Posted in Film Review, 2010-2019

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Image is property of Fox Searchlight and Film4

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Film Review

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage

Director: Martin McDonagh

Synopsis: After a young woman’s murder goes unsolved, her mother rents out the use of three billboards just outside her town to try and force the authorities into action…

Review: As human beings, it would certainly be fair to say that we can be at our lowest ebbs whenever someone we love has passed away. Whether it be from natural causes, or if they’re cruelly and sometimes callously taken away from us. But what could anyone do in the case of the latter? Well there’s not a lot you could do except hope that killer was caught and swiftly faces justice for their actions. However, what if that doesn’t come to pass?  Do you have any other options?

Yes is the answer for one bereaved mother, as she chooses to take matters into her own hands. After her daughter Angela was brutally raped and murdered seven months prior, Mildred Hayes makes use of three large billboards just outside of her town, with  messages that are directed at the police whose investigation hasn’t yielded any clues. Though by doing this, it causes a stir among the population of the town (and not in a good way) that creates some problems on top of the problems that Mildred is already having in her life.

You would think that such a bleak scenario does not allow for comedy, but that’s exactly what writer/director Martin McDonagh provides. His superb screenplay manages fuses both the comedy and the tragedy of this family drama so effortlessly that one never negates the other. One scene can shift from a wonderfully humorous moment to a gut-wrenchingly sad moment in an instant. Furthermore, in a country that is facing some deeply testing times, the screenplay also goes beyond the personal grief of one family and examines some important issues facing American society today. It’s extremely powerful and hard-hitting.

Being the centrepiece of this story Mildred Hayes is a character who it is clear has had a lot of shit going on in her life besides the tragic fate that befell her daughter. Even though she isn’t exactly going things in the most acceptable or indeed correct manner, you understand her rage that she has for certain people and as such you do sympathise with her. Frances McDormand gives a terrific performance that has already won her a Golden Globe, with more nominations and potentially awards to follow, all of which would be well deserved. Equally terrific are Police Chief Willoughby (Harrelson) who’s encountering his own difficult personal problems and a bigoted policeman (Rockwell) who is absolutely not a friendly chap whatsoever. Yet there is a hint of a man who is a little bit vulnerable, though the same could be said for perhaps almost everyone in the town, with these events having clearly taken their toll on the town as a whole.

With each of the story-lines that these characters have and the ensuing journey that these three in particular go on makes for some hilarious, and in some cases, harrowing viewing. Yet  it handles its subject matter in such a delicate manner that the comedy and the tragedy do not cancel each other out. With McDonagh’s razor sharp screenplay and direction, combined with the electric performances from the ensemble cast ensures that the film is extremely thought-provoking. It packs so much more emotional weight that ensures it will leave a lasting impression, on both the viewer and indeed on this current awards season race.

 Funny, shocking and depressing, sometimes all in the same scene, but McDonagh’s razor sharp screenplay ensures it is all meshed together supremely well. This is bold, but quite brilliant film-making in equal measure.

 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

All the Money in the World (2017)

Image is property of Tristar Pictures and Scott Free Productions

All the Money in the World – Film Review

Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Charlie Plummer

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: After his grandson is kidnapped and held for ransom, billionaire businessman John Paul Getty refuses to negotiate, while his mother works tirelessly to secure his release.

Review: It became one of the biggest stories in the world of film in 2017. When allegations of sexual misconduct were made against Kevin Spacey, it had far-reaching consequences. With Spacey having completed filming for the role of John Paul Getty, amid fears that having him in the final film would be financially catastrophic, it prompted Ridley Scott to hurriedly axe Spacey from the role of John Paul Getty and instead replace him with Christopher Plummer, at a reported cost of £7.5 million. It was an enormous gamble, but one that definitely paid off.

Based on the incredible true story, as he’s walking around Rome, John Paul Getty III is whisked away by some kidnappers who demand a lofty ransom from his super rich grandfather. This sets in motion a tense battle between Getty and the mother of his grandson Gail (Michelle Williams) to ensure his safe release. While Gail is doing all she can to secure her son’s release, Getty remains defiant, refusing to submit to the demands of his grandson’s kidnappers, whilst being extremely cold and distant towards Gail. This sets off a chain of events that trigger a race against time to ensure that her son makes it back home alive, whose life it would be fair to say, is hanging in the balance.

