Pacific Rim Uprising

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MPacific Rim Uprising

Directed by: Steven S. DeKnight

Screenplay by: Emily Carmichael & Kira Snyder and

Steven S. DeKnight and T.S. Nowlin

Story by: Steven S. DeKnight and T.S. Nowlin

Based on the Characters Created by: Travis Beacham

Produced by: Guillermo del Toro, Thomas Tull, Mary Parent, Jon Jashni,

Cale Boyter, John Boyega, Femi Oguns

Executive Producer: Eric McLeod

Cast: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Burn Gorman, Adria Arjona and Charlie Day. 

Pacific Rim Uprising is a visual immersive, escapist, global battle feast, packed full of 3D epic, mecha anime like, larger than Godzilla sized, Jaegar, super robots.

Piloted from within the skull of each Jaegar are a new generation of Jaegar pilots – who run like hamsters on a wheel, driving the Jaegars onwards to save our planet from even more gigantic, acid bleeding aliens, the monstrous ‘Kaiju.’

DeKnight may have had a focus group that picked out the best parts of action movies and married them together for Pacific Rim Uprising.

Armed with my 3D glasses and having never seen the prequel, I was captivated and transported.

The movie opens into a dystopian wasteland in Santa Monica – post-apocalyptic and peaceful – there is no Mad Max blood and guts here.

10 years after Pacific Rim, survival on the street in a post-apocalyptic world is for those with street smarts and Jake a once infamous soldier, our ambivalent hero, played by John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), chooses not to pay rent for the safety of a gated community but fend for himself in the ruins of a mansion on the outside.

Sure, his mansion comes with the gigantic carcass of a beast flattening his entire neighbourhood and he must steal Jaegar parts to supply an illegal Cyborg building trade: so long as he keeps away from the law or trading for what matters most-right-now, like handing over his luxury key cars for a bottle of tomato sauce.

When Jake is arrested for his criminal behaviour he is offered a lighter sentence, to man-up and resume his post at the Jaegar Academy, alongside Pilot Lambert(Scott Eastwood), he must train new Jaegar pilots to vanquish the Kaiju.

The characters are funny, likable and culturally diverse.

The Chinese characters are well drawn and the Mandarin spoken is substantial without feeling tokenistic.

DeKnight has drawn successfully upon influences from the 1986 movie Aliens, apparent in his settings, cast and monsters.

Aliens (1986) remains one of my top 10 movies of all time.

In the opening scenes, Jake uses a tracking device to locate illegal hardware – the tracking device has the same size, sound and movement sensitivity as that used in Aliens.

As Jake salvages, illegal Jaeger parts the spine like catacomb of machinery tunnels is reminiscent of the 1986 Alien nest.

An interior lift behind Liwen Shao(Jing Tian) at her headquarters is identical to the giant spinal cord of the 1986 Aliens.

The Kaiju bleed acid as do the aliens in Alien.

And of course, the name Newt, given here to Newton Geizler (Charlie Day) the name of the little girl, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) saves in Aliens.

Even Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) as the traditional obsessed scientist is not unlike the obsessed scientist Bishop of Aliens.

DeKnight transforms recognizable cityscapes into battlegrounds and engages a global audience. The Jaegar’s enormous size, unforgettable as they dwarf the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

As the skyscrapers of Tokyo are cleaved to shreds in a city-destroying battle scene, DeKnight magnifies the towering scale of his robots ensuring their hulk-like ground punches reverberate as a shadow presence throughout, making this a great movie experience.

Human Flow

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MHuman Flow

Director:  Ai Wei Wei

Producers: Andrew Cohen, Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyerman

Writers: Chin-Chin Yap, Tim Finch, Boris Cheshirkov.

Human Flow is a visual experience to be endured. A journey for the soul. A glimpse into the duty of care, and lack thereof, affecting our societies.

Forgotten places and forgotten faces reach out and I struggle to remain seated. To comprehend the magnitude of what film director Ai Wei Wei intended. The camera remains. Lost souls stare onto it, onto the abyss. Dignified, proud, hopeful. Despite everything.

Statistics and news headlines appear. Foreign voices makeshift the background. Subtitles demand the attention of the viewer. Everyone must seat and watch. There is no easy way out for us as there is no easy way out for the millions of refugees stranded across the globe.

Oceans of humanity flow, stretching as far as the next border, people like waves reaching for the coast, seeking relief after a long journey. Aerial views of makeshift camps. Tents set along trains never to halt. People resting on the side of the road. On the verge of tears. Vulnerable to disease, under the elements, moving ever forward with their loved ones. All borders shutting down.

