Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Justice League (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros and DC

Justice League – Film Review

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, J.K. Simmons, Amy Adams, Diane Lane

Director: Zack Snyder

Synopsis: In the wake of Superman’s death, with the planet feeling vulnerable and sensing that an attack is not too far away, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of some heroes to help save the world from the threat of the villainous Steppenwolf…

Review: When reviewing the extended universe that DC is constructing, it is extremely difficult to not compare their efforts to that of their major rivals, Marvel. Similarly, it has been hard to ignore the difficult time DC has had in getting its Extended Universe off the ground. A strong start but a few blips followed that threatened to derail the universe before it even got off the ground good and proper. Thankfully, Wonder Woman came along and put everything back on track and now the pieces have been put together for DC’s answer to the Avengers to finally get their first cinematic superhero outing.

The decision to not go the Marvel route and give each character their own film before going into the superhero team up flick, was certainly a bold one. The debate as to whether that was the route DC should have gone, could be debated for an eternity. Nevertheless, in the wake of the events of Batman v Supermanand the heroic sacrifice of Kal-El, Bruce decides to form a team as he (correctly) believes that someone is about to attack the planet, and so the Justice League is formed, with Batman, Wonder Woman, and new recruits Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. The aforementioned attack comes from Steppenwolf, whose origins are not really explained to any significant detail, all you know is he’s the bad guy and he is seeking some items that he wants to bring about an end to humanity. Usual comic book movie shenanigans.

Though he did direct the movie, due to personal tragedy, Snyder stepped down from the project in post production. Thus Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the project in Snyder’s absence. Though the movie does certainly feel like a Snyder film, in terms of its visuals, Whedon’s influence is certainly noticeable. Snyder is certainly a very visual director, but Whedon’s influence, given that he has a screenwriter credit, helps really flesh out the characters giving each team member an opportunity to shine, and it’s an opportunity they all take.

The standout though by far is Ezra Miller’s Flash, almost every line out of his mouth is quip after quip after quip, and it’s hilarious. Gal Gadot continues where she left off from her solo movie, and really continues to excel in her role as Wonder Woman. Jason Momoa as Aquaman is almost as if Khal Drogo cut off some of his hair and developed a deep love for the ocean, he certainly has charisma, with his Trident of Neptune in hand. Ray Fisher as Cyborg is functional, though there is certainly scope to explore his origin story a lot more somewhere down the line. As for Affleck, though he does look as though the role of the Caped Crusader is taking its toll on him, he continues to deliver the goods, though it remains to be seen if this is his last hurrah as Batman.

Even with Whedon’s input on the screenplay, it isn’t perfect. There’s some problems in terms of its storytelling, it feels a little bit rushed in the opening act. However once we arrive at the second act and the team are together, there’s enjoyment to be had without a doubt. The banter between the team is vintage Whedon and the action scenes are enjoyable to watch. There is a lot of CGI (to be expected) and while some of it is great, there are one or two instances where it could have maybe been cleaned up. As for the villain, unfortunately even with such a talent as Ciarán Hinds playing him, he falls into the category of rather bland villains, a problem that has been plaguing Marvel’s Universe since its inception.

For DC, their Extended Universe is still in its infancy, and although Justice League isn’t quite the home run that the studio would have undoubtedly liked it to be, it should give the fans more than enough to be hopeful for the future. Given the backlash and problems that have troubled DC, and only being a mere five films into their universe, you wouldn’t blame them if they opted to hit the reset button. However, there seem to be no plans to do that, and given that there’s lots in the pipeline they’re going full steam ahead, much to the dismay/delight of comic book fans everywhere (delete where appropriate).

There’s plenty of entertainment to be had seeing DC’s superhero team getting their first big screen outing, and despite an imperfect story, it’s a noticeable improvement on both BVS and Suicide Squad.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

Image is property of A24, Curzon Artificial Eye and Film4

The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Film Review

Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone

Directors: Yorgos Lanthimos

Synopsis: A skilled surgeon meets a young man whom he befriends, but when strange things start happening to his family, he is left facing a terrible and heartbreaking decision…

Review: Sometimes, a film lets you know right off the bat that the story you’re about to witness is unconventional to say the least, and not like anything you have ever seen before. The dominance of certain genres in mainstream cinema mean that such pieces of idiosyncratic cinema can be most welcome interludes. Indeed, these types of unique storytelling can almost be deemed necessary. Following in the wake of The Lobster, director Yorgos Lanthimos certainly continues on down that path of peculiar storytelling.

