Posts Tagged ‘Sharlto Copley’

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Hardcore Henry is a stupid name for a movie. We can all agree on that.

A movie that solely features a first-person perspective seems like a stupid idea.

However, Hardcore Henry is not a stupid movie. Although this is absolutely not a highbrow movie, it is quite an achievement in filmmaking for crazy rooskie Ilya Naishuller. I hope that’s not taken as an insult in the Motherland because it’s meant as a term of endearment for this outrageous Russian who made this fucking movie his debut film. I have no idea where Naishuller goes from here.

Sadly, we may never even get an opportunity to see Naishuller’s future work if this flops.

Hardcore Henry deserves better. This movie would have benefitted tremendously with a late release at the very end of summer—hitting people at the tail-end of action movie season with something they have never witnessed. Or perhaps scheduling the movie for a February release (such as Deadpool) would have been a boon to the box office. Anything was a better idea than competing directly against tentpole movies. Keeping the original title of Hardcore should have also been an easy decision. Hardcore Henry’s marketing campaign did not do the movie justice. This is more than a “video game movie.”

For whatever reason, Hardcore Henry has not hit the mark with critics or the audience.

Yes, the first-person perspective is a gimmick. But it is very well-executed throughout the movie.

Action

No one has had the balls to pull off a full-length feature film shot with a GoPro. I have no idea how some of these sequences were pulled off, but the practical effects are seamlessly blended with CGI to make this relatively smooth camerawork. If you are at all predisposed to motion sickness, sit in the back row. As a child, I learned the hard way because the 5-year-old version of myself was dragged to Aladdin and forced to sit in the front row. Needless to say, that magic carpet ride was not so magical. I wanted to throw up and we had to leave the movie. Maybe it’s a coincidence that I hate all Disney movies. But as long as you know what to expect with Hardcore Henry, you should be fine for the hour and a half runtime. While it can get too shaky at moments, I never experienced motion sickness. Naishuller gives the audience just enough breaks at the right times to serve as respite from all the murdering.

Hardcore Henry has a frenetic pace and the kinetic action drives the movie.

With a slow build, there is a nice crescendo leading up to all the ensuing chaos.

Estelle

The beginning is a beautiful introduction to the premise and plot. As the audience, you see everything from the first-person perspective of Henry. Just as Henry does, you wake up to find yourself being attended to by a sexy doctor named Estelle (played by Haley Bennett). Not so sexy is that you’re missing an arm and a leg. But good news, the doctor is apparently your wife and she can hook you up with cybernetic limbs. Essentially, these limbs are indestructible plug-and-play parts.

The party is almost immediately broken up by a mysterious villain named Akan (played by Danila Kozlovsky) who has fine-tuned telekinetic powers and bad intentions. Akan and his never-ending army of soldiers seize Estelle and Henry’s mission is to get his wife back. If there’s a weak part of this movie, the character of Akan leaves a lot to be desired. A more iconic villain and matching performance would have really elevated Hardcore Henry. Instead, what we got was a weird albino Joker-lite.

Akan

The story isn’t remarkable, but it still manages to be an entertaining sci-fi movie set somewhere in a more technologically advanced world. If this was filmed in the typical straightforward fashion, I would still be interested in watching the story unfold. In a sense, Hardcore Henry self-imposes limitations on the story by forcing themselves to film everything in the first-person perspective.

It’s hard to fathom how this got made, but I am glad it did.

Sharlto Copley comes out of Hardcore Henry as the shining star (Jimmy). Copley is not the titular Henry, but he plays several different versions of the same character who helps Henry on his mission. Most of the comic relief in Hardcore Henry is a direct result of Copley’s completely over-the-top performance. Sharlto puts his range on display, and he already proved very capable of performing with just his voice in Chappie. By luck or design, Copley appears to enjoy being part of interesting movies.

Jimmy

Hardcore Henry is mostly a nonstop thriller. When Naishuller needs to give the audience a rest from close-ups of hyperviolence, he still manages to make the events interesting. Considering Hardcore Henry was primarily shot using GoPro mounted cameras, that feat is a worthwhile accomplishment. However, there are few occasions where Naishuller falls a little too much in love with the GoPro.

I whole-heartedly loved the first and third acts of this movie. But Hardcore Henry threatens to stall out in the second act because there’s too much repetition of similar sequences. Henry is in a bind against Akan’s soldiers and he has to fight his way out so he can find his wife. There reaches a point where they almost make you numb to the gory violence. I promise you that Ilya Naishuller will win your heart over with the finale if you stick it through. Near the end, they recognize the absurdity of the story and Naishuller just turns up the volume level to dangerous head-splitting territory.

