Movie Review: Transcendence (2014)

Title: Transcendence

Running time: 119 minutes

Director: Wally Pfister

Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser

Summary: Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed-to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should. Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him

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Transcendence is the directional debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister, who is best-known for his work with Christopher Nolan. Their film Inception even earned him an Academy Award. This time he has decided to take the reins and direct his first movie starting with a great cast and an ambitious idea. Sadly, that’s where it ends.

This movie had all the potential to be awesome and I was bored out of my mind from the first minute. There was nothing interesting or engaging, not the characters nor the story, and all suffered from a flat delivery. There’s no drama, no emotion and no logic. You just don’t care about what is happening and at one point everything stops making sense.

Johnny Depp isn’t bad in it but his character, Will Caster, doesn’t catch your attention when he’s alive and when he gets uploaded doesn’t either. I don’t understand where is he going with his career right now. Rebecca Hall as his wife, is really good but the character of Evelyn Caster isn’t much interesting. The only one that I liked was Paul Bettany as their friend Max Waters who was the one who came closer to having some character development.

Then the movie has great actors in unnecessary roles such as Morgan Freeman as a scientist and Cillian Murphy as a FBI agent, that are just a waste of talent and only serve the movie to throw the exposition.

The pacing is off. It’s two hours long and you feel every second of it. As a good sci-fi piece, Transcendence sets up questions and theories but then neglects all of them at the end, making the viewing experience simply a waste of time. I would go as far as to say this is the worst film I have seen this year.

2’5/10

This Week’s Movie News (22-26 sep)

Bryan Singer returning to direct X-Men: Apocalypse

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It’s been confirmed that Bryan Singer, director of X1, X2 and Days of Future Past is coming back for the sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse. Also returning are Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and Evan Peters. The movie will take place a decade after the events of Days of Future Past and the group of mutants will have to join forces with young Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm as the X-Men must fight their most formidable foe yet: an ancient unrelenting force determined to cause an apocalypse unlike any in human history.

Writer Simon Kinberg said the following regarding the decision to recast some of the characters:

“If we included some of the original X-Men, like Storm, Jean, Scott, and others, yeah we would have to recast them, because Apocalypse takes place a good twenty years before “X1,” which now insanely was fifteen years ago. It would be very hard to do. Halle, Famke, and Jimmy, and others have done such wonderful jobs of bringing those characters to life and they’re so identified, those actors, with the parts now. So it would be a tall task… So, are we going to have to recast? If some of those characters were in the movie we would.”

I’m quite torn with the recast part because after the twist in Days of Future Past I was expecting to see more of Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, who was fantastic, but of course, if the story takes place before the events of the original trilogy it’s a necessary change.

X-Men: Apocalypse will be released in theaters on May 27, 2016

Lena Headey and Charles Dance cast in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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The actors who play father and daughter on the TV show Game of Thrones will be joining the already assembled cast of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which includes Lily James, Jack Huston, Matt Smith, Douglas Booth, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote and Suki Waterhouse.

The movie is based on the book of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith and features characters from Jane Austen’s novel.

Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman appearing in Ted 2

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The film’s director, Seth MacFarlane, confirmed via Twitter the involvement of the two actors on Ted 2, joining Mark Wahlberg and Amanda Seyfried.

Neeson already co-starred with MacFarlane and Seyfried early this year in the western comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West, which wasn’t very well received.

Jupiter Ascending Trailer

The only thing that makes me really excited about this is Eddie Redmayne as the villain, he’s the one who catches your attention in this trailer. Mila Kunnis is a good actress but she doesn’t convinced me here. The movie looks good but that last line was just horrible.

Movie Review: The Maze Runner (2014)

Title: The Maze Runner

Running time: 113 minutes

Director: Wes Ball

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Patricia Clarkson

Summary: When Thomas wakes up trapped in a massive maze with a group of other boys, he has no memory of the outside world other than strange dreams about a mysterious organization known as W.C.K.D. Only by piecing together fragments of his past with clues he discovers in the maze can Thomas hope to uncover his true purpose and a way to escape.

