and everybody else as well form a very adequate cast to carry this tragic story. There isn’t much character development because it isn’t needed. Their actions are truly representative of the people they are and the movie does a great job, a very respectful job of honoring them, especially those who lost their lives. By the end of it, it’s impossible not to feel for those families, as well as for the survivors who went through this tragedy.

When it comes to the action, it is top-notch. Not because it is epic or sensational or over-the-top. This isn’t Michael Bay. It’s top-notch because it is done right. It’s grandiose but it shows you what you need to see to truly understand the scope of what’s happening. The sound mixing was completely on point and added a poignant angle on the experience. I can only imagine how great this must be in IMAX. Peter Berg has a unique eye and a unique way of showing you what he wants you to see and so far, I have zero complaints.

Very entertaining. Emotionally heavy at some points and morally loaded as well, this movie is a must-see. For anyone who cares about what happened, for anyone who enjoys good story-telling, for anyone who appreciates proper cinema. Can’t wait for Berg’s next film.

8.5/10

Michalex Jackson.

 

Advertisements

Batman V Superman (2016)

102597285-Batman-vs-Superman.1910x1000Hello.

I’ve been neglecting this blog due to work constraints and the fact that I dedicated my time to another website. But it’s been 40 days without a movie, and I chose Batman V Superman was my first trip to a cinema in 7 weeks so I thought I’d write. I also really like to weigh in on movies like these where the hype is both positive and negative. Oh, I recently found out that my students (6B) are also reading these reviews so if any of you are on this blog right now, get off and go do your homework!

Now to it.

I am so happy to say I was right! From the very beginning, which was the announcement of Ben Affleck as Batman, I was never sold on the idea. From then on, with first stills to teasers, then trailers, people started getting really excited for it, placing their faith in visionary director Zack Snyder. I never moved from my position, I never got excited and I expected a slightly above average movie, which it is. Affleck isn’t a disappointment and whatever shortcomings he has in this film isn’t his fault, I’ll explain why later. At 2 and a half hours, it feels a bit long. I’ve watched longer movies which felt shorter because they were better written and had much better plots. This one tries to do too much, starting which Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot is definitely not irreplaceable or the best choice for the role but she was fine. However, I disagree with the whole idea of having Wonder Woman in this movie at all. She has about 5 short scenes in the entire picture, before the final battle where she makes a meaningful contribution. Now that’s just disrespectful and bargaining for more than you can pay. I found her presence distracting and irrelevant of the outcome of the movie. She either should have had a bigger role, or none at all (with none at all being the better choice.)

This movie has some big names attached to it but for me, Jesse Eisenberg stands out. As much as I wanted Bryan Cranston to be Lex, Jesse is just as awesome. He brings life to many moments that left the film empty and flat. He too, should have been given more development and screen time to be the villain he deserved to be. But for what he got, it was great and it satisfied the need for danger. Unfortunately, his character falls victim to unoriginal writing. I wasn’t a fan of him pitting Superman against Batman with the premise that if he failed, a bomb would blow up his mother. It was reminiscing of the two ships asked to bomb each other by the joker in The Dark Knight. In a film of that scale, they should do much better. But maybe that’s what the comics say and if so, well it’s still not good enough. Of course, I’m critiquing the movie here, regardless of what the story is in the comics. Another thing is the rating. Keeping it at PG-13 was a mistake I believe. We could all have been given better entertainment if the studio or director had been given the extended freedom and lenience that come with an R rating. Oh well, I guess having the younger audience was important.

