Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Image is property of Universal, Amblin Entertainment and Legendary Pictures

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Jeff Goldblum, B. D. Wong

Director: J.A. Bayona

Synopsis: Years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park, with the island’s volcano about to explode, a rescue operation is launched to save the island’s dinosaur population from almost certain extinction…

Review: There is a seemingly undying fascination that humanity as a species has with dinosaurs. With museums that boast fascinating old skeletons of these creatures to a series of films that began all the way back in 1993 with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, a film that changed the movie industry forever as for the first time on the big screen, dinosaurs came to life. Though the 1997 and 2001 sequels never quite lived up to the majesty of the original, the fascination never died. Indeed, when Jurassic World came along in 2015 to try and reintroduce the franchise to a new generation, the box office roared accordingly, to the tune of $1.6 billion, and so this franchise finds a way to keep on going.

With the Jurassic World theme park having met a predictable fate, following some disastrous dino-experimentation, the dinosaurs that are still on Isla Nublar are in immediate danger due to the island’s volcano which is threatening to erupt. So Claire (Howard) re-teams with Owen (Pratt) to mount a rescue operation to save the pre-historic beasts. However, there is the question of whether these creatures should be saved, or should nature just take its course? With Colin Trevorrow now solely on writing credits along with Derek Connolly, in comes The Impossible director J.A.Bayona who injects some of his disaster movie expertise into the film. In doing so, providing some especially haunting shots of the now desolate park and one scene in particular that is especially melancholic.

Hold on to your butts, and run for your life!

Bayona does his best to replicate the visual majesty of the original, and while topping that is an almost impossible task, he does bring some really stellar action scenes to the mix. Yet the script could easily have done with having some of the DNA of the first film injected into it, as there is a severe lack of development on many of the humans. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard once again both give solid performances as our two main characters, but the development their characters is very limited. It is a similar story for those that are in the supporting roles, as they’re just not as memorable as say a John Hammond or Ian Malcolm. Speaking of, the Goldblum makes a welcome return, but his appearance is fleeting at best.

With Bayona bringing the visual splendour, Trevorrow and Connolly’s script doesn’t quite match up to that. The plot certainly goes in a very interesting direction, and it is very much a tale of two halves. One being the mission to the island, and the other being that mission’s aftermath. Plaudits must be given for them for trying something a bit different, but having said that, it is hard to ignore the similarities that this film has with its predecessors, and there are specific elements that you will look at think that you have seen this before, because we have.

What is cooked up by Bayona and Trevorrow delivers both what a sequel should do, but in other cases should not do. There is a much stronger attempt to bring a more coherent narrative to the story, which does bring more spectacle and emotion. What’s more, Bayona’s horror routes really shine through in a number of places. Yet the lack of development on many of the characters and the rehash of familiar plot elements is a massive frustration as we have seen franchises in the past take things in a brand new direction before. Blending classic Jurassic franchise tropes with some new elements, almost like trying to cook up the perfect dinosaur. The results are not catastrophic, but definitely nothing extraordinary.

The addition of Bayona as director provides some visual majesty that Spielberg would be proud of, but a tonally inconsistent script results in a dinosaur romp that will entertain, terrify and bemuse in equal measure.  

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Image is property of Disney and Lucasfilm

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Film Review

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Joonas Suotamo

Director: Ron Howard

Synopsis: Charting the origins of a young Han Solo as he escapes a desolate planet and finds a calling as a pilot and a smuggler, which sends him on an adventure where he meets a few familiar faces…

Review: Whenever a discussion regarding the greatest characters to have graced the big screen get discussed, one name that is very likely to crop up is everyone’s favourite stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder, AKA Han Solo. Right from his very first appearance in the franchise, he just charmed his way into the affection of legions of fans across the galaxy.  So in the wake of the extremely successful Rogue One, comes the latest chapter in the Anthology franchise, taking a look at a much younger Han, and how he came to be the cocky smuggler we know and love

It is no secret that the production of this film ran into a few problems somewhat when original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were given their marching orders, perhaps they made the mistake in shooting first? With the duo ejected off the project, Ron Howard was handed the keys to the ship. It is not known how much Lord and Miller had filmed before their exit, nor to what extent their efforts are what we see in the finished product. Given those well documented production problems, there were some concerns about how the film would turn out. Though Rogue One also had some well document production problems of its own, the finished product stayed on target to deliver the goods. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Solo.

The start of a beautiful furry friendship…

The adventure that Star Wars veteran writer Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan take us on explores the early stages of Han’s life, how he forged a friendship with a certain Wookie and the beginnings of his life as a smuggler as he gets dragged into a mission alongside said Wookie, and a group of fellow smugglers. However the film severely suffers with its pacing as the initial stages really drag. Furthermore, once the plot finally goes into lightspeed, it is just extremely bland and not memorable in the slightest.

