Transcendence (20140

As usual, I see Johnny Depp’s name and I am desperate to watch a film. Transcendence is no different.

Transcendence is a sci-fi thriller where Dr Will Caster (Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working towards a machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with a full range of human emotions. Of course, nothing in cinema is ever quite so straightforward…

With Depp films that are so so I generally end up liking them as he saves the film with his performance. Unfortunately, that cannot be said this time (maybe because he is not in it enough?) The film is a rhythmless, shapeless and, a lot of the time, cheesy looking. I think it gets taken too far with the story and gets carried away, to the point where I began to lose interest.

Transcendence neither thrills nor illuminates. In fact, in many respects, it is downright cowardly in its failure to pursue its oh-so-many themes, with several threads of ideas never woven into a whole.


The idea of the film, which is built on a set of intriguing moral and ethical conundrums involving our relationship with rapidly evolving computer technology is great but, unfortunately, it finds virtually no dramatic traction.

Transcendence is – it is sad to say – a film without great villains, thrills or, I would imagine, much of an audience.



The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel centres around the story and adventures of Gustave H, the legendary concierge at a famous European hotel and the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend, Zero Moustafa.

I had heard bits about this film but not enough to form any sort of opinion (which I think is always good!) or for me to know what the story line was like. Therefore, I was kind of going in blind. I must admit for the first ten minutes or so I really did not know what was going on or who was who, but once I got into the rhythm and style of the film, I was hooked.

This film presents more creativity and inventiveness than any of the recent box-office films combined. The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s finest attempt at film whimsy. He’s created a movie that is as visually stunning as it is smartly written.


The film is wonderfully camp and charming, all the more so for Ralph Fiennes in his funniest role yet. He truly is fantastic as Gustave H and when he was on screen I was mesmerised by him. The Grand Budapest Hotel is an overall marvelous film that is captivating from its artistic direction, sharp humor and dazzling performances from such a dynamic cast led by Ralph Fiennes.

It is hands down my favourite film of 2014 and I am not sure if anything can top it going into 2015. The Oscar nominations have just been released and The Grand Budapest Hotel has scooped up a whopping nine – all of which the film deserves to win. This is a film I will certainly be watching again and again. Brilliant.



Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar is a film that focuses on a world that is coming to the end and, due to this, follows a team of explorers as they undertake the most important mission in human history – traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars.

This film is undeniably ambitious whilst also technically accomplished. After the first hour, with its poignant depiction of humanity’s decline, Interstellar always seems to be rebuilding its momentum, offering plenty to think about throughout the length of the film. At times, I did find the film hard to follow and I was not always sure what exactly was going on. Despite this, the film kept me hooked and interested throughout and it was a story that gave you the ending you wanted.

McConaughey and his co-stars do a terrific job of underplaying the tech-nobabble and selling their individual moments and Nolan’s trademark big-picture confidence propels Interstellar through its near-three-hour running time with breathless style.


The depiction of the different planets for me was amazing. I loved the ideas and how they were presented to us on the big screen. It really does make you questions what else is out there in the universe.

Although hard to follow at times, generally the film was good and well worth a watch – you may even find you learn something!



Lucy (2014)

This is one of those films that when I start hearing bits about it and what it is about I get excited because I think what a brilliant idea! Something that has not been over-done or barely done at all and something that is so clever and interesting. Unfortunately, for me, the excitement did not last when I actually got around to watching the film!

Luc Besson both writes and directs this film starring Scarlet Johansson. Lucy is a thriller-action film in which Johansson’s character is accidentally caught in a dark deal and turns the tables on her captors when she transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.


Built on an erroneous premise, Lucy is a creative but hollow film that tries too hard for success. For the first half I was still buying into the idea of humans using a higher percentage of their brain but by the end I was quite happy that we don’t if this is what comes of it. Talk about talking things too far! It is such a shame as I think this film had such potential but it just went into overload and the end result was a film that was not memorable or really worth the time at all.

Lucy is a brash, breezy and breathlessly paced thriller, with a high-concept plot that falls apart the moment you start thinking about it. But Besson’s camera moves so fast that you rarely get the chance. Johansson’s character may find her IQ increasing throughout the 80 minutes, but I felt my own dropping just as quickly as I watched it! Such a shame…



Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel centres around a young boy that learns he has extra-ordinary powers and is not from Earth. He journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent to do and is faced with a decision if he should hand himself into men from his native world or stay on Earth and fight for his place.


Whilst this film does not achieve the brilliance of the modern Batman franchise, and while it certainly has a few flaws the action is undeniably well done and there are good character bits throughout.

The worst part of the film for me was the complete carnage that came alongside the fighting. I understand that the special effects are a big part of the film and that it is important to show these off but, seriously, how many buildings need to be destroyed during this? For me this is a little too over-the-top and one of the things that brings the film down slightly in my estimation (that, and Louis Lane’s hideous outfits! I know she is a serious journalist but I am sure she is capable of some sort of style!).

The film is action-packed, briskly paced and features a stellar cast. In particular, I was impressed with Henry Cavill. If you have ever seen him in an interview you will know that he is a very shy person and this worried me when I knew that he was to play Superman, but thankfully he played the part brilliantly.

Despite its slightly excessive running time, Man of Steel has definitely earned its place amongst recent comic-book adaptations, standing tall in the Marvel cinematic universe. I, for one, am certainly looking forward to the next.



