Posted in Film Review, 2000-2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Image is property of Hasbro Studios, Dreamworks Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Film Review

Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Ramón Rodríguez, John Turturro, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Tony Todd

Director:  Michael Bay

Synopsis: After saving the world from the Decepticons, Sam (LaBeouf) tries to leave all that behind and go to college. However, due to some clues that are in his possession, the Decepticons are ferociously hunting Sam once more…

Review: The first live action foray into the world of live action talking robots, was certainly if anything a noisy affair. Lots of explosions thrown in with robots fighting in a human metropolis. If that for whatever reason, didn’t provide you with a couple of hours of some mindless dumb popcorn entertainment, chances are this sequel to Bay’s Transformers mayhem probably won’t tickle your fancy much either, as it serves up more of the same in many ways, but the results this time, are not nearly as pleasing to the eye as the first instalment.

With the Decepticons seemingly defeated, Sam Witwicky now seems determined to lead a normal life, by going to college. Unfortunately for him, his role in the Transformers Civil War is not yet over, as a clue to another ancient artefact’s location on Earth sees him become the target for the Decepticons once again, and cue again lots of explosions and a Transformer Civil War reignites on Earth once more. What Bay does well is the visual effects are once again excellent, and for what it’s worth the opening sequence is for the most part, extremely entertaining to watch. These scenes are scattered throughout the film, and they, along with Steve Jablonsky’s score, are undoubtedly the high points of this expensive metal extravaganza.

Bruised and beaten, but still the ultimate badass…

The problematic dialogue has unfortunately not gone away, there are times when it is painful to just watch once again. The chemistry between the lead characters is not awful but its paper thin at best. The plot, once again is completely ridiculous and it seems was once again nothing more than an afterthought in production. You go into these movies to see Autobots fight Decepticons, but that is almost second fiddle here, as the humans are the centre of the attention. As such when those humans are front and centre for the majority of the run time, it’s really frustrating, especially since screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have proven themselves to be capable screenwriters.

As well as the bland humans, well they’re ably supported by some equally bland new Bots. Of course Optimus is his usual Peter Cullen-voiced badass self and the not so talkative Bumblebee. The rest apart from Ironhide are not nearly as developed as the aforementioned robots in disguise, thus rendering them big and uninteresting pieces of tin. Two robots that are not uninteresting, but for all the wrong reasons, are The Twins. Annoying and just offensive, it’s a pity they didn’t end up in the scrapheap of the editing room. In the Decepticon corner however, there is the eponymous Fallen who wants to do what Megatron did, and that is essentially destroy the human race, with a really absurd way of doing so. Bay’s style of editing is carried over from the first movie, and while it does have its merits to the way he frames his action scenes, it could quite possibly be migraine inducing.

It had its flaws but Bay had the platform to build on what he achieved from the first one and make a meaningful sequel. From quite the considerable production budget, the end result is certainly bigger in scale, but better it most certainly isn’t. There’s enjoyment to be had, as such it’s not a complete car crash, but  it’s not far off. Ultimately it is one colourful and noisy mess that doesn’t add anything new to the franchise. Instead it takes the problems of the first film, and just makes them that so much more noticeable.

Nothing more than meets the eye to be found here, a messy and absurd script is slightly compensated by some good effects, but even they become extremely tiresome after a while.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Transformers (2007)

Image is property of Dreamworks Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Transformers – Film Review

Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel, Rachael Taylor, John Turturro, Peter Cullen

Director:  Michael Bay

Synopsis: When a teenager buys his first car, which turns out to be a Transformer, he gets dragged into an ancient war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, and a battle for humanity’s survival.

Review: Making an adaption of a popular toy franchise, one that has been around since the mid 1980s, would seem like a safe bet for cinematic greatness. After all, when said franchise has spawned a plethora of spin off TV shows and an animated movie among other things, that have had a very loyal fan-base down the years, it was always bound to get the live action film treatment, and a popular toy franchise fused with live action must equal greatness, right? Well, not quite.

As this is a tale of two factions of alien robots, disguising themselves as regular Earth vehicles, doing battle over a transformer cube artefact, this is very much a popcorn flick where you leave your brain at the door. No thought-provoking themes to be found here, just sit back and watch at the metallic mayhem that director Michael Bay throws at you, which should for the most part leave you very well entertained as it truly is breathless stuff at times. There is a plot, of sorts, but it’s all pretty much irrelevant once we arrive at what we signed up for. Basically, the Autobots and Decepticons battling for possession of this cube, set in human territory, and Sam Witwicky (LaBoeuf) is at the centre of this fight.

