Tuesday, August 27, 2013



  • Released Internationally on 07/08/13
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 28/08/13
Review (27/08/13)

3-word review: Slightly inferior follow-up.

The future is now

The illegal migrants huddle together in terrified silence, praying and hoping to get to their new life safely. After paying more than they can afford to a sleazy merchant who thrives off desperation, they make a valiant attempt to reach the promised land where their children can grow up safely, with clean air and free healthcare. The risk they take is huge - most of them will not survive the trip.

This is not some extract from a news bulletin about the current situation in the Mediterranean, it’s a rather poignant scene early on in the film, which despite being fast-paced and action-driven manages to give us a taste of the migrants’ hopes and fears, and strike home the very relevant message. Just like in Neil Blomkamp’s first film, District 9, the use of a futuristic vision of earth to tackle a present-day issue is very well-executed.

Unfortunately, this second film of his doesn’t manage to maintain the novelty and relevance of his first, and after a very impressive opening the film descends slightly into standard, unemotional action territory, with a few quiet scenes here and there which beg you to care by slowing things down and chucking a wailing ethnic female voice on the soundtrack. It doesn’t always work.

In a nutshell

The stunning opening gives us just two sentences of backstory, and manages to draw us immediately into Elysium’s world - earth is diseased and overpopulated, and the elite few have escaped into a massive space station orbiting the earth, where they live in lush green tranquillity whilst keeping a sharp lookout for any unworthy ones trying to crash the party. Jodie Foster is the face of the elite and Matt Damon is our hero on the ground.

After an accident at work, his health suddenly becomes an issue, and the script goes for the old trick of adding urgency to the story by giving him a set number of days to live. With nothing to lose, he plans a daring trip to Elysium, with the altruistic aim of making their wonderful healthcare tools available for all of Earth.

Has its good points

Damon is, as always, very likeable, and his human side manages to shine through here, despite the prosthetics and exoskeleton they screw into him to make him strong enough for the mission. The shots of earth are impressively done - it looks like one enormous favela - but what I really loved was the look of Elysium. Definitely a space station, but for once designed with the possibility of fresh air and open-air landscapes. Very clever. The visual effects are all top-notch, including droids that looks better than Transformers and a couple of memorable healing shots.

Sharlto Copley, who shot to fame after his unforgettable main role in District 9, is back in a prominent role here, initially treading the line between Earth and Elysium as a rogue gun for hire. The sense of urgency is maintained throughout the film, which runs for what I thought was the perfect length for this type of film, and which thankfully helped us forget some of the inconsistencies and clichés it contained by ending beautifully.








Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Lone Ranger


  • Released Internationally on 03/07/13
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 14/08/13
Review (13/08/13)

3-word review: Surprisingly, consistently, fun.


British comedian Billy Connolly once defined ‘intellectual’ as ‘someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger’. Well that rules me out. After months spent watching re-runs of the 50s TV show as a child, Rossini’s orchestral gallop is forever linked to the masked hero in my mind, and I must admit I felt a surge of excitement when it burst onto the screen this time around.

News from afar

Inevitably, us European audiences are often influenced by feedback from the US when it comes to tentpole films which aren’t released simultaneously worldwide. In this case, Disney’s big summer blockbuster flopped spectacularly, despite Johnny Depp’s name being plastered everywhere and despite much of the crew from the Pirates of the Caribbean films being on deck. The reasons why could be debated at length, but for starters the film is definitely a good half-hour too long, which always means less box-office returns. That aside, however, I couldn’t find any obvious, major flaws, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

Wild Wild West

Westerns tend to struggle to find an audience, but when done well I find them hugely entertaining. This one is about as western as it gets, and there’s equal parts sweeping, gorgeous vistas and oppressive heat and dust. Director Gore Verbinski (who has already regaled us with a masterful western starring Depp - Rango), makes more than the occasional nod to the spaghetti westerns of the Sergio Leone days, from highlighting the bad guy’s clear blue eyes to using incidental background sound effects to create tension. And like all the great classic tales from the west, train tracks and native Indians form an essential part of the plot.

Why so serious?

Thankfully, Verbinski steers clear of the classics when it comes to taking himself seriously, and just like Rango this film is infused with a healthy dose of self-awareness and humour. It is mostly provided by the misunderstood and seemingly not-too-bright Tonto (Depp), who proves to be a useful sidekick much in the vein of captain Jack Sparrow. He gets to do a lot of eye-rolling too, due to the bumbling antics of the titular character himself (Armie Hammer, The Social Network). The excuse for the Texas ranger’s lack of expertise is that this is an origin story, and he therefore makes the transition from clean-cut legal office man to bankable vigilante before our eyes. The tongue-in-cheek attitude is a blessing, especially when your hero is a man in a suit, mask and white hat, who rides a horse whiter than Shadowfax and who silhouettes himself against the setting sun whilst yelling “Hi-Ho Silver!”. Verbinski handles all this marvellously, and I for one laughed out loud more than once.

Cast & Crew

Besides the two main guys, the film is populated with a host of two-dimensional characters, but the talented cast does the job admirably, with William Fichtner (The Dark Knight Rises, Armageddon) finally getting a full-blooded bad guy role, Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, Batman Begins) playing his usual shifty self, and Helena Bonham Carter (Big Fish, The King’s Speech) pulling out all her eccentric tricks. Behind the scenes, the film boasts wonderful scenery and some stunning shots, including a few self-aware, eye-catching ones as in all Verbinski’s recent efforts, and one set piece that looks like a scaled-down Helm’s Deep. Composer Hans Zimmer moves on from the noisy Man of Steel and shits into playful mode, including his all-important take on the Overture, which predictably ends up sounding like Rossini on steroids, in a good way.

In the end

It has its flaws, and it could have been shorter, but it’s gorgeous to look at, fun throughout, and packed with action, humour and some (predictable) drama. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it ticked all my boxes for a summer blockbuster, and provided more escapist entertainment than many of its more successful summer competitors. And it was definitely the most fun I’ve seen on a train since Back to the Future Part III, which was over two decades ago.





Should you sit through the end credits? Yes