12 Years A Slave (2013)

12 Years A Slave is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, the New York state citizen who was kidnapped and made to work on a plantation in New Orleans in the 1800s.

The film is terrifically well-intended and necessarily difficult to watch. I am not sure if we should refer to it as a masterpiece, more of a milestone. This, at last, really is history written with lightning. 12 Years A Slave is a huge achievement and is a career best for most of the cast that are involved, not least its artist-turned-director Steve McQueen. The whole film breathes with reality and reminds people of the shameful, inhuman past that haunts a lot of people.


Ejitor projects integrity, even nobility and he holds the camera brilliantly. His low-key, naturalistic acting mode is ideal for conveying Northup’s self control and intelligence.

A lot of 12 Years A Slave is difficult to watch, but it that rare film that is both important in its message and a very good film all at the same time. I felt deeply moved by the film and think that it is important that as many people see this film as possible.



Maleficent (2014)

Maleficent tells the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the classic Sleeping Beauty and the elements of her betrayal that turned her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and desire, Maleficent places an irrevocable curse on the human king’s newborn infant Aurora and the story centres around the girl and Malificent’s changing feelings towards her.

Jolie’s commitment to the role is admirable, however, for me, there is something missing, something that I cannot quite put my finger on. Perhaps it is almost that she tries too hard to be dark and angry and it comes across almost as forced. Jolie does, however, give her character a real emotional emergency, which is needed in the film.

In terms of the tone of the film, the story never really knows if it wants to be a kid’s story, a comedy, a fantasy or an action film, leaving it somewhere in limbo and ever-so slightly confusing in terms of the message that the film is trying to convey.

Now I have got the negatives out of the way, on to the better bits! Maleficent is admittedly great-looking and occasionally creepy, which I love. Visually, Maleficent’s wings are fantastic and breathtaking, a wonder to look at!


The film is a clever update of a classic tale that remains surprisingly faithful to the original whilst recreating the title character. It gives you the idea that you never really knew the story, whilst completely changing our views of what once was the evil, cruel, horrible villain. It works in the same way that Wicked does in that you end up rooting for the baddie!

Whatever its flaws, Maleficent is a family-friendly Disney adventure and something that you can easily get lost in, even if Jolie’s pained facial expressions disturb you slightly.



Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief (2010)

The film is based around a teenager, Percy, who discovers he is the descendant of a Greek god and sets out on an adventure to settle an on-going battle between the gods.

Personally, I find Greek mythology very interesting and throughout the film I enjoyed the constant references to this, including bringing in characters to represent the ideology and the stories. The film manages to pay its respects to the Greek myths and conveys them in a fun way.


Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief  is an enjoyable PG-rated family adventure in its own right, but Columbus’ film cannot live up to the Potter gold standard. Although it is not a perfect film, it does have a lot of passion that other franchise attempts have lacked. The film does have the right amount of action, humour, adventure and mythological allusions. Whilst the film may not have Potter’s complex world and multiple layers, it also does not have the angst and darkness. It replaces them with one thing in bulk: fun.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief is a safe, almost bland, test-marketed product made for teen mass consumption, but it works. It is a fun, effects-filled escapist adventure with several clever notions, my favourite being the fact that Medusa sells garden statues as a cover.



We Are What We Are (2013)

The Parkers have always kept themselves to themselves, and for good reason. Behind closed doors, patriarch Frank rules his family with a stern hand, determined to keep his ancestral customs at any cost. This film revolves around the Parkers trying to hold tight to a secret that they have kept quiet for many years, despite the fact that the local authorities have begun to uncover clues that point in their direction.


I feel that the film was stupendously dull, dull with the overloaded and under-supplied effect that bad horror alone truly offers. I chose a horror film to watch as it is a genre that I enjoy and I wanted to be scared, but the film was so slow and scary that there was not even a time when I felt scared, nor did I jump once. I understand that the film is trying to avoid cheap scares (and quite right too!) and adopt a theme that grows throughout that chills you to the core, but I just do not think that they were successful in doing this.

The film is to arty for true horror fans and much too grisly for art house movie goers. Because of this the film is stuck in some kind go limbo. The acting too was not great and at times it was rather painful to watch. Match all the above with a rather unsuitable score and you get a film I would advise giving a miss.



The Other Woman (2014)

The Other Woman is a film about a woman who, after discovering her boyfriend is married, tries to get her life back on track. When she accidentally meets the wife she has been cheating on, she realises they have much more in common and her sworn enemy becomes her greatest friend. When yet another girlfriend is discovered, the three team up to plot mutual revenge on the cheating SOB.


What begins as a smoothly oiled romantic comedy quickly morphs into a clattering, grinding screwball contrivance. The film, which does become funniest when Mann and Diaz start working together, seems to spiral very quickly into ridiculousness. The forms of revenge that are used are so unlikely and very unrealistic. It almost feels desperate and becomes rather uncomfortable to watch.

There is nothing new here. Director Nick Cassavetes puts no identifiable impression on the by-the-numbers comedy for me. And on top of that, I found Mann’s performance over-the-top and at most times awkward to watch. I feel she went to the extreme and in doing so overdid on the acting and performance.

With this cast and this subject matter the film should have been a lot funnier and more entertaining.