June 27, 2008

Wanted (2008)

If anyone has seen director Timur Bekmambetov's Nochnoi Dozor (Night Watch) or Dnevnoy Dozor (Day Watch), then you will know that although the stories didin't always make perfect sense, but boy, did they look absolutely wonderful, with some absolutely amazing effects to boot. Well, his latest movie, Wanted, does make a lot more sense even if it does stretch the boundaries of plausibility even further. Oh, and yes it has some of the most breathtaking scenes I have seen in a long while. Wanted is eye candy for the 21st Century delivered with a shot to the head.

The backstory of Wanted is that apparently 1000 years ago a group of weavers decided to form a secret society of assassins called The Fraternity to help retain balance in the world, because, that would be a natural career step of course. And so, over the years they have hidden away taking out whomever is required. Ok.

Back to present day and we meet a member of the Fraternity who is hunting down a former member who has left, and gone rogue so to speak.

Skip forward a little more and we join up with Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), an average Joe who gets shat on on a daily basis in his present job, by his girlfriend and by his best friend. He suffers from anxiety attacks, and is a self proclaimed pussy. And...before you know it he is approached by Fox (Angelina Jolie), and is informed that his father, who walked out on him as a baby, was an assassin and that Wesley also has the skills required to be one too. Ah yes, I forgot to mention that members of the Fraternity aren't normal everyday assassins. No, these crazy feckers seem to have almost superhuman skills; one of which is being the ability to bend bullets in mid-air.

Anyhoo, the Fraternity want him to join up with them so that they can train him so that he can go out and kill the rogue member. Cue non-stop action, violence, bloodshed, chases and other such coolness.

To go on about whether or not Wanted is realistic would be just pointless, this is just an all ot over the top ballet of bullets composed by an incredibly talented Russian. There's no other way to describe the onscreen action other than poetry pure and simple. It's not always believable; how can this society be secret when they are destroying half of the city? But damn it all to hell it is a fun ride!

At times predictable, in terms of the plot and character development, whereas the rest of the movie will continue to stun you throughout. It's surprisingly bloody, there's plenty of foul language, Jolie's butt, wonderful set pieces and one of the finest shoot-outs I have ever seen. Extra points are also given for the inclusion of Nine Inch Nails on the soundtrack.

If movies such as Crank or Shoot Em Up pumped your nads then you will love this. Just imagine those crossed with The Matrix whilst John Woo called the shots, and you might get a rough idea of what to expect.

There are flaws galore, the biggest one being the total waste of Terrence Stamp, I just can't be arsed to go on about them as I just had too much fun watching this ridiculously over the top movie. Suspend your disbelief, throw all rational thought out of the window and sit back and enjoy the ride, because it is going to be a bumpy one.

Wanted is a quite terrific action flick that demands you turn all reason off and just enjoy the carnage that is up on the screen.

Rating 3.5 stars (out of 4)

The Signal (2007)

When I first heard that The Signal was made by three directors, with the film split into three sections, or transmissions, I will admit that I felt a little unsure as to whether I really wanted to see it or not. Sure, the trailer looked fun, but three directors? Surely that will get a little messy? Well, it does get messy, but not in the way I thought it would, no it gets messy purely due to the fact that everyone spends the majority of the movie covered in blood. Su-bloody-perb if I do say so myself.

The Signal is about a strange occurence that infects televisions, telephone and radios, amongst other things, transmitting an unknown message to the viewer/listener that basically sends them off on a looney tune trip, roughly translated; they kill everyone they see. Although it isn't as straight forward as that; it plays with their minds causing them to believe people are someone else, making them believe that what they are doing is the right thing. Those affected are convinced they are normal, and it is everyone else that is infected with "the crazy", as it is often referred to.

The film itself focuses on a married woman, her husband, her boyfriend and a few neighbours and friends in the city of Terminus, and although it is split into three segments the characters and main thread of the story continue throughout. Now, although the storyline does continue through all three sections, the tone in each part is quite distinctly different to the other, yet they all work perfectly well together. So, you have moments of stark and quite horrific violence, tension and gore mixed in which some quite delightfully offbeat humour, all of which is delivered perfectly by the quite excellent cast.

Experimental at its core, The Signal never comes across as anything other than a totally accessible film; it won't baffle you, although it doesn't give you all the answers on a plate. It is very well made and belies its limited budget, aside from one or two suspect moments involving the bane of my movie-viewing life; and that is poor CGI. As I say though that is only once or twice during the movie, and didn't really spoil my enjoyment of it.

There are plenty of similarities between The Signal and other movies, and books, such as 28 Days Later, Hater and Kairo, yet it never seems to lose its own identity. To me this was due in part to the terrific script, it completely took me by surprise in places as there are some real gems in the dialogue. Aside from that it was purely speaking a terrific and well made movie.

Gory, funny, bleak and shocking, The Signal definitely impressed me, and I can only recommend it to those that like something that is just a little unusual yet strangely familiar.

Rating 3 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

June 24, 2008

The Ruins (2008)

More often than not if I watch a movie after reading the novel that it was based upon I find myself disappointed. Of course you can't fit everything that is in a book onto the screen. The Ruins has gone against that rule for me though. I did think the book was ok, it wasn't great by any stretch, but for the most part I thought it was fairly enjoyable. There was a little too much waffle and self-indulgence on the side of the main characters that just turned me off, although when it came to some of the many set-pieces it was quite terrific. The movie though, which was written for the screen by the author Scott Smith, seemed to be a more streamlined affair. Not perfect by any stretch, although I did have more fun with it than the novel.

The plot of the movie revolves around four Americans that are holidaying in Mexico. They meet up with a German, Matthias, who informs them that his brother has gone off to help on an archealogical dig at some ruins, that don't happen to be on any maps. The brother was due back, but has yet to return, so he wonders if the Americans, Jeff, Eric, Stacey and Amy, would like to come with him to find the ruins.

Of course they go along, it'd be a pointless movie if they didn't, however, on their journey there they are warned off by a local taxi driver, and then by the local Mayan's. Well, we assume they are being warned away as they don't speak English and no subtitles are given, which adds to the suspense if you ask me, something that worked well in the Hostel movies.

Once they make contact with the ruins themselves though they find they have no choice in whether to turn back or not; the locals won't let them leave now. What is it that is so bad that the Mayan's won't let the tourists leave?

We will, in due time, find out.

Now, first off, there are several events that have been changed from the novel to the movie. Some events do happen, but to different characters, and some events are new to the movie, which was great for me as it added an element of surprise to proceedings. For the most part though it was a fairly faithful adaptation, aside from the godawful end to the movie.

The Ruins was a fairly gruesome, surprisingly so in places, director Carter Smith not being afraid to show the gristly bits when needed. The bloody scenes further helped to enhance some of the later scenes when cleanliness may well have been the ideal option for the characters involved.

The special effects ranged from very good to slightly dodgy, especially when it came to the CGI shots of the ruins themselves. But, I was quite impressed with the rest of the effects work.

The cast did an ok job, although a couple of the actors seemed to struggle with the intensity of the situation. Nothing too much to grumble about though. Sure, they do stupid things, but don't they always? It is afterall a horror movie. If they did the right thing all the time they would still be sat at the beach getting drunk.

What really let it down for me though was that ending. Oh dear, it just annoyed me. Up until that point though I was having quite a good time with this movie. It was fairly well paced, nice and visceral, and had enough surprises to keep me hooked, even though I knew the main plot points from the book.

The Ruins is flawed, although I would definitely recommend it as a rental, if not a purchase.

Rating 3 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton