Mark Bomback

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Insurgent Review


Good

A sharp improvement on the original, this second entry in The Divergent Series has a much stronger sense of its premise and characters, which makes it much more exciting to watch. Where Divergent felt gimmicky and a bit shallow, this chapter pushes the characters much deeper, giving the actors a chance to bring them more engagingly to life, which makes the odd set-up more involving as well.

It picks up immediately where the first film ended, with Tris (Shailene Woodley) escaping from post-apocalyptic, segmented-society Chicago with her boyfriend Four (Theo James), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and their shifty cohort Peter (Miles Teller). Hiding out in the Amity agricultural community, they know that Erudite leader Janine (Kate Winslet) has sent her goons (Jai Courtney and Mekhi Phifer) to find them. Actually, she needs a divergent to open an artefact from the pre-war days so she can rid Chicago of pesky divergents forever. When their location is discovered, Tris and pals head back into the city, teaming up with factionless leader Joanna (Naomi Watts) and getting help from the head of Candor (Daniel Dae Kim) before going to Erudite to face Janine.

The story has a strong push to it, driving these rebels ever closer to a confrontation with their nasty nemesis, and their journey is fraught with surprise wrinkles, vicious battles and some mind-bending imagery. In fact, there are so many dreams, flashbacks and computer simulations that it's not always clear if what's on screen is actually happening or not. But it all looks so cool that we hang on to discover where it'll go next, so the two hours passes briskly, and sometimes breathlessly. The film looks terrific, as director Robert Schwentke keeps the focus on the characters while creating some amazing effects around them, especially in the simulation sequences.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review


Extraordinary

Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) ramps up this reboot franchise with a strikingly well-written action-drama, which takes an unusually complex route through the story. By refusing to have any simplistic villains, the film encourages viewers to see all sides of the conflict, which draws out vivid emotions and some unusually relevant political themes. It's also a technical triumph, obliterating the line between animation and actors.

It's been 10 years since the events of 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Caesar (Andy Serkis) has built a thriving ape community in the woods north of San Francisco. They haven't seen any humans in years, since the simian flu has killed all but one in every 500 people. But there's a tenacious group of human survivors in the city, and when Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his team venture out to search for a source of hydroelectric power, they run into the ape community. Both Caesar and Malcolm are willing to talk about cooperating, but Caesar's second in command Koba (Toby Kebbell) finds it impossible to trust men after they so viciously tortured him as a young chimp. And Malcolm's sidekick Carver (Acevedo) is more than a little trigger happy, as is the community's leader Dreyfus (Oldman) back in the city.

Instead of concentrating on the conflict between apes and men, the film's perspective is through their family units. Caesar's mate Cornelia (Judy Greer) has just given birth to a son, while their older son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) struggles to make sense of the clash between humans and apes. Meanwhile, Malcolm's scientist partner Ellie (Keri Russell) and his observant teen son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) offer similar emotions from the human side. The script's clear suggestion is that the next generation may offer more hope for understanding, which makes the stakes startlingly high as violence threatens to break out. Indeed, the film is a bracing exploration of how our decisions today will affect our future.

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The Wolverine Review


OK

It's only been four years since 2009's X-men Origins: Wolverine, and it's hard to see how this film does anything to correct that film's messy plot, harsh editing and uninteresting action. This one has a much more interesting Japanese setting and some great characters, but its focus on action over depth leaves it feeling gratuitous and empty. We may be entertained by the whizzy chaos of it all, but we never feel much suspense.

It begins in Alaska, where Logan (Jackman) is still licking his wounds after the death of his lover Jean Grey (Janssen), who appears regularly to him in sexy, soft-focus dreams. Then a young woman (Fukushima) turns up, insisting that he return to Japan to see Yashida (Yamanouchi), whose life Logan saved in the A-bombing of Nagasaki. But in Tokyo, Logan finds that the near-dead Yashida wants to relieve him of his healing immortality with the help of a sinister blonde doctor named Viper (Khodchenkova). Meanwhile, Yashida's son Shingen (Sanada) is miffed that his daughter Mariko (Okamoto) is the heir to his father's fortune. And there are armies of tattooed goons and arrow-shooting ninjas chasing Logan wherever he goes.