Of course, we have already seen an example of this type of out of ordinary storytelling in the form of Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, a film that it would be fair to say polarised audiences massively. And though not quite as shocking as that film was, Lanthimos certainly aims to unsettle the audience in this tale of Steven, a renowned heart surgeon who encounters a teenage boy named Martin whom he befriends. Everything seems fine and dandy between Steven and Martin, he introduces him to his wife Anna (Kidman), his son Bob, (Suljic) and daughter Kim (Cassidy).

Yet as time goes on and mysterious, unexplained things start happening to Steven and his family, and something suggests that the root cause of these events is Martin, who has a grudge against Steven for something that he might have done in the past. The story is certainly very unconventional and the characters are not exactly the most likeable bunch of people you’re ever likely to meet in your life. Farrell plays Steven as your loyal family man who loves his family more than anything, but despite all that, there’s some dark undertones to his character. Kidman is perhaps the most likeable of the bunch, but even she is sucked into this murky situation that is enveloping this family, and the duo certainly shine in these roles that are certainly designed to test the actors to the maximum.

Perhaps giving the best performance of them all though is Keoghan as Martin. Initially he starts off as quite a friendly young man, but it isn’t long before you notice the very troubling and sinister occurings that are going on with him, and perhaps the root cause behind all of this psychological, nightmarish horror that is unfolding. Lanthimos’s directing style, including long shots of panning down ominous looking hallways certainly helps add to the uncomfortable vibe of the film, not to mention the very dreary colour palette. Lanthimos’s script (co-written by Efthymis Filippou) is shrouded in themes that are designed to haunt the audience. It opts to explain certain things, but not others, and it’s up to the audience to fill in the gaps.

There is certainly a lot of mystery surrounding, which you would think keeps the plot moving along at a brisk pace, yet this doesn’t prevent the film from suffering pacing issues. It is a very slow burn, particularly in the first act as you watch all the the pieces fall into place. However, once it reaches the second half and in particular the climax, it pays off, but not in a way that is going to leave the audience at all satisfied. Not because the climax doesn’t pay off, it pays off alright, but the pay off is not exactly going to leave you blissfully happy once the credits begin to roll. No, it is instead going to mess with your mind.

 Unnerving to the maximum, but tremendous performances across the board result in an intriguing but ultimately extremely uncomfortable experience that doesn’t lend itself to repeat viewings.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor: Ragnarok – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba

Director: Taika Waititi

Synopsis: Having come out of hiding to claim the throne of Asgard, Hela the Goddess of Death seeks to rule Asgard. Having been cast aside on a distant planet, Thor must use his strength and an old friend to help him reclaim Asgard’s throne, and prevent Ragnarok, the end of all things, from occurring.

Review: Of all the directors Marvel could have hired to take on a film that studio head honcho Kevin Feige described as “very important movie in our timeline”, one of the most out of the blue choices you could suggest would be New Zealand native Taika Waititi. Having made his name with the very quirky comedies such as What We Do in The Shadows, and last year’s hilarious Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Yet, having seen humour become an important aspect of their films, Waititi seems to be the perfect match for Marvel, and as it turns out, it is absolutely a match made in Valhalla.

For a film subtitled Ragnarok, meaning the end of everything, to be pitched as a quirky comedy masquerading as a big budget superhero blockbuster, could have been a spectacular misfire, but in the hands of Waititi it is all just blends together beautifully. On a quest to find out some information is where we meet the God of Thunder, and he quickly learns that The Goddess of Death Hela has come back to Asgard to take her place on the throne, setting off a chain of events that sees Thor trying to unseat the Usurper whilst preventing Ragnarok from occurring. Though not written by him, the script has that Waititi stamp written all over it. There are gags aplenty, and they’re almost always hilarious. It’s a bold claim, but this might just be the funniest Marvel film to date.

