Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Finding Nemo (2003)

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation studios
Image rights belong to Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation studios

Finding Nemo – Film Review

Cast: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Geoffrey Rush

Director: Andrew Stanton

Synopsis: When a young clownfish is abducted by deep sea divers, his timid father must brave the terrifying ocean in order to rescue his son.

Review: The big blue ocean, something that covers around 70 per cent of the surface of this planet. It’s something that is so deep and terrifying, yet there is certainly for some, a deep fascination with the big blue beyond, and the life within it. It would certainly seem that a few folks over at the animation juggernauts of Pixar have this fascination.

Fish are not exactly many people’s first choice to have as pets, and therefore to make a full length feature about them, might have seemed like a mad idea for Pixar. Yet as they often do, they pulled it off in spectacular fashion. Right at the very start, everything appears all happy and joyous, and then instantaneously it changes. Disney movies of the past certainly weren’t afraid to go dark where necessary, and the opening scene here is certainly not on a Bambi level of terrifying, it is rather melancholic. But it sets the tone for the movie and really builds the character of our main protagonist, Marlin and why he’s so overprotective of his son Nemo. As such when Nemo is whisked away by divers, Marlin has little choice to go out of his comfort zone, go after him and brave the terrifying ocean, and the ensuing adventure that Marlin ends up has its mix of delightful humour and some more darkish moments.

finding nemo

Though it’s probable not many of us have been there ourselves, certainly not as deep, director Andrew Stanton does a terrific job of immersing the audience in this ocean world. The other wildlife and the plant life are all beautifully recreated along with the animation being absolutely perfect. In addition to this, we have a very interesting collection of characters. Marlin is a clownfish, but he struggles to tell a good joke. However he doesn’t need to as he’s aided on his quest to rescue his son by the lovable but forgetful Dory, voiced by the brilliant Ellen DeGeneres. There’s a fair bit of dramatic moments mixed in with some truly hilarious ones too, such as the shark equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In Nemo’s unfamiliar surroundings, we have the likes of the serious but friendly Gill (Willem Dafoe) Bloat (Brad Garrett) a porcupine pufferfish of whom does his bit to ensure that the laughs keep on coming. The screenplay is so well written that you care about every one of the characters on screen, particularly Marlin, Nemo and certainly Dory too. The latter of whom proved to be such a popular character, that she is getting her own film, due out this summer. It’s easy to see why as a lot of the comedy comes from her forgetfulness and funny one liners. The characters are extremely well developed and the fact that the voices involved are provided by some top Hollywood talent ensures that the there’s that emotional connection between them and the audience.

There are plenty of humorous moments littered throughout this really entertaining story. Even some of the side characters provide some of the most ridiculously entertaining moments. The sharks, the turtles and in particular the seagulls especially in particular do their best to keep the laughs coming. The latter of whom although they don’t have the largest amount of screen time, they certainly make a significant impression, and you might just find yourself saying “mine” just a little bit. Whoever knew that a story about the life of aquatic based animals could be so entertaining and so heartfelt?

Beautiful animation with some great humour, along with well written, developed and lovable characters, Pixar just kept swimming onto success with this wonderful story. One of their finest without a doubt.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

BVS
Image rights belong to Warner Bros, DC Entertainment, RatPac Entertainment and Atlas Entertainment

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Film Review

Cast: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jesse Eisenberg, Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fisburne

Director: Zack Snyder

Synopsis: In the wake of the devastation caused by Superman’s battle with Zod in Man of Steel,  Bruce Wayne seeks to take down Superman, fearing his powers could wipe out humanity.  All the while, Lex Luthor is scheming in an attempt to wreak havoc on the world.

Review: 2016 is certainly shaping up to be the year of the superhero movie, the Merc with a Mouth has come along, with apocalyptic doom for the X-Men, Marvel’s flagship heroes turning on each other, a group of anti heroes on suicide missions, and one sorcerer supreme still to come. Now, it’s the turn of arguably the two most recognisable comic book characters to take to the screen, in what is their very first time they are in the same movie. A movie that is finally propelling DC’s extended universe forward after watching Marvel dominate the market for many years. So much was riding on this film, and it was once again up to Zack Snyder to show DC’s universe can rival that of their great rivals.