The film has a brisk pace, barely pausing to regain its breath before plunging into another massive action set-piece. But none of these sequences stands up to even the slightest scrutiny: laws of logic and physics are abandoned as the hugely muscled Logan battles everything in sight. Even after Viper steals his powers, he still has those retractable adamantium claws, which come in handy when you're fighting tenacious thugs on top of a speeding bullet train.

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Tony Scott's Death Remains A Mystery


Tony Scott Mark Bomback

Despite the release of the coroner's report, confirming that Tony Scott committed suicide, there are still so many questions yet to have been answered, and his death still seems shrouded in mystery.

The report said that he died of multiple blunt force injuries, following jumping off the Vincent St Thomas Bridge in the USA. Scott, who directed some excellent thrillers including True Romance and Man on Fire, was also found to have 'therapeutic' levels of anti-depressants in his system, as well as another drug to help the director sleep. 

Whether or not Scott was suffering from other, more physical ailments than depression remains unclear. At the time of his death ABC falsely reported that he had been suffering with cancer. Coroner's office official, Craig Harvey saw no evidence of illness, "There was no evidence of neoplasia -- cancer - identified," he said, reported by the LA Times. Plus, while some sources claim that he had mentioned back and hip pains, Mark Bomback who wrote Scott's movie 'Unstoppable' saw none of that "In a million years, this isn't something I'd have thought he'd do," Mark explained. "I never had an inkling he had any health problems.... You'd think he was making his first film from his level of energy and enthusiasm." At the time of death, Scott still had numerous projects in the pipeline, he also leaves behind a young family, his wife and two sons. 

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Deception (2008) Review


Grim
According to web reports, this Hugh Jackman/Ewan McGregor thriller was originally titled The Tourist and The List before the filmmakers and/or studio finally settled on Deception. The alternates are not exactly the most eye-catching or original titles, but both would be just as appropriate for this particular film. I can't imagine what the impetus was to find something even more generic -- or if it's even possible to come up with a more bland thriller title. Betrayal, perhaps? Dark Secrets?

This is a film that starts off with some agreeable, professional trashiness before settling into routine. This is not to say that the opening, with meek, lonely accountant Jonathan (McGregor) striking up a friendship with the slick Wyatt (Jackman), is entirely smooth going. Almost immediately, the movie suffers from casting the sly, handsome McGregor as a fumbling nebbish. The guy has both acting chops and charisma; naturally, several of his Hollywood roles ask him to trade both for an American accent. Hopefully he meets up with Colin Farrell and James McAvoy to commiserate -- or maybe he swapped stories on-set with Jackman, another good-looking overseas bloke who has alternated terrific performances with bouts of blandness.

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Live Free or Die Hard Review


Extraordinary
He's back. The fly in the ointment. The monkey in the wrench. The pain in the... well, since Len Wiseman's Live Free or Die Hard is the franchise's first installment saddled with an audience-friendly PG-13 rating, we'll have to dance around that last quote. But that's about the only thing toned down as Bruce Willis resurrects his iconic blue-collar cop character John McClane for a timely, terrifying, and terrifically entertaining popcorn flick.

Chances are I enjoyed this new Die Hard, the fourth in the series, more than you will. Full disclosure time: The original Die Hard is my favorite film. Not my favorite Bruce Willis film. Not my favorite action film. My favorite film, period. And Willis' invulnerable but impossibly human John McClane is, to me, the quintessential movie hero -- a street-smart civil servant with a knack for disrupting the best-laid plans of vicious malcontents.

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Godsend Review


Grim
Watching Godsend compares to eating a gallon of fudge-filled chocolate ice cream minutes before going to bed. You know it's bad for you, but the experience is tons of fun. Soon enough, though, the gooey dessert stops tasting so good. By the time you near the bottom of the container, you can't even justify why you continue to swallow spoonfuls, but you keep eating despite the fact that it doesn't make sense to continue.

That also explains director Nick Hamm's jackhammer approach to his material. He knows he's working with a cheesy campfire story, the kind best whispered to terrified boy scouts in the dead of night. But he's sadly unaware of when enough is enough, and his final act becomes a series of ludicrous scientific explanations offset by cheap jolts to our nervous system.

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Mark Bomback

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