Old friends reunited…

Hemsworth and Hiddleston are once again just delightful to watch in these roles that they have made their own, with it also being great to see Mark Ruffalo and the Hulk in all of his green, raging glory back in the MCU once more. There are quite a few new faces here, the absolute standouts being Tessa Thompson’s badass Valkyrie and an absolutely uproarious star turn from Waititi himself in a role that will have you almost crying tears of laughter. It is absolute comic gold and a character one would hope gets his own movie somewhere down the line. Meanwhile, Jeff Goldblum is inevitably always a pleasure to watch, and as the Grandmaster, it feels like a role that was just written for the Goldblum and he like the Odinson brothers, he bosses it.

A real consistent Achilles Heel for the MCU has been their villains, as the last Thor film testified. Thankfully, Cate Blanchett as Hela is able to avoid falling into the realm of bland and generic villains that have troubled MCU films gone by. She is well fleshed out as a character and it makes her story so much more compelling to watch. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Karl Urban’s character who does sadly fall into that category of villains that are just kind of forgettable.

Whilst also perhaps boasting the most vivid colour palette that the MCU has seen to date, when the action goes down Waititi’s direction is confident and assured.  The battle between Hulk and Thor that we saw a glimpse of in the trailer is just spectacular stuff, you cannot beat a bit of intergalactic gladiatorial duelling can you? With the help of some Led Zepplin, the final showdown is also breathless to watch. The whole thing might seem absolutely bonkers and absurd, but it all blends together into some delightfully, colourful and exhilarating entertainment.

With complaints of superhero fatigue coming from some audiences, this is the shot in the arm that the genre needed to help keep things fresh. It’s so different in terms of style and everything that it is certainly a most welcome breath of fresh air for the genre. With them now a staggering 17 films deep into their universe, Marvel are showing no signs of slowing down, and when they’re continuing to produce such glorious excitement, who in their right mind would want them to stop?

Fusing a deeply personal story with some absolutely first class humour that will have your sides hurting, Waititi brings his vibrant style of quirky comedy to the MCU, and it pays off big time. The best MCU film of the year.

 

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor: The Dark World – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Jaime Alexander Christopher Eccleston

Director: Alan Taylor

Synopsis: As Thor works to restore the peace to the Nine Realms in the wake of the events of The Avengersa new threat emerges in the form of the Dark Elves who are after something called the Aether…

Review: Life certainly isn’t easy for a God, especially not for the ones of the red cape wearing variety. In the same year that saw one red caped wearing God struggle to find his place in the world, and fight a battle that saw an entire city suffer some horrific destruction. We had another one trying to clean up the catastrophic damage that was made by his pesky little brother. But for the latter, namely the God of Thunder, there’s an even bigger problem on the horizon that needs his attention, and above all else, his hammer.

As the climax of Phase One of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe drew to a close, the Avengers had banded together when all seemed lost to help stop Loki and his extra-terrestrial army from subjugating Earth.  Following on from all that wanton mayhem and destruction, and the aftermath of it all is where we find Thor who is now seeking to restore order and peace to the Nine Realms. Yet a new threat is emerging in the form of the Dark Elves led by Malekith who is seeking possession of a powerful artefact known only as the Aether.

Having capped off their first Phase in tremendous style, there was an obvious need to do things a little bit differently to keep interest in the universe alive and to prevent it from becoming stale. By consequence, with the the loss of his powers and how me must learn what it means to be worthy to wield Mjolnir or “Miew Miew” as one character so eloquently puts it, being central to the story. As such the studio clearly decided to change that up a bit and this time there’s no big life lesson Thor has to learn while not being as mighty as he used to be.

thor tdw
The man with the mighty mallet…

He’s the all powerful God of Thunder throughout and well it’s a good thing he is since Asgard comes under attack from the Dark Elves who have a history with the Asgardians, none more so than their leader Malekith, who has a very personal score to settle. The story while it is interesting and fun to watch, it doesn’t really break any new ground in terms of what the MCU had seen up to this point. there’s nothing here that feels fresh. It all feels a bit by the numbers in terms of the direction. No disrespect to director Alan Taylor, who up to this point had overseen some terrific Game of Thrones episodes.  For instance the Avengers just had Joss Whedon’s stamp all over it. Here, while the action is well handled, it does feel like there’s nothing that feels truly special in terms of giving audiences something that they had not seen before.

