Thursday, May 27, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time [2010]

Director: Mike Newell
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina
Rating: Teen (violence, horrific images)
Comment: "Very much in the spirit of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and that's a good thing, really..."

When a Prince of Persia movie was announced and entered the pre-production stage, perhaps FPBM! was one of the plenty who pranced around like a schoolgirl all giddy with excitement. Being an avid follower of the Prince of Persia series from it's 8-bit (or was it 16-bit?) days, the love for the series was rejuvenated when the video game of the same name was released back in 2003. The game took what made the original game so popular and ... Well, original and upgraded it. That later became the blueprint for the movie.

As the title would have already suggested, the story revolves around the Dagger of Time, and the Sands of Time that empowers it. After the city of Alamut has been successfully sieged by the Persian army, The Dagger of Time falls upon the hands of Prince Dastan. Oblivious to it's power and also the tyrannical scheme involving it, Dastan's life and the lives of those loved by him are now in peril.

Frankly FPBM! has very little complaints about this movie. Although perhaps they could have toyed with certain aspects of the movie just a little bit more. For instance, it's not difficult to even take a wild guess on who is the villain. If you have played even the 1989 Prince of Persia game, that particular detail of the movie has already been given away. Making the plot twist less convincing.

If there's another complaint, maybe it would be the pacing of the film. Strangely, most of the movie is well-paced, it is only the beginning that feels rushed. Perhaps it was done to accommodate the subject matter of the story. All the same, a longer back-story, and maybe more banter between the principal characters might have help in providing more depth to the characters.

Produced by the same people who brought us the Pirates of the Carribbean series, one can't help but notice that this film has a lot of Pirates feel to it. It contains similar brand of humour, plentiful of action and the setting is well-utilised to bring us to this other world.

As a side note, there has been cries over ethnic issues in the casting. Jake Gyllenhaal, is obviously not anywhere from the Middle East, and Gemma Arterton is an English playing an Arabian princess. FPBM! for one couldn't care about such matter for the cast did exactly what they were hired to do; playing their roles and playing it good. They did just that. Now, Gyllenhaal is probably best known for his light-hearted roles in films such as Bubble Boy [2001] and also quirky ones such as Donnie Darko [2001]. Combine that with the fact that he has beefed himself up to action hero proportions, he makes for a very believable Prince of Persia- witty, easy-going, cheeky, but also deadly. Just like the characterisation of the Prince in the games.

It's only a bit weird that they all speak with a hint of British English in their accents.

All in all, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is more than just watchable, you'll find yourselves wanting more. Now that the Pirates series has run it's course (in FPBM!'s view), we have another to further expand the Disney-Action genre.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Story
- Parkour is always fun to watch
- Tasteful humour

The Bad [-30]
- Pacing
- Arguably one-dimensional characters

100 - 30 = 70 points

If The Shoe Fits...

The question of casting is always a huge debate among movie enthusiasts. But that is rightfully so since lead roles have the responsibility of taking the audience for a ride with them, and most of the time they can either make or break a movie. Yes, it is indeed true that talent alone goes a long way, still one cannot dismiss the different kinds of air each actor brings to the set.

Actors like Edward Norton and Cillian Murphy, their reluctance to embrace their celebrity status allows them to be believable in many different types of role. However, very few are built that way. Not that there's anything wrong with that, all that is being said here that if you linger in front of the camera lenses on and off set, prepare yourselves to become victims of typecasting.

Inside the Casting Office...

Ever saw an actor play a role and went, "Wow, it's like he/she's made for that character!"...? That is the result of perfect casting. For instance, Bruce Willis as an all-time best action hero John McClane, Hugh Jackman who is now immortalised as Wolverine, Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho [1960], Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator [2000], Will Smith in plenty of his movies and others too numerous to mention.

But not every decision made in casting are well-received. The oldest example on top my head right now was the first Tim Burton-directed Batman movie back in 1989. The studio was initially against Burton's decision to cast Michael Keaton; regarded by many at the time to be too unimposing and too comical to play such an intimidating character. Yet now they laud him as the best actor ever to play the Caped Crusader.

It's nothing new and history keeps repeating itself. One example, everybody was against Daniel Craig when he signed on to play James Bond - calling him too short, too ugly and too blond. But he ended being the best Bond ever since Timothy Dalton (Some might say Sean Connery, but let's save that debate for another time). Another example, many were skeptical of the decision to cast the late Heath Ledger to play The Joker. Well, we all know how the public ended up embracing him. Kudos to the people in the casting office, for plenty had to eat boiled crow in the end.

Now, as of this moment, this is still a rumour. But there has been talks about Robert Pattinson to portray the Grunge royalty, Kurt Cobain in an upcoming biopic movie. Something about that reeks. This has little to do with Pattinson's acting capabilities, but more about his reputation for playing the love-drunk vampire that caught the imagination of hopeless romantics all over the world. FPBM! had always been open to new ideas and calculated risks, but this is a bad idea entirely.

When Green Speaks Louder Than Black, White, Yellow or Brown...