Though it might take some time to adjust to him, Alden Ehrenreich does a solid job as the young Han. Though it has to be said, there are plenty of actors who could have assumed that role and done an equally splendid job. In spite of that, and the enormous shoes that he had to fill, he does do his best to capture that roguish streak that made him such a memorable presence in the original trilogy. There is certainly enjoyment to be had in looking at how this unlikely pair became the duo we know they come to be, as is exploring the early relationship between Han and Lando, who is perfectly portrayed by Donald Glover. Certain characters get introduced and the audience is barely given a chance to get to know them before the plot moves forward.

Apart from Han and Lando, there is severe lack of development on many of these characters. And for the ones that do get some development, like Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra, it is flimsy at best. One thing that has so often been a staple of Star Wars films of the past was the presence of a strong compelling villain. There is a villain here, but due to a severe lack of development, he does not get the chance to leave a solid impression. Ultimately, this is also applicable for much of the rest of the cast, which is a shame when you consider the real talent of the actors involved. On that note, some of the cinematography on show here is really murky and just looks awful, which is baffling when you realise that the DP is Bradford Young, the man who was behind the lenses to the superb Arrival. And while everything is competently made, the direction from Howard is solid if unspectacular.

Usually with every SW film, there is at least one shot or scene that sticks in the mind, but with Solo these are few and far between. Furthermore, the the generic nature of the plot and its by-the-numbers execution leaves a lot to be desired, particularly when it is compared to the recent Star Wars films, both of the main new trilogy and the first Anthology film. With Han Solo, a character who never likes to be told the odds, the odds were stacked against this film, and sadly despite a super talented cast and production crew, it fell short of those lofty expectations that many perhaps expect from a Star Wars adventure. Don’t punch it Chewie, where’s that escape pod?

There is fun to be had, but the presence of the Star Wars name cannot disguise the very bland and forgettable nature of the story, even with a super talented cast and director.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox and Marvel

Deadpool 2 – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Zazie Beetz, Brianna Hildebrand, Julian Dennison, TJ Miller

Director: David Leitch

Synopsis: When the menacing mutant Cable travels back in time and threatens the life of a troubled young mutant, Deadpool must bring together a team of heroes and to stop him.

Review: The journey for Wade Wilson AKA Deadpool to get to the big screen for his first outing a couple of years ago was a troubled one. Yet when he finally arrived in all of his red spandex glory, it smashed all sorts of records and changed the game as far as comic book and superhero films go. Though in Deadpool’s case, the hero “tag” is perhaps not one he is best suited to. Nevertheless, the fans responded and, with his katana in hand, the Merc with a mouth cut box office records cut in half, and it was inevitable that a sequel would be given the thumbs up.

While the first film was your classic origins story about how the man became the Merc. This time around, we meet Wade trying to balance his Deadpool duties with his personal life with Vanessa. This is until his path crosses with Russell, a mutant with some fire abilities, and the villainous Cable, who travels back from the future with the sole goal to kill this boy. Part of what made the first film the juggernaut of the success it was its routine fourth wall breaking, pop culture references, quite excessive uses of profanity and upping the violence factor considerably. If the first film was not your thing, chances are this film will not bring you over. The story does go in interesting and ballsy directions that keeps things moving swiftly along in a gleefully bloody direction.

Just casually jumping out of a plane, as you do…

Every once in a while, when an actor takes on a superhero role, they are just such a perfect fit that you just cannot see anyone else stepping into their shoes, and Reynolds fits into this description with his performances, gone be the memories of the first time he stepped into the role of this character. Likewise to that other time he took on the mantle of a different hero. Aside from the returning Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, there are a plethora of new characters this time around. Though many are just filler, the main ones to focus on are the lucky superhero Domino (Beetz) and Josh Brolin’s Cable, clearly having not filled his villainous boots after going after those Infinity Stones as Thanos.

The film boasts considerably more action than its predecessor, and having suited up John Wick for the first time (in addition to having killed his dog), former stuntman David Leitch takes over from Tim Miller as director. Like he demonstrated with John Wick, the action scenes are slickly produced and just extremely entertaining to watch. Though the film is for the most part extremely entertaining with some excellent gags to some classic Hollywood cinema (one will stick out in your mind in particular) the plot while undoubtedly entertaining, does run out of steam in a few places, and is a little bit thin on the ground.  Furthermore, you will find it difficult to look at certain plot points and think back to certain films of the past.

In any case, with the memories of the ill-fated first time he stepped into the role, it is great to see Reynolds seemingly have such an absolute blast with the role that he has completely made his own. In this era of superhero and comic book genre dominance, it is refreshing to see this type of superhero film that just honestly doesn’t give a shit and just wants to serve the audience up with a quality sized slice of hilarious, fourth-wall breaking and crude entertainment. If that is what you’re after, then Mr Deadpool is the man to provide that, in hilarious and extremely bloody fashion too.

