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Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Expendables 3 Review

With a plot that could have been derived by a 7-year old, and a mega-ensemble cast of action stars, The Expendables 3 was not bound to impress the majority of top critics. All that glitters is not gold, and this is true for the third outing of this franchise. The Expendables 3 is far from gold, but could still be hailed as silver.

You can tell by the tagline of the above poster of how poorly this film is written. Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren, Couture, Crews and Schwarzenegger (still need Wikipedia to spell that correctly) return in this feature. While the list of new veteran actors include Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes (who is finally out of prison after 3 years), Kelsey Grammer, Antonio Banderas, and Mel Gibson who plays the antagonist (and acts the paramount throughout the running time). And the range of latest young thespians are Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell and Victor Ortiz. 
  Yes, we have a super-action packed line-up of stars. What we don't have is a sane script that all of the actors could have properly done justice to. Let me start with the negative points of the movie, although I began with that from the get-go.
  Firstly, the plot. The ending can be guessed by any casual adrenaline movie-watcher after viewing the first 10 minutes! I mean this is the third venture of The Expendables series. Stallone should have at least taken an extra year to release this film if he wanted a critically acclaimed version. The Expendables 3 is directed by Patrick Hughes and this makes it only his 2nd feature-film. And kudos to his directing ability as the newbie did a fantastic job of handling such a colossal cast. I'm only praising the guy as I am outlining the facts of this film. Now to continue the negativity. The script is penned by the husband-wife duo Rothenberger/Benedikt and Stallone himself (who has also co-written the screenplays of the first 2 installments).
  Rothenberger/Benedikt have only one writing credit before this film and that is the 2013 White House invasion action-thriller Olympus Has Fallen which starred Gerard Butler. And was a pretty damn good movie. So I expected more from them or at least at the same level as OHF when they co-wrote this script. The storyline follows Barney Ross (Stallone) recruiting younger blood for his fight against Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson), the Expendables co-founder who is wanted by the CIA. 
  The tension played between Ross and Stonebanks is mediocre and could have been written more fluently. The predictability level of this venture is high above the bar. I don't mind the plot outline but there was no hard-work done in elevating the thrill throughout the 126-minutes run. Even the universally panned Sabotage (2014) did a better job at creating a dread-filled atmosphere. 
  Also, I saw no need for a younger cast of actors. The Expendables 3 should have added more villains like Steven Seagal or their initial idea of casting Jean-Claude Van Damme again (as the identical twin brother of the main villain in The Expendables 2). There should have been additional opposing characters but all we get is Gibson. The latter who is an old-time action star but never starred in bad-ass films like the majority of the other cast members. So I don't understand the point of only giving him a diabolical role. Stallone should have shunned the idea of budding performers and added more fiends. Also, Bruce Willis was missed in his role as Mr. Church as Ford could not exercise the same level of dialogue delivery in his role as CIA officer Max Drummer.
  The first two films had a variety of villains played by awesome entertainers like Eric Roberts, Steve Austin, Gary Daniels, Scott Adkins and Jean-Claude Van Damme respectively. Here, we only have Gibson while we had at least two in the start-up installments. This factor and the plot are the worst attributes of the third part.
  Now, for the pros: excellent acting by Gibson, Banderas and Stallone. The trio give their best blockbuster performances. The most praise I can give is to Gibson who really nails the bad-guy role. Another major pro is the superb action scenes. Some are, I admit, over-top, but the majority aren't and they're so fun to watch in a theater. I have to recall that the first half-hour of dialogues are completely vague, but when the movie passes its thirty-minutes windows, the conversations between characters were penned quite humorously. And this I can only attribute to the third screenwriting credit. 

  The stunts are awesome, and when the action begins no one wants it to end. The whole atmosphere transforms into a Battlefield map, and we see so many explosions that some would've guessed Michael Bay had filmed this outing. Action is fantastically choreographed throughout the screen-time. And is the dominant highlight of this motion-picture. The Expendables 3 is undoubtedly is the predominant of the three in terms of action.
  The Expendables has a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, whilst the sequel has a 65% approval on the latter website. Both these individual ratings are higher than the 3rd installment's. And I'm not at all surprised. But if you watch this with an action junkie's eye, and not a critic's, then you will thoroughly enjoy the experience. 
  So, The Expendables 3 is way better than the first in the series, but falls short in its totality to The Expendables 2. Not only is the 2nd part the most critically-acclaimed in the franchise, but also the most financially successful gathering $305m at a budget of $100 million. The Expendables 3 has a lesser budget of $90m, but with such a low-scoring start-up weekend it will not be as monetarily rewarding as its predecessor. It will probably end its worldwide run at $150m-$180m becoming the lowest grosser among the series.
  That's not all folks. The Expendables 4 has already been announced and is confirmed to introduce former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan in a role. Just hope it has an above-average script.

The Expendables: 3/4.
The Expendables 2: 3.5/4.
The Expendables 3: 3/4.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past review

To declare myself as an X-Men fan would be an understatement. During my early years I used to read a lot of comic books, specially from the X-Men galore. So I might be the number one Pakistani fan of the franchise - might be.

