Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Moving Domain - www.averagefilmreviews.com

Hey folks,

This is the last post I will be writing on averagefilmreviews.blogspot.com. Fear not though, I'm not gone. I've just moved. I decided I wanted to expand the blog to include more info besides reviews so I have moved to my own domain. I'm keeping the name though and I think the rss feeds have been updated.... let me know if it isn't though!

Anyway, you can now find me at www.averagefilmreviews.com. I'm in need of a logo though so if there's any budding logo designers out there who'd like to help me then send me an e-mail - nicola at averagefilmreviews dot com.

Thanks for reading and hope to see you at www.averagefilmreviews.com.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Avatar 3D (2009)

--** This blog has moved to www.averagefilmreviews.com, so if you like what you read then please come over and have a look! You can read all the old reviews over there including this one for Avatar. You can of course continue reading this article here though. **--

There is only one film worth seeing in the cinema this week. Avatar. Well, if we are to believe the hype anyway.

Personally, I had been rather apprehensive about this whole Avatar business. I can't remember the last time a film promised so much (well... maybe Snakes on a Plane but that was really a different kind of promise). It's been 12 years since James Cameron made a feature film... 12 years is a long time. Of course that film was the highest grossing movie of all time ($1.8 billion worldwide, just so you don't have to look it up)... but then again, not everyone looks back kindly on Titanic. I actually liked and still like Titanic, but the idea of Titanic in space with a load of blue monkeys? Uh... I just wasn't so sure about that. And of course Cameron also directed Terminator, Aliens and True Lies. All great films but I just don't know how this all fits together.. what kind of films does James Cameron do? What kind of film was Avatar going to be? And there's so much riding on Avatar - Cameron's reputation of course, but the way it's being sold, the future of 3D cinema as well. This film is supposed to push 3D out of kids films and horror and into the mainstream. It was too much, too puzzling, I just couldn't get behind this film wholehartedly.

I'm almost hesitant to tell you what I thought of it. I think you'd be better off if you go see it yourself first. Stop reading now if you haven't seen it... or read on if you've seen it, or if you prefer to hearing other people's opinions before you see a film... it's up to you, just don't say I didn't warn you, but I do think it's one that you might want to keep your ears and eyes closed about it beforehand.

If you are still reading on then I think Avatar is going to be a bit of a divisive one, particularly because I think there's a chance it'll draw in more than a few people who don't watch movies a lot... I hope it does anyway. Which is not to say that I think people who don't watch movies a lot will particularly love it or hate it. Some will and some won't. I just mean that there'll be more people talking about it than your average genre film. For example, I doubt My Bloody Valentine was particularly divisive. Not many people who don't like horror would go to see such an obvious horror/slasher film so it's not like there'd be many arguments about it. Avatar on the other hand is being sold very wide, wider than I think the genre/s fit. I'm not sure exactly what genre it is but it's definitely being sold outside it.

Mind you, the genre is irrelevent in a way... I think everyone should see this film. Not everyone will like it but I definitely think everyone should see it. There will be people out there who just aren't going to buy into the big blue aliens. There'll be other people who just don't like sci-fi. There'll be sci-fi fans who aren't happy because it's not sci-fi enough... that doesn't matter. The fact is, it looks amazing... let me say it again, AMAZING. I could go on with a few more superlative adjectives but it's not worth it, you'll just think I sound nuts. Amazing I tells ya. You just have to go see it. It is worth it.... Even if your brain hates it your eyes will enjoy the feast. I liked the 3D in it too. It was used very effectively, there were a few "coming out of the screen at you" moments but a lot of it was giving depth to scenes, just making things look more realistic. It was different from the other 3D I've seen. Then again, it's a very different film from the other 3D films out there.

Will it revolutionise cinema though? I don't know. First of all, I don't how much this kind of thing costs and let's face it, big budget film making is all about the money. But also I don't know how well it would work with other films. I can see it with the big summer blockbusters, certainly Transformers and Star Trek would benefit from it but I still don't think that it's worth it in every case. I guess it really depends on the maths...

