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Thursday, December 25, 2014

BEST OF 2014

2014 has come and gone. Here are my top 10 movies for the year

Click on the links for A full review where applicable

1. Edge of Tomorrow

Based on the Japanese novel "All you need is Kill", EDGE OF TOMORROW is a gripping character focused tale that gives a fun fresh edgy spin to a tried and true sic/fi premise. An alien species called the Mimics have landed. Inhumanly fast, vicious and able to outsmart human attack plans at every turn, Mimic forces threaten to overwhelm the world. A massive counteroffensive on the coasts of Europe which ends disastrously for former PR officer turned forced conscript William Cage (Tom Cruise).......until he wakes up 24 hours before the invasion at the start of his conscription.
Edge of Tomorrow is a lot smarter than it seems at first. It deconstructs cliches and may even be seen as a parody of an audience's expectations when they see a movie. In playing against type, Tom Cruise shines as the cowardly Cage whom we discover is all brave talk and no action. His performance is earnest and nuanced, lending weight to the more tragic scenes of Cage experiencing the deaths of those close to him over and over again.Watch this, savour this, and repeat. 

Native 3D: No

Buy EDGE OF TOMORROW ON BLU RAY


2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Ten years after a deadly diseases wiped out most of humanity, a colony of smart genetically enhanced apes, led by Ceasar, have made the forests of San Francisco their home. There they thrive until their peace is broken by a group of humans searching for an hydroelectric dam. Fear and paranoia mounts of both sides, with trust and friendship constantly hanging in a fragile balance. Threats mount from within as dissension slowly builds. Social commentary and political musings pepper this deep science fiction film as Andy Serkis brings his award winning performance to the character of Ceasar, leader of the apes.

A smart, vicious, and throughout provoking sequel.

Native 3D: Yes

Buy DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES on 3D Blu Ray


3. Godzilla


In shaping Godzillas future, the creative team look back on the big G's past, digging deep into the earlier, darker themed Showa era godzilla movies and combining the best elements of 60 years worth of sequels. Like the first 1954 original, the monsters' appearance is teased and glimpsed through the human focused tale. This is slow build up and reveal calls back to classic monster movies like JAWS, ALIEN, and the original GODZILLA. Yet director Gareth Edwards successfully builds the tension right up to the big payoff clash of titanic proportions.
Fans of all action monster mash ups like GODZILLA FINAL WAR or DESTROY ALL MONSTERS would no doubt find the slow burn build up boring. But fans of the 1954 classic and the more serious Showa era movies would have much to cheer about. With a nostalgic score by Alexander Desplat clearly inspired by the late great Akira Ifukube, GODZILLA serves as a harrowing metaphor of nature's supremacy over mankind. Where the 1954 classic was an analogy for the atomic bomb, 2014's movie brings to mind the tsunamis and nuclear plant meltdowns that shocked the world. A clever, emotionally engaging and powerful tribute to 60 years of Godzilla.

Native 3D: No


4. Big Hero 6
BIG HERO 6 is good. It is colourful, action packed and simple enough for kids and inner children. Yet it packs a significant emotional wallop and some mature themes for those willing to dig deeper into the narrative. Visually, it is a fine piece of work to look at and just take in the details in the wonderful animation. Accompanied by a rousing electronic score by WRECK-IT RALPH'S Henry Jackman, BIG HERO 6 looks set to obscure its own middling comic book source material, (which is not entirely surprising since there was hardly any reprint of the comic aside from the hard-to-get single issues). Big on thrills, big on heart, big on technical achievement; that is BIG HERO 6. Oh and big bucks for disney's merchandising department.

