Silver Emulsion

Film Reviews

Mini-Review: Splice (2010)

Splice (2010)

Starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac, Brandon McGibbon, Simona Maicanescu, David Hewlett, Abigail Chu

Directed by Vincenzo Natali

Expectations: Low.


Splice starts off rather well, peaks about forty minutes in, and then slowly declines until the last fifteen minutes or so. At this point it reaches the cliff of the Grand Canyon and jumps off into oblivion. Despite this bullshit final reel, Splice is actually pretty enjoyable for the most part and is surprisingly shocking at times, even to my depraved mind. Throughout the film the story hinted and teased that it might go down a certain path, but being a studio picture I thought it wouldn’t dare actually do it. They do go there and it’s shocking both visually and morally when they do. When you really think about what you’re witnessing, it’s some twisted shit and I wouldn’t have expected a major Hollywood picture to be this fucked up. It’s a shame that the script wasn’t as good as it could have been, because Splice isn’t too far away from being great, at least in the idea department. The elements are clearly here but the weak, plodding script lacks tension and genuine narrative flow. Even still, Splice is a lot better than I expected it to be.

Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are both adequate as the genetic research couple, but the star of the show is really Delphine Chanéac as their creation. Without revealing too much, she manages to encompass the questioning nature of her character and the mannerisms associated with her unique situation. The FX are great as well, as director Vincenzo Natali wisely has the masters at KNB providing killer practical FX that get as much screen time as their CG counterparts. The integration between the two is very well done and helps to sell the over-the-top plot to even the most jaded viewer. KNB’s work dominates the majority of close-up FX shots, allowing the intense details of the physical models to inform your mind when the less detailed CG versions take the reigns for the medium-range shots. Natali’s shot selection and framing is also excellent and adds quite a bit of intrigue and interest to the film through clever camerawork and beautiful cinematography.

The final reel is pretty piss-poor though, as it’s pretty clear that they had run out of ideas half an hour earlier. Any goodwill built up over the course of the film is quickly dissipated and the film ends with a telegraphed, bullshit moment that was only inserted so a sequel could be churned out if the film proved successful. Oh well, it was pretty fun while it lasted.

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November 27, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Horror, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1 & 1/2 Stars, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mini-Review: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jon Favreau

Directed by Jon Favreau

Expectations: Low.


 

I’ve tried to write something about Iron Man 2 for the past week or so and every time I get a couple of paragraphs in I lose interest. This is an adequate analogy for the film as it’s fun while you’re watching it, but there’s absolutely no substance backing it up. It’s a blockbuster, so I don’t necessarily need substance but Iron Man 2 fails to make it up with the killer action sequences and mind-numbing explosions that you expect. It has its share to be sure, but none of them are all that great. Probably my favorite moment of the film was watching Robert Downey Jr. work with his holographic hand-controlled computer interface, which was a fun advancement on the tech seen in Minority Report.

Overall, I liked the cotton candy of Iron Man 2 though. Mickey Rourke, despite a poor accent, is a great addition to the cast. It’s unfortunate that his part in the film is rather minor, as he has to share the villain limelight with Stark’s failing heart. As much as I love Don Cheadle, he is a step down from Terence Howard for this role. Cheadle seems much too soft, but does come into his own by the end of the film, when both Downey and him are suited up and ready to go. Scarlet Johansson is another wasted person, completely superfluous to the film and the story. It’s nice to lay the seeds of The Avengers movie within this film, but for me the S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff was pretty forced. Fuck it though, Sam Jackson as Nick Fury was fairly fulfilling and promises good things to come.

If you liked Iron Man, give this one a go with your brain set to mild indifference. If you go in riding high, you will only be disappointed with this sequel. It fulfills the childhood dreams of watching dudes in robot suits shoot lasers and shit, but not much else. The character relationships are incredibly shallow here and seem to marginally move past what was laid out in the first film. It’s fun and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it definitely leaves you wanting.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Action, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Rating: 2 Stars | , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Ghost Writer (2010)

The Ghost Writer (2010)

Starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton, James Belushi, Eli Wallach

Directed by Roman Polanski

Expectations: Low. As much as Polanski is a great, this looks like it will be so-so.


 

The Ghost Writer, the new film from Roman Polanski, is a thinly veiled tale about Tony Blair Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a British ex-Prime Minister who is being accused of war crimes, specifically of turning terrorists over to the CIA so that they could be tortured. One of the terrorists died and now while the shit hits the fan, ghost writer Ewan McGregor must come in and help Lang finish his memoir. Lang’s previous ghost writer was found washed up on the beach, a belly full of booze and the cause of death questionable. McGregor gets down to business and over the course of the film uncovers some information his unfortunate predecessor was investigating when he died.

