Movie Review: 300: Rise of an Empire

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Eight years after it’s predecessor comes the Gerard Butler-less sequel to the epic 300, and with a little less gore and a little more dialog.

Rise of an Empire isn’t really a sequel though; it’s more of a prequel, explaining everything that lead up to what we saw in the first movie, then showing what happened after King Leonidas and his 300 men died. So it basically completes the story’s start and end, because we just saw the middle in the first movie.

There’s a lot more narrative vs gore in Rise of an Empire, which took a way from the visual effects- there’s too much dialog in comparison to 300. It was almost made idiot-proof, so those who aren’t familiar with the graphic novels or even Greek history and mythology are able to understand what’s going on. And although I expected the story to revolve around Xerxes, you hardly see him in the movie. It’s all about Artemisia. And she is evil. Eva Green put on a spectacular performance as Artemisia (if you saw her in the short-lived TV show Camelot, you’d expect nothing less), and was the only character that really made the movie worth watching. Without King Leonidas and the infamous cry of ‘SPARTAAAAAA’ (‘Greeeece!’ doesn’t have the same ring to it), and the constant narration, the movie kind of loses its luster.

If there’s anything you should learn from this film though it’s this: never underestimate a woman (especially an angry one).

Rating: I give  it 3.5 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: RoboCop (2014)

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How do I put this; it’s a movie that you would probably watch on TV while you’re channel surfing and there was nothing else to watch.

If 2 sequels and a TV show since the original movie didn’t take off, did they really think a remake of the original movie- and a PG-13 version at that- would take off? Even if you haven’t seen the original movie, the storyline was very predictable and the characters two-dimensional. That would’ve been great in the 80s and 90s, but this is 2014 and I think we expect something a bit more novel with this genre (at least with the sci fi part). The only good parts in the movie were The Novak Element with Samuel L. Jackson as Pat Novak- who supports machines fighting crime instead of humans- and the nachos.

Rating: I give it 2 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: Winter’s Tale

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I was actually really looking forward to this film, but boy was I disappointed.

The film starts 100 years ago and is about a one Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) who’s basically a thief and has a falling out with his former boss- and demon- Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). He is then rescued by a white horse that miraculously jumps over Pearly and all of his men to take Peter to safety. He then ends up at a house whose most of its residents have left for holiday and decides to rob their house. Except he finds that the house is not entirely empty. Then he meets Beverly Penn (played by the beautiful Jessica Brown Findlay) who is terminally ill with Consumption and instantly falls in love with her. In this world, people have ‘miracles’ to perform- a purpose to their life. So when Pearly finds out about Beverly, he believes Peter’s miracle is to save her from Consumption. Of course that doesn’t sit well with him so he seeks to kill her- by pulling a favor from an angel- so Peter wouldn’t fulfill his destiny. Pearly succeeds and then tracks down Peter, head-butts him off a bridge and into the river.

Peter miraculously survives the plunge but has no recollection of who he is and what his past is. But to top it off, he roams the streets of New York city for 100 years until he meets a little girl…

then the story goes downhill from there. The ‘big confrontation’ for Peter Lake is so unexciting you don’t even know it’s happening. Peter fulfilling his true destiny also felt like a non-event. It’s rather unfortunate because all the actors played their parts really well. Also, when you have Jennifer Connelly (who plays Virginia Gamely, the little girl’s mother) and Will Smith (who plays Lucifer) in a movie, you use them; give them more depth. They have like a total of 10 minutes screen time.

I found the overall concept of the plot quite interesting though- good vs evil, angels and demons, destiny, hope vs destruction- but I think it could’ve been developed a bit more throughout the film than just subtle hints here and there.

The trailer made me believe it would be Stardust meets Kate & Leopold (without Meg Ryan), so up until Peter falls into the river, I was hoping that when he falls he would arrive to present day, and with the help of Virginia, finds a way to save Beverly. Peter would then go back and confront Pearly and Lucifer in a grand battle, and he overcomes and gets the love his life back and they live happily ever after. Ah well.

Rating: I give it 3 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: Captain Philips

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This review also appears on Movie Blogbuster.

This is the ultimate pirate movie.

It’s easy to imagine pirates wearing eye-patches, puffy shirts, having a hook for a hand and wooden stump for a leg shouting ‘arrrghhh’. But this is the real world, and Jack Sparrow’s pirate ways don’t even come close.

The film is based on the true story of Captain Rich Philips, played by Tom Hanks, who was held hostage by Somali pirates in 2009. The telling of this tale- from screenplay to cinematography- progresses at a moderate yet intense pace without being dramatic, which would have otherwise trivialized the situation. The movie also sheds light on the underlying motivation behind piracy and puts a human face to the pirates of today’s world.

Even though Captain Philips is played by Tom Hanks, you don’t feel his stardom overshadow the part, and that is only something an actor as incredibly talented as him can pull off. He seamlessly displays the expertise of Philips as a captain- the way he protected his crew, built trust to manipulate the pirates, communicated with the US Navy- while at the same time showing how the pressure was getting to him over time as a human being.

And you have to hand it to the Americans: they know how to protect their own. It’s no wonder they’re the most powerful nation on the planet.

Rating: I give it 5 Oi’s out of 5.

 

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Movie Review: Rush

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This review also appears on Movie Blogbuster.

Rush is the ultimate frenemy story. It’s the biography of two F1 drivers- James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), narrated by Lauda. The movie starts halfway through the film at a significant turning point in the story line before going back to the beginning of their rivalry. Their first encounter will show you that they were never destined to get along. Their personalities were polar opposites- Hunt was free-spirited and ‘wild’, while Lauda was level-headed and clever with car mechanics. Over time, it became less about the sport and more about each one outdoing the other on the race track, as they both moved up the ranks of Formula 1. Their goal to be the best and competitive obsession with each other transformed both Hunt and Lauda to the worst versions of themselves.

This film is quite different than other Ron Howard films (A Beautiful Mind, Angels and Demons, Frost/Nixon), and is my favorite by far. It strikes the perfect balance between sport and biography, through a suspenseful storyline without compromising on character depth. I was particularly impressed by Bruhl’s performance; he did a very good job of making Lauda unlikeable. The film provokes the thought of whether being the best- being Number One- is really worth risking it all, and really put the concepts of rivalry and respect into perspective.

Rating: If you’re a F1 enthusiast, you’ll definitely appreciate this film. And if you’re not (like me), I guarantee you’ll love it; it might even get you to buy a pass to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. I give it 5 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: 2 Guns

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This review also appears on Movie Blogbuster.

When it comes to action movies, I tend to go in without any expectations, mostly because I like a good story and many in the genre lack this. 2 Guns is no exception. It’s about a couple of guys and Trench and Stig (played by Denzel Washington and Mark Walhberg respectively) who plan to rob a sleepy small-town bank of $3 million dollars.

Like in all my reviews, I try not to give too much of the plot away, but there’s more to these two than meets the eye and that’s the first twist to the movie. The plot thickens when Trench is framed and Stig is on the run for his life. But then halfway through- once the grand scheme is revealed- the story quickly goes downhill. It’s a pretty far fetched conspiracy theory with a weak execution. The only female lead of sorts, Agent Deb Rees- played by the gorgeous Paula Patton- is nothing more but a pretty face with a role that didn’t really add to the story. She presented an unnecessary twist to the plot that I guess the writers quickly realized and decided to kill off. Pity, really. The format of the film started off pretty cool though (back and forth in the story timeline), but didn’t continue, which I also thought was a shame because it could’ve helped the weak storyline. The humor and dialog between Denzel Washington and Mark Walhberg make up for all of the story weaknesses though as they’re both very talented and gave me a lot to laugh about. They should do more movies together!

This is not a serious action movie by any means. It’s almost like Pulp Fiction (if it wasn’t written or directed by Quentin Tarantino) meets The Boondock Saints- I’m a fan of both those movies, but together they make a weak combo.

Rating: Drugs, money, guns, explosions, and witty dialog- it’s an entertaining watch. I give it 3.5 out of 5.

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Movie Review: The Wolverine

The-Wolverine This review also appears on Movie Blogbuster 

I’m a big fan of Wolverine, and the X-Men too, and I’ve enjoyed all the past movies- yes, even X-Men III and X-Men Origins: Wolverine- so I was looking forward to seeing The Wolverine. But I came out with mixed feelings.

Without giving too much away, the story is set in modern day Japan and is linked to someone from Logan’s past during the war. It’s also a continuation from X-Men III, where Jean is dead and he’s still not over killing her.

The storyline showed Wolverine’s vulnerabilities and brought out his character on a deeper level than the other films, since there were only a couple of other mutants in the film. But it was still weak, especially with the main antagonist’s grand plot and the ‘love’ story- how can you still be getting over Jean and fall for someone else? It didn’t make sense to me and it felt like they just tossed that bit in there. It was also more mellow than the usual style of X-Men movies, despite all the exciting action scenes- I think ninjas tend to have that effect.

