Author: Cal Knox

Movie Review of ‘The Rocketeer’ (1991)

Before comic book adaptations became a dime a dozen in the 21st Century, such ventures were risky gambles for studios. Although 1978’sSuperman and Tim Burton’s Batman were massive money-makers, other endeavours were less successful at the box office. One such financial flop was 1991’s The Rocketeer, a Disney-produced adaptation of the series of graphic novels by Dave Stevens. Best described as Iron Man meetsCaptain America by way of Indiana Jones, it’s easy to fall in love with this gem, as its sense of sincerity and spirit remains completely enchanting all these years on. With director Joe Johnston embracing the serial tone of the source material, The Rocketeer is a delightfully-assembled superhero feature, a robust demonstration of how to properly adapt a comic for the big screen. Set in 1938, ambitious pilot Cliff Secord (Billy Campbell) and his loyal mechanic Peevy (Alan Arkin) seek to make it big in aerial racing, but their prized plane is destroyed. In the aftermath, the boys discover a stolen jetpack designed by Howard Hughes (Terry O’Quinn), and decide to use it for personal gain rather than returning it to the government. Before long, Secord straps on the jetpack, becoming a high-flying superhero known to the public as The Rocketeer. However, there are others who want the rocket – not only the government, but also a group of mobsters working for dashing Hollywood movie star Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton). Secord’s actress girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelly)...

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Movie Review of ‘Divergent’ (2014)

Based on the novel by Veronica Roth, 2014’s Divergent is yet another attempt to adapt a young adult novel series for the big screen, following in the shadow of Twilight and The Hunger Games. But rather than a promising opening instalment in a potential franchise, Divergent is a total misfire, crippled by an air of utter blandness all the way through to its core. It’s perhaps marginally more watchable than the apocalyptic disaster that this reviewer had anticipated, but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. Although the seeds of an interesting story are here, director Neil Burger fails to give adequate life to the material, resulting in a lethally dull, plodding, agonisingly overlong sci-fi effort featuring a cast of wooden underwear models. In the aftermath of a devastating nuclear war which crippled the world, humanity is reborn into a tightly-ordered society split into five factions: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite. As children reach adulthood, they are compelled to choose their faction, undergoing a test which recommends their destiny. An Abnegation native, Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) is tested and deemed to be Divergent, meaning her personal drive goes beyond the factions, and she cannot be controlled. Covering up the truth in fear of lethal repercussions, Beatrice chooses Dauntless as her new faction, rechristening herself under the name of Tris as she commences a gruelling training regiment designed to weed out the weak. Immediately, Beatrice stands out to leader...

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Movie Review of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ (2014)

Although 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man earned a healthy $750 million at the worldwide box office, it was a missed opportunity all-round, a careless reboot that fell short of the Sam Raimi-directed trilogy which preceded it. Hoping to persist with a sprawling Spider-Man franchise to compete with Marvel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 manages to correct several of the issues of its predecessor, as it’s a smoother ride that benefits from superior technical execution. Unfortunately, this follow-up is still burdened by a tremendously messy script – it’s overstuffed and tries to do far too much throughout its agonisingly prolonged 140-minute runtime. The cameras did begin rolling for this sequel barely six months following the release of the 2012 film, which is not exactly a sign that the writing process was deemed to be overly important in the grand scheme of things. The result may be mildly watchable as a summer blockbuster, but it’s not a keeper by any means – it’s a forgettable, half-baked mishmash of the comic book’s greatest hits, without much in the way of emotional heft. Now a high school graduate, Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) is struggling to maintain his relationship with girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Still haunted by the death of her father, Peter finds himself conflicted, realising it might be better for Gwen’s wellbeing if he simply left her alone. Meanwhile, geeky, socially-awkward Spider-Man fanatic Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) is involved in an...

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Movie Review of ‘The Raid 2’ (2014)

Sequels to hit motion pictures are always a dubious proposition, especially action sequels which very rarely live up to their predecessors, let alone surpass them. 2014’s The Raid 2: Berandal is one of the rare exceptions to the rule, however. Written and directed yet again by Gareth Evans, this sequel to 2012’s The Raid: Redemption confidently raises the bar for contemporary action movies, with astonishing scenes of martial arts that most likely will never be topped. Whereas its predecessor was a small-scale action fiesta, Berandal is closer to The Departed (or Infernal Affairs, the Hong Kong film which spawned it) as it’s imbued with a denser story and it’s much bigger in scale. Nevertheless, it feels like an organic continuation, and it delivers the type of bone-crunching fights and breathtaking action beats that the niche audience expect to see. Picking up mere hours after the events of the previous flick, police officer Rama (Iko Uwais) is recruited to take part in a covert undercover operation which hopes to expose the city’s corrupt police. Sent deep undercover as a prison inmate, Rama wins the trust of Uco (Arifin Putra), a pretty-boy gangster whose father heads a powerful crime family. Rama serves two years behind bars, after which he’s accepted into the Bangun crime family alongside Uco. Rama’s incredible fighting skills render him a valuable asset, and, before long, he’s at the centre of the family’s criminal machinations, struggling to...

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Movie Review of ‘The Lego Movie’ (2014)

The Lego Movie is a blast of pure awesomeness, an infinitely enjoyable animated feature which lives up to and surpasses its hype. Masterminded by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), it’s a strikingly original piece of cinema, on top of being perhaps the boldest motion picture of 2014 so far. Here is a computer-animated movie with deliberately rocky animation to emulate the look of a YouTube stop-motion effort, and it’s so infectiously funny and creative that it frequently feels like a devilishly goofy fan film. With an immense sense of energy and plenty of imagination, The Lego Movie is snappy and amusing, and it’s difficult to wipe the smile off your face as you watch it. In the land of Bricksburg, Emmet (Chris Pratt) is a completely nondescript construction worker, with no distinguishing characteristics to make him stand out to his colleagues. Running the city is President Business (Will Ferrell), who brainwashes the public into a carefree life of routine, encouraging them to watch cell-deadening TV shows like Where Are My Pants? and buy overpriced coffee. When Emmet stumbles upon a centuries-old red brick known as the “Piece of Resistance,” he’s identified by the mysterious Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) as the “Special” – the chosen one expected to fulfil a prophecy maintained by blind wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman). With President Business and his minion, Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson), determined...

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