Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ant-Man (2015)

Image rights belong to Marvel Studios
Image is property of Marvel Studios

Ant-Man – Film Review

Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Judy Greer, Michael Pena

Director: Peyton Reed

Synopsis: Scott Lang, a one time crook and master-thief, is seeking to re-establish himself in society after a spell in prison, yet Dr Hank Pym, is seeking to recruit Lang to become a new superhero, one that involves stealing  and a large amount of insects…

Review: When the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off back in 2008 with the roaring success of Iron Man, audiences may have wondered: where is this leading? Will audiences get sick of it? What nonsensical gimmick are they going to try and pull off next? When last year’s smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy was first announced, question marks were raised, a talking tree and a raccoon? Have Marvel lost their marbles? Yet the naysayers soon shut up as Guardians came out blew everyone away, becoming a critical and commercial success.

Similarly, when it was announced that an Ant Man film was in the works, there was scepticism, particularly when long time writer/director Edgar Wright left the project after having been attached to it for a long time, with creative differences being cited. Would this latest gamble for Marvel work? In short, well yes, yes it absolutely did.

The departure of Wright may and probably will leave audiences wondering what he would have brought to this, but fear not as Wright’s replacement, Peyton Reed, stepped up to the mantle in terrific style. The story focuses on Scott Lang (Rudd) who has just been released from prison and is seeking to reconnect with his daughter. Yet his luck is gone, and he resorts to his familiar petty thief ways in order to earn some dough. Yet this presents itself with the perfect opportunity as Dr Hank Pym (Douglas) wants to recruit Scott to take on the role of the Ant Man in order to prevent Pym’s rival Darren Cross from unleashing chaos on the world by making a replica of Pym’s original shrinking formula.

With this now being the twelfth film in the MCU, and after this summer’s blockbuster Age of Ultron, Marvel was in the position of having to reinvent the franchise in order to keep things fresh, and avoid things becoming stale. While there are similarities with a number of previous MCU films,  Ant Man does offer something new and unique enough to ensure that the wheels on the all powerful Marvel bus are not coming off.

Paul Rudd really shines in the role of Scott Lang who is tasked by former Ant Man Hank Pym (an electric Michael Douglas) to become the Ant Man and pull off a daring heist, which again feels fresh as a superhero heist movie is a very rare thing. Rudd brings charisma, humour and charm to the role, which is complemented superbly by the comedic timing of Michael Pena. Guardians certainly packed plenty of laughs, and through a script with contributions from Wright, Joe Cornish, Paul Rudd and Adam McKay, the humour is again excellent and adds a lot to the film.

With Age of Ultron, Marvel wheeled out their titan characters once more, there was that big scale spectacle as the whole world was at stake. Thus with this tale, there was a bit of downsizing to do (quite literally). But with that downsizing of scale, there is no downsizing of story, heart and excellent characters that add more strong characters to the ever growing Marvel Universe. Principally, Paul Rudd absolutely shines as the titular hero and delivers a superb performance. When it was announced that it would be Scott Lang and not Hank Pym taking up the mantle, eyebrows were raised but Rudd pulls it off in magnificent style, with some great comedic timing which, 60% of the time, works every time! The action sequences are handled and executed very well , and when our titular hero shrinks in size, the audience is along for the small but exhilarating ride. Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas as father and daughter are also excellent and their fascinating backstory could lead to a sequel should Marvel decide to roll out Phase 4.

Yet as with many Marvel movies, the real let down here is the villain, the Yellowjacket. (Corey Stoll) While admittedly one of the stronger MCU villains in recent years, there was a lot that could have been explored more deeply with his character, which was ultimately not utilised to as great of an effect as it could have been. Nevertheless, Ant Man has proved to be the exciting close to Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that everyone was hoping it would be. Phase 2 brought us a lot of greatness but it feels like Marvel is about to step it up another gear as all attentions will now be turning to Phase 3, as war is coming.

Hilarious, action packed, with some great character additions to the MCU  a golden lead performance from Paul Rudd and expertly handled action sequences. Let the excitement for Phase 3 begin now…

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Posted in 1980s, Film Review

The Terminator (1984)

The-Terminator-Poster
Image is property of Hemdale, Pacific Western Productions and Orion Pictures

The Terminator – Film Review

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield

Director: James Cameron

Synopsis: A human looking cyborg is sent back to 1984 to assassinate a woman whose unborn son is set to lead humanity into a victorious war against the machines.  Yet, another soldier from the same war is also sent back to protect her at all costs, with the fate of the human race hanging in the balance…

Review: James Cameron, a man whose name is synonymous in Hollywood with big budgets, amazing CGI, and tremendous box office performances, and Oscars aplenty (three to be exact.) But way back when, when he was still trying to make a name for himself, he put out a film that was, simply put, a complete game changer for movie makers everywhere. It would launch a hugely popular franchise, and as crazy as that may seem, it would make a star out of an Austrian bodybuilder.  This film is of course, 1984’s The Terminator. 

The film is primarily set in 1984 and two people have been sent back to this era from 2029 for two very different reasons. One one hand we have our titular character, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is seeking out a woman named Sarah Connor who, unbeknownst to her, will have a future son who is set to lead humanity into a war against the machines. On the other hand, enter Kyle Reese who is out to protect Sarah at any cost. Thus we have ourselves a movie of cat and mouse that is pretty darn thrilling and awesome. The action scenes are brilliantly well handled and expertly shot. Like all great action films, the momentum is there, and the audience barely has any time to breathe as the villainous Terminator hunts its prey down with no remorse or emotion whatsoever, killing people mercilessly along the way.