Given that these films are centered on the titular God of Thunder, the right man was needed for the job, and once again Chris Hemsworth showed he was absolutely the right man to wear the cape and wield the hammer. Equally important to the equation, and another excellent casting choice is of course Tom Hiddleston as Loki who despite committing those terrible atrocities in New York is a character whom you just can’t help but like, even though he’s perhaps the most untrustworthy character in the entire MCU, but you know that as a character he’s someone you almost find yourself rooting for due to his roguish personality.

However, as with the first film, the villain here is a real let down and perhaps maybe the poorest MCU villain to date. Christopher Eccleston is certainly a very fine actor, but as Malekith the script really doesn’t flesh him out to the point where you understand where he’s coming from and he comes across as just extremely generic and not in the least bit memorable. Ultimately, despite for the most part being enjoyable to watch, even at this point in the MCU, it slots in nicely as a sequel to both the first Thor film and The Avengers, but certainly doesn’t stand out from the crowd in the ever expanding world of comic book movies, which is something that even an object as powerful as Thor’s magic hammer cannot fix.

There’s more than enough here to enjoy, but a pretty by the numbers story and direction mean that The Dark World is not mighty enough to ensure it lands a place among the plethora of truly memorable superhero flicks.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Thor (2011)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Thor – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Jaime Alexander

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: When the God of Thunder Thor, the next in line to the throne of Asgard, is exiled on Earth, he must learn the error of his ways and prove himself worthy to retain his power…

Review: Norse Mythology is something that has certainly made an impression on pop culture. As J.R.R Tolkien himself has admitted, his works such as Lord of the Rings had their influences from the Nordic myths and legends. Indeed, Marvel Comics certainly decided to utilise said mythology in some of their comics, and thus the character of Thor came into being, first debuting in 1962. Back when Marvel was establishing the foundations of their cinematic Universe, Thor and the realm in which he dwells became a part of that all encompassing world, and what must have been quite the challenge to adapt for the big screen was pulled off quite spectacularly.

Thanks to some narration style backstory from the King of Asgard Odin (Hopkins) we learn that Thor is due to succeed his father as King, but a sinister threat approaches in the form of the Frost Giants, who threaten to turn Asgard and indeed everywhere into a cold dark place. When Thor decides to take matters into his own hands, his actions have dire consequences and at Odin’s behest, Thor is banished to Earth as a mere mortal and must learn from his mistakes if he is ever to take his place at Asgard again. Despite the grandiose setting, the themes of this film are at their core very Shakespearean, which means Kenneth Branagh is right at home having done a great many Shakespearean plays. Sibling rivalry, squabbling, betrayal and all that, mixed in with of course Norse Gods and magic of course (or is that science we just don’t know yet?) It might sound mad, it all blends brilliantly.

thor
This man definitely didn’t skip leg day…

Being one of the key players of the Avengers, casting the right man to play Thor was essential and Chris Hemsworth was certainly the right man. He carries the brash arrogance and swagger that one might expect from a man who wields a mighty hammer, Mjolnir as his weapon. Yet when he’s banished to Earth, he also shows his humility and compassion particularly for his love interest Jane (Portman). The chemistry between a demi-god and a mere mortal human shouldn’t really work but it does. The casting all round genuinely is flawless, Sir Anthony Hopkins certainly has the imposing presence required to play one of the most powerful beings in all the realms. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is also perfect, whilst he appears initially to be innocent, it doesn’t take long for his mischievous streak to emerge. You really feel the family dynamic between these characters and the  family disagreements  intense to say the least, one scene with Loki and Odin in particular stands out among the rest.

Family feuding aside, Branagh also helms the action scenes tremendously well and they are a visual treat to watch. When Thor is laying it down, he is one badass hero that would be pretty hard to stop. Which again when he’s stripped of his powers, makes him so much more vulnerable. When you have a hero as powerful as Thor is, to see him be stripped of his power and go on an important and significant journey to discover what it really means to have the power he possesses. Like a great many Marvel movies, the film weaves humour so effortlessly, despite all the family drama that’s occurring, there’s plenty of moments to laugh out load. That being said, the story is not perfect as there are some moments that do feel a bit rushed. In addition the Frost Giants, and in particular their leader, whilst menacing, do not stand out as very memorable villains, as that dastardly Loki is the one you want to keep your eye on.

