Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cinema Review - Bran Nue Dae

"It's a bran' new day"

I'll start this review off by saying Bran Nue Dae should not have been a musical. The director, Rachel Perkins, has done a good job with this movie; it's very enjoyable to watch, highly amusing, and looks good. However, it's marketed as a musical, and at this it fails. It also fails at plot, just not as much.

This movie's plot would work well as a comedy, but it doesn't as a musical. In fact, at some points the plot seems to be rushed forward to get to a song, rather than letting songs tell the story. Actually, for a musical, not much of the plot is told through the songs really. The ending to this movie, while completely and utterly trash, is absolutely hilarious. It rushes to get plot points tied up, and does so in such a ridiculous fashion that it's impossible not to laugh. The same can be said for character development. There are at least 5 'plot twists' in the last 10 minutes of the movie and they're all stupid. Yet, they're fun. This movie can't be taken seriously, but it feels like that was intended. That's one of the best things about this movie. I was laughing A LOT at this movie, something that I really don't do that often. I probably haven't laughed so much, or so loudly, at a movie since The Room (directed by Tommy Wiseau). Some of this laughter was from ridiculous plot, but a lot of it was from the humour that Perkins wanted us to feel, and it's definately there!If you're looking for a deep and meaningful plot, go see Up in the Air, not this. Another annoying product of the musical nature of this film is that you can clearly tell the actors from the singers. Missy Higgins in particular puts up an awful performance, and in all honesty doesn't even sing that well, but I'll say more on that later. Ernie Dingo, on the other hand, puts up one of my favourite performances in a movie in a long time. He suits his character perfectly, from the rough shod look, to the off colour humour. It's clear that he's a brilliant actor, as well as his character being extremely well written. Ernie is probably the clearest redeeming factor for this movie.The way the movie looks is not very dissapointing at all. The desert outback is portrayed wonderfully in this movie. Some great shots of the desert and towns are seen, and the camera work is solid. It's not often that I feel engrossed by a set, but for some reason this movie seems exceptionally real, but that could be because I live in Australia and the architecture is more familiar to me. The use of 'shaky-cam', or handhelds, seems out of place in many of the scenes it's employed in, and really throws you out of the movie, destroying any sense of feeling that you were there, but since it's used sparingly, it doesn't infringe too much, and overall it's not a huge detractor. This also goes for some of the more hectic scenes where very fast, jarring camera movements are made, especially in dance scenes, and it feels unreal and out of place.Now to my biggest complaint, the sound in this movie. I've already mentioned that the songs had no real plot significance, and I'm going to say it again. This movie would have been so much better off if it weren't a musical. The songs are all overly digitalised, and don't fit in with the scenes they're in at all. The best example of this is when Missy Higgins is singing in a hippie van. There is no background noise that's distinguishable. Hippie vans are not quiet beasts, and any singing would not be so clear in one. I realise that the singing has to be clear, but there was no feeling that they were actually singing where they were on screen, something that really detracted from the movie, in my opinion. Another horrible by product of the musical nature of this movie is that the lip-synching is pretty awful. Within five minutes of the movie starting, I was thinking that a large majority of the film was dubbed, and not that well either. A lot of the voices sounds fake, and much of the singing is largely ignorable. The sound in this movie is a massive downfall. That being said, some of the songs were extremely catchy, and once again Ernie Dingo has the best performance with one scene featuring traditional (or so I'd assume) aboriginal dance and song. This song is probably the best in the movie, and while it still felt forced, I was somewhat sad at how short it was.
This movie, while certainly fun, isn't really worth watching. The humour is great, and Ernie Dingo is pretty much priceless, but the sound and plot just fail to engage and for a musical, that's pretty fatal. If you love musicals or movies, avoid this, it's not really worth the time. Maybe for a quick laugh if you can ignore the seriously bad plot and the way it progresses, or the essentially worthless musical components, but even then, I'd prefer to see a proper comedy.

Plot 4/10
Visuals 7/10
Sound 2/10
Enjoyment 6/10
Overall 19/40
Grade D+

- Ernie Dingo
- Very funny at points

- Horrible music and sound
- Bad plot and plot pogression
- The music. It's really that bad

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cinema Review - Sherlock Holmes

"Never theorize before you have data. Invariably, you end up twisting facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

Sherlock Holmes, directed by Guy Ritchie, is a fun and engaging watch from start to finish. Not being a Holmes fan, or at least not having read any of the books, I had no idea what to expect going into the movie. When I came out however, I was thoroughly pleased with almost every aspect of the film. I'll liken it to Iron Man due to the sheer enjoyment of it, however it isn't on the same level as the enjoyment level drops significantly after a second viewing.

The plot of this film is what makes it so enjoyable. It may be because I'm not knowledgeable about Sherlock Holmes, or mystery stories in general, but I was left clueless as to how many of the feats in this movie were accomplished until our fine Detective Holmes informed us about them with his casual wit. On the subject of Holmes' character, Robert Downey Jr. plays the part brilliantly. From his ridiculously enigmatic manner, to his over the top theatrics in solving crime, Downey Jr. has the character down to a tee. The same can be said of Jude Law as Watson, the straight man to the jokes made by Holmes, playing everything in a realistic and normal manner. The pair work off each other brilliantly, and whether that's due to the script being so natural, or the talents of Downey and Law, I don't know, but it makes this movie extremely fun.