With an iconic movie, comes an iconic performance, and that certainly belongs to Schwarzenegger. He is a man of action, and few words, although a number of those words have since become well quoted and much loved movie quotes. He is ruthless and efficient as he hunts down his target, and will kill anyone and everyone who stands in his way. It was a role that was perfect for the Austrian and he absolutely owned it. Also great are the performances of both Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Hamilton as Connor is this shy, timid waitress who does very little to fend for herself, but then again when you’re faced with a T-800 cyborg ruthless killing machine, there is not a lot you can do except run for your life! Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese is also excellent, he is a man who like the Terminator will stop at nothing, to protect Sarah from coming to harm. It’s with these two performances that, for all of the intense action, and shooting etc, comes the movie’s heart and character. They have great chemistry together and as the two bond as they seek to evade the Terminator’s clutches, and as their relationship develops, it packs real emotion into this thrilling, action packed ride.

This was only Cameron’s second feature film, his first being 1981’s Piranha Part Two: The Spawning, but with this creation, it put him on the map and launched a franchise, a very popular one at that that has had some mixed fortunes along the way (we will get to that later!) With some incredible special effects for the time, that were very revolutionary. Particularly in today’s world, where some movie and movie franchises tend to over rely on special effects to get the thrills the audience desire. The Terminator showed that you can have some great effects, but with a little bit of heart and emotion thrown into the mix as well, it can go a long way to making your movie stand out among the rather large crowd of action movies.  It was a landmark piece of movie making and as the Terminator himself said, in what has now become an immortal line of dialogue; “I’ll be back,” and come back he did, sometimes triumphantly, sometimes not. Yet, the impact of this film remains strong to this day, over three decades since its release, and for that, movie goers everywhere sing James Cameron’s praises.

With some riveting action, ground breaking special effects for the time, a memorable performance from Arnie, and a heartfelt and emotional story to boot,  The Terminator provided a blueprint for how to make a top action movie, and holds up some 30 years after its original release.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Jurassic World (2015)

jurassic-world-own-raptors-poster
Image is property of Amblin Entertainment, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures

Jurassic World – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, BD Wong, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio.

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Synopsis: In order to boost falling attraction numbers at the dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, the company creates a new dinosaur, with disastrous consequences…

Review: Sometimes in Hollywood you do wonder if, or indeed when a movie will ever make it to the big screen and escape the doldrums of development hell. Sometimes they don’t but sometimes, films emerge triumphant after a lengthy period of production nightmares. For instance, take the latest entry into the franchise of dinosaur themed mayhem, otherwise known as Jurassic Park. Originally intended for a 2005 release, and thus descending into nearly a decade of the aforementioned development hell. Through all of that though, the final product was completed and it has emerged into a roaring triumph.

Like a dinosaur trapped into an enclosure that has broken free, Jurassic World has been unleashed. With Colin Trevorrow now at the helm, taking over from Steven Spielberg (wait, there was another guy?), in only his second full length directorial feature following his 2011 film Safety Not Guaranteed,  he has brought this franchise wholly back on course after the big disappointment that was Jurassic Park III (oh that’s right…). With the disappointment of that hanging over it, the franchise that was ironically at risk of becoming a fossil after  fourteen years in the wilderness, this is if you do count the aforementioned lacklustre third showing, (to which it is possible many do not) has come out roaring and proves that there is still much life left in this franchise.

Having been over a decade, almost all of the former cast members have now become fossilised, and in their places, enter Chris Pratt as gruff raptor trainer Owen Grady who is sought after by the park’s operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to ensure that the park’s big, bad and risky science project, the Indominous Rex is suitable for public viewing before the exhibit is unveiled. It is at this point, that everything starts going wrong (as you might expect) with some dinosaur made havoc being unleashed on the Jurassic world visitors as well as our protagonists, who include Claire’s two young nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) who are desperately trying to avoid becoming a meal for the terrifying Indominous.

jurassic world
Stay, my pretties…

As previously mentioned, this new adventure is a much needed return to form for the franchise. Following from his turn in the box office stomping, smash ride Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt shows his action chops once again and provides a solid performance as the film’s primary protagonist. Claire, the aunt of the two boys caught up in the mayhem, initially shuns her two nephews in favour of keeping an eye on the proceedings in the park, and seeks to maintain her professional, businesswoman persona even in the face of the carnage. Yet when caught in the thick of it, she drops this and shows family compassion and courage particularly when her nephews are in some serious trouble. The nephews themselves at times can be exceedingly frustrating and annoying, particularly the younger one. There are some story lines with them that are left at loose ends, which is a bit frustrating. Furthermore the dialogue at times feels very wooden, but it’s not what we came here for, we came for some dinosaur carnage, and boy do we get it.

With action and chase sequences that pack a punch and are without doubt an homage to the 1993 classic, Trevorrow does manage to reinvigorate the action. With a premise that is similar to the previous films, it could very easily go wrong, but it feels new and fresh, even though we have been getting monster filled carnage in movies during this franchise’s absence such as Godzilla and Pacific Rim. It at this point could very easily become stale, however it is not. Trevorrow through his action scenes clearly respects the first film, and the game-changer for cinema that it was. Yet there is enough on show here to recapture the imagination, wonder and joy that so many people experienced when the first movie came out, especially with the final throw down which is nothing short of terrific. The CGI remains top notch, with some solid directing and a top score by Michael Giacchino, there is a lot of fun to be had. There was very little chance of bettering Spielberg’s 1993 belter, but Trevorrow and gang gave a right good go of it, and for that, credit where credit is due. The park opened, and it opened in style.

With a script that does feel a bit wooden, and at times stale, the movie is weighed down somewhat, but with cool throwbacks to the 1993 classic, and some exhilarating action sequences, there is plenty more life in this franchise. 

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