Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

civil war
Image rights belong to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Captain America: Civil War – Film Review

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Daniel Bruhl

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: With tensions between the Avengers high following political interference, this results in a rift that divides the team with Captain America leading one faction and Iron Man the other, leading to all out war.

Review: The number thirteen is considered by many to be a very unlucky number, well not for Marvel Studios. After two successful phases and twelve films of their cinematic universe that have enjoyed phenomenal success with audiences across the globe, their thirteenth entry into their MCU, sees the return of the Russo brothers directing the story that many fans have been hoping to see, this of course being Civil War.

The actions of the Avengers in places such as New York, Washington DC and Sokovia have taken their toll, and the world has decided enough is enough. The actions of these superhero folk must now be put into check, and for some of the team this is the step they must take. For others, this is a step too far and the disagreements spill out into a proper war between heroes that have been friends for the most part for several movies now. For the majority of the MCU movies, we have seen the hero, whoever they may be, fighting a villain who is all too similar to them, you think Ant Man VS Yellow Jacket, Captain America VS Red Skull, Iron Man VS Iron Monger. This isn’t to say these battles were boring, but it did begin to get formulaic, well not any more. The formula is thrown completely out of the window.

The story penned by Winter Soldier writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely does allow each character ample screen time. Each character is sufficiently fleshed out enough so that you understand why each character is on their respective side. In addition, while you may have picked your side before the film was released, the story does a tremendous job of making the audience conflicted. There is not a protagonist and an antagonist, the perspectives of both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are well realised and you fully understand where both of them are coming from.

Chris Evans and RDJ have both owned the roles they have played since they first took them and here they once again both deliver excellent and sincere performances as the leads of what is a superb ensemble cast, each character is wonderfully portrayed by their respective actor. The new players making their debuts into this mad Marvel world are also outstanding with Chadwick Boseman excellent as Black Panther and Tom Holland’s portrayal as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is the best that has ever been put to screen. Marvel films certainly have an element of humour in plenty of them, as this comes from your friendly neighbourhood Spider Man and Ant Man, and it’s glorious. For many, there was a feeling that this was going to be Avengers 2.5, but fear not, because this is most definitely a Captain America movie, as it carries on themes that were present in The Winter Soldier.

The Russos certainly showed their hand when it came to action sequences with the Winter Soldier, and here once again, their work is excellent and shows that the Avengers: Infinity War movies are in very safe hands. Right from the very first sequence, the suspense is maintained throughout, and it’s helmed superbly. There is a little bit of shaky cam and some fast editing, but the directors manage to use them very effectively to get the heartbeat of the audience beating fast. Furthermore the airport battle that is shown in the trailers, can definitely lay claim to hands down, the best action battle that the MCU has seen to date, it certainly is a proper war between these guys and it’s just awesome to watch.

However, there are certain parts in which the story did play things safe but it is hard to deny the quality job that the Russos have done in making what are the two best movies of the MCU to date. Phase 3 has got off to the best start it possibly could have, and in this era of superhero movie dominance, Marvel for now at least, continues to lead the way over DC by a significant distance.

A thrilling ensemble cast with some superb performances from MCU veterans and the newbies alike, on top of some outstanding action sequences, the MCU is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

a

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Midnight Special (2016)

midnight-special
Image rights belong to Faliro House Productions, Tri-State Pictures and Warner Bros Studios

Midnight Special – Film Review

Cast: Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton, Jaeden Lieberher

Director: Jeff Nichols

Synopsis: A father, whose son holds special, not-from-earth powers, goes on the run in a bid to protect his son from various people who want to use his powers for their own ends.

Review: Imagine if you found out one day that your child possessed special and mysterious powers and that a range of different people, ranging from the government to a religious sect, wanted to take them away for their own means, be this saving the world from what is perceived as a potential extraterrestrial threat. Well chances are you’d be pretty scared and would find yourself on the run in a bid to protect your child from harm. This is precisely the situation that Roy (Michael Shannon) finds himself in as he bids to protect his son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher)  and with the help of Lucas, (Joel Edgerton) they must outrun all those that are coming after them.

