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 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)

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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

Nightcrawler (2014)

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Image is property of Bold Films and Open Road Films

Nightcrawler – Film Review 

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton, Kevin Rahm.

Director:  Dan Gilroy

Synopsis: A man desperately seeking work finds himself a unique opportunity to get into the world of LA crime journalism, as he gets more and more into it, he ventures into a dark and dangerous world of crime.

Review: The news, something that many of us pay a very close attention to, and has a deep impact on many lives across the globe. Every day, we see stories from across the globe that trigger reactions in all of us. Crime stories in particular often have the most impact on people as they usually take deep root, particularly when innocent victims are attacked and struck down in what may seem unprovoked assaults. As it is told in the movie “think of our newscast as a screaming woman running down the streets with her throat cut.” The media thrives on these sorts of stories, and in particular the TV news plays its part in bringing these stories to life, especially through TV news. In the city of Los Angeles, one man happens to find his calling.

Lou Bloom is a dark and twisted individual, portrayed excellently by Jake Gyllenhaal. This man possesses an incredible personality and an insatiable desire to achieve great things. When he stumbles upon an accident and finds someone filming it for TV news for profit, he finds what he knows he was born to do. Thus he sets out to become a “nightcrawler” and develops a strong ability for this unique career, to the point where he gets too good it at it, so much so that he meddles in criminal activity to get the perfect shot, or sabotage his rivals so it is his shot that gets the news studio’s approval and thus he can get the big story on the TV news and earn that big pay cheque to go with it.

Through his pursuits, he develops a grand ego and spectacular self-delusion, he hires an assistant (Riz Ahmed) and immediately, there is talk of him and his company and his ego just gets bigger and bigger. Through all of his arrogance, you want to hate him, but you really just cannot bring yourself to do so. Through his extreme of confidence, he doesn’t hold back in demanding what he wants, even though in some cases he cannot have it, and in that, there is almost a desire to root for him as he goes from once crime scene to the next. Yet at many points he turns into a dangerous psychopath that you probably should not root for. Enter Rene Russo as TV boss Nina, who’s out looking for any footage she can to splash all over the TV news that day.  When he has what she needs, he senses an opportunity to either get a pay rise or make sexual advances on her and will seek to do anything he can to get that ultimate goal that he desires, to be the best man in his field. His exploits do not make you like him, or the way he treats people particularly Nina, but yet his confidence and sheer self-ambition ensure your interest in him does not waiver and despite his blunt walk of talking to people and his extreme self-confidence, he keeps you interested.

Through his various screenwriter endeavours, writer/director Dan Gilroy in his directorial debut, brings us a dramatic character driven story with a fantastic script that bagged him an Oscar nomination for original screenplay and a well-deserved one at that. The streets of LA are looking vibrant and bright as well as they since 2011’s Drive came along. He handles the intense action scenes very well, it is riveting and pulsating cinema that just keeps the audience engaged and reminds them what it is like to view a film, in a cinema in all of its dazzling glory.

What is more, it reminds you that despite the dominance of superhero movies, young adult novels and reboots and continuation of many a popular franchise that mesmerising, unique and outstanding stories are still being brought to the big screen.  Though it only scooped the one Oscar nod, it arguably could and should have another for Gyllenhaal’s outstanding performance, nevertheless despite its significant lack of award nominations, it has much to say for itself. A magnetic screenplay with terrific acting and exquisite directing, watching the news will never quite be the same again.

With a brilliant screenplay, terrific performances with a career best from Gyllenhaal, this is a visually explosive thriller that ensures the news will never be seen in quite the same light again. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Birdman (2014)

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Image rights belong to Stephen Mirrione Production companies, Regency Enterprises, New Regency Productions, M Productions, Le Grisbi Productions, TSG Entertainment, Worldview Entertainment, Fox Searchlight Pictures

Birdman – Film Review 

Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts

Director:  Alejandro González Iñárritu

Synopsis: When a former Hollywood actor seeks to re-establish his stagnating career in the form of a Broadway play, all sorts of things start to go wrong as he battles with family, career troubles and snobby critics…

Review: When hearing of the title of this film, you could be forgiven for thinking this is yet another Hollywood film about superheroes to go along with the domination of Marvel and DC films that we have witnessed in recent years . Yet you would be mistaken (sort of.) This is not an action movie based on a man with extraordinary powers. Instead this story finds itself depicting former Hollywood actor Riggan Thomson (Keaton) the once legendary star of the Birdman superhero franchise, who’s seeking to re-establish himself in the entertainment business via a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

He used to be all about the big bucks and the superhero genre, but not anymore. Yet his efforts are encountering road block after road block, with things going spectacularly wrong. The film has so much to say about superhero movies, actors, critics, life and modern technology among many other things.  Through a wonderful screenplay by Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, the messages on the plethora of topics talked about in the film are rammed home in a way that really gets the audience thinking long and hard about who they are and where they stand in society.

Sniping at real life Hollywood events such as Robert Downey Jr in the Iron Man franchise, Ryan Gosling and Jeremy Renner. He sneers vehemently at the former, or rather his somewhat wacky alter ego does, “that clown doesn’t have half your talent” snarls the Birdman with such strong disdain. The contempt for the state of the modern movie industry he has is raw and although many modern superhero films are fantastic pieces of cinema loved by audiences the world over, the audience almost always connects with our lead man and his wing wearing alter ego. It delves deep into art, and what is art, how good an actor are you if you make over-the-top superhero movies? Or are you a better actor if you choose those smaller, not-so-big budget roles?

Michael Keaton, once the wearer of the great cape and cowl of the Batman, is on top form in a role that finally landed him his first Oscar nomination. His performance is invigorating and refreshing, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of what was once a stagnating career. Edward Norton, likewise is equally fascinating to watch. A method actor who really gets into the part he plays, in more ways than one. His back and forth with Keaton is some of the most enthralling dialogue that emerged from cinema in 2014. With two excellent male performances, one Emma Stone fights the ladies corner, and she definitely more than holds her own against these two accomplished actors, giving the performance of her career. The other key cast were all equally excellent in their roles, including a remarkably more laid back turn from Hangover funny man Zach Galifianakis. Keaton, Norton and Stone were well deserving of their nominations, with Stone arguably the most unlucky to lose out.

Visually, the film is extremely engaging and in many ways, revolutionary as it is made to look as if it is one single shot. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is magnificent, following on from his magnificent work on the Oscar winning Gravity. Lubezki is again on form here, delivering another visual sensation, and deservedly added another Oscar on top of the one he bagged for Alfonso Cuaron’s space drama. Evocative and incredible imagery are packed throughout the two hour run time. There are more than a few scenes that will get your mind racing and leave you breathless with the incredible technical skill that is on show.

The theatre setting would make the audience believe that the film is taking a stance on the theatre industry, but the messages are without a doubt about the film industry. Birdman is a must see for any fans of film, as it is smart, intelligent, original and humorous. The script packs lots of punches and provides audiences with a film going experience like nothing else we have ever seen before, and may never see again.

Funny, original, emotional, visually mesmerising, acted and directed to perfection, Birdman takes flight and soars into cinematic history, and a significant amount of well deserved awards. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

American Sniper (2014)

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Image rights belong to Village Roadshow Pictures, Mad Chance Productions, 22nd & Indiana Pictures, Malpaso Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures

American Sniper  – Film Review 

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Director: Clint Eastwood

Synopsis: An account of the American solider and sniper, Chris Kyle who went on to become one of the most deadly snipers ever in history.

Review: War,  a topic that is never far from the news and one that dominates many lives on this planet. We all read about events such as World War 1 and World War 2 through our history classes, and the documentaries that we watched in school. It comes to life through pictures and documentaries. Yet with a story focusing on a war that is ongoing featuring events such as 9/11 that are still fresh in the minds of many, that is treading a fine line as controversy is bound to ensue with certain things. Without question this film has had its fair share of controversy. Zero Dark Thirty a similar film focusing on the Iraq War, also attracted criticism and controversy over certain elements. Yet through all of the controversy, it was a storming success, the same can be said for American Sniper. 