(X-Men comics logo. Source: cartoonfatness.wikia.com)

  X-Men: The Animated Series furthered the need for a Hollywood adaption of the comics series. The 1992 cartoon animation was superb. They directly took the elements of the comics, whilst of course censoring some parts in order for younger viewers to watch the show. In 2009, IGN rated it as the 13th greatest animated show of all time in their Top 100 list.
  The first X-Men film was released in 2000. I have seen it more than a dozen of times. It paved the way for future Marvel-based releases such as the original Spider-Man trilogy and Daredevil. Bryan Singer was signed on to direct the movie in 1996. But the release dates kept being pushed back. Also, Singer originally wanted Russell Crowe to play the lead role but his salary demands were too high. The same story repeated with the offer to Mel Gibson in 1997. In the end, Hugh Jackman was cast and he was an unknown actor at that time.

(Left: Hugh Jackman (aged 31) portraying Wolverine in X-Men. Right: Hugh Jackman aged 44 in Days of Future Past. Source: geeksaresexy.net)

  This led to Hugh Jackman successfully entering the Hollywood limelight. As Fox was already paying Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and Ian McKellen (Magneto) humongous salaries, they could afford a third expensive thespian. Hugh Jackman has gone on to portray Wolverine 7 times on screen, as well as the latest installment Day of Future Past.
  Before going to the grand review of the 7th X-Men film, I'd like to give a short review on the array's previous showcases. The following are arranged from top to bottom according to my preference of the best flicks:

  1. X2: X-Men United (2003) - 87% (Rotten Tomatoes), 3.5/4 (Box Office 101).
  2. The Wolverine (2013) - 69%, 3.5/4.
  3. X-Men (2000) - 82%, 3/4.
  4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) - 38%, 3/4.
  5. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) - 58%, 2.5/4.
  6. X-Men: First Class (2011) - 87%, 2/4.
  The above are categorized according to my ratings. I have watched X2 35 times and never been bored once. The Wolverine really brought out the original comic-book story of Wolverine entering Japan. I was surprised that X-Men: First class was appreciated by critics and fans alike. But I still consider it to the lowest-rated in the list. This is simply due to the fact that 2000's X-Men was a blockbuster and mind-blower. First Class was just made for teenagers. And Wolverine's absence in it was deeply felt (Hugh Jackman's cameo doesn't count).
  Even after all these years, X2 has not had a solid competitor except for 2013's The Wolverine. The rest of the movies fail in story-telling. This is primarily due to the non-involvement of Bryan Singer who directed the first couple of majestic superhero features.
  Bryan Singers is arguably one of my favorite film-makers of all time. He is also known for directing The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns and Valkyrie - all critical successes. The worst decision Singer made was directing Superman Returns instead of The Last Stand. He should have finished the last of the original trilogy before moving on to another project. Alas, Superman Returns flopped badly whilst The Last Stand, released a month prior, was a mega-commercial success.

(X-Men: Days of Future Past poster. Source: Wikipedia.)

Now for X-Men: Days of Future Past. This marks Bryan Singer's official return as director to the franchise. I am sure if Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) had directed this, it would only have been half as great. Still, Vaughn acted as a producer. Singer had previously worked as a producer on Vaughn's film.
  The film is based on the 1981 comics storyline of the same name. It was written by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. It is considered one of the best comic books of the X-Men universe and my own personal favorite. Simon Kinberg adapted the comic book brilliantly, although it's an 80% accurate depiction of the original.

(Director Bryan Singer. Source: Wikipedia)

  The late critic Roger Ebert stated that X2 was a superb film due to Singer's ability to handle so many characters in one outing. So it came as no surprise when the number of figures was doubled in Days of Future Past. The latter movie had almost all of the mutants in the X-Men universe, especially those in the comic book. 
  Steven Soderbergh is also known for handling many characters (as seen in the Oceans trilogy). But he cannot even come close to Singer's brilliant. My other most-favorite  directors are Christopher Nolan, John Carpenter, Wes Craven and Sam Raimi. But Singer tops the list.
  Days of Future Past starts with incredible action scenes. By the first five minutes of the movie, I knew that this would be the ultimate X-Men feature. The mutant costumes in the future are astounding. And do pay homage to initial storyline. The movie does get slow in the middle, but only due to the heart-pounding action that follows. There are many new X-Men characters introduced who were not part of the previous parts: Bishop (played by Omar Sy), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Blink (Fan Bingbing), Sunspot (Adam Canto), and Quicksilver played by Evan Peters (played the part to precision I might add).
  These mutants were very prominent in the comic-book specially Bishop. And all the actors portraying them gave justice to their roles. Old mutants, and the actors who played them, also return: Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Shadowcat (Ellen Page), Storm (Halle Berry), and Colossus played by Daniel Cudmore.
  I was so excited to see these characters and actors back. I have always despised the cast of First Class except for Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. The rest were tedious. But in Days of Future Past, I was proved wrong about the acting prowess of James McAvoy (Wanted, X-Men: First Class). As a younger, depressed Professor Xavier he really made my spine tingle with fascination. I still criticize his acting ability in First Class, but he was second-best in enactment only to Hugh Jackman.
  When I initially saw the trailer of Days of Future Past, I knew the producers would not want the franchise to move forward without Wolverine in the installment. The character has had two superhit stand-alone films so the producers knew height of Wolverine's popularity. The X-Men franchise is openly nothing without Wolverine. He is the most berserk of all anti-heroes. And Jackman has portrayed him seven times, and will again in the next installment titled X-Men: Apocalypse.
  Three mutants have supreme screentime: Wolverine, Professor X and Magneto. All are given enough space to perform. The plot follows Wolverine being sent back in time by Shadowcat in order to secure the future. The dystopian world shown in the future is magnificent in design. The sets were excellent. And the quality of the past in comparison of the future is rendered perfectly. Wolverine wakes up in 1973, 50 years back in time. He must convince the younger Professor X and Magneto to work together, and stop the onset of the Sentinels. The Sentinels are the prime antagonists of the comic-book series. They are giant robots who enslave/kill all the mutants on earth. In the movie, they are illustrated as to provoke fear in the audience, and they do it so well. The Sentinels (both past and future) were terrifying and kudos to the design team. 
  The film shows primarily two timelines continuously: past and future, hence its strange title. Bryan Singers also adds humor to the mix which is led by the funny antics of Quicksilver. And the movie is sad, funny, adventurous, and mainly fun at all times.