The system collapses, numbers increase and countries build fences and walls with money that could be used in so many other ways. No questions are asked or aid provided. Left behind, human beings facing the most inhuman conditions in the history of our race.

Those who are victims of the circumstances, run for fear of persecution. Those who pushed them into exile remain immune. Those who watch, what are we? What am I, but a privileged voyeur? A far removed entity able to switch off my screen at any given time. Sheltered, fed, safe. Free. Ashamed of myself as I type these words. Dreading the moment I move onto the next thing, and forget.

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12 Strong

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+12 Strong

Directed by: Nicolai Fuglsig

Screenwriters: Ted Tally, Peter Craig

Produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer, Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill, Thad Luckinbill.

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Navid Negahban, Trevante Rhodes, Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill, Rob Riggle, William Fichtner, Elsa Pataky.

12 Strong is a hero movie based on the true story of twelve soldiers, Green Berets known as ODA (Operational Detachment Alphas), volunteering to fight in Afghanistan after the twin towers attack on 9/11 (2001): the first soldiers to set foot on Afghani soil after the attack, a fact unknown at the time being an Army Special Forces team on a covert mission.

There’s some good action here, based on the 2009 bestseller written by Doug Stanton, Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan. 

Unlike the majority of the patriotic, sickening over-dramatisation of Americans’ fighting in wars, 12 Strong focusses on the action in Afghanistan and the clash of cultures as Mark Nutsch, ODA-595 Special Forces Captain (re-named in the film as Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth)) leads a mission, Codenamed Task Force Dagger, to fight alongside the Northern Alliance: separate Afghani groups led by warlords who hate each other almost as much as they hate the Taliban. 

For any hope of gaining ground against the Taliban and Al Qaeda and to stop more attacks on American soil, team leader Captain Mitch Nelson must convince General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban), a fierce warrior and warlord, to join forces; the only motivation to fight together being a common enemy.

Willing to assist the Americans from the ground, the Americans support from the sky with bombs dropped on targets from coordinates given by Captain Nelson. 

Set in the extremes of the Afghanistan landscape, with dust and snow and steep rocky mountains, movement is restricted to horseback. 

There’s something poetic about horses in battle; whether it reminds of wars in the past or the majesty of the animal, I could only wonder at the skill required to ride while under enemy fire from missile launchers and T-72 tanks and to shoot a machine gun with bullets whizzing by the horses ear; to control an animal usually frightened by loud noise and to stay the course without bolting.

But unbelievably, as General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban) states, Afghani’ horses won’t scare: they know the bombs are American.

12 Strong is a fascinating story shot beautifully with Nicolai Fuglsig making his feature film debut as director, his past as a photojournalist showing his experience in capturing war on film.  Up close and showing the ‘killer eyes’ of his cast, the action is taken higher with views from horse back galloping through explosions and fire. 

It’s a film full of heroism with careful casting – Chris Hemsworth showing the humility and bravery of Captain Nelson.  And yes, there’s always a bit of drama in these war-hero films, with Captain Nelson stating he refuses to write a death letter to his wife, left at home, ‘I made her a promise I was coming home.  I’m not writing a letter to say I broke it.’

And I thought, Oh no, another cheesy, self-congratulatory, family-plucking-the-heart-strings, indulgence – however when the men got to Afghanistan, the film ramped up into an action-packed, suspenseful, yet thoughtful story.  And Michael Peña as the Green Beret, Sam Diller, added some needed humour, keeping it real for those who don’t like too much drama.

The real interest of the film was the insight of this previously unknown story, by entering the Belly of the Beast to see the complicated history and terrible crimes already inflicted on the innocent of Afghanistan making 12 Strong not only an action film, but also an engaging story.

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In The Fade

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director & Writer – Fatih AkinIn The Fade

Co-Writer – Hark Bohm

Producers – Nurhan Şekerci-Porst, Fatih Akin, Herman Weigel

Director of Photography – Rainer Klausmann (BVK)

Original Score – Joshua Homme

Starring: Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, Johannes Krisch, Samia Chancrin, Numan Acar, Ulrich Tukur, Rafael Santana, Hanna Hilsdorf, Ulrich Friedrich Brandhoff, Hartmut Loth, Ioannis Economides, Karin Neuhauser, Uwe Rohde Ali, Asim Demirel, Aysel Iscan.

