March 2011 | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 28 March 2011

Review: MARS NEEDS MOM (2011)


RATING: 2.5/5

With a corny title like MARS NEEDS MOM and especially the kind of animated feature produced under the Walt Disney banner, you might expect this is another hit-or-miss feature. Upon watching the trailer, I feel turn-off by the filmmakers' decision to shoot this picture in motion-capture animation pioneered by Robert Zemeckis in movies like THE POLAR EXPRESS (2004). However, I feel surprisingly different when I watch the entire movie. Yes, the motion-capture animation is as creepy as ever but MARS NEEDS MOM is blessed with an uplifting message about peace, love and the importance of family, which makes the movie quite a cinematic treat to check out for.


Sunday, 27 March 2011

Review: RED RIDING HOOD (2011)


RATING: 1/5

On paper, director Catherine Hardwicke and screenwriter David Leslie Johnson's reimagining of enduring classic tale Little Red Riding Hood retooled as TWILIGHT-like undertones in which star-crossed teenage lovers caught in the middle of thick situations with a dash of whodunit and Gothic horror setting, does sounds like fun. But RED RIDING HOOD is a colossal misfire -- a movie that fails miserably to accomplish its individual goals as romance, horror and a folktale mystery.


Review: SUCKER PUNCH (2011)


RATING: 1.5/5

All style and no substance. That is pretty much described for Zack Snyder's highly-anticipated action fantasy, SUCKER PUNCH. Of course, you have to give him credit for making his first visionary picture from scratch (which is not particularly adapted from comic book or graphic novel) but SUCKER PUNCH is all skin deep -- a bloated mess of genre mash-up that is surprisingly hollow and empty-headed cinematic experience.


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Review: SIREN (2010)


RATING: 0.5/5

UK's Maxim has hailed this as "The Best Supernatural Thriller Since DEAD CALM". Coupled with a salaciously-designed poster that has a woman in a bikini holding a knife, one would immediately expect that Andrew Hull's first feature debut (who previously art-directed 2007's P2) in SIREN is a killer promise of sex, violence and horror. Even the tagline also reads as "an exotic tale of lust and revenge". But thanks to the misleading marketing strategy, SIREN turns out to be a shockingly frustrating experience.


Review: LIMITLESS (2011)


RATING: 3/5

What if a pill could make you rich and powerful? That is an intriguing tagline appeared in the poster for Neil Burger's new movie called LIMITLESS.



Sunday, 20 March 2011

Review: THE EAGLE (2011)

 

RATING: 1/5

Last year, Neil Marshall's gritty take of the Ninth Legion story element in CENTURION is an exciting genre picture blessed with subtle direction, sweeping camerawork, muscular action sequences and engaging cast from Michael Fassbender and Olga Kurylenko. It's just too bad that CENTURION made little impact in the Stateside. By comparison, Kevin Macdonald's THE EAGLE is a polar opposite. Instead of concentrating the thrill of the chase pumped up in CENTURION, THE EAGLE aims something deeper within its Ninth Legion context -- by focusing on the aftermath of the tragic event and delves into meditative drama that echoes the rhythm of Francis Ford Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) with a dash of Terrence Malick's poetic filmmaking style. No doubt it certainly sounds ambitious but instead, the movie ends up a huge disappointment it's really hard to believe this is the work of a talented director from Kevin Macdonald.


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Review: BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (2011)


RATING: 3/5

Alien invasion movie are dime a dozen. You name it -- 1996's INDEPENDENCE DAY to 2005's WAR OF THE WORLDS and right down to last year's SKYLINE. All those movies are often told in civilians' point-of-view, but BATTLE: LOS ANGELES tweaks the formulaic structure in which the U.S. Marines become front-and-center focus rather than background caricatures. A cross between INDEPENDENCE DAY and 2001's BLACK HAWK DOWN, this Los Angeles-set alien invasion thriller has the similarity with SKYLINE in term of its overall execution. Whereas SKYLINE excels fairly good in its special-effects department (especially with its low-budget cost), the movie failed miserably for its clunky plot, poor characterizations and ridiculously over-the-top twist finale. By contrast, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES is a muscular action-packed movie that packed a few wallops and then some.