At one point I really didn’t know what will happen to The Wolverine, and that’s really how the movie kept me interested. That, and the ‘secret’ scene after credits; it’s definitely worth watching the movie for those couple of minutes alone- your mind will be blown, guaranteed.

Rating: I give it 3.5 Oi’s out of 5

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Movie Review: White House Down

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This review also appears on Movie Blogbuster.

White House Down is a typical American ‘Die Hard’-esque action film; it’s a story about an ex-army guy, John Cale (Channing Tatum), who went into private security but his dream is to be part of the Secret Service. He’s also divorced, and has a daughter who hates him but obsessed with politics. So to win his daughter over, John manages to get two tickets to the White House tour and takes her along. Then the terrorist attack strikes and, well, I think you know how it goes from there…

Don’t get me wrong, I liked every Die Hard film so I enjoyed this film too, but like I wrote earlier it’s your typical sequence of events- the Bad Guys, the President, the One Guy At The Wrong Time And Wrong Place But Right Background Who Saves Everyone And Looks Good The Whole Time, and Lots of Explosions. The dialogues between Jamie Foxx (the President) and Channing Tatum were giggle-worthy, but the storyline and characters were very flat so you can’t really take the political angle seriously. Still, it’s an entertaining film to watch.

Rating: I give it 3 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: Side Effects

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This review also appears on Movie Blogbuster.

Anything by Steven Soderbergh is a treat for me, and this movie did not disappoint. It’s one of those great movies that somehow end up flying under the mainstream radar.

Side Effects is about a clinically depressed woman, Emily (Rooney Mara), who is started on new medication prescribed to her by her therapist, Jonathan (Jude Law). After an incident, it’s discovered that the medication has a sleepwalking side effect. One day, her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) comes home and she kills him while sleep-cooking (bizarre, I know). When she wakes up, she discovers his body- she’s not aware that this was her doing just yet- and remembers nothing of the incident. As a result of the inquisition, Jonathan’s career goes downhill, while Emily goes to a psych ward for treatment.

The story gets really interesting from there as Jonathan works on uncovering the many layers of Emily to understand how this could have happened, in a desperate attempt to absolve himself of any wrongdoing.

Rooney Mara and Jude Law are absolutely superb in Side Effects, and Catherine Zeta Jones’ makes an impact in her small yet very significant role in the plot. There are a few unexpected twists and turns in the story, and it’s been a really long time since I’ve seen a film this good. But then again, I wouldn’t expect anything less from Soderbergh.

Many girls would probably go see this flick for Channing Tatum, in which case they’re going to be disappointed because his role is actually pretty small. But if you’re into suspense and mystery, you will thoroughly enjoy this film.

Rating: While you might not be able to catch it in theatres now, it’s worth getting on DVD or catching it on VOD. I give it 5 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: Oblivion

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This review also appears on Movie Blogbuster.

Oblivion is basically Eagle Eye, Independence Day, I Robot, Vanilla Sky, and Wall.E all badly rolled into one story for this movie.

It’s about post-apocalyptic Earth, where it’s left in ruins because of an Alien War. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise- they really need to find new non-Jack names for his lead characters) is the last repairman for the drone that are out there scanning the Earth for ‘Scavs’ (i.e. enemy aliens). He still has a fascination with the ‘old Earth’ though, and has a little hideout shack where he takes little trinkets he finds (Wall.E anyone?) and goes to chill out. He also has this recurring dream of this woman, and he just can’t figure it out. On one of his trips, something drops on Earth and he decides to go and find out what happened- against HQ commands mind you. He uncovers several pods with- *gasp*- humans in them! And lo and behold, in one of the pods is the woman in that recurring dream. The drones are in the area and they start shooting at the pods, which Jack finds strange because they’re supposed to be going after Scavs, not humans. All of them are destroyed except for the one with the woman, who Jack saves and takes back with him. From there he starts uncovering all sorts of stuff, until he gets to the truth of who he really is, and who the woman is, and what ALL OF THIS IS REALLY ABOUT. At which point, they half redeem themselves with the storyline, but then they screw it up again when they go into space, and the ending puts that final nail in the coffin.

The soundtrack and production value are incredible, but it hardly makes up for the weak storyline.

Rating: This is the first movie where I actually swore out loud at the screen. It had so much potential- *sigh* that’s Hollywood for you. I give it 2 Oi’s out of 5.

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