Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Allegiant (2016)

Allegiant poster

Shailene Woodley is one of my favourite young actresses.  Ever since she did that dramatic ‘crying-underwater’ scene in “The Descendents” she’s been someone to watch.  And, while it was another “Hunger Games” wannabe – “Divergent” was a good story, well acted and with good visual effects. 

Unfortunately the series has progressively gone downhill: “Insurgent” was poor but coherent; and now “Allegiant” is both poor and mind-numbing.

Allegiant 6
Superman and Batman had done the usual with the city’s skyscrapers, but glazing contractor Four has time for one last snog before getting back to work.

After the revelations at the end of “Insurgent” Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Peter (Miles Teller), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Tori (Maggie Q) defy Chicago leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts) and make a dash for escape beyond the Chicago walls to find those living beyond in the alleged wilderness. There they meet ‘Pure’ leader David (the ever-busy Jeff Daniels) and his acolytes. According to David, Tris is key to the world’s recovery.  But can he be trusted?  

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Tris and Four were keen on practising safe sex, but it was difficult to see how the extra safe condoms were ever going to work.

It is telling that every screenwriter in this series has been different, and this time Noah Oppenheim (from the similar “Maze Runner”) with Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (from “Exodus: God and Kings”) have the pen, but do little positive with it. Much of the dialog clunks onto the ground much like the leaden transports featured in the film. And some of the plot points are obvious beyond belief. No real spoilers here, but when one of the lead characters gets shot it was so blindingly obvious that it was about to happen that I audibly groaned with disbelief that the writers had so little respect for the audience.

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The dynamic team O’Haring it out of Chicago (geddit?).

As another example of bone-headed writing a nerve gas used in the film is so much heavier than air that it sits on the floor for minutes at a time. How will they ever escape in Chicago?  (Erm – climb up to a second floor perhaps?). Presumably everyone was OK since they only got a small dose… so were just ‘a bit’ brain damaged?  

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Miles Teller as the ever-reliable Peter.

The special effects are pretty ropey in places. Some of the green screen work (an early shot with Miles Teller in particular) is really poor. Just about nothing looks real.

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They’d been walking down Weston-Super-Mare beach for three days now but had still not reached the sea.

The director is Robert Schwentke (“Insurgent”; “Flightplan”; “The Time Traveller’s Wife”) but this doesn’t extend his reputation (apart from presumably with the studios, since poor as it is it’ll no doubt still attract an audience).

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Eyes down gents for a gratuitous cleavage shot. Fans of the shapely Woodley will be pleased to hear she has her own Ursula Andress/Dr No detox scene to enjoy.

Shailene Woodley does herself credit with the material she has and has chemistry with the hunk of the piece, Oxford-born Theo James. But she is far better than this stuff. Unfortunately, this series doesn’t end as a trilogy: she will be back again as Tris is “Ascendent” in 2017. But before then she has a starring role in Oliver Stone’s Edward Snowden biopic, so hopefully can prove herself there.

Fad Rating: FF.

 

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Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Birdman (2015)

birdman1

At one point in Birdman “or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)“, Michael Keaton as ‘celebrity turned serious actor’ Riggan Thomson rants at a vicious New York Times critic Tabitha (the excellent Lindsay Duncan – – “About Time”; “Dr Who: Waters of Mars”) about how all critics lamely fall on “labels” and “comparisons” to describe their subjects, never getting to the guts of how the art made them actually FEEL. And it made me FEEL like he was talking directly to me!  

So how did Birdman make me feel? What would be the snappy tag lines I would put on the poster?  

“Astonished”;

“Deeply impressed”

“Full of wonder”

“Slightly irritating” (that one probably wouldn’t make the poster).