The film focuses on real life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle played incredibly by Bradley Cooper who scooped his third consecutive Oscar nomination for the role. When 9/11 happens, we see a man who becomes enraged and seeks to go out there and defend what he believes to be “the best country on Earth.” He is very patriotic and a firm believer in honour and duty. Through extensive tours in Iraq and many many kills later, he firmly establishes himself as a US military hero. Yet through all his tours and military exploits, there are consequences that he must deal with. Namely that war will take its toll on you, chip away at your life and the lives of your family members.

Throughout the film we see how once he comes home from another tour, he is not the same man he was when he went away. With each tour he goes on, he comes back almost a completely new person, becoming increasingly cut off from society. Through Cooper’s excellent performance, we see that the man is hailed as a hero by his comrades, but the film does not bask him in complete glory, what we have is a man who is troubled by his exploits. he is joined by his wife Taya Kyle (Sienna Miller) We see through her eyes how the man she married is not the same through each tour that he embarked upon, and every time he returns, the distance between the couple grows wider and wider. The nature of war and the damaging effect it can have on any person who fights are very well realised both in the performances of Cooper and Miller and in the screenplay, adapted from Kyle’s autobiography, penned by Jason Hall.

Through the hands of veteran director Eastwood, the film like its titular character, found its aim, and he was right on target. The man and the legend has gone through a mixed spell recently with Jersey Boys and J. Edgar not receiving the best of receptions critically. However, he has delivered an emotional war story. The action scenes packed throughout the film are directed very well, some of which are particularly intense. A decision that could result in the deaths of 20 US soldiers rests in his hands and it is nerve-racking viewing. The action scenes are accompanied by a fantastic score composed by The film has been blasted by some as nothing more than American propaganda, yet the film does not glorify the events you see on screen.

It really highlights the ugly, brutal side of war that as previously mentioned will take its toll on a person. The film could have explored numerous other themes of the Iraq War, yet it chooses to narrow its focus about this one man, and the effects that go along with going to war, and what having over 160 confirmed kills to your name will do to your life and the lives of your family. With a very sombre conclusion given what happened to Chris Kyle, the audience is reminded that fighting in a war will have its far reaching consequences, and in some cases it will have a melancholic and heart breaking ending.

Anchored by another superb Bradley Cooper performance, and top notch directing by Eastwood, it provides a tense and heart breaking story of one man and the damaging effects of war.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Whiplash (2014)

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Image is property of Sierra/Affinity, Bold Films, Blumhouse Productions, Right of Way, Films Sony Pictures Classics

Whiplash  – Film Review 

Cast: Miles Teller, J.K Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis:  A story of an aspiring young drummer who gets his chance to enrol at a music school as he seeks to impress a brilliant but maniacal music coach who will push his students to breaking point…

Review: Jazz music, a sweet and relaxing genre of music that you put on after a difficult day’s work,  or to the background music for a beautiful date. It’s the perfect music for a laid back occasion, right? Normally yes but under the guidance of one music teacher, a day’s work for a young upcoming drummer, the jazz music will involve your teacher screaming in your face, sweating buckets, and also throwing objects at you after a mistake.

That young drummer is Andrew played by Miles Teller, a young man who’s determined to make the grade as a drummer and in style. He will do whatever it takes to be the best, and that includes dumping his poor girlfriend along the way as he sees her as an obstacle on his path to success. Teller is fantastic in this role that is a breakthrough performance for him. With the Fantastic 4 reboot on the way later this year, this was his chance to shine, and boy did he hit every note spot on. The frustration, the joy and the tears of a young man doing everything he can to be the best, is some of the most riveting and suspenseful cinema you will ever see.Anyone watching can empathise as we all would go through anything to achieve our hopes and dreams to be the best in our profession. With one masterful performance on board, it is matched by another superb performance by J.K Simmons as Terence Fletcher.

