Tag Archives: toby kebbell

Fantastic Four – Review

3 Sep

I always look at movies at having a certain kind of structure. Every movie I watch has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In that regard I have to hold Fantastic Four as one of the most complex experimental films I have ever seen. I’m kidding, of course. That would be the same as me saying that Fantastic Four is the best comedy of the year. Let’s be honest, though. This is a superhero “movie” released in the year 2015, and this is the best they had to offer. Fantastic Four is one of the most gut wrenchingly awful movies I’ve seen in a long time, if you can even call it a movie.

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Reed Richards (Miles Teller), who along with his close friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), have been working since childhood to perfect a device that could act as a teleporter. This catches the eye of scientist Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) at a high school science fair. They bring Reed and Ben to the Baxter Foundation, along with Franklin’s son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and outcast Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), to build it on a much grander scale. When the government wants to use their people as its first explorers, Reed leads his team on a rogue trip to another dimension where they accidentally receive superpowers, but also lose von Doom. As the kids are being utilized by the military thanks to their unique powers, the threat of someone now being called Dr. Doom looms in the next dimension waiting for revenge.

I have to give Fantastic Four a lot of credit for being a big budget blockbuster release without actually being a movie. This isn’t a movie, plain and simple. Let’s start at the beginning. We’re introduced to cardboard cutout recreations of the beloved comic book character. Since they seem to be completely devoid of all personality, it goes without saying that there is absolutely no chemistry between any of them. I can’t even blame the cast because they’re all very talented actors. Miles Teller and Toby Kebbell especially seem to be really trying to work with the lackluster material that was given to them. So with all of the characters introduced and all of the exposition given, the movie continues simply because it has to in order to get to the end, without any visible rhyme or reason.

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Now we come to the middle of the “movie.” Whether you like the 2005 version or not, you have to admit that it at least builds up some sort of suspense and relationship between the characters. In this version, there is none of that. After they get their powers, we skip to one year later, and they all have complete control over their abilities. Great. So one of the most fun parts of the “movie” doesn’t even exist. The characters who will later go on to be one of the greatest superhero teams in comic book history don’t even really spend any time together or talk at all, so when they are finally all forced to combine their powers (a scene which I am unfortunately getting to) it doesn’t feel cool because they haven’t been through anything together. It’s like the whole second act of the “movie” was scrapped which made me feel like I was missing a lot.

The third act of Fantastic Four may go down as one of the best punchlines ever put on screen. It so perfectly completes the joke. Instead of seeing a fight between the Fantastic Four and their arch enemy Dr. Doom, we see… I don’t really know what. It’s not a fight certainly. It’s not even a climax since nothing was really building to it. The scene just happens because it’s a “movie” about the Fantastic Four, so we need a final showdown where they all work together as a team. But they still don’t even really do that. What was everyone working on this “movie” thinking? Have they ever watched anything else before? What twilight zone an I in that something this ludicrous, muddled, and nonsensical can be released?

How can this “movie” even be called Fantastic Four when they really aren’t even in it. I saw no evidence of them or Dr. Doom or any of the other characters. This movie was in trouble from the start with the rights to the material, the studios making major changes, and Josh Trank’s apparent behavior on set. Fine, whatever. That’s not what I’m talking about. The fact that it’s 2015 and a superhero movie like this can be released is absolutely ridiculous. I can only hope that this acts as a punch in the face to studios, telling them that just because it has comic book characters in it, doesn’t mean it can’t fail miserably.

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Dead Man’s Shoes – Review

16 Sep

Revenge tales are a dime a dozen in the movie business. If were to count how many films were released per year whose main focus was on a character getting revenge, the results would probably be staggering. Luckily for me and everyone else, I don’t have that kind of patience. The point of what I’m trying to say is that if someone wants to make a revenge film, they better make it original in one way or another, because if not, they don’t give anyone a real reason to see it. Enter Shane Meadow’s little revenge flick from 2004, Dead Man’s Shoes. This is a movie that has me torn in every sense of the word. On one end, this is a great story with enough originality to please any film buff, but also some weak writing and plotting that makes the entire movie feel close to wasted.

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Richard (Paddy Considine) is a veteran returning back to his small English town to find it still in the hands of a small time group of drug dealers and thugs. These men don’t pose a serious threat to the community, but that wasn’t the worry of Richard’s in the first place. Richard has come for a much more personal form of revenge after he learns of the torture that this gang put his mentally challenged younger brother, Anthony (Toby Kebbell), through. As Richard’s vengeance becomes much more physically and psychologically violent, the drug dealers become more desperate and we are left to wonder if Richard is pushing things way too far.

To start with what’s really good about this movie, the story, at it’s very core, is actually really good because it caused me to actually really analyze the situation. This isn’t a story of really good guys that we can root for pitted against really bad guys that we love to hate. While Richard is seen as the protagonist, for most of the movie, I felt kind of uncomfortable with how he was acting and the violence that he was doing in order to achieve his mission of revenge. On the flip side, while the gang is definitely a despicable group of punks, they aren’t what I’d call evil. This leaves the story left in a morally gray area where there isn’t good vs evil, it’s actually just one person against other people.