Birdman is definitely not a mainstream film, and it is likely to baffle and frustrate audiences almost as much as last year’s almost impenetrable “Under the Skin”. Riggan Thomson is part long-in-the-tooth actor and part superhero, at least in his fevered mind if not in reality. Surfing the C-list celebrity ocean following past glories in ‘Birdman’, ‘Birdman 2’ and ‘Birdman 3 (The Quest for Peace)’, Thomson needs to prove to himself, his inner daemons and the world in general that he is a “real actor” by staging a play on Broadway. (In this regard, following Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman”, this is almost art imitating life for Keaton). For this heroic effort he chooses a short play by Raymond Carver called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” adapting it to allow himself to shine in the spotlight.

Your (alter-)ego's behind you
Your (alter-)ego’s behind you

Thomson provides Broadway debuts for friend Lesley (Naomi Watts; “King Kong”; “The Impossible”) and crazy girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough; “Oblivion”; “Brighton Rock”), but is less than impressed with his male co-star. ‘Birdman’ exits the guy with an “accident”, but unfortunately that introduces a cuckoo into the acting nest in the form of  famous actor Mike (Edward Norton), who risks completely upstaging Thomson with his theatrical brilliance.

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This introduction leads to one of the best laugh-out-loud lines of dialogue so far in 2015: “How do you know Mike Shiner?” asks Keaton; “We share a vagina” replies Watts.

Again with this introduction, we see art imitating life, since Norton’s performance (particularly in the first reel of the film) genuinely does risk outshining Keaton, despite all of his Oscar hype. I thought after “Whiplash” my choice for Best Supporting Actor was fairly safe with J.K Thompson…. but after seeing Norton’s performance I could see the race as much closer.

Overall though this remains Keaton’s film, and his performance is remarkable in an extremely varied and challenging role. 

Also remarkable is the gorgeously kooky Emma Stone as his sexually-louche and druggie daughter-cum-assistant Sam. This is particularly true in one astonishingly good rant to camera, where Stone delivers what could be termed an “Anne Hathaway Les Miserable” moment in its Oscar-worthyness. In each film, Stone is just getting better and better.  I have said it before and will say it again, Stone is a future Streep in the making.

We've run out of Marmite - - AGAIN???
We’ve run out of Marmite – – AGAIN???

As the previews of the play progress towards a dramatic opening night, Thomson’s grip on reality continues to unravel, as pressures get forced on him from all sides: artistic via Shiner; financial via his managerial colleague Jake (a dramatically better Zach Galifianakis than in the “Hangover” series); and via parental guilt over the relationship with his daughter. His outbursts both as Thomson and (down two octaves) Birdman become more and more extreme and paranoid – “I’m a f****** trivial pursuit question” he rants at one point while destroying his dressing room in rock group style.

There was only one cubicle, and you know how long women take.
There was only one cubicle, and you know how long women take.

The startlingly daring drum soundtrack by Antonio Sanchez actually counterpoints the action extremely well. Breaking down the fourth wall, the drummer keeps randomly appearing in a most surprising manner.

So what of the “Slightly irritating” poster quote? Director Alejandro González Iñárritu undoubtedly delivers a tour de force of a film; an instant classic that will be poured over by film students for years to come. However, he delivers the whole film in the style of one continuous take (give or take the odd time lapse sequence).  And whilst this was entertaining to start with, I personally started to find it tiresome and irritating by the end of the film. Like Hitchcock’s “Rope”, also filmed in this way, you are constantly distracted by looking for where the edits actually fall, sometimes seeing what looks to be an inconsistent couple of frames where perhaps no cut existed in the first place! 

This is NOT the tone of the film:  do NOT go expecting an "Avengers" film!
This is NOT the tone of the film: do NOT go expecting an “Avengers” film!

Worthy of note though was Emmanuel Lubezki (“Gravity”) who’s cinematography also bore many similarities to Hitchcock classic effects, including long drifting panning shots that appear to seamlessly melt through metal railings etc.  Very impressive.

In summary, this is a must see for lovers of the art of filmmaking, and Birdman should feature very strongly at the Oscars in a month’s time.

Fad Rating:  FFFFf.