Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Moneyball (2011)

moneyball
Image is property of Scott Rudin Productions, Michael De Luca Productions and Columbia Pictures

Moneyball – Film Review

Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt.

Director: Bennett Miller

Synopsis:  A true story focusing on Billy Beane’s efforts to restructure a baseball team on a shoestring budget and in doing so transforms the sport of baseball.

Review: Sports films often feature scenes of glorious success, and sometimes dark misery for the protagonist in question, whether that be Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt or Niki Lauda in 2013’s Rush. Or Sylvester Stallone from the Rocky series. The viewer watches with glee and sometimes anguish as the main sporting hero is either put through their paces, goes through a horrific event, or comes out on top in glorious fashion. There is that moment where everything appears to be going completely horribly wrong and the protagonist must find a way to turn it all around. However, in the case of Moneyball, there is a remarkable absence of sporting-y action to witness. Is this a problem? Well no not really, because director Bennett Miller to use a baseball analogy, has hit a home run to win the championship with this remarkable tale of triumphing against the odds. It’s not all balls, bats and runs that define this engaging story, but one of numbers, facts, and one man’s relentless desire to see his methods through.

The story focuses on Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) as the general manager of the Oakland Atheltics, who has the unenviable task of rebuilding the club’s squad after a number of high profile exits, yet he has to operate on a very small and tight budget, with not much room for negotiation. Through his challenges he hires economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) and together, they develop some unprecedented ideas about the value of a player and seek to revolutionise the very nature of the sport and change the game forever. It’s not about the big dollars of a brand new signing, but rather the clever way to cut costs down and still produce a team that is capable of challenging for the very top honours in the sport. This may not sound like a thrilling premise, or one to get the pulses racing like many other sports films would. However, the sport is on the periphery of this story, and even if you have never watched a baseball match before, or have no interest in the sport, it is not a vital ingredient of the enjoyment of this movie, that comes in the shape of their performances and the brilliant screenplay penned by The Social Network‘s Aaron Sorkin. One could think you’re sat in the middle of a very boring maths class with all these stats and numbers being chucked in your direction, and you’re sat there struggling to make sense of it all. However, thanks to the excellent screenplay and dialogue, this is not so.

The acting here is certainly championship quality with Brad Pitt really shining in the lead role as Billy Beane. He anchors the movie with his usual charm and you root for him, because he’s the underdog, going up against all the seasoned scouts who ridicule him and his seemingly preposterous ideas. Also on top form is Jonah Hill as the economics graduate. A man who has spent many years of his career in comedy and has honed his craft in said genre, really showed his terrific acting ability with a serious and strong performance that earned him his first well earned Oscar nomination. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman also delivered a subdued but nonetheless powerful portrayal of the Oakland A’s manager, and the clashes between him and Beane do provide some first class acting and riveting story-telling under the masterful direction of Bennett Miller. For many sports fans, the action on the pitch, be it football, baseball, rugby, cricket or whatever, is what matters. Yet after watching Moneyball, you will come to realise that what goes on behind the scenes is equally, maybe even more important than what goes on on the field of play.

Acted to perfection, with a sharp and engaging screenplay, Bennett Miller and co have hit a home run, and in some style too, to the tune of 6 well earned Oscar nods.

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Posted in Film Review

Legend (2015)

legend
Image rights belong to: Anton Capital Entertainment, Cross Creek Pictures, StudioCanal, Working Title Films and Universal Pictures

Legend – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hardy, Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton.

Director: Brian Helgeland

Synopsis: An account of the lives of the Kray twins, at the height of their criminal empire in the East End of London in the 1960s.

Review: Ask anyone in England about the Kray twins, and you’re probably going to get a less than positive reaction, and for good reason. It is no secret that both Ronnie and Reggie Kray were nasty pieces of work. So when choosing to make a film about the lives of two violent and dangerous gangsters who were arguably at the top of the criminal underworld, and the celebrity stage in the 1960s. It begs the question, who do you cast as two of the most evil men in twentieth century England? You get the very popular Tom Hardy, of course and get him to double up as both of the Kray brothers in a remarkable performance.

You may think that since one man is doubling up as both brothers that they’re unlikely to share screen time together, well director Brian Helgeland manages to pull off this, and in some considerable style. They don’t just share screen time, oh no. They bicker and squabble too, sometimes with other people and sometimes with each other and the fists come out! It’s Bane VS Max Rockatansky set in 20th century England! It is very clear that these are two men who although they may look alike and share many similar traits, and a last name. They are ultimately two different people and Hardy’s performances show the difference between the two. Reggie the charming ladies man of sorts, with Ronnie being the more dark and dangerous of the two brothers, like a bomb that could go off at any second.

The tale of these two brothers is told through the eyes of the young, innocent Frances (Emily Browning) who falls for Reggie. Her sweet and innocent character is ultimately what draws Reggie to her, before she witnesses the dark and dangerous underworld as she becomes his girlfriend and later wife. It’s through her perspective that we watch as the two brothers rise up through the criminal ranks and see their empire expand into something vast and substantial. Whilst at the same time, the criminal lifestyle ebbs away at Frances and the love she strongly displayed for her husband in the early years, quickly breaks down as their relationship crumbles. Hardy shines as both brothers but it is portrayal of Reggie that definitely seeks to tug at the audiences’ heartstrings as he seeks to try and build a life away from the criminal hive with Frances. It is the crazy actions of Ronnie that drive a firm wedge between Reggie and Frances and causes friction between the two brothers.

Emily Browning also gives a very strong performance as  Frances, although the material she was given is often a bit lacking at times and there was a lot more to be explored with her character, leaving her somewhat underdeveloped. In addition the rest of the principal cast also feel somewhat underutilised, but the focal point of the film is on our leading men.  For a film about two very sinister men, there is a surprising amount of humour involved. The humour works, but it does not hide the sinister nature of the trade of the Krays. Though Reggie tried to be a ladies man and compassionate towards his wife, it is ultimately in vain. The film of the title ultimately rings true, the tale of Ronnie and Reggie Kray is one of legend, a dark and murky legend that has become firmly entrenched in 20th century British history, and one that is not going to go away any time soon.

Although the script does lack in places, and the rest of the cast feel really criminally underdeveloped, Tom Hardy is brilliant and award worthy in two mesmerising leading performances. 

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Posted in Film Feature

Top 10: Most Anticipated Autumn/Winter Films (2015-2016)

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Summer movie season is officially over, and we now enter Oscar season territory, the time when studios release their films that they hope will be celebrating come Oscar season next February . There has been some great cinema so far this year, but there’s some very interesting pictures on the schedule. So without further ado, I give you my 10 most anticipated films of the next few months.

First up I have a few honourable mentions. The first of these is The Danish Girl, this is a new film from Tom Hooper, director of The King’s Speech and Les Miserables, winner of 4 and 3 Oscars respectively, and this looks like it has lots of awards potential with Eddie Redmayne being strongly tipped to get a second Oscar in succession. The second is Steve Jobs, the second film attempting to tell the story of the legendary Apple CEO. The first Jobs film with Ashton Kutcher I have not seen but it did not get the best reception, however with Aaron Sorkin on screenplay duties and Danny Boyle behind the camera, there is scope for greatness. The Good Dinosaur, this summer’s Inside Out is my favourite film of the year thus far, and thus Pixar could be on a roll with two original pieces of work this year. Last but not least is Joy. Despite having one of my favourite actresses in Jennifer Lawrence, I am not entirely sold just yet, and although David O Russell is in the director’s chair, the teaser didn’t blow my mind, but I remain hopeful given David O Russell’s track record of previous films with J Law. With that done it’s time for the top 10 and we start with:

10. Bridge of Spies

Tom Hanks (left) stars in Steven Spielberg's (right) Untitled Cold War spy thriller, which is the true story of James Donovan, an attorney who finds himself thrust into the center of the Cold War when the CIA sends him on the near-impossible mission to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot.

Steven Spielberg’s follow up to his 2012 picture Lincoln, reuniting with Tom Hanks once again, set in the Cold War focusing on one man’s efforts to save a pilot trapped in the Soviet Union. The time period, the director and cast all look great so here’s hoping for more excellence from arguably the greatest director working today.

 

9. Everest

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It would be easy for a film like this to decide to shoot on green screen, as was the case (for obvious reasons) with 2013’s Gravity. But the fact that the crew actually went to some pretty dangerous, mountainous locations will definitely give this film a real authenticity, and here’s hoping that the story is just as enthralling because it looks like it will be.

 

8. Black Mass

black mass

Could this be the return to form for Johnny Depp? His films as of late have all been pretty much panned, the likes of Mortdecai and Transcendence come to mind, but in this picture, it definitely looks like it could be that much needed comeback for Depp and early reception is looking very promising indeed.

 

7. The Martian

the martian

Ridley Scott’s recent films have also not had the best of receptions. However, this film adapted from the hugely popular novel by Andy Weir also could be the return to form for the great British director. He knows the sci-fi genre well with Blade Runner, Alien and Prometheus. With Matt Damon in a role that bears a throwback to his role in last year’s Interstellar, so here’s hoping.

 

6. Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

mockingjay2

Katniss’s story will finally be brought to a close this November. Judging from the trailer, it looks like this will make up for the lack of action that left many audiences wanting in the first part, and if you’ve read the book, you know there is going to be some fireworks! Be prepared!

 

5. The Revenant

revenant

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s next film after his Oscar winning Birdman looks very intriguing with Leo DiCaprio in the lead role as a man who is after his comrades after being left for dead. The trailer alone boasts some astounding cinematography and this MIGHT just be the role that FINALLY lands DiCaprio that long overdue Academy Award. 

4. The Walk

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“The artistic crime of the century,” what many people call Philip Petit’s remarkable feat as he tightrope walked between the two Twin Towers in 1974. With Robert Zemeckis on directing duties and Joseph Gordon Levitt as Petit, this will hopefully be an amazing cinematic experience that will get audiences on the edge of their seat.