(Days of Future Past alternate poster. Source: graffitiwithpunctuation.net)

  If there were any cons to point out those would be insignificant. I only detected one disadvantage, and that was that the many confusions of the previous installments were not fully explained here, as Singer had promised to the fans. Still, with the approval rate of 95% of spectators on Rotten Tomatoes, and also mine, the plot-holes are forgiven. Also, it was not Singer's fault that were errors as he had only directed the foremost couple of ventures.
  Days of Future Past has one element of a superhero that many do not: suspense. It is unpredictable in every scene. And the ending is incredible. One quality I noticed is that of the screenplay. Bolivar Trask (played by Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage) represents a Capitalist leader. He wishes to capture/annihilate all mutants in the world through his Sentinel program. Magneto is clearly a Fascist as he believes mutants are above all humans. And Professor Xavier is a Socialist who wants equal rights to both parties.
  This discrete political theme is what makes DoFP such a different superhero movie. It has many heroes, like The Avengers, but there is so much meaning and depth in the venture. It has robots and futuristic technology like many sci-fi films, yet they all lead to a bigger picture. It has comedy and this is reminiscent of the early Star Wars trilogy that mixed action and satire so profoundly.
  DoFP begins where First Class failed. It is a more of a mature movie than FC ever was. First Class was as I mentioned before a teenager flick. DoFP discusses on many issues of the society. If one race is superior in strength to the other, does it mean it has the right to dominate mankind? Does genetics play a grandiose role in promoting survival of the fittest? So many questions are asked in the 123-min running time.
  In conclusion, DoFP is not an X-Men movie, it is the X-Men movie. It is the ultimate mutant motion-picture. It is the return of Bryan Singer and cements his position as the true X-Men film-maker. In 2016, we will see the sequel to DoFP that takes place in the 80s called X-Men: Apocalypse. This will be followed by the third Wolverine moving-picture in 2017. Both sequels will feature Jackman as Wolverine again, and rightfully so. I cannot imagine anyone honoring the role better.
  Apocalypse is the most powerful mutant in the X-Men universe. He is 5,000 years old and is immortal. With Singer directing I can already imagine it being another critical and commercial hit. But it will be hard to surpass DoFP in both directing and writing as it is so perfect.
  DoFP is written by Simon Kinberg also known for Sherlock Holmes and Elysium. With those credits, it was easy to forecast the cinematic greatness of DoFP. He is also attached to work on the sequel and will hopefully work on the screenplay again. DoFP is based on a story by Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn (director/co-writer of First Class) and Jane Goldman (also co-writer of First Class), and the storyline takes its title and influence from the Marvel storyline created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne.
  As of May 25, 2014 DoFP has achieved a massive opening of $261m worldwide on a budget of $200 million. This is a total of only two days including the Thursday late-night showings' bulk. The film will likely end its theatrical status with $800m to 1 billion dollars at the international box office. This evidently paves the way for the potentiality of the upcoming installments.
  Also, be sure to watch the post-credits scene. Like in all Marvel adaptations, there is one, and the spectacle is awe-inspiring.

IMDb: 8.7/10.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%.
BO101: 4/4.



Godzilla: A Mon-Star Review

If Godzilla is the King of Monsters, then Godzilla (2014) is its rightful throne. This is the third Hollywood-based Godzilla film with the preceding ones releasing in 1956 and 1998 respectively. Originally, the Godzilla film franchise started with Godzilla (1954). It was directed by Japanese directorial legend Ishiro Honda. The universal critical and commercial success of the formerly-mentioned film led to the American versions, and also 28 films that were produced by Japan.

