12 Monkeys (1995) Film Review

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It’s 2035. Back in 1996, a massive proportion of the world’s population have been killed by a deadly virus and those remaining have retreated underground. Here, they send ‘volunteers’ to collect samples from the surface, but have also developed time travel technology and send people back in the past to gain information about The 12 Monkeys Army who they believe caused the disaster. When prisoner James Cole (Bruce Willis) is sent back, he ends up in a mental institution alongside Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) and being treated by psychologist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe). Consequent visits change attitudes until there is more than one fight happening.

This is an extremely beautiful film. The future is horrible, the present not much better. (Or should it be the present is horrible and the past is not much better – it’s challenging talking about time travel). The story is typical Gilliam in that it is not typical of anything at all. Any time you think you know what is happening, things twist and turn and change. I saw this film several times back in the late nineties, but haven’t watched it for ages. Seeing it now gives me a different idea on the end, though I am still not sure on quite what happened.

12 Monkeys was nominated for Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Brad Pitt) and Best Costume Design.

 

Looper (2012) Film Review

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The concept is way cool. In the future (2074) time travel has been invented. Murder is no problem, and so when the bad guys want someone dead, they send them back in time to where a ‘looper’ is waiting. A looper is an assassin. They set up a sheet in a field, then the victim shows up bound and wearing a hood, and the assassin blows them away. With a really big gun. The looper then collects the payment, silver bars, from the victim’s back, and burns the body. Job done, everyone’s happy. Only the looper is not happy if the bars on the body’s back are gold, because that means he has just closed the loop – he has shot himself.

That’s all really cool. Then, one of the loopers, played by Paul Dano, does not close his loop, and things go horribly and horrifically wrong for him. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) understands this, and is thrown into a panic when his older self (Bruce Willis) is sent back and escapes. The remainder of the film has the two men in a battle of survival.

It’s definitely a good film. There is no doubt about that. But I didn’t really enjoy it. That’s not strictly true. I didn’t mind it. But, I really didn’t like the task that the older Joe had to undertake (I don’t want to spoil it, I’ll just say that I found it quite distasteful, although it was certainly totally logical to the story). I possibly wouldn’t have minded it that much if I wasn’t totally distracted by the awful make-up on Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I get that he needed to be the younger Bruce Willis for the storyline. However, I think that I am smart enough to make that connection through the plot and acting without requiring a distracting amount of make-up – especially given what a fabulous job Gordon-Levitt did matching the mannerisms of Willis. If only the producers/director/whoever could have just trusted in the acting, perhaps I would have enjoyed it.

Unbreakable (2000) Film Review

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M. Night Shyamalan gained a reputation after the huge success of The Sixth Sense for being the master of the sudden and unexpected twist. I remember seeing Unbreakable after absolutely loving and being blown away by The Sixth Sense. It seemed so contrived and over-the-top, and I felt annoyed with it. But, teaching Media Studies many years later, I was looking for something to pair with The Dark Knight, and decided to give Unbreakable a go. There were some similarities; connections with comic book heroes and the struggle of a man with the challenges of his life.

Unbreakable follows David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a man who is the only survivor of train collision. In the days after he leaves the hospital, he is contacted several times by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a man who was born with Type 1 osteogenesis imperfecta, an extremely rare disease that causes his bones to break very easily. Elijah believes that Dunn is the opposite of him, a man who is unbreakable. A man who is destined to be a real life superhero.

Watching it again, I found that is an extremely well-crafted film. Somehow, despite being a very strange and unbelievable premise, it felt very real. Still, there was absolutely something that I did not like about it. I think it is that the way the film is put together it is very obvious that the director wanted me to experience certain emotions at certain times. I expect that this is the case of most films, or at least most dramas. Yet, if it is so obvious that I am expected to feel this way, I feel like I have been tricked. I do like the film, however I do feel that I was being tricked into responses that, in turn, I rejected.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Film Review

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Suzy lives with her family in a mansion at one part of an island called New Penzance. Sam is part of the Khaki Scout summer camp that is based at another part of the island. Neither fit well into their environment, and when they meet, they find in each other a like mind. They run away together with the threat of a massive storm.

Wes Anderson polarizes audiences with his style. I fall into the side that loves his work.

The Royal Tennenbaums was a beautiful and amazing emotional journey and The Darjeeling Limited took a part of my heart. It took a second, and maybe even a third watch of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou for me to grow to love it, and I think that Moonrise Kingdom is like that for me.

I will need to walk away for a while, think about it, perhaps forget about it, and watch it again in six months or so. Then, perhaps, I will love it.

As it stands at the moment, it has elements of the other films that I loved which made it feel a bit like a greatest hits. Suzy had the style and the dark eye make-up of Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in the Tennenbaums, and the introduction to the house was reminiscent of the introduction to the submarine in Life Aquatic.

Moonrise Kingdom has, as Anderson always does, a marvelous cast.

It is always wonderful to see Bill Murray, but this film also had the bonus of Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman and the always-wonderful Frances McDormand. On top of this, the new talent in the Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman as the young runaways.

Ask me again when it’s come out on DVD. By then, I’ll probably love it. For the moment, however, it’s far from my favourite Wes Anderson film, but still a film well and truly worth seeing.

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola were nominated for an Oscar for Writing (Original Screenplay)

The Expendables (2010) and The Expendables 2 (2012) Film Review

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Don’t watch this film for the storyline. There is one. I think. But who cares? If you’re watching these films, you’re watching them to see Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris and heaps of other massive action film stars all in it together.

The films don’t disappoint – if you want explosions, guns that literally rip people in two, blood, serious muscles and corny one-liners. They do disappoint if you want plot, sub-plot and facial expressions (man, the amount of plastic surgery on screen is surprising). You don’t need the first film to know what is going on in the second, and the second is heaps better. Unfortunately, Jet Li is out of the film early on, but in the second film there is one scene with Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone all with massive machine guns killing bad guys in the airport. What more do you want? Chuck Norris? Yeah, you get him too. And I’m pretty sure he made a Chuck Norris joke.

Expendables 3 is on IMDB, apparently to be directed by John Woo and Nicholas Cage is on board. I was hoping for Wesley Snipes – he should be out of jail (tax fraud) this year, according to the internet. But Cage will do.