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Tomorrow, When the War Began: Unrealistic War Drama
This is ultimately a war film, but the story doesn’t subscribe to the same traditional elements of the genre. Rather than focusing on the battle and the politics of war on a grander scale, it looks at it from a civilian’s point of view. While the characters are numerous, the attempt to cover a broad cross section of personalities often ends up in a portrayal of clichéd stereotypes.
A film that relies so heavily on a character-driven plot, naturally also relies on the performance of its actors. Unfortunately, the young cast fails to deliver, and the film as a whole lacks the drama and action that you’d expect from a subject matter like this one.
The brief and infrequent action scenes stand out as impressive and entertaining, but at times border on the ridiculous. In one scene for example, heavily armed military vehicles are pursuing two girls in a truck, and are powerless to apprehend it.
Tomorrow, When the War Began is an overall weak production that lacks realism, intensity, and features a distinctively average cast. The green light has been given to produce the sequel, which is based on the second novel in the Tomorrow series, with the third part also being considered. Picking up where this film finishes, the sequel will hopefully develop the series into a better watch.
The idea of basing a film on a video-game hasn’t always proved successful – Super Mario Bros, Mortal Kombat are great proofs – and with yet another gaming-adaptation upon us, one is naturally a little skeptical about what to expect.
Luckily, first-time feature directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly have managed to keep the story of Angry Birds relatively exciting, inducing the story with just enough colour, character and infectious energy to keep the cynics at bay.
The Angry Birds Movie follows the story of Red (aptly voiced by Sudeikis); a permanently short-tempered resident who, thanks to his enraged disposition, has been forced into anger-management classes taught by Matilda (Rudolph). There he soon meets and befriends fellow students, including Chuck (Gad); a seemingly hyperactive yellow canary, Bomb (McBride); a typically docile blackbird with very little control over his feelings once his fuse blows and Terence (Penn); a behemoth bird who only grunts.
When a boatload of green pigs, led by the dubious-looking Captain Leonard (Hader), sail up onto their land bearing free food and catapults to help them fly, Red is instantly suspicious of their true motives but, of course no one believes him. When his suspicions turn out to be true and the pigs end up taking what is most precious to the them, Red – along with Chuck, Bomb and Terence – takes it upon himself to lead an attack on pigs in order to take back their precious keeps.
While it may stand as one of the most popular freemium game series of all time, The Angry Birds Movie - despite its best intentions - may not resonate as one of the finest video-movie adaptations made to date. But that is not to say it doesn’t have its charms. The colorful visuals are captivating, a couple of sequences – including a pig sing along – are creatively thought-out, while the voice work from the entire cast is spot-on, with both Sudeikis – a great fit for the sarcastically-loving Red - and Frozen’s very own Josh Gad coming out on top.
On the downside, however, the story – can feel a little slow with writer Jon Vitti – from The Simpsons, Alvin and the Chipmunks – taking a while before bringing the story to any kind of development, while the internal logic behind some of the story’s trademark features is a little flimsy.
Even though it may not turn into a must-see classic anytime soon, there is still plenty of whimsy, colour and slapstick comedy present in The Angry Birds Movie to keep the adults relatively entertained and the kiddies – who are more than likely to be the most entertained - giddy with joy.
Known for his unique voice and understated approach to telling a story, writer-director, Jeff Nichols – see Take Shelter, Mud – returns with yet another distinctive and beautifully crafted tale of parenthood and faith in the undeniably special, Midnight Special.
The film tells the story of Roy (the always present and the always game Mr. Michael Shannon) who - together with his childhood friend Lucas (Edgerton) - has kidnapped his biological son, Alton (Lieberher), from a creepy cult run by Alton’s ‘adoptive’ father Calvin Meyer (Shepherd).
Where they are going is seemingly unclear but, what we do learn is that Alton – who spends most of the time wearing blue swimming goggles – is no ordinary child and that he possesses certain supernatural abilities that has not only drawn the attention of Meyer’s cult – who believe that Alton is their saviour – but that of the government as well.
Out on the run from seemingly everyone, Roy – who soon reaches out to Alton’s mother Sarah (Dunst) for the much-needed support - is willing and ready to do just about anything to keep his boy from harm which, naturally, only ends up putting them all against a number of obstacles and a great deal of danger along the way.
To truly and fully experience Nichols’ latest film, is to try and go in knowing as little as possible about the plot; the less you know, the bigger the impact. Staying one step ahead of the audience, the mysteries surrounding the story are gradually revealed, with Nichols making sure that all of his secrets and relevant story threads are exposed in their own time, ultimately providing the film with a quietly intensifying and slow-burning energy which is hard to shake off.
Gorgeously photographed, the mood and the atmosphere – which are supported by David Wingo’s hauntingly beautiful John Carpenter-esque musical score – is almost palpable, while the story’s 80’s retro setting – reminiscent of movies like E.T and Deep Impact – is beautifully captured and made relevant to the audiences of today. On the downside, however, some of the story threads could have done with a bit more exploration and had they had a bit more onscreen involvement, they could have carried a slightly deeper effect.
Marking his fourth collaboration with the talented director, Michael Shannon – quite possibly one of the most compelling actors working today – gives yet another all-in performance of a troubled father. Meanwhile, Lieberher shows great versatility for such a young actor, whilst Edgerton and Dunst are both complex and rooted in their respective performances.
Captivating and emotional, Nichols’ Midnight Special is an easy recommendation; a thoughtfully executed and a powerfully told sci-fi tale which uses on its wonderfully created visuals and unspoken words to convey its story.