( The 1998 Godzilla movie poster. Source: Wikipedia)

  But these 28 films did not use CGI as seen in the 1998 and 2014 Americanized productions. Instead, they used costumes and props, even into the late 20th and early 21st century.
  The foremost Godzilla was inspired by the 1952 re-release of the 1933 King Kong feature. Now, reviewing Godzilla (2014) as separate from the 1998 version will be expansive. To put their comparison into simple terms: Godzilla (1998) made a bit over $379m worldwide off a massive budget of $130 million. But the producers wanted it to earn a lot more (they wanted it to beat Jurassic Park: The Lost World's $618.6m international revenue, which was released a year prior). And as you can clearly picture, it did not even come close. 
  Not only that, but the super negative reception from critics and fans of both American and Japanese nationality held off all plans for the forthcoming couple of sequels. The film currently has 25% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 28% approval rate from the audiences on that website. As I have also seen the movie, I can honestly say that it was an epic fail.

(The 2014 Godzilla poster. Source: Wikipedia)

  Let's move on to this year's blockbuster. Godzilla is clearly 10 times better than its 1998 counterpart. But it also has its flaws. But I will start with the pros. The special effects in this film is top-class. The graphical design of Godzilla and the other monsters is indisputable. I have never seen better computer imagery of such caliber not even in Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005). 
  Katy Perry claimed that she was louder than a lion and we could hear her Roar. But the first scene of Godzilla's ROAR! really shook spectators in their seats. I watched the movie in IMAX 3-D with friends and believe me that cinematic sequence was unimaginably deafening.  
  The plot: Godzilla is awaken to fight off two fiendish creatures approximately identical to his stature. And the fate of human existence is put to the test. 
  So therein lie the cons of the movie. The first hour of the 123-mins feature is primarily rumbles and shakes of the ground coupled by bad weather. The actors in the movie are extremely dull. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the main protagonist but his demeanor makes one wish to sleep in the first half. Ken Watanabe, a great actor, plays his role as a Japanese scientist monotonously. Elizabeth Olsen seems oblivious to everything going on around her. And even the audience might have been more aware of the surroundings in the movie than her.
  Yet there is a light in the darkness: Bryan Cranston. The Breaking Bad star does not get a lot of screen-time. Still, he manages to play his role tremendously well. Without him, all the acting would have been left to despair. His antics as a depressed scientist and the showcase of his Godzilla obsession was fantastic. 

(Bryan Cranston as seen in Godzilla. Source: businessinsider.com)

  What was so critically acceptable about Jurassic Park (1993)?. It has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Why? Because it was able to merge interesting characters with colossal monsters. It had equally comic parts as well as terrifying shots. This is what directors have been trying to do with disaster films ever since Spielberg's classic rendition of the genre.
  Godzilla does succeed in disturbing audiences with its spine-chilling atmosphere of desolation. Though the film would have gained much more critically if it were not so dark.. There are almost no funny sequences in the movie. It is like the world had already been devastated from the onset of the flick. I personally felt that the movie needed a more substantial ending.
  Also, we don't see much of the fight between Godzilla and the other monsters. Just American soldiers' heroic yet stupid schemes to eliminate Godzilla when he is clearly not killing humans intentionally. So with bad performances from all the actors except Cranston, a thin plot that could have been more unpredictable, and a lackluster finish,  Godzilla is a feature with a median rating.
  Godzilla is directed by Gareth Edwards and written by Max Borenstein, with a screen story by David Callaham. It has made $229.6m globally as of May 23, 2014 with a budget of $160 million. It will likely end its theatrical run between $600m and $800m.
  When asked I always declare that Godzilla is not a must-watch movie, but it is a movie worth watching in the cinema. Furthermore, worth the watch in IMAX (3-D or 2-D, it doesn't matter), or normal 3-D. So that you get the totality of the humongous size of Godzilla, and the other monsters.

IMDb: 7.3/10.
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%.
BO101: 2.5/4.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tokarev - A Short Review

Despite the absurd rating of 5.1/10 from IMDb, Tokarev (2014) delivers what it had promised by the trailer. Two main highlights are firstly, one of Hollywood's veteran actors Nicolas Cage proves he can act no matter what the role. And secondly, the film stars one of the world's most beautiful women Rachel Nichols:


The plot is simple, with many claiming it to be a copycat of 2008's Taken - yet it is highly distinct. In the sense that Taken is an action thriller and Tokarev is an action drama.
  Nicolas Cage stars as Paul Maguire whose daughter is kidnapped by the Russian mob. Now, Maguire is a retired gunman from the Italian mob, and is living on a clean slate. The movie follows his relapse to the old ways, and each choice is determinant of what the result of his daughter's position might be.


  To start with the pros, Cage's last movie was The Frozen Ground where he acted tremendously well. Another movie similar to Taken and Tokarev is 2012's Stolen, which is a worst Nicolas Cage feature.
  In Tokarev, Cage cannot be judged on an impersonation meter. This is because his dialogue delivery, and outfit, all play homage to an ultimate definition which he gave to his character. He portrays the role with every fiber of his being. When he expresses his sadness, the viewer does the same. When he shows rage, the audiences feels the adrenaline.
  Finally, Tokarev gets 3 out of 4 stars from me. The cons are that there are many plot-holes. Some scenes are just too cliched. But with the superb enactment of the lead star, and the unpredictable ending, Tokarev has already been included in my Favorite Action Drama Flicks of 2014.