Henry Cavill, formidable as Superman just as in Man of Steel. He is the best to ever play the role on screen and why they would bother with killing him off and having 15 minutes of movie mourning and sadness at the end when everybody knows he’s gonna end up returning at some point is beyond me. That’s just wasting my time. Of course he’s not dead, you’re a fool if you ever believed otherwise. The film is about him. It is a sequel to Man of Steel, and at the same time an origin story for the justice league. (Hence the title :D)

Batman. Like I said, he didn’t disappoint but he wasn’t better (by far) than Nolan and Bale’s Batman. Affleck portrayed a robust, sometimes dark and at times confused Batman. His arc in the movie is just not good enough, his lines don’t match the epicness of the character they tried to portray and I blame it all on subpar screenwriting. I can get onboard with the new modern techie Alfred, but what’s with lack of purpose? Batman was there just to provide a rival for Superman? Certainly seems that way. His beef with Superman the entire movie is, to me, totally unjustified and feels more like an overreaction of someone who had the needs to act on something of which he didn’t approve. Superman has the potential to destroy humanity if he wanted to, yes. So, let’s not take the chance and kill him?  He never did anything to remotely incline anyone to think he would turn one day on humanity. This is so stupid and even more so when you realize that whatever he felt against him dissipates when he finds out their mothers share the same name. If something that trivial turns blood-lust into instantaneous partnership and understanding, then the first 2 hours were clearly built on something weak and under-thought.

On the whole, it was entertainment. I enjoyed it and thought it was beautifully shot. Not surprising coming from Snyder. The angles were well taken and it was great to see it in 3D. Now the action sequences felt a bit lifeless to me, but there were risks taken and the resulting shots were quite pleasing to the eye. For that much, I can applaud the team. Shout out to Hans Zimmer and his co-scorer, because this movie has the sensitive score it needs.

Batman V Superman sets it up nicely for the Justice League but that’s about it. It’s definitely not the grandiose match-up everybody thought it would be. On the other hand, I expect Suicide Squad to be a magnificent addition to the DC cinematic universe. (You read it here first.) That one, is the DC movie you’re not gonna wanna miss.

7.5 / 10

Michalex Jackson

Ant-Man (2015)

cool-ant-man-posterWell I loved it, let’s get that straight.
It doesn’t have the appeal of an Avengers or Iron Man movie, definitely not as popular as other Marvel characters and surely didn’t have too much of an epicness factor, but it most certainly succeeds as a superhero movie.

I must say I am gutted not to have been able to watch it in 3D as I’m sure it would amplified what was already very well-crafted action sequences. There weren’t much of them but they were placed appropriately and culminated towards the final portion of the film. The robbery sequence itself establishes Scott Lang as a very skilled person, which will later justify his ability to become the Ant-Man.

Hats off to the special effects team. Not the best CGI, but definitely the best use of it. They actually made ants looks very damn cool. The screenplay helped as well with Scott having to work with different types of ants for his mission to be successful. The slow-mo shrinking was beautifully done and the transitions from “ant-view” to “normal size-view” were all seamless and simple to follow.

What is probable this film’s biggest strength is its story. It’s engaging from beginning to end. Thanks to a great cast, (although I could have seen someone like Jennifer Garner to play Hope), you immersed yourself in the story and understand the danger threatening them. Michael Douglas was absolutely phenomenal in his role and completely takes over the screen. You feel his worries about the formula falling into the wrong hands, his pain about his broken family and his resolve to stop Cross. As for Paul Rudd, I’m very happy he’s the one they chose. He is relatable, likable and you find yourself rooting for him. (Especially compared to the obligatory douche bag his daughter has as step-father.) May it be the Ant-Man training, the science behind the suit, the plan to retrieve the yellow jacket or the fight against Cross, they all make for one very entertaining piece of cinema.

I must mention the genius behind the comedic twist the film takes on. I am not familiar with the comics and don’t know if Scott is supposed to be that witty or if the entire series has this gentle humour to it but it definitely works in the movie. Not just for comic reflief but for pure enjoyment. Whether it’s Scott’s crew, the relationship between the characters, the Ant-Man/Falcon fight, they all made the movie lighter and more fun to watch. While we’re at it, the references to the MCU were tasteful and well integrated.

In the end, it’s a superhero movie about a guy who shrinks and fights with an army of ants. For it to become this great piece of entertainment, Peyton Reed surely did his job right. Ant-Man accomplishes everything it sets out to do and has the right mix of all the right components.
Marvel, you’ve done it again.