Two years after the carnage that was unleashed on Metropolis, a certain Bruce Wayne saw the full extent of the devastation and now sees this as the time to put on his cape and cowl once again and take out this alien threat. We see through his perspective and you feel his rage. All the while, while some of humanity view Superman as their saviour, others like Bruce Wayne, see him as a threat. One of these individuals being Lex Luthor who is developing a few schemes in order to bring down the Man of Steel.

With a near two and a half hour run time, understandable given that this film is laying the foundations for the Justice League movies that are on the horizon, there is a lot to take in and a lot is going on. So much so in fact, that the first hour or so is a little choppy, you want to see the clash of the titans, but the road getting there is a little bit bumpy. As such a few of the side storylines could have been cut out, as there are some that don’t really add much of any value to the central story. Once we do finally get to the titular showdown, however, it is glorious, watching these two icons of comic books clash.

This is of course until they have to unite to take on something (if you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll know what this something is.) Snyder clearly likes destroying things as there’s a fair bit of destruction here, although it’s not quite on the same level that Metropolis suffered. Yet while it is enjoyable to watch, like Man of Steel, there is something of an over reliance on CGI and there are some scenes (and characters) that just look painfully artificial, which is remarkable given the budget of the film at 250 million dollars. Although the accompanying score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, is once again excellent.

Taking up the mantle after Christian Bale’s terrific turn in the role, Ben Affleck certainly makes the role his own and gives a very strong performance both as Bruce Wayne and the Bat vigilante. Similarly, Jeremy Irons is also excellent as Alfred Pennyworth, which again was not exactly easy given Michael Caine’s tremendous work with the character. There is understandably a lot more screen time for Affleck as we have to get acquainted with him more than Kal-El. Furthermore, there is the matter of Wonder Woman. Although she is not in the limelight as much as her Justice League colleagues, Gal Gadot does a tremendous job in what is the character’s first big screen appearance, and more than holds her own, giving excitement for her solo movie out next year. However, while he does try his best, and does have his moments, Jesse Eisenberg does feel somewhat miscast as Luthor.

Despite the bumpy ride getting here, it is exciting to see the DC universe finally achieve proper lift off, and with solo movies for Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash all in the pipeline, it is looking encouraging for DC fans. Yet this had potential for real greatness, that is ultimately really squandered on a weak script. Nevertheless, the Justice is coming, but first, it appears that there’s potential trouble at Arkham Asylum…

Affleck and Gadot deliver terrific performances, and you have to praise the scope and ambition of the story, but it is a bit scrappy and could have been a little bit more focused. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Hail Caesar
Image rights belong to: Working Title Films, Mike Zoss Productions and Universal Pictures

Hail, Caesar – Film Review

Cast: George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Alden Ehrenreich, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Synopsis: 1950s Hollywood, and a film studio is in the middle of its big budget production of Hail, Caesar! Yet when things begin to go awry, the studio must battle to keep things afloat.

Review: The Oscar winning Coen Brothers on writing and directing duties? Check. An all star cast including Oscar winners and nominees? Check. A film set in a time that many would consider to be in the Golden Age of Hollywood? Check. With all these combined, you would think that the visionaries behind The Big Lebowski, the superb 2010 remake of True Grit and No Country for Old Men, would strike gold with this unique and original story, as they have done in the past? The answer, is unfortunately, no.

The centre piece of this whole wacky movie is that of Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix, the head of Physical Productions and also the man who is there to ensure that the studio’s dirty linen is not aired in public. Yet problems begin to arise here, there and everywhere, most notably the fact that the lead actor on the studio’s massive movie, Baird Whitlock (Clooney) suddenly disappears, after being kidnapped. Yet despite all this, the burden falls onto Mannix to keep everything afloat. The Coens certainly know how to do humour, and do it very well as The Big Lebowski demonstrates, and that humour is on display here and to the maximum with plenty of humorous moments.

Furthermore with a top cast of A list Hollywood talent assembled, all excel in their roles. However some are given more opportunities to shine than others, which is a shame as there are some very entertaining characters who you would like to have been given a bit more screen time. Ralph Fiennes in particular has one absolutely golden moment, but this is not followed up. Many of the talents are vastly underutilised and it is just a bit frustrating to watch as you would like to see them have more scenes.