Right from the get go, it is clear that director Jeff Nichols has been inspired by the likes of Steven Spielberg, with some very possible nods to some of Spielberg’s masterpieces such as ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Not just Spielberg, but 80s sci-fi in general. Yet despite these influences, it does not feel in the slightest like a copy or a rip off, the film definitely has its own style. The intrigue is established from the opening shot, it’s not immediately apparent why these two men are moving this child across the country during the night, the news clearly has an agenda of its own though, perceiving this boy as a very dangerous alien threat with powers that could have dire consequences for the world. Nichols’s screenplay is not afraid to go to some uncomfortable places, such as religion, whilst at the same time going very deep with this and asking some very probing questions about faith. Science and religion are two things that don’t usually go together, but Nichols manages to fuse them both into the story very effectively.

The cinematography by Adam Stone is tremendous as visually the film is remarkable. With many scenes taking place at night, the camera-work involved is superb as it actually looks like the characters are in the dead of night. What’s more these night scenes have an eerie feel about them. This eerie feel and tone is something that does run throughout the whole movie as there’s an eternal mystery of his powers. Jaeden Liberher’s performance is haunting and very powerful in equal measure. The chemistry he shares with his father is very believable and Shannon shows what a tremendous actor he is with another fine performance that shine the brightest in this movie.

For all of its mystery and intrigue, the film does suffer from pacing issues, there are some moments where the plot slows down to a frustratingly slow pace, which means a little bit of the initial intrigue is lost. Furthermore, the screenplay fails to touch upon certain plot points that would have made the story a lot more enjoyable. Specifically the lack of a back story surrounding Alton and where and or why he got his powers. However, the intrigue and excitement levels increase massively with a very exciting conclusion, that exemplifies the  significant power of parenthood and how a bond between parent and child can be very deep indeed. A very ambitious and original premise, but not as rewarding as you’d like it to be.

An intriguing concept and premise, with some top powerful acting and wonderful cinematography, but the expansion of certain plot points wouldn’t have gone astray.

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Looper (2012)

looper
Image rights belong to Endgame Entertainment, DMG Entertainment, TriStar Pictures and FilmDistrict

Looper – Film Review

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano

Director: Rian Johnson

Synopsis: Joe (JGL) is a Looper, someone who’s hired to take out people who are sent back in time by the criminal underworld, but runs into some trouble when he’s tasked with taking out his older self.

Review: Time travel movies can be a risky endeavour, as the Doctor himself will probably tell you, the timelines can get very messy and the plot can get very confusing, which might make the viewer’s brain start to hurt. Fortunately, there’s no need to worry about your brain melting here as writer and director Rian Johnson delivers a very sharp screenplay and a very riveting and thought provoking story in equal measure.

In this time twisting tale, upon the invention of time travel, it is almost instantaneously outlawed, meaning only criminals use it to dispose of people to wipe them off the map.  This is done courtesy of Loopers who do the deed once the person is zapped back in time, and then destroy their bodies, erasing them from existence. When the contract of a Looper expires, their older self is sent back to their younger self, which then”closes their loop.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Bruce Willis

Yet for Joe, things go a bit awry as he’s faced with his older self, and he can’t bring himself to kill himself, and as a result, a hunting game begins. The screenplay by Johnson is tremendous, it delves deep into this futuristic world and the plot hooks you in, and goes in some very interesting directions that you might not expect. There are elements from other time travel movies for sure (Terminator 1), but the film certainly holds its own as a remarkable piece of science fiction storytelling.

In another collaboration with Johnson following 2005’s Brick, Joseph Gordon Levitt is terrific as the younger version of the film’s main character Joe. He has that cold and ruthless trait about his personality that helps him in this crazy job that he does. Similarly Bruce Willis is also first class in his role as the Older Joe. He’s a man who clearly believes with age comes experience, and watching these two on screen together, is insanely gripping and mental to watch. The make up to make JGL look like a young Bruce Willis is tremendously well done, to the point where you actually believe that he IS a young Bruce Willis. The arrival of Emily Blunt’s character on screen ensures the plot takes a very interesting turn, and she too gives a wounded, yet powerful performance.

However, despite all the interesting timey wimey time travel elements to the story, there’s plenty of fist flying and guns blazing to get the pulses racing. The story is paced for the most part very well, although there are moments where it does lull for a little bit, but never for any substantial period of time. The film looks incredible as well, the world of 2044 although we haven’t seen it yet (unless you’re reading this in 2044!) looks very detailed and futuristic. What’s more the action scenes looking crisp and are edited supremely well with superb cinematography. If Looper is the film that ensured that Star Wars: Episode VIII was put into the hands of Rian Johnson, then you have to say, Bravo! As it means the next instalment in a galaxy far, far away is in very capable hands.

A very unique and creative story with some superb writing, directing and acting especially from JGL and Willis, ensured that Johnson is a director to keep a firm eye on. 

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Zootopia (2016)

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Animation Studios
Image rights belong to Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

Zootopia – Film Review

Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate

Directors: Byron Howard and Rich Moore

Synopsis: Judy Hopps is a determined rabbit with ambitions of becoming Zootopia’s first rabbit police officer and making the world a better place, and she must put all of her skills to the test to crack a troubling case.

Review: When you do think of animated movies that have plenty to offer for viewers of all ages, young and old alike, the folks at Walt Disney Animation Studios certainly have a strong grip on this genre. Their last three films: Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Wreck it Ralph have all come along in this decade alone, grossing over two billion dollars combined, and thrilling audiences at the same time with heartfelt and very clever stories. Well for their latest adventure this decade, in almost a throwback to their roots of movies involving animals that talk, Wreck-It Ralph director Rich Moore teams up with Tangled co-director Byron Howard to give us a beautifully realised urban metropolis that happens to be full of animals, and once again, Disney delivers the goods in amusing and heartfelt style.

The centrepiece of this furry tale is a plucky bunny named Judy Hopps, who possess a fierce desire to buck the trend and become a police officer, the first bunny to do so, whilst at the same time she stubbornly refuses to conform to what’s expected of her which is become a carrot seller. She’s a very believable heroine that young female viewers can certainly look up to. Upon arrival in the big league, she is almost instantaneously looked down on by the other recruits, and given a pretty thankless task which stumbles her onto something quite substantial that will require all of her intelligence to help solve.

The story from Jared Bush and Phil Johnston is, somewhat surprisingly for a children’s film, really quite in depth. It is very apparent that the story’s inspiration is drawn from the crazy world we all inhabit, where everything should be a Utopia, but it really isn’t. Also as it often the case with Disney and Pixar films, there’s plenty of references that will fly over the heads of the younger viewers, but give adults watching a good chuckle, including some great references to some well known movies and TV shows.

The voice cast of these eccentric bunch of animals is also top of the range. Ginnifer Goodwin gives Judy that fierce determination so much so that you just cannot help but want her to succeed, with Jason Bateman also providing some great work as a crafty and devious fox. Their chemistry is perfect as they’re polar opposites in terms of the animals they are, but at the same time, there is a mutual understanding between the two, and it works to perfection There’s plenty of A list talent who lend their voices with the likes of Idris Elba, Octavia Spencer, J.K Simmons and somewhat surprisingly, Shakira all providing some tremendous work but is Goodwin and Bateman who definitely steal the show.

Most animated movies these days do cater for viewers of all generations, Pixar films have certainly got this nailed down but so too have their Disney Animated Studios counterparts. The themes and the message of this movie are surprisingly deep and thorough, and despite being a delightful work of fiction, will certainly give the older watching viewer plenty of food for thought when the credits begin to roll.

Superbly animated with some very sincere and well developed characters, added with excellent voice work. Another fine addition to the Disney animated collection. 

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Eddie The Eagle (2016)

eddie the eagle

Eddie The Eagle – Film Review

Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Synopsis: A young British ski jumper has aspirations of going to the Olympics, finds his calling as a skier and harbours dreams of representing his country at the Winter Olympics.

Review: Everyone loves an underdog story, particularly when it comes to sport especially here in Britain given our questionable record when it comes to a handful of top international sporting tournaments. What’s more, everyone loves a story of one man pursuing his dream with seemingly every obstacle thrown his face and being ridiculed time after time, but no matter what, they keep on going. In the case of Michael “Eddie” Edwards AKA Eddie the Eagle, this is certainly the case as he stops at nothing to try and achieve his dream of becoming an Olympian, even it means making a fool out of himself in the process.

Fresh from his successful break out role in Kingsman: The Secret Service, along with a very humorous turn in the Kray brothers drama Legend, Taron Egerton really shines as the titular character. He is a bit of a dork, but at the same time he’s very sincere and genuine. What’s more, his indomitable spirit and desire to achieve his dream just make you want to root for him and will him to success. Aiding him on that quest is his fictional coach Bronson Peary, played by Wolverine himself Hugh Jackman. Haunted by his past in the sport, he decides to coach Eddie  and himself becomes determined to do everything he can to help Eddie achieve success. The two actors make a formidable duo and it is their friendship that drives the movie forward. Of course the writers did take liberties with the story, but at the core, it’s a powerful true story.

