Starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey
The Dark Tower novels were a favourite of mine as a teenager. I picked up my first Stephen King novel when I was 12 and ravenously turned the pages of what ever book of his I could get my hand on. But there was something about The Dark Tower. Something about the last gunslinger and his Moby Dick like obsession for the Man in Black and that ominous Dark Tower. Here was this epic fantasy story that somehow combined Clint Eastwood Westerns with wizards and portals into 20th century New York and giant cyborg bears. And it worked. And I loved it. I’ve always regretted not finishing the series when the wait between books grew too long and I found it harder and harder to make time to read books without pictures. But I never stopped being fascinated by that mysterious tower that stood in the centre of all things.
Adapting The Dark Tower is an ambitious project. I don’t believe a straight up retelling would work on the big screen. So I’m glad director Nikolaj Arcel didn’t even try. This is not the movie I was expecting. It’s not the movie I visualised in my head as I followed Roland’s journey to the tower. It’s different. And as I write this on my way home from the cinema, I think I like it.
Starring Ryan Reynolds
This is not an easy review to write. I enjoyed this movie. A lot. But I can not recommend it. In fact, if you are a Christian, I recommend that you avoid this movie. Especially if you are under 18. Now, I know in Australia you can legally see this movie if you are 15 or over. Younger if you see it with your parents. But let me explain why I think this is a bad idea.
Everything is awesome. It’s not just the name of the catchy and quirky pop song that plays incessantly during The Lego Movie. It’s an accurate description of the film itself. Everything about this movie is awesome. After watching The Lego Movie I want to pour a huge box full of Lego pieces on the floor and spend hours building stuff. True, I want to do that most days. But after watching this movie, I really really want to dive into a big pile of Lego, Scrooge McDuck style.
It’s pretty amazing that a movie like Noah even exists. A big budget retelling of a Bible story with big name actors and a special effects budget that would make a film student drool, directed by a guy best known for his quirky, arty films. Surely this is going to be a disaster. The Bible crowd will either love it or hate it and it’s going to be a tough sell to get anyone else even interested.
As an epic fantasy movie with Biblical allusions, Noah is a great film. As a Biblically faithful account of the life of Noah… Well it makes a good fantasy movie.
Starring Keanu Reeves
47 Ronin is the classic Japanese folk story of 47 samurai who are on a mission to seek revenge and restore the honour of their fallen lord… and some random white guy fighting CGI monsters. Somehow Keanu Reeves has got himself involved in this Westernised version of an Eastern story. Now, while I enjoyed this movie and thought it was a good way to spend a couple of hours in a cinema, it never quite manages to overcome to fact that there are two movies here trying to squish themselves into a space reserved for one.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston
Yeah, I was going to go see this. Never any doubt. I can count on one hand the Marvel movies I haven’t seen in the cinema (I’ll let you guess in the comments which ones they are). But how high were my expectations for Thor: The Dark World? To be honest, not very high. While I enjoyed the initial Thor outing, I thought it was a bit under-done and needed more time to develop its story. And while I love Christopher Eccleston, he didn’t exactly set the world on fire playing the bad guy in G.I.Joe. On top of that, I had successfully managed to avoid seeing a single trailer for this movie, which is a pretty big achievement these days. So I’m sitting in the cinema, very little idea what to expect, just a small flickering flame of hope in my belly. Enough already Joel – tell us what you thought!
I loved it.
I know I probably say this after every Marvel movie, but Thor: The Dark World has got to be one of my favourites so far. The special effects are grand, the action epic, and the dialogue witty. What more can you ask?
When I think of pirates I either think of someone downloading the latest episode of Game of Thrones or Johnny Depp prancing around with a sword. So when I watch the news and hear stories of Somali pirates, my brain gets a little bit confused. It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century pirates are still a problem. But these pirates aren’t colourful vagabonds or digital thieves. They are dangerous men born out of desperation and violence. In Captain Phillips, when warned of pirates in the area, they don’t prepare for a revival of Pirates of Penzance. They are scared for their lives. And they have every right to be. Because Captain Phillips is the true story of a merchant ship that is boarded by pirates. And the reality of this situation makes this one of the most gripping thrillers I’ve seen.