In terms of plot, it is a bit of a mess to be honest. Mannix is the main man and its his story that is the centrepiece. Yet there are so many different stories running along at the same time, that it is a little confusing to keep up. What’s more, there are several plot points that are just left hanging. It feels like the Coens just thought of a bunch of random sketches, and concocted them together into one film. As such when the big reveal of what is arguably the film’s primary plot occurs, you just don’t care as much as you could, or maybe should as the script is just too messy and all over the place.

What is not out of place though is the detail, 1950s Hollywood has been captured tremendously well and with the one and only Roger Deakins as the cinematographer, you know the film will look absolutely immaculate, and it does. However, despite this incredible attention to detail, this was a real missed opportunity for the Coens to add another top drawer film to their incredible filmography. The film is seen as the Coens love letter to 1950s Hollywood, but it’s a shame that said letter is written in poor handwriting, to the point where it’s almost incomprehensible to read.

1950s Hollywood has been impressively recreated and the Coens pull good performances from their A list cast, particularly from Fiennes and Ehrenreich, it’s just such a shame that it’s all wasted on a weak script.

 C+

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver-Linings-Playbook-Poster
Image rights belong to The Weinstein Company

Silver Linings Playbook – Film Review

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jackie Weaver, Chris Tucker

Director: David O Russell

Synopsis: As a former mental institution patient moves back in with his parents and seeks to make amends and rebuild his life, he comes into contact with a woman who has also been battling her own problems.

Review: You would think that if you were about to sit down and watch a film about someone having emerged from a mental institution seeking to turn his fortunes around in life, then said film would struggle to find its feet and its voice as a comedy, with very few laughs. Well you couldn’t have been more wrong, because in the capable hands of screenwriter and director David O Russell, adapting from the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick, this romantic comedy packs plenty of heart, drama and unsurprisingly comedy into its 2 hour run time, and it does all this extremely effectively.

Pat Solitano (Cooper) is a man who has just come out of a mental institution after seeing his marriage hit the rocks and fall apart. But after his release, he is looking up, and feeling confident of making amends and moving forward. This is until he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) a woman who is going through her own set of problems. When she comes onto the scene, things begin to take an interesting turn as these two begin to realise that they have a lot more in common than they care to think.

After the success that was his 2010 film, The Fighter, a film with a tremendously strong cast, Russell again manages to put together  another very strong cast all of whom excel in their roles. You have Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver as Pat’s wacky parents who are doing their best to help Pat rebuild his life, with a surprisingly funny and effective performance from Chris Tucker too. Yet, it is the performances of our two leaders in Cooper and Lawrence that truly steal the show. Their chemistry together is electric to watch and they have more than a few very memorable scenes together, with one scene in a diner standing out by far among many terrific scenes.

The film became the first film since 1981 to secure nominations in all four acting categories, and was the first since 2004’s Million Dollar Baby to be nominated for the Big Five Oscars. Lawrence was the only one to secure a trophy, and to be fair, she is the true star of the show. She manages to blend crazy antics and real heart and emotion into her performance. All of the performances are of such a very high standard, you could almost think that you weren’t actually watching a film, but real life instead. In the same year that she shot to stardom with The Hunger Games, Lawrence proved to the world that she is a force to be reckoned with, something that she is still demonstrating today. While Cooper didn’t take home the statue, his work was equally electrifying, and arguably to this day ranks as a career best performance. If it had not been for a sublime performance from Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln, he might have won a statue himself.

The screenplay by Russell is equally terrific. Of course there are some dark moments that goes without saying, but there are plenty of funny and dramatic moments as well, and they all work. He manages to fuse all of these elements into the story very successfully and the story is very compelling to watch. There are highs but there are plenty of very low lows and you feel for all of the characters, as they are extremely well developed. But as the film makes a lot of effort to point out, every cloud has a silver lining, and in the case of this film, that silver lining is despite the somewhat dark subject matter, it produced one hell of a good movie that’s extremely entertaining to watch, and definitely ranks as one of Russell’s best movies.

Acted to perfection, with star performances from Cooper and especially Lawrence, with a terrific screenplay that packs heart and comedy aplenty.

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