Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Wreck-it Ralph (2012)

Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Wreck-it Ralph – Film Review

Cast: John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Mindy Kaling, Alan Tudyk

Director: Rich Moore

Synopsis: Video game Bad guy Ralph yearns for something more out of life than just being the bad guy, and when the opportunity to win a medal and become the good guy presents itself, he seizes his chance of glory…

Review: Everyone loves a good video game as the perfect activity to pass the time on a miserable day when it’s pouring with rain outside. There have been a great deal of very memorable video game characters down the years, yet when a video game is adapted for the big screen, the end result is usually nothing to get all that excited about, and in some cases, they have been HORRIFICALLY bad. Well, those folks at Disney certainly had a trick up their sleeve, as they often do, to bring the perfect combination of the mediums of film and video game to the big screen, in a deeply entertaining and very enjoyable manner.

The difference here is that this is not based off a single video game, as this film takes place inside an entire video game arcade. In the same way that when in Toy Story, the toys come to life when their owners leave the room. When the arcade closes for the day, the video game characters have their own lives and the way the lives of the characters once their gaming duties for the day are done,  is really innovative.

For Ralph, resident bad guy of the fictional game Fix-it Felix, well he’s not too happy with his current predicament. Having grown tired of the bad guy lifestyle and the unsatisfying outcome that this lifestyle brings to him, there’s no reward to his bad guy endeavours. Meanwhile he watches on with envy as the hero of his game, Felix receives the adulation that Ralph craves desperately, as such Ralph tries to change his fortunes, and though he’s the bad guy, you really feel for him and will him to turn things around for himself.

So many Easter Eggs…

The games in the arcade are all connected in a similar to this giant central hub, that very much resembles those concourses that you see in train stations.  players can interact with the other games in the winding down period after a busy day of gaming. One rule though, no one must ever leave their game, otherwise the consequences could be severe, but this is precisely what Ralph does in pursuit of his dream. Video game fans can rejoice as there are many rather good Easter Eggs cameos from some of the most recognisable faces in video game history, including a few at the Bad Guys Anonymous meeting. The story takes a few twists and turns before eventually arriving at a racing game which is like a cross between Mario Kart and a land of delightful sugary confectionery, appropriately name Sugar Rush, which sets the stage for some hyperactive drama!

It is here that we meet Vanellope, a character like Ralph who is experiencing some hardships in her life and is desperately striving to change things for the better, and the two share a connection in this respect, and watching these two, through their differing struggles and striving for acceptance, is heart-warming to watch, even if it is straying into familiar Disney territory with themes you will have undoubtedly seen many times before. It’s trademark Disney, but that does not prevent it from being exciting, colourful and really amusing entertainment that takes audiences on a pleasant and satisfying journey, and ensures that there will not be groans of frustration as a “Game Over” flashes on the screen.

 A very unique concept that’s tremendously well realised and extremely entertaining, with plenty of the humour and heart that you’ve come to expect from Disney.

Advertisements
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!

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

Looper (2012)

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

Looper – Film Review

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

Director: Rian Johnson

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

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

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

Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Bruce Willis

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

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

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

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

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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

Silver Linings Playbook – Film Review

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

Director: David O Russell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Skyfall (2012)

skyfall
Image is property of Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures

Skyfall – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomi Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Bérénice Marlohe

Director: Sam Mendes

Synopsis: When MI6 comes under attack from an unknown threat, Bond finds his loyalty to the organisation and M, put under extreme pressure. Shaken from a near death experience, Bond must put aside questions and hunt down the ominous threat looming over MI6.

Review: Dr No, the first time a suave and charismatic agent known as James Bond came onto screens and audiences got their first look at what has since become an iconic character and franchise. In those fifty years, 23 films arrived, and on the fiftieth anniversary of the franchise, the 23rd film in this remarkable franchise blasted its way onto our screens and in doing so with Daniel Craig’s third outing as 007 cemented itself as one of the best the series has ever seen in its long and illustrious history, and for Craig to once again reinforce himself as one of the finest actors to ever don the 007 tuxedo and hold that license to kill.

In this latest adventure, Mr 007 has been through some trouble and in a brilliant opening chase sequence, is after an important piece of hardware that has some top secret information on it (as par the norm with Bond!) Yet when things go awry and it is only due to desperate need that he returns to espionage duty when a large threat is hanging over the British Secret Service. Yet he is not in the best of shape and must get back into the game. As per the course, we have our usual Bond elements, beautiful women, gadgets, and the so on. However what Skyfall does so brilliantly is make Bond a human being and a man with layers to him. He is not a superhero, he is mortal and at his heart he’s a very wounded man. You really feel Bond’s mortality in this story, he could very easily die and credit for that must go to screenwriters Robert Wade, Neal Purvis and John Logan.