Winner Best Foreign Language Film Golden Globes
Winner Best Actress Cannes Film Festival

Director Fatih Akin collaborated with co-writer Hark Bohm to create, In The Fade after watching court proceedings against the National Socialist Underground (NSU): a far-right terror cell who allegedly murdered ten people and carried out two bombings in Germany between 2000 and 2007 for no other reason but for the victims having a non-German background. The NSU were also thought to have detonated a nail bomb, injuring 22 people in a Turkish neighbourhood in Cologne in June 2004.  See article here: NSU Trial

Based on the truth of these racially motivated murders, In The Fade shows the crushing loss of Katja (Diane Kruger) when her husband, Nuri Şekerci (Numan Acar) and son Rocco (Rafael Santana) are blown to pieces in a bomb blast planted in a high density Turkish area in Germany.

Set in three parts: Family, Justice and The Sea, we follow Katja as she grieves her family including the court case against the accused, a neo-Nazi husband and wife, as the horrific detail of the nail bomb is explained as evidence, to Greece where Katja revisits the memory of her family when they visit the sea-side: a fitting place to seek justice in the stunning conclusion where the audience is left speechless.

This is a powerful film that begins quietly, the evocative soundtrack used sparingly with music from the radio to the sound of rain falling, to build as the film nears its end.

I felt every step of this film from the hand-held footage of Katja and Nuri getting married while he was in jail, to Katja’s relationship with her sister and mother and in-laws; all the relationships and intense grief shown with a powerful performance from Diane Kruger.

The audience is able to bare and feel Katja coping with the loss because the story is sincere and told through the reflection of rain running down windows reflected onto her face like tears;  through the pain of a tattooist’ needle unable to register through the pain of reliving the death of a son while the killers sit in the same court room.  But the real emotion comes from the happy moments, seeing Katja relive what has been lost.  Watching the family laughing on a recording on her phone – those are the moments that get you.

This is the reason I review films: to be exposed to movies I wouldn’t otherwise watch because I know it’s going to be confronting.  And, In The Fade is filled with rain and tears and loss but there’s also a powerfully gripping story here, beautifully told.

The Mercy

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MThe Mercy

Directed by: James Marsh

Written / Produced by: Scott Z Burns

Produced by:  Scott Z Burns, Graham Broadbent, Jacques Perrin, Nicolas Mauvernay

Cinematographer: Eric Gautier

Starring: Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis, Ken Stott, Jonathan Bailey.

Following his Academy Award® winning film, The Theory of Everything, James Marsh directs The Mercy, the true story of Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) an ordinary amateur sailor, who one day decides to do something extraordinary with his life and compete in the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race.

The premise of Crowhurst’s story played by Colin Firth and co-starring Rachel Weisz is compelling, packed to the rafters with the intrigue and plot twists of a fantastic and unforgettable story – “I am going because I would have no peace if I stayed.” — Donald Crowhurst.

The story of an amateur sailor in 1968, who one day – not unlike any other day, in his very normal life – decides to compete in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Yacht Race. Unlike any other yacht race, this is a yacht race to single handedly circumnavigate the entire globe without stopping, a race Crowhurst knows he is ill equipped to compete in, a race, he knows, he has no hope of finishing.

In order to save his family, their home and his dignity, he decides to cheat and lies to the world of his speedy and highly skilled progress.

However, my attention span and the downfall of Crowhurst’s quest, hopes and pursuit unravel from the onset.

Crowhurst sets off – on his impressive but unfinished trimaran yacht, the Teignmouth Electron. Behind him on the jetty he leaves his beautiful wife Clare (Rachel Weisz) their adoring children, and some – but not all –  crucial boat supplies and navigational instruments at their feet. After all we need some hope that this mild-mannered amateur may pull off a heroic feat and sail around the world buoyed on by our mighty hopes and dreams encased in a bobbing vessel that probably will not make it.

The story’s premise is great, the stuff of epic battles, think David and Goliath, frail man pitted against the wraths of nature and the might of the gods, surging imploding, cinema worthy oceans and death defying odds. But nowhere in this disjointed, paint-drying-slow action line, where scenes do not foreshadow or tighten the tension available in the raw and compelling truth of such a story, does this movie rise to its potential.

I crossed and uncrossed my legs throughout The Mercy, searching for the transported comfort and magical details of a story well told.

Director James Marsh and Screenwriter Scott Z Burns had no shortage of detailed research facts available, well documented in Crowhurst’s own diary entries and log entries, but this movie lacked vital details that would have made the storyline more cohesive, final draft worthy and movie screen ready.

Early in my writing career my writing mentor told me ‘you know your story but it is not translating onto paper or more importantly to your audience and that is what I believe, unfortunately, The Mercy suffers here.