A Tribute to Omar Sharif

Omar Sharif was born in Alexandria, Egypt in the year 1932, on April 10th. His birth name was Michel Demitri Shalhoub. He converted to Islam later on, in order to marry the actress Faten Hamama, in 1954.


  I have only seen one film of Mr. Sharif till now: Doctor Zhivago. This is a Hollywood production as Mr. Sharif has worked in both American and Egyptian theater. Doctor Zhivago is based on the novel of the same name by Boris Pasternak. Released in 1965, it is the eighth-highest grossing film of all time, when adjusted for inflation. It made over $110 million on a budget of $11 million. 


The flick's main plot concerns the titular character of Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif), and his hardships faced during the Russian Revolution. Director Sir David Lean (also renowned for Lawrence of Arabia) shot almost all scenes with superb realism.
  It is well to note that Mr. Sharif was the lead actor, but many supporting actors also did their jobs remarkably. Julie Christie had a lot of screen-time portraying the heroine Lara Antipov. Although, it was shocking that she was nominated neither for an Academy Award, nor a Golden Globe.  
  Omar Sharif won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, but similarly to Ms. Christie, he surprisingly did not obtain an Oscar nod.
  Mr. Sharif's career has spun over fifty years. He has starred in over fifty movies encompassing the Hollywood and Egyptian film-industry. He has appeared in many critically-acclaimed Arabic TV shows. Also, he has played over ten different nationalities with ultimate showmanship.
  Omar Sharif retired in 2009. But made a comeback in 2013 with the French-Moroccan movie Rock the Casbah - playing a rich businessman. Mr. Sharif might be 82, yet it looks like he has a long way to go before immortalizing his legacy.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Olympus Has Fallen vs. White House Down

Two films were released in 2013 based on the same concept: Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down. The plot being the takeover of the White House by terrorists. In 2012, a couple of character-related movies were also premiered: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and Lincoln. The latter deuce cannot be compared as they only have major characters in common. But the White House movies deserve to be tackled.

(Source: Wikipedia)

  Firstly, I will elaborate on the movie that was issued fundamentally. Although, I watched the trailer of WHD before OHF, the latter's preview seemed more disappointing. It was like seeing Red Dawn all over again, with primary focus on the White House. The trailer showcased over-the-top action scenes, and it seemed so cliched it made Hollywood seem fallen. Yet, never judge a movie by its trailer. Some of the action scenes were overdone, but most of them were adrenaline-pumping. OHF has more pros than cons.
  One pro being the superb acting by the protagonist Gerald Butler. Although, he has proven himself before in 300 and Gamer, he did no less in OHF. Butler's action scenes were radiantly choreographed, and if it were a dramatic film, he could have been nominated for an Oscar. Butler plays Mike Banning, who was the lead Secret Service agent who heads the Presidential Detail. He is on good terms with the American President (played exquisitely by Aaron Eckhart) and his family. But things take a turn for the worst, when an accident forces Banning to save the President, but not the First Lady. 
  18 months later, Banning is seen working at the Treasury Department, and has been removed from the detail, due to President Asher being furious with him for not saving his wife. That day terrorists attack Washington with foremost force on the White House. The assault is led by a North Korean terrorist known as Kang Yeonasak (Rick Yune). A scene also shows an agent in the White House saying through the comm, ''Olympus Has Fallen'' before he is killed. The title refers to the Mount Olympus in Greek Mythology, where all the Major Gods resided. In the film, it Olympus refers to the White House, where the most powerful American politicians gather. 
  Morgan Freeman also has a main role as the Speaker of the House. It is well to note that in White House Down, the President is African-American, and the Speaker is Caucasian. The writers wanted to make sure there was a major plot difference by adding these distinctions.

(Best acting in OHF was by Gerard Butler. Source: Wikipedia)

  Olympus Has Fallen has cons though. Much of the feature feels like it copied inner White House scenes from the inaugural Die Hard. Though, without its humor that made Die Hard one of the best H-wood action pictures of all time. The comm scenes between Banning and the Yeonasak are entertaining though. Still, the ending is too predictable. Even the mid-scenes are forthcoming. Veteran action watchers will not be fully satisfied by this movie. And it has received mixed reviews from universal critics. 
  Still, OHF has enough kick-ass scenes for audiences to be eluded away from the cliches. It is a good photoplay, but in no way original, or worthy of entering a best-action movies list. Butler plays his character with every fiber of his being, and in some scenes his dialogue delivery is reminiscent of Bruce Willis in Die Hard - although, the dialogues not being referential at all. The conclusion of this movie battle will arrive after White House Down has been reviewed.

Olympus Has Fallen:
IMDb: 6.5/10.
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%.
BO101: 3/4.

(Source: Wikipedia)

You can see from the above poster, the blockbuster credits from director Roland Emmerich. Features like Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 are all disaster movies. White House Down itself is a disaster.
  When I watched the trailer for White House Down I loved it. It was showcased as a comedy-action movie, and Jamie Foxx is one of my favorite African-American actors. His scenes were the best in the trailer, and ended up the best in the entire flick. Yet, WHD was a global disappointment critically, financially and by my standards.

