Beyond Skyline

Okay, if you’ve been reading my blog for a few years now you’ll have seen the odd post/rant I’ve written about the movie Skyline, directed by The Brothers Strause. Without going into another full blown post about Skyline my biggest complaint was not enough attention was on the live action sequences and too much was spent on the CGI, which granted was very beautiful. It just didn’t fulfil an amazing potential I thought.

Beyond Skyline was not Skyline, it took that potential and made a movie I enjoyed a lot. The CGI looks beautiful, the plot line kept my attention and the actors held the screen well, and more importantly I cared about what happened to them. Frank Grillo and Bojana Novakovic were both very good, and I enjoyed Iko Uwais as well. It was fun seeing Callan Mulvey playing a role which wasn’t a mercenary as well.

I liked how the story went from the events in Skyline and took it further and looked at what was going on in a lot more depth and moves across the globe a little and we see how the invasion is being looked at by another culture. We saw a lot more of the aliens and their little world as well. I really liked the final confrontation at the end of the movie. Not only is there some great CGI action, but some of the fighting the characters do on the ground level is beautiful! The Choreography is very well done.

This is the first film where I’ve seen Iko Uwais and I liked him a lot. He held the screen well and when acting opposite an actor of Frank Grillo’s calibre you need that.

The whole cast was pretty solid I thought, no one felt out of place and none of them felt ‘Meh’ for lack of a better phrase. I thought they felt genuine, we don’t know what we’ll be capable of until we’re pushed out of our comfort zones.

There was a couple of moments where I found my eyebrow raising a little but nothing drastic that took me out of the film any more than a passing second.

I was a little anxious that this was Liam O’Donnell’s directing debut, but I liked where he took the story (he wrote it as well). Some of the visuals were stunning and he got a great balance between the live action and the CGI. They complimented each other very well. Overall I liked his direction and I really hope they do more of these. I will definitely be looking out for what O’Donnell does in the future.

Overall, Beyond Skyline is a film that’s well worth watching. I’m glad I’ve brought it on Blu-Ray as I think I will be re-watching it more than a few times.

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Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation is the fourth film in the Terminator series and takes place after Judgement day. John Connor is not commanding the resistance yet, and is viewed by some as a prophet for his knowledge of the machines. We see his efforts against Skynet, and as he’s trying to find Kyle Reese, and as he’s trying to deal with the Marcus Wright character. Wright is trying to discover why he’s alive after being executed decades before.

I seem to be in a minority when it comes to Terminator Salvation, in that I like it. I love the post-Judgment Day setting, it was something that we got teased in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day and it was always something that I wanted to see more of. Although what we see here isn’t the post Judgement Day world we saw in the first two movies I still liked what I saw. It’s set in the early days of the war against the machines and there aren’t a lot of terminators roaming the ruins, there seem to be more aerial hunter/killer drones that probably locate any survivors and then send in the ground based terminators to deal with them.

From what I can make out this was meant to be the first in a new trilogy of films in the franchise but it just did not do well enough for the next two to be made. This is something that I’m genuinely gutted by as I would have really liked to see where the story went. I’d imagine they would have ended up with the discovery of the time displacement equipment and sending Kyle Reese back to protect Sarah Connor. To me that would have been a beautiful way to end the trilogy.

To the film though, I do like it but it does have its issues. One of the biggest is that it didn’t feel like the director was able to put his stamp on it.  I was worried about McG directing Salvation as I’d seen his Charlie’s Angels films and wasn’t impressed, that said I was surprised with what I saw from him here. Some of the shots were beautifully put together and the look of the film was very good, very genuine. The action looked good too. It just felt a little safe, a little by the numbers. Now I’m not sure if it’s a case that McG hadn’t quite got the directing chops to put his stamp on it, of if the studio or others involved in the film reigned him in too much. Either way it didn’t have a strong identity which I felt left the film missing something to make it stand out.

Christian Bale was good as John Connor. I thought he showed good intensity, and the pressure from what he knew, well. I liked that they didn’t make him too cold and isolated. There’s a couple of sweet scenes between him and Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays his wife Kate Connor, that shows that he doesn’t carry all of this burden himself. She’s become his rock by this time and although Howard doesn’t have a lot to do in the film, what she does she looked natural doing.

I could have done without the Marcus Wright storyline. It felt forced, like they needed to one up the previous films. Aside from the odd accent slip, I can’t fault Sam Worthington, though. I thought he had a good vibe and showed a decent range as his character tried to figure out what the hell was going on. If the Marcus Wright storyline hadn’t of been there then there would have been no need for the Moon Bloodgood role of Blair Williams. She plays an A-10 pilot who gets shot down and meets Wright and takes him to Connor. Bloodgood was okay in the role, but like the Marcus Wright storyline, her character felt a little forced in some respects. It felt like she was only there to help the Marcus Wright character grow. It feels a little like they wanted her to be the strong female warrior character that Linda Hamilton pulled off so well as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, but the character wasn’t given the freedom to take that mantle.

Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese was good. I liked the youthful urge to fight and rebel that he put into the character. He was jokey and hadn’t been through the toughest parts of the war yet, in fact I don’t think he’d seen much combat at this point in his life. I think that would have come in the next two films and I think we would have seen that enthusiasm to fight diminish as his character saw so much death and suffering. The character of Star really wasn’t needed. She was sweet, but again, felt a little forced into the story.

A minor character I wanted to see more of was that of Barnes, played by Common. I think Barnes may have been Connor’s second in command, but regardless of that I just wanted to see more of him. Common looked good on screen and there seemed to be a lot going on with him.

And just a final shoutout to Michael Ironside. Fantastic actor and I love seeing him pop up in places like this.

Overall, I like Terminator Salvation a lot. It’s a fun film to watch that has more than a few nods to its predecessors and set a few seeds for future films that we never saw. Easily my third favourite terminator movie.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Terminator 2: Judgement Day is the second movie in the Terminator series, and really steps up multiple levels from the first film. In this movie instead of a Terminator being sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor its been sent back to kill her son, John Connor, while he is still a child.

Like with my post about The Terminator I’m not going to give a plot summery, its a film which is two decades old so I think it’s more than bled into pop culture enough for people to know what the story is.

Terminator 2 is probably my Star Wars. I first saw it when I was in my early teens and it took hold of my imagination and hasn’t really let go. It influences so much about me. Whether it’s my habit of inserting Mini Guns into my fiction whenever I can, or my love of post-apocalyptic stories right through to my crush of Linda Hamilton. Even now, about twenty years since I first saw T2 I’m still discovering ways in which this movie has influenced me.

Arnold Schwarzenegger comes back as the Terminator and he smashes it, again. Schwarzenegger really was born to play this role and he steps up into it for a second time with as much passion and commitment as he did in the first movie.

Linda Hamilton has almost a totally different character to play in this movie. She’s no longer the naive young woman that was told she would be the mother of a great military leader. In Terminator 2 she has embraced the mission of raising this child, protecting him, and preparing him, to an unhealthy level really. Add in the fact that she’s lived with the knowledge of knowing the date that the nuclear apocalypse will happen has sent her almost over the edge. Hamilton really steps up spectacularly here. The intensity she puts into the character is very impressive.

Edward Furlong plays the young John Connor. He’s been brought up knowing he’s going to be this military leader, but the life he’s been dumped in isn’t what he’d been brought up to think it was. So he’s more than a bit of a juvenile delinquent. Furlong is very good here, he’s got that snarky kid down well, but when the story needs to show hints of the man he’s destined to become Furlong is able to pull it off.

A new terminator is introduced into this movie, the T-1000 is an advanced prototype terminator that is essentially liquid metal. Robert Patrick plays the T-1000 and he does so beautifully. The T-1000 is cold, relentless, and efficient as it tries to fulfil its mission. Robert Patrick, in my opinion is as good in this role as Schwarzenegger is as the Terminator.

James Cameron steps up the action, and the storyline, and the performances, and the special effects of the first film to make what I strongly believe is one of the finest movies ever made. If I am ever to make a list of my favourite all time movies, then Terminator 2: Judgement Day will be at the top of it.

The Terminator

After watching Terminator: Genisys I decided to re-watch the previous four films in the serious and the TV series, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, as well. Obviously I started with The Terminator.

***Spoiler Free Zone***

The Terminator tells the story of a time travelling cyborg that is sent back in time to assassinate the mother, Sarah Connor, of the man who leads the resistance against the Artificial Intelligence, Skynet, that has all but exterminated the human race. The resistance sent back a fighter, Kyle Reese, to protect her.

That’s enough for the plot; let’s face it, if you don’t know it then I’d suggest stopping reading this post and go and watch it.

 

 

This is a gritty, non-stop, action film that has a deep and layered story. It has equally deep, and complicated characters. You seriously begin to feel for Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese as the film moves along. Neither really has the time to get their bearings; you’ve got Sarah, who is just trying to lead a normal, everyday life and Kyle, who is not of the time. So it must all be alien to him, and it’s a testament to his ability to survive and endure as well as he does without having a huge meltdown. It’s clear throughout that he’s suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, yet he fights his way through it because he has to. His mission needs for him to.

