Monsters, Dark Continent Movie Review

Monsters Dark Continent

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Monsters: Dark Continent Movie Review

Directed by: Tom Green

Release Date: April 17, 2015

Rating: 4.00 stars out of 10

Review by: George Beremov

Scheduled for release on April 17 in the US, and May 1 in the UK, Monsters: Dark Continent is a follow-up to Gareth Edwards’ surprisingly well-crafted indie debut feature Monsters form 2010, that proved low-budget sci-fiers can be successful, too. While the latter was definitely a stepping stone for Edwards, who in 2011 was offered to direct last year’s Godzilla remake (and he did a great job with it), this sequel will hardly do its creator Tom Green the same favor, for the fact that the film simply fails to live up to its predecessor, let alone surpass it.

The plot takes place ten years after the events of  the first movie, where ‘Infected Zones’ have now spread worldwide, and revolves around a group of young American soldiers, sent abroad to contain the monsters, as well as to deal with the insurgency that has begun in the area.

The inevitable comparison between Monsters and its sequel shows that they have two things in common – they’re both character-driven, and they’re both, well, lacking in monsters, which kind of contradicts with their titles and premises. But while that happened to be a winning formula for the original flick, it certainly doesn’t work for Dark Continent, due to the many shortcomings of its under-conceived script, and Green’s unfocused, heavy-handed direction.

Monsters: Dark Continent spends quite some time to introduce its protagonists to the viewers, which is supposed to help the latter build a connection and care for them later on in the film. Sadly, none of these characters turns out to be particularly memorable or sympathetic enough for that to happen, despite the director’s forced attempt to involve us in all of their personal drama during the first thirty minutes or so.

Probably the only thing the original was missing was more monsters. Instead of fixing that mistake in the sequel and make those the focal point of the film, the director decides to neglect them (again), and go with a more ‘human’, but not necessarily more engaging story. Therefore, Monsters 2 feels more like a war movie, rather than a proper sci-fi creature feature and that is likely disappoint everyone expecting to see some exciting, monstrous action, especially considering the movie’s 119-minute running time. Unfortunately, Dark Continent feels a lot longer than it already is, as it has more than a few either pointless or overextended sequences that add no value to the story whatsoever. What really makes the whole experience even more underwhelming is the unnecessary and often distracting voiceover, and the countless pacing issues, which kill the little amount of energy the film possesses.

At least on a technical level, Monsters: Dark Continent succeeds to a certain extent. Set in the Middle East for a change, the movie has that gritty feel in the vein of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, and Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone. Director Tom Green’s visual style is obviously inspired by those two, but that’s hardly a fault, since it works for the most part. Cinematographer Christopher Ross uses a pale, washed out color palette in order to add a further rawness to the visuals, and he definitely achieves that. The humongous monsters themselves are impeccably-designed, and the CGI work on them is polished enough to make them look as realistic as possible. Too bad those creatures are vastly underused, and also too lazy to cause any real interest at all.

Bottom line: Overlong, wildly uneven, and often tedious, Monsters: The Dark Continent fails miserably to improve upon the original, hence, to raise the bar its predecessor set higher, being on par with it only in terms of looks, but never in terms on plotting, characters, entertainment value, or overall impact.

BEST ANIMATED FLICKS OF 2012

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BEST ANIMATED FLICKS OF 2012

by George Beremov

Not sure if you have noticed, but over the past ten years animated movies turned out to be generally better than most live-action films, and for that reason alone, this lovable genre deserves a bit more credit and attention. When speaking of animations, there was some tough competition last year – early spring brought us the colorful and cute The Lorax, which was good, but rather forgettable. A month later, Aardman Animations set the bar really high with the awesomely adventurous stop-motion feature, Pirates! Band of Misfits. Summer gave us a couple of sequels such as Madagascar 3 and Ice Age 4, as well as Pixar’s latest, Brave. Fall and winter also delivered, thanks to the highly enjoyable and beautifully-animated Wreck-It Ralph and Rise of the Guardians, both presented in 3D. Also, with flicks like ParaNorman, Frankenweenie and Hotel Transylvania, we can easily state that in 2012, animation went horror… in a kiddy sort of way, of course. After this short introduction, it’s time to find out which one of these ended up being the five best animated flicks past year had to offer.