For what it is worth, those pricey reshoots certainly made everything worthwhile as Plummer is tremendous and steals the show. It is hard to imagine anyone else playing this role. In spite of his vast riches,  and despite caring for all of his grandchildren, he simply refuses to negotiate or cave to the kidnappers demands, and though it seems heartless, you understand why he refuses to give in to the demands of his grandson’s kidnappers. The screenplay by David Scarpa, adapted from Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty (quite the long title!) tells this remarkable story in a manner that is extremely gripping. Though the film does suffer from some pacing issues where not a great deal is happening, the back-and-forth between Getty and Gail makes for some tense magnificently acted family drama.

Speaking of, Michelle Williams as Gail is also superb. In spite of the extreme difficulties she faces in getting Getty to cough up, she pursues every avenue that she can, possessing a relentless motherly drive to be reunited with her child, who is brought to the screen tremendously well by Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher). Wahlberg certainly doesn’t steal the show like Plummer or Williams, but he gets the job done as the man who Getty hires to assist Gail in her desperate quest to find her son.

Ridley Scott is a director who has had quite the career, but with Alien: Covenant receiving a decidedly mixed reaction among many cinema goers, it is pleasing to see him bounce back here. The film is directed tremendously well and Scott brings out some excellent performances from his cast, which is impressive given how little time he had to complete the reshoots to make the film’s release date. The third act especially is where Scott really turns the tension up a few levels and delivers a pulsating conclusion to a film that might have gone down in the history books for all the wrong reasons if Scott had chosen to not do anything. Thankfully, and indeed all the money in the world (well not quite) to help pay for those reshoots ensured it is another remarkable entry into Ridley Scott’s remarkable filmography, and given the circumstances, that is some achievement.

An incredible true story told with sincerity by Scott and boosted by the superb award worthy performances of Williams and Plummer, all the more remarkable given the circumstances that necessitated the latter’s last minute involvement in the project.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Molly’s Game (2017)

Image is property of STXfilms

Molly’s Game – Film Review

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Michael Cera, Kevin Costner

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Synopsis: After her professional sports career lies in tatters, a young woman named Molly Bloom sets up and runs high stakes poker games, but it isn’t long before she finds herself at risk of running into trouble with the law…

Review: When it comes to a screenplay that is written by the one and only Aaron Sorkin, you’re going to get extremely well written and extremely engaging dialogue. In addition, the characters on screen will be talking in a fast pace that keeps you completely focused on the words that they are saying, whilst moving the plot forward in a timely manner. With Sorkin he can take almost any aspect such as the inner workings of baseball, or the lives behind the founders of Apple and Facebook and turn them into extremely entertaining, very character driven pieces that yield exceptional performances. Except this time, having for so long been the master of the screenplay, he makes his first venture in the world of directing.

His debut feature tells the story of Molly Bloom, a budding young athlete in her early life with dreams of going professional. This was until a horrendous incident ruined those dreams for good. Seeking a new venture, she finds herself working as for want of a better word, a secretary for a man who runs poker games. After acquiring the experience and developing the skills, she becomes extremely good at this, to the point where she decides to set up her own business running extremely high stakes poker games for some A list celebrities. However it isn’t long before she finds herself dealing with some much more scary sort of clientele that soon lands her in some hot water.

Sorkin chooses to tell Molly’s story by focusing on her fraught meetings with her lawyer (Idris Elba) and then flashes back to her past and how she went from an athlete with shattered dreams to running high stakes poker games for some truly A list clients. Among these clients include some very high calibre Hollywood actors, though the real identities of these people have been deliberately obscured. The script is filled with Sorkin’s familiar sort of very fast paced dialogue, with extremely watchable characters who definitely have a story to tell, and in the case of Molly Bloom, hers is certainly one that will have your interest in from the word go.

As she so often is Chastain is fantastic in this role that has already bagged her a few award nominations. She displays dogged determination to succeed in spite of some people giving her some rough treatment, whilst crucially giving the character strong emotional weight when she’s tussling and arguing with her lawyer, and even more so when the effects of her glamourous lifestyle really begin to take their toll on her. Elba, as said lawyer is also excellent as he tries his best to determine the best course of action for Molly to take in this precarious situation.

Sorkin is undeniably a master when it comes to screenwriting, as a director he shows himself to be equally adept combining his signature dialogue and making the film cohesive and structurally on point. The weaving together of two timelines can lead to a messy outcome, but thankfully the film doesn’t collapse and fall apart like a poker player might if they had a terrible hand.  Even if you have no clue whatsoever when it comes to poker, the story is told in such a way that keeps you engaged and interested in this woman and her truly fascinating story from the depth of despair to a remarkable rise to riches, and back again.

Anchored by an electric performance from Chastain, with superb work from Elba, Molly’s Game ensures that Sorkin’s directorial debut has plenty of aces up its sleeve.