9/10

Michalex Jackson.

Furious 7 (2015)

ff7_hz_rgb_1023_2 Long time since I last critiqued anything. This definitely needed one, after all the hype, the buzz and unfortunately, the disappointment.

Well how good or how bad was it? I would say it’s neither of either extreme but a rather above average middle ground. Paul Walker’s passing did create much hindrance to completing the film the way it was meant to, but besides the ending, James Wan had shot enough material for most of the original story.  Now, since Saw, my respect for James Wan is absolute and after the ending scene in Fast and Furious 6, I was hyper-excited to see this. However, I’ve got to say there is no element of genius here that was present in Saw.

I enjoyed the action sequences, because let’s not forget that this is what every viewer wants to see: the stunts, the action and the epicness. But ultimately, I only enjoyed them as what they were and as isolated scenes, not part of a grand picture. There wasn’t much effort to link them and the plot holes they left behind were enormous. How do they transition from the Abu Dhabi Towers to a peaceful lake, especially after the chaos they created by robbing a billionaire? How in the world does Vin Diesel or Dom get out unscratched from a series of crashes on what looked like a very unforgiving mountain side?  I’m all for action, even for brainless action, but this franchise has distinguished itself from the fine line that produced scenes which left people accepting and awed, rather than those which has everyone questioning its probability or plain denying its capability. Unfortunately, Furious 7 delivers more of the latter than the former this time.

As for the actors, they’re all established into their roles. We know what to expect and that was probably the problem. Action movies do not usually indulge into character development too much, and after 6 sequels, all development has been exhausted. The effort was there to give the movie some life by including what to me was below par sub-plots such as the struggle of Walker’s character into domestic life or the relationship between Letty and Dom affected by her memory loss. Honestly, they had potential but the script wasn’t written well enough to make me care and 5 mins spent talking about how switching from a life of high-thrill rides to fatherhood is not enough. Either commit to it or don’t include it, because it (poorly) distracted the viewers from the real plot: Deckard Shaw.

Jason Statham was probably the only good consistent thing in this film. His evil persona is felt and his ghost-like abilities to show up at specific times is well planted into each scene. He was a good vilain, capable of doing real damage. However, he did NOT do any damage. Yes, he destroyed a house, a few cars and injured Hobbs (whose absence is missed and cannot be un-missed by a gatling gun scene), but Dom’s crew is intact if you consider killing Han as part of FF6. I believe a 1 vs All plot (like FF6) would have been much more entertaining than taking a detour with the God’s Eye project. Statham’s defeat is also poorly done. The fight with Diesel is alright, but feels repetitive and longer than it should, and the missile hitting the parking lot and cracking around Shaw’s feet with Dom finishing him by a foot stomp accompanied by one of the stupidest punchlines ever is total rubbish. Statham’s character (and the film) deserved more.

So in general, the action sequences if unquestioned and taken in isolation do contribute to the entertainment. The performances do not engage the audience and the wild line-up of additions such as Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou and Kurt Russell fail to make any noticeable impact. Ultimately, that’s where Furious 7 fails: it’s forgettable. Fast Five left me amazed and happy for the crew for having pulled off a beautiful and creative heist, FF6 left me satisfied of the outcome of the hunt for Shaw but Furious 7 leaves nothing of the sort besides an absolutely beautiful tribute to Paul Walker and a touching monologue from Diesel.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t save the film from a slightly above average feeling.

A fitting 7/10 for Furious 7.

Michalex Jackson.

Trancendence (2014)

Hussein Apology Letter 001It’s been a long while. Good to be writing again. I had a great time watching this and
since it did not make any sort of noticeable impact at the box office, I thought I’d help set the record straight and give it my stamp of approval.