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Nowadays it seems every single book written for teenagers is being translated into film, though not all of these adaptations have succeed to impress at the box office. Based on the best-selling novel by James Dashner, The Maze Runner has already accomplished to get in its opening weekend an official date for the sequel, The Scorch Trials. Exploring again a post apocalyptic dystopian future, it has a darker tone than what we’re used to get in these young adult stories. And, having read the books, I actually liked this movie more than I thought I would. It catches perfectly the sense of being isolated and has some really intense scenes where you believe the characters are in real danger.

The Maze Runner follows the newcomer to the Glade, Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brian who gives a very solid performance. He’s the only actor on camera in every single scene and manages to take you through his journey. We see everything from his point of view, and we know only what he knows and discover what it’s going on as he does. The problem this creates is that we find out everything by him asking and someone else explaining. Surely they could have found a way to do that in a more sophisticated way.

Will Poulter did a fantastic work playing Gally, the antagonist to the story, but sometimes it felt like his character would make certain decisions just for the sake of contradicting the others, especially Thomas. Still, it was a better character than in the book. Ki Hong Lee was very good as Minho too and he had some really cool looking scenes running through the maze.

My stand out though was Thomas Brodie-Sangster, even though he didn’t have much on-screen time as there were too many characters to establish and develop all of them, he did a phenomenal job as Newt. He’s always very subtle in his performance and that works very good for him.

I never liked Teresa that much in the books and I wasn’t a fan of her here either. Not because Kaya Scodelario was bad, she was actually fine but for me her character never made any sense, she didn’t contribute at all to the story and I never sympathized with her. Though I like that there wasn’t any romantic element in her relation with Thomas, their connection in the book was much more powerful.

They changed how the gladers discover a way out of the maze but I was ok with it. While it worked on paper it would have been difficult to portray on-screen and they managed to solve it in a great way.

When it takes place in the Glade or in the maze this movie is awesome but it starts to crumble when it tries to explain everything and set up the sequel. I had the same problem with the end that I had with the book. I seems like the author wrote the story and at the very end decided to do a trilogy and came up in that moment with something to keep the story going. I let that pass in the book but I would have liked if the movie had tried to sustain it throughout the plot so it would have made sense at the end. Also, we get a scene that is 100% exposition and that is the laziest way to resolve anything.

So, The Maze Runner starts with a very interesting premise, the story is intriguing, the scenery looks pretty good but in the third act everything falls apart. It tries to build up the tension for the big revelation and completely fails by making it so boring and easy. Still, is way better than some other genre movies that has come out in the last couple of years.

7’5/10

Movie Review: Neighbors (2014)

Title: Neighbors

Running time: 97 minutes

Director: Nicholas Stoller

Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco

Summary: A comedy about a young couple suffering from arrested development who are forced to live next to a fraternity house after the birth of their newborn baby

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The Interview may come out at the end of this year but it seems this time Seth Rogen has changed his usual comedy partner, James Franco, for Zac Efron in Neighbors. The main premise for this movie is really good and creates a great and funny conflict between the new parents and the fraternity. Some of the keys to its success are how realistic portrayed are the troubles the couple goes through and the great chemistry between all the characters.

Seth Rogen was great but, for me, the one who nailed it was Rose Byrne as his wife. They managed to make an awesome and odd couple at the same time and were fantastic together. She was just phenomenal and was probably my favourite part of the movie. I loved that she didn’t play the typical female role in comedies and was more pro-active. It’s great that she finally gets a big comedic role to prove herself after how good she was in Bridesmaids. By the way, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an adorable baby anywhere.

I also liked Zac Efron here. He was both likable and hateable and very funny. It’s great that he has managed to move away from his Disney career and can make fun of himself. He had great chemistry with Seth Rogen and the choreography of the fight scene between them was hilarious. Dave Franco was surprisingly good too and his imitation of Robert De Niro from Meet the Fockers was perfect. The only problem with his character is that suddenly in the middle of the movie they throw that he is very smart and there’s nothing in the first half to support that.