Not your regular bunch of vehicles…

Bay certainly likes to tell his stories with some explosions, or ten, and when its all out Transformer Battle Royale, in a scrappy fight to the death, it certainly is pulsating stuff. Bay certainly favours quick cut editing, and it is used to great effect here. What is also truly excellent is the CGI, especially when the robots are transforming, it all looks absolutely superb.  What’s not as interesting however is the bits in between with some of the human characters. LeBoeuf is interesting enough as the human lead, even if he is a bit of a dork. The chemistry between him and and Mikaela Banes (Fox) is shaky at first to say the least, it’s not the best it could be, but it’s not the worst that’s ever been put to screen, although some of the initial dialogue between the two is just uncomfortable to watch, for all concerned. Leading the military contingent is Josh Duhamel’s Major Lennox, who certainly carries the most charisma amongst all of the human contingent.

Despite a mixed bag of human characters, the action that Bay delivers is more than enough to leave the viewer satisfied. Casting the OG voice of Optimus Prime Peter Cullen to reprise his role was a smart move to win over the fans, as Cullen’s deep voice brings an aura of authority to Optimus which being the leader of the Autobots, is kind of important. Similarly, as he is no stranger to playing bad guys, Hugo Weaving as the voice of the Decepticon big gun Megatron, another superb choice. Many of the Decepticons are in many ways very disposable, but in terms of the Autobots, there’s a good contingent of memorable friendly bots that you definitely want to root for.

It may not be perfect, in fact some of it is extremely cheesy, but when the action is this good, that’s really what matters as that is precisely what you sign up for. For fans of the original, they might have some nitpicks, but it cannot be denied that Bay delivers the sort of dumb, loud popcorn entertainment that you want from this sort of film, and Steve Jablonsky’s brilliant score complements it perfectly. There’s nothing more than meets the eye about this,it is big, loud and ridiculous fun and it does what it exactly says on the tin.

The script was clearly not high on the agenda of the production team, and it didn’t need to be, as Bay delivers precisely the sort of popcorn entertainment that you signed up for.

Posted in 1990-1999, 2000-2009, 2010-2019, Film Feature

Ranking the Star Wars movies

Image is property of Lucasfilm

Is there a franchise across the galaxy that has made such an impact on popular culture than Star Wars? Right from its inception in 1977, it has seeped its way into almost any and every aspect of our daily lives, so much so that a good four decades after the first film was released in cinemas, it has continued to enjoy almost unparalleled levels of popularity. You ask anyone you meet on the street if they know Star Wars, it would be quite incredible if you encountered someone who genuinely has no idea what the hell you’re on about.

Anywho, for a great many years it did look as though there was no force left in the world of Star Wars, since its creator George Lucas had originally planned for two trilogies. However, since Disney bought Lucasfilm back in 2012, the franchise has enjoyed a new lease of life. The new trilogy is up and running and an anthology film is in the bag with many more planned. But the force has not always been strong with this franchise, and so it’s time to take a trip to a galaxy far far away and rate the Star Wars films from worst to best. Time to get started, and make that jump to hyperspace! Punch it Chewie!

8. Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Read my original review here

The whole purpose of the prequel movies was to witness the transition of Anakin Skywalker from extraordinary Jedi to badass Sith, however he was far from a compelling character and here he’s nothing but a whiny pain in the arse! It is fair to say that Episode I wasn’t quite as well received as the 3 films that had come before it, so after some negative feedback you’d have thought George Lucas would have made some improvements in the 2nd outing in his prequel trilogy, and well in short he didn’t.

The dialogue is dreadful, with Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman not possessing a single bit of chemistry between them just makes it so painful to watch. Romantic dialogue at its absolute worst. “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere” is a line that will live forever in film infamy. The film tries to make things exciting with Obi Wan’s adventure, but even that is just ridiculously bloated and nonsensical. At a point it just becomes a chore to finish the movie as you’re just not invested in the adventure one bit. Even with less of one of the most infuriating characters ever brought to screen, it’s an excruciating watch, even with some lightsabre battles involved.

7. Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Read my original review here

Ahem, speaking of said infuriating character: JAR JAR BINKS. One word: WHYYYYYYYYY????? What on earth was Lucas thinking when he came up with the idea for this character ? He’s annoying to watch/listen to, and it’s not surprising that some thought the character was deeply offensive, regardless of whether he was written to be for children, he did not need to be so infuriating to watch. He’s perhaps the most hated movie character ever, and justifiably so too. But that’s just one facet of what’s wrong with The Phantom Menace. Right from the opening crawl, upon watching this, something is not right. Trade negotiations??!! Peace treaties??!! Star Wars, this is not!

Again just what was Lucas thinking?! When you watch this you wonder is this the same man who created this wondrous universe? Cos here it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Lucas clearly became drunk with CGI, as there’s a ton of it on show here, and while some scenes are cool, the majority of these effects are horrifically dated. The script, much like Clones, is also abysmal, as is the acting. What puts Phantom Menace above Clones is Duel of The Fates, Darth Maul and the ending lightsabre battle, cos that’s just cool, but it’s not enough to save the movie from the mediocre snoozefest it really is, and that’s an almighty shame.

6. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Read my original review here

AT LAST! WAR! After two for the most part painful movies, we finally got the prequel movie we signed up for! Right from the opening space battle, we immediately get the feel of old school Star Wars, and the Clone Wars that we were promised. More importantly, we watch as the Dark Side gnaws away at Anakin, eventually leading to his full turn to the Dark Side. Rise, Lord Vader! Christensen is for the most part, much better here in his performance, but there are still some lines that are just painful to watch. But it must be said, the acting went up a couple of good pegs, largely courtesy of Ewan McGregor who really shines as Obi-Wan. Not more so in the destined duel between Master and Padawan. You really feel the emotion, the pain and anguish of these two former friends now ferociously trying to kill the other. It’s also much funnier than the first two movies, largely courtesy of R2D2.

The action is also much better, from the opening battle to the battle against General Grievous (also the best villain of the prequel trilogy). There’s a handful of some great battle scenes, such as Yoda VS Palpatine and the climactic battle between Obi Wan and the newly turned Lord Vader is certainly gripping, if a little overlong. But by far one of the most excruciating scenes to come out of the prequels was Order 66! It made any Star Wars fan’s stomach churn watching the grim destiny of the once highly lauded Jedi Order. Yet, there are some scenes that much like its predecessors are truly head scratching, dying of a broken heart? I mean, really? And that really dumb “Noooooooooo” right at the end, just well erm, no. No thank you Lucas. At least this film ended the trilogy and the franchise (or so we thought at the time) on a positive note.

5. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Read my original review here

The one that originally closed the book on the franchise, and although in terms of quality it doesn’t quite match up to its predecessors, there was much enjoyment to be had in this final instalment of the original trilogy. The Battle of Endor is really well done and features one of the most memorable lines in cinematic history, courtesy of Admiral Ackbar (you know the one!). But the main focus of this tale is Luke’s mission to rescue his father from the evil Emperor’s clutches, and try and restore him to the good side. Their climactic final battle carries a lot of emotional weight, and is also very gripping to watch: “I am a Jedi, like my father before me”.

Now on the other hand, there’s the small matter of the Ewoks, you either love or you hate these little bears, but either way the idea of them being able to topple the Empire’s troops is a bit silly and very perplexing. That being said, despite these furry bears, Jedi has enough enjoyment in it to give the original trilogy the satisfying conclusion it really deserved, but as we know, this was not the final chapter in the adventures of the trinity: Luke, Han and Leia.

4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Read my original review here

Despite being called “Star Wars”, there hadn’t really been a moment where these films really felt like proper war movies, this is of course until Rogue One blasted its way onto the big screen, in the first of the anthology films that Disney had been developing since it seized control of the franchise. Taking place right before Episode IV kicks off, the focus is on a group of rebels who make a daring mission to steal the plans for the Empire’s deadly planet destroying space station, the Death Star, and it really does bring the war element to the franchise in a way that we had not seen before.

No Jedi to be found here, and in Felicity Jones’s Jyn Erso the franchise has another very compelling female lead (more on that later,) the assortment of characters that are recruited are enjoyable to watch, Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe for instance, and new droid K2SO is VERY funny. Yet there is a bit of an irksome lack of development on some of these characters, aside from Jyn and the relationship she has with her father Galen. However, when we get to that third act, it is breathless entertainment, not to mention one of Darth Vader’s best ever moments in the franchise. It is a perfect companion piece to Episode IV.

3. Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Read my original review here

There has perhaps been no movie this decade that carried more hype going into it than for the first Star Wars film since 2005. By this point, the franchise had now firmly made the decision to move forward with its own ideas, and as such Lucas’s suggestions were left by the wayside, much to his dislike. After the prequels had for the most part left fans vastly disappointed, much was riding on this film to match those lofty expectations, and for the most part, it delivered.

Now there has been much criticism hurled at this movie for being essentially a carbon copy of the original. While admittedly there are lots of visual nods and throwbacks, JJ Abrams and his team delivered a film and a story that felt so much more like a homage to those original movies we know and love. Rey is a very compelling and interesting character that is so effortlessly watchable in spite of the fact that we know so little about her, and given the fact she is the central character of the new trilogy, is critical. John Boyega also gives a top notch performance as FN-2187 (Sorry, I mean Finn), a Stormtrooper gone rogue and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron certainly carries that Han Solo esque aura about him.  Speaking of Han, this film gives him and Leia so much more backstory and fleshes their characters out in ways we hadn’t seen before.

In Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, the series has another superbly portrayed antagonist who in spite of knowing the bare minimum about his backstory (other than also being Ben Solo), is very compelling to watch in the same way that Rey is. He’s in many ways a wounded soul, but one you absolutely do not dare mess with. Some would even argue that he become most menacing when he removed his terrifying mask while interrogating Rey, placing his mask on the ashes of his Jedi victims, only to reveal a young boy, corrupted and twisted by the dark ways of the Force.

