Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond (2015)

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Image rights belong to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond – Film Review

Cast: Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy

Director: Brad Bird

Synopsis: When a teenage girl (Robertson) finds herself in the possession of a mysterious pin, she sees an incredible whole world flash before her eyes and goes in search of answers

Review: When Summer movie season rolls around each year, sequels, reboots, and franchises tend to dominate this time of year in the Hollywood calendar.  So when an original piece of film making comes around, it is a refreshing sight. Even more so when a project lands a director as skilled as Brad Bird at the helm with a script penned by Bird and Damon Lindelof, there is a lot of potential for greatness. Bird proved himself in his live action debut with the best entry in the Mission Impossible Franchise, Ghost Protocol. Combined  his animated expertise with great films such as Ratatouille and The Incredibles, with a film based on a theme park attraction that Walt Disney made part of Disneyland in 1955, there was a lot of potential in this adventure.

With the trailers leading up to the film, much was shrouded in secrecy, again something to be praised considering many trailers just blunder and throw WAY too much information in before the movie is released (here’s looking at you Terminator Genysis.) The premise centres around this cool, exciting futuristic world, known as Tomorrowland where only a select few number of people get to go to.

One of these people is spirited teenager Casey Newton, played wonderfully by Britt Robertson, who comes into the possession of a Tomorrowland pin, which with a single touch, transports her to the titular land for the briefest of moments. Inspired by what she has seen, she tries to understand what this place is and how to get to it. Her search leads her to Frank (George Clooney) who has become a downbeat, somewhat depressed former child prodigy (for reasons you will find out) and Casey believes he has the answers to her questions surrounding the mysterious realm of Tomorrowland and the visions she has seen.

As previously mentioned, Bird has almost a perfect track record when it comes to the previous movies he’s been at the helm of, and with his latest adventure, there are undoubtedly elements that are absolutely superb. For instance, the visuals are absolutely flawless. The look and feel of Tomorrowland, as if it is a place you could actually go out and visit, is tremendous and much praise must go to Bird for the visuals and the flawless direction that is on show throughout the duration of our ride in Tomorrowland.

With solid direction, our leading lady, Casey provides charm and humour, whilst also holding the movie on her shoulders and giving a very solid performance. Likewise with George Clooney, though his character’s circumstances mean he may seem like a miserable old sod, but there is empathy for him and he does not wallow in his self pity and works with Casey and the duo have excellent on screen chemistry. The chemistry between Clooney and the breakout star of the film, Athena (Raffey Cassidy) while also decent, could have been greatly improved in parts.

Yet the biggest downer of this film is the script. With such an inventive premise that could have gone in so many unique and interesting directions, it falls flat on its face at times, particularly within the third act. A lot of the momentum and build up that was very exciting in the previous two acts, was ultimately thrown away.  In addition, the whole premise of the movie being Tomorrowland and what is this magical and mysterious place, yet the glimpses of the world are few and far between..

The movie almost dangles the carrot of Tomorrowland in front of you and then only gives you the tiniest bit when you came wanting more, so much more. With it emerging that Brad Bird chose to make this when he had the opportunity to direct The Force Awakens, it will undoubtedly leave many frustrated. While Bird’s latest foray into live action was exciting and intriguing, and he gives it his all one cannot help but wonder that Bird’s decision to direct this instead of Star Wars really feels like it was a missed opportunity for something truly spectacular, something truly out of this world.

Something this unique and original does not come along every day, and with top notch visuals and some excellent leading performances, there was much potential, which ultimately was squandered with a lacklustre finale, and that is a real shame. 

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Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

shawshank
Image is property of Castle Rock Entertainment and Columbia Pictures

The Shawshank Redemption – Film Review

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Tim Robbins, Bob Gunton, William Sadler

Director:  Frank Darabont

Synopsis: When a banker (Robbins) is sent to prison for two brutal murders of his wife and new lover, he learns the true meaning of redemption whilst bonding with a fellow inmate (Freeman)

Review: When having a discussion about the greatest film of all time, you will undoubtedly have many outstanding pieces of entertainment thrown into the conversation. Masterpieces such as The Godfather, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction and Lord of the Rings may come to mind. Yet for many lovers of film, one title that is almost always mentioned is the adaption of the Stephen King novel Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, appropriately named: The Shawshank Redemption.  

Written and directed by Frank Darabont in what was his first major motion picture, upon its release in 1994, the film suffered at the Box Office, returning only $28 million from a budget of $25.3 million. The year of 1994 was one that was stacked with great films like Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump, and when it came to the Academy Awards, it won a grand total of no awards. The low box office numbers is a subject that could well be covered by an undergraduate dissertation and yet it is a mystery that is more than likely never going to be solved. But what has been solved, and is very clear to millions of people, is the brilliance of this film has not been lost in the two decades since its release, in fact it has over time firmly established itself as a classic.

The film charts the journey of banker Andy Dufresne who is sent to the harsh environment of the Shawshank Penitentiary after he is convicted of the double murder of his somewhat unfaithful wife and her mystery new lover. He remains adamant he is innocent of the crime is convicted of, something that the other inmates all scorn at. “Send you here for life, and that’s exactly what they take,” utters one melancholic inmate. A brutal hell on Earth that can easily break a man at the first sign of wilting and weakness. Whilst inside he befriends the prison’s smuggler Ellis “Red” Redding (Freeman) whom procures a number of items for Andy whilst they serve their respective jail sentences.