As well as making Bond a very wounded and human character, the screen-writing team also deliver an astounding script with a very good story that keeps you engaged. With each passing film Craig cements himself as the perfect actor to play Bond. In addition, Dame Judi Dench as M probably gives the best performance she ever has in the role. She has dark secrets that she has been keeping from Bond and it really tests the relationship she has with him. With our heroes in place, a good villain is paramount and an essential ingredient of any Bond movie. Enter Oscar winner Javier Bardem as the ruthless, cold, Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent who threatens to unleash chaos on the world. A brilliant and masterful portrayal from the man who chilled everybody to the bone in No Country For Old Men. Here he delivers another wounded performance that is certainly up there with the very best villains that this franchise has ever seen.  Another stellar addition to the cast is the addition of a youthful Q, played by the brilliant Ben Whishaw, who provides some sharp and witty banter with Bond when presenting him with his innovative new gadgets. The cast all play their roles exceptionally well.

With the addition of Roger Deakins as cinematography, the film is visually beautiful with some remarkable shots of astounding beauty and brilliance. In addition to this Sam Mendes did a masterful job behind the camera with some breathtaking direction.  With Thomas Newman’s top notch score to boot, all of the elements mesh perfectly to create a brilliant, exhilarating and enthralling adventure that  ticks all the boxes a Bond film should have but adds darker elements in there with the traditional, to brilliant results. What’s more, the film has an Oscar winning theme song to boot! Vodka Martini shaken and stirred to perfection Mr Bond!

Visually magnificent, with some expert directing, some great acting, particularly from Craig, Dench and Bardem, Bond celebrated his 50th birthday with an almighty bang! 

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Avengers (2012)

 

avengers
Image rights belong to Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The Avengers – Film Review 

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Gwyneth Paltrow

Director:  Joss Whedon

Synopsis: When Earth faces a grave threat from the banished Loki and an alien army, the planet’s last hope: the Avengers must assemble together and save mankind

Review: Cast your minds back to 2008, and the post credits scene in the very first Iron Man film where we had our first look at Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and he spoke about this mysterious “Avengers Initiative.” For a long time, a movie like this may have been a pipe dream, but with many successful films leading up to it arcing and crossing over, in what we now know as Marvel’s Phase One. Most of the characters got their own solo outing, their own chance to shine and it was definitely leading to something. It all culminated in an inevitable ensemble movie and much was riding on this. Marvel threw all of their eggs into one basket with this film, and if it had bombed, the subsequent phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have been left in pieces. Luckily for us all, that was not the case as Marvel triumphed with flying colours, delivering one of the coolest, funniest and best comic book movies, that arguably is the best film of the MCU and also retains its status as one of the best comic book movies of all time

With so many larger than life superheroes mashing together in one movie, it would be a difficult job for any director to contain all these egos and give each lead character their own moment and opportunity to shine, enter Joss Whedon comes in. The man who can take many characters and make them all relevant pieces in the puzzle that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and through excellent writing and remarkable performances from all the ensemble cast, every member of the team shines. With each scene, each character takes their turn, be it a scene with Black Widow or a scene in which Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers are clashing (cue massive Civil War excitement.) Each character gets their moment to shine individually and when they come together as a team, except it’s not sunshine and sweeties when they immediately meet. There’s bickering, squabbling and in fighting Of course, bringing all these larger than life characters in one room, odds are that they will not get along immediately. In fact they will bicker and squabble till the cows come home, or until a significant event draws them all together and they have to team up to save humanity.

Given the intense action that appeared in many Marvel films leading up to it, you would expect lots of action in this ensemble showdown. While there are snippets here and there, the final showdown in all its glory takes its time to come around, yet it is not irksome as you appreciate the team build up their trust (or disdain in the case of some) for each other. Every member of the team delivers top notch performances, with each well established in their previous films, bar of course the recasting of Bruce Banner. Mark Ruffalo took over green rage monster duties from Edward Norton and Ruffalo delivers a brilliant performance that cements him as the best Bruce Banner we have ever seen on the big screen. Downey Jr of course brings his effortless charisma and personality to the role of Tony Stark. Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans both carry on their excellent displays. While coming to the fore this time around is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow who delivered her best MCU performance up until that point (until 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier came along.) With all the team shining, they are of course matched by the villainous and equally terrific Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Newcomers Jeremy Renner and Cobie Smulders are also given platforms to shine, but they do not deliver as strong performances as their SHIELD co workers

The final showdown in New York City provides some of the sweetest action scenes we have seen in the MCU to this day. It’s glorious to watch the team tackle Loki and his army of the Chitauri, who are unfortunately rather forgettable and almost weedy, as the challenge they pose to the Avengers is somewhat weak. There is a lot of destruction mind you, but not quite on the same level as a Bayhem sort of destruction like we have seen in the Transformers franchise. Throughout the battle there are some glorious comedy moments that will provide the audience with some chortling moments in between some great action scenes.  It all built up to this and it did not disappoint. Paving the way for more brilliant movies of phase 2 of the MCU that will lead to sequel that has every potential to be another explosive thrill ride. The bar has been raised very high and with Whedon again in the director’s chair for the upcoming sequel, the bar could very well be hulk smashed once again.

Humorous, entertaining, with a strong script, a terrific ensemble and some stellar direction from Whedon, this ensemble meeting raised the platform of the superhero genre, and it raised it to some very high standards. The sequel has some big shoes to fill. 

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Lincoln (2012)

Image is property of Walt Disney, Dreamworks, Reliance Entertainment and the Kennedy/Marshall Company

Lincoln – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Straithairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader

Director: Steven Spielberg

Synopsis: With the American Civil War raging on, President of the United States of America Abraham Lincoln attempts to bring peace to the country and also seeks to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery, despite opposition within his own party.

Review: A very real and powerful account of arguably the greatest president that the United States of America has ever had. This film brings us the final months of the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Within it he must fight his battle to end the Civil War and bring about the emancipation of the slavery. The war must have reached its conclusion before the amendment goes through and a failure to achieve these goals would have had dire consequences for the USA.

The collaboration of Spielberg along with Producers Kathy Kennedy and Tony Kushner gives us the battle and ultimate achievement of Abraham Lincoln, the successful passing of the emancipation of slavery. An initial plan developed by Kushner proposed the film focused on Lincoln’s political life as a whole. Yet Spielberg chose instead to focus in on the final two months of Lincoln’s presidency. The film brilliantly depicts the difficult path that lay before Lincoln in getting the amendment passed and how the brilliant Lincoln dealt with these obstacles. His great speeches and political charisma are on show in abundance, and his determination to pass through the legislation that made Lincoln one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States.

In spite of the fact that the main role was initially offered to Liam Neeson while the film was in early development, Daniel Day Lewis in the role was quite simply President Lincoln personified. His accent and look was absolutely excellent. When Lincoln spoke, the whole room stopped whatever what they were doing and they listened to a great man speak.  His stories and speeches were wonderful to listen to.  Equally impressive in his supporting role was Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stephens. An argumentative Republican Congressman and strongly believes in the equality of all and vehemently backs the passage of the amendment. Sally Field is also superb in the role of the First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.  All three were fully deserving of Oscar nominations and Day Lewis scooped the award for Best Actor, becoming the first man to win this award on three occasions. The rest of the supporting cast were all excellent in their roles.

While it is in no doubt that this film is very well done, there is a tremendous amount of talking throughout. While this dialogue is very interesting and offers great insight into a fascinating piece of history, it can at times feel a little tedious. For Americans, this film would be of great importance to them as it represents one of the most important chapters in their history. For non-Americans, it may not appeal to them as much. Nevertheless Spielberg has produced another personal and wonderfully directed film that was acted perfectly. It ensured Daniel Day Lewis made Academy Award History and reminded everyone of the reason why Abraham Lincoln is revered as one of, if not the greatest president that the United States has ever had.

Day-Lewis is on incredible form as Lincoln, and Spielberg is also on superb form as he delivers a very compelling account of a very important era in the history of the United States.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

All image rights belong to Warner Bros, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films and New Line Cinema
Image is property of Warner Bros, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films and New Line Cinema

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Film Review

Cast: Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Kenn Stott, Graham McTavish, Aidan Turner, James Nesbitt, Hugo Weaving , Sir Christopher Lee

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: The first instalment of the new trilogy of films from Peter Jackson. When a younger and more reluctant Bilbo Baggins is persuaded to accompany the great wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves on their journey to reclaim their homeland that has been taken over by a dragon…

Review: Hi ho! hi ho! It is back to Middle Earth we go! Except,  in this adventure we have thirteen dwarves, a brave Hobbit and an awesome wizard on a perilous journey to reclaim the Dwarves’ homeland from a dragon. While this film does not quite match the brilliance of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (LOTR), it is still an exciting and enjoyable adventure. Albeit  an adventure that does take its time to get going.

Through a flashback similar to the one we saw in the Lord of the Rings narrated by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) we instead get a flashback narrated by Old Bilbo (Ian Holm) who reveals how the evil Smaug (voiced and motion captured by Benedict Cumberbatch) took the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.  With this all said and done we remain in the Shire for a good 30 minutes or so as the Dwarves come to Bilbo’s house to sing songs and throw crockery around whilst doing so, much to poor Bilbo’s annoyance.  Even when the adventure does properly get going it is still slow in parts as more stories are told. However when the adventure does finally get going it is fantastic as we witness some thrilling action scenes reminiscent to some of the great moments we had in the LOTR trilogy.

As the titular character Martin Freeman was tremendous in the role of Bilbo. He was likeable and courageous and you find yourself wanting him to earn his place in the company of the Dwarves.  On the subject of the dwarves, while a lot of them fade into the background, there are a few that deserve special mentions. One of these is undoubtedly Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) As the leader of the Dwarf Company you wanted him to be strong, brave and a determined warrior to win back his homeland,and he was all these things. Ken Stott as the elderly Balin is another dwarf who is memorable for his comic relief moments and to be the wise old dwarf that the company need. And of course we have Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey once again. He was incredible in the LOTR trilogy and he is equally incredible in this film, save for the fact that he unfortunately does not take on a Balrog of Morgoth in this film.

While there is evidently a lot more CGI in this film compared to the Lord of the Rings some of which is a bit bothersome there is still plenty of CGI that does take your breath away.  On the subject of great CGI we must talk about Gollum my preciousssss! ( I hope you read that in  Gollum’s voice) Although he is not in the film long, he is just as brilliant as he was in the LOTR trilogy. The Riddles in the Dark scene with him and Bilbo simply is first class entertainment and a definite hight point of the film, along with the last act of the film which is also incredible. Howard Shore’s score is also first class. Shore scooped two Oscars for his great work in the Lord of the Rings and he’s again on fine form here as the score is of the highest quality.

All in all this film was thoroughly enjoyable and a great watch. While it does take its time to get going, when it does get going it is thrilling with some terrific scenes that remind you what you love about the world of J.R.R Tolkien and Peter Jackson to a certain extent.  While the decision to make it into a trilogy as opposed to two films, has been criticised by some people. While the CGI is in places bothersome in parts, it was still a welcome return to Middle Earth and I look forward to the next instalment of this adventure.

The pacing is a little slow, as the film takes it times to get going but to be back in Middle Earth is a joy to behold, and once it’s full steam ahead, there’s much to enjoy.

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

All image rights belong to Annapurna Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures and Icon productions
Image is property of Annapurna Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures and Icon productions

Zero Dark Thirty – Film Review

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle, Kyle Chandler

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Synopsis: An account of the mission to locate Bin Laden in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001.

Review: From start to finish, this film is very gripping. It starts with a brief flashback to 9/11 via use of the recording of the phone calls that took place on that terrible day. From there, it moves on to “the greatest manhunt in history.” The film leans largely on the intelligence and behind the scenes office work that went into finding the location of the world’s most wanted man at the time. Whilst the opening scenes use some graphic scenes of torture that have attracted a lot of controversy with some critics accusing the film of glorifying torture. In spite of all this, the film gives the viewer a solid depiction of all the events that occurred when the world was hunting for Bin Laden, and it does this very well.

A considerable focus of the film is on Jessica Chastain’s character Maya, a CIA operative who leads the CIA efforts as they sought to capture their number one target. Chastain excelled in her role, and her character development is fantastic to see as she starts the film as a very inexperienced CIA agent. As the film progresses, she becomes a very confident woman and she refuses to let anything get in the way of her goal of capturing and killing Bin Laden.  And as you watch her bury herself in her mission, you hunt for Bin Laden with her. You feel elated for her when she makes a breakthrough in her mission and you feel her pain when she suffers a setback. With so much focus on Chastain’s character and her objectives, the other characters that are in the film suffer from a lack of character development as they get very little screen time to make their mark.

After the 9/11 flashback, the film starts from 2003 with the torture scenes. It touches upon events such as the July 7th bombings, the bomb attack that took place on the Islamabad Marriott Hotel in 2008, the 2009 Camp Chapman attack and leads right the way through to the 2nd of May 2011, the day of the operation that killed the Taliban leader. The final scene is among the most intense scenes that have been filmed in the history of cinema. The viewer witnesses the US Navy seals attack the compound in Pakistan where Bin Laden was hiding. The full extent of the raid on the house is witnessed with the US soldiers killing many of the house’s residents and leads up to the moment when the world’s most wanted man at the time was killed. The subsequent raid of all Bin Laden’s possessions is also witnessed

A film like this must have been very difficult to shoot and while some aspects have been criticised for not portraying certain events in the way in which they actually happened. Kathryn Bigelow does a good job in giving us a deep and powerful film that will certainly leave its mark on the viewer. With Chastain fully deserving of her Oscar nomination for Best Actress among many other accolades, Zero Dark Thirty is a gripping tale of the hunt for the world’s most wanted man and it will leave you with a lasting impression when the film has reached its conclusion.

Pulsating action scenes aplenty, with lots of behind the scenes and edge of your seat stuff, this is a gripping tale of hard work and perseverance.

b