(Source: YouTube)

  The storyline follows John Cale (Channing Tatum) a US Capitol Police Officer assigned to the Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins), who is struggling after an Afghanistan tour to develop a better relationship with his daughter Emily, played brilliantly by Joey King. Her acting was far better than Tatum's. She is also very intrigued by American politics. So both visit the White House for John Cale's interview for a Secret Service job opening. 
  But Cale does not get the job as Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) deduces that he is unqualified. Later on, the father and daughter duo are still inside the White House when it is attacked by terrorists. Of course, American press and armed forces basically believe it must be Koreans or AL Qaeda, but in fact, it is played out by retiring head of the Presidential Detail Martin Walker (James Woods). This is because he is infuriated with the fact that his son was killed in a mission conceived by President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx).
  Cale might have not gotten the employment, but he does a better job than the entire Secret Service in escorting the President inside the under-siege White House. A great scene is when Cale's daughter is hidden and shoots a video of some of the terrorists uploading it to YouTube. A major difference in the pair of movies is that in OHF, the President is taken hostage in the emergency bunker from the get-go, whilst in WHD, the President is with the hero from the initial time of the takeover.
  Jamie Foxx plays the President with a humor that makes the rest of the silver-screen seem dull. His scenes are awesome, but the rest of the cinematic is boring and predictable. The US Military is shown to be too stupid. The politicians outside the White House also seem unintelligent. The military does not even know how to negotiate with terrorists, and Walker is a mundane villain, unlike Keonasak in OHF. 
  A film where the villains are boring is just lame. Channing Tatum has averagely-choreographed fight scenes, and President Sawyer's antics with an RPG launcher were more entertaining than Cale's whole punching and kicking prowess. White House Down's uppermost flaw is that it does not know how to distinguish itself from a comedy-action flick, and as a serious political agenda. OHF was campaigned as a thriller and rightfully so. 
  The only saving grace of the film is Foxx. Tatum's acting is mediocre whilst King's is still above-average. The ending is super-predictable, and the whole flick beats OHF in terms of predictability. James Vanderbilt has written better visual-presentations such as The Rundown, The Losers and The Amazing Spider-Man. With White House Down his feat of stupefying screenplays seems to have run out. His next film is Robocop releasing early next month in the UAE, let's just hope it does not end up the same as White House Down, both by BO101 standards and commercially. And I will catch the flick in the theater.
  Olympus Has Fallen was a worldwide economic success, making $161m off a $70m budget. However, White House Down fared worse with a $205m global gross with a humongous production cost of $150m. So Tatum failed as both an actor and producer of the film. OHF is directed by African-American director Antoine Fuqua (Shooter, Brooklyn's Finest) and written by Creighton Rothenberger, along with wife Katrin Benedikt. They are also going to pen The Expendables 3 and London Has Fallen (the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen). All three main actors of OHF will appear in the sequel but with a new director, as the previous one is busy working on a film starring Denzel Washington. 
  In the end, Olympus Has Fallen was broadcast three months prior to White House Down, so maybe people weren't interested in watching a similarly-themed movie. Still, OHF deserves recognition, and can be watched 3 to 4 times by action junkies. WHD is a torture to be watched a single period. Fuqua might not be as highly a renowned director as Emmerich, but he won this round fair and square.

White House Down: 
IMDb: 6.4/10.
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%.
BO101: 2/4.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Man of Steel is Platinum

Before starting the most-anticipated article of the year (that I have been longing to write), I'd like to say thank you to my avid readers. Namely, Shahwath, Hassan, Ae.Jaye and Rashid. I acknowledge ya'all taking out some precious time to read my blog-posts. I am forever obliged.
  If there was ever any alloy to specify the type of Steel used in the title, it would be Platinum. One of the most expensive metals on planet earth, and singularly of the rarest.. This is the same embodiment that defines MoS. A superhero movie with a budget in the top expensive 10s, also being a prime gem of celluloid. The first screenshot released of Man of Steel was in mid 2011:


  Yup, it couldn't of been more awesome (well unless Superman was surrounded by a thousand kilos of Kryptonite and still breathing). Looking at this single glance, I was able to make out that the recent headliner was that of Immortals (2011). It was a great movie and way better than both of the Titans' films. Henry Cavill also acted superbly. A performance that was better than in MoS. Latterly, picturing Cavill donning the suit I realised at that moment this was a recommencement for sure. Did Superman need another beginning? Of course.