Starring Hugh Jackman
In case you missed the memo that comic book movies were big at the moment, Hugh Jackman returns to the screen as the hairy, bare-chested mutant with the metal claws – Wolverine. This is Jackman’s 5th time on the movie screen playing Wolverine, 6th if you include his cameo in X-Men: First Class (7th if you imagine that Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is actually Wolverine slumming it in 19th century France like I do). And to be honest, I hated X-Men: The Last Stand and Wolverine: Origins. HATED. But I wanted to give this new Wolverine movie a shot. By setting the movie in Japan and downplaying Wolverine’s healing factor, it certainly got my interest raised.
My verdict? I enjoyed The Wolverine. It almost got me to forgive the makers of these films for those last two stinkers. Almost.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks
An Alex Gibney Film
Back in the 90s, one of my favourite “guilty pleasure” movies was a film called Hackers. It’s an early film of Angelina Jolie’s where her and a bunch of outcast friends are hackers, rewriting the rules of the Internet like 21st century wizards. Was this movie an accurate portrayal of the Internet and those who would hack it? Of course not. But I love it none the less. And the world of hackers was no less real just because Angelina Jolie rocked a keyboard like it was nobody’s business.
Perhaps the most well known, and most controversial, name in the hacking world is Julian Assange. To some he is an anarchist hero of the information age. To others he is a cowardly traitor putting lives at risk. Love him or hate him, he is someone you should know about. Because the issues his life brings up will come to define the Internet Age. We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks takes a look at the life of Assange and explores the ethical issues his actions have brought up. Alongside Assange’s story is that of Bradley Manning. He may not be as public a figure as Assange, but Manning’s story is just as important.
A kid who can see dead people. But it’s not The Sixth Sense. The dead rising from their graves to terrorise a small town. But it’s not Night of The Living Dead. A stop-motion feature length film. But it’s not from Aardman. Paranorman is certainly packed full of influences. In telling the story of 10 year old Norman who can see ghosts and is the only one who can save the day from a witches curse, directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell are attempting something ambitious. They’re attempting to take some well known trappings of the horror genre, invert the expectations, change the medium to stop-motion animation, as well as repackage the whole thing for a pre-teen audience. That’s right, it’s a horror movie for kids. The ambition is there, however, the end result is something that left me scratching my head.
I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a computer game in my house. I was playing Space Invaders before I was enrolled in pre-school. I engaged in passionate Nintendo vs Sega debates with my friends. I even watched the Super Mario Bros movie in cinemas and lived to tell the tale. As soon as I heard about Wreck-It Ralph, my response was “shut up and take my money”. Sure, me and Disney haven’t always been on the best of terms. We’ve had our differences in the past. But if the animated film Wreck-It Ralph is any indication of where Disney is headed, then all is forgiven. Because this movie hits me in all the right spots and makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Les Misérables is one of those musicals I know a lot about but don’t know really well. About ten years ago my wife dragged me along to a local theater production of the show. But because of the joys of low budget sound systems and amateur performers, I didn’t really understand what was going on. There was a big wall made out of furniture and some guys with guns singing about a revolution. I was a bit lost. So going into the big screen version of Les Misérables, I was after one thing – to take all these songs that I’ve heard a million times on singing based reality TV shows and give me a story that can grab me by the heart and make me care.
Well, at least the singing was good.
There’s an episode of the cartoon Batman: Brave and the Bold where Batman travels back in time and teams up with Abraham Lincoln to fight a steampunk cyborg John Wilkes Booth. I thought that would be the trippiest pop culture presentation of the former American president I would ever see. But no. I was wrong. And that’s because Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had yet to thrust itself into my eyeballs and demand my attention. Armed with a silver plated axe and ridiculous side burns, Abe Lincoln marches onto the screen in this latest action/horror extravaganza.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a bad movie.