While this movie absolutely isn’t for everyone, I would be surprised to hear people (who went into this movie expecting to experience mindless action) were not entertained. There are so many thrilling sequences that leave your jaw agape. Just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Violence

I guarantee you have never seen anything like this movie. Since we’re all drowning in a sea of mediocrity, you should do yourself a favor and bear witness to a cinematic achievement that cannot be replicated. I don’t think anyone will have the balls to try to pull this off again. Even if someone makes an attempt, Ilya Naishuller already set the bar extremly high with the execution of Hardcore Henry.

Eventually, I expect this movie to find a cult audience that will appreciate and celebrate its existence. Hardcore Henry deserves that adoration because it threatens to be different. If you noticed, I haven’t even mentioned who plays Henry. A series of stuntmen and cameramen served the role—including director Ilya Naishuller, which shows some real investment. The whole crew responsible for this movie probably won’t get the respect they deserve, but they can take solace in the creativity of their labor.  Their work will likely scare off anyone else from attempting a full first-person movie.

Despite the commercial disappointment, Hardcore Henry is actually an incredibly pleasant surprise.

A-OK

4 out of 5 stars

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The opening montage of Chappie appropriately sets the stage by introducing the audience to the new robotic police force that is tasked with cleaning up the rampant crime in Johannesburg, South Africa. If you watched District 9, the faux documentarian approach employed early on is familiar territory.

While effective, it’s indicative of the movie as a whole and writer-director Neill Blomkamp’s work.

By now, we’ve all grown accustomed to the imagery.

The look and feel of District 9, Elysium, and Chappie are mostly the same. South Africa is a horrifyingly beautiful place stricken with poverty and blessed with pretty landscapes. I can certainly understand why Blomkamp is comfortable with using his home country of South Africa as a foundation for his movies. But people have reached a point where they want more diversity discovering new stories.

Although Chappie isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

Unfortunately, Chappie didn’t seem to find its audience here domestically. An early release in March seemed like odd timing as Chappie feels like it should have been closer to the string of summer releases—somewhere around late April/early May or at the tail-end of blockbuster season near August. Both District 9 (2009) and Elysium (2013) were August releases. Pure armchair speculation, but those studio decisions are typically indicative of their own opinions on the movie.

Maybe they were right, to an extent. Disclaimer: Chappie is not for everyone. And that’s fine.

This is not a movie that would likely sit well with test audiences. I can understand why studio executives wouldn’t get it either. Squares in suits with ties cinched around their necks are not going to enjoy Chappie. Clearly, this movie is intended for Blomkamp’s well-carved out niche audience. I count myself amongst them. Chappie is dumb, entertaining fun with a heart. Do not try to think too much or else the plot holes will hurt your brain. If you want a thinking man’s movie about artificial intelligence, then watch the terrific acting performances of Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson in Ex Machina. Both of these movies are great in their own right, just in different ways. Ex Machina should be an Oscar contender in some respect.

Hugh Jackman

That’s right, I think Chappie is great. And that’s not because of Hugh Jackman, Dev Patel, or Sigourney Weaver. While I enjoy Ripley as much as the next person (and we can probably credit Chappie for the eventual creation of the next Alien movie), Sigourney Weaver was wholly useless in this movie. It wasn’t her fault, but that role of Tetravaal CEO was so bland that literally any man or woman could have filled out. That was a bit of a disappointment. Dev Patel was solid yet unspectacular as Deon, the genius inventor of the robotic police force. A number of actors could have done as serviceable of a job as Slumdog Millionaire. Hugh Jackman was delightful as the prickish, jealous ex-military co-worker of Deon who wants to watch the world burn if it means his massive remote controlled MOOSE robot can come in and wreck shit. His haircut was ridiculous and Jackman seemed to revel in the freedom of the role.

Sharlto Copley deserves immense praise for giving life to Chappie—both voice and motion-capture. At several points, I had to remind myself that it was the same person that played the lead in District 9 and was relatively terrifying as Kruger in Elysium. Copley bring a humanity to Chappie that I didn’t expect. There’s one particularly heart-wrenching scene where Chappie is in danger in the slums of Johannesburg while still trying to understand the world. Copley captures the spirit of every situation perfectly.

But no, none of these actors are the highlight of the film. I feel confident in saying that whether or not you like Chappie hinges on what you think about the gangsters Ninja and Yo-Landi.

If the purpose of Chappie was to thrust Die Antwoord on the American populous, then I consider Chappie to be a resounding success. Ninja and Yo-Landi stole this movie and made it entertaining. Die Antwoord is interwoven into the fabric of Chappie—this movie couldn’t work without them. Several production sets are clearly from Die Antwoord’s music videos, which brings an awesome sense of surrealism. Die Antwoord’s music is dropped in at perfect, opportune moments to add some levity and zef style.