  Superman Returns is a 2006 homage sequel to the 1978 and 1980 comic-book figure flicks. It ignores the events of the 3rd and 4th film. Brandon Routh (atop wallpaper) depicted the nominal hero replacing Christopher Reeve (who played the character in all the predecessors). A former manager of Routh signed him on because he bared a physical resemblance to Reeve. And that Routh might be able to portray the character if there was a following movie.. Another coincidence is that Routh grew up in the same town as George Reeves (who was the first entertainer to render Superman on-screen). So there were many conditions that supported Routh to his destiny. Nevertheless, critics and even movie-goers did not eulogise him in contrast.
  Superman Returns was surprisingly markedly lauded with a 75% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Box Office 101 scores it with 1.5/4. This is simply because it was a bore of a DC script. Batman Forever was better and that was deemed as a joke by pundits. Not only was the suit cited by viewers as gay but Routh only gave justice to the hero as Clark Kent. He had no silver screen charisma as Superman. There were no amazing scenes. Except the one where Superman amazingly lifts up an entire crater of green crystals into the void, then gravitates downwards receding to earth. This scene was impossible without Superman actually dying. 
  Well I wouldn't blame the shoot-taker Bryan Singer. He is best known for directing X-men and X2 (which I've seen 30 times). His decision to leave the third in the hands of Brett Ratner for Superman was disastrous in my opinion. X-men: The Last Stand was a poor generic effort as a the climax of the grandstand. Albeit, grossing more than SR with even lesser funds. Singer also planned a 2009 sequel but Warner Bros. correctly cancelled it because of the $391m return on a humongous allocation of $204m. This is one of the superlative engendering bulks for any comic-strip hero adaptations ever, and 16th overall in Hollywood.
  Surprisingly, many of the people who delianted Supes either on the small or big screen were inter-related. For example, Brandon Routh tried out for the Smallville auditioning but the role went on to Tom Welling. Then Cavill tried for the Returns part and it went to Routh. In the end, Routh ended up with nothing whilst Welling was cast in all ten seasons that were mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records. And Cavill's film has a $116.6m curtain-raiser. Two weeks ago, BO101 anticipated a $100m-$150m opening in North America. Returns had a mediocre launch in the US with only $52m. By that figure, the studious must have determined that this was a box office bomb.


  The overhead magazine cover shows a perfect comparison between Reeve and Cavill. Notice the lofty cheekbones and greasy jet black hair. Also, the evolution of the suit that is ten times better than the Returns costume. So Superman finally learned to wear his trademark red underwear inside. Other editions were the stylisations to the wrists that are similar to Jor-El's (Superman's father) attire, along with the metallic S. Russel Crowe interpreted Jor-El and his robes was also super-stylish:

  To move on, Man of Steel was a super awesome movie. I was hesitant of watching the inception but when I saw Nolan's name in the trailer I took all reluctance back. Christopher Nolan is the filmmaker of the 2000s and 2010s Batman franchise. But it was a wise call not to be taking the predominant seat in this venture, and rather merchandising and being the alternative contributor of the story, along with genius David S. Goyer. The latter has come a long way from writing the superb first and second Blade films and writing-directing the lower-rated third. He has co-addressed 2005's Batman Begins, and given stories for The Dark Knight and its sequel. Goyer is also well-known for being the vital author of the Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 campaign (again superb). As I had said before, Goyer has come a long way. 
  Man of Steel's amazing screenplay was solely written by him. With Nolan and him laying out the plot. I was dumbfounded that Jonathan Nolan did not take part in any of the fabrication. Surely, with his inclusion the film would've been perfect. Notwithstanding, Jon Nolan has co-inked The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, with his older brother. It could be that Jon is busy working withing his brother on their next sci-fi thriller Interstellar set to release next year. Also, Person of Interest, an American TV exhibition that airs on CBS. He created the succession and must've been busy co-formulating the finale.
  On the other hand, Goyer deserves a stand-alone credit. And he's done more than justice to the man. I was shocked by his writing skills. It couldn't have been done better. Man of Steel was brilliant, simply brilliant. It is the greatest reboot of all time. The greatest Superman blockbuster of all time. And one of the classiest superhero movies of all time. Man of Steel was bound to fail if Singer and Routh had returned as originally planned. But  Singer dropped out due to the original scripters leaving for other career opportunities, and Warner Bros. reluctance in a sequel. Routh's contract lapsed halfway through 2009, providentially. He wanted to enrobe the emblem again given the stake. That runner-up break came soaring to the ace - in his dreams. This was substantially due to the approximate $400m return of Superman Returns. WB wanted at least $500m and stated later on, that the film should've had more action to satisfy the male audience. Haha! The only stuff to be deemed action was Superman going up against petty burglars and showing his invincibility when a bullet was plunged into his eye. The number of times I watched that scene in the trailers of 2006 is too damn high!
  When Goyer pitched the idea to Nolan and when he delivered the message to WB, is was imminent that Superman Returns 2 be trashed away. Nolan is my treasured cinepreneur of the 21st century. He is even better than James Cameron who was just fortunate with Avatar becoming the paramount-grossing movie in cinema history. Nolan's The Prestige and Inception are also two features featured in my 100 must-watch movies list (when it gets completely finished).
  Man of Steel is a distinct movie. Before Batman Begins the chain was mostly acutely hammered. All critics noticed the somber side of the DC comics legend in the first of The Dark Knight trilogy. Superman Returns only returned the character into a duller state. Even the 1978 ONE was better. At least it had originality for that time. Man of Steel is not a straightforward superhero adventure. It is not about a young Clark Kent running faster than a bus to reach school. Or impressing the cheerleaders with his strength against the jocks. No, this is the lurid side of the foremost cultural icon of the United States. The 'S' stands for hope and the movie stands for getting audiences to awe in excitement. 
  The direction by Zack Snyder is unequal. Nolan is more of a thriller maestro so Snyder is a better choice than Nolan. But without Nolan's provision and story aid I know it could've been less enthralling. Snyder correctly utilises the above 120-minute running time. At the start the terrene of Kal-El (original Superman name) is limned beautifully. No detail from the original comic book is left out, and the eventual explosion is super realistic. 