As crude as its predecessor, all while delivering much bigger action set pieces and some very amusing gags, all while building depth to the Merc with a Mouth’s character. Maximum effort, maximum enjoyment. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Disaster Artist (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema and A24

The Disaster Artist – Film Review

Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen

Director: James Franco

Synopsis: When aspiring actors Greg Sistero and Tommy Wiseau meet in an acting class, they both have dreams of making it in Hollywood. When no one gives them a chance, they decide to make their own movie, with hilarious results…

Review: There is a lot that is subjective when it comes to discussions about best and worst films of all time. There are a few usual suspects at both ends of the spectrum, but it is next to impossible to lock down one film as the absolute best, and worst respectively. Yet in the case of the latter, one film that many would argue deserves its place as the worst of the worst, is of course The Room. Yet for all that film’s many faults, no one can deny it has garnered an enormous cult following, which has helped it become perhaps the greatest worst film ever made. But how did such a monstrosity come into existence?

The answer can be found courtesy of Greg Sistero and Tom Bissell’s book of the same name, charting his journey that led him to be a part of the project that was the brainchild of Tommy Wiseau. A man of several unexplained mysteries, and a seemingly bottomless pit of money, made it all happen. The film explores Greg and Tommy’s friendship and how that led them to the adventure (or should that be misadventure?) of the making of The Room and the ensuing chaos that surrounded the production of the film. Most people will have has got big dreams for what they would like to do in life, and though this isn’t exactly anything new in Hollywood, The Disaster Artist is nonetheless a thoroughly amusing and at times very heartfelt story about two guys trying to make their dreams happen, even if the end result is not the type of film that would be even remotely worthy of any Oscars.

Watching in bewilderment /amusement /amazement…

As the two leading performances, the Franco brothers are both on excellent form with James taking the role of Tommy and Dave as Greg. There is a genuine almost brotherly like connection between the two of them, which is probably due to the fact that they are real life brothers! However you buy into their friendship and it makes you want both of them to succeed, which to a certain extent they do. The only thing is, it doesn’t quite go as they would have hoped. James is particularly excellent as he has the look and the mysterious accent of Wiseau almost down to a T. Dave also does an excellent job as he is the one who strives to complete the goal when things start to go spectacularly wrong for their project. There is humour to be found in the screenplay, which is no small part due to Tommy’s peculiar mannerisms, but it gets to a point where even though you hope they make their dreams come to fruition, that Tommy’s behaviour starts to become REALLY annoying. One can only begin to imagine how annoying it would have been for the crew.

It is clear that through his eccentric performance, and his direction, that Franco has a real passion for The Room, as they capture scenes from the film right down to the tiniest details. It might naht have enjoyed the success that Wiseau probably would have wanted it to upon its release. However, though it has perhaps become famous for all the wrong reasons, it has nevertheless endured the test of time. With an enormous cult following and screenings aplenty to this day, the film has even made a profit on its 6 million dollar budget. Everyone has dreams, and though the pursuit of one’s dreams might not always lead to success, it is important to never lose sight of those aspirations, as you just never know what kind of legacy you might leave behind.

A humourous look at what is ultimately a disaster of a film, but one that is told with genuine sincerity, and an important message about going after your dreams no matter how high the odds might be stacked against you. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Avengers: Infinity War – Film Review

Cast: Spoilers!!

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: Thanos, the Mad Titan, is seeking possession of the Infinity Stones that would give him unrivalled power, and it’s up to the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him as the fate of the Universe hangs in the balance…

This review will have no spoilers…

Review: Ten years in the making, with eighteen previous entries in this incredible cinematic universe that we have watched grow over the past ten years. It has been quite the fun and enjoyable ride, but this is what it has all been building towards. After all the work that was put in to establish this world and its characters in the previous decade of Marvel goodness, it would be fair to say the weight of expectation on this film was enormous. Therefore, one must give kudos to the Russo brothers, who return to the directors chairs of the MCU for the third time, and complete their hat-trick in spectacular style.

The plot, without straying into spoiler territory, focuses on the maniacal Thanos and his quest to obtain the infinity stones with the help of some underling servants known as the Black Order, to wreak unprecedented destruction on the universe, which understandably captures the attention of just about every MCU hero we have met thus far. Given the sheer number of heroes we have met thus far, there was understandable concern from certain quarters as to would they be able to balance the story with so many larger than life heroes? Well as they proved with Civil War, the Russos and returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, do just that.

Insert Sherlock Holmes joke here…

Each hero that we meet is given their chance to shine and there’s no one that feels out of place. They are all relevant pieces in this battle, and as such , everyone has ample screen time in this battle that simply put, has unprecedented stakes for all of our heroes. Yet despite these threatening stakes, as Marvel so often does, the film is peppered with plenty of humorous moments. But these never negate the moments of drama or danger that these heroes find themselves up against, as you feel that no one, no matter how big or how long they have been a part of the MCU, is in very serious peril.

Speaking of, it has been no secret that the MCU has had some trouble with crafting compelling villains. With a few exceptions, many of them have been very bland and forgettable. Thankfully, that is not applicable with Thanos. It is hard to humanise a villain who wants to kill at will, but he is given the crucial depth that a good villain needs to get in order to make them memorable. Furthermore, they need to be given a presence that our heroes feel, and they certainly feel Thanos’s presence alright, the much needed villain to truly break the villain curse that has plagued so many MCU movies.

As they demonstrated with both of their previous MCU entries, the Russos are once again right on the top of their game when it comes to delivering the compelling action scenes that were used so effectively in their previous MCU films. There are plenty of these throw-downs scattered throughout the film, you really feel the scale of the events that are taking place within this world that we as an audience have grown with over these past ten years. It is some heavy stuff and with this latest entry, again without straying into spoiler territory, it is a film that will have a major impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we have known it.

With only a handful of films left in what has been the third phase of their cinematic universe, it is hard to not feel that all of this is all coming to a close. In a film like this, you need to just give the audience a complete and emotional sucker punch that leaves them reeling, and by the end of this movie, said sucker punch will have been delivered. Though there is still a second part in this story, and a few other films in Phase 3 to come, there is no escaping the fact that with this film, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been shaken to its core.

It has all been building towards this, and it brought home the goods. So many heroes could have been problematic, but it is all weaved together tremendously well, and a truly memorable villain in Thanos sets things up perfectly for Avengers 4.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ready Player One (2018)

Ready Player One – Film Review

Cast: Tye Sherdian, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg

Director: Steven Spielberg

Synopsis: In the year 2045, the real world in pretty bad shape. As such, in order to escape their daily troubles, many people go into a virtual game world known as the OASIS, where a world of games and activities await…

Review: If ever there was a record for the amount of pop culture references that were made throughout the runtime of one particular film, the odds are good that this particular work would be pretty near the top of the list. If you were to play a round of pop culture bingo whilst watching this film, you would probably have enough references to yell out bingo, possible a few times over, and maybe then a few more.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, the story focuses on Wade Watts (name to sound like a superhero alter-ego). He is just one of many citizens whose life is far from idyllic in Columbus, Ohio. So he goes into the virtual reality world known as the OASIS, essentially on a daily basis. Given what you can do in this world (basically anything) it isn’t hard to see why people jump into this world with such regularity. As part of a prize left behind by the world’s creator, a competition arises to win a pretty sweet prize that would change the life of the winner forever, which naturally has Wade’s attention. All the while, the head honchos at a rival company led by Nolan Sorrento (Mendelsohn) try to get their hands on the big prize for their own maniacal purposes.

Given the sheer volume of pop culture references in this film, it could have very easily felt just like a massive pop culture extravaganza. However, despite all the references that will undoubtedly delight audiences everywhere, Spielberg strikes a balance between the vast array of pop culture and a very personal story involving Wade and the relationship he begins to strike up with another gamer, namely Samantha (Cooke). The chemistry between these two is really well done and provides the film with the emotional heart that it really needs amidst all the pop culture phenomenon that is taking place, and the battle that ensues between these two and Sorrento.

Given the portfolio of a director such as Spielberg, with so many pieces of work that have left their ever-lasting stamp on the world of entertainment, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Spielberg crafts a visual treat in terms of the world of the OASIS and all that it encompasses. After his last few films have ventured for the most part into the Oscar territory, it is refreshing to see Spielberg go back into the pure blockbuster spectacle territory. As such, it is likely that a lot of fun was being had during the production, which definitely filters through when it comes to the story. Though it is a visual treat, the plot does suffer from some narrative issues and there is a notable lack of character development on some of the supporting crew besides Wade and Samantha. Furthermore, though the film is extremely entertaining visually, the plot can’t help but stray into very familiar and predictable territory.

Nevertheless, there is something delightful to behold in what Spielberg has brought to the screen, which will definitely be enhanced by how many of the references you will recognise and appreciate. Sheridan and Cooke are excellent in their key roles, and Mark Rylance once again reunites with Spielberg to great effect once again as perhaps the most significant player in this entire story. Spielberg strikes just about the right balance between this incredible world of the OASIS and the real life struggle that comes about as a result of this quest. The nostalgia factor plays its part, but the film is driven deeply personal story at its core. Though let’s be fair, a film driven entirely by the nostalgia/Pop culture Easter egg bonanza under the genius vision of a director like Spielberg wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing at all.

Visually delightful with pop culture Easter eggs aplenty, fused together with a heartfelt and intriguing story ensure a solid return in the blockbuster film-making department for Spielberg.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Isle of Dogs – Film Review

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Bob Balaban, Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig, Liev Schreiber

Director: Wes Anderson

Synopsis: In a near future Japan, after all dogs are banished to a solitary island following an outbreak of a deadly virus, one young boy goes in search of his dog.

Review: “Man’s best friend,” a title that has a long association with dogs and the special relationship that humanity as a species has with our four legged friends. This concept however is completely turned on its head in the latest film to emerge from the brain of quirky director Wes Anderson, also marking his second foray in stop-motion animation film-making following 2009’s Fantastic Mr Fox.