Through their time together, they form a close and unbreakable friendship that teaches both men the real value of friendship. Throughout his time, Dufresne clings on to the notion of hope, hope that they will escape the hell on earth that they’re living in. “Fear can hold you prisoner, but hope can set you free” reads the tagline on the poster. The key theme of the movie is hope and while Red dismisses this notion as dangerous, it does not faze Andy who harbours an unbreakable determination to escape the doldrums of Shawshank.

Any number of superlatives may be used to describe the performances of the leading men, and just about any and every one would be appropriate. Both of their performances are tremendously powerful. You feel their emotions with every word that comes out of their mouths and for Dufresene in particular, no matter how many years of his life are lost in the pit of hell that is Shawshank prison, he WILL get out eventually. Freeman, with his usual sooth, calming voice that’s perfect for narration, guides the viewer from his perspective.

The story itself, while it does have its sad parts, is on the whole extremely inspiring and moving throughout. Any one who sits down to watch this masterpiece, be it for their very first time, tenth time, hundredth time or however many times, should always be uplifted whenever the movie stops playing. The film provides one of the most satisfying and heart warming endings ever put to screen and reminds the viewer that no matter what your circumstances in life, hope is something you must always cling on to and never let go.

Uplifting, wonderfully acted with an excellent screenplay, outstanding direction and two terrific leading performances, The Shawshank Redemption has rightfully sealed its place in film history and despite its shocking lack of Oscars, it is without question one of the best films ever made.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

mad max
Image rights belong to Kennedy Miller Mitchell, Village Roadshow Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures

Mad Max: Fury Road – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Adelaide Clemens, Riley Keough

Director: George Miller

Synopsis: Humanity is on the brink following a collapse in law and order in the face of tyranny and resources are scarce. However, humanity’s last hope might just be in the form of a wandering road warrior…

Review: If the title of a film alone was to offer any indication of the spectacle that the audience is going to be treated to, then very few films can compete with the Mad Max franchise. Cars, explosions, extremely intense chases. The adjective “mad”  certainly is one of many that could be used to describe it, but truth be told, mad is only scratching the surface of this larger than life, and exhilarating franchise, because it is MUCH more than mad, it’s INSANE.

Returning for a fourth adventure after a three decade hiatus following the release of Beyond Thunderdome in 1985. The third entry was a somewhat less than spectacular outing, but with the two solid previous entries before it, full of intense chases, explosions and edge-of-your-seat action sequences, there was much potential and hope for this new instalment with a bigger budget. With the vision and genius of Oscar winning director George Miller who brought this crazy world into existence back once again for this latest adventure that exceeds all of the previous films of a franchise that is surely going to explode into life once more.

With Mel Gibson occupying the titular role in the previous instalments, and owning it throughout, the role has passed on to Tom Hardy. From Bane to Mad Max Rockatansky, quite the career progression! But like most Tom Hardy performances, the man is on outstanding form here. He may be a man of few words, but he is definitely a man of action, quite often of an explosive variety, as he strives to protect a group of people seeking to break away from the main colony.

Leading the charge against the Road Warrior is the villainous Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and aiding Max in his fight is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Female characters in modern cinema rarely have that tough, strong woman spirit about them, yet Furiosa is an exception and then some. She more than gives Max a good run for his money and should provide a shining light for Hollywood writers on how to write a decent female character.  Yet the villain, was a bit of a weak link, as he was overshadowed by his crazy army of War Boys.

As previously mentioned, madness is an adjective that barely scratches the surface of this film, as it is absolutely insane. Almost immediately from the off, the film is packed with some crazy, enthralling action sequences. The previous films established themselves as benchmarks for action films in the late 70s and early 80s, yet that benchmark has been blown away (quite literally) by this new adventure.  The action here is simply incredible, whilst at the same time being completely insane and almost ridiculous. Guitars that shoot out flames, cars, lots and lots of explosions. It is almost like Top Gear blended with a Michael Bay movie full of explosions, except this film, unlike many of Michael Bay’s movies has real heart and feeling to it.

You care for these characters and you want them to succeed in their crazy quest and avoid their maniacal pursuers. There is no shaky cam, just well filmed, hardcore intense action scenes to take your breath away, in the same way that movies such as 1991’s Terminator 2 Judgement Day did. We have already seen some terrific action movies as we approach this halfway point in the decade, and Mad Max: Fury Road is definitely up there with the best of them so far in the 2010s.

Miller said in an interview that there could be more from the Road Warrior depending on how well Fury Road did, and judging by its success, we could very well get more craziness, cars, explosions and electric flame throwing guitars back on the big screen before long. Brace yourself, because you have arrived at madness station and this is not going to be the only stop on this train! Oh what a fantastic movie!

Visually incredible with explosive and some extremely well filmed and realistic action sequences that are just crazy and awesome to behold, the path down Fury Road is one you will not want to miss!

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