There are a couple of easy jokes but overall Neighbors is very smart and the characters are well realized as they capture some realistic moments of what it means to be in a committed relationship and having a baby. Some of the scenes, especially the parties were very well shot. It’s not a constant laugh out loud experience but it’s funny all the time. Definitely my favourite comedy of the year so far.

8’5/10

This Week’s Movie News (15-19 sep)

 

Interstellar Posters

This week has been released not one but two official posters for the upcoming Christopher Nolan film, Interstellar.

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I personally like much better the first one which was released earlier this week and shows Matthew McConaughey on a frozen world. The second one just doesn’t have the same impact and generates too many questions. Is this a whole different planet full of water or are they back on Earth in the future and the planet is flooded? Also, we’ve already had three posters for this movie, is it starting to be too much as they don’t give any information away?

Interstellar hits theaters on November 7th.

Tom Hiddleston cast in King Kong prequel

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Legendary Pictures have announced that Tom Hiddleston has land the lead role in Skull Island. The film will explore the home of King Kong and his origins with Jordan Vogt-Roberts as the director.

I’m so excited about this news. Tom Hiddleston is a great actor and has shown it in various supporting roles but has yet to be the lead in a big film, so this is an amazing opportunity for him.

Skull Island will be released in theaters November 4, 2016

New Poster for Into the Woods

The first movie poster for Disney’s Into the Woods is finally here and features three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep as the terrifying Witch.

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Directed by Rob Marshall, Into the Woods hits theaters this year on Christmas day.

Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell cast in Ben Hur remake

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There was some speculation at the beginning of the month that Tom Hiddleston was in negotiations to play the role of Ben Hur in the remake of the movie but this week has been confirmed that the role has in the end gone to Jack Huston.

Later this week has also been announced that Toby Kebbell will play Messala. With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the upcoming Fantastic Four it seems he has taken a fancy for villainous roles.

This two actors will join Morgan Freeman who was already cast as Ildarin. The remake is set to be release on February 26, 2016

Deadpool movie announced with Kevin Feige producing

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After the hype that the Deadpool “leaked” footage provoked amongst the fans of the superhero genre, Fox has finally confirmed the movie, which will come out on February 12, 2016. It’s yet to be announced if Ryan Reynolds will reprise his role from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which wasn’t a big success.

The movie will be directed by Tim Miller but the most curious thing about this news is that Kevin Feige from Marvel will be producing it. As you might know, Fox has the rights to the character of Deadpool and not Marvel/Disney so, why is Kevin Feige the producer? With the Marvel Cinematic Universe already consolidated maybe Kevin Feige wants to make sure that other superhero films are also a success so audiences will keep interest in the genre, which would also affect his property.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Stills

With the third Hunger Games movie coming out on November 19 it’s rare the week we don’t get something new about it. This time is the promotional stills.

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Movie Review: The Giver (2014)

Title: The Giver

Running time: 97 minutes

Director: Philip Noyce

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Odeya Rush, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift

Summary: The haunting story of THE GIVER centers on Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), a young man who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Yet as he begins to spend time with The Giver (Jeff Bridges), who is the sole keeper of all the community’s memories, Jonas quickly begins to discover the dark and deadly truths of his community’s secret past. With this newfound power of knowledge, he realizes that the stakes are higher than imagined – a matter of life and death for himself and those he loves most. At extreme odds, Jonas knows that he must escape their world to protect them all – a challenge that no one has ever succeeded at before.

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These young adult book adaptations, featuring a post apocalyptic and dystopian future where a kid, different from the rest, rebels against the government are starting to be too prominent these days. This year we’ve already had the first Divergent movie, The Maze Runner opens this week and the third Hunger Games in a couple of months. But now is the time for the Giver, which handles this kind of society quite good, though its opening scene makes it look like it’s going to be similar to Divergent. Which, thank goodness, is not the case.