 

Posted in Film Feature, Ranking

Ranking 2017 Superhero Films

Another year passes, and another collection of superhero ensembles and solo flicks have graced the big screen once again. It certainly was an interesting year with Marvel continuing to dominate the market. Meanwhile, DC trying to get their Extended Universe back on track, as well as one beloved character bowing out after a staggering amount of time in the role. It was quite the year but what stood out among the best of the best?

Anyway, with that said and done, it’s now time to grab the Lasso of Truth (well kind of) and rank 2017’s superhero flicks from worst to best, starting with…

7. Justice League

Click here for my Justice League review

It’s fair to say that five films in, the DC Extended Universe hasn’t exactly been a roaring success that it would have hoped to be. Though Wonder Woman certainly helped get things on track, the familiar feel of production problems certainly effected DC’s answer to the Avengers. With director Zack Snyder stepping down from the post production process due to a family tragedy, Joss Whedon was brought in to finish the film and oversee some reshoots. Though the film has polarised both fans and critics alike (not for the first time for DC) there is much to like about this. For one it does combine Snyder’s flair for visuals with Whedon’s ability to create funny dialogue. And seeing the team unite for the first time was undeniably a pleasure to watch, with memorable turns from Wonder Woman and a very exciting debut for Ezra Miller as Barry Gordon AKA The Flash. It’s not on the same level as The Avengers, but it does represent a step in the right direction for DC.

6. Spider Man Homecoming

Click here for my Spider-Man Homecoming review

Having made his glorious MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War, a solo Spidey film with him very much a part of the MCU was almost inevitable. As such, with a little bit of reorganisation, Spider-Man got his big screen MCU bow in the middle of the third phase of its cinematic universe. Tom Holland once again gave a superb performance as everyone’s friendly neighbourhood web-crawler, giving the character that real high school authenticity that had been somewhat lacking from the likes of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. While the story doesn’t exactly break any new ground in terms of what we have seen on the big screen for Spider-Man,  Spidey battles Adrian Toombes AKA the Vulture. Given the MCU’s well documented trouble with villains, he was certainly one of the better ones we have seen, as you understood his motivations and he had a connection to Peter that made it all the more interesting to watch. It doesn’t top the first two Raimi Spidey flicks, but it’s certainly a vast upgrade on everything that came after those two films.

5. Lego Batman Movie

Click here for my Lego Batman review

In the wake of the extremely entertaining Lego Movie, comes a spin off movie of equally hilarious Batman shaped proportions. With plenty of visual references to Batman and all of his previous incarnations, this film is paradise for all who are fans of Batman, which let’s be honest who isn’t, if someone says they’re not, don’t believe them cos they’re only kidding themselves. Will Arnett returns to voice this animated version of the Caped Crusader and Zach Galfianakis as the latest incarnation of the Joker, and considerably more well received than poor Jared Leto’s take on the character. The animation is great and the plot is extremely entertaining, albeit  it does get a little bit on the silly side at times, but when it’s this much fun to watch, no one is really going to mind.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2

Click here for my Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 review

When 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy came along, it was such a wonderful breath of fresh air for the MCU, giving us a look at new characters the overwhelming majority of us had likely never even heard of. It was fun, hilarious and overall just really enjoyable. So it’s little surprise that for the sequel, James Gunn chose to replicate the formula that worked to such great effect the first time around. However, while that still makes for an entertaining flick, it doesn’t have quite the same impact as the first Guardians movie. That being said, all of the team remain very fun to watch, it continues the humour from the first film, and yes Baby Groot is freaking adorable. The story is entertaining but certain elements do bog it down, and furthermore it doesn’t retain that freshness and originality that the first movie brought.

3. Wonder Woman

Click here for my Wonder Woman review

DC’s cinematic universe wasn’t exactly going well prior to the release of this film, Suicide Squad and BVS had endured rough reactions from fans and critics, and well it wasn’t looking good for the future of the DCEU. Enter Patty Jenkins to tell the story of Wonder Woman, and give us by far and away the best film that the DCEU has brought us and one that will hopefully open the floodgates for more female led superhero movies. Gal Gadot proved to be the perfect choice to play our titular heroine, she had the necessary charisma to carry the film on her shoulders, brilliantly combining such ferocity with compassion and a strong willed desire to do the right thing. With Chris Pine in equally superb form, watching Wonder Woman enter the battlefield in the heart of the First World War, and be an absolute badass particularly in the No Man’s Land sequence made for one of the standout moments of cinema in 2017 for sure.