And that’s why I loved it.
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone
Teenager gets bitten by a spider. Gets super powers. Learns a lesson in responsibility. It’s a story we’ve seen before. After all, it’s only been ten years since Tobey Maguire first slipped on the spandex and went swinging through the streets of New York. I love the Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man movies So did we really need a new Spider-Man origin movie? No, we don’t. But if Amazing Spider-Man is the movie we get, then you won’t get any complaints from me. Because this is a great movie. I’ll even go as far to say I prefer it to the original trilogy. And that’s a big call.
Starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin
Flashback to 1997. For some of you this will be easier than for others. There was this movie called Men In Black. And it was huge. Will Smith had a hit single with the Men in Black rap song. Every optometrist was advertising Men In Black Ray-Bans. A cartoon series based on the movie. At least one out of three blokes rocking up to a fancy dress party that year wore a black suit and a pair of sunglasses (and yes, I was one of them). The original Men In Black really captured the public attention. And then 2002’s Men In Black II was released.
Cue the sound of chirping crickets.
Yeah, Men In Black II wasn’t exactly the best movie. So it’s not a surprise that it took another ten years to try again. To see if the Men in Black magic could be bottled once more and splattered across the cinema screen. I’m going to say it. I know it will be a controversial statement but I’ll say it anyway. I think Men In Black 3 is not only a great movie, but even better than the first Men in Black film.
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth
It all comes down to this. Marvel Comics’ movie plans have been building up to this moment since 2008’s Iron Man. Four years worth of intertwined super-hero movies, climaxing in The Avengers, a movie that on paper looks insane. A cast full of actors who have headed up their own movies, a plot that has been simmering over several movies, a director best known for his work in television, and the necessity for a big budget, special effects heavy plot that ups the ante of the previous movies by at least five fold. To make that work is just crazy talk. And yet, somehow they manage to pull it off. The Avengers is the super-hero movie people have been waiting for since the team made their first comic book appearance in 1963. This is super-hero action on a scale we rarely see on-screen – and I hope that this is only the beginning.
When your movie is based off a board game that pretty much involves guessing numbers, you don’t have a lot to work with. I wouldn’t be surprised if the brainstorming meeting for Battleship happened at 4am after three days with no sleep and everyone on a massive caffeine high. Because on paper, this movie looks ridiculous. The US navy versus a bunch of high tech aliens from the creators of Transformers. And we’re talking the toy creators here, not the movies (not that this would make things better). Taking my seat in the cinema to watch Battleship, my expectations were so low you’d need James Cameron in a submarine to find them.
But some how Battleship manages to pull it off. It’s not going to win a best picture Oscar or join the ranks of the all-time great action movies. However, if you’re willing to ignore logic and common sense and watch things blow up good, there’s a lot of fun to be had.
Starring Johnny Depp and Aaron Eckhart
A red plane flying careless and free in the bright blue sky. Not a single cloud in he sky. Below, a shimmering clean ocean on a beautiful day. Cut to Johnny Depp’s darkened hotel room. The room is a mess and so is Depp. His blood-shot eyes and dishevelled appearance give us some indication of the horrendous hangover he’s experiencing. This is the opening scene of The Rum Diary and it establishes the identity of this film pretty quickly. This movie shows us two very different sides to Puerto Rico in 1960. One side is beautiful and carefree and rich. The other is dirty and struggling a poor. How these two sides coexist shows us a perspective on Western culture that should make us uncomfortable and question how we perceive ourselves and the world.
Starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson
Directed by Cameron Crowe
You know the biggest crime this movie commits? There are meerkats in this movie for a grand total of 5 seconds. How dare they? If you’re going to put meerkats in a movie, you better put them in at least every second scene. I don’t care about the lions and tigers and bears (oh my)(yes, I couldn’t resist. Nothing to see here). If you’re going to tempt with meerkats, you better deliver.
And that’s my biggest problem with this movie. That’s the worst criticism I could think of for We Bought A Zoo. And that’s because I really enjoyed it.