Trancendence is a very well done film, with the right mix of intrigue, drama and fiction.
The plot carefully evolves into what you’re led to believe as a modern-day catastrophe.  Will Caster, played excellently by Johnny Depp, is the leading expert on the decades-old fantasy of transferring your neural patterns and connections into a computer so that you can live on as a machine. The movie takes it even further by transferring consciousness itself and thus taking A.I to a whole new level.

A.I blended from the human mind adds the terrifying factor that it has the emotion, creativity and adaptability at which humans excel. Transcendence explores this idea with a lot of realism by having Dr. Caster, now part of the WWW, being able to push through years of innovation by simply having the machines at his control execute his ideas.  Although it served as part of the story, I couldn’t help but notice that one of the very first thing he does is give a big boost to his wife’s bank account. Certainly a dream for all of us, it reminds the audience that this A.I is very human and understands that when running away from authorities and when trying to hide, having no financial limitations is a must.

I very much appreciated the tone and atmosphere created in the film. As an audience, you can fully immerse yourself and still feel like you belong. The level of science is extremely high, but the filmmaker does not leave you as an outsider and certainly does not take you for granted. You are not simply told the story, you are seeing it as it happens. For example, you get a comprehensible look at Evelyn Caster and Max Waters’ efforts to transfer Will’s consciousness into a computer.  The process is beyond my comprehension, but the pace and dialogue involved allows me to believe it is possible, as opposed to me being told that Will is now in a computer and that it is fact I should accept as part of the movie.

Will certainly masters his new “self” quickly and learns to fully exploit what he can do. From the first few moments, we see that he is “rewriting his own codes” to be better able to talk to Evelyn and Max. His image on various screens are a progression of his control over the system. At first, it reflects his sickly and electrode-infested skull, but gradually we see him with hair back, then with clothes and glasses, and finally back to a well-dressed and healthy looking Will. However, it doesn’t stop here. As his power grows, he is now able to project his consciousness on other humans and ultimately, he is able to recreate himself, both physically and mentally, thus achieving the God-like capacities that were hinted at the beginning of the film.

His innovations are developped in parallel and definitely would make anyone dream of the possibilities of nanotechnology. From creating forests in the blink of an eye, to curing blindness or any other disease for that matter, it sure tells us that our brain power when given the ultimate freedom to think and imagine, is capable of many wonders.  Nonetheless, we are given constant reminders that Will is no simple A.I. His human edge is feared by all of his surroundings to the point of making it a national security matter. As Max says himself, “humans fear what they don’t understand.” When this is in the context of A.I and at the scale this plays on, the human capacity for evil is reason enough to justify everyone’s worries. What we only are given to realize at the end however, is that Will was always Will. His love for Evelyn and his desire to make her happy was the only thing behind what he did. He was not a corrupted mind nor a power hungry maniac. He understood that bigger things were achievable by bigger facilities and a steady power source.  We can almost dare to say that he was the perfect A.I.

Transcendence is, by far, one of the best A.I movies to come out in recent years. The performances were all strong and the plot was an entertaining ride into a futuristic world where neural signals and connections are now malleable. Nanotechnology is scary, but it’s also full of possibilities. Transcendence tells us that we should stop looking at the evil in everything, and maybe start accepting that humans are capable of sanity, even in the most insane of situations.

9/10

Michalex Jackson.

Elysium (2013)

Elysium

Neill Blomkamp‘s second movie. Neill Blomkamp’s second success.  I don’t wish to compare Elysium to District 9 but  in some instances, I will refer to it. Now, both weren’t big performers at the box office. Both didn’t create the biggest hype, or any hype for that matter. But without a single doubt, both are masterfully directed, with the wildest originality and a true testament to Neill’s undeniable talent.

Elysium takes your breath away from the very first few minutes with an opening sequence that’s both awe-inspiring and eye-opening. The contrast with Earth is powerful and underlines a deeply embedded message. It also offers an introduction to the amazing visual effects that we’re about to experience throughout the movie.