 1. Frankenweenie

 Rating: 8.25 stars out of 10

Paying homage to such timeless classics as Pet Sematary and Godzilla, Tim Burton’s Frankenstein-inspired stop-motion horror spoof, Frankenweenie, is crafted with big love, care, and passion, and that shows through the lively, superbly-written and designed characters, and darkly stunning black-and-white visuals. Although bizarre, and typically grim and Gothic in tone and look, this film embraces its delightful weirdness to the fullest, and has a truly endearing story that will melt your heart, as well as great humor that will make you smile and cheer.

 2. Wreck-It Ralph

Rating: 8.00 stars out of 10

What makes this gem of an animation as complex as it is, is the fact that it manages to be visually breathtaking, without compromising on both, the plot and character development. Dealing with classic arcade video games we all loved, and grew up with, its unique story brings back precious memories from our childhood, Wreck-it Ralph may be lively and playful, but it’s not all about fun and games, as it has a softer and emotional side that teaches it’s okay to be different, as well as a powerful moral message for children and young adults.

3. ParaNorman

Rating: 8.00 stars out of 10

Slightly scary for little kids, but great fun for the older ones (as well as adults) seeking for something different, and even softly chilling, ParaNorman may lack the creativity, complexity and slickness of Henry Selick’s claymation masterpiece Coraline, but it’s nevertheless an inventive, incredibly well-crafted and marvellously-animated stop motion feature, with smart script, dark sense of humor, likable protagonist, truly unique visual approach, impressive attention to detail, and last but not least, a climax with surprising emotional depth.

4. Rise of the Guardians

Rating: 7.75 stars out of 10

Energetic, lively, imaginative, full of fresh ideas, and definitely worth-seeing in 3D, Rise of the Guardians not only astounds with its vivid, colorful, and richly-crafted animation, but also has heart-warming morality and ‘magicality’, that will win you over. David Lindsay-Abaire’s cleverly-adapted script mixes up mythological and fantasy elements with huge amount of wit and juvenile innocence, in order to provide us with a truly engaging storyline, with never a dull moment, that is as kind-hearted and affecting, as it’s action-packed.

5. The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Rating: 7.50 stars out of 10

This movie displays enough originality and creativity to save itself from being ‘you typical pirate affair’, and delivers many clever jokes for the adults as well as some silly but funny slapstick for the youngsters. What makes Pirates! Band of Misfits even more enjoyable is the adventurous nature of it, the superbly colorful characters, and last but not least, the ingeniously hilarious, yet inventive action scenes it proudly boasts. Clay animation is extremely difficult to execute, so both directors deserve credit for the remarkable job they’ve here.

 

The Hobbit

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [3D] (2012)

 Directed by: Peter Jackson

Release Date: December 14, 2012 (Wide)

Rating: 8.50 out of 10

Review by: George Beremov

 

Arriving almost a decade after The Return of the King, Peter Jackson’s long-awaited prequel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey celebrates the start of a whole new trilogy, and what a magical start it is! Having said that, do not expect another Lord of the Rings movie, so loyal fans of the trilogy, consider yourselves warned.

 

Taking place sixty years before The Lord of the Rings, the story unfolds around the much younger hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who sets out on an “unexpected” journey to the Lonely Mountain with a group of thirteen dwarves to reclaim their home from terrifying Smaug, the dragon.

 

Unlike the Lord of the Rings films, the first installment in the three-part sequel of The Hobbit is way more light-weighted, brighter in tone, and definitely not as action-packed as its three predecessors, as it focuses more on explaining everything we don’t know and need to know in a humorous, and kind of relaxed way, rather than providing us with non-stop spectacle.

 

The first half is reasonably slow-moving and lacking in action and vigor, spending all of its time on setting up the following “unexpected journey,” and introducing familiar as well as new characters, and giving them the depth and development they deserve. As soon as the journey starts, however, the pacing picks up rather quickly, and continues to flow smoothly throughout, injecting a dose of needed energy into the storytelling. It has everything from elves and orcs to trolls and goblins, and that diversity adds flavor to the adventure. The final act kind of makes up for the slow start, allowing the viewers to witness the incredible finale of the first entry, one filled with thrills, action, excitement, intensity, and eye-catching visuals.

 

Speaking of visuals, director Peter Jackson once again has chosen the most breathtaking filming locations in beautiful New Zealand, and that combined with the first-class CGI work leads to a spectacular visual result, the majesty of which will leave you in awe. The use of 3D is spot on, if not the best, but on certain scenes it’s incredibly effective, and makes you feel part of what’s happening on screen. The rock giants battle is a short, but very memorable part of the story, the final action scene is startlingly entertaining, and the scenes in the elves’ kingdom are a true state-of-the-art and gorgeous to look at. Aside from some pacing issues here and there, Peter Jackson’s direction is hard to fault really. His skills as a filmmaker have improved even more, especially in the technical department. As expected, he shows off his recognizable shooting style, and displays a tasteful visual flair, and remarkable attention to detail, complementing all of that with polished camera work and editing.