Linda Hamilton really kills it as Sarah Connor, she plays the confused twenty something whose wold is torn inside and out really well. She does the deer in the headlights well, but soon she’s rolling with the punches as they start coming thick and fast.

Michael Biehn doesn’t hold back as Kyle Reese. Biehn is scrawny, edgy, and pretty intense. His character is covered in scars and appreciates his mission to protect Sarah Connor in a way that I don’t think Connor herself really understands. As I said the character clearly has PTSD and Biehn plays it well, almost subtle for the most part.

Now, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I really don’t need to say much about this man playing this role do I? But I will, he was born for this role. Theres not many actors that can be as blank as Schwarzenegger is in this movie, and it feels like he doesn’t get the credit in this day and age that he deserves for it.

All three of the main actors really did throw their heart and souls into their roles, and it shows throughout the movie. For me it’s one of the qualities that make the film for me.

James Cameron, and everyone else behind the scenes deserves all the accolades the movie garners. The script is beautiful, and tight; there’s not a lot of fat there to be chewed on. The special effects are really beautiful and I think they still stand up; Stan Winston and his team did a fantastic job in bringing the terminator to life.

The Terminator has a great feel to it. It’s raw, gritty, fast paced, and is just quality. Very few films hold my attention like this one does.

Snowpiercer

The quick synopsis of Snowpiercer is that after mankind has caused the earth to freeze over a scant few survivors are living on a self-sustaining train that travels around a fair chunk of the globe. It’s become it’s own world and has a community on board where the poor are all but ignored by the powers that and they want to break out of their section at the rear of the train and get to the engine. If they succeed then they can change the hierarchy on board this train.

I’d heard a lot about this movie before I finally got around to seeing it and overall I enjoyed the film. It was much darker in places than I thought it would be and there was a few turns and twists which I simply did not see coming.
Very little throughout the film pulled me out of it. With a film like this I think it could have been easy for little inconsistencies to creep in. The sort of thing that would bring you out of the fantasy land that the movie should have you in. Thinking back to the film, after having watched it, there are a couple of things which do flash out at me, but nothing that’s really shattered the illusion of the film.

I couldn’t fault the acting at all. It seemed very solid throughout, but with the cast that the film had that’s to be expected. Chris Evans was especially good I thought. He carried the weight of his character’s struggles well and his revelation near the end of the film was really gripping.
Tilda Swinton was also very good. She’s an actress I’ve seen in a few films and she always seems a solid actor, and here she holds her antagonist role well. Her character was ruthless, but also kind of cowardly at the same time.

I did find the ending a little odd, and I’m still thinking through what it means in the bigger picture but it’s a film that I would recommend to anybody who wanted to watch something that got them thinking.

Guardians of the Galaxy

The story starts with a young Peter Quill sitting in a hospital listening to his Walkman, he’s led into see his mother who’s laying in a hospital bed by his grandfather. His mother dies and the young boy runs out of the hospital with tears streaming from his eyes. He falls to his knees on a grassy hill covered in mist just outside the hospital, and A spaceship bathes him in light and we cut to the animated Marvel logo and I get goosebumps because, with a lump in my throat and tears close to falling from my eyes, I know this is going to be a movie that exceeds my high expectations.

 

This is a blog post that I’ve been trying to figure out how to write for some time now. I’ve tried writing a very technical one which looks at all the strong points of the movie and the few weak points. I’ve tried writing one from the heart, which was pretty much me gushing about how great a movie Guardians of the Galaxy is, and thats what it is, A great movie. I saw it four times at the cinema and I’m itching for the Blu-Ray to come out so I can watch it again. Yes, it is a little predictable but who really cares? It’s a movie which not only all but brought me to tears two or three times each time I watched it but it also had me laughing, leaning forward (especially when Drax passes Rocket the gun as he’s atop Groot during the prison escape, ‘Oh Yeah’) and during that first screening there people clapping and there was almost people cheering! Now, that’s something I’ve never known in a cinema before.

Above everything else though this movie was fun. From when we’re watching Peter Quill a.k.a Starlord, dancing around a ruined alien planet till the stingers at the end. This is a movie that knew exactly what it wanted to be. I’ve heard a few people saying that this is a movie which has director James Gunn’s finger prints all over it, and having only seen his film Slither I can see what they mean a little by that. Having Gunn direct I think was a master stroke by Marvel and I’m itching to see what they do with the sequel.