Monday, 14 March 2011

Review: RANGO (2011)


RATING: 3/5

A loving tribute to the spaghetti western genre in the spirit of Sergio Leone with a dash of Sam Peckinpah-vibe, RANGO is an entertaining animated adventure blessed with top-notch animation, inspired cast and spectacular action sequences that appeal for both children and adults alike. But it's more likely appreciated by the adults since the movie is leaning towards more on sophisticated themes, complex narrative structure and of course, pop-culture references from some of the most beloved western genres of the past.


Sunday, 13 March 2011

Review: RUBBER (2010)


RATING: 2.5/5

A horror comedy about a killer tire and blows people's heads off with its telekinetic powers? It's certainly unexpected, not to mention it's very bizarre but Quentin Dupieux's low-budget indie feature, RUBBER, is no doubt one of the most strikingly original motion pictures in recent memory. Made at a measly $500,000 and shot in a high-end Canon EOS 5D Mark II, RUBBER is visually stunning. But the movie's odd concept is downright very bizarre to the point of head-scratching confusion. I kid you not, because RUBBER is the kind of experimental genre that raises the challenge of an outright absurd cinematic experience. How absurd? Let's just say, for example, even fans who adore the bizarre work of David Lynch or David Cronenberg, might find this with a resounding "Huh?"


Review: WHAT WOMEN WANT 我知女人心 (2011)


RATING: 2.5/5

Back in 2000, Mel Gibson hits jackpot with the $182 million box-office hit, WHAT WOMEN WANT. Blessed with an irresistible high-concept premise (a man who possesses ability to hear woman's inner thoughts) and two charming leads (Gibson and Helen Hunt), this Nancy Meyers-directed romantic comedy was reasonably entertaining if not awfully overlong and predictable.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Review: DRIVE ANGRY (2011)


RATING: 2.5/5

Another Nicolas Cage movie, another possible stinker-in-the-making. After all, he has been in a continuous losing streak with back-to-back fiasco: THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE (2010) and SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011), not to mention most of his other equally bad movies these days. But at least this time, he manages to redeem himself in DRIVE ANGRY. A high-octane grindhouse throwback of the '70s, Cage is certainly the kind of the right actor born to fit for an offbeat role, and it's a relief to see him in a playful, devil-may-care approach here. And thanks to writer-director Patrick Lussier and co-writer Todd Farmer, they have created a reasonably good trashy fun out of this movie here. Mind you, it isn't high art and it doesn't have to be. DRIVE ANGRY is pure guilty pleasure entertainment, except that the movie is a half-baked effort that could have been better. More on that later.


Sunday, 6 March 2011

Review: THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (2011)


RATING: 2/5

The poster of THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU has widely advertised by the particular blurb from Total Film magazine, hailing this movie as "BOURNE MEETS INCEPTION". Additionally, the trailer and the marketing promotion have been selling this movie as a chase thriller with a dash of romance and heady sci-fi undertones. Considering this movie is adapted from Philip K. Dick's short story Adjustment Team, it's natural that viewers are expecting this to be a star-studded chase thriller borders on visually extravagant approach. Unfortunately whatever that lead you believe of such is nothing more than a huge misleading. Writer-producer-director George Nolfi's directorial debut here is more of a romance than an otherwise spectacular thriller, while the supposedly fascinating sci-fi concept is a mixed bag.


Thursday, 3 March 2011

Review: I AM NUMBER FOUR (2011)


RATING: 1/5

One word: bland. That is pretty much sum up for this wannabe sci-fi thriller, I AM NUMBER FOUR, which is heavily positioned as the new TWILIGHT-like franchise mould with TV's Roswell-style undertone. What's more, even with the calibers of screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (TV's Smallville), producer Michael Bay and director D.J. Caruso (2007's DISTURBIA, 2008's EAGLE EYE), the movie is shockingly dull and amateurish in all department.


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

2011 Oscar Coverage Bit and Viewpoint

BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR

WINNER


THE KING'S SPEECH

NOMINEES:
127 HOURS
BLACK SWAN
THE FIGHTER
INCEPTION
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
TOY STORY 3
TRUE GRIT
WINTER'S BONE

VIEWPOINT:
Traditionally, the movie which has won Best Director will normally go on to win Best Picture. I was really hoping that THE SOCIAL NETWORK scored a minor upset here but THE KING'S SPEECH is simply unstoppable. The movie's eventual Best Picture win is inevitable, considered it has nabbed PGA and BAFTA -- two surefire tickets for an automatic victory in the Oscar award.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

WINNER

 
Tom Hooper (THE KING'S SPEECH)

NOMINEES:
Darren Aronofsky (BLACK SWAN)
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (TRUE GRIT)
David Fincher (THE SOCIAL NETWORK)
David O. Russell (THE FIGHTER)

VIEWPOINT:
This is where the real battle begins! This category is nevertheless a split 50-50 vote between Tom Hooper's THE KING'S SPEECH and David Fincher's THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Personally, David Fincher should have win this category instead for his vividly compelling direction in THE SOCIAL NETWORK which also served as his another breakthrough, after his equally remarkable 2008's THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

WINNER


Colin Firth (THE KING'S SPEECH)

NOMINEES:
Javier Bardem (BIUTIFUL)
Jeff Bridges (TRUE GRIT)
Jesse Eisenberg (THE SOCIAL NETWORK)
James Franco (127 HOURS)

VIEWPOINT:
Any chance of a big upset in this category is definitely out of the question. Colin Firth's impeccable role as the king with a stammer is simply the finest acting performance of the year. He's already bagged the Golden Globe, SAG and of course, the BAFTA. Need I say more?

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

WINNER


Natalie Portman (BLACK SWAN)

NOMINEES:
Annette Bening (THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT)
Nicole Kidman (RABBIT HOLE)
Jennifer Lawrence (WINTER'S BONE)
Michelle Williams (BLUE VALENTINE)

VIEWPOINT:
It's Natalie Portman vs. Annette Bening! But (everybody's) smart money is bet on Natalie Portman to bag her first Oscar for BEST ACTRESS. Her role is remarkably tour de force performance -- the kind of character is just too hard to ignore. She's totally deserved to win this category. (Maybe another time, Ms. Bening!)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

WINNER


Christian Bale (THE FIGHTER)

NOMINEES:
John Hawkes (WINTER'S BONE)
Jeremy Renner (THE TOWN)
Mark Ruffalo (THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT)
Geoffrey Rush (THE KING'S SPEECH)

VIEWPOINT:
Just like Melissa Leo's win for BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS in THE FIGHTER, Christian Bale's win is also a shoo-in as well. His transformation role (where he loses weight to a skeletal frame) is vividly convincing while his top-notch performance is his finest acting he's ever had.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

WINNER


Melissa Leo (THE FIGHTER)

NOMINEES:
Amy Adams (THE FIGHTER)
Helena Bonham Carter (THE KING'S SPEECH)
Hailee Steinfeld (TRUE GRIT)
Jacki Weaver (ANIMAL KINGDOM)

VIEWPOINT:
This category is a no-contest result. Melissa Leo's vividly colorful performance as the outspoken Alice in THE FIGHTER is a shoo-in win for her much-deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar win.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR

WINNER


TOY STORY 3

NOMINEES:
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
THE ILLUSIONIST

VIEWPOINT:
It's expected. Pixar hits jackpot again with more Best Animated Feature win, and this time it's their biggest box-office hit to date -- TOY STORY 3.

BEST WRITING, SCREENPLAY WRITTEN DIRECTLY FOR THE SCREEN

WINNER

 

David Seidler (THE KING'S SPEECH)

NOMINEES:
Mike Leigh (ANOTHER YEAR)
Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington (THE FIGHTER)
Christopher Nolan (INCEPTION)
Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg (THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT)

VIEWPOINT:
Of all the five nominees for BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY, Christopher Nolan's screenplay for INCEPTION is the most strikingly original and innovative storyline ever conceived. And frankly, Christopher Nolan deserved to be won for this category. But likewise, the Oscar voters goes for a "safer" route: by awarding David Seidler's inspiring screenplay in THE KING'S SPEECH.

BEST WRITING, SCREENPLAY BASED ON MATERIAL PREVIOUSLY PRODUCED OR PUBLISHED

WINNER


Aaron Sorkin (THE SOCIAL NETWORK)

NOMINEES:
Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy (127 HOURS)
Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich (TOY STORY 3)
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (TRUE GRIT)
Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini (WINTER'S BONE)

VIEWPOINT:
Yet another shoo-in win for this category. Aaron Sorkin's irresistible screenplay in THE SOCIAL NETWORK is simply too good to be ignored.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN EDITING


Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall (THE SOCIAL NETWORK)

NOMINEES:
Jon Harris (127 HOURS)
Andrew Weisblum (BLACK SWAN)
Pamela Martin (THE FIGHTER)
Tariq Anwar (THE KING'S SPEECH)

