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Detention

Streaming on Netflix

detentionI have already reviewed a film called Detention with a similar basic premise to this film but this has very different style. In fact this film is all about its style and if you find its too-cool-for-school self-aware hipster hilarious then this will be perfect for you. I didn’t like it at all. I think that this film annoyed me so much because it wants desperately to be a cool, culty film but it’s so busy being impressed by itself I felt it vanished up its own fundament.

The hate starts right away with an introduction to some spoilt brat cheerleader character Taylor Fisher (Alison Woods) whose fourth-wall-breaking reality show style narration of herself gets interrupted by the film’s killer in the mask of a cheesy derivative killer Cinderhella from a slasher film series that is popular because it is cheesy trash.

The main character Riley Jones (Shanley Caswell) is introduced by a sequence that deliberate echo of the Angela’s introduction and she’s every bit as self-obsessed as Angela but it manifests as self-pity instead of arrogance. She is also cynical and judgemental and it’s this character who put me off the film because I found her insufferable.

Riley goes to high school to meet the other characters who are the usual bunch of clichés that never get deep below the surface of what the barely literate literati use as labels nowadays. There’s Carlton Davis (Josh Hutcherson) who is a bland adolescent but apparently cool because he doesn’t care and is so random and he has a cheerleader girlfriend called Ione (Spencer Locke) who used be Riley’s best friend until she got a bitch implant and of course Riley fancies Carlton because it is in the script.  Carlton has friend called Sander Sanderson (Aaron David Johnson) who is barely formed just like him but a virgin. Of course there has to be a bully and he is  … who the hell cares really he’s a cartoon character defined completely through the eyes of those who are not him and the film just at laughs at its own attempt to give him a backstory and he’s called Billy Nolan (Parker Bagley) just like theBully in Carrie and he’s a football player

There are various background clichés like the nerdy Asian student called Toshiba and the teachers at the school are the various types of caricatures of the types staff that populate the American High School movie such as the cartoonishly angry football Coach and the Headmaster Verge (Dane Cook) who hates all the kids. The story is so busy giving us all these characters and set up before it finally remembers that there is a killer.

There plot with the serial killer is still somewhere in there and he makes a couple of attempts on Riley but no-one believes her until after a drunken party where Billy Nolan gets killed and Verger puts the main cast and supporting characters in detention to prevent them going to the prom. This is the point where the plot starts piling on the absurdity in the hunt for the killer which includes time travel, an alien modified stuffed bear and a threat to the future of the whole world. The story is certainly not lacking in imagination or audacity. There’s an amusing scene where they are watching Cinderhella on an illegal streaming site and there’s a scene in that film with a bunch of students in detention watching an illegal bootleg DVD of a cheesy horror film which in turn has a scene of students in in detention who watch a bootleg VHS tape of a cheesy horror film. It gave me chuckle

I have been pretty negative about this film but I realise it is not being targeted at me. Many people will love this film and I can completely understand that. It has been compared to Scream and Scott Pilgrim vs The World and that is a reasonable comparison but I don’t think it succeeds like those films. I will not be surprised if this becomes a cult films as it will probably find an appreciative audience out there. I’m just not one of them.

Rating 4.0/10

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Posted by on July 29, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

 

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X Men: Days of Future Past

At the Movies

858070_353242348128690_933500536_oStrap in for the long haul as I have a complete geek-out here. I’ve a been an X Men comic book fan for a long time and though I did enjoy all the previous films I was concerned when they fumbled their attempt at the Phoenix Saga in X Men Last Stand then stumbled again with Wolverine Origins. I was so happy when they went the prequel route in First Class and I really enjoyed seeing the younger take on Xavier and Eric. They followed this with a respectable solo film for Wolverine. And now they have really got their franchise back on track by using the time travel device to retcon away some of their less popular choices from earlier films with a strong character driven story.

Days of Future Past is based on the story in the comics and the script does a good job adapting the story without slavishly following it. The future is a nightmare with mutants hunted down and captured or killed by mutant hunting robots called sentinels that can adapt to any attack from those with mutant powers. The whole world is a war zone and mutants are nearly extinct. Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) gather with a small group of surviving X Men to try one last desperate attempt to not only save themselves but to prevent the whole nightmare from happening: they want to change the past.

Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) seems to have developed a secondary mutation where she can send a person’s consciousness back in time to an earlier version of themselves and we see her do this with Bishop (Omar Sy), allowing them to avoid a sentinel attack that nearly wiped them out. Thanks to this ‘reset button’ power the film doesn’t hold its punches when shows just how brutal these sentinel attacks are. We also get to see some nice bits of the X Men working together in battle such as Blink (Bingbing Fan) combining her portals with the attacks of the other X Men. These include Sunspot (Adan Canto) [who seems to have acquired Sunfire’s atomic fire powers], Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Warpath (Booboo Stewart) , Storm (Halle Berry) and it’s great to see Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) in full ice form using his ice slides.

Kitty’s power is only used for sending someone a couple weeks back at most as any more causes damage to the mind/brain. Xavier wants to go back to the 1970s to prevent the assassination of Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) the scientist who developed the prototype sentinels and was trying to sell them to the US government. When he was killed by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) this convinced the government of the danger posed by mutants and also gave them access to Mystique’s DNA which Trask’s company used to develop the lethal future sentinels.

Xavier is not physically capable of surviving the strain of the time displacement so they need to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) which has the advantage of making sense in the story and perfect sense for such prominent role to be played by the star of the series. I know that in the comic it was Kitty who went back and in the cartoon series it was Bishop but neither character has much chance of even existing that far back and Wolverine has been the audience entry point to this film series. Fortunately Wolverine is more than adequately balanced out by the other characters in this film.

Back in 1973 Wolverine wakes up in bed with some anonymous woman and he stops to give the audience a lingering look at his naked butt before a gang of thugs break down the door and try to kill him. After dealing with them he goes to find Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) in his family mansion. Xavier is living with Beast (Nicholas Hoult) who looks a bit more human than last time we saw him in First Class. This is because of a magic serum plotholefillium Beast developed which supresses mutations but stops working if Beast gets upset [a bit like the Hulk only blue and furry]. Charles has also been taking the serum so he no longer has his telepathy but for some reason the serum allows him to walk despite the bullet in his spine. Charles Xavier has been broken by events since the last film. Two of his students were conscripted into the army when the Vietnam war started and Mystique left with Magneto so he had no-one apart from Beast. He has lost his optimism and his vision of humans and mutants living together in peace.

Next Wolverine has to get Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who is being held in a non-metallic prison under the Pentagon. Fortunately Wolverine knows someone who can help them, a teenage boy called Peter Maximoff (Evan Peters) otherwise known as Quicksilver. This is one of those strange characters that live in a sort of twilight zone that allows Fox and Disney/Marvel to use them. He was an Avenger in the comics but he’s a mutant and has been involved in X Men related titles such as X Factor. He is a great character, funny and mischievous and the scene of him using his power to rescue them from armed guards is the highlight of the film as we see him racing round the room in bullet time gently nudging things, shifting things into place and when we return to normal time the guards have knocked each other out and all their bullets have missed. [A minor spoiler from the comics is that Peter is Magneto’s son but they only hinted that in the film.]

Now Magneto and Xavier have to get over their disagreements to stop Mystique but they don’t know where she is and since Xavier is powerless he can’t find her but they do know she is going to be in Paris to kill Bolivar Trask as he pimps his sentinel project to various military leaders. Mystique went with Magneto at the end of the First Class film but she has since left him too and now is working on her own for the cause of mutants in very practical ways, such as rescuing a group of mutant soldiers in Vietnam from getting sent to a secret lab as a reward for serving their country. These mutants include Havok (Lucas Till), Toad (Evan Jonigkeit), Ink (Gregg Lowe) and some other guy with spines. Mystique is not targeting Trask because of the sentinels but because of what he did to mutants during his research [in case you are wondering what happened to all the other mutants from First class.]

The mission to change history is going as planned but Magneto decides to try to take things further, leading to a very public mutant battle being filmed by several cameras and of course the mutant threat is the top news story, guaranteeing Trask gets funding for his sentinels. Now they have made everything worse so Xavier has to come off his magic juice so he can use Cerebro to find Mystique and this is where he uses Wolverine to contact his future self and find the reason to go on with the fight. Of course this means Xavier has to give up walking and re-establish his control of his mental powers.

Xavier’s character arc is basically about Xavier becoming the man he is in the other films, a teacher, a leader and a peacemaker. Magneto is already willing to play the role of the villain that the human authorities claim him to be. He may be willing to work with Xavier to prevent becoming victim of another holocaust but that doesn’t mean he will give up plans to launch his own holocaust. Mystique has grown away from both men as she fights for mutants directly on her own and the fate of the world depends on what choices she makes.