2. Thor: Ragnarok

Click here for my Thor: Ragnarok review

Thor Ragnarok marked the staggering 17th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it without doubt takes its place as one of the best. Marking Thor’s 3rd solo film, it defied the notion that the third film is always the worst in the trilogy as this is by far better than the previous two films. Setting up events that are very much likely to play a part in next year’s Infinity War. Directed by the delightful Taika Waititi, this film was humorous right from the word go and it never lets up. This was the MCU’s version of a buddy cop film but instead starring Thor and Bruce Banner, and one of the FUNNIEST characters that the MCU has ever given us in Korg, the loveable bunch of rocks ably voiced by Waititi himself, battling against the villainous Hela played tremendously well by Cate Blanchett. It was exciting, funny, extremely colourful and exhilarating to watch.

1. Logan

Click here for my Logan review

What a way to bow out of a role and a franchise that for 17 years you have made your own. Logan marked the last time that Hugh Jackman will play the iconic character of Wolverine, and he couldn’t have gone out on a better note. Immediately director James Mangold lets you know what kind of film you’re about to watch. Right from the off, this was a much darker, and considerably more violent portrayal of the character than we have ever seen previously with quite a bit more blood and vulgarity, and all the better for it. As Logan must look after the ailing Professor X and young Laura who has some mysterious people after her. It’s a mash up between Wolverine and The Last of Us, and it’s by far and away the only superhero film that could have a legitimate shot and picking up some acting nods at this year’s Oscars. That could be wishful thinking but with an ending that will almost certainly leave you a blubbering mess, the work that Jackman has done with this character has been so extraordinary over all this years. As such, it will be an almighty task for anyone to take on this role in the future.

Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know what your ranking would be by commenting below or tweeting me at @thrsilverscreen.

Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Image is property of TriStar Pictures

Terminator 2: Judgement Day  – Film Review

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton

Director: James Cameron

Synopsis: Having failed with their mission to assassinate Sarah Connor, the machines send a new and much more advanced lethal to go after John Connor as a child. However, the adult John Connor counteracts this by sending the same cyborg that tried to kill his mother, to protect him.

Review: “I’ll be back,” said the T-800 before he rammed his car through a police station during a climatic event of the first Terminator movie as he ruthlessly hunted down his prey, Sarah Connor, in a bid to kill her to prevent a deadly war between man and the machines from ever taking place. It’s a line that has become one of the most quoted lines of dialogue in cinematic history. Though he did not succeed in said mission, he was true to his word, and came back with an almighty bang to help create what many feel is one of the greatest sequels ever made in the history of film.

The first Terminator film was revolutionary and it managed this feat on quite the remarkably small budget. Hence for the sequel, as sequels should do it upped the ante and in considerable style too, including quite the higher budget. With the war against the Machines still raging, and having failed to eliminate Sarah, Skynet sends an advanced Terminator, the T-1000 back in time to eliminate John Connor as a child to prevent him from leading humanity to victory against the machines. Yet to counteract this, the adult John sends back a reprogrammed T-800 that was originally sent to kill his mother, back to protect him at all costs.

Having shown himself to be a ruthless badass killing machine in the first film, to see Arnie flip that on its head, and be a little bit more compassionate this time around was a masterstroke in terms of storytelling. Yet at the same time, he still remains an absolute badass that you wouldn’t want to find yourself up against. And once again, he has some terrific one liners that he delivers with such charisma. The role of the Terminator is what perhaps Arnie has become best known for, and he absolutely bosses every minute of screen time that he has.

With Sarah Connor as well you also have a character who has gone through some shit, and it’s made her a much tougher individual in this film than compared to the rather timid waitress she was in the first film. Taking the characters from the first film and developing them is what sequels should do, and this film does it perfectly, as Sarah is a transformed woman in this film. On the other hand the T-1000, played by Robert Patrick, is one of the most persistent relentless antagonists ever put to film. To watch him scrap with Arnie, two very well matched forces, it makes for some pulsating action. By doing this it makes it that so much more compelling, given that in the first film it was Arnie VS Sarah and Kyle, not exactly the most even of match ups.

With the budget now considerably enhanced, much like The Terminator himself, Cameron manages to create just as compelling, if not more compelling action sequences. he manages to top those action sequences here. The film is paced perfectly with plenty of tremendous action scenes to keep the energy going, including perhaps the best chase scene that has ever been put to film. However, though there are a lot of these chase sequences, it crucially allows those personal moments between the characters particularly between John and Sarah, and indeed the whole plot surrounding the war between man and machines and the dreaded Judgement Day.