It's funny. Prior to the release of the highly anticipated Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time [2010], there has never been any sort of argument regarding the studio's choice to cast Jake Gyllenhaal as the Persian prince. Not even when photos of him on the set was leaked to the internet a while back. Frankly FPBM! never thought of this as some sort of a risk for he looks great for the role. The characterisation of the Prince in the video games can be summarised as witty, easy-going but also deadly - something that Gyllenhaal could no doubt pull off, and pulled it off he did. All this talk about skin colour is simply pointless debate.

Now for the future prospects. The game that is arguably one of the best video games ever made, a movie version of it has entered talks. That game is God of War.

At this stage, people are not yet concerned about the script or how the source material can be best utilised. No, the primary concern right now is who is going to play the fallen Spartan general, Kratos. Not even FPBM! has any idea at the moment, but it goes without saying that they should go for a relatively-unknown but talented actor.

Interestingly, series creator David Jaffe expressed interest in seeing Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator [2000], The Island [2005], Blood Diamond [2006]) filling in the sandals of Kratos. It doesn't sound like a bad idea at all since Hounsou could no doubt, do the character justice and provide depth to the hack-and-slash maverick. Sure, he's does not look anything remotely like a Greek. But this is probably one of those rare instances that talent alone should suffice, and technology could do the rest.

If it's not him, another actor comes to mind and that is former WWE wrestler Nathan Jones, best known for his role in Troy [2005] as Boagrius. But here's the thing, Kratos is many things but a one-dimensional character he is not. So while Jones may have the right look, he might end up bringing God of War into the list of horrible video game adaptations; just like countless of others.

Remember Max Payne [2008]? I know, I didn't want to either. The approach taken to that movie was all wrong. Max Payne is not an action hero entirely. But people allowed the action and flashy special effects in the game into thinking that the movie version should be all about gunfights. With that being said, Mark Wahlberg was all wrong for the role. The fault is not his, no doubt. But for someone as deep as Max Payne, it calls for a more dramatic actor to fill in his shoes. Someone with the talent of Bruce Willis, who has the ability to make action heroes seem more believable.

I could go on all day with this, but I think the point is made. Talent can indeed take you far, but most of the time it won't take you all the way.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Clash of the Titans [2010]

Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Mads Mikkelsen, Gemma Arterton
Rating: Teen (violence, horrific images)
Comment: "Even the star-studded cast can't save what is ultimately a forgettable remake..."

Don't you just hate it when a film that you have been jumping up and about like a schoolgirl turned out to be disappointing? Alright, that may have been a stretch, for Titans is not an altogether a disappointing movie. Any story that has roots in Greek Mythology can hardly be a letdown, no matter how inaccurate it can be.

Bear in mind that this remake of the 1981 movie of the same name is very loosely based on the myth of Perseus, much to the chagrin of FPBM!. One example, do not go around saying that Perseus is the son of Zeus when he is actually the son of the Sea-god Poseidon. But let's just play along.

Perseus, the mortal son of Zeus embarks on a quest to kill the Underworld-god Hades after his adopted family was killed as collateral damage in the war between Man and the Olympian gods.

Starring the rising action star Sam Worthington, FPBM! simply would like to wish him "better luck next time". Despite being the central character to the movie, one will find that he did not have the kind of screen presence nor star power to portray the mythical hero. Of course, there is that possibility that it is not his fault entirely. Sharing screen credit with future Hall of Famer Liam Neeson cannot be easy, and it doesn't help that uber-cool actors like Ralph Fiennes and Mads Mikkelsen are also starring.

It is understandable that this film is a remake, and it was probably just trying to remain faithful. But all the same, the film could have benefited from better writing. Due to that, the pace at which the film moves at leaves a lot to be desired.

However, as it was said earlier, it is not an entirely boring movie. It is good while it lasts, and it has it's moments. But in the end, it could easily be forgotten as soon as you walk out the movie theatre.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Greek mythology
- Casting

The Bad [-40]
- Inaccurate
- Mediocre writing
- Pacing

100 - 40 = 60 points

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hard Candy [2005]

Director: David Slade
Cast: Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh, Odessa Rae
Rating: Mature (violence, suggestive themes)
Comment: "An absolute horror to watch, yet one can't look away..."

The last time FPBM! watched something this impressive was the movie Misery [1990] starring James Caan and Kathy Bates. The film was notable not only for being what is arguably the best Stephen King adaptation to date, but more notably for the chilling and solid performances of the two lead actors.

Similar to that movie, Hard Candy spends most of it's running time featuring only confrontations between the two lead actors.

The story is simple enough; Hayley Stark (Ellen Page), a fourteen-year-old "Honour" student hunts down a man suspected as a sexual predator and attempts to expose him.

Ellen Page, whose rise to fame was credited to movies like X-Men: The Last Stand [2006] and Juno [2007], gave a no less standout performance in Hard Candy. In fact, FPBM! wouldn't be going out on a limb to claim that it is her best performance to date. Co-starring Patrick Wilson who gave an equally solid performance, this is not a thriller you would want to miss.

Although be warned, the film may not feature blood and gore, but it will leave you traumatised (the male audience especially).

Also noteworthy is how the film forgoes any tropes and conventions of Hollywood. In this film, the line between good and bad is blurry enough to spark a debate amongst audiences. Ultimately, you will find yourselves debating the age-old question of whether or not the end justifies the means.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Solid performances
- A psychological exercise

The Bad [-0]
- (None)

100 - 0 = 100 points
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