Set around twenty years in the future, in the wake of a virus that tears through a Japanese city, a decree is issued that declares that all dogs be sentenced to a nearby trash island, firmly away from any human contact. When one young boy makes a daring venture to said island in search of his pet dog, the burden falls to a select group of pooches, namely Chief (Cranston), Rex (Norton), King (Balaban), Boss (Murray) and Duke (Goldblum) to help him in his quest to find his beloved hound Spots (Schreiber).

Mutts on a mission…

It certainly is a given that with any feature length film, that a lot of care and attention goes into the production of the film, but never does that feel more appropriate than for this sort of stop motion animation. With each new character that is introduced (there are a fair few of them), it is evident that a great deal of work has gone into this film, and it pays dividends. The animation is stellar and by consequence, the film has a really unique look to it. Our main gang of lovable mutts are all very well fleshed out characters, which isn’t that much of a surprise given the considerable talents of the actors lending their voices to them. The stand-out is Bryan Cranston’s Chief who has some trust issues when it comes to humans, and as such he finds himself at odds with the rest of the pack, mainly Norton’s Rex.

As well as having a unique look about it, Anderson’s screenplay goes in very intriguing directions. Though it does use elements of Japanese culture that are very commonplace, it never feels like it is cultural appropriation. Indeed, it’s more like cultural appreciation as the country’s culture is front and centre, with instances where dialogue is sometimes not even translated. And of course, there is that quirky style of humour that only comes with a Wes Anderson movie stamped all over the film. He manages to fuse that humour so effortlessly into this heart-warming tale about the relationship between man and mutt, and how far one boy will go to save his four legged friend.

With such a stacked voice cast filled with so many talented actors, it was almost inevitable that some would get lost in the mix. Aside from Cranston, it’s Norton’s Rex and The Goldblum’s Duke that make the most impact, in addition to Nutmeg, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.  There are meaningful contributions from the likes of Harvey Keitel, Greta Gerwig and F Murray Abraham, but sadly they don’t get nearly enough the screen time that the actors of their talent deserve.

However, in spite of that, the dedication to the story and the warmth that the film-makers have not only to the culture of Japan but of pooches themselves mean that anyone who has a favourable disposition towards dogs will almost assuredly appreciate this film, likewise for anyone who is less enamoured by dogs will undoubtedly appreciate it. Who knows, perhaps even the most ardent cat lover won’t have a bone to pick with this film, but that might be a bit too far fetched.

Charming and very entertaining with beautiful detailed animation and a superb voice cast, there really isn’t anyone in Hollywood who makes movies like Wes Anderson does.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tomb Raider (2018)

Image is property of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. Pictures

Tomb Raider (2018) – Film Review

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas

Director: Roar Uthaug

Synopsis: After an explorer vanishes without a trace, his fearless daughter Lara Croft sets out on a mission to his last known location, and to discover what exactly was the true purpose of her father’s venture…

Review: It seems as though there is one genre of films that whenever a new one is announced, that said film is doomed to be a failure before it is even released to the general public. This genre is of course films adapted from popular video games. It is fair to say that over the years, they have gained a reputation for being, simply put, not very good. Two such examples, would the two Tomb Raider films that starred Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s. Though they did not enjoy the best of receptions, the legacy of Lara Croft as an iconic video game character remains very much intact, so much so that another attempt at bringing perhaps the most iconic video game character of the 90s to the big screen was almost inevitable.

Indeed, a good decade and a half later, and here we are. In terms of our badass heroine, it is out with Jolie, and in with recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander who works in a pretty much dead end job in present day London, though questions still remain her regarding her long lost father. When she stumbles upon a clue that links to his last known location, she decides to set out in search of what it was her father was investigating. Of course it would not be a Tomb Raider film if Lara doesn’t find herself in a spot of bother when she lands on this island and must use all of her skills to negotiate the obstacles she finds in her path.

A badass with a bow, watch out Katniss…

For this film to really stand any chance of being a success, it was essential that they cast a capable actress in the lead role. Though casting an Oscar winner is by no means a guaranteed recipe for success, Alicia Vikander brought charisma and personality to the role. She compliments this the physical attributes that are key traits of what makes Lara Croft, well Lara Croft. Vikander gives a committed performance and showed herself to be more than capable of handling the physicality of the role and the demanding action scenes. Though there is nothing ground-breaking about the, these scenes are for the most part fairly well handled by director Roar Uthaug.

It is essential in a film like this that your main character is well fleshed out, and this screenplay does just that. It gives Lara a backstory that explores her origins principally  her relationship with her father and how that has had an influence on her and her tomb raiding adventures. Though it sometimes comes across as a bit soppy, as it is an integral to who Lara is as a character, it does its job. Once we get to the crux of the adventure though is where things start to get really interesting. The plot, certainly recaptures that gritty nature of the games, and while it is entertaining, could be deemed to be a little bit by the numbers.

Yet, for what it is worth, this lays the foundations for the start of what could well turn out to be a franchise. There isn’t a great deal of character development for some of the other characters, most notably Kristin Scott Thomas and Walton Goggins. Nevertheless, the film achieves its goal of delivering a solid adventure for the legend that is Lara Croft, with plenty of visual nods to the franchise that die hard fans are undoubtedly going to appreciate.

