RENTAL ROUND-UP (November/December 2013)

Byzantium

Image

A very different breed of vampire film, this stylish picture from Neil Jordan is bolstered by wonderful visuals and strong central performances from Saorise Ronan and Gemma Arterton. However, the slow pace, odd structure and a weak performance from Caleb Landry Jones do bog it down. If you’re looking for something a bit different, Byzantium may have something interesting for you but you’ll have to dig through some muck to find it. 6.5/10

Fast & Furious 6

Image

The Fast & The Furious franchise keeps on driving forward in what is probably the best of the series. Sure, it’s dumb and juvenile in many facets but at this point I think everyone involved is aware; the fact that they still take it so seriously only adds to the goofy fun of it. The ludicrous car stunts are still fun to watch, bolstered by some fun hand-to-hand fight sequences to mix things up. Top it all off with a great post-credits sequence, and now I’m actually looking forward to the next one. How that happens now after the tragic passing of Paul Walker is still up in the air as I write this, but I’m sure that eventually we’ll see Toretto and his boys drive very fast and furiously again. 7/10

The Host

Image

I somehow managed to avoid seeing the entirety of any Twilight movie, but after watching The Host I can somewhat sympathize now. I have to be honest here: if you get right down to some of the core ideas of this movie, there is some potential for something good here. But the film completely drops every ball it possibly could. The film is dull and slow, nothing happens during the entire second act, the dialog is laughable, and the ending is the most contrived and utterly anti-climactic thing ever; apparently Stephanie Meyer has no concept of consequence or loss. The film only manages to avoid being utterly awful thanks to those aforementioned germs of interesting ideas and Saorise Ronan at least trying to rise above the awful material given to her. 3.5/10

After Earth

Image

Considering how much of a punch line he has become, I find it baffling that M. Night Shymalan still finds work. Now he continues his extended career suicide with After Earth: quite possibly the most boring and tedious sci-fi movie ever made. Will Smith continues his quest to force his son Jaden down our throats, never realizing that the boy just can’t carry a movie. Jaden Smith is boring, whiny and has none of his father’s charisma. Then again, based on Will’s performance in this movie, you wouldn’t think he had any either; he spends most of the movie sat in a chair speaking in monotone whilst barely ever showing any signs of emotion. On top of all that, the story is bland and formulaic, the production design is lazy, the effects are unpolished, and it is just…so…BORING! At least something like Battlefield Earth is unintentionally hilarious; After Earth doesn’t even have the dignity to be laughably bad. It’s just bad. Please, just don’t watch this. 2/10 

The Lone Ranger

Image

Don’t let the terrible box office performance and lackluster reviews fool you. The Lone Ranger is a surprisingly decent movie, and one that has gotten a lot of undeserved flack. It definitely is problematic: the film is far too long, the second act meanders and kills the pacing, and I don’t see how this cost $200 million. But there is plenty to enjoy here too. Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp have good chemistry as The Lone Ranger and Tonto, the cinematography and production design is elaborate and stunning, and the action scenes are a lot of fun especially the creative climax. It is certainly a much better film than any of Bruckheimer’s other recent attempts to start a new franchise at Disney, and it’s a shame that this is the one that bombed the most stupendously. It certainly isn’t perfect, but give The Lone Ranger a chance if you’re in the mood for some old-fashioned western adventure fun. 7/10

Epic

Image

You’d think that after the amount of flack Avatar took for being unoriginal would quell people from making “human finds themselves in magical forest world where they must defend the natives” films for some time, but here’s another one. The plot of Epic is predictable to a fault; there is nothing here that’s going to surprise you. But everything else in the film somewhat manages to save it. Some of the voice acting is pretty good, particularly from Colin Farrell, Chris O’Dowd and Aziz Ansari, but others such as Beyonce and Pitbull don’t fare so well. The main saving grace is the animation and design of the world, which makes for a very pretty animated film. It’s just a pity that the amount of effort that went into creating the look of the film didn’t go into the screenplay. Epic does contain enough enjoyable elements to stave off boredom, but there is much more original fare out this year for the kids to enjoy. 6/10

The Croods

Image

When The Croods started up, I wasn’t enjoying it so much. It just didn’t seem that new to me and not much was keeping me interested. But, once the plot gets moving and the world opens up, suddenly the film improves dramatically. This is one imaginative movie on a design scale, with lots of bright colours and diverse locales. The animation quality is superb with quick cartoon-like movements, often reminding me of the work of Brad Bird. But, unlike Epic, the story and characters manage to match the quality of everything else. The main reason the movie works for me is the character of Grug, voiced with much gusto by the always-fascinating Nicolas Cage. He starts out as your average stick-in-the-mud, but the way his character develops creates moments of both comedy and eventually drama. If you’re kids are in need of some entertainment and have already seen both Monsters University and Frozen, The Croods is definitely not a bad choice. 7.5/10

Pain & Gain

Image

I never thought I’d actually say this, but I have to admit it: Michael Bay actually made a genuinely good movie. I’m as shocked as you are, but it’s true. At least for me; I can totally understand if someone hates this movie, as it certainly isn’t for everyone. But if you want a dark comedy with no boundaries, Pain & Gain is one you need to watch. Based on true events, this is a film that lets Bay’s sensibilities run wild and fill the movie with all the excess you’d expect from one of his productions. But for this kind of movie, it works due to the insanity of everything else. Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie put in some of their best work playing some of the dumbest characters in cinema history, and watching them hatch this ludicrous scheme and somehow make it work is so funny but also so heinous that it makes for many moments of awkward laughter. The main reason this works, and something that I think so many critics of the picture didn’t catch onto, is that we aren’t supposed to like these characters; we’re laughing at them, not with them. The film is full of characters that are evil, stupid, or both; the only likable character is Ed Harris, and he doesn’t even show up till the one-hour mark. But that’s the entire point of the film, and in the end everyone gets what he or she deserves. That’s not to say the film is perfect. Like many Bay films, it’s far too long and could have used some trimming. The second half of the film drags and isn’t as fun as the first half, and eventually some of the Bay-isms start to wear thin. But for the most part, this is one big guilty pleasure of a picture. This is certainly a Marmite film (Bay even says as much in the special features), and in this case I love it. It’s just a pity that Bay is next trudging back to make another Transformers movie instead of making more pictures in this realm. 8/10

Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s