Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

 

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Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Film Review

Cast:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd , Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm,

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: When a young hobbit Frodo Baggins receives the One Ring of Power. He along with eight unlikely companions set off on a quest, to journey to the heart of Middle Earth and Mordor and destroy the Ring.

Review: When discussions about films and more specifically film trilogies rage across film schools, and fans of films in general, several trilogies may get mentioned and debated vehemently. Yet, the name of one trilogy that could and should always be mentioned is Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.  A project that Jackson considered way back in 1995, but through various deals falling through, and tough negotiations that reached an impasse, with talk of it being two films instead of three. It was a tough challenge and despite the production impasses, it pulled through and the final end product is what many believe to be one of the finest trilogies in the history of cinema. and thank goodness it was three films and not two!

Thanks to the brilliance of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the mastermind behind this incredible world of Middle Earth, came into being, and his trilogy of novels, and it was Peter Jackson who took up the challenge to adapt it for the big screen. With a screenplay by Jackson, his wife Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, the land of Middle Earth is beautifully realised and the world is established in all of its glory. On top of that, we are provided with some sweet action sequences within the first 20 minutes. Yet there is much to be built up, events to be established in order to bring those who will have not read Tolkien’s works up to speed. Build up can be a slow tedious process, but not here. The world of Middle Earth is so enthralling, it’s just gripping to watch as the audience is introduced to this vast world and all of its key characters, of which there are many.

The cast is quite extensive, but every single performance on show shines and shines brightly. However, it is the main ensemble of the Fellowship all lead the way with sublime performances from each and everyone one of them. However, there are however some stand out performances among the wealth of great acting on show. Elijah Wood as Frodo, who is the one tasked with the seemingly impossible challenge of destroying the ring. Viggo Mortensen as the fearless and strong warrior Aragorn, who is a key piece of the puzzle, and Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey likewise. With the late and great Sir Christopher Lee also showing his tremendous ability and deep booming voice as Saruman the White. Sean Bean also gives a very memorable performance as Boromir the warrior of Gondor. All of the aforementioned give superb performances and the acting from all is of such a top quality, that you do not see the actors any more, you see the characters, and that’s a credit to everyone involved.

The cinematography is beautiful from start to finish. The film is packed with some breath taking shots of Middle Earth AKA New Zealand scenery.   There are plenty of superb swooping shots that to leave the audience breathless. In addition, there is some awe-inspiring visual effects such as the with the battle scenes are also sublime but in terms of battle scenes, the best is saved for later in the trilogy. This isn’t to say that there are some terrific battle scenes here, The score composed by Howard Shore is equally epic in every sense. From the jovial tune that we hear in the Shire to the sinister notes we hear when entering  Isengard. Every scene is accompanied by a beautifully composed tune that captures each scene perfectly. Out of the thirteen nominations received, the film bagged four Oscars for Cinematography, Score, Visual Effects and Make-up, and all were very well deserved.

Fellowship of the Ring was the perfect start for this trilogy and it set the benchmark. There are some great themes packed throughout this film. Friendship, honour, sacrifice and loyalty. It is just simply a joy to behold. Every element of this film hits the spot, and it hits it perfectly. Some may say its too long (not counting the extended edition!) While it is long, it is impossible to deny the sheer brilliance of what Jackson brought to the big screen. We will never know what Tolkien would have made of Jackson’s vision of his beloved trilogy, but one would hope that he would have loved what he saw, as audiences around the world certainly did!

Visually breath-taking, with a riveting and terrific story, some superb action sequences, a fantastic score and a tremendous ensemble cast, the first instalment of this trilogy set in motion one of the best trilogies of all time.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Gladiator (2000)

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Image is property of Universal Pictures, Scott Free Productions and Red Wagon Entertainment

Gladiator – Film Review

Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, Richard Harris, Derek Jacobi

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: Popular Roman GeneralMaximus Decimus Meridius is betrayed by the elderly Emperor’s corrupt son, who seizes power for himself. Having lost everything, Maximus, becomes a gladiator, determined to get revenge.

Review: Whenever you learnt about history, be it at school or university, odds are good that you would have learnt about the Romans and their considerable Empire. Their presence in history is certainly vast and indeed the impact they have on the world today equally so. As such, many film-makers have taken the task of representing the Roman Empire in film. 1959’s Ben-Hur or 1960’s Spartacus certainly come to mind, but no movie has arguably come quite as close as capturing Ancient Rome in all its glory quite as well as Ridley Scott in Gladiator. 