Native 3D: Yes

Buy BIG HERO 6 on Blu Ray

5. Robocop



ROBOCOP retains many elements of the original, while updating the premise for contemporary audience. It got the satire down very well, firstly in the form of extreme leftist show host Pat Novak (Samuel L Jackson), then among other things, the revelation that the "all American" Robocop was made in China. Although not as dark a dark comedy as the original movie, the satire here works, as with many of the subtle changes. Our new Robocop, played magnificently by Joel Kinnaman, is sleek, fast, he's strong, plus he does not just stand there and get shot at. Best of all, he retains his heart and struggles with his humanity.The film deals with the consequences of being turned into a commercial product, where every change in your life is dictated by focus groups and monetary decisions. Choice is no longer your own and you are duped into the illusion of free choice. If the public thinks your emotions are getting in the way of your professionalism, your emotions have got to go. Slowly but surely, everything that made you human is slowly drained away. Then once the company decides to "pull the plug", are they just terminating an asset? Or is it attempted murder?

Native 3D: No

Buy ROBOCOP 2014 on Blu Ray

6. Maze Runner




His name is Thomas. That is all he knows. He has been sent via the mysterious "box" into a contained colony of boys called "the glade". Nobody knows why they are there, only that they cannot leave. Around the glade lies the maze where only the fastest and bravest among them, dubbed "maze runners", get to explore in the hopes of finding a way out. Thomas' arrival causes a schism among the boys and strange incidents start happening one after the other. As the perfect peaceful society of the Glade is slowly torn asunder, Thomas must unravel the secrets of the maze and confront the horrors within. I admit to not having read the original book so I would not know how close it is to the source material. On its own, MAZE RUNNER is The grandchild of LORD OF THE FLIES and TV's LOST. It combines tried and true story beats sieved through an intriguing premise and a decent mystery (despite being almost undone by the ill advised flashbacks). It avoids many mistakes other adaptations of young adult novels make, like lingering on romance subplots, and leaves a decent sequel hook that leaves you wanting more.


Native 3D: No

Buy MAZE RUNNER on Blu Ray




7. Lego Movie

 

Native 3D: Yes

Buy LEGO MOVIE on Blu Ray


8. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies


Native 3D: Yes

Buy THE HOBBIT BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES on Blu Ray


9. Interstellar

Native 3D: No

10. X-Men Days of Future Past

Native 3D: Yes

Buy X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST on 3D Blu Ray

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Big Hero 6 (2014) CGI Animated movie review


Overall verdict: 9/10

The Good: Top notch CGI, emotionally charged story of love and loss, adorable mascot character, full development arc of main character, rousing soundtrack, delves into deeper themes of brotherly bonds and friendship. 

The Bad: cliched side characters and story threads.

3D Readiness: Rendered in full 3D. Recommended
IMax-ability: Not formatted for iMax but detailed scenes and magnificent CGI lend itself well to the format

******************************Review*****************************
This is not the comic book I remembered. This is.


Then again, I barely remembered the comic book at all. Goes to show how "critically acclaimed" it was. Big Hero 6 was originally a short lived team-up of Marvel's Japanese superheroes including X-men's Sunfire and Silver Samurai........which (thanks to some other movie studio) can no longer be featured. But no worries. In typical Disney tradition, Disney studios took the title of an existing piece of work, and changed the heck out of it.

Rapunzel, The Snow Queen, and now Big Hero 6. What was originally a government sanctioned team of of super powered black ops operatives is now a bunch of genius teens named after food. Each character is recognisable modern high school stereotype: Wasabi goes from a chef with mystical qi energy blades to the tough talking genius jock, Fred is the drawling slacker with a monster "Fred-zilla" suit, no longer the psychic who manifests a giant monster construct. Honey-Lemon keeps her power purse but goes from sexy-dressed secret agent to excitable genki girl-with-glasses. Gogo-Tamago loses her ex-convict background and power to turn into a high speed energy egg (hence the "tamago" name) and becomes your typical tough but quiet girl who is secretly loves an adrenaline rush (which she gets from her electromagnetic skating suit).


