Posted in Film Feature, Ranking

Ranking Christopher Nolan Filmography (Collaboration)

In terms of directors working today who have had quite the considerable impact of modern day films and film-making, one name that would surely come to mind would be one Christopher Edward Nolan. Since making his directorial debut in 1998, he has made 10 feature films, and through his fine filmography, he has covered a wide range of subjects in his movies, and his films certainly have the tendency to really challenge their audiences and get the mind working.

With the director’s next film, Dunkirk now in cinemas, it begs the question, what is Nolan’s best film? I have assembled a team of fine film folk to collectively rate and slate all of Nolan’s current filmography, ranking them from worst to best: These fine folks are: Plain, Simple Tom, Nathan, Markus, Angus, QuickFire Reviews, RyanMaddy and yours truly. Please be sure to give all those great people a look see via the hyperlinks in their name! Without further ado, let’s get cracking, and see our individual thoughts on each of Nolan’s films:

Following (1998)

Maddy: There is something immediately fascinating about this film. It’s a little bit student film-like, with performances that certainly aren’t great, yet the overall film has such a unique style to it that it was undoubtedly going to put Nolan on the road to success. Not his best, but definitely worth a watch to see where it all began. (6/10)

Tom: A simple yet intriguing story, Nolan starts his foray into the film world with this overlooked film, using the homes of friends and family in which to shoot in.Not extraordinary but always intriguing. Plus, a bat symbol on one of the doors. #foreshadowing. (7/10)

Markus: Following is an ambitious ham sandwich budget debut feature from Christopher Nolan. And for the most part it paid off. Not perfect, but definitely a good way for Nolan to get his foot in the industry. (8/10)

QuickFire Reviews: Made on a budget of $6000, Nolan’s directorial debut – for the limits and restraints in received in production – turns out superbly. From the very start Nolan as a director clearly has an eye for detail, crafting an exceptionally intimate, stylish and engaging character study. (8.5/10)

Ryan: Christopher Nolan’s underground debut feature may not be a perfect film, but it’s a faultless prelude to his now world famous filmography. You can see him beginning to toy with narrative, you can sense his recognisable character types beginning to emerge. It under 70 minutes, Following comes at you quickly but doesn’t skimp on the goods – a solid debut feature with more than enough to chew on. (8/10)

Memento (2000)

Tom: Another unique premise brought to life by a clever script and a handful of fascinating performances. (9/10)

Martin: Almost unlike anything that has ever been to screen before, and since its release, there has never been a film quite like Memento. Riveting storytelling, with a very unique premise and one of the best ever performances that Guy Pearce has given across his career. And for the Love of God, PLEASE don’t remake this movie Hollywood!! (10/10)

Nathan: While Memento succeeds through its direction, with an impressive use of dual narratives coalescing terrifically, the narrative is somewhat repetitive and really challenges your concentration levels come the middle third. That said, it is largely enjoyable and serviceable in delivering us the Nolan we know and love today. (6.5/10)

Markus: Nolan manages to create a fiendishly clever story with Memento, making perfect use of it’s fractured narrative and forgetful protagonist. Guy Pearce gives a fantastic performance that often gets overlooked by people. This movie is far from forgettable. (10/10)

Angus:  The film that is known for being backwards, ‘Memento’ does a fantastic job at keeping your interest within its unusual structure. The film will have you continuously guessing what has happened in what is arguably Guy Pearce’s best performance. A great concept with interesting characters make this film perhaps Nolan’s most unique. (9.25/10)

Ryan: How many film makers create something as good as Memento so early in the career? The film may benefit more from its structure than I’d care to admit (when watched in chronological order, a lot of the magic is lost) but Nolan’s exploration of time and memory is the film’s selling point. Why mark a film down for something it technically hasn’t done? Memento is smart, intricate storytelling and one of Nolan’s strongest scripts. (9.5/10)

Maddy: Massively impressed by this film. It’s so similar to Following but with a Hollywood upgrade, & it pays off really well. Love how we see the same scenes repeated over & linked & slowly pieced together, we don’t know who to trust or what to make of things: exactly what Leonard’s life is like. It’s clever in an effortless manner. (7/10)

Insomnia (2002)

Ryan: Insomnia is my least favourite of Nolan’s films. The performances are strong and the film’s atmospheric work is immersive, but there’s something missing from this one. A bold twist, a new direction for the film to take. Insomnia isn’t a bad film by any means, but it’s Nolan’s most forgettable work by a wide margin. (7.5/10)

Tom: A neat thriller with a fine cast, especially Robin Williams who gives one of his best ever performances. 7/10

Markus: Insomnia is Nolan’s most underrated movie. It’s an incredibly captivating murder mystery that takes a few interesting twists and turns. Pacino delivers a fantastic performance. I love it. (10/10)

Angus: Insomnia brings great performances from Al Pacino and Robin Williams as the cat and mouse game provides gripping entertainment. The struggle from Pacino’s character works very well alongside the mystery aspect of the film that is worth revisiting. (8/10)

Maddy: It’s not written by Nolan so it doesn’t have the same layout or rhythm of his other films, yet through his direction his unmistakable vibe is there. The acting really is first class here, with Al Pacino, Robin Williams & Hillary Swank all brilliant as you’d expect three Oscar winners to be. The audience is given everything but in a manner that seems to gradually distort along with Pacino’s character’s mentality – it’s clever, but easier watching than some of Nolan’s other work. (7/10)

Batman Begins (2005)

QuickFire Reviews: A comic-book franchise opener like no other Batman Begins matches Nolan with an equally talented cast to create a deeper, darker and downright thrilling portrayal of The Dark Knight, without ever becoming stale or monotonous. (9/10)

Maddy: This is how you do a superhero origin story. What I adore about the Nolan Batman trilogy & why I think it remains so successful is how much reality he gave it. Whereas in the past we’d seen Batman prancing around in his grey spandex with cheesy fight sound effects, this grounded the vigilante character & created a much darker & tangible take on the classic. Christian Bale makes a brilliant debut as both Bruce Wayne & Batman, & with Michael Caine at his side in what will forever be the perfect Alfred portrayal, this really was a hell of a start to a great trilogy; dark & intense without becoming overwhelming. (8/10)

Tom: Nolan reboots the Batman film universe in spectacular fashion with this exciting, cool, exquisitely designed film. It’s an excellent origin story with a superb cast and a great plot. (9/10)

Martin: The rebirth of the Batman, after the character died in ignominious circumstances. Told through Nolan’s brilliant vision with an exciting look at The Caped Crusader and his origins, magnificently acted by its super talented cast, and a truly gripping story of one man’s journey from man to symbol. (8.5/10)

Nathan: Batman Begins is a sluggish start for the rebooted Batman but helps sets the wheels in motion for an otherwise impressive franchise of films. The performances are decent but the chosen story is weak and, surprisingly, forgettable. (6.5/10)

Ryan: I didn’t realise how much I would enjoy a Batman trilogy when I first saw Batman Begins. The film is well crafted and suitably dark, telling the Bruce Wayne story in a harsher way than before, but it perhaps gets too bogged down in its “origin story” style to break away from the mould entirely. Still, it’s a stronger superhero film than anything we’ve had in the last four years. (8/10)