The cast was spot on as well, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista and Zoe Saldana were very likeable, although I’d like to see Saldana’s Gamora freed up a little. She seemed to carry the weight of knowing just how much danger they were all in. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel did the voice work for Rocket and Groot and both were brilliant, Cooper especially was unrecognisable as the foul mouthed racoon. Theres a very strong supporting cast which includes Lee Pace, Glenn Close, Michael Rooker, Benicio Del Torro and John C. Reilly. A special mention for Karen Gillen, who played Nebula. She was fantastic I thought and took the attention of most of the scenes she was in.

A lot has been said of the fantastic soundtrack this movie has, and it deserves the praise as it does add a huge amount to the film but I just want to talk about the score, which I think was very good. It’s very reminiscent of the soundtrack for The Avengers I thought.

 

For me this movie has shot straight into the top five of my favourite movies, in fact it’s probably at the top. Having seen it four times, it got stronger with each viewing, I think this will be my Star Wars.

The Amazing Spider-Man

I wrote in a post recently that I was not overly impressed with this reboot of the Spider-Man movie series. Despite liking it better then Sam Raimi’s trilogy I found that I was a little bored by it. After having seen the origin story for Spider-Man so recently I found it boring. There were good points. Andrew Garfield looks very natural as Peter Parker and Emma Stone is really captivating as Gwen Stacey. Sally Field and Martin Sheen were awesome as Aunt May and Uncle Ben, their chemistry together is priceless and they look and act like a couple who have been together for a long time.

I’ve recently brought and re-watched it after I went and saw its sequel. I wanted to give it another chance because I liked the sequel (Mostly, but that’s another blog post) and I’m going through a stage in life where I’m feeling like I’ve been too critical with some things and movies are a big part of this.

On my first and only viewing when it came out there were a number of things which didn’t sell me on it. Like I said the origin of how Peter Parker became Spider-Man, been there and done that. I think they put it in to remind us all and to set up the story arc of Peter’s parents and the mystery around them. I really wasn’t sold on Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors either, but on watching it again he has won me over a little. I do like it when actors break from the characters that people typecast them as. In this case I think I was as guilty of that as the next person. Ifans is a very talented actor but normally in slightly odd, out there and louder then life roles. So I think that played too much on my mind at the time but give the man some serious credit for taking such a big jump away from what he normally does.

As for the storyline, there were times when I found myself looking at my iPad and seeing what was happening on Facebook and Twitter, but I did not find it as boring as I recalled it to be. I think the cast did a lot to keep my eyes on the screen. I’ve mentioned some of them above, but I’ll elaborate a little more here.

Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man looks right at home here. He’s got that quick wit that is needed and easily comes cross as someone who is highly intelligent. I heard a Spider-Man fan saying that Peter Parker is a genius and Garfield plays that side of Peter Parker well. I felt he also pulled off the awkward teen that Peter Parker is early in the film well. Tobey Maguire always felt more creepy then awkward in Raimi’s trilogy. Overall Andrew Garfield seemed to live the character very well and was very convincing. He held the screen, had a fair bit of charisma and pulled off the range of emotions that was needed.

Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey is just perfect. Let’s get the male oriented aspect out of the way, Emma Stone is a strikingly beautiful women, but instead of being there just to look sexy and supply someone for Spider-Man to save so serves a part in the conclusion of the film. She is just adorable, as well as being strong. That can be hard to pull off but Emma Stone does it really well. I’d not seen her in anything before this and she all but stole the scene each time she was on screen. She has a lot of charm and strength and isn’t scared of getting stuck in despite any threats that may be coming. Emma Stone looks very natural on screen, some actors look like they are trying too hard but Stone seems to be very at ease on camera.

The chemistry between Garfield and Stone is amazing and believable, to the point where they are in a relationship in real life. This just strengthens their on screen relationship.

The director, Marc Webb, does do a very good job with steering the film. It’s pretty well written and is not over inflated or trying to do too much, it’s very straight forward. I think having the villain be The Lizard was a good idea, although from my small knowledge of the Spider-Man universe it felt a little like the character was a little misinterpreted, but I’m willing to let artistic license be used here. The story isn’t about the Lizard, it’s about Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man and the Lizard is just a bad guy thrown into the mix so there is a conflict and threat that Spider-Man has to stop.

The performances, style and tone saved this movie for me. It’s not a bad film in any way shape or form but its core story has been done before. Webb has a great eye and gets the best out of the actors. he also made a fun film, Spider-Man had that smart arse wit that never felt quite genuine in Raimi’s trilogy.

This film is setting up a bigger story arc and I think it does that while also being a stand alone film. The sequel does step it up a notch and it felt like they let loose a little more, but I’ll talk further about it in another post.