The biggest change is Hiro and Baymax, our main characters. Young Hiro Yamada finally finds his place among fellow tech-obsessed teens at his brother's university. With the help of his new found friends, he creates "microbots" which can form into any shape and are controlled by thought via a transmitter. A disaster robs Hiro of his invention and his beloved brother. Grieving the loss of Tadashi, Hiro accidentally activates Tadashi's project "Baymax", an inflatable health care robot who approaches Hiro as his patient. Hiro and Baymax form an awkward buddy relationship until news surfaces of a masked villain who appears to be using Hiro's microbots for crimes. Sensing that this masked man may be linked to his brother's death, Hiro sets out to investigate and take him down, with Baymax in tow whether he likes it or not. 

Ah Baymax.......Disney's latest stroke of merchandising genius. Kids love their adorable non- human sidekicks. Olaf the snowman in FROZEN, Pascal and Maximus from TANGLED just to name a few. And now Baymax, who gets stripped of his dark and gritty comic book origin as a shape shifting robotic hulk with the brain of Hiro's dead father, who can transform into a monstrous demon form and kick butt. (see below)


In the movie, he gets turned into an inflatable, huggable, balloon-bot with a simple programme to provide the best form of physical and emotional healthcare for his patient, even if he has little knowledge of human emotions outside of theory and data.  His adorable look and innocent personality will be a big hit with kids. Children everywhere will be clamouring for Baymax balloons, Baymax floats, inflatable life sized "hug-me" Baymax, and if technology allows, an intractable "talk-to-me" Baymax toy. 


Now putting adult cynicism aside, BIG HERO 6 does tackle some interestingly mature themes for kids' show. It is no doubt a tried and true superhero origin story fuelled by the death of a loved one. We've seen it in Spiderman, Batman, many times. The whole "boy and his robot, forming a bond of family, and learning the value of human life" thing was done with much more finesse and impact in James Cameron's TERMINATOR 2. But dig deeper into the narrative and even adults will find much to love about this movie.

We have the staple importance of sibling love, a recurring theme from FROZEN. We also have the theme of how one deals with loss, with various characters being put through the five stages of grief yet acting on those emotions differently based on one's values. On top of that, BIG HERO 6 deals with wish fulfilment of any kid's desire for the perfect friend. Baymax portrays love and care in its most simplest and innocent of forms.


Hiro on the other hand portrays a harsh world's tendency to force those closest to them into roles they were never meant for. His developmental journey with Baymax, from the awkward attempts at learning a secret handshake to the Baymax's straight faced earnest calm when faced with the gravest of situations, is a heartwarming and at times heart wrenching one as a boy and his robot forms an unbreakable brotherly bond. To quote TERMINATOR 2, seeing Hiro and Baymax "it was suddenly so clear. Baymax would never stop. It would never leave him, it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him or say it was too busy to spend time with him.". Love in its simplest form. Unconditional love that any child, past or present, secretly desires.


Digital artists and CGI aficionados too will desire BIG HERO 6's impressive computer generated imagery. Starting with the fictional city of San Fransokyo, the level of detail is astounding and almost photorealistic. Leaves flutter in the wind, strands of hair react to movement. Although the character designs retain the simpler streamlined, big headed, style used in previous disney CGI movie, the amount of care that went into crafting each model and animating it with the right sense of mass shows an amazing level of expertise in the field.


Bottom line is, BIG HERO 6 is good. It is colourful, action packed and simple enough for kids and inner children. Yet it packs a significant emotional wallop and some mature themes for those willing to dig deeper into the narrative. Visually, it is a fine piece of work to look at and just take in the details in the wonderful animation. Accompanied by a rousing electronic score by WRECK-IT RALPH'S Henry Jackman, BIG HERO 6 looks set to obscure its own middling comic book source material, (which is not entirely surprising since there was hardly any reprint of the comic aside from the hard-to-get single issues). Big on thrills, big on heart, big on technical achievement; that is BIG HERO 6. Oh and big bucks for disney's merchandising department.


*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: A
Art: A-
Animation: A
Story: B-
Characters: A 
Music: A-
Voice Work (english): A 
Replay value: A
"Brains": B+