(Director Zack Snyder, www.guardian.co.uk)

  Man of Steel does not start, continue or end predictably. Flashbacks are shown at times that were correctly timed by Snyder. The film is a perfect symmetry of the DC universe. There are no flaws in the CGI effects, ensembles or character representations. The cast includes six cardinal actors who have been nominated and/or have won Academy Awards namely Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne Michael Shannon and Russel Crowe. Ironically, the lead thespian Cavill has not even been nominated for a Golden Globe. This is a similar casting method from The Dark Knight trilogy. Christian Bale had no Oscar noms before Batman Begins although fundamental troupers with that criteria were cast: Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Liam Neeson. Gary Oldman was cast as police officer James Gordon. However, not being nominated for an Academy Award before the initial film., Oldman had won BAFTAs, and was nominated in 2011 for a Best Actor Oscar for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
  Batman Begins and Man of Steel have also accomplished the same feat. Batman Begins was directed by Nolan when he was not at the height of his career so a $374m cumulative was enough. Man of Steel will likely reach $800m worldwide - on an expense of $225m but the $1 billion milestone might be impossible. It may also make $300m nationwide but anything supplementary is precisely improbable.

( Fan-made banner at forums.superherohype.com)

  The action scenes in Man of Steel were not overdone. They actually reminded me of the Japanese video anime Dragon Ball Z. Ironically, much of DBZ's storyline is inspired by Superman. The main character Goku has the same history as Superman: his sphere exploded and he was sent prior to that in a space capsule to earth. I did not expect the action be so high-octane and so suitable to the Superman status. Snyder has surprised me with 300 and Watchmen.
  Yet, there were flaws. Goyer wrote the film a little too gloomy. Batman was of course a nocturnal demeanour. But Superman is awfully colourful. Additional humour should have been comprised. Secondly, the casting of Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Snyder really liked Adams for the role of the feisty journalist. But what I cannot comprehend is leaving out Olivia Wilde, Mila Kunis and Kristen Stewart for the predominant female act. Wilde being perfect for the bit, Mila being OK and Stewart as uniformly bad as Adams.
  Adams is nine years older than the 30 year old Cavill. So I don't even want to imagine her in bed with Kent in the sequel or the planned Justice League modification in the coming years. I also wanted the ending to be very innovative. Even though it was not the perfect ending it's as justifiable to the final rating I'll be declaring at the end of this review.
  MoS is not a superhero illustration. It's about the world's reaction to a person from another world's finding on earth. It's about how humans will react to the evidence of such existence. How the curious and narrow-mindedness of the orb impacts Superman's decisions.
  The synopsis: An extraterrestrial must look after his loved ones as further aliens arrive on the cosmos. It's about tough choices that have to be made. What Superman's adoptive dad and real father have taught him. How life on the big blue marble was so distinct from life on Krypton. Costner and Diane Lane are good as the foster couple. Laurence Fishburne plays Perry White, the editor-in-chief of Daily Planet. He is the first African-American to play Lois Lane's executive in a live-action feature, and fittingly so. Frank Langella was the last performer to impersonate Perry in the fifth attempt. Michael Shannon has not only the finesse of General Zod but also an eerie resemblance. Surely, this super-villain role was made for him, as he can never be billed for a hero's act. Russel Crowe delivers the ultimate performance in full length. When he's depressed, it looks as if put every fibre of his being into the soul of the form. Crowe outshines every other star in Man of Steel. And I hope I see him in the sequel as he would be a real miss if he weren't.
  Connoisseurs at RT have given the film a rotten 56% (as of June 18) and I can't give them a rotten frown but all speculations differ. How Superman got that rating is beyond me. The consensus does state: 'Superman's return to the big screen is successful, as Man of Steel provided enough exhilarating action and spectacle to overcome its occasional detours into generic blockbuster territory.' Batman Begins, in comparison has a 85% positive score. I am comparing the two from the viewpoint of onsets though that was when Nolan wasn't this renown. 
  Superman Returns also returned with Superman's primary antagonist Lex Luthor. Kevin Spacey did outline the villain well in Returns. But I am jolly that Lex was not the supreme villain in this scheme. LL has also been the primary opposing figure in the TV series Smallville. There is a reference to Lex in the flick that keen fans will notice.
  The flying scenes are neither too real or unreal, but rather surreal. The major plus points in the film are the character improvisation and Krypton's amazing showcase. Man of Steel is the sci-fi/superhero motion picture of the year, ahead of Iron Man 3, so far. The Wolverine and Thor 2 are unlikely to beat it both analytically and financially. And the second best action film of the year, up till now, behind Fast and Furious Six.

IMDb: 8.2/10.
RT: 56%.
BO101: 3.5/4.