At this point, the MCU was very much in its infancy, and so getting this aspect of its universe right was paramount for its future success. Thankfully the nine realms converged perfectly , everything was weaved together perfectly. the God of Thunder took flight and landed in the MCU, with an almighty crash.

Incorporating this aspect of the universe was undoubtedly a challenge, but Branagh steers this ship so skilfully that Thor’s MCU debut was as mighty as the God of Thunder himself.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Image is property of Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment and Thunder Road Pictures

John Wick: Chapter 2 – Film Review

Cast:  Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Laurence Fishburne, Common, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Ruby Rose

Director: Chad Stahelski

Synopsis: John Wick now seeks to retire from the assassin lifestyle. However, after taking what he hopes to be one last mission, it places a rather large bounty on his head.

Review: There is just something about Keanu Reeves as an action star that just ticks all the right boxes. You look at his portfolio with the likes of Speed and The Matrix immediately jump to mind. Perhaps more recently though, was his reinvigorating turn as the hitman you dare not cross with, John Wick. Managing to be something more than just your stereotypical hitman being a badass, the first film was a breath of fresh air into a genre that was rapidly becoming a bit stale, and so it was no surprise to see Keanu suit up as the Bogeyman (as he’s affectionately known) once again.

This time, thankfully for all the animal lovers out there. no one is after his pets. Instead John plans to retire, but a debt he owes to a former associate D’Antonio (Scarmacio) drags him back into the assassin underworld once more. Things go even further awry for John when he find out that a large bounty has been put on his head, which means John must go after those who have got him in this sticky situation while trying to not get killed from the swarms that are now hot on his trail. For a while things look as though maybe going down a similar path that the sequel walked.  Though soon enough there are bullets flying and people dying, the plot manages to keep things fresh and moving along at an energising pace.

Time for you all to say your prayers…

With former stuntman Stahelski returning to direct, this time sans David Leitch, the action is once again filmed to look as elegant and extremely stylish as possible. Given that Wick is a man of few words, who prefers let bullets and fist do the talking for him, and in true sequel style, there is plenty more action. By consequence more bullets and the blood will flow, and the blood CERTAINLY flows all right with Wick’s aim always on point throughout. For those that love action films, these action scenes are just so enthralling.

As spectacular as he was in the first film, Reeves is once again in spectacular form as the eponymous hitman, it’s a role he commits to and it’s evident he’s having a blast throughout. Riccardo Scamarcio as D’Antonio gets the job done as your new sort of slimy, untrustworthy associate and Ian McShane as the suave Continental owner Winston remains as enjoyable to watch as he invariably is. And of course, the ever-great Laurence Fishburne has a small but significant role to play, bringing about a glorious Matrix reunion.

With the inner workings of this underground hitman bubble explored in more detail, it was refreshing to see the sequel not just retread the original film step by step, and try to freshen things up, as a sequel should. Though there are elements that do feel very familiar, it is hard to complain when you have an action star that commits to the role like Reeves does. Do not mess with the Bogeyman, cos he will come for you, and he WILL take you down if you piss him off.

As action packed as its predecessor, and just as stylish in terms of the slick action scenes, and Keanu Reeves being a complete and total badass, what more could you want?

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros. Pictures, Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures and Scott Free Productions

Blade Runner 2049 – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Ana De Armas, Sylvia Hoeks

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: Set thirty years after the original Blade Runner, after uncovering a decades old secret, Blade Runner Office K (Gosling) goes on the hunt for information, and his investigation leads him to a very familiar face…

Review: In terms of a challenging project for a director to get their hands on, being tasked with making a sequel to one of the most beloved science fiction films of all time, is surely right up there with the hardest.  Having garnered quite the cult following, in spite of decidedly mixed critical reactions upon release, Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic has built a legacy that has endured.