It’s the perfect blend of upping the ante in terms of action and the drama, whilst crucially giving moments for the central characters to develop.  It’s one of the finest examples of a sequel that some might argue is better than the original. It is a film that has helped shape science fiction and indeed action films in the years that followed, and will in all likelihood, continue to be a staple of both genres for many more years to come.

He said he’d be back, and he certainly was a man (?) of his word. With much more developed characters and some breathtaking action set pieces, this is the perfect example of a sequel done perfectly. Hasta la Vista Baby indeed!

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Image is property of LucasFilm and Walt Disney

Star Wars: The Last Jedi  – Film Review

Cast: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Domnhall Gleeson,

Director: Rian Johnson

Synopsis: Following on from the events of The Force AwakensThe First Order is hot on the trails of the Resistance, while Rey seeks out the guidance of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

This review will be 100% spoiler free.

Review: Very few films manage to become such events that build anticipation and excitement among audiences quite like Star Wars does. Though for a long time (a decade to be exact) no new films were made in the Star Wars universe, it never lost that magic and majesty that it carries for so many people. Though that was unlikely to ever diminish, as 2015’s The Force Awakens came along, it was the film the franchise needed to revitalise itself and get this

Picking up almost immediately after the events of Force Awakens, without divulging too much information, the First Order is now aggressively hunting The Resistance, which is to be expected after you blow up a significant asset, namely Starkiller Base. Meanwhile over on Ahch-To, Luke Skywalker has chosen to hide himself away, due to a horrible event that took place in the past, which doesn’t bode well for Rey, who is seeking Luke out to return a significant possession of his, and for help in honing her Jedi powers.

For many a big criticism of Abrams’s efforts was that it was just a rehash of A New Hope, and while it is not a shot for shot remake, it does undeniably heavily borrow elements of that film. The reception of the prequels and how different they were to the original trilogy meant that the decision to make the first chapter of the new trilogy feel like the film that started all this was a sound decision. However, taking over from Abrams, Rian Johnson continues on what Abrams built so successfully and gives another strong addition to the franchise that continues at the themes that almost every film before it has touched upon.

For many the greatest film in this celebrated franchise is The Empire Strikes Back, and justifiably so too. It took the characters and developed them in extremely unique ways, and it’s clear Johnson is going for a similar vibe, but this is not just a rehash of Empire, it crafts a story that needs to be told, taking the characters and taking them in certainly very intriguing directions. Conflicts are occurring both between the First Order and the Resistance and intense personal conflicts are raging inside some of the characters. Of the familiar faces, Daisy Ridley is once again superb as Rey, adding real intensity into her performance as she goes on a journey to discover the answers to the questions that we had about her last time out. John Boyega likewise as Finn, is certainly a very likeable presence, as is the roguish charm of Poe Dameron. Of the newcomers, Laura Dern has an authoritative presence alongside the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia.

On the flip side, there’s a lot going on with Kylo Ren too, which given the heinous crime he committed against his father is understandable. But even then, his character has a lot on his plate, just like many of the characters here. Though once again, the Skywalker siblings are key pieces in this puzzle. Having had a mere cameo last time around, Luke has a lot more to do this time around and given that so much has happened to him since he decided to adopt the hermit lifestyle, there’s much to be explored and Hamill is once again terrific in the role. Though there is an obvious element of sadness surrounding Leia and the passing of Carrie Fisher, in what will be her final turn in the role, she bows out tremendously. That being said there are some new characters who could have really done with more fleshing out, and some characters who were so frustratingly underutilised previously are still not given the time to shine.

Though the story does move along at a steady pace, there are moments in particular around the second act that really slow the film down, and in some cases seem almost completely out of place and for some it might take them completely out of the film. That being said, that does not take away from the brilliant direction that Johnson puts into this. Sometimes a film can have the feel that it was almost directed by a committee, absolutely not the case here. The film looks immaculate and the action scenes are superbly well handled. There are some scenes that could have been omitted but there’s plenty of scenes that will get the adrenaline flowing.

A key task of any chapter two in a trilogy is to leave the audience desperately wanting more by the time the credits start to role, that criteria has been met. What Johnson crafts here is so well done it’s easy to see why Disney has given him the green light to make a new Star Wars trilogy unrelated to the current events of the saga, or so we are led to believe at this moment in time. The task of completing this story for these characters now reverts back to the man who introduced the world to them, and given that excitement and interest in this franchise is now likely to continue to the end of time, can we somehow make the jump into lightspeed to December 2019 already?