Bolivar Trask is an interesting villain with motives that seem to mirror Magneto’s. He is not motivated by hatred of mutants but out of loyalty to humans. He has read Xavier’s academic work and uses quotes from it in his presentation to the military. He does get side-lined by a plot that is more concerned with the interactions of the main characters so doesn’t really get to fully play a villain role but now that they have him set up I hope they make better use of him in later films.

As you can probably tell I really got into this film. The writers have done an amazing job linking up the past with future in a way that doesn’t hurt the head. Even though there are many characters in the film it focuses on Magneto, Xavier, and Mystique with Wolverine and Beast playing supporting roles. The scenes of the future were very brutal so there was always a good sense of how high the stakes were though there isn’t too much time to see any character stuff in the future. The cast are all really great especially James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence but a special word goes out to Evan Peters who took a lot of abuse before the film’s release and really delivered a version of Quicksilver that raises the bar for Marvel’s Avengers Age of Ultron film. I highly recommend this film especially to anyone who enjoyed the first X Men films and I’m really looking forward to Apocalypse in two years time

Rating 9.0/10

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Posted by on June 6, 2014 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Looper

Bluray Review

Looper bluray 001Time travel has been a science fiction staple for as long as the genre has existed and it feeds into the enjoyment of contemplating alternative realities and thinking about fate and free choice. This film really uses quite a few of the familiar time travel tropes but manages to use them to tell a pretty smart story which holds together until you start thinking about it and out come the straws and the diagrams.

This is set sometime in the near future in a world that is suckier and more corrupt than today and poverty and homelessness happens at third world levels in all the major cities. Loopers are hitmen for Abe (Jeff Daniels), a man from the future who works for powerful gangsters from the thirty years into the future after time travel has been invented and instantly outlawed. In the future some sort of advanced technology tagging has made disposing of bodies very difficult so they send the people they want rid of back in time with their hands tied and a bag over their head so that a Looper can kill them and dispose of the body. The plot needs this to be true so we’ll just have to accept it. We have this all explained to us by the main character Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) in a voiceover. The film doesn’t just tell us but shows us Joe gunning down several anonymous victims and trading in the silver bars placed on the bodies in the future as payment.

Joe is not a nice a guy. He and the other Loopers are self-centred short sighted dumb-asses who spend their money on drink, drugs, women and flashy cars. Joe also talks about how the Loopers are kept under contract until the day that the man they kill is their own future selves and they are released from their contracts to enjoy the several bars of gold that was sent back with their future selves knowing that in 30 years they will be killed by their younger selves.

If they fail to kill their future selves that is very bad and we get to see what happens when fellow Looper, and the closest Joe has to a friend, Seth (Paul Dano) turns up at Joe’s apartment wanting help hiding from Abe’s Gat men after he failed to kill his own future self. The Gat men are Abe’s enforcers who armed with Gatling guns while the Loopers use guns called blunderbusses because of their short range. This whole episode with Seth sets up how serious it will be when Joe meets future Joe and there’s an interesting use of Seth to catch future Seth which sets up the film’s ending.

Joe is out in the country waiting for his next hit and he’s still thinking about Seth. The time for the hit comes and goes and when the hit arrives several minutes late his face is not covered and he’s not tied up. Joe looks in his eyes and recognises it’s Future Joe (Bruce Willis). He also has bars of gold that he uses to deflect the shot from Joe then Future Joe knocks out him out by hitting him with a bar of gold and a punching him in the face. Future Joe escapes and Joe finds himself on the run from Abe’s Gat men.

We get to see a flashback of Future Joe’s life after he had his loop closed and learn that he’s got a plan to bring down some future evil villain called the Rainmaker and save the only woman he ever loved no matter the cost.

Joe arranges to meet Future Joe at a diner next to his kill site out in the country. He wants to get his life back and wants to kill Future Joe to do it. Future Joe depends on Joe’s continued existence yet Joe points out that the best way to save the woman he loves would be to kill Joe right now so he’d never meet her and put her in danger. The script hints heavily in the dialogue that the time travel plot shouldn’t get poked too much or its logic will unravel. Before they get down to deciding who should kill who Abe’s Gat men arrive and Future Joe has to run. Joe manages to tear a bit off Future’s Joe’s map. This full map has three target circled on it and one of these target is on the bit Joe has.