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November 3, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Drama, Movie Reviews, Rating: 2 Stars, Thriller | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Temple Grandin (2010)

Temple Grandin (2010)

Starring Claire Danes, Catherine O’Hara, Julia Ormond, David Strathairn

Directed by Mick Jackson

Expectations: Moderate. It’s a TV movie, how good can it be?


Going into this one, I had virtually no knowledge of who Temple Grandin is, and I come out of the film filled with respect and admiration. She is a person who refuses to be stopped by a closed door, a brave woman in a world that doesn’t completely understand her. She has accomplished more than most “normal” people despite her autism and must truly be applauded for her work in the fields of autism and animal rights.

Temple Grandin opens with Temple (Claire Danes) coming to live on a ranch with her aunt (Catherine O’Hara) in preparation for her first days at college. Temple is a high-functioning autistic and becomes fascinated with the cattle at the ranch. One day she sees the cattle being put into a machine that holds them still so that they can be inoculated. At first, she is scared of the machine but becomes accepting when she sees that the cow feels comforted by the security it affords. She soon takes to the machine herself, as she avoids almost all physical human contact, and it gives her the security of a hug without the fear of actually touching another person.

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September 19, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Drama, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uncle Jasper reviews: Ip Man 2 (2010)

Ip Man 2 [葉問2:宗師傳奇] (2010)

Starring Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Lynn Hung, Huang Xiao-Ming, Louis Fan Siu-Wong, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Darren Shahlavi, Kent Cheng, Lo Meng

Directed By Wilson Yip


The original Ip Man was a bona fide classic, and a successful attempt at elevating the famous teacher of Wing Chun kung fu to folk hero status. Now he can join the ranks of Wong Fei-Hung, Fong Sai-Yuk, and Hung Si-Kwan by having endless films and cash in attempts made that peddle bogus, fictionalized accounts of his life and rape his good name for some of that good ol’ box office cheddar. I guess those are the perks that are in store for folk hero cardholders. And what better place to begin the shameless plundering than in the original’s much-inferior sequel, Ip Man 2. Ip Man 2 was a little better back when it was known as Rocky IV, and even then it wasn’t that great. We have Donnie Yen returning as Rocky Balboa, Sammo Hung as the aging martyr Apollo Creed, and overacting meathead Darren Shahlavi as the murderous boxer Ivan Drago.

Remember how classy Simon Yam was in the original Ip Man? Looking all Howard Hughes and shit in his fancy dinner jacket and business suits? He even played a big part in saving the Ip family from death by smuggling them into Hong Kong. Well in Ip Man 2, he’s been reduced to a jabbering retard with a voracious appetite for roast duck. In fact, Ip Man 2 is rather good at taking the carefully developed characters of the original and either reducing them to bit parts or tossing them to the wayside all together with brief appearances that are instantly forgotten. I would have preferred to not see them at all this time around if it meant preserving the integrity of the original.

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September 2, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Action, Drama, Foreign, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Expendables (2010)

The Expendables (2010)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis

Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Expectations: High.


The Expendables should have been great. It had so much going for it. I grew up watching 1980s action films and have been patiently awaiting a new release that re-captures some of their glory. When Stallone announced he was going back to the well one last time, and taking a bunch of badasses along for the ride, I was stoked from word one and had to do my best to keep myself from going into a violent frenzy in celebration. Unfortunately, the film is riddled with flaws and would have benefited greatly from a script rewrite and a focus on realistic, physical violence.

Not much back story is given throughout the film, but that’s okay, we all should know the drill by now. In pure 80s form, there’s a dictator doing some evil shit on an island off the coast of somewhere. Stallone and his posse ride in to take his ass down. Sounds good so far. I’m willing to shut down the think tank if they’re willing to put up some awesome action sequences. Unfortunately, like most facets of the picture, the action scenes are more frustrating than anything else. This brings me to my biggest problem with this film.

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August 30, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Action, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Uncle Jasper reviews: The Expendables (2010)

The Expendables (2010)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis

Directed By Sylvester Stallone


Oh no! It’s a new Hollywood Blockbuster! Jasper, you goddamned sellout. You soulless fink. Shouldn’t you be tooling along the lower rungs of the cinematic ladder? Shouldn’t you be rolling around in that piss-soaked cesspool digging up old, shitstained Lucha Libre movies nobody cares about? Or how about boring us to tears with yet another Shaw Bros kung fu film? Come on, it’s been four days now and you haven’t mentioned Chang Chieh or Chen Kuan-Tai… you’re losing your touch, bro.

