Tag Archives: @leslieadams1981

Elysium ***1/2

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“Elysium” is the second film from director “Neill Blomkamp”, whose debut film was the very popular “District 9” back in 2009. That movie went on to be a big critical and box office success. It ended up being nominated for best picture after the Academy decided to start nominated ten movies instead of five. My personal opinion was that I liked it but I didn’t love it. Watching it again four years later I still stand by what I said but I have gained a greater appreciation for that film.

“Elysium” shows me that as a writer and director, Blomkamp as grown. Some how the characters and the story are more vivid and engaging. There is a lot of action and violence but it almost feels sort of shoe horned in to a movie where the director is more intrigued by the world he has created.

The story is set on Earth in the future. Years from now the planet becomes over populated and ravaged by disease. Eventually the rich and powerful build a massive space station and move there, leaving everyone else behind. This orbiting craft is one of those unique and amazing set pieces that come along every once in a while in a movie. It is referred to as a habitat by it’s inhabitants. It is circular in shape and contains it’s own atmosphere. It can be seen from the surface of Earth by inhabitants that dream of one day living there.

Also on Elysium are medical instruments that can cure every known disease and ailment known to man. There is a faction on Earth who make it their mission to try to transport the sick there illegally so they can access these machines and save themselves. When their ships approach Elysium they are ruthless shot down by their defences.

Making as much of a living as he can on Earth is Max, played by Matt Damon. Max is on parole and working in a robot factory. One day he is caught in a machine that exposes him to mass amounts of radiation. When he is told he has five days before his organs shut down, he decides to attempt a trip to Elysium to find a cure.

Working against him is a ruthless agent of Elysium named Kruger, played by Shartlo Copley. He is a ruthless killer that delights in causing brutal pain and bodily harm. This is a stark difference from his role in “District 9”.

Jodie Foster plays a politician on Elysium who runs Kruger and schemes to become the president of this orbiting colony. She wants to run it like a dictatorship and make sure that nobody of a lower class can ever land there again.

Once the story is laid out and the pieces are in place we then follow Max in his journey to reach Elysium. This involves a few violent showdowns with Kruger as he attempts to stop him. But in order to gain access to a ship bound for Elysium, he must pull off a heist that involves stealing information from the mind of one of the space stations CEO’s. The data he receives puts the fate of the world in his hands and ups the stakes incredibly.

Everything comes together on Elysium during a violence confrontation. What is intriguing to me is how the action scenes, which are pretty thrilling despite the over use of shaky camera work, don’t really seem all that necessary. It is almost like Blomkamp was more interested in creating a world that is falling apart and comparing it to an almost heaven like environment that people dream of living on. The visuals are simply stunning but they are all in service of an absorbing story.

There seems to be a shift in the sci-fi genre in the last few years. Great movies like “Looper”, “Oblivion” and now “Elysium” seem to be finally focusing on creating original stories as opposed to exploiting franchises. I couldn’t be more pleased by this.

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Prince Avalanche ***1/2

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“Prince Avalanche” is a return to form for director “David Gordon Green”. Green started out making truly amazing films like “George Washington” and “All The Real Girls” but lately he has been stuck making dreary studio comedies like “Your Highness” and “The Sitter”.

This movie finds the talented director taking the minimalist approach. The story is about two road workers played by Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, who are at different points in their lives emotionally, who go through a series of emotional episodes with each other. Ultimately they bond and form one of the more odd friendships that I have seen in the movies.

Rudd plays Alvin, a man who seems to be constantly trying to find inner peace by constantly taking jobs that put him in to isolation from his girlfriend. Hirsch plays Lance, who is his girlfriends little brother. Lance lives for his weekends chasing girls and partying. But he is about to receive news that will change his life.

Alvin and Lance work painting lines down a road. This specific area has recently been the victim of a major forrest fire. Along the way they encounter people who have lost their entire homes and lively hoods in this disaster. This adds a sort of undercurrent of sadness that kind of makes their personal issues seem pale in comparison.

Wikipedia says that Green shot this movie in secret. It was only announced after it’s completion which is rare. It is almost like Green was making some sort of covert escape from the big studios. I for one am glad he is back. Even from a visual stand point it is nice to see him creating visual poetry as opposed to excess.