Joe knows Future Joe will be going there and so he decides to go there to wait for him. It turns out to be a farm occupied by a single mother Sara (Emily Blunt) and her young son Cid (Pierce Gagnon). Because of the widespread poverty there are many vagrants and some are desperate enough that Sara keeps a load shotgun handy. Thinking Joe is one of them she shoots him wounding him in the arm. She realises he’s not a vagrant but the blunderbuss gives away that he‘s not someone to be trusted either. She drags him onto her porch where she can keep an eye on him.

Joe starts getting withdrawal from the drugs he constantly dripped into his eyes back in the city and Sara leaves him to recover, warning Cid to keep away from him. As time passes of course Sara’s mistrust softens and Joe starts to care about people other than himself, which gives him something to fight for against both Abe’s men and his future self.

I really did like this film and it does live up to the hype. Everything kind of holds together enough so I could ignore the paradoxes to enjoy later. It is totally believable that Joseph Gordon Levitt is a younger version of Bruce Willis but that is because two actors matched up their performances so well and not really because of the make-up job on Levitt. I had a little giggle at the fleeting glimpse of the intermediate stages of hair loss, especially the bit where Willis had a floppy comb-over

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on February 3, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Deja Vu

Writers just love getting their hands on an excuse to do a time travel story. This shallow tale wades out into the murky waters but rarely immerses itself fully in the potential scientific and philosophical implications of what the characters claim they are doing. The result is a story that only works if you go with it and just accept things happen for narrative reasons and the magic time travel device is just there to do whatever needs it needs to do to accomplish that

ATF Agent Doug Carlin is this film’s identity of the standard Denzel Washington investigator savant character, so he’s a no-nonsense clear thinker with Sherlock Holmes’ observational skills and deductive reasoning abilities. A ferry full of sailors blows up while it crosses the Mississippi at New Orléans on Mardi Gras. Doug is one of several investigators on the scene. He gets spotted by FBI agent Paul Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) who is impressed by his cool investigator skills so he recruits him to a super secret squad who have a magic time traveling spying machine that can give them a God’s eye view of anything anywhere within the range of the machine but it can only see what happening 4 days 6 hours into the past, no earlier and no later. It has something to do with Einstein’s rosy bridge according Dr Alexander Denny (Adam Goldberg) the scientist who accidentally tore a hole in the universe. It is two-way but it takes a lot of energy to send mass through it and it kills animals going through it (or crushes them into a tiny massively dense points of unspecific matter). You can probably see how this will go, but for now they use it to spy on people to see any sign of someone who might want to blow a bunch.. sorry, blow-up a bunch of sailors. They want Doug to use his unique abilities to tell them where to point their magic cameras. Doug has info on the dead body of Claire Kuchever (Paula Patton) who was found in the river but had died before the ferry explosion from the same type of burns as the victims on the ferry. The car bomb that blew up the ferry was also in her van so Doug has them spy on her (you can see why they needed Doug’s amazing deductive skills here).

Doug had the hots for Claire when she was a crispy-fried corpse so obviously he falls for her when he sees her walking and breathing (and showering) in the past. But Doug’s really not satisfied with just watching what happened in the past, he wants to change it. He sends a message back for himself but his partner Larry picks it up instead so rather than dying on the ferry Larry gets shot and his body is fed to the alligators. To get there was a pretty amazing, and very stupid, car chase with Doug following the bomber in the present day as the bomber drives to his base in the past, using a portable helmet version of the big magic box. Now they know the bomber is Carrol Oerstadt (Jim Caviezel) who is one of those paranoid nuts engaged in a personal war with the American Government. He is arrested and the FBI are happy with lone maniac story so they shut down the magic box.

No film would be accepted with a story that ended like that and we already have the rest all set up so inevitably Doug is going to back in time, rescue the girl, get the bad guy and save the day. At this point there is plenty of hints that this not the first time, lots of little clues that another version of Doug had already tried and failed to change events at least once before (or three times according this timeline from Wikipedia). I have to say this plot is clearly driven by the director’s desire to tell the story his way with little attention to logic or stopping to explain itself to anyone thinking “Wait a minute , what…” There is something exhilarating about being along for the ride on Tony Scott film and despite my snarky tone I did enjoy this one.

Rating 6/10

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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