Zef

It’s been six months now and I’ve watched Chappie on three separate occasions.

I still haven’t escaped the rabbit hole that is South African rap group Die Antwoord’s ridiculous music. Such classics as Cookie Thumper!, Enter The Ninja, Fatty Boom Boom, Happy Go Sucky Fucky, I Fink U Freeky, Raging Zef Boner, and Strunk. And I hate almost every electronic dance music song I’ve ever heard. But the fat beats and zef raps of Die Antwoord will seep into your brain and infect you.

In Chappie, the gangster duo of Ninja and Yo-Landi are accompanied by Amerika—their Yankee cohort played by Jose Pablo Cantillo, best known as Martinez in his run on The Walking Dead. Chappie has a limited story, which is set into motion by these lovable gangsters needing to pay off a $20 million debt in a week to the not-so-lovable Hippo—a steroid freak with a hilarious haircut played by Brandon Auret. I think Auret is a weak link in a very good cast, but he serves as an imposing figure in his few scenes.

I was shocked that I enjoyed Chappie as much as I did. Several people were probably turned off by a shitting marketing campaign, but this movie deserves better. Blomkamp apparently already has a trilogy planned out, it seems completely unnecessary in terms of pure storytelling. While the foreign market at least balanced the budget, Chappie probably isn’t long for a sequel. And that’s fine.

Although I truly hope Blomkamp’s contribution to the Alien franchise comes to fruition, I don’t want to see Blomkamp return to any of his works. We’re done with the world of Chappie. The story comes to a nice resolution that we don’t need to revisit. It’s time to move along to a new story and different world.

Story Time

Die Antwoord made this movie with real, human performances that I connected with—surprisingly enough. It seems unlikely that Chappie even got off the ground with the unknown rap duo practically starring with more screen time than Hugh Jackman. You can see that Blomkamp leaves a window open with the ending that he could squeeze through for a sequel, but let’s just close that shut now.

While this movie is nowhere near Oscar-worthy in any category, Chappie is great in its own right. It’s much more entertaining than it had any right being. With an odd blend of charisma and panache injected by Die Antwoord, Chappie manages to be unique—something all movies should strive toward.

Give Chappie a chance. Maybe it won’t touch your heart, but you should enjoy the ride regardless.

Fist Bump

4 out of 5 stars

Elysium

Elysium gives you glimpses of a great movie, but its potential is ultimately diminished by a very heavy hand. Director Neill Blomkamp creates a magnificent futuristic world with the juxtaposition of the decaying landscape of Los Angeles in 2154 and the 5-star space resort that is Elysium.

Who would have thought Los Angeles would still be around in 2154? I was hoping it would have fallen into the fucking ocean by at least 2054. But at least it doesn’t disappoint by being Little Mexico.

The technological aspects of this new world are masterful, but the focus on health care (or lack thereof on Earth) and the class warfare are so jumbled, bland, and uninteresting. How did we as the human race get ourselves into this position? Just haphazardly mentioning disease, pollution, and overpopulation in the opening is not a satisfactory answer for me. It wouldn’t have been hard to give us a little taste, which would have helpfully informed the plot and the characters that come from this time and world.

City

How was Elysium created? How does Elysium work? How in the hell does the political system still exist? Are all government officials living and working from Elysium? Are there separate governments for Earth and Elysium? Elysium does not seem to be self-sustaining so there has to be some type of relationship with Earth. But don’t expect any answers or effort regarding these concerns since it is so much easier to highlight the people who have (residing above in a technological heaven) and the struggles of those who have not (suffering below in hell on Earth).

I have so many unanswered questions after watching Elysium. What makes this so frustrating is that it’s not the result of a mindless writer or director as Blomkamp has proven he’s absolutely capable of addressing complex matters with a deft hand—for example, the fast food, drive through style handling of the ‘parole officer’ was just perfect. Instead, Elysium opts for the easy out as it chooses to overdramatize the plight of Max Da Costa (played by Matt Damon) and those still stuck on Earth.

While I have a fair amount of issues with Elysium (which will be discussed more fully below with spoilers), this is a good movie that you should have seen in the theaters for its stunning visuals. But my central complaint with movies like Elysium is that it is begging to be taken seriously.

I don’t have a problem with taking the subject matter seriously, but there’s also direct correlation that increases the intensity of my scrutiny when I’m supposed to consider this as a real-life scenario. Pacific Rim did not even take itself seriously, and it offered a certain amount of humor, mysticism, and self-awareness that added considerable entertainment value. There’s nothing along those lines here in Elysium, which makes it suffer a bit since the stuffy romantic relationship just suffocates the story.

Without giving up too much, I would summarize the plot of Elysium as adversity, adversity, adversity, desperation, fighting, and resolution…sort of.