The ski jumping scenes themselves are executed very well with some tremendous camera-work that shows the jumps from the jumper’s perspective,and that might just make anyone watching to never wish themselves to be in that position. Visually these scenes are excellent and  the cinematography is tremendous. When Eddie is perched on the top of those ramps, the tension is kicked up a notch as you will him to succeed. The plot is a bit formulaic as we have seen many other sport movies where an underdog triumphs in the face of adversity.

It is a very by-the-numbers story, and it could have gone into more detail in places, but at the same time it is tremendously uplifting with a great feel good factor. Due to Eddie’s spirit and unwavering desire to succeed, you can’t help but smile by the time the credits begin to roll, and makes you think you can go and follow your dream yourself, even if time after time, obstacles keep blocking your road, or in Eddie’s case, his path to a frighteningly high ramp.

The plot is very by-the-numbers, but two very sincere performances from Jackman and Egerton, with enthralling jump sequences, mean Eddie The Eagle soars.

b

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

First avenger
Image rights belong to Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures

Captain America: The First Avenger – Film Review

Cast: Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci, Dominic Cooper

Director: Joe Johnston

Synopsis: A frail young man with aspirations of serving his country during World War II is given a chance to become the superhero Captain America via a super secret programme.

Review: When the world erupted in war back in 1939, countries the world over were all looking for able and strong men to sign up for their respective armies to take on and bring down the evil Nazi regime.  In the case of one frail sickly young man, who was absolutely determined to sign up and fight for his country, yet his aspirations were forever getting trampled on due to his poor health. This is until, through a top secret programme, he has his chance to become a super soldier. This man is of course Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America.

the first avenger

Back when the all powerful Marvel machine was still in its first warming up phase, director Joe Johnston with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, provide an interesting take on the back story of one of the most popular heroes of the MCU. His journey from a weak young man, to a near invincible badass though was far from an easy one, but it is very interesting to watch. Beaten up by what seems like every kid in his neighbourhood as a child, the early scenes of the film show just how down on his luck he is, with everyone including his best friend, Sergeant James Barnes AKA Bucky (Sebastian Stan), going off to war without him.

Chris Evans in his second stint as a superhero, after two ill fated spells as the Human Torch in 2005 and 2007, is tremendous in the lead role. His humanity and compassion shines through, and it’s this along with his dogged determination, combined with some convincing CGI that makes him look very frail indeed. that brings him to the attention of Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) the creator of the super soldier programme who fast-tracks Rogers for the programme, and for battle.

Yet despite this very intriguing opening, the film suffers from pacing issues, as Cap instead of being thrown immediately into battle, is made to wait. All the while the war rages on, and the dastardly Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) AKA The Red Skull of HYDRA is preparing to unleash chaos on the world in the form of a very rare off world artefact. The pacing issues persist throughout though as while there are some great action scenes for us to enjoy, a lot of scenes are put together in a montage that almost feels like the studio had blown their production budget on certain effects and were forced to cut back on the action. That being said, there are some action scenes that are just flat out awesome, including taking a zip wire onto a moving train. These scenes do make for some spectacular viewing but a bit more action, and not montaging through considerable portions of it would have been great.

There are plenty of some very big names on display here, and all give great performances. Tommy Lee Jones is on fine form as a gruff US General, Hayley Atwell as the fierce but compassionate Agent Peggy Carter who has something of a soft spot for Cap, and she proved to be such a popular character that she got her own spin off series, and Cap’s best buddy, Bucky. Flying the HYDRA flag along with Herr Schmidt and Dr Arnim Zola (Toby Jones.) While both give solid performances, their accents are somewhat questionable. Yet Johnston managed to create a very gritty Superhero war movie that looks superb with great attention to detail, and he gives a character who has proved to become one of the MCU’s most popular heroes a solid introduction to the Marvel Universe and help build Marvel’s Phase 1 to an exciting climax.

Cap gets his stars and stripes good and proper, with some solid acting and directing, but more action set pieces wouldn’t have gone astray. 

b