The look of the movie is simply gorgeous and elegant. I loved how they played with the colors and they made really good use of the montages. I’m hearing a lot of people saying that the acting is not good but the characters are supposed to be that way, all basically the same, and you can’t blame the actors for that. I haven’t read the book but I would like to know if it works on page better than on-screen.

Brenton Thwaites as Jonas, the receiver, was really good, though I lost interest in his character towards the third act and he’s not as charismatic as the typical leads in the genre. Fiona is played by Odeya Rush who, again, I don’t think is bad but doesn’t have much to portray until the very end.

There are some A level actors in this movie too. Jeff Bridges, who apparently has wanted to do this movie for eighteen years, and you can tell that he was really invested in the story. His character, the giver, was the most interesting to watch and the best element of the movie, partially because he was the one with an actual personality. Meryl Streep, as the Chief Elder, fantastic as always, but is hard to understand the motivation behind, not only her character, but all the others.

It’s not easy to make an interesting story when your characters are supposed to be practically emotionless, but during the part when they’re suppose to be the most boring you’re still into it and it success to engage in how the world works.

I liked it a lot but I started to lose interest towards the end. The third act was quite disappointing, very anticlimactic and unsatisfying. In my opinion, The Giver would have benefited from being a bit longer and give more back story and explanations. If you don’t try to understand everything and just go along with it, it’s very entertaining with a beautiful message. Strive for individuality and embrace your differences and feelings.

8/10

Official Trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The first official trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is here and is awesome. Take a look at it!

It’s the things we love most that destroy us.

This has made me so excited for the movie. As we saw in the teaser trailer, overall, this movie has a whole different tone than its predecessors,. It’s darker and more epic and, while fans of the book will love it, I’m not sure how it will land with those who aren’t familiar with the story and are maybe expecting to go back to the arena somehow.

The trailer itself is fantastic and has some really good shots. That smirk on President Snow’s face gives me chills every time. I love seeing Effie in District 13 (in the book she doesn’t appear until the end) and it’s so sad seeing her without her iconic colorful makeup and costumes. Such a touching scene when she puts the mockingjay pin on Katniss’ gear and you can see her nail polish chipped. Also great seeing the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and we see Julianne Moore several times though she never says anything.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Peeta as the pawn of the Capitol and Katniss looks more badass than ever. That last shot with the helicarriers was fantastic. My only complain, I wanted more Finnick.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron Official Synopsis

Marvel and Disney have released the official synopsis for their upcoming movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron!

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Marvel Studios presents Avengers: Age of Ultron, the epic follow-up to the biggest Super Hero movie of all time. When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.

Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron stars Robert Downey Jr., who returns as Iron Man, along with Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. Together with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and with the additional support of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, the team must reassemble to defeat James Spader as Ultron, a terrifying technological villain hell-bent on human extinction. Along the way, they confront two mysterious and powerful newcomers, Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and Pietro Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and meet an old friend in a new form when Paul Bettany becomes Vision.

Written and directed by Joss Whedon and produced by Kevin Feige, Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series The Avengers, first published in 1963. Get set for an action-packed thrill ride when The Avengers return in Marvel’s Avengers:Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015.

It doesn’t really give away anything than we didn’t know already except that Tony Stark doesn’t actually create Ultron but “wakes” it. Maybe they can still keep Ant-Man as the creator, especially with the film coming out just a couple of months after. Also, with the reference “an old friend in a new form” it’s practically confirmed that the Vision will be JARVIS upgraded and not two separate characters, one voiced and the other played by Paul Bettany.

This Week’s Movie News (8-13 sep)

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor look?

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Last weekend a fan posted a picture with Jesse Eisenberg where we can see him with a very different hair style. His iconic curls are gone, his hair is shorter and straight and you can even see that is dyed red. Jesse Eisenberg is in the middle of filming Batman v Superman so does this mean this is the look Lex Luthor will have in the movie? I know everyone was expecting a shaved hair and some people are even suggesting that it could be a toupee, but in the comics, before Lex Luthor loses his hair, he had red hair. Maybe in the movie they will show how he loses his hair?

No Iron Man 4

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In an interview with Variety, Robert Downey Jr, confirmed that there are no plans for a fourth Iron Man movie. The actor signed with Marvel and Disney for two ‘Avengers’ sequels (Age of Ultron and the third one) when his contract run out but didn’t commit to any further solo films.

I found really interesting that he also mentioned that if Tony Stark were to be recast in the future he could be the one to choose his successor.

Orlando Bloom is open to return to Pirates of the Caribbean 5

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While attending the Oz Comic Con, Orlando Bloom told Yahoo! Movies the following:

“There have certainly been some discussions about it and I’m open to it. That whole experience working with Johnny and (director) Gore (Verbinski) was really amazing for me. I had a great time working with Johnny, one of the reasons I jumped at the opportunity was because Johnny was involved. I was such a massive fan of Johnny Depp growing up so to get up close and personal to Johnny and see how he worked as an actor was just a massive gift.”

Returning to a franchise has already worked for Orlando Bloom with The Hobbit where he reprises his role of Legolas from the Lord of the Rings, but now that the Peter Jackson franchise is coming to an end and given that Orlando’s career outside these blockbusters haven’t been very successful, is it a good idea for him to return? And more importantly, are you excited about seeing Will Turner again on-screen?

Katniss’ Final Poster

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We had a tease of this last week with a poster that only showed Katniss’ back but finally the actual poster is here. I love everything about this, the costume and specially how by standing in front of the mockingjay symbol it makes it look like her own wings.

And there’s more exciting news about Mockingjay Part 1, the official trailer of the film will be released tomorrow!

Zach Snyder shows the new Batmobile

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After a fan posted several pictures of the Batmobile from the set of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, director Zach Snyder, not very happy about it, decided to release his own photo on Twitter, definitely making it look more spectacular than the leaked ones did.

Movie Review: Hercules (2014)

Title: Hercules

Running time: 98 minutes

Director: Brett Ratner

Starring: Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Rufus Sewell, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Aksel Hennie, Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes, Rebecca Ferguson, John Hurt, Irina Shayk

Summary: Having endured his legendary twelve labors, Hercules, the Greek demigod, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord.  

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The second Hercules movie this year is based in the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars and brought to the screen by Brett Ratner (yes, the director of the terrible X-Men: Last Stand). I didn’t see The Legend of Hercules that came out at the beginning of the year and had Kellan Lutz as Hercules but I haven’t heard very good things about it. This might be part of the reason why I didn’t have very high expectations about this one and that’s a good thing because it made the movie at least acceptable.

I liked that it wasn’t an origin story as we have already seen many times and the idea that Hercules might not be the son of a god but only a common mortal was very good. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fits as Hercules, he’s big, very likable but he doesn’t really do anything that he hasn’t done before. I feel like he always plays the same kind of character (that’s why I’m quite excited about him playing Black Adam and not Shazam in the DC universe).

The group of mercenaries that goes with him is the typical one. There’s the cocky and hilarious one played by Ian McShane; Reece Ritchie as the young one that wants to fight but Hercules is very protective over and also serves as storyteller; Rufus Sewell as the more grounded and serious; the silent and intimidating that admires Hercules, portrayed by Aksel Hennie; and of course the woman, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, that could take down all the other but never has a chance to do much. At least she fitted in the group and for once, it looked like she had put some muscle on as a proper warrior would do.

John Hurt is such a good actor and very convincing in everything he does but the character of King Cotys was a bit stupid, doing some things that made no sense and were only there so Hercules could have the motivation to move forward. Rebecca Ferguson had the typical female role in this kind of movies and was ok. She didn’t have much to do other than being protective over her kid. The relation father and daughter was so weird.

Basically, Hercules is a movie made for kids and they will definitely like it. It has some good battle sequences and an interesting twist, but it’s quite slow until the last fifteen minutes when everything is suddenly rushed. Also, the trailer featured a part of the story of Hercules that was done so quickly at the beginning through a montage of flashbacks so it was very misleading and promised a totally different movie.

5,5/10