Spoilers galore.

From the onset, this movie introduces itself through an extremely uninspired flashback of Max (Matt Damon) and Frey (Alice Braga) growing up in the Los Angeles wasteland and trying to cope with their awful lives as unwanted children. Max’s whole life revolves around wishing he could live on Elysium and the despair he feels about fearing that his hopes will never come to fruition.

As an adult, Max is trying to walk the straight and narrow after a stint in jail. He now works at an assembly line for the Armadyne Corporation, which constructed Elysium. A company with that type of wherewithal and technological expertise apparently still relies on humans to perform the grunt work of assembling all of their robots and machinery.

In 2154, if anything will be outdated and extinct, it will certainly be factories and assembly lines. Isn’t this already dying in 2013? Why have an assembly line and why the fuck is the inside of a mega corporation covered in graffiti? Wouldn’t it be cheaper and more convenient to have a robots building robots? It’s not like there’s any type of special touch only possessed by humans to make this work possible.

But this is a necessary plot device as Max of course has to go inside of a machine to make it work, which opens the door (but actually closes it) for him to be exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. With only 5 days to live, Max’s desire to get to Elysium is intensified and he’s desperate enough to do anything to get him there. The problem lies in the fact that Elysium deals with immigrants by shooting their spaceship down before they can breathe that lovely pure air.

As a former car thief and general thug, Max has high level connections to the crime underworld headquartered in the human toilet that now is Los Angeles. Spider can get him his ticket. Spider can get anything. In order to get to Elysium, Max agrees to what is essentially a suicide mission to steal financial information from Armadyne’s CEO John Carlyle (played impeccably well by perennially underrated William Fichtner). Unbeknownst to Max, Spider, and criminals in company, Carlyle has a program encrypted in his brain to reboot Elysium so a new President can be installed after agreeing to execute this coup for Elysium’s Secretary of Defense (played by Jodie Foster).

Kruger

This raises the stakes tremendously as Jodie Foster’s character cannot afford to let this information fall into the wrong hands. I can’t recall the name of Foster’s character and it really doesn’t matter since she’s a one note, one dimensional cunt cut from the Dick Cheney mold. In order to track down Max and these thieves, a special agent/super villain named Kruger (played effectively by Sharlto Copley). Without Kruger, this movie would threaten to be a heaping pile of shit with great graphics.

Eventually, Max is forced into a corner while Kruger is hunting him down and he decides to hold himself hostage with a grenade in exchange for a trip to Elysium. Max didn’t know that Kruger had tracked down his love interest Frey and her dying daughter (leukemia or something cancerous) so the flight to Elysium is awkward—especially when Kruger and his cohorts get a bit rapey. As they are entering Elysium’s atmosphere, a ruckus breaks out and Kruger’s face gets exploded by a grenade.

Max, Frey, and Little Frey all are apprehended and essentially held hostage by the Secretary of Defense. Somehow, they put Kruger in a magical machine that reconstructs his entire face and mysteriously re-grows his facial hair. We’re to believe his brain function is still 100% normal minutes after having his face caved in and blown to bits. Evidently that machine makes him very grouchy and he stabs Jodie Foster straight in her jugular so she’s dead and Kruger has a thirst for more blood and power.

Everything culminates in a goofy, sloppy hand-to-hand (machine-to-machine) combat on a catwalk between Max and Kruger where the hero of course succeeds. Even Kruger’s death scene was uninspired. Spider was tracking Max during his whole journey using the world’s most powerful GPS tracker, and he leads Max to Elysium’s data center to upload the information from his brain and reboot all of Elysium.

Max is too far beyond being cured at this point, but he talks to Frey one last time as her daughter gets cured—which is gleefully the final opportunity for this failure of a love story. Finally, we find out why the hippo did it…to get to heaven. Max’s death will also bring about the destruction of mankind as Elysium’s central computer now recognizes everyone as citizens of Elysium and medical ships descend on Earth to cure everyone.

Please address this puzzling decision. It begs an answer if you’re supposed to take this movie seriously.

If overpopulation is one of the biggest reasons for the Earth falling to shit, then how can curing all of these diseased people be considered a good thing? Wouldn’t this just bring about our demise even sooner? Hooray! We now have millions or even a billion people now living longer and perhaps in perpetuity.

I wish Elysium came to a more creative, satisfying resolution as the rest of the movie showed signs of being something more than a dumb, fun summer blockbuster. If there was more fun to be had or some elements to hold onto beyond a serious, sci-fi adventure, then I could forgive the failures in Elysium easier.

Elysium left me wanting more, but it’s an unsatisfied sensation since it was lacking in several areas.

3 out of 5 stars