VIEWPOINT:
Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall's airtight editing in THE SOCIAL NETWORK is certainly one of the main factors that made this dialog-heavy movie so seamlessly executed, yet full of energy. No doubt they are pretty much deserved for the Oscar win in this category.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES, ORIGINAL SCORE

WINNER


Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross (THE SOCIAL NETWORK)

NOMINEES:
A.R. Rahman (127 HOURS)
John Powell (HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON)
Hans Zimmer (INCEPTION)
Alexandre Desplat (THE KING'S SPEECH)

VIEWPOINT:
The Oscar voters have somehow goes hip here by (surprisingly) awarded Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's electronic score for THE SOCIAL NETWORK. The win could have gone sideways though, with Hans Zimmer's superb horn-inspired score for INCEPTION being the better bet.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

WINNER


Wally Pfister (INCEPTION)

NOMINEES:
Matthew Libatique (BLACK SWAN)
Danny Cohen (THE KING'S SPEECH)
Jeff Cronenweth (THE SOCIAL NETWORK)
Roger Deakins (TRUE GRIT)

VIEWPOINT:
I'm sure a lot of critics and peoples out there are expecting veteran Roger Deakins to finally land his long overdue Oscar for his moody cinematography of the untamed Old West in TRUE GRIT. But if he's win, that will be more of a sympathy win because frankly, Deakins' much-praised cinematography here is very overrated. Kudos goes to the Oscar for making the right choice of awarding Wally Pfister's majestic cinematography in INCEPTION instead!

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION

WINNER

Robert Stromberg, Karen O'Hara (ALICE IN WONDERLAND)

NOMINEES:
Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan (HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1)
Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Douglas A. Mowat (INCEPTION)
Eve Stewart, Judy Farr (THE KING'S SPEECH)
Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh (TRUE GRIT)

VIEWPOINT:
Now this is not surprising, considering the elaborate fanciness Robert Stromberg and Karen O'Hara has successfully achieved in ALICE IN WONDERLAND. But personally, I would have hope INCEPTION would have bagged the award instead for its meticulous and complex art direction.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

WINNER


Coleen Atwood (ALICE IN WONDERLAND)

NOMINEES:
Antonella Cannarozzi (I AM LOVE)
Jenny Beavan (THE KING'S SPEECH)
Sandy Powell (THE TEMPEST)
Mary Zophres (TRUE GRIT)

VIEWPOINT:
It's either ALICE IN WONDERLAND or THE KING'S SPEECH. But Coleen Atwood's lavishly colorful costume design tops them all with such eye-catching result it's simply a visual feast.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS

WINNER


Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, Pete Bebb, Paul J. Franklin (INCEPTION)

NOMINEES:
Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas, Sean Phillips (ALICE IN WONDERLAND)
Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz, Nicolas Aithadi (HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1)
Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojansky, Joe Farrell (HEREAFTER)
Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright, Daniel Sudick (IRON MAN 2)

VIEWPOINT:
What more can I say? The visual effects in INCEPTION is as seamless as it's visually stunning and particularly innovative as well. Such case is the iconic scene where Ariadne (Ellen Page) tests her architectural skills by imagining a busy cityscape folding on top of itself. Now that's what I called a true masterpiece.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP

WINNER


Rick Baker, Dave Elsey (THE WOLFMAN)

NOMINEES:
Adrien Morot (BARNEY'S VERSION)
Edouard F. Henriques, Greg Funk, Yolanda Toussieng (THE WAY BACK)

VIEWPOINT:
The most striking one win. And it is none others than Rick Baker and Dave Elsey's superbly frightening makeup in THE WOLFMAN.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING

WINNER


Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick (INCEPTION)

NOMINEES:
Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen, John Midgley (THE KING'S SPEECH)
Jeffrey J. Haboush, William Sarokin, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell (SALT)
Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Mark Weingarten (THE SOCIAL NETWORK)
Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, Peter F. Kurland (TRUE GRIT)

VIEWPOINT:
Nothing is more compelling in terms of achieving great sound effects than last year's surprise box-office hit, INCEPTION. Nuff' said.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING

WINNER


Richard King (INCEPTION)

NOMINEES:
Tom Myers, Michael Silvers (TOY STORY 3)
Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Addison Teague (TRON: LEGACY)
Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey (TRUE GRIT)
Mark P. Stoeckinger (UNSTOPPABLE)

VIEWPOINT:
Again, like Best Sound Mixing's win in INCEPTION, this category is a shoo-in.