This man is a HARDCORE instructor, screaming expletives, hurling chairs, and making his musicians perform until blood is dripping from their hands and they cannot play any more. A real psychiatric war breaks out between our two main stars, and it is flawless in its delivery and execution. Teller is absolutely on point no question, yet this is the performance of a career from Simmons. You want to hate him for the way he treats his students, and his harsh and somewhat brutal methods, but you understand the drive and passion he has for the craft and wanting to see his students achieve success. Simmons swept the board in this year’s awards season and fully deserved every gong that came his way, which included the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Through the scenes where Andrew is performing and Fletcher is conducting, there is an incredible amount of tension. Arm rests are gripped tight as you pray for our resolute and determined young performer to not make a mistake. You would think that this sort of scene would not create a terrible feeling of nervousness and dread among the audience, but it certainly did this and with great aplomb. It pulls at your heart strings and tears them out violently and as the film reaches its intense climax, heart rates will only get faster and faster, kind of like the beating of the drums, faster and faster until you are completely out of breath and blown away with what you have seen and you need a minute or two to calm down once the film has reached its nail biting finale. The film also offers one of the best endings we have seen in the past year of cinema. With no action, it packs anxiety and tension in more than a few scenes, as much as any hostage scenario or high octane thriller that has graced our screens in years gone by. However as the film reaches its crescendo,  you find yourself hoping for an encore.

Pulsating and nerve-racking throughout combined with two outstanding performances that will leave you breathless, this is the Mozart of film-making, incredible genius and perfection

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Imitation Game (2014)

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Images is property of Black Bear Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment Bristol Automotive, StudioCanal and The Weinstein Company

The Imitation Game – Film Review 

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, Allan Leech, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance,

Director: Morten Tyldum

Synopsis:  An account of how mathematician Alan Turing and a team of analysts helped to crack the Enigma code to help the Allies in their efforts to win the Second World War.

Review: When images of World War II come to mind, you tend to think of aspects such as the air raids or the Normandy landings, and the heroes are those who took part in those Normandy raids. Yet the the breaking of the German enigma code was a vital part of the war effort that almost flew under the radar of history and behind this incredible feat lies the story of one particular war hero. A torn and brave man whose story is one that is not widely known among the general public, but a very important one that needs to be known by everyone, for the work he accomplished and for the gross injustice he suffered in the years following the war, this is the life of Alan Mathison Turing.

The film documents the vast majority of Alan Turing’s life, from his school years which included suffering from bullies, discovering cryptography and of course his vital work in the Second World War playing a key role in the breaking of the enigma code, through to his persecution as a homosexual, due to the fact it was a criminal offence at the time.  A script that was on 2011’s Black List, and sold for a seven figure sum, a poignant and hard hitting story about a true war hero has been wonderfully brought to life thanks to the brilliant screenplay by Graham Moore and the wonderful direction of Norwegian director Morten Tyldum. He captures the period of late 1930s early 1940s England perfectly.

In a role that has landed him his first Oscar nomination, Benedict Cumberbatch is on stellar form as Alan Turing. Interestingly Leo Di Caprio was intended to play Turing, but it arrived on the busy shoulders of Cumberbatch, and although Di Caprio would have been an interesting choice, Cumberbatch was perfect in this role. The man, the genius, the outcast who was hated by his colleagues and superiors initially for his stubbornness and refusal to co-operate with his co-workers. Yet through all this his brilliance and incredible intelligence shone through. In equally outstanding form is Keira Knightley playing fellow code breaker Joan Clarke. The chemistry between her and Cumberbatch is wonderful. The rest of the cast also are outstanding, Matthew Goode as fellow code breaker Hugh Alexander and Charles Dance, channelling his inner Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones, are the key stand out performances in an excellently acted movie.

With a movie set in the heart of the Second World War, not a single shot is fired, yet the film packs riveting  scenes, that can get you off your seat as easily as an intense action scene, with some heartbreaking moments on top of that. The cracking of enigma was a major factor in the success of the Allies, and although the part the Polish played in the breaking of enigma is glossed over, the story triumphantly delivers . It is horrific to watch as we see Turing go through what he does after the war is over and what the brutal treatment of people, like Turing who were homosexual endured. It was something people incredulously at the time believed to be a curable condition and also was a crime on top of that.

The story does do a Tarantino and jumps back in time to his days as a schoolboy and back to his days at Bletchley and forward to his persecution, yet it all flows superbly and comes to a head incredibly well with an emotional punch with a heartbreaking closing scene. The work that Turing did was vital not only to the success of the Allies but for the future as through his work he is widely believed to be the father of computer science. An achievement like that cannot be ignored, and this film honours Turing in the best way possible.