There’s flesh on the bones of these characters in a way that was pretty much non-existent across the prequel trilogy, thus you’re invested in them, leaving you wanting more. Also, the movie makes a bold choice by leaving the film on a cliffhanger. There are many questions that fans across the galaxy at this moment just do not know the answers to, which only generates more excitement and anticipation for the next instalment.

2. Episode IV: A New Hope

Read my original review here

The start of truly something special, a film that revolutionised the industry in pretty much every way, and created a franchise that to this day enjoys galactic world domination. It would be fair to say that there was something of a struggle to bring this to the big screen. Production problems, difficulties in funding the film, and even some cast members thought the film would be a massive failure. Mark Hamill commented that on the first day of filming in Tunisia, cameramen were laughing at his costume. How wrong they were!

Right from the opening moments, this film just captivates you, the effects at the time were dazzling and they still hold up to this day (well for the most part!). The characters are all very intriguing and much like The Force Awakens, you wanted to spend more time with these characters, characters who have left their mark on pop culture forever. Luke, initially a bit whiny, really grows into the role of the main protagonist. Han Solo is your cocky, brash but lovable smuggler, and in Princess Leia, you have a female protagonist that is up there with the very best that have ever been put to screen. Equally in Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader, you have two of the most memorable antagonists cinema has seen.

Despite all the production problems, the struggles were not in vain, and the final product is cinematic gold in every sense. The start of a franchise that has reigned across the galaxy for decades now and will in all probability continue to do so for decades to come.

 1. Episode V: Empire Strikes Back

Read my original review here

Sequels have very much become a staple of modern cinema, sometimes they improve on their predecessor, and sometimes they just don’t. Empire is most definitely the former, in this instance, but it’s more than just a great sequel, it is one of the best films of all time. Period.

With the first film we got introduced to our key characters and at the same time, introduced to a plethora of planets to explore and a very intriguing and well told story to boot. This film takes those characters and develops their relationships in very unique ways, whilst also making plot choices that are bold to say the least. While the action in A New Hope was something to behold, here it is even better. The Battle of Hoth is mesmerising to watch, whilst the climatic final battle between Luke and Vader (who’s also an absolute boss with no Tarkin to hold him back) just mercilessly dropping his own men dead in the quest to find Luke. What’s more if you had no knowledge of the prequels (lucky bastards) as people in 1980 did, then the twist that happens in this battle is so well executed that you just never saw it coming.

The tone is also much MUCH darker, especially given the fates that befall some of our heroes, and the direction and the cinematography are just BEAUTIFUL to look at. There’s not a single thing wrong with this movie, and with the introduction of Yoda, you again have one of the best characters to have ever graced the silver screen, and some of the best cinematic insults too. It remains to this day the best film in the franchise, and it will take something truly special to beat it.

So, after making that jump though hyperspace through all of the major cinematic Star Wars films, it is now over to you! Which is your favourite Star Wars film, and how would you rank these films? Comment below and let me know! If you enjoyed reading this, I’d be very grateful if you gave my Facebook page a like and connect with me on Twitter: @ThrSilverScreen.

May the Force be With you all!

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Sicario (2015)

Image is property of Black Label Media, Thunder Road and Lionsgate

Sicario – Film Review

Cast:  Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benecio Del Toro, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya

Director:  Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: In the war on drugs on the USA/Mexico border, an FBI agent is recruited as part of an undercover operation to take down a leading drug cartel.

Review: Whenever you depict war on film, chances are the results usually aren’t going to be pretty, especially the story you’re telling is focusing on the war on drugs and drug cartels near the US/Mexico border. Some folks are going to get their hands dirty and things are going to get messy very quickly, with some fatalities along the way. Though this is an ongoing conflict, and even though the events portrayed here are fictional, you would be forgiven for thinking that you are in fact watching a documentary about this struggle, and not a fictionalised version of events.

The gritty and dark nature of the story then is perfect material for Denis Villeneuve, the director behind Prisoners, the dark and unsettling drama about a family who see their young daughters mysteriously disappear. Once again Villeneuve chooses a subject matter that will almost undoubtedly be very unsettling for some, but at the same time, it’s a story that is told with such conviction you will not want to take your eyes off the screen. The main protagonist here is Blunt’s Kate, an FBI agent who just wants to do what’s right, and that desire takes her into this conflict, and what she sees really opens her eyes. Alongside her is Josh Brolin’s Matt, an agent that is quite casual about the mission they’re on and Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro who by contrast, is not fucking around.