So in a time when Hollywood certainly likes making a sequel or two, one was perhaps almost inevitable. Though a sequel was for a long time in development, with Scott considering the possibility of directing, those plans were shelved. As such, the chance and indeed the enormous pressure of making this fell to Denis Villeneuve, and well simply put, it’s a challenge that he rose to in magnificent style delivering a superb blockbuster that combines tremendous style with emotional substance.

I see your true colours shining through…

Right from the off, Villeneuve, re-teaming with the great Roger Deakins following Prisoners and Sicario, they beautifully recreate that futuristic and visually mesmerising world that was so elegantly brought to life, but once more with those murky undertones. With superb production design this time being provided by Dennis Gassner, it’s all just a stunning visual treat to watch. Having shown his ability to dabble in mind-bending science fiction with his astonishing masterpiece Arrival, Villeneuve has once again shown he’s a formidable force to be reckoned with behind the camera. Oscar nominations are surely bound to follow, and hopefully this time, this will be the time that Deakins takes the statue, one can hope. But Oscar or not, Deakins has added another visual masterpiece to his glowing portfolio.

The great risk of making a sequel to something so beloved is that if you fail to live up to those lofty expectations, it could taint the original for some. However, the story crafted by original Blade Runner scribe Hampton Fancher along with Michael Green, delivers a deeply personal story that expands the world that was so elegantly brought to life in the original film. At the centre of the new story is Officer K who works as a Blade Runner, and stumbles upon a secret that opens up a can of worms. Much like its predecessor, the film is a slow burn in terms of pacing, it is not all out guns blazing action. Instead the film takes time with its story, which works to its advantage, whilst delivering those moments of intense action when it really needs to.

In a world where humanity and replicant are deeply intertwined, the lines between the two are almost non existent, and no one exemplifies this better than K. Gosling’s performance shows him in his much grittier, more melancholic mood in the same a similar manner to his performance in Drive. Charisma to boot (as well as a cool coat) he makes for a very compelling protagonist. For Harrison Ford meanwhile, after having made a triumphant return as Han Solo, he’s on masterful form once again as Deckard.

Ford is not here to just collect a pay cheque, as he delivers a performance that really packs the emotional punch making Deckard a relevant piece in this dystopian world of futuristic Los Angeles. Other new figures also include Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace and his associate Luv (Sylvia Hoeks). Leto might have copped a lot of flak following the much maligned Suicide Squad, but he is effective as the eccentric leader of a global corporation. Meanwhile, Hoeks’s Luv certainly makes her presence known.

The expectations were enormous. And with the pressure to deliver something to stand shoulder to shoulder with a film that has help to significantly define this genre, was equally gargantuan. Yet Villeneuve once again shows his remarkable credentials by delivering a sequel that beautifully pays homage to its predecessor, whilst at the same time, making things feel almost new and fresh. There will have been those who said that the original was untouchable, but we have seen things you people wouldn’t believe, and it is truly something to savour.

As visually mesmerising as its predecessor, and continuing the themes that are just as thought-provoking now as they were when the first film was released. A worthy sequel to one of the most significant films ever made.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Moonlight (2017)

Image is property of A24, Plan B Entertainment and Pastel Productions

Moonlight – Film Review

Cast: Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monáe, Mahershala Ali

Director: Barry Jenkins

Synopsis: Set in three distinct acts, chronicling the life of a young black boy growing up in Miami, charting his childhood, teenage years and finally his growth to adulthood.

Review: Growing up no matter who you are can be extremely difficult, no matter the circumstances. However, there is in certain parts of the world, a massive stigma that is attached towards people who are homosexual, which for any person in that situation, can be extremely difficult to come to terms with who you are. This makes Barry Jenkins’s coming of age drama about a young black boy growing up in a difficult Miami neighbourhood feel particularly relevant and poignant, what with the extremely delicate racial tensions occurring in the USA right now.

Adapted from In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, an unfinished play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, we follow young Chiron in three stages of his life: childhood, adolescence and adulthood (played in each by Hibbert, Sanders and Rhodes respectively). To say he leads a difficult life is an extreme understatement. Picked on at school, an absent father whose whereabouts are never disclosed,  a mother who is addicted to drugs (Harris) and facing questions about his sexuality. In comes Juan, a father figure to Chiron who fills that void that so desperately needed filling. With the help of Juan, Chiron seeks to find his place in the world.

YE-Film-Top 10

With three distinct acts, the film chooses to not do what Boyhood did and narrow its focus to a few quite specific points in this three very different stages of life. This first act is the Mahershala Ali show, he’s the figure that Chiron needs in his life right now and there are a few scenes in particular that feel raw and emotional. With the move to adolescence, Juan is now out of the picture and although Sanders’s performance feels very raw, Juan is sorely missed as his absence is really felt. Jenkins script and direction helps to capture that struggle that it’s quite possible every teenager goes through, which is only compounded when you’re getting ruthlessly picked on because of your sexuality.

However, despite the delicate themes that the film seeks to explore, there is something in Jenkins’s screenplay that feels absent. As emotionally impactful as the subject matter may be, there isn’t really enough to really engage the audience or to get them to care about Chiron perhaps as much as they should. The dialogue at times feels drawn out and aimless in its direction, and though there is some character development, there is not sufficiently enough to the point where you feel completely invested in the life of this young man as you really ought to, and the final act in particular drifts painfully aimlessly to an extremely melancholic conclusion.

Alongside Ali, Naomie Harris gives perhaps her best ever performance as Chiron’s drug addicted mother. A woman who clearly loves her son, but though she tries so hard to show it, her addiction really harms their relationship. Harris rightfully scooped an Oscar nomination for her impact performance, and Ali went one step further and also very deservedly became the first Muslim actor to win an acting Oscar.

Nicholas Britell’s accompanying score is also worthy of immense praise, adding to the raw emotion really effectively in particular scenes. The Best Picture gong at the 89th Academy Awards indicates that there is no shortage of admirers for Moonlight, but for a film that has such delicate subject matter, there was a real opportunity to make a powerful statement, but with such an uninspiring third act, it feels like a glorious opportunity squandered.

With great performances from Ali and Harris, there’s something to be admired about tackling such tricky subject matter, but the end result is just not as compelling in a way that it could, and perhaps ought to be.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox and Marv

Kingsman: The Golden Circle – Film Review

Cast: Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Sophie Cookson, Pedro Pascal

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Synopsis:  After their organisation comes under attack, The Kingsman seek the help of their US Counterparts, the Statesman, to help them save the world…

Review: It is always nice when a film knows exactly what the audience wants and doesn’t take itself too seriously. In addition, when said film knew that it was a ridiculously over the top, almost parody of the the spy films that it obviously drew inspiration from, and plays that to its advantage to deliver an absurd amount of entertainment, and laughs, that’s always a most welcome outcome, and this is precisely what Kingsman: The Secret Service was. Therefore, a sequel to this surprise hit was almost inevitable, and Vaughn despite perhaps some initial hesitation, eventually came back to the director’s chair.

The first film was, for the most part British-centric, and more specifically on the Kingsman and the recruitment of young Eggsy into this elite spy organisation. The plot now goes a bit more global, well across the Pond to be exact. With the Kingsman on their knees following a vicious attack, a clue leads them to their US based allies, the Statesman. Their research leads them to something that is known as the “Golden Circle” and with the Kingsman and Statesman now side by side, they must band together to help save the world because as you would expect, as there’s always some dastardly villain looking to wreak world havoc.

Eggsy’s development from deadbeat chav, to a sophisticated gentleman spy was a central theme of what The Secret Service was all about. All the while saving the world with mentor Harry Hart (Firth) by his side. Though Harry initially seems to have suffered a grim demise, but with a presence that is hard to miss if you have seen any promotional material, it indicates that Harry did not meet said demise. Their character development was a key arc of the first movie, but there is much less focus on that arc, and indeed character development as a whole, which can be frustrating to say the least.

“We are the three amigos…”

Instead Vaughn and Goldman zone in on the action stakes, turning up the volume to maximum. If his past work is anything to go by, Vaughn is certainly a director who knows how to helm jaw dropping action scenes,  the church scene from the first film certainly stands out. They’re very fast paced and exhilarating, although sometimes they way they are cut together, with very fast, quick cut editing can make them a bit jarring to watch. The plot is again a bit far fetched to say the least, even more so than the last film, but the movie knows that this is part of its charm, and it uses that to its advantage.