After a summer that has been almost over filled with big action spectacles, it is nice to simply engage two characters on a personal level and watch as they grow together a little bit.

Lovelace **1/2

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“Lovelace” is the true story of Linda Lovelace. She was the star of “Deep Throat”, one of the most popular porn films of all time. What the public did not know at the time was that she was under the control of her ruthlessly abusive husband Chuck Traynor. Once she finally broke free of his control and wrote a book about her experiences. The movie is well made and well acted but feel curiously detached from the story.

Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard play Linda and Chuck. Their performances are very good but they deserved a better movie. The story follows the broad strokes of their relationship but never really gets under their skin. Some scenes do contain real emotion and power but the story jumps around in time and never really creates a rhythm.

The story of Linda Lovelace is definitely one that could be turned in to a powerful film. I can’t really nail down exactly why this effort didn’t really effect me all that much. I am not really familiar with the directors, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, but on the basis of this movie I think they are capable of making great films. I just imagine this subject matter in the hands of someone like Steve McQueen or Oliver Stone.

The Wolverine ***1/2

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“The Wolverine” has finally arrived and I am excited to say that it is a return to form for the “X-Men” franchise. After three disappointing entries we finally get a movie that focus’ on it’s characters and their personal stories. It is also not a prequel, which the last two were. This movie takes place after “X-Men: The Last Stand”.

When we catch up with Logan, he is living in the Yukon alone. He is located by Yukio, a mutant who has the ability to see people’s deaths. She has been asked by Yashida, a man who had his life saved by Wolverine during the bombing of Nagasaki, to bring Logan to his death bed so that he can express his gratitude one last time. When Logan arrives at his side, Yashida offers to transfer his healing ability to himself, thus curing his cancer and relieving Logan of his curse of immortality.

When Logan wakes up the next day he is informed of Yashida’s death. He attends the funeral and ends up defending Yashida’s grand daughter from a Yakuza attack. They end up on the run and in hiding.

What struck me was how director James Mangold, starts out with some intense action sequences then slows everything down for a touching love story. Eventually everything is on the line in a climax that has real stakes.

The action this time seems more grounded than before. Now that might read as strange considering there is a fight on top of a speeding bullet train, but there are details that most blockbusters leave out for convenience. Most of the violence involves Wolverine’s hand to hand fights with ninjas and samurai.

I will say that the final fight with the Silver Samurai is the film’s weakest moment. Silver Samurai’s awkward size gives him a sort of Transformers effect that I am sure the creators were not going for.

Still this movie has amazing visual style. This is a story that is told with great locations, physical sets and little to no CGI. That is a rare thing these days. The story is compelling and at times truly exciting. Hopefully next year’s “Days Of Future Past” can keep up this momentum and become the best “X-Men” movie to date.

The Conjuring ***1/2

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“The Conjuring” is the latest haunted house movie in a genre that has seen a lot of entries in recent years. Amazingly this is the best of these modern ghost films as it not only terrified me but I was actually moved and engaged by the characters. The ending comes together in an emotional climax that is pretty frightening and feels some what real.

The plot is based on elements of a true story. The outline has become pretty familiar to us at this point. Struggling family moves in to a creepy house that they got for amazingly cheap. Why so inexpensive? Well because something horrible happened in it some where in it’s past and almost no one wants to buy it unless they are desperate. Not long after moving in the usual odd occurrences start to happen. An unseen force drags the kids out of their beds, doors start slamming, mysterious figures appear and in a nice touch, the clocks all stop every night at 3:07am. All of this is done with great skill. As far as I could tell there were no false scares where strange noises turn out to be the family dog or anything like that.

Eventually the family bring in paranormal investigators and this is when the movie really started to engage me. The couple they bring in are Ed and Lorraine Warren. Ed is an expert demonologist and Lorraine is a gifted clairvoyant. They begin to unravel the mystery of the house while also dealing with their own issues as they have been put through the ringer with previous exorcisms.

I don’t think i’m spoiling anything when I say that they get more than professionally involved when the evil in the house latches on to them and begins tormenting their own family. All of this results in an exorcism that some how seems more real and terrifying than I expected.