It is 180 AD and Maximus (Russell Crowe) is leading the Roman Army in a battle against the “barbarians” of Germania. All goes swimmingly and the general has the affection of the elderly emperor Marcus Aurelius. Unfortunately he does not share this love for his legitimate son Commodus, which does not end well for all parties. In committing his treason, the usurper must dispense with Maximus and his family. This plan goes somewhat awry but not before Maximus can save his family from a brutal fate. Furious with grief and anger over the murder of his Emperor and family, the fallen General sets out on a path of vengeance, against the corrupt Commodus, determined to bring justice on all those who wronged him.

Scott is a director who made his name with science fiction, but he captures Ancient Rome in all its glory perfectly. Everything looks perfect right down to every detail. The costumes, the production design and sets all look exceptional, with extras aplenty, one can only imagine the sheer amount of work that must have gone into the detail. Of course there is CGI, being used for the Colusseum scenes, but the wow factor is not diminished in the slightest. The movie scooped the Oscar for Best Costume Design among others including Best Picture, and very well deserved ones at that, as well as nominations for art and set decoration.

Of course the attention to detail would have been nothing without a compelling story, which we most certainly have courtesy of the screenplay by David Franzoni, John Logan and William Nicholson. The screenplay fuses perfectly the intense battle scenes with the behind the scenes political manoeuvring. From the very first battle onwards, the story is gripping, from a very climatic opening battle to some scenes with some very personal, emotional moments between these characters. Russell Crowe completely shone as the lead Maximus, he’s a loyal man, to his emperor and to his family, and a brilliant soldier. Strength and Honour are two words that absolutely define him. So when he becomes a gladiator, that compassion is gone, replaced by a ferocious hatred against those who committed horrific acts against those closest to him, but his honour remains absolute. Joaquin Phoenix is also on great form as the slimy, cold Commodus who has an alarming desire to sleep with his sister Lucilla (Connie Nielsen). The late Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius and Oliver Reed as Proximo also both deliver excellent performances in what is an outstanding cast.

There are more than a few superb action scenes packed into the movie’s run time. Scott helms these scenes excellently, and you have battles of all sorts, including a battle with chariots and in one instance, tigers. The action is edited superbly well and the scenes are completely gripping to watch from the scenes in a Roman Province right to the superbly recreated Gladitorial battles that take place in the Colessuem. Russell Crowe certainly showed his action chops in these scenes, and he delivered a career defining performance in this role, that won him a well deserved Oscar. In addition, with an immortal line of dialogue when faced against the treacherous Commodus will go down as one of the best lines of dialogue in any movie, ever, Maximus can certainly lay claim to being one of the best movie characters of the 2000s.

A brilliant historical spectacle, fused with fictitious elements.  Superb action and a career defining performance from Crowe, Gladiator can certainly lay claim to one of Scott’s best ever movies. 

Rating: A+

 

Posted in Blogger Award

First Sunshine Blogger Award

 

sunshine blogger award

So massive thank you to the awesome Plain, Simple Tom Reviews for nominating me for my very first Sunshine Blogger Award. A great guy with great reviews who you should definitely check out! I love talking about movies and it means the world to me that I have a number of like minded people on my blog who enjoy movies as much as I do. You are all the best!

Now onto the questions that were set to me by Plain, Simple Tom Reviews!

Who are good inspirational role models for young kids to have today?

I honestly don’t think you can pinpoint one person for all young kids to look up to, it all depends on what that particular kid wants to do with their lives, and the people that are in that profession should be that kid’s inspiration. But I do think kids looking up to celebrities like Kim Kardashian or Justin Bieber is very very strange, but hey that’s just me!

You have a time machine – do you go backwards or forwards in time?

Forwards, always I’d love to know what happens in the future, just ought to be careful not to alter things Marty McFly style!

What has been your favourite country that you’ve visited and where would you most like to go next?

I’ve been to the USA plenty of times and it is a cool place to visit and would like to go back to, as there’s so many cool places I haven’t visited there yet that I really want to. But I really want to go to Antarctica. Penguins are one of my favourite animals and I’d love to go to Antarctica to visit the Emperor Penguin up close. March of the Penguins is one of my favourite documentaries.

What were you like when you were in school?