Don’t get in this guy’s cross hairs…

Taylor Sheridan in his debut screenplay tells the story in a very ambiguous way, is what we’re seeing right or is it wrong? There’s certainly some things displayed on screen that are certainly very wrong, and not exactly pleasant, but for a film about the war on drugs, that is hardly a surprise. The film might be a slow burner, but the script keeps you hooked in the story, and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score will keep you on the edge of your seat. The three leading actors all deliver performances of a very high award worthy calibre, but special mention must go to del Toro who has perhaps never been better in his career and was mightily unlucky not to have received an Oscar nomination. He’s a man who is driven by his motivation, and that makes him one scary dude that you don’t want to anger, and if you have angered him, well you’re in deep trouble.

Villeneuve’s direction is masterful with some breathtaking wide shots of the FBI teams on their patrols, the camerawork is so authentic, it really makes you feel as if you’re on patrol with these guys. It kind of goes without saying at this point but Roger Deakin’s cinematography is as beautiful to the eyes, and Johannson’s score is to the ears. Deakins’s work, as is so often the case is just mesmerising to look at, even with the depravity that you see on screen sometimes. It’s incredible to think that he has never won an Oscar across his superb career, despite amassing THIRTEEN nominations. It’s only a matter of time before he lands that coveted Oscar gold, Blade Runner 2049 perhaps?

With a pulsating final sequence that will have you biting your nails until the credits begin to role, Villeneuve reinforced his growing reputation as a film-maker to watch, which he further cemented with his magnificent alien invasion flick Arrival. To make a movie about such a weighty subject matter cannot be an easy task, but with Prisoners and with Sicario, Villeneuve really proved more than anything than when it comes to directing, he most definitely is a Sicario himself, one that is absolutely deadly and does not miss.

Dripping with gorgeous visuals combined with some heavy subject matter seems an unlikely recipe for success, but with electric performances and assured direction, this is superb tense and gritty entertainment.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2- Film Review

Cast:  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker

Director:  James Gunn

Synopsis: Whilst on an assignment for an alien race called the Sovereign, after the deal goes awry, the Guardians find themselves on the run, when they encounter a man who is claiming to be Star Lord’s father.

Review: It is fair to say that Marvel Studios certainly rolled the dice and took a big risk when they decided to green-light a full feature film about a crew of heroes that the vast majority of movie goers across the globe had no idea who they were. Many thought that this film would be the studio’s first mishap, and well we all know that simply wasn’t the case as the first film smashed all expectations and ensured that everyone knew their names, and rightly so, the Guardians became hot property.

Now well into Phase 3 of the giant Marvel machine, it was inevitable that our favourite bunch of lovable arseholes would get a new adventure. The first film was such a mystery, audiences had no idea what to expect going in. Thus given that so many loved what they saw the first time around, writer and director James Gunn decides to follow a similar route this time around, allowing these characters that we grew to love and laugh at, to develop their relationships. What’s more, they have some familial issues and any familial squabbling issues that may be brewing beneath the surface, and there’s a LOT of that going on this time.

The most lovable bunch of misfits in the Galaxy…

Though there’s some bickering, Gunn’s script packs humour in abundance. It has become almost a trademark of the MCU to this point but, this might just be the funniest film of the franchise to date. Everyone has their moment to shine, but in the case of some characters they get several moments to shine, looking at you Drax the Destroyer! Much like the first film, there’s a plethora of very memorable lines that will get those laughing muscles moving, and the story for the first act is extremely enthralling. The Guardians are all once again on excellent form, with the villainous Nebula given much more to do this time around, oh and yes Baby Groot is perhaps the most adorable little sentient plant being you’re maybe ever going to find on the silver screen.

Visually the film is just dripping with so much colour it’s wonderful to look at, and it packs some tremendous action scenes to accompany the superb visuals. Which in turn is also helped by the ensemble of music that makes up Awesome Mix Vol 2, which is just as catchy as its predecessor. However, that being said, not everything is nice to look at as there are points where it becomes extremely obvious that there’s a lot of CGI on screen. The villain was the thing that really let the first film down, and sadly yet again, the main villain (fear not no spoilers here!) is still something of a disappointment.

This individual in question is not as disposable as some previous MCU villains, but nowhere near as memorable as say Loki. Their motivations being a little perplexing, and once their intentions are known, the film meanders and goes from the sublime to the truly ridiculous, which given that this is a film with a talking tree and a genetically engineered raccoon, is quite an accomplishment! But yet again it does feel like a missed opportunity for Marvel to rectify the difficulties that they have had in bringing a truly compelling villain to the big screen, save for the God of Mischief of course.

Nevertheless, this sequel is a worthy companion piece to the original film, once its characters are front and centre. Choosing to walk a similar path that the first film went might seem boring and unadventurous to some, but when it is this entertaining and absolutely hilarious to watch, you can hardly blame Gunn and Marvel for sticking to what they know, cos that produced the goods the first time around.  This band of lovable misfits certainly remain an absolute blast of marvellous entertainment.