Angus: In my opinion, this is the best superhero origin story that does great at establishing the famous character. The Batman series needed rebooted badly and Nolan’s darker, more realistic take makes for a great viewing. The film balances its characters very well especially with its villains making Nolan’s first superhero film a successful one. (8.75/10)

Markus: After the Batman movie franchise was more or less killed off by Schumacher’s movies, Nolan managed to revitalise it with Batman Begins. An exciting action-drama that gives us a fascinating and fresh look at the characters and the world they inhabit. It also helps that the performances are top-notch. (10/10)

 

The Prestige (2006)

Martin:  Everyone loves a good magic trick, and for Nolan, this enthralling tale of two rival magicians trying to outdo the other makes for some spellbinding entertainment that will keep your eyes transfixed on screen right from the first shot all the way to the last. With two terrific performances from Bale and Jackman, as well as the late David Bowie, and one heck of an ending. (9/10)

Tom: With two charismatic performances at the centre, this film has an intriguing story that constantly keeps you guessing. A tantalising mystery with some neat visuals and a fine ending. (8/10)

Nathan: The Prestige is an absorbing and somewhat hypnotising picture, bolstered by two terrific central performances and Nolan’s reliably impressive direction. Most admirable though is that there is nothing quite like this film, demonstrating Nolan’s ability to make ground-breaking and innovative cinema. (7.5/10)

Markus: Layered, complex, and filled with twists and turns, The Prestige shows Nolan at his most fiendishly clever. Tricking you at every moment it can, like a good magic trick, The Prestige is one that shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone. (10/10)

Angus: A film about two magicians trying to one up one another is full of twists and turns that will make sure that you are watching every second until the credits role. And then after that, you will be thinking about what has actually just happened and how they pulled it off. This is a film that will stay with you for days and changes the way you watch it the second time around. There are so many layers to this film that make it special, magical if you will. (9.25/10)

Ryan: There’s a cult of film fans who loudly herald The Prestige to be Nolan’s best film and, while I don’t agree, it isn’t tough to see why. This is a starkly original work from Nolan, one that benefits from countless rewatches to fully comprehend not only the story it tells but the way it tells it. The final twist is certainly of the “make it or break it” kind, but if you fit in the former category it’ll turn a good film into a great one. (9/10)

The Dark Knight (2008)

Markus: The Dark Knight isn’t just a showcase for one of the best performances of 2008 (Heath Ledger), but it’s also a layered and suspenseful crime-drama filled with plenty of awesome moments. It’s also beautifully shot and features an excellent score from Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. (10/10)

Tom: Surely Nolan’s magnum opus, The Dark Knight earns its place as one of the best superhero films ever. Amazing set pieces, a thrilling score, cool bat-action, a solid script and all round excitement. Oh yeah and there’s this guy called the Joker and he’s played by Heath somebody; apparently he’s awesome.  (9/10)

Angus: The finest superhero movie ever made is always closely linked to Heath Ledger’s stunning performance as The Joker. However, there is a lot more to the film as its filled with many great moments making ‘The Dark Knight’ a modern classic and the best within its genre. Aaron Eckhart’s performance as Harvey Dent/Two Face is also magnificent as his character development throughout the film is exceptional. The opening heist scene and interrogation scene between Christian Bale and Ledger are two particular highlights. (9.5/10)

Martin: In short, one of, if not THE, best superhero movies ever made, and what a sequel should do. Taking it in dark, mysterious and exhilarating new directions. A masterclass performance from Heath Ledger as the Clown Prince of Crime, among a plethora of wonderful performances and just some darn good action sequences! Now there’s a truly great Batman movie! (10/10)

Nathan: The Dark Knight is masterful in almost every sense of the word: as a superhero film, as a blockbuster, as an action-thriller, as a character study, The Dark Knight is perfect. Combining Nolan’s magnificent direction, a wonderful script and incredible ensemble performances (particularly from the late Heath Ledger), The Dark Knight is everything we love to see in cinema. (9.5/10)

QuckFire Reviews: It’s difficult to say the perfect film exists – but if it did it would look like this. From the visceral action sequences, razor edge tone and score, stunning cinematography and a script that elevates the material to what was previously viewed as unreachable heights, The Dark Knight also features my favourite and one of the all-time greatest acting performances in Heath Ledger’s menacing, complex and often funny turn as the Joker. A truly unforgettable viewing experience, destined to forever be a classic. (10/10)

Ryan: How many sequels not only improve on their predecessor, but actually grow to become recognised as a classic? The Dark Knight is a masterpiece of superhero cinema, and when people throw it around it conversations of the greatest films of all time, its inclusion in such discussion doesn’t feel unearned. Led by an unforgettable performance from Heath Ledger and a narrative as momentous as it is explosive, The Dark Knight will sit at the top of the superhero throne for a very long time – one might even argue forever. (10/10)

Maddy:  Nine years on & nothing has changed in how brilliant this film is. Without a doubt the greatest superhero movie, & one of the best performances of all time from Heath Ledger as the Joker. It’s unlike anything else – seamlessly continuing the trilogy whilst building on it, making it broodier & more gripping. Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over the role of Rachel from Begins’ Katie Holmes transforms the character into something far greater than a damsel in distress. And Heath Ledger – where do you even start? He to date is the best Joker, exactly as the character was intended to be. He is truly unpredictable in the most unsettling & jaw dropping way, & in an exceptional way seduces every viewer with his ever changing anecdotes & sick jokes. Another realm of film-making. (10/10)

Inception (2010)

Nathan: Inception may be too complex for its own good at times, but its mind-bending premise, terrific ensemble cast and brilliant visuals are all helmed by Nolan with aplomb and sophistication. It may be the smartest, most innovative film of the decade and one that deserves to be remembered for years/decades to come. (9/10)

Tom: A unique, mind-bending concept, spectacular visuals and a flawless ensemble cast. Surely one of Nolan’s most ambitious films – you ain’t never seen anything like this before! (9/10)

Martin: Dreams, within dreams, within dreams. Crikey what a mind-boggling premise, and one that in the wrong hands could have been an enormous bloated mess, but yet again Nolan makes it all work, with a first class screenplay, utterly bonkers but quite brilliant visuals, another top notch ensemble cast, and absolutely mind-bending action sequences. (9.5/10)

Markus: Taking an idea as complex as Inception’s could turn out really convoluted and bad, but Nolan manages to make it all work. The cast is fantastic, and the score by Hans Zimmer might be the best he’s ever done. Complex, exciting, and epic, Inception is my personal favorite of Nolan’s movies. (10/10)

Angus: I believe this to be Nolan’s best film as it succeeds on so many levels. Thoroughly entertaining whilst being a film that really makes you think makes this truly remarkable. The story is solid and is helped by breathtaking visuals and a phenomenal cast which is the best ensemble that Nolan has worked with. ‘Inception’ is innovative and clever whilst maintaining an exhilarating feeling throughout the whole of the runtime. Again, this is a film that gets better with repeat viewings as you start to pick up little details you may have missed at first glance. Nolan’s finest work to date. (9.75/10)

QuickFire Reviews: With a memorable score, an impeccable cast, stunning visuals and a director that compliments the larger than life concepts, Inception is sleek, engaging and mind-bending all at once, without ever being over convoluted. Though I have never been the greatest fan of this movie, I laud it for being what it is – a thoroughly intelligent blockbuster. (8/10)

Ryan: I won’t beat around the bush here – Inception is my favourite film. It’s the one that drew me into the world of the film, the one that opened my eyes as to the limitlessness of cinema. The film’s action sequences are exhilarating and the narrative structure is sensational, but it’s Inception’s emotional core that mesmerises me with every rewatch. Benefitted further by Hans Zimmer’s masterpiece of a soundtrack, I doubt I will ever love another film in the ways that I love Inception. (10/10)

Maddy: This seemed like Nolan’s real breakout into high budget films he set out to make. Inception is so difficult to explain, but so brilliantly told that you don’t realise that it is confusing (if that makes sense at all). Leonardo DiCaprio is phenomenal in the lead, with more excellent performances from Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy & more. (8/10)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Maddy: I know that The Dark Knight is the best film in this trilogy, & the best comic book movie of all time. But I think Dark Knight Rises is my favourite; it’s the only one I saw in theatres after my Uncle introduced me to the films one weekend in the summer. I am utterly in love with Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, & Joseph Gordon Levitt being revealed as a sneaky Robin was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Following in the footsteps of an iconic performance as an iconic villain was hard for this film, but Tom Hardy as Bane is a fantastic villain & Marion Cotillard is genius. And then just go round it off, we have Gary Oldman & Michael Caine being absolute sweethearts & making you want to weep from it all. (8/10)

Tom: Concluding the Dark Knight trilogy, Tom Hardy makes for a . . . unique . . . Bane but the overall story is often muddled and unfathomable. Regrettably a bit disappointing. Then again, The Dark Knight was nigh-on impossible to top. (7/10)

Martin: With two excellent films in his trilogy completed, wrapping up the trilogy in the wake of The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger’s death was always going to be tough. The story is far from perfect, but a plethora of intriguing new addition, the highlight being Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, mixed in with familar faces, and some absolutely batshit (pun not intended!) action scenes, with Tom Hardy truly menacing as Bane, ensure it was a fitting end to Nolan’s Dark Knight Legend. (8.5/10)

Nathan: The Dark Knight Rises may not match the success of its predecessor but it marks a vast improvement on the first in the series, presenting a satisfying and enjoyable conclusion to one of the most acclaimed trilogies of our cinematic time. (8/10)

Markus: Filled with spectacle and a good sense of finality, The Dark Knight Rises is a solid end to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. There are moments of “Eh” at a few points throughout, but overall this is a great movie. (9/10)

Angus: The Dark Knight trilogy ended with its weakest film as ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ did feel a level below Nolan’s usual standard of work. This is a fun film for sure as it is packed with some great action and moments. Tom Hardy is great as Bane, posing a true physical threat to Batman whilst being incredibly clever. However, I feel the film dips in quality after the first encounter between Batman and Bane. At this point there are many questionable and convenient moments that have many problems. However, I can’t deny that this is still a fun blockbuster to watch. (7.75/10)

QuickFire Reviews:  Ambitious, haunting yet also immensely crowd-pleasing, Rises is not quite as refined as its predecessors, but is an overly satisfying conclusion, to Nolan’s revolutionary trilogy. (8.5/10)

Ryan: Is The Dark Knight Rises a perfect film? No. In fact, it isn’t even a perfect conclusion to the trilogy. But it’s big, and big is good enough when surrounded by as many strong components as this film has. Some sloppy fight scenes and questionable plot holes aside, The Dark Knight Rises is a climactic and emotional trilogy closer, a film that coasts on its ambition and ends up as more than the sum of its parts. (9.5/10)

Interstellar (2014)

 Tom: Undeniably ambitious and impressive with its visuals and score but hindered by a cumbersome sentimentality that holds it back while it’s trying to be a big sci-fi epic. As Danny Leigh said: “like trying to land a 747 in someone’s back garden.” (7/10)

Angus: This sci-fi film really brings emotion mainly due to McConaughey’s performance and his character Coop’s relationship with his daughter Murph. This is a truly beautiful film with great sets and special effects showing how well Nolan can work with the latest technology. ‘Interstellar’ showcases Nolan’s creativity as he looks for new ways to get his ideas onto the big screen. The ending didn’t work entirely for me and I do feel that the effects overshadowed the story in this film making it weaker than most of Nolan’s previous endeavours. A film that I would definitely recommend all to watch at least once as its provides a great experience. (8.25/10)

Martin: A very ambitious film to say the least, but if anyone could pull it off, Nolan could and he did. A deeply powerful, human story at its core mixed in with the usual top calibre of performances, some truly stunning visual effects, and a spine-tingling score from Mr Hans Zimmer. (9/10)

Maddy: I was late to the Interstellar game, but oh boy was it worth the wait. I started crying about twenty minutes in & didn’t stop until long after the credits rolled – & at it’s two hour forty nine minute run time that really means something. Every single actor gives it their all, making this futuristic & unrelatable scenario absolutely emotionally touching from the get go. Matthew McConahay, Jessica Chastain & Anne Hathaway are simply phenomenal, the score is beautiful & the entire story is uniquely effecting. I can’t fault it. (10/10)

Nathan: Interstellar is a smart and engaging slice of science-fiction that unfortunately crumbles in its third act; complex ideas progress into conceited ones, twists develop unsatisfyingly, with a few uneven performances in the mix – but with Nolan at the helm, it is still worth a watch. (7.5/10)

Markus: With an almost three long hour run-time and a focus on philosophical themes, Interstellar is a movie that will test some viewers’ patience. Patient moviegoers on the other hand will be rewarded with an intriguing, if mildly up it’s own ass idea, great performances, great music, and fantastic visuals. Also, Matthew McConaughspace. (9.5/10)

QuickFire Reviews: Interstellar is wonderfully filmed, both incorporating aspects of old Hollywood genre film-making, with Nolan’s stamp of uniqueness. It loses a lot of is steam and begins to pander to the extent that I fail to call this a great movie, but it is still as well-crafted as it is ripe with gorgeous visuals and emotion. (8.5/10)

Ryan: Much like his previous film, Nolan took on a lot with Interstellar. The film’s final act will always be divisive, but I hold no restrains in admitting my love for it. The film is visually stunning, but its conclusion takes an already bold film and twists it into something staggeringly ambitious – and, in my eyes, it nails it. Interstellar is one of those films that I love – and always will love – unequivocally, but for those that really don’t get on board with it? I hear ya. Interstellar is a funny one, but it works for me. (9.5/10)

Dunkirk (2017)

Our thoughts on Dunkirk will be added to this post in the coming days, watch this space!

Now that we’ve all had our minds blown by the remarkable filmography of Christopher Nolan, how do we collectively rank his films when we average out all of our scores? Here are the results:

9. Following: 7.5

8. Insomnia: 7.9

7. The Dark Knight Rises: 8.3

6. Batman Begins: 8.5

5. Interstellar: 8.7

4. Memento: 8.75

3. The Prestige 8.8

2. Inception 9.2

 1. The Dark Knight: 9.75

And there we have it, it seems we as a team share the perspective of many a film fanatic out there, with the Dark Knight ranking as our favourite Nolan film combined. For many people, there is a belief that Nolan has not made a bad movie, and if our scores are any indication, we would also probably agree with that sentiment! How would you rank Nolan’s films? Comment below and let us know!

 Massive thanks to my awesome contributors!

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Toy Story 3 (2010)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios

Toy Story 3 – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Blake Clark, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Ned Beatty, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, John Morris

Director: Lee Unkrich

Synopsis: With Andy now grown up and heading off to college, having not been played with for several years, the toys face a tricky decision, whether to remain in the attic or move on to pastures new, or more specifically: Daycare.

Review: When you have made two films, the first of which redefined the genre of animated movies, and then you followed that up with another supremely well made and heartfelt sequel that built so successfully on the world that its predecessor established, that is quite the feat. Therefore, when you decide to complete the trilogy, let’s just say that you have an almighty task ahead of you to try and top what came before it. Leave it then to the animation powerhouses Pixar to complete their Toy-tastic trilogy in tremendous style!

Toy Story 2 had quite the superb intro scene, but here they somehow top it with an incredible action scene of sorts that immediately reminds the audience that there is no limit to the imagination when it comes to a child and the toys they have, whilst immediately hitting you in the feels with the “You Got a Friend in Me!” tune, arguably one of the finest songs ever written for a Pixar film. Though Pixar continues to make their films that work on both levels, it’s evident that this is a film that is geared towards those grew up with the first two movies, as they more than others will relate to the feeling of growing up and having that dilemma of what to do with the toys you once cherished more than anything else in your life. Yet as time progresses, that undying love, just slowly just fades away.

Blissfully unaware of what’s coming…

Indeed, this is the very situation Andy finds himself in, what with being off to college and all. Despite a last ditch effort to get attention, Woody and the gang realise that maybe now is the time to find a new life for themselves or risk never getting played with ever again. through a mixture of unfortunate events sees the gang end up at a children’s daycare. Their excitement at a new lease of life quickly turns to horror though as these kids have a VERY different take on the word playtime, and life with Andy is a distant memory now.

In Michael Arndt’s capable hands, the screenplay continues down the path that the first two films walked down. The characters continue to be well developed and compelling, including all of the gang you know and love with a couple of significant new additions. These being a Ken doll (voiced brilliantly by Michael Keaton) and Ned Beatty as Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (AKA Lotso) who is the leader if you will of the Daycare. Smell of strawberries he might, but he’s not as sweet as he comes across. The humour is also maintained throughout the film with a truly hilarious moment in which Buzz is once again convinced he’s a Space Ranger, except he’s gone a bit European! The dialogue is all vintage Pixar and it’s simply joyous to watch.

Though the first two movies had plenty of emotion in them, there’s a couple of scenes here that really pack the emotion in such quantities that if it does not generate an emotional reaction among the watching audience, in which they’re fighting back the tears, one would have to question whether they are indeed human. Pixar films are littered with such moments, but two in particular here, might just be the best of the best. With a superb ending that continues to pack that emotional weight and one that wraps up this trilogy in just about the best way possible. Trilogies tend to have the one film that trips them up, but when a trilogy comes along, with each film being about as close to perfect as it could, that is a rare feat, and kudos to Disney and Pixar for pulling it off.

It’s been quite the journey with Woody, Buzz and co, but as third films in trilogies go, this is one of those rare films that is as good, if not better than what preceded it. Another masterpiece from the brain boxes at Pixar.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tangled (2010)

tangled
Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Tangled – Film Review

Cast:  Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy

Directors: Byron Howard and Nathan Greno

Synopsis: Rapunzel is a princess with extraordinary long hair who has been abducted by an evil witch, and raised in a tower, forbidden to go outside. Until one day she defies this rule, and experiences the world for the very first time.

Review: Whenever you sit yourself down for an animated film from Disney Animation Studios, you usually know what you’re in for. Musical numbers, great animation, and some well developed characters that you just want to root for, as well as an antagonist to boo and hiss it, as if you were at a pantomime. For their 48th animated adventure, check, check, check and check! Disney is well known for its princess stories, but what sets this princess apart is her remarkably long hair, that has magical healing powers. The ensuing adventure is familiar-ish territory, princess meets handsome man and they go on an adventure. Is this a problem? No, not at all, because it’s the usual magical brilliance that you expect from Disney.

Originally set to be called Rapunzel, but wisely changed to be the more gender neutral Tangled. The film focuses, as you might expect on the character of Rapunzel, the rather long haired princess in question. Taken from her biological parents shortly after she’s born by an evil witch, who uses her magical hair to stay youthful and beautiful. She is kept locked in a tower by said evil witch who has Rapunzel believe she is her actual mother. Until the mysterious and narcissistic Flynn (Levi) comes along and the opportunity presents itself for Rapunzel to leave her confinement and the chance for her to see something she has been dying to see ever since she was a child. Despite Flynn’s preening of sorts, he’s a man who clearly loves himself, but before long you will find yourself rooting for him as he joins Rapunzel on their adventure, with the usual combination of musical moments and emotional moments with characters you are absolutely invested in, from Rapunzel to Maximus, a horse who is quite the badass, and has quite the appetite for apples.

The chemistry between Rapunzel and Flynn is very strong and well realised, with the voice work from Moore and Levi excellent in bringing these characters to life. With Rapunzel, she her many locks of magical hair and lots of character despite spending, well pretty much her entire adult life confined to her tower. Flynn is of course the handsome, mischievous crook, who she uses as an opportunity to break free of her confinement. Both characters go on an emotional journey and their character development is very strong and excellently realises. With Disney you almost expect great music and they provide this once again with some superb tunes. Also well developed in her evil ways is Mother Gothel who has a few moments where she takes centre stage, and Murphy brings her to life tremendously well.

No one really does Princess films quite like Walt Disney Animation Studios, and here they produced another super hit to add to their remarkable collection of stellar animated films. With each Prince4ss film they tackle, the studio always manages to hit all the familiar tropes, that they have become well know for. However, they all manage to be wholly original and unique in many ways. In this instance, magical hair, a badass horses, great music, likable characters and oh yeah, beating up intruders with frying pans. What more could you ask for in a Disney movie?

The Mouse House brings the magic again with  its fiftieth motion picture, with a great story, terrific music and characters you genuinely have a connection with.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

deathly-hallows
Image is property of Warner Bros and Heyday Films

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis

Director: David Yates

Synopsis: Harry, Ron and Hermione, now armed with the knowledge of the Horcruxes, set off on a mission to destroy these evil objects to defeat Lord Voldemort once and for all.

Review: This is what the previous six movies of the Potter franchise has all been building towards, the final battle between good vs evil, between Harry Potter and the Dark Lord, except not quite in this film. Although the Deathly Hallows marks the final instalment in Rowling’s series of novels, the film-makers made the decision to split this final chapter into two movies. Although one can certainly make the argument that this was a decision done purely to make more money for the studio, the decision to do so does have its merits, but it does have its problems too, namely that this film is a little bit slow.

The dark tone that has been an ever present since almost Azkaban certainly does not diminish here. With Dumbledore now dead, Harry is armed with knowledge of the Horcruxes, the means that Voldemort uses to ensure immortality, but he knows very little about what they are or where to find them. As such, writer Steve Kloves goes into a bit more detail with certain elements. These are certainly interesting to watch, particularly the opening battle between our heroes and the bad guys, and the scene exploring the origin of the titular Deathly Hallows. Yet ultimately it is all just build up to the big climatic battle that we know is coming in part 2. That being said, writer Kloves is given the opportunity to spend more time on certain things. The origin of the Deathly Hallows is very interesting to watch, and is told in a very interesting manner. Yet, there are some bizarre additions that really don’t make a great deal of sense, namely a random dance scene between Harry and Hermione, it just feels all out of place and does not make much sense.

While there is interest in their quest, there is a severe lack of action, but the action that is given to us is enjoyable to watch. The initial battle of the Seven Potters is very well executed and very suspenseful, with that great bit of humour added in there once more. Yates once again ensures that the directing is of a very high calibre, whilst the film visually remains excellent once more. The explanation of the origin of the Hallows is done in a very interesting and visual way.

The key trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione, the centre pieces of this franchise are front and centre once again. Yet here, the friendship is severely tested as the magical objects they are seeking begin to stir up emotions, very much of the wrong sort. The performances of all three have for the most part been on point, but Radcliffe and Watson do give the more well rounded performances. The veteran actors such as Fiennes, Bonham Carter, Rickman and John Hurt merely have small cameos, but in spite of little screen time, they continue to excel.

With an exciting conclusion that sets the stage for what is to come, ultimately, this is merely the calm before the storm that is to come in part 2. Could this have been one big three and a half hour film? Yes it definitely could. While this does have its slow and tedious parts, there is plenty for Potterheads to appreciate and enjoy, but these are quite often very small moments. Yet there are a few really head-scratching moments. However, after seven films, the franchise was poised to close in a very exciting and epic manner.

The moments of magic are limited, and the pacing is slow, but with a thrilling conclusion that delivers an emotional pay off. The stage is set for the exciting conclusion.

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Posted in 2000-2009, 2010-2019, Film Feature

Ranking all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films

Marvel 10 years

In this era of superhero movie dominance that are making the studios mega bucks, and the actors into huge stars, there is without a doubt one studio that is firmly leading the way, and that is Marvel Studios. Back in 2008, in the first post credits scene of Iron Man, the prospect of the Avengers Initiative was teased. 10 years later and from that one film has spawned an enormous universe filled with colourful characters aplenty.

With a now considerable 20 movies of their Extended Universe graced the big screen, there have been some truly spectacular flicks, and so it is time for me to rank all of these movies so far from worst to best (up to and including Ant-Man and the Wasp). Please bear in mind, that these are my picks, and so I very much doubt you will agree with all of my choices. You might completely agree with me, or maybe you will hate my list altogether, it is all good! Having different opinions is what makes movies and discussions about film so entertaining. So with that all said and done, it is time to Hulk smash into this list!!!!

22. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Speaking of The Hulk, it is where I begin my list. I’m pretty sure if you ask people do they remember this movie, the answer would probably be no. It has become the forgotten movie of the MCU especially since they recast Mark Ruffalo in the role for The Avengers, replacing Ed Norton as everyone’s favourite green rage monster. As a result, this movie has probably slipped from many people’s minds, and for good reason. Norton did a decent enough job as Bruce Banner, and the story was interesting enough, but never truly gripping enough to be memorable.

The action between The Hulk and his nemesis The Abomination just got a bit cartoonish at times and very CGI heavy, in a similar vein to the Star Wars prequels, and it was just a bit boring watching two forces matched in power fight one another and was nowhere near as enthralling as the other MCU movie that came out that year, but more on that later.

21. Iron Man 2 (2010)

This movie is a classic case of a studio just pumping out a sequel too quickly after the explosive success of the sequel. While this movie does have its moments such as the showdown in Monaco which was undeniably entertaining, and seeing Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in action for the very first time was awesome. The story did feel a bit rushed and uneven in terms of its pacing. There was potential for a really good story, but this was not fully realised.

Despite having two antagonists, neither really stood out (more on that throughout this post) and the movie struggled to recapture the brilliance of Tony Stark’s first outing as Iron Man. It is by no means a terrible film, but much could have been done to improve on it and definitely ranks as the weakest film in the Iron Man trilogy.

20. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

thor tdw

Full review

While the first Thor film was all about Thor learning what it means to be a leader and a warrior, all while being without his God-like power, in this film he had his hammer by his side at all times. While director Alan Taylor did bring some impressive visuals to this story, and there were some really solid and entertaining fight scenes. Furthermore, we got to explore the God of Thunder’s relationship (if you can call it that!) with his brother the mischievous Loki, brilliantly portrayed by Tom Hiddleston once again.

The real trouble here was, as is so often the case with MCU movies, the villain. Christopher Ecclestone is a fine actor but his portrayal of the Dark Elf Malakith left a lot to be desired, as he was another of the many disposable Marvel villains and he wasn’t memorable at all. His motivations for his actions were just not explained at all. Furthermore, Hiddleston’s performance as Loki completely overshadowed him.

19. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Full review

This film showing the origins of Steve Rogers as the iconic Captain America showed what the character was all about. A loyal and determined man who thanks to the super soldier serum is transformed into the awesome superhero, who is fiercely patriotic and just wants to serve his country. Chris Evans was an excellent choice to play him and he has done so right throughout his tenure as the character. The rest of the cast were also excellent with Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones all delivering excellent performances.

Equally great was Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, although his accent was a little dubious in places. This film was a bit light on the action scenes, but it was a perfect introduction to see Cap get his stars and stripes, and as we will see, the Captain America franchise only got better and better.

18. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Full review

After their first glorious outing, it was inevitable that everyone’s favourite band of flawed but lovable collection of criminals turned heroes made a return to the big screen. The first film was such an enormous risk but one that paid off massively. Hence, it made perfect sense to continue in the bonkers style of the first one, as the Guardians meet a man who claims to be the father of Star Lord. The Marvel brand of humour has become such a staple of this universe and this one very much continues in that trend, whilst also crucially allowing the relationships between these characters to grow and develop.

However, there is a lack of emphasis on plot in favour of telling jokes, which while entertaining at first, quickly loses steam and this film really grinds to a sharp halt in the second act, and the story suffers as a result. Though it does pick up again towards the end, not every joke lands this time around. Much like the first film, the villain is also something of a let down. Though the film has another excellent soundtrack, the first film set such a high bar in terms of quality that matching it was always going to be a tall order, and this never reaches the first film’s lofty heights. Baby Groot though is still really frickin adorable though.

17. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Full review

When we were first introduced to him, Scott Lang was a guy in a tough spot just trying to do what he could for his young daughter, which in turn led him to becoming the Ant-Man. After running off to join Cap in Civil War, it landed him in a bit of bother that consigned him to house arrest. This changes when former associates Hope and her father need him for information concerning Hope’s mother, the original Wasp. After the earth-shattering events of Infinity War, and to a lesser extent Black Panther, a light-hearted blast of entertainment was exactly what the MCU needed, and the tiniest (sometimes the largest) hero Marvel has to offer delivered exactly that.

A very similar film to its predecessor in terms of going deep into the science-y world of Hank Pym, but with a much more personal story this time around, particularly for Hope. As she finally gets her wings and becomes the Wasp after her mother. The chemistry, especially between Scott and Hope is strong which helps to drive the plot forward, but while it passes the time, it is not nearly as memorable or impactful as other MCU entries, most notably the first Ant-Man film. The film itself is very enjoyable, but give a take a few scenes, is quite forgettable. Furthermore, despite an intriguing backstory, the villain once again left a lot to be desired.

16. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Full review

When the first teaser for this movie arrived, it exploded all over the internet, with Ultron looking like he was going to be the badass awesome villain that the MCU had been craving for a very long time. When the final product arrived, while it was still really enjoyable to watch and to see the Avengers reunited. The introductions of Scarlet Witch and Vision were welcome ones to the plethora of characters we have seen so far, and the action was, as is often the case with Marvel, really well handled.

However, despite being all badass in the trailers, the Ultron we got was ultimately a little bit disappointing, he had his moments of brilliance but was far from being the quality villain we had hope he would be. For all of his efforts, Joss Whedon couldn’t manage to make a film to go one better than the original, which is what a sequel should do. It was quality to see the team reunited, but a few of the side plots could have been very easily taken out of the finished product, and it wouldn’t have made too much of a difference.

15. Doctor Strange

Full review

The MCU up to this point had dabbled into many fascinating subjects, but until this movie, they had not dabbled in the world of sorcery and magic. It certainly was an interesting direction for the MCU to go in and ensures that the franchise retained interest for the audience. Benedict Cumberbatch was excellent in the titular role and it provided some of the most remarkable visuals that we have seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to this point. One could make the argument that it did basically follow the formula that the first Iron Man did, and yes the similarities between Tony Stark and Stephen Strange are plain to see. However, as it was one that worked so well to introduce the MCU to the world, only makes sense to use it to introduce a new facet to the MCU.

Once again though, the villain is the real Achilles Heel of the film. Like with many Marvel villains, Mads Mikkelsen is an extremely talented actor. However it is the script does not give him the chance to become a villain on the level of quality like Loki, though he does have some decent moments, perhaps in no small part due to the rather intimidating eye make up that he and his minions acquire.

 

14. Thor (2011)

thor

Full review

A movie based on the Norse God Thor might have seemed something of a far-fetched concept when it was first pitched, but under the vision of Sir Kenneth Branagh, this movie really worked. Chris Hemsworth as the titular character was a tremendous casting choice, as was casting Tom Hiddleston as the God of Mischief Loki. The sibling rivalry between the two of them is what ultimately drives the movie forward It’s Shakespeare in Asgard, what more could you want? With the legendary Sir Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Rene Russo as Thor and Loki’s mother, and Natalie Portman as Thor’s human love interest. Shakespeare but with Asgardian Gods, and magic.

The cast was excellent and it was well acted but maybe a little bit rushed in terms of its plot, and again a largely throw away villain in Laufey, leader of the Frost Giants. Like with the sequel, Hiddleston’s brilliant work overshadowed the role of the Frost Giants, and that was something of a waste. In spite of this, the CGI was excellent and it was a very different movie to those that had come before it.

13. Iron Man 3 (2013)

iron man 3

The first film of Phase 2 of the MCU, and the third solo outing for RDJ as everyone’s favourite billionaire/playboy/philanthropist, who’s understandably struggling with what he experienced in the wake of the events of The Avengers, and the impact that has on those closest to him. With Shane Black on board as writer and director, this film gave the audience a much closer look at the genius of Tony Stark, and what the effects of fighting off a horde of extra-terrestrial invaders can do to a man.

Yet Tony’s problems extend to more than just PTSD as he battles The Mandarin played by Sir Ben Kingsley. Yet the directions they go in with his character in the film alienated a lot of fans, and the film received quite the subsequent backlash. Whilst it was admittedly a clever plot point, it just seemed such a bizarre decision to have made with an extremely popular character in the comics. Nevertheless, despite this villain conundrum, there were some pulsating action sequences, with the plane scene being a particular highlight.

12. Captain Marvel

Full review

It took a long time, but finally after 20 previous films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe its first female led superhero film. The MCU wasn’t exactly short of strong, inspiring female characters before Carol Danvers was introduced, but with her arrival, it introduced potentially the most powerful hero the MCU has ever seen up to this point. For her MCU debut, it’s a blast back to the 90s as she crash lands on Earth in the middle of a war raging between two alien races and a hero who’s just beginning to discover the full extent of her powers.

The film is a joyful blast from the past, with a full on 90s orientated soundtrack to boot. A much younger Nick Fury is at play, and it’s a very different side of his character that we haven’t really seen before. The chemistry between him and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel is extremely entertaining and undoubtedly one of the best aspects of the film. It’s therefore frustrating that while Larson was an absolutely perfect choice to play the titular hero, the accompanying story goes in an intriguing direction that, whilst admirable, doesn’t quite stick the landing as well as it could have done.

11. Spider-Man Homecoming

Full review

When Marvel and Sony announced that everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man would have his own MCU outing, it was music to the ears of Spidey fans everywhere. Following on from his glorious debut in Civil War, Tom Holland continued where he left off bringing us the best on screen Peter Parker we have ever had.  For Peter, all while trying to impress his mentor Tony Stark, must battle high school troubles and win the affections of the most popular girl in his school. Though it doesn’t break any new ground, it is still an absolute blast of fun as we watch Spidey going from dealing with petty crimes in his neighbourhood to something altogether much more troubling.

This trouble is in the form of Michael Keaton’s Birdman the 2nd, AKA The Vulture, who is definitely one of the better MCU villains that we have had.  His motivations are clear, and it does make you sympathise with his character, something a good villain should do. Furthermore, his relationship with Peter goes in very unexpected directions and it adds so much more to the story, which is crucial because while Homecoming is fun, it never really added anything to what we hadn’t seen before.

10. Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man (right) in battle, in the movie

The film that started this mad universe off, and aren’t we all glad it did! It’s by no means the best film in the MCU but if this film had not been the storming success it was, what has since come after it might not have been green-lit. This film revived RDJ’s career and transformed him into a huge star and he has since become one could argue the face of this whole universe. Jon Favreau put together a very gripping and emotional story telling of Iron Man’s origins and how he became the awesome superhero that he is. While Jeff Bridges gave one of the better performances as an MCU villain than many of the others. The final fight while deeply entertaining and very well made gave a taste of things to come as it was two people with essentially the same arsenal fighting one another, which again proved to be a bit frustrating.

9. Ant Man (2015)

ant man

Full review

When Edgar Wright, who had been attached to direct this film for a long time, left the project, it looked as though this project was doomed, almost destined to be a complete train wreck with very small odds (sorry!) of it being a successful hit. Fortunately that didn’t happen and the movie that emerged was one of the funniest MCU movies to have emerged so far, maybe even the funniest. Paul Rudd excelled as the titular character with Michael Douglas brilliant as Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly also on form as his daughter.

New director Peyton Reed did a tremendous job with the action sequences, both small and big, but yet again, the real trouble with this film was the villain, the Yellow-Jacket. Corey Stoll’s performance was one of the better ones, but he proved to be another one of those throw away villains which is again frustrating. In addition, it was another case of two characters with very similar power bases fighting, which while it made for some great viewing, was hard to ignore.

8. Black Panther (2018)

Full review

As with Spidey, Civil War marked the debut appearance of Prince T’Challa, who following the events of Civil War ascends to the throne of Wakanda. After stealing the show, we finally got to see the mystical world of Wakanda and all that it has to offer on the big screen, and though it perhaps took longer than it should have, it was worth the wait in the end. In the hands of Ryan Coogler, this incredible place was brought to life in such spectacular fashion. When a fictional place feels as though it could be somewhere on this planet, that is a very impressive achievement.

The accompanying story sees T’Challa balances his duties as King with the burden of being the Black Panther, and when the villainous Killmonger comes into the picture, he sees his rule challenged. The performances were excellent across the board, in what was a star studded cast. Michael B Jordan as Killmonger was another superb, well fleshed out villain. But the scene stealers were Wakanda’s women, namely T’Challa’s little sister Shuri, his ex Nakia and the leader of the Dora Milaje, Okoye. Filled as usual with excellent humour, this was a very important film for the MCU, and it met those expectations with the flying vibrant colours. Wakanda Forever!

7. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Full review

Prior to the release of this film, if you had asked your average comic book fan: “Name a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy,” chances are good that you would have received a perplexed look in response. When this movie was first announced, there were suggestions that a movie about these characters simply could not and would not work. How wrong they were, how very wrong they were. Director James Gunn brilliantly brought these characters to life with a funny, and exciting story that probably ranks as the funniest film the MCU has seen thus far.

Our quintet of villains turned heroes were all very interesting to watch and each and every one of them had the screen time needed to flesh out their characters and to make the audience care about them. Who’d have thought a talking tree that only says three words could get the viewers tearing up? What’s more, the action was extremely exciting and that soundtrack was just the icing on a very delicious cake!

6. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Full review

The events of Infinity War left audiences in utter shock as the Mad Titan Thanos snapped his fingers and half of the population disintegrated away into dust.  It probably left audiences wondering, where on earth do they go from here? In the build up to this film, we were promised that it would be the last hurrah for some of these heroes that we have gone on this extraordinary journey with. So, in all of its three hour glory, they provided us with the answers to the questions we all had, since that fateful click of those fingers.

The hype was enormous, and the final film certainly justified that hype, delivering an extremely satisfying, and sometimes heartbreaking conclusion for these characters. It was everything a fan of the MCU could have possible wanted, with an enthralling final throwdown that was just the definition of epic. From Iron Man all the way back in 2008, to Avengers: Endgame in 2019, an extraordinary twenty two film journey over the course of over a decade, Marvel accomplished something that no studio has ever really done before, and it will go down in cinematic history. They took audiences on an incredible journey, and with Endgame,  this particular chapter of the MCU was brought to an extremely satisfying conclusion.

5. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Full review

Usually the third film in a trilogy is the weakest of the bunch, this can definitely not be said for the Thor trilogy. While the first was all Norse Gods meets Shakespeare, and the second sort of continued on that path, everything changed for the third installment. With Taika Waititi on board as director, this was essentially a buddy cop comedy film set in space. Weird combination? Maybe, but under Waititi’s direction, it all meshed together quite brilliantly in what might just be the funniest film Marvel has ever made.

And it’s clear that everyone is just having an absolute bundle of fun on screen. The film brought some very intriguing new characters into the mix such as Valkyrie, and the most fleshed out villain of the Thor franchise by far in Cate Blanchett’s Hela. And yes, perhaps the best side character the MCU has given us thus far, Korg, voiced by Waititi himself. Hilarity ensues every time this bundle of rocks opens his mouth, delivering some extremely memorable jokes, and the perfect use of Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song.

4. The Avengers (2012)

avengers

Full review

Back when Iron Man in 2008 came out, a post credit scene hinted at something called the “Avengers Initiative,” fans went crazy thinking something like this could actually be possible. After four years since Iron Man was released, the fans dream came true courtesy of super-nerd Joss Whedon, and it was glorious to watch. As you might expect when the team meet up initially, it is fair to say that they don’t exactly get along. In fact, they bicker and squabble about a lot of things until they’re needed to come together to help save the world from the threat of a familiar face, Loki and his extraterrestrial army.

In Loki, the MCU produced its best villain (until some Mad Titan came along). Like all good villains, you understand why he is doing what he’s doing, even though you really don’t want him to succeed. Whedon managed to also make the movie really funny in places, and Whedon deserves enormous praise for making this film the storming success it was, and it set the benchmark for other studios to try and create their own cinematic universes.

3. Avengers: Infinity War

Full review

After ten years since Iron Man arrived in cinemas, with each film that came along, we knew that this vast universe was building towards something, and that something was the arrival of the Mad Titan Thanos and his bid to seize control of the Infinity Stones. Though his appearances leading up to this film were fleeting, we knew that it was a matter of time before he made his big entrance. And he made that entrance alright in the third MCU film to be helmed by Joe and Anthony Russo. And of course it’s up to the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him.

With so many characters in this film, balancing them all and making them all relevant players seemed an impossible task, but the Russos did exactly that. The humour that we come to expect from a MCU film is here, but at the same time, it set the stakes to an unprecedented level that we had never seen before in this world. And for all of its problems with villains, Thanos broke that curse and then some, delivering THAT jaw dropping ending that stunned audiences and shook the MCU to its core.

2. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Full review

The thirteenth film to have exploded onto the big screen, and it was at the time of release, the biggest movie that Marvel has made. But was it unlucky? Not a chance. Many dubbed this film Avengers 2.5, but at its heart, it is most definitely a Captain America film. Throughout the movies so far, it has all been building to this titanic clash between Captain America and Tony Stark. The Russo brothers along with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely delivered a really emotional story that was just gripping to watch from start to finish. You might have decided what team you were on before the film’s release, but the film does a tremendous job of making you see and understand where both sides are coming from.