Like District 9, everything about the movie feels real, and that on two main levels. (i)Story-wise: you don’t get to question much. You accepted the presence (and even existence) of aliens on Earth in D9, and in Elysium, you accept the possibility of an immense body floating in space as a second habitat for humans. No one really thinks about whether Elysium is orbiting something (the Sun or Earth?) , whether it has a centre of gravity that makes it able to keep water in pools, etc. It is so well-done, and so well-presented to you that you appreciate it to the point of allowing it to be true.
(ii) Emotions-wise: You could watch World Vision documentaries and you wouldn’t feel the intensity of the desolation going on on Earth as you do when watching this.  Every scene seems natural and Blomkamp adds emotional depth to them as easily as though it was through the push of a button.  Even the fight sequences had palpable tension in them, but that’s also thanks to Copley’s acting.

Very entertaining title, and very well put together. The sound effects were just right, and if you were lucky enough to see it in an IMAX theatre, you really got to feel every moment.  Elysium has a number of innovations which were really eye-pleasing. The exploding bullets: an absolute delight in slow-mo, the guns and technology: imaginative and fun,  the third-person shooter camera: not completely an innovation but always a pleasure to watch. In fact, more of that would have been very well received. And last, a special nod to killing off the main character. 🙂 Long gone are the days where the main character was not allowed to die. It made sense, it was the perfect conclusion and it authenticated the tragedy.

The one, and possibly only weakness Elysium bears is Sharlto Copley‘s accent. I don’t remember having that much trouble understanding him in D9. He stayed true to himself and that’s great, but in some scenes, it really was a decoding game and unfortunately, neither a fun one nor an easy one. It didn’t affect the entire picture in any major way but it definitely didn’t do it any good. His acting was however, dead on. A perfect villain, a true killer with the scary edge of being military-trained and with access to some crazy exploding devices. Very well done!

With District 9, Neill Blomkamp had my respect. With Elysium, he has my complete admiration. Cannot wait for his next film.

9/10

 

Michalex Jackson.

2 Guns (2013)

exclusive-2-guns-poster-137547-a-1371721448-470-75

😀 What can I possibly say that will do justice to this film. In my eyes, this is why movies are an art form, this is why people pay to go see it on the big screen, this is why we take off a slice of our life and devote our attention to it, and this is why it is called “entertainment”.

I can point out things on which they didn’t focus but I surely cannot see where they possibly went wrong. I enjoyed 2 Guns from beginning to end and that’s saying the least. It is so well put together that the entire picture flows like a stream in a valley.  At no point do you need to ask yourself what’s happening or why it is happening. It is simple enough that you can fully enjoy it without having to overthink it.

The pair of actors they have in the lead are absolutely phenomenal. Denzel Washington plays his part effortlessly and delivers his lines with such strength that all there is for you to do is enjoy and take it in. Shout out to the costume/make up team who made him look exactly like what his character represented. His attitude reflected his looks whether he was the “I know a guy”-type or “I’m gonna take care of this”-type.  His partner, Mark Walhberg is just as brilliant. I’ve never seen him play someone with that sort of personality and honestly, he nailed it. He was funny, truthfully so. May it be his lines or his physical and verbal acting, he stays with the character all the way through and still remains believable as the Navy soldier.

With these two assuring world class delivery, the script had to match their abilities. And boy did it do it. I haven’t seen such beautifully written lines for an action movie since Tango&Cash.  It was clearly on a whole other level and the chemistry between Denzel and Mark contributed to the outstanding result it produced. It is an absolute pleasure seeing them interact with each other and playing off each other’s wit. Surely the director had a good say in it and he made every right call.

As for the story, I didn’t mind it. There’s barely anything to question, nor anything to reproach. It is just the right amount of complexity for a high profile action film. One surprise though, and again, I didn’t mind it at all, was choosing to kill off the girl. But here’s why it works, and why they can get away with it. Usually no one wants to kill off the girl, but in this case, she was the bad guy and it was handled very well and with class. You just had to accept it.

2 Guns is pure entertainment.  Action the way it was always meant to be, with fantastic dialogue and brilliant actors.

10/10

Michalex Jackson.