Not quite as enthralling as its predecessor, but this sequel packs the humour, the exhilarating action sequences, and yes another awesome soundtrack to boot.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Buena Vista Pictures

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Film Review

Cast:  Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Stellan Skarsgård, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Tom Hollander, Kevin McNally

Director: Gore Verbinski

Synopsis: Captain Jack Sparrow and the crew of the Black Pearl set sail in search of a chest that contains an item belonging to the ominous Davy Jones, but this item is also sought after by several other people, all of whom want this item for their own ends…

Review: Pirates, there’s something about these scallywags that cinema audiences certainly seem to like, and enjoy watching, as was evident by the phenomenal critical and commercial success that the first film in this franchise enjoyed. A sequel (or two, or three) was always going to happen. Sequels, however can be the equivalent of cursed treasure, in that if you get them wrong, it can place upon the preceding film a terrible curse that’s hard to shake off. Or it can be like finding a glorious stash of treasure that makes everyone rich and happy. In the case of Dead Man’s Chest, this is perhaps somewhere in between it’s not a curse, but it’s not a perfect stash of treasure either.

We begin when the wedding of Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner is rudely interrupted by Lord Cutler Beckett (Hollander) who’s after one man, yes Captain Jack Sparrow of course! After the latter was allowed to escape by the hands of Will, Beckett condems the bride and groom to be to the hangman’s noose. Jack meanwhile is desperately seeking to avoid the debt that he owes Davy Jones (Nighy) and so begins a spiral of events that stretch out this film’s run time to an incredible two and a half hours, that really really could have been trimmed down in one or two places.

Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio do ensure that there is some fun to be had of course, but there’s quite a lot of meandering as this ship steers its way through some very exposition filled waters that threaten to run the film aground. A common path for sequels to sail, is to make the tone that bit more darker, and this is the route that this film chooses to take, and in doing so much of the wackiness and the fun that the first film brought is replaced by a more serious ominous tone, though the film doesn’t lack some very entertaining sequences that returning captain Gore Verbinski helms to a similar standard as he did with the first film.

The ominous is perhaps best exemplified by Davy Jones, though we don’t find out much about him and why he looks the way he does. Nighy brings a very menacing presence, that is aided by some truly excellent CGI. Being in this creature’s presence could cause even the bravest of souls to quiver in fear.  Though the CGI for some of his crew aboard The Flying Dutchman is very obvious, it is for the most part very well done and the recipient of the Oscar for Visual Effects. Despite the meandering script, there are some rather splendid action sequences to enjoy, and the acting across the board remains at a solid standard.

Not someone you want to mess with…

With Depp again on splendid form as Captain Jack, and Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley also in fine form reprising their roles as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. Newcomers Stellan Skarsgård and Tom Hollander give the most memorable performances of the newcomers as Will’s father Bootstrap Bill and the pesky Cutler Beckett.  It’s not the swashbuckling adventure its predecessor was, but there’s more than enough rum on this ship to ensure it has the right amount of wind in its sails.

A choppy plot, coupled with some clunky dialogue could have resulted in an unpleasant shipwreck, but an ample amount of fun action ensures it’s steered home to a satisfying conclusion.

 

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

curse-of-the-black-pearl
Image is property of Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – Film Review

Cast:  Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin McNally

Director: Gore Verbinski

Synopsis: When a dastardly band of Pirates seeks a valuable piece of treasure to lift a curse, a blacksmith and a rogue Pirate must unite to help save the daughter of a Governor who happens to be in the possession of said treasure.

Review: Pirates, for a very long time now, these swashbuckling individuals have been almost an ever present in popular culture for about as long as anyone can remember. Some of the most notable being of course Captain Hook from Peter Pan and  of course there’s Steven Spielberg’s Hook, but perhaps no other franchise in Hollywood as left such a lasting impression on Pirates in pop culture than the franchise that began all the way back in 2003, this of course being Pirates of the Caribbean, based on the popular Disneyland attraction.

Enter Jack Sparrow (Depp) a pirate who arrives in the Jamaican town of Port Royal, in rather dramatic and amusing style, on a mission to commandeer a ship in order to exact revenge on his former pirate comrades. During this mission however, his path crosses with Elizabeth Swann, the daughter of a Governor, and the Blacksmith Will Turner and the three become entangled in a mission that involves treasure, swordplay, action, romance, scheming and the supernatural all in one go. If nothing else it’s stylish entertainment at its absolute best.

ARR is it treasure ye be looking for????

Director Gore Verbinski is the captain of this vessel, and screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio are the first mates if you will, with the cast being their eccentric, and rather brilliant crew! In a role that has arguably become his most well known, Depp is absolutely electric as Captain Jack Sparrow, he’s humorous, witty and extremely charismatic and Depp’s fine work ensured he received a well deserved Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Of course Depp is the shining light of a cast that is packed with excellent performances, Geoffrey Rush is excellent as the wicked and treacherous Captain Barbossa is the primary target of Jack’s vengeance, with Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley completing the cream of the crop in terms of fantastic performances, the latter two certainly boast some excellent chemistry.