Continuing on the foundations laid by Force Awakens, The Last Jedi packs plenty of emotional punch, taking the characters in exciting directions and setting the stage for what should be an enthralling conclusion to this new trilogy.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Justice League (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros and DC

Justice League – Film Review

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, J.K. Simmons, Amy Adams, Diane Lane

Director: Zack Snyder

Synopsis: In the wake of Superman’s death, with the planet feeling vulnerable and sensing that an attack is not too far away, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of some heroes to help save the world from the threat of the villainous Steppenwolf…

Review: When reviewing the extended universe that DC is constructing, it is extremely difficult to not compare their efforts to that of their major rivals, Marvel. Similarly, it has been hard to ignore the difficult time DC has had in getting its Extended Universe off the ground. A strong start but a few blips followed that threatened to derail the universe before it even got off the ground good and proper. Thankfully, Wonder Woman came along and put everything back on track and now the pieces have been put together for DC’s answer to the Avengers to finally get their first cinematic superhero outing.

The decision to not go the Marvel route and give each character their own film before going into the superhero team up flick, was certainly a bold one. The debate as to whether that was the route DC should have gone, could be debated for an eternity. Nevertheless, in the wake of the events of Batman v Supermanand the heroic sacrifice of Kal-El, Bruce decides to form a team as he (correctly) believes that someone is about to attack the planet, and so the Justice League is formed, with Batman, Wonder Woman, and new recruits Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. The aforementioned attack comes from Steppenwolf, whose origins are not really explained to any significant detail, all you know is he’s the bad guy and he is seeking some items that he wants to bring about an end to humanity. Usual comic book movie shenanigans.

Though he did direct the movie, due to personal tragedy, Snyder stepped down from the project in post production. Thus Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the project in Snyder’s absence. Though the movie does certainly feel like a Snyder film, in terms of its visuals, Whedon’s influence is certainly noticeable. Snyder is certainly a very visual director, but Whedon’s influence, given that he has a screenwriter credit, helps really flesh out the characters giving each team member an opportunity to shine, and it’s an opportunity they all take.

The standout though by far is Ezra Miller’s Flash, almost every line out of his mouth is quip after quip after quip, and it’s hilarious. Gal Gadot continues where she left off from her solo movie, and really continues to excel in her role as Wonder Woman. Jason Momoa as Aquaman is almost as if Khal Drogo cut off some of his hair and developed a deep love for the ocean, he certainly has charisma, with his Trident of Neptune in hand. Ray Fisher as Cyborg is functional, though there is certainly scope to explore his origin story a lot more somewhere down the line. As for Affleck, though he does look as though the role of the Caped Crusader is taking its toll on him, he continues to deliver the goods, though it remains to be seen if this is his last hurrah as Batman.

Even with Whedon’s input on the screenplay, it isn’t perfect. There’s some problems in terms of its storytelling, it feels a little bit rushed in the opening act. However once we arrive at the second act and the team are together, there’s enjoyment to be had without a doubt. The banter between the team is vintage Whedon and the action scenes are enjoyable to watch. There is a lot of CGI (to be expected) and while some of it is great, there are one or two instances where it could have maybe been cleaned up. As for the villain, unfortunately even with such a talent as Ciarán Hinds playing him, he falls into the category of rather bland villains, a problem that has been plaguing Marvel’s Universe since its inception.

For DC, their Extended Universe is still in its infancy, and although Justice League isn’t quite the home run that the studio would have undoubtedly liked it to be, it should give the fans more than enough to be hopeful for the future. Given the backlash and problems that have troubled DC, and only being a mere five films into their universe, you wouldn’t blame them if they opted to hit the reset button. However, there seem to be no plans to do that, and given that there’s lots in the pipeline they’re going full steam ahead, much to the dismay/delight of comic book fans everywhere (delete where appropriate).

There’s plenty of entertainment to be had seeing DC’s superhero team getting their first big screen outing, and despite an imperfect story, it’s a noticeable improvement on both BVS and Suicide Squad.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

Image is property of A24, Curzon Artificial Eye and Film4

The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Film Review

Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Synopsis: A skilled surgeon meets a young man whom he befriends, but when strange things start happening to his family, he is left facing a terrible and heartbreaking decision…

Review: Sometimes, a film lets you know right off the bat that the story you’re about to witness is unconventional to say the least, and not like anything you have ever seen before. The dominance of certain genres in mainstream cinema mean that such pieces of idiosyncratic cinema can be most welcome interludes. Indeed, these types of unique storytelling can almost be deemed necessary. Following in the wake of The Lobster, director Yorgos Lanthimos certainly continues on down that path of peculiar storytelling.

