Category Archives: Movies

Dr Strange

 

Doctor Strange is a 2016 American superhero film featuring the Marvel Comics character of the same name, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is the fourteenth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Scott Derrickson, who wrote the screenplay with C. Robert Cargill from a story by the duo and Jon Spaihts, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tilda Swinton. In Doctor Strange, surgeon Stephen Strange learns the mystic arts from the Ancient One after a career-ending car accident.


After all the special effects, grand costumes and sweeping music, this is a very familiar fantasy story. A man (surgeon Steven Strange) is taken from the mundane world into the mystical. He starts as an apprentice, learns skills to rival his master and ultimately takes on the evil one. Using new/invented skills he defeats his enemies and brings a new era into the world.

It’s well done, the stars here are Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch. All others are secondary. And that includes big enemy boss Mads Mikkelsen who isn’t as sinister or compelling as he was in .Casino Royale (2006). On the plus side, these is plenty of unexpected humour.

It’s certainly an entertaining watch, but you will recognize all the fantasy tropes.

 

 

What We Do in the Shadows

 

What We Do in the Shadows is a 2014 New Zealand mockumentary horror comedy film about a group of vampires who live together in Wellington written, directed by, and starring Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014.The film was theatrically released on August 18, 2014 by Madman Entertainment. The film earned $6.9 million on a $1.6 million budget.


A very Kiwi low-key film that has some charm, but feels like a series of sketches put together to foam a short film (about 80 minutes). No laugh out loud moments, but Jermaine Clement is always entertaining to watch.

Reluctant Dragon

The Reluctant Dragon (1941)

It’s not surprising I hadn’t heard of this movie. As the titles explain, it’s more of an excuse to tour the Disney animation facilities and see how their movies are made. The tourist is Robert Benchley (a comedian of the era) who takes us through the buildings, interacting with actual staff and acquiring gifts on the way. He is perused by a young fellow that appears to be a cross between a Boy Scout and a member of the Hitler Youth Movement. This leads to a fair bit of snappy dialogue among him and staff.

There is a fun part where he reached the Technicolor section and the monochrome film suddenly changes to colour. Also of interest was the giant (3-4m tall) camera rig used to photograph the cell animation.

The film is interspersed with animation sequences:

  • A monochrome Dumbo sequence featuring a train.
  • Baby Weems, told in partially animated storyboard.
  • Goofy’s How to Ride a horse.
  • And ‘The Reluctant Dragon’, based on the book by Kenneth Grahame.

It’s not clear who the movie is aimed at, the initial scenes look like a drama, but the animations will appeal to children of all ages.

Mary and Max


Mary and Max is a 2009 Australian stop motion animated comedy-drama film written and directed by Adam Elliot as his first animated feature film with music by Dale Cornelius and produced by Melanie Coombs and Melodrama Pictures.

The film deals with themes including childhood neglect, friendship, the obscurity of life, teasing, loneliness, mental illness, autism (Asperger syndrome in particular), obesity, suicide, depression, isolation, and anxiety.

Cast


This is an animated movie in the method and style of Aardman. Mary is a girl in Australia and Max a middle aged man in New York. They inadvertently become pan pals and over the course of twenty years their relationship develops. Initially the film is light and funny, then around the halfway mark things get rather dark and dramatic. Mary changes from an eight year old girl to a young woman while Max copes with his anxieties and issues dealing with people. Each alters the other, in positive and negative ways. Mary and Max is a moving celebration of oddness and friendship.

 

Paddington

Paddington is a 2014 British-French family comedy film directed by Paul King, written by King and Hamish McColl, and produced by David Heyman. Based on Paddington Bear by Michael Bond, the film stars Ben Whishaw as the voice of the title character, along with Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi and Nicole Kidman in live-action roles. The film was co-produced by the French company StudioCanal and the British company Heyday Films. It was released in the United Kingdom on 28 November 2014 and grossed $265.3 million worldwide on a €38.5 million budget. It received an Empire Award nomination for Best British Film.


Review
A sweet and funny comedy based on the unlikely notion that a talking bear in London would not freak everyone out and cause a riot. At 90 minutes it never strays from it’s path or lingers on any of the characters. It’s great to see Peter Capaldi out of his usual hyper-kinetic Dr Who character and as the devious character. They set out to make a family fun film, and succeeded brilliantly at it.


Cast
Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington Bear
Hugh Bonneville as Henry Brown
Sally Hawkins as Mary Brown
Madeleine Harris as Judy Brown
Samuel Joslin as Jonathan Brown
Julie Walters as Mrs. Bird
Nicole Kidman as Millicent Clyde
Theresa Willson as Young Millicent
Jim Broadbent as Samuel Gruber
Peter Capaldi as Mr. Curry
Imelda Staunton as the voice of Aunt Lucy
Michael Gambon as the voice of Uncle Pastuzo
Tim Downie as Montgomery Clyde
Simon Farnaby as Barry
Matt Lucas as Joe
Matt King as Andre the Thief
Geoffrey Palmer as Head geographer
Michael Bond as the Kindly Gentleman

 

Micmacs

Micmacs is a 2009 French comedy film by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The film is billed as a “satire on the world arms trade”. It premiered on 15 September 2009 at the Toronto International Film Festival.


Reviews
A man gets hit in the head with a bullet that stays in because of a coin flip by a surgeon. Out of work he falls in with a group of trash fixers. When he finds two companies responsible for the arms dealing that leads to his plight he hatches a plan to bring them to justice. This is a very lightweight and humourous comedy about arms trading. The comedy gets close to the ‘Home Alone’ antics, but with a very French sensibility and touch. Lots of fun, crazy characters make this a fun movie and despite the dark undertones, family entertainment.

The World’s End


The World’s End is a 2013 British comic science fiction film directed by Edgar Wright, written by Wright and Simon Pegg, and starring Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike and Eddie Marsan. The film follows a group of friends who discover an alien invasion during an epic pub crawl in their home town.

Wright has described the film as “social science fiction” in the tradition of John Wyndham and Samuel Youd (John Christopher). It is the third and final film in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, following Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007).


Review

This starts off slowly, with Simon Pegg as a rather obnoxious character trying to entice on friends on a drinking tour of 12 pubs. It’s funny immediately, the dialogue is quick and sharp and all five main characters have a good go at it. Then, at one pub, during an altercation people start losing their heads and spouting blue blood.
Finally the Science Fiction Horror genre has arrived. From then on, it ramps up the action to a world-changing ending.

This is a well-written comedy, with lots of verbal and physical comedy. Best viewed with a crowd indulging in drinking games, also enjoyable by yourself.

 

Sully

 

Sully is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed and co-produced by Clint Eastwood and written by Todd Komarnicki, about US Airways Flight 1549 and its pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, based on the autobiography Highest Duty by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. The film stars Tom Hanks as Sullenberger, with Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Holt McCallany, Jamey Sheridan and Jerry Ferrara in supporting roles.


Review

Given that the events here actually happened, it’s a surprisingly tense and suspenseful film. Of course it’s all in the way you do it, and Clint Eastwood really knows how to direct. The film starts after the events of the landing. Flashbacks during the hearing show how everything happened. Worth the wait and for those not familiar with the story, will provide a satisfying ending.

 

Alan Turing Test

Alan Turing

The Imitation Game is a 2014 American historical drama thriller film directed by Morten Tyldum, with a screenplay by Graham Moore loosely based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges (previously adapted as the stage play and BBC drama Breaking the Code). It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as real-life British cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who decrypted German intelligence codes for the British government during World War II.


Review
I had seen the the Alan Turing story in a BBC production from years ago. This film brought him to mainstream prominence, mainly due to the popular Cumberbatch playing the title role. Keira Knightley seem miscast and to young to be playing Joan Clarke. It’s Cumberbatch’s performance that really makes the film work. Turing is an introverted and arrogant genius, always finding it difficult to get on with his co-workers.

The film is told in three timelines. The main narrative is of his time at Bletchley Park, from initial employment to the cracking of the enigma codes. The second timeline is after the war and covers his arrest and treatment for homosexuality. The final narrative is of his school days and the impact of his closest friendship. This is film that received numerous awards and accolades, and deserved them all.

 

Ex Machina

Ex Machina

is a 2015 science fiction psychological thriller film written and directed by Alex Garland in his directorial debut, and produced by Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich. It stars Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander, and revolves around a programmer invited by his CEO to administer the Turing test to an intelligent humanoid.


Review

This is a very slick and sexy re-telling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It looks great and is well acted. The problem is that despite its pondering on themes  of ‘what is human’, in the final act it resorts to a predictable ending. This story has been told since the beginning of science fiction and the film doesn’t add much to those than have gone before.