Verbinski steers this ship like a captain who has been sailing the seas for all eternity. The action is enthralling to watch and the effects are equally terrific, the resulting outcome of the curse that is placed on these pirates  transforms them into utterly terrifying beings that at times really push the 12A rating of the film, it is entirely possible that one or two people might have had nightmares. Throw in an excellent score to boot, composed by Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer, with a fantastic theme that is guaranteed to make you hum along to it every time you hear it,  you’ll be entertained right from the get go and will not have any desire or need to go and walk the plank.

When pitching this film, it is entirely possible that studio execs might have just looked at each other in utter bemusement as to how this could possibly mesh and work together. Fortunately Verbinski and crew make it work, and the results are just an utter blast. As one character says near the beginning of the film, during a rather daring heist, “This is either madness, or brilliance,” to which the other character responds “it’s remarkable how often those two traits coincide.” Certainly applicable in the case of this film, though it is certainly more a case of brilliance, but a bit of madness is thrown in there for good measure, and all the better for it, savvy?

Here be treasure alright! It is quite appropriate for a film to be based on a theme park attraction to be one hell of an entertaining ride, as that is precisely what this film takes you on. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Free Fire (2017)

Image is property of Film4 Productions, BFI, Rook Films Protagonist Pictures and StudioCanal UK

Free Fire– Film Review

Cast: Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Jack Reynor, Enzo Cilenti

Director: Ben Wheatley

Synopsis: Two parties meet in an old abandoned warehouse to complete a deal to buy some guns. However when the deal goes awry, the bullets begin to fly…

Review: Whenever you have a set up in a film that consists of several groups of people meeting up in a disused warehouse/factory to negotiate the sale of some weapons, appropriately enough in the case, some guns, chances are that something will go amiss. Tensions will flare for one reason or another, some folks will get angry and before you know it we have one absolutely mental shootout that has every single character fighting to stay alive.

Before those bullets fly however, we’re introduced rather quickly to our core group of characters. On one side you have Cillian Murphy as an Irishman who’s looking to buy the guns from and Sharlto Copley’s very thick accented Vernon, in a deal that has been facilitated by Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) . The script, co-written by director Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump does its best to flesh out the characters, which it does well for some, but less so for others. Copley’s arms dealer is perhaps the shining light of this unpleasant mob. He’s a man who’s clearly got the eye for Justine, despite his less than pleasant attempts to flirt with her, amusing to the audience perhaps but less so for Justine. However, the pleasantries do not last for long, and soon enough everyone is armed and ready to kill,  and a fight to be the last man (or woman?) standing ensues.

Immediate, the film has the feel as if it was a film that was made in the era that it’s set, it has a real 1970s vibe to it. Wheatley and Jump’s script is filled with some very funny moments, with some superb lines of dialogue that feel almost as if Mr Tarantino himself wrote them. Speaking of, there will no doubt be comparisons to Reservoir Dogs given the premise and the similarity that everyone is soon turning on one another to create multiple Mexican stand off-ish situations. Except there’s no squad of men in your standard suits, as the clothes this time are a little bit more garish.

When the shooting is taking place it is gripping for the most part, however there are moments where the films lapses in terms of pace as the various crews lick their wounds in-between firing off a round of bullets, many of which do not find their targets. The nature of the shootouts are very stop-start with a lot of angry talking and yelling from the characters in between the exchanges of bullets and angry curse words being hurled, and lots of hobbling around desperately seeking cover from the bullets raining down upon them.

Wheatley helms the action by and large pretty well, the scenes are well cut together and the editing in scenes where there bullets are raining down is really well done. At the start, the tension is built really well as you know that someone is going to get trigger happy at a moment’s notice. Yet this tension is not maintained throughout the firestorm that ensues. The great humour and angry insults that the characters hurl at each other keeps the story going but for a 90 minute feature, it does drag at times, which given the premise of bullets here, bullets there and bullets everywhere is perplexing, but when the film does finally reach its conclusion, it’s a satisfying one that ensures it hits in target and in style too.

A stylish fusion of comedy and action, with some very quotable dialogue and mostly pulsating action sequences ensures that for the most part hits its target with precision.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Life (2017)

Image is property of Skydance Media and Columbia Pictures

Life – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Synopsis: An international crew on the ISS capture what they believe to be the first sign of life from Mars. Yet upon examination, the extraterrestrial being they have found is not very hospitable…

Review: When you have the premise of a crew of human beings aboard a space station in space, and there are some aliens involved, it’s almost a certainty that this means doom and gloom for those poor souls on board. Aliens don’t tend to be the sort of beings that want to sit down and have a beer and natter about everyday life. Nope, they usually want your flesh and blood and that’s exactly what you get in this intriguing mesh of sci-fi meets horror meets thriller.

