Tuesday, 25 March 2014

In-Flight Movies (2014)

I was very fortunate to be able to go to New Orleans for a conference last month.  It took three flights to get there, but as one of them was transatlantic, I got the rare opportunity to watch several films.  Now, back in 2011 I had been very impressed with the choice of in-flight movies that KLM had to offer.  We flew KLM on our return journey, and though the choice was good, I was staggered (really staggered, it was incredible) by the choice that Delta had on the way out to the US.  I could have watched Gravity, or Desolation of Smaug, or Walter Mitty, or Thor: The Dark World!  I think there were literally hundreds.  But I decided on some of the lesser yet still incredible films.  But if this flight was anything to go by, I always want to fly Delta to the States.

Chronicle (2012)

Chronicle is not like other superhero movies; actually I don't think the characters are superheroes at all, rather they have superpowers.  After the discovery of some weird alien crystals, 3 friends soon find, after blacking out, that they have mysterious powers (think Force pull/push).  Naturally the first thought is not to use these powers to benefit mankind, but to do what any teenage boy would in this situation: abuse it for their own entertainment!  This is where the film is strongest, and certainly the most entertaining; perhaps it's because I'm a bloke but I could completely relate (I think empathise is too strong) to the sense of awe and excitement that the 3 main characters feel.  By the climax of the film this sense of wonder has been replaced by a requirement for the film to actually go somewhere, which (like Angry Birds, is hilariously fun initially but becomes a bore as you try to get maximum points) isn't so interesting.  But I can understand why.  The main 3 lads are fine, as I say, as I was able to relate to them; anyone else was really incidental.  The special effects are all great, very understated in a Monsters kind of way, used to bring the story to life and concentrate on the characters rather than overwhelm it with CG.  Chronicle doesn't do anything spectacular, but it's very cool, great fun and entertaining nonetheless.

Oblivion (2013)

Oblivion is one of the many films I wanted to see last year, but I just didn’t get the chance.  I’d heard mixed responses to the film so I was keen to take a gander myself.  Tom is usually good to watch, and Oblivion is no different.  Morgan Freeman is the other big name, but I felt he was mostly wasted, rather like in Wanted.  Andrea Riseborough is good as Victoria, the soulless robotic woman who is Tom’s partner, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister) is fine as Morgan Freeman’s head of security without really being able to excel as he does in GOT.  The design was terrific and the effects were top notch, though overall I thought the film was missing something.  All the best Sci-Fi has something to say about human nature, and I'm just not sure what this was saying.  Maybe it's because it borrowed from some of the best Sci-Fi: there were definite strains of Planet of the Apes, Moon, Logan's Run and perhaps even Silent Running; the result is quite a mish mash of themes.  A very enjoyable film (with an excellent soundtrack), just lacking that little bit extra to make it a really good film.

The World's End (2013)

Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are two fabulous movies from the minds of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, the so-called blood and ice-cream movies.  Now along comes The World’s End to complete the Cornetto Trilogy.  With possibly the most star-studded cast of the trilogy (featuring Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike, David Bradley, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Pierce Brosnan among others) the movie remains true to Wright’s roots and is quintessentially British.  Simon Pegg’s character is the driving force of the movie but the interaction between the whole group of friends is excellent, though this estimable ensemble results in the usually brilliant relationship between Pegg and Nick Frost being diluted a little bit.  The truth about the residents of Newton Haven doesn’t sit quite as naturally as a plague of zombies or an extreme neighbourhood watch; but once, introduced the idea works well, and certainly won’t get in the way of Pegg’s character finishing that pub crawl.  Perhaps not as incessantly clever, inventive and relentlessly funny as it’s predecessors, The World’s End is still tremendous fun and of course features ice-cream, falling over fences and a pub brawl.

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Perhaps not fully appreciated on a small screen set in the back of the chair in front, but it was still possible to appreciate the horror that plantation slaves had to endure daily.  This abhorrent episode in human history is captured not only in some horrible scenes of trading the human cargo but also by a couple of stand-out gruesome torture scenes.  Steve McQueen lets the camera linger on one of these moments, prolonging the agony while the audience is desperate for it to stop.  The opposite is true for the other awful scene as the camera is whipped around between victims and perpetrators, echoing both Chiwetel Ejiofor’s state of mind as well as the torture itself.  Surrounding the excellent Ejiofor is tremendous support including Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch and Lupita Nyong’o (Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress).  A lot happens for a film just over two hours long, but it never feels rushed, which is a testament to both the screenplay and the direction.  An excellent and important film which I must revisit on a screen worthy of its power.

But, well, you know, that’s just, like, er, my opinion, man.