Not a cool kid, let’s just say that much!

Do you prefer going to the cinema, watching films on Netflix (or another similar site) or buying and watching DVDs?

I have a considerable Blu Ray collection and I enjoy sitting through movies at home, if Netflix has a movie I have missed, I’ll use that but for me nothing beats the feeling of being in front of a big screen in a darkened room, especially in an IMAX cinema, it does feel like you’re taken to another place there.
What song most reminds you of your childhood?

Probably Afroman’s Because I Got High, as it was the first CD I ever bought and it really made me laugh, the song is still great to this day.

Who’s your hero?

Probably my father, bit of a lame answer I know but he’s always been there for me, through every twist and turn in my life and I’m always grateful to him for being there to support me as there have been some rough times and he’s been the immense figure of support like you want a father to be. My late mother was also my inspiration for wanting to get into writing and journalism.

What’s your favourite TV show?

Game of Thrones. Look out for some season reviews coming on the site for that. I just think the quality of the acting, writing, directing and production values on that show are second to none. The characters are all brilliantly portrayed and certain episodes capture almost a cinematic quality to them. If you haven’t watched the show, get on it, it is damn good television.

What would you choose for your last meal?

Sausages and Chips with a couple of Koppaberg Pear Ciders to go with it and profiteroles for desert. Absolutely delicious!

What hobby would you like to take up?

I do enjoy my music as well as movies, so I would love to have learnt a musical instrument such as the guitar as I’m a big fan of rock/alternative music.

And finally, a favourite: which 5 actors/actresses would you have at a dinner party?

Oh blimey, tough question! Well for one Jennifer Lawrence cos she’s probably my favourite actress and you can guarantee she will liven up a dinner party! Tom Hanks again one of my favourite actors and there’s so much you could chat to him about as he’s had a glittering career. Samuel L Jackson likewise, a true Hollywood legend, and supporter of my favourite football club! Emilia Clarke another, again another one of my favourite actresses for her incredible work in Game of Thrones and finally representing good old Blighty, got to have Mr Benedict Cumberbatch, another wonderful actor who I’d love to chat to simply because I thought he was magnificent in The Imitation Game, my favourite movie of 2014. With these five, I think it would be a great dinner party!!!

Thanks again to Plain, Simple Tom Reviews for the great questions! Now I would like to nominate:

Now my questions for you guys are as follows:

  1. What has been your favourite movie of 2016 thus far?
  2. If you could pick an artist to write and perform a Bond theme, who would it be?
  3. You have the chance to interview five people from any aspect of films and film making (director, actor, screenwriter , composer, cinematographer etc.)  of your choice. Who do you pick?
  4. Favourite director of all time?
  5. What has been the most disappointing movie you have ever seen?
  6. In your opinion, what has been the best movie of the 2010s so far?
  7.  What is a franchise that you would like to see get put to bed?
  8. Marvel or DC?
  9. Favourite film character of all time?
  10. You have the chance to visit either: a Galaxy Far Far Away, Middle Earth, Asgard or Hogwarts? Where do you go?
  11. Do you think it is a bad thing that a fair quantity of movies these days tend to be remakes, reboots and sequels? What would you like to see more new and original movies get made?

Looking forward to seeing your answers!!

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Suicide Squad (2016)

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Image is property of Warner Bros, DC Entertainment and RatPac Entertainment

Suicide Squad – Film Review

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtenay, Jay Hernandez, Cara Delevigne, Scott Eastwood, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Director: David Ayer

Synopsis: A group of criminals are recruited into Task Force X to run covert missions for the government in exchange for time off their prison sentences, and when the world comes under threat, they must unite to save the world.

Review: It has been hard to ignore the rise in prominence and popularity that comic book movies had enjoyed in recent years. Yet so often with these movies it’s a tale of good going against bad. Yet this trend has for the most part been abandoned this year, with Marvel’s heroes turning on each other, and DC’s flagship characters going head to head. Now DC, who it could be argued has some of the best villains in comic books, now rips up that formula even more. This time it’s not good vs bad, it’s bad vs evil as writer and director David Ayer presents as the movie’s tagline states: the “Worst. Heroes. Ever.”

In a world post Batman and Superman’s tussle, people seem to be afraid that the next person who possesses superhuman abilities might not be so friendly as the Man of Steel. So, government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) creates Task Force X or as she puts it “A team of very bad people who I think can do some good.” Leading the line up for this team is Will Smith as Deadshot, a lethal assassin who is always on target. Next on the roster is Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, the significant other of the Joker, who like her “puddin” is just flat out crazy but a lot of fun to watch.