Indeed, this is a genre and a combination that is not exactly new to audiences, as it’s become a very trodden path down the years. As such there’s nothing truly revolutionary about the story, but it still manages to be suspenseful and gripping to watch. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick of Deadpool fame do their best to try and add something new to the table and save for one scene where the Martian symbiote decides to make a meal out of a lab rat, it’s your standard Humans vs Alien set up, with the humans trying desperately to survive. The cast do their best but ultimately there’s very little flesh on the bones of the characters (not such good news for Mr ET in that case!) The acting is of a decent order, but there’s no standout performance from what is a very talented cast, which is a huge frustration.

Indeed the likes of the Alien trilogy and Gravity have set the bar of quality in this genre, the latter of which particularly when it comes to recreating the look and feel of a space environment.  The effects are well done, as is the production design and set decoration. Director Daniel Espinosa does make it feel as though you are in space, but given today’s technology, and after seeing what Cuaron managed to achieve with Gravity, this is not as jaw dropping as it perhaps once was. What this film does very well though is the tension. Through some very quick cut editing and some solid camerawork, the tension really begins to build when the alien is coming after the crew one by one, and the remaining crew work out their plan for survival, which isn’t exactly easy in such narrow hallways aboard a space station.

There are some memorable moments, and one death in particular that is particularly horrifying to watch that could perhaps cause one or two astronauts to have nightmares, but overall Life does not better the films that serve as its inspiration. The film does have some interesting things to say about humanity as a species and does offer up interesting questions as to what would the reaction of humanity be if we discovered life on a different planet that is not our own. An event that might well happen several decades from now, so should that event ever come to pass, perhaps this film can serve as a lesson.

  Suspenseful, gritty and visually impressive without a doubt, but a lack of memorable characters and originality prevents this from becoming a true classic of the extraterrestrial/space genre.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Toy Story 3 (2010)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios

Toy Story 3 – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Blake Clark, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Ned Beatty, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, John Morris

Director: Lee Unkrich

Synopsis: With Andy now grown up and heading off to college, having not been played with for several years, the toys face a tricky decision, whether to remain in the attic or move on to pastures new, or more specifically: Daycare.

Review: When you have made two films, the first of which redefined the genre of animated movies, and then you followed that up with another supremely well made and heartfelt sequel that built so successfully on the world that its predecessor established, that is quite the feat. Therefore, when you decide to complete the trilogy, let’s just say that you have an almighty task ahead of you to try and top what came before it. Leave it then to the animation powerhouses Pixar to complete their Toy-tastic trilogy in tremendous style!

Toy Story 2 had quite the superb intro scene, but here they somehow top it with an incredible action scene of sorts that immediately reminds the audience that there is no limit to the imagination when it comes to a child and the toys they have, whilst immediately hitting you in the feels with the “You Got a Friend in Me!” tune, arguably one of the finest songs ever written for a Pixar film. Though Pixar continues to make their films that work on both levels, it’s evident that this is a film that is geared towards those grew up with the first two movies, as they more than others will relate to the feeling of growing up and having that dilemma of what to do with the toys you once cherished more than anything else in your life. Yet as time progresses, that undying love, just slowly just fades away.

Blissfully unaware of what’s coming…

Indeed, this is the very situation Andy finds himself in, what with being off to college and all. Despite a last ditch effort to get attention, Woody and the gang realise that maybe now is the time to find a new life for themselves or risk never getting played with ever again. through a mixture of unfortunate events sees the gang end up at a children’s daycare. Their excitement at a new lease of life quickly turns to horror though as these kids have a VERY different take on the word playtime, and life with Andy is a distant memory now.

In Michael Arndt’s capable hands, the screenplay continues down the path that the first two films walked down. The characters continue to be well developed and compelling, including all of the gang you know and love with a couple of significant new additions. These being a Ken doll (voiced brilliantly by Michael Keaton) and Ned Beatty as Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (AKA Lotso) who is the leader if you will of the Daycare. Smell of strawberries he might, but he’s not as sweet as he comes across. The humour is also maintained throughout the film with a truly hilarious moment in which Buzz is once again convinced he’s a Space Ranger, except he’s gone a bit European! The dialogue is all vintage Pixar and it’s simply joyous to watch.

Though the first two movies had plenty of emotion in them, there’s a couple of scenes here that really pack the emotion in such quantities that if it does not generate an emotional reaction among the watching audience, in which they’re fighting back the tears, one would have to question whether they are indeed human. Pixar films are littered with such moments, but two in particular here, might just be the best of the best. With a superb ending that continues to pack that emotional weight and one that wraps up this trilogy in just about the best way possible. Trilogies tend to have the one film that trips them up, but when a trilogy comes along, with each film being about as close to perfect as it could, that is a rare feat, and kudos to Disney and Pixar for pulling it off.

It’s been quite the journey with Woody, Buzz and co, but as third films in trilogies go, this is one of those rare films that is as good, if not better than what preceded it. Another masterpiece from the brain boxes at Pixar.