What’s more the terrific introductions of new characters such as Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, only added to the collection of great MCU characters that we have assembled so far, along with all the characters we are familiar with from the previous movies. The Achilles Heel of these films has often been that the hero and the villain are too similar, well that is thrown out of the window here! The handling of the action scenes was once again tremendously well done by the Russo brothers, with that airport battle scene being quite possibly the best action set piece that we have seen in the MCU so far.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

 

Full review

The cream of the MCU crop remains 2014’s The Winter Soldier, and that’s a hat-trick for the Russo brothers. This movie took the character of Captain America that was established in the first movie, and made him a very unique and interesting character without a doubt. On top of that, this film provided an enthralling storyline that really went past the standard Marvel formula, and it became this gripping spy/espionage thriller, as we watch that SHIELD is not what we thought it was at all, as the sinister Nazi organisation HYDRA has been lurking in its shadow for decades.

Besides Loki, the Winter Soldier proved to be a very capable villain who certainly left his mark on the MCU, as did the film’s other antagonist Alexander Pierce played by Robert Redford. The decision to put the Winter Soldier in was perfect because as a character, he’s a very significant one to Steve Rogers. What’s more he did not become one of the many throw away villains that we have seen in a few of these movies. Throw in Black Widow kicking ass once again and the introduction of Anthony Mackie as Falcon, and you have for me, what is the best MCU movie to this day.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

True Grit (2010)

True-Grit
Image rights belong to Skydance Productions, Mike Zoss Productions, Scott Rudin Productions and Paramount Pictures

True Grit – Film Review

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Synopsis: A young woman (Steinfeld) seeks revenge for the murder of her father and enlists the help of a US Marshal (Bridges) to help track down her father’s killer.

Review: Remakes and retelling of stories we have seen before tend to have something of a curse upon them. Audiences may tend to moan and whine and say that the new effort to tell a story that has already been told is not worth telling. Well Messrs Joel and Ethan Coen might just have something to say about that, as their retelling of the novel of the same name by Charles Portis, which was first adapted for the big screen in 1969, is well, a remarkable triumph.

The story focuses on young Mattie Ross, a girl of 14 years of age, who after her father is murdered by an outlaw, seeks vengeance on her father’s killer. To do this however, she must enlist the help of the law in the shape of US Marshal Rooster Cogburn and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, and so begins a manhunt. The Coens certainly showed that they understood the Western genre with the thrilling No Country for Old Men, albeit that was a Western set in modern times. Here however, it’s a traditional western tale fused with good ol’ fashioned revenge, and the Coen brothers absolutely nail it once again with a terrific story and a wonderful screenplay, that is aided in no small part by the phenomenal performances of its actors, and the quality of the source material.

In the lead role of Rooster Cogburn, a role that won John Wayne an Academy Award, Jeff Bridges is excellent as he re teams with the directors that brought to life one of the most iconic film characters of all time, that’s the Dude man! His accent is very thick and a little bit hard to understand in places, and while he may have been a bit hostile towards her in the early stages, his relationship with Ross is ultimately what drives the story forward and their chemistry is excellent. Speaking of which, Steinfeld as Ross is also fantastic, in what was an incredible breakthrough performance after she beat well over 15,000 people for the role. Matt Damon also puts in a superb performance as the Texas Ranger but it is the work of Bridges and especially Steinfeld that steal the show, as the two of them ensured Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively came their way, and well deserved ones too.

As usual with the Coens, the film making here is of a very high quality,  the cinematography by frequent Coen collaborator Roger Deakins is as usual glorious. Night time scenes feel realistic and one can almost feel the cold of winter as the Marshal and his employer set off and encounter some of that pesky snow. Deakins certainly knows how to set up a good shot and there are plenty of these packed throughout the movie, with the Coens once again showing they certainly know how to direct remarkable action sequences that are sure to leave the viewer on the edge of their seat.

The Coens certainly know how to leave their unmistakeable stamp on a project, as they did so in emphatic fashion with No Country for Old Men, and here they do so again. As well as the acting nominations, the film secured eight other nominations, and while it failed to secure any, make no mistake, this adaptation, likes its characters certainly is full of true grit, and of a very high calibre to rank itself as one of the finest films the Coens have ever put to the big screen.

Anchored by two tremendous performances from Bridges and Steinfeld, with a great story stamped with that distinctive Coen brothers seal, top drawer film making. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Scott Pilgrim VS The World (2010)

scott pilgrim vs the world
All image rights belong to Big Talk Films and Universal Pictures

Scott Pilgrim VS The World – Film Review

Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman,

Director: Edgar Wright

Synopsis: Scott Pilgrim is a 22 year old who is on a road to nowhere until he meets a girl he rather likes. Only problem is that in order to win his affection he has to battle all of her exes.

Review: Movies based off video games do not have a good record of being any good, and for the most part, they do struggle to achieve greatness. and some are just flat out terrible. However every so often, one movie comes along that uses elements from video games in order to tell the story. 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow for instance, with the constant re-spawning. Edgar Wright’s 2010 offering, with the screenplay penned by Wright and Michael Bacall, adapting from the series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, also uses video game elements. It does this whilst also telling a love story, and uses them to brilliant, if slightly bonkers results, and one that will make anyone watching, their inner nerd extremely happy.

The focus of the story is Scott (Cera), a guy who no doubt many men who watch this movie will relate to. He looks for the direction in life, whilst striving to achieve greatness for his band, whilst also trying to win the affections of that special girl. Lo and behold he stumbles across the the girl of his dreams, in this instance it’s Ramona Flowers (Winstead.) Yet unbeknown to Scott, this lady has seven evil exes that Scott must do battle with, Tekken and Soul Calibur style, in order to win over her affection. Wright manages to fuse video game like tropes and live action very well, and the battles with the exes are somewhat ridiculous, but they are extremely entertaining to watch. There are some quirky and unique methods that Wright inserts throughout the film in order to tell the story, and sometimes to convey the awkwardness in some situations. The whole fight scenes are just like if video games, anime and movies all merged into one glorious package.

Romance in movies like these can sometimes feel forced and shoehorned into the story, but in this instance, not so. There is strong chemistry between Scott and Ramona, and you want to see them make it work, there is just the small matter of those crazy exes that Scott has to deal with, including battles with a former Superman in Brandon Routh and a pre-Captain America Chris Evans! No one ever said the hero had it easy! Michael Cera gives a great performance as Scott, he’s dorky, and a bit useless, but you just can’t help wanting to root for him. As Ramona, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, also brings her A game as Ramona, she’s not that weirdo ex, but a friend and someone Scott can turn to as he battles through the crazy exes. The rest of the cast including the likes of Anna Kendrick and Jason Schwartzman all play their roles brilliantly.

If you were to try and compare this film to another movie, you’d be hard pressed to find one similar. It’s a very unique film in this regard, and one that if it had been placed in the wrong hands, could have failed badly. Fortunately as it was in Wright’s very capable hands, it passed with flying colours. The quirky humour that Wright is brilliant, is packed throughout the film and it works perfectly. The opening of the movie is a little sluggish and slow to get going, but once the console of the film is fired up, the entertainment and the laughs will carry on all the way to the credits. This is a perfect example of a video game movie done right, even though it is not based on a video game. Nevertheless, for video game lovers out there, this is your movie.

Original, unique and very entertaining, with some top performances and some ridiculously funny fight scenes and video game references aplenty, to make the nerd in all of us extremely happy! 

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