These two are the main players in this squad, but they are aided well by Jai Courtenay’s Captain Boomerang, Jay Hernandez as El Diablo, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as the beastly Killer Croc, Karen Fukuhara as the lethal Katana and Joel Kinnaman as the team’s leader Rick Flagg. While it would have been great to see Tom Hardy play the role, Kinnaman brings steel and grit to the role, showing he won’t take any nonsense from the team.

All of the team play their roles well but the leading lights by far are that of Robbie as Harley and Smith as Deadshot, with the former stealing the show on more than a few occasions. but Davis is also on top form, although her methods do leave a lot to be desired. Of course, there is the small matter of Jared Leto’s Joker. Following the brilliance of Heath Ledger was always going to be a tough act to follow but Leto impresses in the role, and he more than looks the part as the Crown Prince of Crime. Yet his role in the film is minimal which is undeniably frustrating. Cara Delevigne completes the roster as the mysterious Enchantress, a lady who is harbouring some very dark secrets.

In the wake of the misfire that was Batman V Superman, Ayer had the unenviable task of steering the DC universe out of the doldrums in the wake of Marvel’s continuing dominance of the market. The script is a little bit choppy and uneven in places. Certain characters could have been better fleshed out, as such character development for some characters is very thin on the ground. Yet for those that have that character development, it is very interesting to watch. Ayer also helms the action scenes excellently, with some scenes being tremendously impressive, although some scenes are somewhat choppily edited. The score by Oscar winner Steven Price is also first class and does help get the blood pumping, which is also aided by a great soundtrack. The real villain here (no spoilers!) was undeniably creepy and on the whole did a very good job in presenting a force for the squad to tackle.

After the negative reaction that greeted Batman V Superman, fans must have wondered if it would have been a fatal blow to the DCEU before it has even got going. This latest offering has also had a less than kind critical reaction, yet it is by far the best DCEU movie we have so far. The board is set and the pieces are moving at long last, and with a solo Harley Quinn reportedly in development, don’t be surprised to see the squad reunite for more madness later on down the line.

A few script issues and the lack of character development and screen time for certain characters is undeniably a bummer, but there is more than enough for DC fans to sink their teeth into and enjoy.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Finding Dory (2016)

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Image is property of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

Finding Dory – Film Review

Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olsen, Ty Burrell, Idris Elba

Directors: Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane

Synopsis: Set one year after the events of Finding NemoDory begins to get flashbacks about her past and her parents. Determined to find answers, she sets off on a quest to reunite with her long lost family.

Review: It has been thirteen years since we were introduced to a bunch of lovable fish that swam their way into the hearts of audiences in Finding Nemo. It could be argued that of those group of fish, there was one who perhaps swam her way into the hearts and minds of viewers more than most, this of course being the blue tang Dory. So of course it was only natural that this phenomenal piece of storytelling would get a sequel. Sequels for Pixar are generally a mixed bag, for every Toy Story 3, there’s a Cars 2. However, given Dory’s immense popularity, the head honchos of Pixar decided to make this movie about her, and what an inspired decision that turned out to be.

Nemo director Stanton, along with Angus MacLane, with a scripted penned by Stanton and Victoria Strouse take us back to the big blue, and one year after Dory has helped Marlin reunite with Nemo after the latter went somewhat astray. Seemingly content with life, and still a bit forgetful, she begins to have flashbacks about her past and believing that somewhere out there she has a family, Dory goes off on her own adventure with Marlin and Nemo in tow. Pixar certainly knows how to give its audiences full on emotional punches, as last year’s brilliant Inside Out demonstrated, and once again, they have delivered a heartfelt worthwhile story with a great new batch of characters and a script that is packed with plenty of laughs.

Once again, Ellen DeGeneres is on outstanding form as Dory, her humour ensured she was one of the funniest movie sidekicks of the 2000s but now she is front and centre and she absolutely holds her own. Brooks returning as Marlin is his usual somewhat grump self and Hayden Rolence replaces Alexander Gould as the voice of Nemo. Adding them on their quest are a great bunch of new characters, the standout by far though is Ed O’Neill’s Hank the Octopus. He may be a bit grumpy too, but he certainly adds a lot of humour to the story. Ty Burrell as a beluga whale and Kaitlin Olsen as a clumsy whale also add a great deal to the plot. The seagulls were another highlight of Nemo, yet they have been replaced by a pair of equally amusing sea lions voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West.