 

Apart from Bilbo Baggins, played wonderfully by Martin Freeman, the dwarves are also at the center of attention in this one, and oh boy, are they fun to watch! The actors playing them seem to have the time of their lives, delivering lively, amusing, and candid performances. Ian McKellen returns as the great wizard, Gandalf, and he appears to be fully dedicated to his character. However, it’s Andy Serkis as the schizophrenic Gollum that shines the brightest.

 

Bottom line: It lacks the grim feel and refined complexity that turned The Lord of the Rings trilogy into such a timeless fantasy classic, but The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is still an entertaining, visually-sumptuous and passionately-crafted prequel, and a more-than-solid start to the upcoming trilogy that will please fans and non-fans alike.

*****

 

A movie reviewer since 2004, George Beremov has a soft spot for horror, fantasy and martial arts films in particular, but as a true cinema connoisseur, he adores all the other genres as well. Eight years ago, he started writing reviews on a movie journal over at Rotten Tomatoes, but then left it behind, in order to run his own blog –CineMarvellous! – which became very successful since its debut back in mid-2009. You can follow George on Twitter @CineMarvellous and/or become a member of his blog (http://cinemarvellous.blogspot.com.)  He is a regular contributor to White Cat.

007 Back in Skyfall

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Four years after the release of Quantum of Solace, the new, twenty-third James Bond movie is finally a fact, and it’s definitely worth the long wait. Brought to life by one of the most acclaimed and talented directors in cinematic history, Sam Mendes, Skyfall is everything a modern spy thriller should be, and then some.

In Skyfall, James Bond’s loyalty to his boss, M, is tested as her past comes back to haunt her.  As MI6 comes under attack, agent 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

The latest Bond film starts out very promisingly, with a (thankfully) long, super-thrilling, high-octane opening sequence, filled with impressive stunts that are both difficult to perform, and hard to execute. The end result is an electrifying action spectacle, you’d hardly forget, followed by the coolest-looking opening credits since David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, featuring absolutely top-notch artsy graphics, and accompanied by Adele’s brilliant theme song of the same name, which created a global hype as big as the movie itself.

The film not only begins with a bang, but continues to excite and engage until the very end. The well-balanced and smartly-written script skillfully alternates dynamic action sequences with equally as absorbing dialogue-driven scenes, providing the viewer with a well-thought-out plot that is complex and intriguing, but at the same time neat and very easy to follow. Even though it would be a lie if we call Skyfall “action-packed,” the action it provides is nothing short of startling, masterfully-executed, and in perfect sync with the story.

American Beauty director Sam Mendes really outdoes himself in this one. He put all his heart and soul into the project, demonstrating incredible versatility, interesting directing choices, and first-class camera work, plus, the subtle, yet polished cinematography adds sophistication to the already tasteful visuals. Set in London, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Macau and the hauntingly beautiful Irish countryside, Skyfall offers a refreshing variety of settings, and the attention to detail in the lavishly stylish production design elevates the film’s overall look to a whole new level. ‘The island’ certainly deserves a special mention, because of its spectacular grittiness.

As expected, acting-wise, the film delivers in spades. Daniel Craig is arguably the best Bond so far, and he proves that with yet another strong, charismatic performance, baring a whole new vulnerable side of his otherwise powerhouse character, making James Bond look more flawed and human, and less heroic. Javier Bardem is perfectly cast as the villain Raoul Silva, and although his performance isn’t nearly as disturbing as the one in No Country for Old Man, his vicious character is still memorable and quietly intimidating. Judi Dench can do no wrong and she’s utterly fantastic as the “tough cookie,” M. Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris also do a wonderful job in their roles, and the gorgeous, sexually alluring Bérénice Marlohe is absolutely captivating as the new, “ill-treated” Bond girl, Sévérine.

Clever, thrilling, endlessly compelling, and brilliantly put together, Sam Mendes’ Skyfall may be a notch below Martin Campbell’s amazing Casino Royale, but it still ranks as one of the best, most accomplished, and ultimately entertaining Bond films to date.

 

Skyfall (2012)
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Release Date: November 9, 2012 (Wide)
Rating: 8.75 out of 10
Review by: George Beremov