The story treads familiar ground, but a strong capable performance from Vikander anchors the film and proves that adaptations of video games aren’t all bad.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Red Sparrow (2018)

Image is property of TSG Entertainment, Chernin Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Red Sparrow  – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis: A Russian ballerina is enrolled into a top secret programme that trains its recruits to become highly skilled agent known as Sparrows. Her primary target quickly becomes a CIA agent who is in possession of some top secret information.

Review: The United States of America and Russia,  two countries with an extremely murky history. A history that teased the terrifying prospect of nuclear conflict that lasted the best part of the 20th century. As such, it opens the door for filmmakers and storytellers to tap into this relationship of sorts between these two countries and how that may develop in the years to come. Mix that in with elements of espionage and seduction, and you have the materials to make a dark and unsettling espionage thriller.

Yet despite ticking all these boxes, there is something about Red Sparrow that just never  hits the mark. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Jason Matthews, it’s intriguing premise offers much, but the hope that this intriguing premise would deliver a compelling story feels really misguided. Marking his first project since completing the Hunger Games franchise, Francis Lawrence has reunited with his Hunger Games collaborator Jennifer Lawrence (no relation) to tell this story of Dominika. A gifted Russian ballerina who suffers a devastating accident which destroys her career as a ballerina. Unsure as to what she should do next, she is pushed into the direction of the Sparrow programme, and it’s from this moment, her life will never be the same again.

The trailers certainly made the movie look as though it was going to be an intriguing espionage thriller, yet sadly it really is not all that thrilling. The screenplay by Justin Hythe certainly offers up an intriguing first act, including some very dark scenes that could have taken the story in a very interesting direction. However, it all quickly fizzles away into insignificance before long. A story with this premise should not be this mediocre, but several scenes just meander and it all becomes just not very interesting to watch. The actual plot itself is extremely convoluted, and it all just gets a little bit messy.  There’s some impressive camerawork involving the moment her ballerina prospects go up in flames, but there’s not much else to shout about, which is frustrating given some of the work we have seen from Lawrence as a director (see Catching Fire).

Lawrence has shown that since she hung up her bow as Katniss that she can take on a variety of different roles and make them her own. Her performance is admirable as she tries to hold the film on her shoulders, but the extremely lacklustre material she has been given to work with prevents her from doing so. Though her accent does slip on occasions, she gives comfortably the strongest performance. The rest of this very talented cast are by and large either extremely under-utilised or not given enough development to really make the audience care for them. Edgerton is perhaps the only exception, but even then the development he gets is thin, at best. Meanwhile, other actors such as Jeremy Irons seem really miscast in their roles.

The chemistry between Lawrence and Edgerton is serviceable, but it could and really should have been so much stronger given the talent of the actors. The plot is so convoluted that by the time the credits begin to play, you’ll be wondering if it was worth it, and the answer sadly, is probably not.

An intriguing premise, thrown away on an extremely convoluted and messy plot, combined with very bland and forgettable characters, all of which results in an extremely disappointing finished product.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

90th Academy Awards: Predictions

Hollywood’s biggest night is upon us once again, and the Academy celebrates it’s 90th birthday. For such a significant milestone in the Academy’s history, it is extremely fitting then there is a plethora of really good films that are up for the big prizes this year. A story about a woman who falls in love with a fish man, a film about the power of advertising, a return to the world of replicants, a journalism drama, the story of the Dunkirk evacuation, a love story set in 1980s Italy and a film about a dress designer that marks the final on screen performance of the legendary Daniel Day Lewis. Of course, for all the great films there can only be one winner in every category and so it is time to predict the winners in the majority of the categories (I have not seen the documentaries and animated shorts) and chime in with my own thoughts on who should take home that coveted golden statue come the end of the night.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Timothée Chalamet Call Me by Your Name
  • Daniel Day-LewisPhantom Thread
  • Daniel Kaluuya Get Out
  • Gary Oldman Darkest Hour
  • Denzel WashingtonRoman J. Israel, Esq.

It is looking likely that this will be the occasion that Gary Oldman finally strikes Oscar gold, for a transformative, mesmerising turn as Winston Churchill. He’s been sweeping the board throughout this awards season and it would be more than deserved. At times, you forgot it was him under all that make up, his captivating performance binds the whole film together, and it would be a major surprise if Oldman is not victorious.

Will Win: Gary Oldman

Should Win: Gary Oldman

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Sally Hawkins The Shape of Water
  • Frances McDormandThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Margot Robbie I, Tonya
  • Saoirse RonanLady Bird
  • Meryl StreepThe Post

It’s a similar story with the leading actress category as McDormand has also been sweeping the board with her terrific and heartbreaking work as a mother desperately seeking answers over her child’s murder. That being said, Saorise Ronan could be something of an underdog with her beautiful performance. What’s more to say, for a film in which she has no dialogue, Sally Hawkins should also not be ruled out. A victory for any of these three would be more than worthy but the writing is on the billboard for McDormand and she should take home her 2nd Oscar.