Pixar has certainly shown in the past that they’re not afraid to go deep (pun absolutely intended) with their films. They tug at your emotional heart-string and it’s one of the many reasons why they have cemented their reputation as an animation powerhouse. There is no real villain here, but it’s not a hindrance to the plot in any way, as the struggles of family life and finding your place in the world are themes that almost anyone out there can resonate with. A debate could rage all day about whether Pixar or parent company Disney make the better movies. However it cannot be argued that both have put out tremendous pieces of work so far this year, and both of these are centred around animals.  This particular Pixar sequel was not out of its depth, but instead swam its way to success, and that bodes well for the sequels that are currently in the works. The price of a ticket is worth it if just to see perhaps the cutest animated short you will ever see in your life too.

Pixar produces another superb piece of storytelling, beautiful animation, with more well developed characters, and another superb performance from DeGeneres, a worthy sequel to Finding Nemo. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Jason Bourne (2016)

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Image is property of Universal Pictures, Pearl Street Pictures and Perfect World Pictures

Jason Bourne – Film Review

Cast: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmad

Director: Paul Greengrass

Synopsis: Ten years after the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, Bourne is now laying low and living a relatively peaceful life, until an old acquaintance resurfaces with some new information on Bourne’s past.

Review: When it comes to near invincible badasses who dabble in the world of spies and espionage, then there are a handful of individuals that have established their reputations as the best of the best. The likes of a certain Mr James Bond, or Ethan Hunt or Jason Bourne are ones that are more than likely will jump to mind. While the likes of Bond carry themselves with class and elegance, and usually kicking ass whilst wearing a tuxedo, the likes of Bourne do not carry such sophistication, but he will still kick your head in regardless if you dare to cross his path, and after spending years living his life free from any CIA entanglements, he’s back in the game.

The events of The Bourne Ultimatum saw Bourne finally get some closure about his past and how he got involved with this predicament and that appeared to be that. However one of his former associates now has some new information that could potentially lead to some new answers concerning Bourne’s past and so, somewhat reluctantly, Bourne is back on the grid. Of course, it isn’t long before the CIA have him back in their cross-hairs, under the new leadership of Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who will do anything they can to either capture Bourne or kill him, and so begins another enthralling chase across several continents and some very intense action scenes.

This is a role that Matt Damon has made his own, and is the role that the majority of people will associate with him the most. Although it is not his best performance as the character by any means, he is once again tremendous in the role bringing that grit and incredible fighting ability he possess to the fore. Out of the new recruits to this franchise, it is the work of Vikander, Jones and a ruthless assassin known only as The Asset played by Vincent Cassel that produce the best performances. Vikander, fresh from her Oscar triumph, shows great determination to lead the op against Bourne, all the while, trying to get him back on board. Cassel is usually bad news whenever he’s on screen, and here yes he’s very bad news indeed.

After coming on board to the franchise after The Bourne Identity, to direct the Supremacy and Ultimatum, Paul Greengrass has certainly cemented a reputation as an accomplished director of action. He is perhaps one of very few directors working today who takes shaky cam action and uses it, for the most part to great effect. By doing this the action scenes carry a lot of grit and realism to them, all the while making them utterly compelling to watch. This certainly applies here as the action scenes are once again tremendous, whether it be a chase in the middle of a riot or a high speed chase in Las Vegas, Greengrass knows how to get the viewer gripping their seat with excitement.

There is a sub-plot connected to a social media launch, and with several references to Snowden and the privacy controversy that that particular issues raised, thrown in there. Yet these do feel somewhat tacked on to the main story, which is that of Jason Bourne and his quest for the answers about his past. As such, you would have liked to have had a bit more on that story and less about Snowden and social media etc. The dialogue in places is a bit iffy too, and while it could have been better, you are here for the action. Nevertheless, Greengrass and co-writer Christopher Rouse have given us an exciting fifth entry to this franchise, and one will certainly hope that there will be more adventures with Mr Jason Bourne to come.

Bourne is back in business and while the action remains as gripping and as intense as ever with Damon once excellent, the story could have been much more streamlined to focus more on our titular character.

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