Sunday, 21 July 2013

Dark Review - Pacific Rim

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Pacific Rim Review

By Casey Douglass

Image ©Warner Bros. Pictures

Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim has been my most looked forward to film of the year so far. This is unusual for me as I don’t often get to that stage of anticipation with many films. The last one that did was probably The Dark Knight Rises. So I will tell you now, I give Pacific Rim 5/5. It’s not a perfect film but I personally loved it.

Pacific Rim is the story of humanities struggle against invading monsters that emerge from the depths of the Pacific. These creatures are Kaiju, denizens of another dimension, that travel to our own through a “dimensional rift” on the ocean floor. Initially they come through at the rate of one every few months, but the frequency increases as time progresses, the gap between each emergence narrowing with every new creature rearing its ugly head. In response to this threat, the countries of the world band together and create the Jaegers, colossal human driven robots that can fight the Kaiju on their own terms.

The humans prevail for awhile, but the escalating numbers of Kaiju soon overwhelm their capacity to keep patching the Jaegers up and sending them out to do battle. Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), is a Jaeger pilot who comes off the unfortunate loser against a large Kaiju. He bows out of the program feeling that he is washed out and done. The Jaeger program is deemed ineffective and funding is stopped in favour of other defences. Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), was in charge of the whole scheme, and refuses to give in. He corrals the last of the Jaeger into one base, determined to carry on the fight, and re-enlists his favourite pilot Becket once more.

It is here that the film really launches off into the guts of the storyline, giving glimpses of pilot relationships, research into the Kaiju and other projects and dealings that both empower and jeopardize the war effort. It felt to me that more time was spent running around deciding what to do than driving the robots and punching monsters in the face. I do feel that the film was better for it though. It made every action scene that much more exciting by not over-saturating the viewer with too much robot flesh (I’m looking at you Transformers!).

The Jaeger themselves are things of metallic beauty, each one built by its own respective world power in its own distinct way. The Russian one is strong and stark compared to the Chinese one which is lithe and agile with whirling blades. The Kaiju themselves offer great variety too, some resembling lizards, others sea creatures. They also vary in size and abilities in as many ways as the Jaeger.

When the two enormous fighters clash, it is certainly a thrilling sight. Guillermo del Toro penned a piece in the July issue of Empire magazine, going into his influences and enthusiasm for Kaiju movies growing up in Mexico. (A very interesting read). He says that he always felt the Kaiju were forces of nature, like a tornado or a tsunami. I would say that he achieves this effect in Pacific Rim with great skill. They are certainly majestic in their own way, which is another effect of his own love affair with them. He says that he always finds himself rooting for the monster. This brings me back to the last film that made me excited to see it. The last two Batman films in fact. Both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises had me rooting as much for the villain as for Batman. I did feel the same in Pacific Rim. There is just a part of me that enjoys revelling in mass destruction and is envious of things that don’t seem to have to follow any outside rules.

I really enjoyed Pacific Rim, the story, the fights, the effects and the acting. It was great to see Idris Elba in something like that, along with Charlie Hunnam and Robert Kazinsky, all great British actors who should appear in as much as possible in my humble opinion. I still find myself reflecting on the film almost a week after seeing it, and am looking forward to its hopefully soon blu-ray release. I may also pick up the movie score on CD. It is odd as I think I saw some of the same monster movies del Toro did when I was growing up, and I can only remember being unimpressed by them. They didn’t capture my heart like they did his, but del Toro has well and truly ruined me for other Kaiju films now.

Rating : 5/5

Friday, 12 July 2013

Dark Fiction - Watcher

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By Casey Douglass

As part of  #fridayflash

My head has always been a little empty. Even from a young age, I was content to sit and watch, rather than take part and control.

I watched my granddad fall to the ground when his heart gave out. People fussed around him. I sat serenely in the background, shiny eyes funnelling the scene into my six year old brain.

I watched a girl get raped at high-school. Nobody knew I was sitting quietly under the large conifer hedge, half forgotten Wuthering Heights slipping from my fingers. My brain absorbed and filed, my body just a tripod for my head.

I watched the car get closer through the lens of my sixteenth birthday present, rapidly taking shots so the moment was preserved. Weightlessness and rushing air ruined the last few, but my finger click clicked as my body disintegrated.

I watched so much in life, and now death has opened up new vistas. Walls and doors matter little when you are composed of ether and willpower. My brain is hungry for strange sights and any exotic view. I’ve watched and I’ve watched and I’ve watched...and now I am watching you.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Dark Review - World War Z

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Image ©Paramount Pictures

World War Z Review 

By Casey Douglass

World War Z is the film based on the novel of the same name by Max Brooks. I read the novel sometime ago and found it very enjoyable. It made me think about some of the issues involved in a zombie outbreak that I had never before considered. I’ll admit that as a narrative, being made up of disjointed events and reports, the novel was a little dry. I can fully understand why the film was manipulated into a more traditional narrative, even if it meant leaving out some of the tastiest tales in the book.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is a retired U.N employee who happens to have the skills that the U.N needs when the zombie outbreak reaches the worldwide consciousness. He and his family are plucked from the melting pot of teeth and screeching terror in the hope that he will aid the U.N in its hunt for the cause of the outbreak and ideally, the cure. Thus the film proceeds, flying from place to place just ahead of each location succumbing to the scourge. It struck me as a potential idea for the next Idiot Abroad TV series, although I would feel very sorry for Karl Pilkington if that ever got the go ahead.

I was unimpressed with the film, and I didn’t go there thinking that I wouldn’t like it. There were the usual moments of silliness that any film seems to suffer from these days but in the case of World War Z, I just couldn’t look past them this time.

Brad Pitt’s character seemed almost surplus to requirements. Any number of faceless U.N observers would have probably pieced together the clues as to the way the disease might be hampered, if not eradicated. As that is mainly what he did. He took the time to watch and observe the victims and the zombies, while everyone else panicked or fled. This helped him formulate a course of action which he swiftly keeps to himself. He calls his bosses on a satellite phone with a rapidly fading battery, and instead of telling them what he has observed and deduced, he asks if there is a research station nearby. Well thanks Brad, if you die before you get there no one will be any the wiser as to what you were going to do or try!

The zombies in the film are the controversial “fast moving” kind that sprint at you at full speed. I don’t mind those too much, as it does make the chase scenes that little bit more exciting. If I had to choose between two films though, I would usually choose the shambling zombies over the athlete kind. Maybe I am a traditionalist in that sense, but it just feels right to me.

I was unlucky enough to see the film in 3D. All I can say is DON’T BOTHER! Besides a few dark corridor sequences which gave a meagre impression of depth, the rest of the film was flatter than the pages of the book that bares its name. I am not a great fan of in your face 3D but to pay extra for what felt like minimal effect didn’t help my opinion of the film. To this day, the best uses of 3D that I have ever seen were the recent Resident Evil films, they are quite stunning.

The plot of the film was okay, and the ending seemed to be the right one for the film. The acting was fine, the CG passable, the music was the typical “save the world” kind of duh...duh-duh-duh-duh-duh beat. Maybe the book ruined me for the film, I just don’t know. All I do know is that I won’t be too bothered if I don’t ever see it again.

Rating : 2.5/5