 

3. The Hateful Eight

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Mr Quentin Tarantino’s next film hit a bunch of production problems. It wasn’t happening at one time after a script leak, but it is and the teaser trailer is awesome. Teases that tension that Tarantino is brilliant at but does not reveal any major plot points. With a top notch cast including Sam Jackson, Bruce Dern and Kurt Russell, this could well be another great addition to the Tarantino filmography.

 

2. Spectre

spectre

The follow up to the phenomenally successful Skyfall, Sam Mendes is back as director and so too is Daniel Craig. This time we’re reuniting Bond with villainous organisation SPECTRE and the trailers so far have been awesome and with two time Oscar winning actor Christoph Waltz as the main antagonist, there’s every chance we could see the best Bond villain the franchise.

And my most anticipated movie of Autumn/Winter is:

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1: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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Are you surprised? Like many people I am a huge fan of this franchise and this film has got me extremely excited. When it was announced that a new trilogy was on the way I was a bit sceptical but with JJ Abrams as director, and the very talented cast they have assembled, with an exciting mix of Star Wars veterans and newcomers, I am sold. The trailers have been very intriguing and quite rightly everything is under close wraps. With JJ Abrams’ past work in reviving Star Trek as anything to go by, this should be the return to form that the Star Wars franchise needs, due to er, the unfortunate event of those prequels. The first of a new planned trilogy and with many more films on the slate, Star Wars isn’t going anywhere, and all the better for it.

There we have it, my top 10 most anticipated Autumn/ Winter films. What are your most anticipated movies of this upcoming Oscar season? Any movies on my list that you feel should not be on there? Comment below and tell me what you think. Or you can tweet me at @Martin_rich_91. We should be in for a great few months of cinema!

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kingsman- The Secret Service (2015)

Kingsman
Image rights belong to Marv Films, Cloudy Productions, Shangri-La Entertainment, TSG Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Film Review

Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Samuel L Jackson, Sophie Cookson, Sofia Boutella

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Synopsis:  A young man, down on his luck, is given the chance to turn his life around, and to apply for a unique organisation called the Kingsmen.

Review: When you think of the spy movie genre, the likes of a sophisticated gentleman sipping a Vodka Martini whilst dressed in a sharp looking tuxedo may come to mind. Over the years, the James Bond franchise has dominated the spy genre, and this film recognises that. Yet it is not a rip off, not at all, it is director Matthew Vaughn’s love letter to the genre. It’s not quite From Russia with Love, more like From Vaughn with Love. The class and sophistication that is reminiscent of 007 is most certainly present, but Kingsman comes along, and ups the fun ante by a considerable amount.

The focus of this story is Eggsy (Taron Egerton). Immediately it is apparent that this is a guy who is seemingly on the road to nowhere, almost destined for prison. This is until a gentleman in the shape of Harry Hart (Colin Firth) comes in. An opportunity has arisen to apply to become one of the Kingsman, a very unique organisation. All the while, as with almost all spy movies, there is a crazy villainous dude (Samuel L Jackson) who has some rather disturbing plans to bring about the end of the world via a device that many of us find ourselves glued to these days. Thus we descend into familiar territory, gadgets, crazy fights, and just some good fun entertainment, that is definitely worth the price of an admission ticket, and then some. The fun is here, and so is the vulgarity and the violence that would make Quentin Tarantino very proud indeed.

As in 2010 with Chloe Grace Moretz, Matthew Vaughn has unearthed another gem of a young, talented actor in Taron Egerton. His character transformation from young troubled kid living in a rather sorry looking estate to a sophisticated gentleman is a joy to watch. There providing his support is an electric Colin Firth, who is definitely having the most fun he’s had in quite some time. Here is a gentleman who will sip a beer and then smash you over the face with the glass! Together their chemistry is enthralling to watch. You really witness that Harry sees something of a kindred spirit in Eggsy. While his character’s lisp is a little bit annoying at times, Samuel L Jackson also brings his A game to his villainous role, and like Firth, he definitely looks as though he’s having an absolute blast. Accompanying him is a lethal femme fatale in Gazelle, who is armed with some dangerous blades on her feet in a throwback to old school Bond villains.

To some this may feel like a James Bond rip off, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no denying that James Bond has a big influence, what with all the references that are littered throughout, but this is definitely a Matthew Vaughn picture. The action is handled extremely well with exhilarating scenes aplenty. Although some scenes may unsettle some as they venture into the Tarantino scale of madness. There are also times when it is seemingly apparent that there is a stunt double in action. However, the sharp, funny screenplay by Vaughn and Jane Goldman packs plenty of emotion in there as well. The villainous plot is a little bit ridiculous and implausible, but you leave your brain at home here, you are here to be entertained, and Vaughn and co bring that in abundance, shaken and stirred to the best degree possible. Fasten your seatbelts, cos you’re in for a blast, innit bruv!

Enormously entertaining with plenty of wit, humour, vulgarity and some terrific action scenes, the gauntlet has been well and truly thrown down to Daniel Craig and co with this year’s Spectre. 

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