The film was directed by James Wan, who directed “Insidious” and “Saw”. This film is more in line with the latter. Here he really is able to build an atmosphere of dread. It was nice to see him avoid as many cliches as he could and focus on how a professional demonologist works. I found that scarier than most horror movies that are content to jolt the audience with surprises or overwhelm us with over the top gore.

“The Conjuring” was a pleasant surprise this summer season. I found that I got more involved with this then almost all of the big blockbusters I have seen this year. It is amazing what you can do with a small budget and a great story these days.

Only God Forgives ****

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“Only God Forgives” is depraved, sickeningly violent and contains some truly vile characters. It is also an entrancing experience. This isn’t a movie that is enjoyed by following the plot. This is more about the experience. It is all about the dream like visuals, the pulsating score and the uncompromising direction from Nicolas Winding Refn.

I can understand why it has received scathing reviews and was booed at the Cannes film festival. This movie is not for everyone. Much like a film by Terrence Malick, Refn doesn’t much care for spoon feeding his audience plot points. He simply lets the events of his story unfold naturally. He allows the locations and the sets to sit on camera for long periods of time as if they too were a character in the movie.

Now there is a plot but it isn’t really what drives this movie. It involves Julian, played by Ryan Gosling, who is a drug smuggler living in Bangkok. He runs a boxing club as a cover. His brother is particularly vile. He decides to kill a 14 year old prostitute after having sex with her. When the girls father is aloud to kill him by the local police, Julian is forced in to seeking revenge by his bitter and hateful mother.

This results in a brutal hand to hand fight between Julian and the Bangkok chief of police. This will go down as one of the most real and intense fights ever put to screen. The sound effects alone left me cringing. This is just one sequence of shocking violence that is put to the screen by Nicolas Winding Refn. The most disturbing would be a scene where a man is stabbed in multiple limbs, including his eye balls and in his ear. I felt his screams of pain.

“Only God Forgives” follows up Refn’s 2011 film “Drive”. I remember reading about a woman who tried to sue the studio for leading her to believe that it was going to be similar to a “Fast and Furious” movie. I wonder what she would make of this? It is too bad that general audiences mostly react like she did. That is why movies like this will never break out of their indie roots. Sadly this one doesn’t even have critic’s on it’s side either.

I for one need to watch this movie a few more times to really let it sink in. I don’t think I will gain any deeper knowledge I just can’t wait to experience it again.

Pacific Rim ***

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The blockbuster movies of 2013 have so far brought a lot of destruction for earth and “Pacific Rim” continues that tradition. This time cities are levelled by massive monsters that are bigger than sky scrapers. The only defence for humanity are an army of giant man made robots, piloted by two people.

Director Guillermo Del Toro takes on the task of putting together the biggest movie of his career. He has directed some amazing films that contained amazing monsters but has never directed anything on this scale. The closest he has come to creating large scale destruction was in “Hellboy 2” with a Elemental Forrest God.

The monsters of “Pacific Rim”, known as Kaiju, are the highlight of this movie. You can tell that Del Toro’s interest was in their creation. They are beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Leave it to a director like Del Toro to not only show us their outsides but to take us deep within their bodies and also supply us with a moment where one gives birth. They engage in city wide battles with the man made robots known as Jaegers.

The Jaeger program is run by Stacker played by Idris Elba. His main pilot is Becket played by Charlie Hunnam. The Jaegers are run by two pilots who must meld their minds together in order to handle the enormous amount of information the Jaegers give out. This is known as drifting and also involves mixing the two pilots memories. This can result in a harrowing effect if one of the pilots is killed during action

The Kaiju are coming from a hole on the bottom of the ocean that leads to another dimension. The story involves the humans race to try and close the hole as more and more Kaiju find their way through.

Now as much as I enjoyed this movie I did find it to be a bit of a step back for Guillermo Del Toro. It does have some of his patented bizarre imagery. I especially liked the moment when a nifty looking Kaiju tongue attempts to lick a helpless scientist. I also loved the look of all the Kaiju and their masters. But I do feel that he has traded some of his creative vision for a lot more action and destruction. The battles take up the last third of the movie, as buildings are crushed, cars flattened and entire city blocks are reduced to rubble. I have seen a lot of this lately.

Still I can’t deny that “Pacific Rim” is a lot of fun. It is also an original story which is refreshing considering the amount of franchise fare that has come out this summer.

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