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Where Dead Man’s Shoes fails in a way that hurts my very soul is the way the plot is laid out. I’m such a stickler for plots and narrative structure since the whole reason I love to watch movies is to get lost in a story. A movie can have nothing special going for it visually, but if it has a great story that’s plotted well, I really could care less. Dead Man’s Shoes has a great story that is plotted miserably. I felt like the movie went from A to C and brushed right by B only revealing the littlest but. A movie of this intensity that involves physical and psychological vengeance needs to have suspense, and this movie had very little. Don’t get me wrong, there was a scene or two with great suspense, so it was there, but there wasn’t enough in the movie as a whole.

So yes, the movie is almost spoiled by lack of suspense and a messy narrative structure, but not all of the writing is bad. Being co-written by both Shane Meadow (the director) and Paddy Considine (the star), the movie does have excellent dialogue and scenes. This might also add to the fact that I wanted more movie. The dialogue performed by the actors was so natural and real that it brought a level of realism to the film. That combined with Meadow’s often documentary-like directing in many of the scenes. You can see that the movie was made cheaply, but that doesn’t change the fact that it looks great and has great performances, especially by Paddy Considine who gives one of the most menacing performances I’ve seen in awhile.

Dead Man’s Shoes pulls me in a few different directions. On one end, I’m disappointed at the lack of suspense and the way the story just kinda rushes by, not giving me any time to get really nervous. On the other end, the story is original, the acting is excellent, and the ending kind of blew me backwards. It’s also true that as I’ve had time to think about it, I really want to see it again, and knowing what it’s all about I might like it a little bit more. I do like this movie, but not quite as much as I should have.

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Review

19 Jul

Not too long ago, I reviewed the entire Planet of the Apes franchise starting with the 1968 original and covered all of the sequels, including Tim Burton’s remake and what I would consider the “official” reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I considered the 2011 film to be the best in the series since the original film was released over 40 years ago. Now we have the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and when I say it can easily be considered one of the best sequels ever made, I mean it. Not only does it build on what was presented in the first film, it completely enhances the entire experience in every way possible.

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After the events of the first film, the apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis) are living in the redwoods outside of San Francisco and the human population have mostly died off from the ALZ-113 Virus, now known as the “Simian Flu.” Not all humans are dead, however, with a prominent group of uninfected living in San Francisco and led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) and Malcolm (Jason Clarke). The group has been doing well, although the fuel power that they are living on won’t last too much longer which forces them to travel into the woods to reactivate a dam that powered part of the city in the past. The humans, led by Malcolm, soon encounter the apes who eventually decide to help them in their mission. This peace and understanding doesn’t last long when members of both sides threaten to shatter everything that has been achieved, the guiltiest party being Caesar’s right hand, Koba (Toby Kebbell).

What I love most about these movies is that they were first made in a time when the social commentary that was being discussed worked very well and had a positive impact on the way people were thinking. That’s also part of the reason why I think Tim Burton’s movie failed as much as it did. There was no real discussion to be had. With Rise of the Planet of the Apes and now Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the social commentary is back and more relevant than ever. This film is one of the most intelligent summer blockbusters I have seen in a while. It may be a story about man vs ape, but it’s also a story about how prejudice and our preconceived notions and hatreds are enough to spark violence on any scale. This may not be anything new, but in light of recent events all around the world, it’s a message that needs to be heard.

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It may not come as a surprise to most people when I say that Andy Serkis is one of the best actors in the business. It annoys me to no end that he hasn’t even been nominated for any Academy Awards for his performances. I’ve heard arguments that he isn’t “actually in the movie” which is complete bullshit and here’s why. Every movement and emotion of Caesar’s that you see is all Andy Serkis. He is acting in this movie and deserves the proper recognition. That goes for a lot of the other actors too, mainly Toby Kebbell as Koba and Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes. The human cast are all fine too, but the real emotion lies with the apes. Even Gary Oldman is completely outdone by the motion capture actors.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is also the best looking movie you’re going to see all summer and possibly the entire year. The special effects in this movie are absolutely perfect. One scene in particular shows Koba in a close up and it was unbelievable how real it looked. I was shocked. Don’t get me wrong though. This movie isn’t all about the special effects, and the way the story is written confirms that. The dialogue and narrative are so tightly written there’s not a scene out of place. Every shot of every scene has a purpose so the movie feels just as long as it needs to be. It’s a perfect combination of using special effects in order to enhance the story telling.

I wasn’t surprised by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, at least not too much. I knew that this movie was going to meet and then exceed my expectations, which it did. Everything from the performances to the effects to the intelligence of the story mixed together to make the perfect summer blockbuster. This did exactly what a sequel should do: build on its predecessor and ultimately be a better film. If you haven’t gotten the chance to see this piece of remarkable film making, get your ass in gear and head to the theaters immediately.