Before you get all James Spader on my ass… bro, let me tell you that The Expendables pays tribute to the golden age of silly ass, testosterone-fused, over the top actioneers of the 80s in glorious fashion. Sure it’s stupid, loud, and full of more lapses in logic than a Bush presidency, but so were Commando, Delta Force, and Cobra. Those films defied their insipid plots and predictable formulas because they were fantastic action films featuring ripped motherfuckers who could actually dominate you in physical combat throwing around grenades and gunfire like it was rice at a wedding. None of these prancing, pencil-necked geeks who pass as action stars nowadays can even hold a candle to these meaty killing machines of the 80’s. The Expendables knows this and instead of going with some scrawny Hollywood cash-machine like Will Smith, decides to man up and bring old genre legends like Dolph Lundgren back to the screen as well as genuinely capable action stars like Jet Li.

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August 30, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Action, Movie Reviews, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Inception (2010)

Inception (2010)

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Tom Berenger, Dileep Rao

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Expectations: Extremely high. Through the roof even.


I’ve been a big Christopher Nolan fan since the release of Memento several years ago. I patiently wait for each of his films and relish the moment when a new one is unleashed on the unsuspecting masses. Nolan is one of the best working directors right now and with Inception he proves that even without Batman, his films can be successful within the mainstream culture. He is the new superstar director for our age with a firm, virtually unmatched grasp on filmmaking and storytelling. He’s at the top of his game in Inception, skillfully making over two and a half hours fly by at a good pace as I sat on the edge of my seat for most of the film.

I went into Inception only knowing a few minor details about it. I had seen the first trailer released months ago once and then completely avoided everything after. This really works to the film’s advantage as I had almost no idea what was coming next. If you can, see the film as uninformed as possible. As much as I enjoy having readers, I advise you stop reading now if you haven’t seen the film. I’m not going to lay out the plot or anything but I do plan on mentioning a few aspects that would be better off experienced without prior knowledge. You’ve been warned!

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August 27, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Action, Movie Reviews, Rating: 3 & 1/2 Stars, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Mini-Review: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas

Directed by Tim Burton

Expectations: Extremely low.


I normally would have avoided this but for some unexplained reason I decided to give it a go. I’m a fan of the original Alice story and I was curious to see how Tim Burton would film it, but the ridiculous amount of CG told me to steer clear. Burton’s later work for me has been fairly hit or miss, so I didn’t go into this with any expectations that I would enjoy this at any meaningful level. Like many things that your intuition tells you to avoid, Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is definitely one to go into treading lightly.

I was intrigued quite a bit by the opening forty minutes or so. It was paced well and it was interesting to see how the older Alice reacted to the various things in Wonderland. The CG work is actually pretty good and lends the film an animated quality. That’s not to say that it isn’t excessive though. Virtually everything in the film is CG, including the horses that characters ride upon. Surprisingly the computer imagery is not my main beef with the film though. It’s Burton’s complete lack of emotion or energy with this film. If there’s ever been a guy that needs to take a few years off and reconnect with his passion, it’s Burton and this should be exhibit A. It’s lifeless and the plethora of CG doesn’t help. No thanks.

Oh, and it has what is probably Danny Elfman’s most tired, boring, passionless score as well. Maybe they were going for passionless as a motif?

August 13, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Fantasy, Kids, Mini-Reviews, Movie Reviews, Rating: 1 & 1/2 Stars | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Uncle Jasper reviews: Gallants (2010)

Gallants [打擂台] (2010)

Starring Chen Kwan-Tai, Bruce Leung, Teddy Robin Kwan, Wong Yau-Nam, JJ Jia, M.C. Jin, Susan Shaw Yin-Yin, Lo Meng

Directed By Derek Kwok, Clement Cheng


My interest in Gallants was initially piqued after hearing that it marked the big screen return of Shaw Brothers veterans Chen Kwan-Tai and Lo Meng. Then after learning that ex-Bruce Lee clone, Bruce Leung starred alongside as well, nothing short of a sham-wow could mop up my steady stream of drooling anticipation. It was an instant sell. After finally getting a chance to see it, the novelty of seeing all of my favorite old-school kung fu heroes together again pales in comparison to the fantastic inspiration and brilliant testament to the fighting spirit that this film delivers. I am in love with Hong Kong cinema again and all I want to do is run outside and jump-kick garbage cans for the next three hours.

Equal parts Rocky, The Karate Kid, and Cocoon, Gallants is as inspirational as these films yet manages to remain a loving product of its homeland. Anybody with even a vague interest in the martial arts will be glued to the screen here, and old school Shaw Brothers fans are especially in for a treat. But what Gallants has to say is transcendent of simple setting and surface visuals. Yes this is a film about the martial arts and the perseverance of the fighting spirit. But even more so, this film deals with everything from courage, redemption, dignity in old age, to the convenient and flashy repackaging of honored philosophies in order to make a quick buck. The rewards that can be reaped from this film are virtually endless. You can cram a theater full of viewers into a screening of Gallants and nearly every person could take away something a little different.

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August 5, 2010 Posted by | 2010s, Action, Drama, Foreign, Martial Arts, Movie Reviews, Uncle Jasper Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments