Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Lincoln (2012)

Image is property of Walt Disney, Dreamworks, Reliance Entertainment and the Kennedy/Marshall Company

Lincoln – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Straithairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader

Director: Steven Spielberg

Synopsis: With the American Civil War raging on, President of the United States of America Abraham Lincoln attempts to bring peace to the country and also seeks to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery, despite opposition within his own party.

Review: A very real and powerful account of arguably the greatest president that the United States of America has ever had. This film brings us the final months of the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Within it he must fight his battle to end the Civil War and bring about the emancipation of the slavery. The war must have reached its conclusion before the amendment goes through and a failure to achieve these goals would have had dire consequences for the USA.

The collaboration of Spielberg along with Producers Kathy Kennedy and Tony Kushner gives us the battle and ultimate achievement of Abraham Lincoln, the successful passing of the emancipation of slavery. An initial plan developed by Kushner proposed the film focused on Lincoln’s political life as a whole. Yet Spielberg chose instead to focus in on the final two months of Lincoln’s presidency. The film brilliantly depicts the difficult path that lay before Lincoln in getting the amendment passed and how the brilliant Lincoln dealt with these obstacles. His great speeches and political charisma are on show in abundance, and his determination to pass through the legislation that made Lincoln one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States.

In spite of the fact that the main role was initially offered to Liam Neeson while the film was in early development, Daniel Day Lewis in the role was quite simply President Lincoln personified. His accent and look was absolutely excellent. When Lincoln spoke, the whole room stopped whatever what they were doing and they listened to a great man speak.  His stories and speeches were wonderful to listen to.  Equally impressive in his supporting role was Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stephens. An argumentative Republican Congressman and strongly believes in the equality of all and vehemently backs the passage of the amendment. Sally Field is also superb in the role of the First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.  All three were fully deserving of Oscar nominations and Day Lewis scooped the award for Best Actor, becoming the first man to win this award on three occasions. The rest of the supporting cast were all excellent in their roles.

While it is in no doubt that this film is very well done, there is a tremendous amount of talking throughout. While this dialogue is very interesting and offers great insight into a fascinating piece of history, it can at times feel a little tedious. For Americans, this film would be of great importance to them as it represents one of the most important chapters in their history. For non-Americans, it may not appeal to them as much. Nevertheless Spielberg has produced another personal and wonderfully directed film that was acted perfectly. It ensured Daniel Day Lewis made Academy Award History and reminded everyone of the reason why Abraham Lincoln is revered as one of, if not the greatest president that the United States has ever had.

Day-Lewis is on incredible form as Lincoln, and Spielberg is also on superb form as he delivers a very compelling account of a very important era in the history of the United States.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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Image is property of Warner Bros, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films and New Line Cinema

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Film Review

Cast: Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Kenn Stott, Graham McTavish, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Aidan Turner, James Nesbitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis:  The Dwarven company along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey continue their quest to reclaim their homeland of Erebor. However, the villainous Smaug is waiting for them and evil is beginning to stir in Dol Guldur…

Review: A fiery return to Middle Earth and with the Desolation of Smaug comes a bigger and better adventure than An Unexpected Journey. The first instalment suffered from a slow start and thus it took its time to get going. Despite this,  it was still a thoroughly enjoyable adventure. However, this second instalment wastes no time and immediately picks up from where the first film ended, as the company of Dwarves along with Bilbo and Gandalf continue their quest to reclaim Erebor.

Right from the get go, this film is immediately packed with some great scenes. From being chased from a bear-man to battling spiders that almost feast on our gang of little heroes. From there we have an enthralling chase down a choppy river as the Dwarves flee in wooden barrels, whilst being pursued by the pack of Orcs that continue to hunt them, as well as a group of elves led by Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). While these two characters did not feature in the work of J.R.R Tolkien, and while that may upset some of the die hard Tolkienites (hardcore fans of Tolkien’s work) they were both excellent characters who were exciting to watch and memorable.

On the subject of memorable, there is a character (or should I say beast) that is very memorable and is one of the best villains that has been put on the big screen in a long time. This beast is of course, Smaug the dragon, voiced and motion captured by the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch. This beast was ENORMOUS and very menacing. The dialogue that Smaug and Bilbo share in this film is wonderful. With the sinister voice of Cumberbatch that sent shivers down my spine,  this villain was superb and the scenes with him are among the best in the film.

Martin Freeman continued to excel in the role of Bilbo and Sir Ian McKellen was also ontop form as Gandalf.  A number of the dwarves within the company unfortunately do fade into the background, but there are those who come to the fore, Thorin (Richard Armitage) being one of them. He is the strong courageous leader that he was in the first film. Meanwhile the elderly Balin (Ken Stott) is another member of the dwarf company that shines through as the wisest member of the company.

Unlike the first film, this adventure does not suffer any pacing issues and is packed with action in almost every scene. The arrival at Laketown does slow things down but this is not  bad thing as the audience need the time to breath with all the action that leads up to it. Again there were a few CGI issues as some things did not look as authentic as they could have been. However, on the whole, this film is very well executed and is one of the best films of the year. It is packed with great action scenes and boasts one of the best villains in modern cinema. Be prepared for a fantastic cliff hanger that is definitely going to ensure you will want to come back to Middle Earth for the third and final instalment…

The stakes are upped considerably from the first film, delivering incredible action and a magnificent performance from Cumberbatch as Smaug the dragon, can we go back to Middle Earth now please?

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Man of Steel (2013)

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Image is property of Warner Bros, DC Entertainment, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures

Man of Steel – Film Review

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne

Director: Zack Snyder

Synopsis: When a young man on Earth realises his alien heritage and seeks the answers to his past. As members of his race come looking for him and seek to destroy the planet he has adopted as home, he must rise up to become a superhero and combat the threat that is being posed to mankind.

Review: Man of Steel brings an exciting new take on this popular character. With Zack Snyder at the helm, collaborating with Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer,  we have an action packed and exciting film that has laid the foundations for a DC Universe of films and that could lead one day to an eventual Justice League film, and at the very least the Superman VS Batman film that is all set for a 2015 release.

In the beginning, we see Kal-El’s (AKA Superman)home world Krypton and how it was destroyed which forced his parents to send him to Earth. There are glimpses of Kal-El’s parents played by Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer. We also see the determined and ruthless General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempt a coup to seize control of Krypton in order to save his people. However, this is a coup that ultimately sees him banished to the Phantom Zone. This happens to be a neat convenience for Zod and his supporters when they get freed soon after Krypton is destroyed.

Through a series of flashbacks we see Kal-El’s upbringing by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). Through these flashbacks it is clear to see that certain events in his human upbringing have had their impact on him. The dialogue between Papa Kent and a young Clarke illustrate to great effect the impact that Kal-El will have on humanity. Henry Cavill is terrific in the role of Kal El. He really looked the part and for a  British actor, his accent is absolutely spot on.  The rest of the supporting cast also do a great  job with a special mention going to Michael Shannon as General Zod who was menacing and ruthless. Likewise his sub commander Faora (Antje Traue) was equally menacing and was also superb in her role. Amy Adams was also a solid casting choice in the role of Lois Lane. However, there were times when the chemistry between her and Kal-El was a little lacking.

From his past films, we know Zack Snyder is a very visual director. (Watchmen, 300) From this, you would hope to see exciting and very visual action sequences with Superman and his iconic red cape flying through the air battling his adversaries. Man of Steel certainly brings this in abundance.  The action scenes are pulsating to watch  as buildings come down as Superman and Zod do battle. Yet in this case, one intense action scene is followed up with another intense action scene and it gets to a point where it is almost overkill with the action scenes and that they should have slowed it down when it came to the action.  That being said, some of these scenes were fantastic and completely enjoyable, with a lot of destruction in the process.

With a great origins story, some solid acting all round, particularly from Cavill and Shannon and some sweet action scenes, Man of Steel was a fun film to watch and for me it is the best superhero film of 2013. With the subsequent news of the Superman Vs Batman film that’s planned for a 2015 release, fans of DC have something that they hope can compete with Marvel’s vast and ever expanding cinematic universe.  A lot was riding on Man of Steel, and it definitely delivered.

An exciting new take on a very popular character, with Cavill shining as Superman and some terrific action sequences, the DC Universe has blasted off at long last.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

All image rights belong to Warner Bros, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films and New Line Cinema
Image is property of Warner Bros, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films and New Line Cinema

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Film Review

Cast: Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Kenn Stott, Graham McTavish, Aidan Turner, James Nesbitt, Hugo Weaving , Sir Christopher Lee

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: The first instalment of the new trilogy of films from Peter Jackson. When a younger and more reluctant Bilbo Baggins is persuaded to accompany the great wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves on their journey to reclaim their homeland that has been taken over by a dragon…

Review: Hi ho! hi ho! It is back to Middle Earth we go! Except,  in this adventure we have thirteen dwarves, a brave Hobbit and an awesome wizard on a perilous journey to reclaim the Dwarves’ homeland from a dragon. While this film does not quite match the brilliance of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (LOTR), it is still an exciting and enjoyable adventure. Albeit  an adventure that does take its time to get going.

Through a flashback similar to the one we saw in the Lord of the Rings narrated by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) we instead get a flashback narrated by Old Bilbo (Ian Holm) who reveals how the evil Smaug (voiced and motion captured by Benedict Cumberbatch) took the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.  With this all said and done we remain in the Shire for a good 30 minutes or so as the Dwarves come to Bilbo’s house to sing songs and throw crockery around whilst doing so, much to poor Bilbo’s annoyance.  Even when the adventure does properly get going it is still slow in parts as more stories are told. However when the adventure does finally get going it is fantastic as we witness some thrilling action scenes reminiscent to some of the great moments we had in the LOTR trilogy.

As the titular character Martin Freeman was tremendous in the role of Bilbo. He was likeable and courageous and you find yourself wanting him to earn his place in the company of the Dwarves.  On the subject of the dwarves, while a lot of them fade into the background, there are a few that deserve special mentions. One of these is undoubtedly Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) As the leader of the Dwarf Company you wanted him to be strong, brave and a determined warrior to win back his homeland,and he was all these things. Ken Stott as the elderly Balin is another dwarf who is memorable for his comic relief moments and to be the wise old dwarf that the company need. And of course we have Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey once again. He was incredible in the LOTR trilogy and he is equally incredible in this film, save for the fact that he unfortunately does not take on a Balrog of Morgoth in this film.

While there is evidently a lot more CGI in this film compared to the Lord of the Rings some of which is a bit bothersome there is still plenty of CGI that does take your breath away.  On the subject of great CGI we must talk about Gollum my preciousssss! ( I hope you read that in  Gollum’s voice) Although he is not in the film long, he is just as brilliant as he was in the LOTR trilogy. The Riddles in the Dark scene with him and Bilbo simply is first class entertainment and a definite hight point of the film, along with the last act of the film which is also incredible. Howard Shore’s score is also first class. Shore scooped two Oscars for his great work in the Lord of the Rings and he’s again on fine form here as the score is of the highest quality.

All in all this film was thoroughly enjoyable and a great watch. While it does take its time to get going, when it does get going it is thrilling with some terrific scenes that remind you what you love about the world of J.R.R Tolkien and Peter Jackson to a certain extent.  While the decision to make it into a trilogy as opposed to two films, has been criticised by some people. While the CGI is in places bothersome in parts, it was still a welcome return to Middle Earth and I look forward to the next instalment of this adventure.

The pacing is a little slow, as the film takes it times to get going but to be back in Middle Earth is a joy to behold, and once it’s full steam ahead, there’s much to enjoy.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

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Image is property of Lionsgate

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Film Review 

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence,  Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis: Katniss has sparked rebellion in the twelve districts of Panem and she has become the target by the ruthless Capitol. As rebellion is brewing, the Capitol prepares for the 75th Hunger Games, also known as the Third Quarter Quell, and one that will change Katniss’s life forever…

Review: A bigger and better adventure than the first film of what already has the makings of a very successful franchise.  A franchise that is quite simply not a plain rip off of Battle Royale as some people would have you believe.

The opening begins with the consequences of Katniss and Peeta’s open defiance against the Capitol following their victory in the previous film. Katniss in particular feels the full wrath of the cold President Snow (Donald Sutherland) who threatens Katniss with the deaths of all those she holds dear unless she cools the brewing rebellion that is gaining momentum throughout the nation’s twelve districts. Katniss is seen as the symbol of rebellion and Snow desperately wants to kill her to crush the rebellion. Yet Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) suggests that she be brought down to the level of the Capitol and the symbol of hope that she has become will be eradicated. Sutherland takes his performance form the first film up a gear and he definitely comes into his own as the cold and cruel leader of Panem.

Jennifer Lawrence rose to super stardom following her performance as the film’s star heroine in last year’s film. Following on from this, the 23 year old has got bigger and now has on Oscar for her role in Silver Linings Playbook. The only way is up for her and her performance as the film’s lead character was again fantastic. A strong and powerful female heroine is rare in films these days but with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, she gives us the strong female lead that has helped define this franchise and dare I say, helps bring a positive image of women in action movies and not the sulking and needy women that has come from franchises of the past (*cough* Twilight *cough) The returning cast are also on form again with Stanley Tucci as the bubbly Casear Flickman and Elizabeth Banks as the ever colourful and this time much more emotional Effie Trinket.  Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson also reprise their roles to great effect. Among the new members of the cast, Sam Claflin is the most noteworthy as Finnick Odair. Yet the likes of Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Wiress (Amanda Plummer), Mags (Lynn Cohen) and Johanna (Jena Malone) also make strong impressions.

Under a new director, Francis Lawrence who is not a relation of Jennifer, the film’s action scenes definitely improve and the frustrating shaky cam has been done away with. This film does focus a lot more on some of the crucial elements that are within the books and as the content of this film is considerably darker than its predecessor. A notable example of this is the significance of the Mockingjay pin that went completely amiss in the first film. The director does a great job in bringing those elements from Collins’ novel to the big screen and all in all it is pulled off really well with some exciting and pulsating  scenes especially when we get to the arena which again is done extremely well.

Under Lawrence’s direction, this franchise is in good hands and the final two parts of the franchise have got the potential to be even better than the first two. With the third biggest opening in the UK for 2013, it seems the UK public continue to want the odds to be in their favour. This film definitely delivers what the hordes of passionate Hunger Games fans wanted to see.  It was exciting, dark and was all round perfectly executed. It was  much more loyal to the book  than the first film. While it was not completely loyal, it was still very enjoyable and I eagerly await the next instalment of this franchise.

Upping the stakes as a sequel should, Catching Fire  delivers much more compelling action with a really solid story that ensures the odds are very much in this franchise’s favour.

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