Will Win: Frances McDormand

Should Win: Sally Hawkins

Could have been nominated: Vicki Krieps for Phantom Thread

Best Supporting Actor

  • Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
  • Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
  • Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
  • Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Billboards’s domination should continue here as much like the preceding two categories, Rockwell has been cleaning house and is the hot favourite to win his first Oscar. His work in Billboards was extraordinary and despite the excellent efforts of all the gentlemen nominated in this category with him, this is most definitely Rockwell’s to lose.

Will Win: Sam Rockwell

Should Win: Sam Rockwell

Could have been nominated: Harrison Ford for Blade Runner 2049

Best Supporting Actress 

  • Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
  • Allison Janney – I, Tonya
  • Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
  • Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
  • Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

The last acting category and another very likely triumph, this time for Alison Janney. Her work as the vicious mother of Tonya Harding was uncompromising, yet at the same time very funny. Yet one could feel that Laurie Metcalf’s work opposite Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird was the much more sincere performance as a mother who also wants what’s best for her daughter but tries to be a little bit more compassionate about it. Like the previous acting categories, Janney has definitely got this one wrapped up.

Will Win: Allison Janney 

Should Win: Laurie Metcalf

Could have been nominated: Holly Hunter for The Big Sick

Best Director

  • Christopher NolanDunkirk
  • Jordan PeeleGet Out
  • Greta GerwigLady Bird
  • Paul Thomas AndersonPhantom Thread
  • Guillermo del ToroThe Shape of Water

Meshing three inter-weaving storylines and making them all flow seamlessly is an extraordinary feat of directorial mastery, and for that Nolan could yet take his FIRST Oscar (err what?!!?). Yet this one is seemingly heading towards Del Toro. Though that would not be an undeserving win for an extraordinary film-maker, there is fierce competition from both Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele, both of whom made their directorial debuts in almighty style. But the odds are in Del Toro’s favour.

Will Win:  Guillermo del Toro 

Should Win: Christopher Nolan

Could have been nominated: Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2049

Best Original Screenplay 

  • The Big Sick – Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani
  • Get Out – Jordan Peele
  • Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig
  • The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Martin McDonagh

Five very strong screenplays, any of these would be a worthy winner, but it seems as though it’s a race between Get Out and Three Billboards. Peele’s screenplay is razor sharp in terms of its humour and very relevant social commentary that makes it a hot favourite, and deservedly so. That being said, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri also balances the extremely dark nature of its subject matter, and injects it with extremely black humour that hits the mark. It could be a very close call.

Will Win:  Get Out

Should Win:  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could have been nominated: Coco

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Call Me by Your NameJames Ivory 
  • The Disaster ArtistScott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
  • LoganScott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green
  • Molly’s GameAaron Sorkin
  • MudboundVirgil Williams and Dee Rees

Call Me By Your Name has been pretty much sweeping this category across this awards season and so its success here is looking almost guaranteed. It is somewhat surprising to see a superhero film nominated, but that is a testament to the sheer quality of Logan’s screenplay that it deserves its place here and in another year, might have even taken home the gold.

Will Win:  Call Me by Your Name 

Should Win: Logan

Could have been nominated: Blade Runner 2049

Best Animated Feature Film 

  • The Boss Baby
  • The Breadwinner
  • Coco
  • Ferdinand 
  • Loving Vincent 

In contrast to last year, this is something of a weak category for animation. The power of Pixar will get Coco through here. Though the omission of the Lego Batman Movie proves that the Academy must have a vendetta against Lego for some strange reason.

Will Win:  Coco

Should Win: Coco

Should have been nominated: The Lego Batman Movie

Best Original Score 

  • DunkirkHans Zimmer
  • Phantom ThreadJonny Greenwood
  • The Shape of WaterAlexandre Desplat
  • Star Wars: The Last JediJohn Williams
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriCarter Burwell

Zimmer’s score certainly helped to add massive amounts of tension to Dunkirk. But the work of Desplat goes hand in hand with the beautiful work that you see on screen. Though Jonny Greenwood’s work on Phantom Thread is equally mesmerising so it’s by no means a foregone conclusion.

Will Win:  The Shape of Water

Should Win: The Shape of Water

Could have been nominated: Blade Runner 2049

Best Original Song 

  • “Mighty River” from Mudbound – Music and Lyrics by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson
  • “Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name – Music and Lyrics by Sufjan Stevens
  • “Remember Me” from Coco – Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall – Music by Diane Warren; Lyrics by Common and Diane Warren
  • “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman – Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

This seems to be a battle between “This is Me” and “Remember Me” though “Mystery of Love” could certainly pull off an upset. With music being a central part of Coco, that could give it an edge but “This is Me” seems the most likely to triumph

Will Win:  “This is Me” from Greatest Showman

Should Win: “Remember Me” from Coco

Best Sound Editing

The sound categories this year seem to be a battle between the slick and stylish work of Baby Driver versus the heart-pounding intensity of Dunkirk. The work done by both these teams is very impressive, but Dunkirk‘s technical mastery should be enough to get it home with the Oscar in tow.

Will Win:  Dunkirk

Should Win: Dunkirk

Best Sound Mixing

  • Baby Driver Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis
  • Blade Runner 2049Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth
  • DunkirkMark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker and Gary A. Rizzo
  • The Shape of WaterChristian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier
  • Star Wars: The Last JediDavid Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson

As with the Sound Editing category, it is Dunkirk VS Baby Driver and as before, though either would be more than a worthy winner, Dunkirk’s sound wizardry is second to none.

Will Win:  Dunkirk

Should Win: Dunkirk

Best Production Design 

  • Beauty and the Beast – Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  • Blade Runner 2049 – Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Alessandra Querzola
  • Darkest Hour – Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  • Dunkirk – Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
  • The Shape of Water – Production Design: Paul Denham Austerberry; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin

To take the world of Los Angeles in the future and have it look so dazzlingly authentic gives Blade Runner 2049  a real shot at winning. However in a similar vein, fusing the fantastical elements of the story with the gritty nature of 1960s Cold War America gives Shape of Water a real chance of taking the award out of the hands of those replicants.

Will Win:  Blade Runner 2049

Should Win: Dunkirk

Best Cinematography

  • Blade Runner 2049Roger Deakins
  • Darkest HourBruno Delbonnel
  • DunkirkHoyte van Hoytema
  • MudboundRachel Morrison
  • The Shape of WaterDan Laustsen

Simply put, #DeakinsorRiot. One of the finest cinematographers ever is due on Oscar and this better be the one that gives him the damn statue after 14 previous attempts.

Will Win:  Roger Deakins

Should Win: Roger Deakins

Best Makeup and Hairstyling 

  • Darkest Hour Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick
  • Victoria & AbdulDaniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
  • WonderArjen Tuiten

As previously mentioned, the extraordinary work that helped transform Mr Oldman into Mr Churchill should ensure Darkest Hour is triumphant.

Will Win:  Darkest Hour

Should Win: Darkest Hour

Best Costume Design 

  • Beauty and the BeastJacqueline Durran
  • Darkest HourJacqueline Durran
  • Phantom ThreadMark Bridges
  • The Shape of Water Luis Sequeira
  • Victoria & AbdulConsolata Boyle

The dresses that were on display in Phantom Thread were sumptuous in their design and while the work done by Jacqueline Durran in Darkest Hour and Beauty and the Beast deserves plaudits, this one belongs to Phantom Thread.

Will Win:  Phantom Thread

Should Win: Phantom Thread

Best Film Editing

  • Baby Driver Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos
  • DunkirkLee Smith
  • I, TonyaTatiana S. Riegel
  • The Shape of WaterSidney Wolinsky
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriJon Gregory

When you take a film that intertwines 3 differing story-lines and it is all edited so brilliantly that should be more than enough to ensure that Dunkirk flies home with this Oscar.

Will Win:  Dunkirk

Should Win: Dunkirk

Best Visual Effects

  • Blade Runner 2049 John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick
  • Kong: Skull IslandStephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould
  • War for the Planet of the ApesJoe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist

Aside from the fact that the remarkable work Andy Serkis has done with this revived Apes trilogy should have ensured he at the very least got nominated, the work that is done on these films has been extraordinary and deserves to be recognised. That being said, Blade Runner 2049 will probably take this one home. Also why on earth is Kong: Skull Island here?

Will Win:  Blade Runner 2049

Should Win: Blade Runner 2049

Could have been nominated: Thor: Ragnarok

And last but certainly not least….

Best Picture

  • Call Me by Your Name Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges, and Marco Morabito
  • Darkest HourTim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten, and Douglas Urbanski
  • Dunkirk Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan
  • Get Out Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., and Jordan Peele
  • Lady BirdScott Rudin, Eli Bush, and Evelyn O’Neill
  • Phantom Thread JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison and Daniel Lupi
  • The PostAmy Pascal, Steven Spielberg, and Kristie Macosko Krieger
  • The Shape of WaterGuillermo del Toro and J. Miles Dale
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriGraham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, and Martin McDonagh

Click here to see my ranking of the Best Picture contenders.

An incredibly stacked year, full of some terrific works and usually there is one film that is a clear runaway favourite, but not so this year as there are a few that have a legitimate shot at taking home the biggest prize of the night.  Three Billboards will undoubtedly be buoyed by its BAFTA and SAG victories but success for The Shape of Water at the Critics Choice and Producer’s Guild of America Awards, highlights the unpredictability of this year’s crop. Though usually it requires a Best Director nomination to stand a good chance of scooping Best Picture, Three Billboards might just defy that expectation and become only the fifth film to win without a Best Director nomination. However, my hope is that The Shape of Water will emerge triumphant, it would go nicely with Del Toro’s probable victory in the director category, but this is extremely close to call.

Will Win:  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should Win: The Shape of Water

Could have been nominated: Blade Runner 2049