In general though, it's not a great film, it's a good film but not a great one. Or at least I wouldn't put it up there with the rest of Cameron's work. I think in another review, I mentioned that I don't particularly watch individual films in the context of a director's overall work. And that's true. But in this case it's easier to reference his because... well... I'm just finding it difficult to find a genre to review it in. It's not really a sci-fi film. Sure, it's in space and there's aliens all over the place, but it's really just a normal drama set against the backdrop of an alien planet. But, you couldn't compared it to something like... I dunno, Almost Famous or something. I was very much reminded of The Lord of the Rings trilogy watching it. It truly is an epic film. Cameron has created a whole world for us, so I can't say it wasn't great because it was a bit of a corny love story. It's like saying The Lord of the Rings films are just three films about a very long walk. That's just bollocks.

Ok anyway, this film has really got me waffling. Let's get down to it. Avatar is a good film but it's a bit mainstream for my taste. It's not really entirely a straight up love story like Titanic but it's more than half way there. The pacing is reasonable but it's slightly long (about 2 hours 40 mins) and I found the music more than a little annoying (it's comments like that that are the reason you should watch a film before reading the reviews - now when you watch it you might be listening out for the music and this isn't a film where you should be worrying about the music... but anyway...). That said, it's not like the music spoiled it for me, it was just annoying. Characterwise, it's ok. I wouldn't say they are well developed but it's not that kind of film so it doesn't matter. Acting is fine, a bit shaky in places and the best actors probably aren't on screen for long enough - I'm pointing at Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi here - but there's nothing painful or shocking about it. The plot is predictable... but again, that's just the type of film it is. Some films are predictable, it's not a bad thing, it's just a thing. It's not awful though, it's engaging enough and generally sustains itself across the 160 minutes or so.

All these complaints aside though it's still a good film. In fact it's almost a great film. I found myself immersed in this alien world and if a film can do that then it can't be bad. It is thanks in no small part to the visual effects but also it's pretty much a full realised world. The Na'vi are a distinct culture and they are a believable culture in my eyes given the world they inhabit.

Anyway I do urge you to go and see it if you haven't already. It does look AMAZING and yes, it is worth it just for that. And do spend the money on seeing it in 3D. This kind of work deserves to be seen the way it was designed to be seen. Just don't expect too much from the story. In that respect it's competent but it's not worthy of those superlative adjectives I didn't use to describe the visual effects.



Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Paranormal Activity (2009)

--** This blog has moved to www.averagefilmreviews.com, so if you like what you read then please come over and have a look! You can read all the old reviews over there including this one for Paranormal Activity. You can, of course, continue reading this article here though. **--

Well technically Paranormal Activity came out in 2007 but it only got a cinema release in 2009, so (2009) it is. Not that it matters but anyway... better get on with this.

The force is strong with this one. Umm... the Paramount marketing force that is. This is apparently now the most profitable movie of all time. So of course, I wasn't expecting much going in to it. Actually I genuinely wasn't... I do wonder if I would have been better off carrying a bit of anticipation though, because as it was, I didn't think that much of it. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been expecting so little?

In the interest of full disclosure I should probably mention that I felt very sick for the last 30 mins or so of this film. I was only queasy for the middle 30 mins. I've always had a problem with motion sickness and the whole shaky hand held camera really gets me. I can't even watch people playing First Person Shooters and this was well beyond that. The last time I felt it this bad was at Cloverfield. It was a bit more tolerable during Cloverfield though. That might have been because the film was a bit more fun...

It's not that Paranormal Activity was a bad film, it wasn't. It was fine. As I think it through though, I realise that I can't really point at the "best bit". Because there wasn't a best bit. But then again there wasn't really a worst bit either. There was a stupidest bit, but I'll leave you to pick your own, if or when you see it. There were also some pointless bits. And yes, there were some scary bits. I guess what I'm saying here is that it was a bit bitty.

My main problem with it was that it was cheap. Not that it was cheap looking but that the scares were cheap. It was real "things that go bump in the night" scary. There was nothing that was really... ... let's just say I was expecting there to be a more insidious creepiness to it. It was all a very straight up, be scared now!, kind of thing. I would have liked to have seen a bit more thought behind it. Not that I like jump scenes but all the scares were pretty telegraphed and that was annoying.

Ah no, I'm not being entirely fair. I mean ok, I may have been watching a film starring the two least haunting aware characters I've ever seen but yer wan Katie really did have a great scream. I was well impressed with that. And I quite scared by it to a certain degree. I live alone in a two bed apartment and I've never been up to the attic so... uh... I'd rather not think about it. But it's not like I had trouble sleeping or anything, it was no Exorcist and it was certainly no Event Horizon

In the end, I was disappointed by this film. Which is not to say that I hated it. Or that I think that people shouldn't be scared by it. On the contrary, I think many people are genuinely scared by it and there's nothing wrong with that. I save my disdain for people who are into the stuff like Michael Jackson: The Live Seance. I just didn't think it was a great film.

I really think this might be one of those rare films that would be better on TV. I could imagine renting the DVD, watching it with a few friends and having a good time. Or watching it alone at home and being terrified. But in Screen 2 in The Savoy it just didn't seem up to much.

Or who knows, maybe I was just put off by the nausea; it's hard to appreciate an atmosphere when you think you might need to run to the bathroom to be sick any minute. I gotta start taking travel sickness tablets before watching these types of films...


NB: I am somewhat dismayed to see that there are plans for a Paranormal Activity 2... did Hollywood learn nothing from Blair Witch 2?

Also, shout out to the Paramount marketing team on this one. Great job folks.


Saturday, 14 November 2009

2012 (2009)

--** This blog has moved to www.averagefilmreviews.com, so if you like what you read then please come over and have a look! You can read all the old reviews over there including the one below for 2012. You can of course continue reading this article here though. **--

I haven't actually seen many Roland Emmerich movies... well ok, looking through his IMDb I've seen Stargate, Independence Day and 10,000BC but I didn't know he did Stargate so... anyway... The point is I haven't seen The Day After Tomorrow. Though, I've seen bits of here and there and it looks an awful lot like 2012. I guess he has a type, he goes for a epic story... and he has a slight fondness for the epic disaster. That's cool, I like a good epic film as much as the next person. I haven't actually seen that many disaster movies though and they're not know for being great films though so I didn't want to expect to much out of this one.

Then again, I loved Armageddon; and Independence Day; and Deep Impact... So maybe I never really had anything to worry about with 2012. It's a big, silly, cheesy, funny epic disaster movie. I laughed a lot, I might even have shed a little tear or two; what more do you want! It is as cheesy as quattro formaggi pizza, but like Armageddon, you just have to go with it, this isn't high art here...

The best thing about it really are the action sequences, when things start exploding and flying through the air you kind of forget that they had just spent half an hour or so trying to tell you when and why this was going to happen. It doesn't matter anyway. Though, for what it's worth, the plot exposition at the start wasn't particularly painful. It was kind of interesting. Looking back though, I couldn't really tell you what excuse they gave for this particular armageddon... it had something to do with solar flares, mutant neutrinos and bubbling magma (I don't think they actually used the word magma though. That might involve having a character explaining what magma is). Anyway whatever, like I said, it doesn't matter at all. All that matters is that it leads to some amazing, fantastic special effects sequences. I saw this in one of the biggest cinema screens in Ireland and I wished it was bigger, and louder. I guess I should have just sat closer...

In case you don't know, 2012 actually has a great cast as well. John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson and Danny Glover, all great actors who perform ably in this. Woody Harrelson in particular is excellent. In fact I do think that with a lesser cast this could have been awful. As it is, it gets away with it. I'm sure it wasn't a particularly taxing role for any of them but a script like that requires some skill to not make it not sound horrific...

Let me make this clear though. This is not a good film. Don't blame me if you go see it and you think it's the stupidest film you've ever seen. I never said it wasn't stupid. The stuff that happens in it is actually outrageous. Really ridiculous. But it's also an enjoyable, hilarious film and honestly, I've never seen the likes of those effects before. Well, not on that kind of scale. I mean really, they're amazing. Amazing and funny. I do recommend that if you don't mind your movies served with cheese you should go see this. See it now.


Oh actually, I do have one criticism. At 158 mins it is a bit long. I was fine because I knew it was going to be long but I know some won't be up for that. They could have shaved 15-20 mins off it easy. We don't really need the monk stuff, and the boat stuff is a bit unnecessary. Ok, it was a bit emotional and I like that but there was already plenty of space for that kind of thing with the rest of the characters. So that's the reason it's getting an 8 not a 9 or 10.


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