While the characters are stunningly real, the visuals are not. There are many shots that are glaringly fake, and while I know that they can't be done with models or whatnot, the effects company could have done things much, much better. That being said, there is a glorious explosion that plays out for a long period of time that almost redeems the visuals, however it's rendered in an extreme slow motions scene that suits some parts of the explosion, but feels far too dragged out for what it is. This slow-mo fetish that Ritchie seems to have going expands into almost all the action scenes, in particular any fight that Sherlock may be inclined to choose, excepting the final battle and a mid movie one. These slow-mo 'pre-battle plans' are a fresh take on fights, but the fact that they're followed up with the exact same footage at normal speed almost ruins some of them. There were some excellent places for solid cuts to black that would have added so much to the fight, but were left to run on and ruin the pace of the scene. Depth of field was used brilliantly and was much more noticeable than in many other movies I seem to pay attention to those sorts of things in. However, it wasn't used gratuitously and it suits the scenes when it is used. The camera work in general is of a very high quality that almost makes me watch to watch the film a third time just to purely watch how the camera works in the environment of the movie.

While the slow-mo and effects ruined some scenes, the music was the exact opposite. A mix of fiddle tune and classical orchestral music is used to brilliant effect to build atmosphere and suspense, but that's what you'd expect of any good score really. What you don't expect is how brilliantly the music is used to emphasise Holmes and his strange ability to be exceedingly eccentric. One particular scene that would normally have heavy, dramatic music is instead filled with an upbeat and eclectic fiddle tune that suits Holmes so well in the scene, but doesn't break the dramatic tension that's present in the scene. The heavy cello cues that were present in many of the songs also helped the visuals on more than one occasion, particularly in fight scenes and other dramatic moments.

This movie was a delight to watch for the first time, and an ok watch the second. Its rewatch-ability is pretty low since a lot of the enjoyment comes from not knowing what's causing what, or what will happen next, but there are still some very fun moments that had me enthralled the second time, even some jokes that still made me laugh although I knew they were coming. If you haven't seen it, you definitely should, and if you've already seen it, probably avoid it for a second time until about a year after it's come out on DVD, you should have forgotten most of it by then!

Plot 9/10
Visuals 7/10
Sound 9/10
Enjoyment 8/10
Overall 33/40
Grade B+

- Suspenseful and enigmatic, you won't know what's coming
- Great camera work and music to suit it
- Fun characters that will please you no end

- Only good for one viewing, after that it loses a lot of its charm
- CG is fairly obvious and intrudes on the movie at points

Monday, January 4, 2010

Anime Review - Princess Mononoke

"What exactly are you here for?"
"To see with eyes unclouded by hate."

Princess Mononoke, directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli, is among one of my favourite movies ever, possibly rating in the top 10. So, it's to no surpise that when I saw it with Tom Clift of Plus Trailers ( I remembered why I loved it so much. As of two days ago, I've seen the movie a total of at least 6 times, about 4 in English, twice in Japanese. Every aspect of this movie is wonderfully crafted and no detail is left untouched from the Ghibli magic. In my opinion it's one of, if not the, best movies that Miyazaki has directed, and still my favourite anime film of all time.

The plot of this film is fairly forward. Boy lives in village, boy kills demon god and is cursed, boy travels west to find cure, boy meets girl, boy falls in love, boy and girl live happily ever after. Wait, that's not quite right. No, Princess Mononoke doesn't have a simple plot at all, but it's not an overly complicated one either. It works wonderfully with the universe Miyazaki has given it, and the characters interact within this story and world just as well.

On the point of characters, never have I come across characters within a movie I care so much about. The plight of Ashitaka, San’s odd position as the human daughter of a wolf god, and Eboshi’s caring, yet hard attitude for her town and the forest are all interwoven and memorable down to the last line. Even minor characters become memorable, such as Toki, the wife of a man that Ashitaka saves, or even the nameless lepers, they all remain in your mind well after you’ve finished watching the movie.

Pacing of the film is terrific, moving from serenity to action purposefully and without a hitch, but there are one or two scenes that seem amiss in the long run. One in particular involves Ashitaka talking to himself about his demon mark, a point that is bought up again at least twice later on, and since the scene is only 10 seconds long, it could well have been left out. The final climax also seems ever so slightly drawn out, but it remains a brilliant, on the edge of your seat finale.

To assist the wonderful story telling of Miyazaki, the animation is a stunning example of what can be achieved in anime. For a 1997 film, it uses tradition, computer, and 3D animation to brilliant ends, surpassing even some animation of today. Characters and backgrounds mingle seamlessly and some wonderful pans of the forest make you truly feel like you’re there with the characters. Action is never jarring and flows beautifully from the screen to your eyes. There is little else to say about the animation of this movie except that it’s beyond superb, essentially perfect.

Much the same thing can be said for the sound in this movie as well. The music in particular is possibly the best from any film, ever. I’m going outright and saying that. Nary is a single note misplaced in the film, and it sports one of the best main themes I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to. The sound effects are also superb and do not go amiss on the 5.1 surround sound English and Japanese tracks. On the note of both tracks, it’s hard to distinguish which is the better. While the main leads, Ashitaka and San are both better on the Japanese dub, many of the supporting roles such as Lady Eboshi, Moro, and Jiko are easily better in English. It’s a bit of a tossup between better leads, or better supporting roles. Personally, I prefer the English dub since the voice of Moro in Japanese gets on my nerves that much, but since I saw it first in English, that may affect my choice.

This film can be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone, even non-anime fans as Tom Clift showed. I would recommend that you go see it, even if you’re not a fan, since this movie transcends anime or live action, it’s just that good, seriously.

Plot 9/10
Animation 10/10
Sound 10/10
Enjoyment 10/10
Overall 39/40
Grade A++

- Enjoyable to the nth degree
- Amazing soundtrack
- Stunning animation
- Ever so slight pacing issues