Taron Egerton remains on great form as Eggsy and he is ably supported by the familiar faces of Merlin and Roxy, whilst continuing a relationship with his royal girlfriend. The main bunch of new recruits comes in the shape of the Statesman cast, with Bridges giving Rooster Cogburn a 21st century makeover in the form of Statesman top dog Champ. Tequila and Ginger Ale (Tatum and Berry) are welcome additions but both feel somewhat underutilised. Meanwhile Pedro Pascal as Whiskey is perhaps the most interesting of the new bunch, honing his Oberyn Martell-esque fighting skills to great effect, and while she does have some time to shine, Julianne Moore as the antagonist would have benefited from a bit more screen time.

Though it doesn’t get too bloated, the film does feel perhaps a tad too long, perhaps because Vaughn does cram so much into this new adventure. but there’s more than enough good material here for audiences to enjoy. Like last time, the movie remains very self-aware, it knows it is a bat shit crazy experience with spies, espionage, gadgets, action and VERY adult humour. And that’s just what you signed up for, suited and booted and all.

There’s not a great deal of character development to be found, but like its predecessor, The Golden Circle delivers those insane and thrilling action set pieces and adult humour that make it such a blast to watch.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

mother! (2017)

Image is property of Paramount Pictures and Protozoa Pictures

mother! – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Synopsis: A married couple are in the middle of redecorating their home, living a quiet peaceful life, yet when some uninvited guests show up, their tranquil  lifestyle is changed forever…

Review: The wonder of film is that it can generate a considerable array of responses among audiences. A film can be inspirational viewing, it can leave you speechless in shock, it can make you very angry, and it can leave you wondering what on earth you just watched, leaving you thinking about the film for days afterwards. In the case of Darren Aronofsky, here’s a director who is not afraid to make some psychologically damaging stories that leave their mark on their audiences.

In his latest film, Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a wife and husband, neither of whom are really properly identified, known only as Mother and Him respectively. In a large house that is far too big for just the two of them, they live in quiet harmony with Mother decorating their house while Him is a poet, struggling to find his muse. However, their peaceful existence is ruined when a guest, Man (Harris) turns up unannounced. Mother is uncertain, but Him welcomes this visitor into their home. And when Man’s wife shows up (Pfeiffer) this is where everything gets really sinister.

To say this film is strange would be a severe understatement. Aronofsky reportedly wrote the screenplay in five days, which could imply that the story maybe a bit rushed, but this is for the most part, not the case. Though a slow burn in the initial act, once the guests start to arrive is when things go south very quickly. Right from the first shot, the tone is creepy and sinister with some very vivid imagery, and metaphors that can be open to many different interpretations. Be warned, some of the imagery is macabre,and deeply unsettling at times. The very unequivocal undertone that is at the centre of this story will either infuriate or mesmerise, as is evident by the boos and cheers that greeted the movie in equal measure at its Venice Film Festival debut. Divisive in every sense of the word.

With her Hunger Games days now long behind her, Jennifer Lawrence continues to show her considerable acting credentials by giving a haunting , wounded performance, an Oscar nomination wouldn’t feel out of place. She is front and centre of the film, we witness many of the horrors in this film from her perspective. Bardem has shown in the past that he can portray a terrific villain but here, he’s a bit more nuanced, but still also gives an unsettling performance given the role he plays in the developing horror that we witness in this film. The rest of the cast also do their best to add to the ensuing tension, and that makes said tension almost palpable.

Aronofsky helms the film in a way that makes it deeply unsettling to watch, which is clearly what he was going for. The camerawork certainly helps to build the tension. However, the screenplay is so engaging it will ensure that you will be transfixed by the events you see on screen, and equally aghast. Yet at the same time, there’s something so intriguing behind the themes and ideas that drive this film. With metaphors about a plethora of topics aplenty, Aronofsky has made something that certainly will not be to everyone’s taste. Nevertheless, what he has crafted has ensured it will be dissected and analysed at films schools for years and years to come, and that’s no mean achievement.

You will probably either love it or hate it, bold but dark and unsettling storytelling with two haunted performances at its heart, a film that will leave a lasting impression on its audience, for better or for worse.