Of course, we have already seen an example of this type of out of ordinary storytelling in the form of Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, a film that it would be fair to say polarised audiences massively. And though not quite as shocking as that film was, Lanthimos certainly aims to unsettle the audience in this tale of Steven, a renowned heart surgeon who encounters a teenage boy named Martin whom he befriends. Everything seems fine and dandy between Steven and Martin, he introduces him to his wife Anna (Kidman), his son Bob, (Suljic) and daughter Kim (Cassidy).

Yet as time goes on and mysterious, unexplained things start happening to Steven and his family, and something suggests that the root cause of these events is Martin, who has a grudge against Steven for something that he might have done in the past. The story is certainly very unconventional and the characters are not exactly the most likeable bunch of people you’re ever likely to meet in your life. Farrell plays Steven as your loyal family man who loves his family more than anything, but despite all that, there’s some dark undertones to his character. Kidman is perhaps the most likeable of the bunch, but even she is sucked into this murky situation that is enveloping this family, and the duo certainly shine in these roles that are certainly designed to test the actors to the maximum.

Perhaps giving the best performance of them all though is Keoghan as Martin. Initially he starts off as quite a friendly young man, but it isn’t long before you notice the very troubling and sinister occurings that are going on with him, and perhaps the root cause behind all of this psychological, nightmarish horror that is unfolding. Lanthimos’s directing style, including long shots of panning down ominous looking hallways certainly helps add to the uncomfortable vibe of the film, not to mention the very dreary colour palette. Lanthimos’s script (co-written by Efthymis Filippou) is shrouded in themes that are designed to haunt the audience. It opts to explain certain things, but not others, and it’s up to the audience to fill in the gaps.

There is certainly a lot of mystery surrounding, which you would think keeps the plot moving along at a brisk pace, yet this doesn’t prevent the film from suffering pacing issues. It is a very slow burn, particularly in the first act as you watch all the the pieces fall into place. However, once it reaches the second half and in particular the climax, it pays off, but not in a way that is going to leave the audience at all satisfied. Not because the climax doesn’t pay off, it pays off alright, but the pay off is not exactly going to leave you blissfully happy once the credits begin to roll. No, it is instead going to mess with your mind.

 Unnerving to the maximum, but tremendous performances across the board result in an intriguing but ultimately extremely uncomfortable experience that doesn’t lend itself to repeat viewings.

 

Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Se7en (1995)

Image is property of New Line Cinema

Se7en – Film Review

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey

Director: David Fincher

Synopsis: Two detectives are assigned to a case in which the killer is brutally murdering his victims, based on the seven deadly sins.

Review: Sometimes, it just seems that there is just no escaping from the brutality and horrors life can sometimes be. On any given day, you tend to come across stories of horrific violence committed against all sorts of people, brutal murders and the like all seem to have become just so common for us to hear about. As such, there is something almost generally disturbing and unsettling about the second directorial effort of David Fincher, because it depicts events that could very well happen in the world today.

The opening credits along let the viewer know the sort of ride that they are in for, and it sure as heck won’t be pretty. In an unnamed US city,  Detective William Somerset is a veteran at the job, and is just a week shy of retirement when he gets assigned to this deeply disturbing case of a killer who is using the seven deadly sins as a basis for his crimes. With each respective murder representing each of the seven sins: gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, wrath, pride and lust. Also assigned to the case is the recently reassigned Detective David Mills who’s a bit brash, polar opposite to the calm and methodical William Somerset. Together these two must piece together the clues of the crimes to catch the killer. Except this mystery killer always seems to be one step ahead of the game.

Even from the opening credits, there’s something just so deeply unsettling about the events that we see on screen. The weather is almost always drab and bleak, which mirrors the tone of the film, extremely sombre and just downright macabre. The film-making is gritty and realistic to the point that it and almost makes you feel like the events you’re witnessing are real life events, but the film doesn’t go all out with the gore, it all just feels very realistic. With each murder that takes place, it keeps the plot moving along at a very steady pace. You want to turn away as the events, and more specifically the murders are so disturbingly gruesome, but the quality of the writing keeps your interest glued to the screen.

In a story that feels like it could be something you see in real life, the performances from everyone, in particular Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are tremendous. Their relationship is not exactly harmonious, and indeed the crime scenes they’re investigating understandably take their toll on the duo, but they remain committed in their efforts to bring down the killer. Gwyneth Paltrow as Mills’s wife Tracy also gives a very vulnerable performance, a woman who is hiding something quite important from her husband, something that plays great significance when we reach the final act of the film.

Speaking of said final act, though there is tension right right throughout the film, particularly during a gritty gun battle in a residential block. The finale is where the tension is really turned up to maximum and the whole story comes to a head. Right up to this point, you had never actually witnessed the murders be carried out on screen, only the very bloody and unpleasant aftermath of each crime scene. Yet all that changes, and the whole plan of our mystery serial killer comes full circle. It’s so unexpected, delivering one of the best twists in cinematic history and providing the viewer with an ending that is more than likely to leave them reeling.

It’s shocking and bold storytelling combined with meticulously crafted film-making. Thus, credit where credit is due to Fincher and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker for creating not just an ending that surely ranks up there with one of the very best ever put to screen. For creating a chilling tale that won’t be leaving your mind in any hurry, and one that ensures you will never hear the sentence “what’s in the box?” in the same way ever again.

Dark, brutal and uncompromising storytelling, with great performances from Pitt and Freeman, and a masterfully executed ending all equal one of the best films of all time.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor: Ragnarok – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba

Director: Taika Waititi

Synopsis: Having come out of hiding to claim the throne of Asgard, Hela the Goddess of Death seeks to rule Asgard. Having been cast aside on a distant planet, Thor must use his strength and an old friend to help him reclaim Asgard’s throne, and prevent Ragnarok, the end of all things, from occurring.

Review: Of all the directors Marvel could have hired to take on a film that studio head honcho Kevin Feige described as “very important movie in our timeline”, one of the most out of the blue choices you could suggest would be New Zealand native Taika Waititi. Having made his name with the very quirky comedies such as What We Do in The Shadows, and last year’s hilarious Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Yet, having seen humour become an important aspect of their films, Waititi seems to be the perfect match for Marvel, and as it turns out, it is absolutely a match made in Valhalla.

For a film subtitled Ragnarok, meaning the end of everything, to be pitched as a quirky comedy masquerading as a big budget superhero blockbuster, could have been a spectacular misfire, but in the hands of Waititi it is all just blends together beautifully. On a quest to find out some information is where we meet the God of Thunder, and he quickly learns that The Goddess of Death Hela has come back to Asgard to take her place on the throne, setting off a chain of events that sees Thor trying to unseat the Usurper whilst preventing Ragnarok from occurring. Though not written by him, the script has that Waititi stamp written all over it. There are gags aplenty, and they’re almost always hilarious. It’s a bold claim, but this might just be the funniest Marvel film to date.

Old friends reunited…

Hemsworth and Hiddleston are once again just delightful to watch in these roles that they have made their own, with it also being great to see Mark Ruffalo and the Hulk in all of his green, raging glory back in the MCU once more. There are quite a few new faces here, the absolute standouts being Tessa Thompson’s badass Valkyrie and an absolutely uproarious star turn from Waititi himself in a role that will have you almost crying tears of laughter. It is absolute comic gold and a character one would hope gets his own movie somewhere down the line. Meanwhile, Jeff Goldblum is inevitably always a pleasure to watch, and as the Grandmaster, it feels like a role that was just written for the Goldblum and he like the Odinson brothers, he bosses it.

A real consistent Achilles Heel for the MCU has been their villains, as the last Thor film testified. Thankfully, Cate Blanchett as Hela is able to avoid falling into the realm of bland and generic villains that have troubled MCU films gone by. She is well fleshed out as a character and it makes her story so much more compelling to watch. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Karl Urban’s character who does sadly fall into that category of villains that are just kind of forgettable.

Whilst also perhaps boasting the most vivid colour palette that the MCU has seen to date, when the action goes down Waititi’s direction is confident and assured.  The battle between Hulk and Thor that we saw a glimpse of in the trailer is just spectacular stuff, you cannot beat a bit of intergalactic gladiatorial duelling can you? With the help of some Led Zepplin, the final showdown is also breathless to watch. The whole thing might seem absolutely bonkers and absurd, but it all blends together into some delightfully, colourful and exhilarating entertainment.

With complaints of superhero fatigue coming from some audiences, this is the shot in the arm that the genre needed to help keep things fresh. It’s so different in terms of style and everything that it is certainly a most welcome breath of fresh air for the genre. With them now a staggering 17 films deep into their universe, Marvel are showing no signs of slowing down, and when they’re continuing to produce such glorious excitement, who in their right mind would want them to stop?

Fusing a deeply personal story with some absolutely first class humour that will have your sides hurting, Waititi brings his vibrant style of quirky comedy to the MCU, and it pays off big time. The best MCU film of the year.