Thursday, 25 April 2013

Movie Review - Iron Man 3

With Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe coming to a close with last year's incredibly hyped Avengers, the money-making saga is now pressing forward with the next string of storylines set to conclude in another epic ensemble flick in just over two years time. Phase Two has begun, and to kickstart it we have Iron Man 3 - the much desired redemption from Tony Stark's last on screen outing.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr) has been left in a worrying state of paranoia and anxiety after his destructive battles as an Avenger, which not only causes compulsive behaviour but friction with his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). His prospects takes an even bigger dip when, seemingly out of the blue, an Anti-American terrorist dubbed The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) unleashes his hellish plans on unsuspecting victims, leading Tony to don the suit once again and stop this new threat - something far easier said than done...

Iron Man 2 was a huge letdown for most viewers due to an absurdly half baked villain and an overall clumsy story - Jon Favreau has stepped down from the helm to let Shane Black take over and the stylistic impact this has on the plot is incredibly noticeable. The stakes are higher and a sombre tone reigns over the narrative, thankfully governed by a healthy dose of comedy. It's good to see a bleak vibe with some meaningful depth drive what could've been just a dumb superhero flick, but you rarely feel true substance beneath the surface; Iron Man was a smartly written and beautifully paced superhero story, and this third iteration tries to match that with iffy results, shunting aside emotional moments without any true focus and ultimately disrupting its own pacing.

Iron Man transformed the character of Tony Stark from an arrogant douchebag to an understanding philanthropist through a cohesive narrative which was completely negated when the character reverted back to an asshole in Iron Man 2 and, in some cases, The Avengers. Iron Man 3 corrects this in some aspects but a simple fact remains: Tony Stark, while excellently portrayed by the still brilliant Downey, Jr, is too funny. He seems to have a cheesy one liner for every situation (even the most dire) and this drains the film of its comedic appeal, making it repetitive and eventually irritating - the same can be said in regards to the overdone slapstick gags. The other performances across the board are generally exceptional, especially Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian and Kingsley as The Mandarin. 

A huge twist around one hour into the film really shifts the focus of the plot around and you'll be surprised how different the final storyline is compared to how the trailers advertised it. The plot twist is a marmite situation that people will love or hate - I wasn't a fan. Iron Man 3 never feels like it's doing the best it can with its premise and ultimately is a letdown after the astounding Avengers from last year. Excellent set pieces, beautiful IMAX imagery and fantastic performances are dragged down by an iffy plot and too many tonal shifts. A huge disappointment - probably more so than Iron Man 2.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Movie Review - Oblivion

A unique blockbuster with no renowned source material behind its premise, Oblivion is a film combining romance, action and thriller into a sci-fi carapace staged in a post apocalyptic Earth. With civilisation brought to its end and forced to flee the planet, technician Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) remain stationed on the ruined homeworld to salvage the remaining water reserves and spearhead a future for humanity on Titan, Saturn's largest moon.

The narrative fluctuates dramatically we we press into the backstory of the war that destroyed Earth, leaving the new equilibrium completely polarized in comparison to how the film started. This transition through such major twists is good in theory; but not in execution. Poor exposition and a lack of focus will drive audiences into, excuse me, obl-no, I wont say it. But you get the point.

With an enormous $120 million budget, Oblivion crafts a vision of Earth destroyed by war primarily with synthetic effects. Everything is beautifully rendered and fits nicely alongside the expansive real world locations, providing a spectacularly grey and bleak image for the settings. The cinematography emphasizes these effects with sweeping establishing and panning shots, and a polished art direction makes it more than just a landscape of mountains and dirt. Iconic human locations are blended into the world, derelict and broken, to humanize and add a tragic element to the mise en scene. The visuals are complimented by a beautiful if insanely loud soundtrack, which adds tension and adrenaline to every scene.

Strong performances across the board provide more scaffolding to the flimsy narrative. Tom Cruise is likeable and relatable in his internal struggles as the plot twists unfold, and although Morgan Freeman (yeah, he's in this movie) has a weak character, he portrays it with some deal of finesse. Unfortunately, the characters outside of Jack Harper are treated carelessly and have little to no development to rival the protagonist. While this helps to not distract us from the hero, it ultimately makes the film feel thinly plotted and poorly paced.

Oblivion has a superb story - it just can't tell it properly. The twists are treated as insignificant plot points that never truly come to fruition; yet the film carries on anyway, leaving the audience trailing behind without a clue of what's going on. It suffers the polar opposite of Inception syndrome - rather than having to spend thousands of years explaining the complex plot points, it just doesn't. This weak attention to its own narrative and characters is a huge setback and disappointment when the special effects and premise do so much to impress. An enjoyable film that would've benefited massively with some rewrites.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Nightmare - Filming Complete!

I am posting this ridiculously early as I have just spent the past four hours cutting together the Nightmare scenes we shot yesterday. In total, 250 clips adding up to 47 minutes of footage was shot, making the final run time of every single clip filmed for Nightmare combined a whopping three hours.

Filming for Nightmare began on September 15, 2012 and has now come to an end. The film has a duration of 60 minutes which is unlikely to change. All I need to do now is add more music, sound effects and just fine tune the overall product. It's been a hell of a lot of fun to put this together, and I hope people will love the result!

Nightmare is coming to the CarrCom Films channel on May 5, but will have a special premiere for my friends and family the day before. Just over a month to go, so stay tuned!