Wonderfully acted, brilliant dialogue, directed beautifully with a gripping story that everyone the world over should know about, this is a film that gives one of Britain’s true war heroes the credit he strongly deserves. 

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mr Turner (2014)

mr turner

Mr Turner – Film Review

Cast:  Timothy Spall, Lesley Manville, Marion Bailey, Dorothy Atkinson, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson

Director:  Mike Leigh

Synopsis: An account of the life of the artist Joseph Mallord William Turner, detailing his final years.

Review: The fine stroke of the paintbrush of a distinguished artist is comparable in some way to the art of making a film. Each shot feels like it needs precision and accuracy to acheieve the perfect moment. Yet like an artist at work, the shots in a film can fall flat, they can feel disjointed, and they can bore certain people. With this biopic of the artist J.M.W. Turner, it feels like a piece of artwork on a canvas being set up ready for viewing, only to see someone come along and ruin it.

The film focus on the final twenty five years of the artist’s life. Timothy Spall certainly brings him to life in a charismatic way, albeit with a considerable amount of grunting. Leigh does an incredible job in which we see scenes of Turner at work. There can be a certain amount of awe as he effortlessly creates a piece of art, sometimes even using his own spit to create an effect. Or in some cases, being tied to a ship to create the perfect piece.  Spall certainly humanises the artist as becomes increasingly eccentric in his later years, and is the stand out performer. Being the titular character, you would expect him to be the most developed and he is, by a considerable distance. The rest of the cast don’t quite match the very high standard that Spall set,  with many actors feeling a bit over the top in their performances.  Furthermore, there are some characters, such as Turner’s first mistress who are left severely under-developed. In spite of this, the film boasts top direction and cinematography.

Yet, the plot feels a bit disjointed. One scene he’s in Margate and another scene he’s back in his home. There are random moments in which he and his housekeeper get intimate, and you’re never really sure what’s going on or why it is happening. With the plot feeling a bit all over the place, there is much to be desired and it feels tedious at times to sit through. In addition with a run time of two and a half hours, you cannot help but feel some parts of the film could have been cut out. Like an artist finishing off a masterpiece there is almost a sense of relief when the credits start to roll. The biopic was presented as a view of the life of a great 19th century artist, and on paper it appears to represent the work of such an artist like turner. Yet at times it feels like a botched attempt to recreate a famous 19th century masterpiece, just ask Elias Garcia Martinez, the woman who brutally failed to restore a famous piece of 19th century art. Leigh’s story is by no means on that scale of horrendous, yet there is not a lot here that is worthy to be put on display.

With a charismatic leading performance by Timothy Spall, the brush strokes of the movie were set for an interesting biopic. However, the framed final piece falls flat with a disjointed somewhat dull plot and underdeveloped characters 

C

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Interstellar (2014)

interstellar
Image rights belong to Syncopy, Lynda Obst Productions, Legendary Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures

Interstellar – Film Review 

Cast:  Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Bill Irwin, Josh Stewart.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis:  With planet Earth dying due to a lack of food, former engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is recruited for a mission to explore new worlds in a bid to find to find a new home world for humanity.

Review: When anyone mentions a list of the best Hollywood directors working today, names like Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese might come to mind. However, one name that will surely go down in the Hollywood Hall of Fame is Mr Christopher Nolan.The man who brought Batman back to the fore of the superhero genre, and with Interstellar, brilliant science fiction story-telling is merged with brains to give what is one of the best films of the year, and certainly one of Nolan’s best.

If you had to describe Nolan in one word, it is ambition. Inception dealt with dreams and the sub-conscious, his brilliant Dark Knight trilogy dealt with order and chaos in society, and with Interstellar, his most ambitious film to date, the premise of wormholes and the theory of relativity, inspired by the work of physicist Kip Thorne. Steven Spielberg was once attached to direct the project, but left and the project fell into the lap of the Nolan brothers.

One could argue that few directors would have the bravery to take on a film of such scope. The sheer ambition of the story might have caused other directors to back off, but not Christopher Nolan. The scale of the film on show immediately and it gets your brain thinking and working, whilst at the same time, leaving you breathless with the  thrilling cinematography that is provided throughout. The launch sequence and the journey to the new worlds, it is all riveting, on the edge of your seat entertainment. Along with the magnificent cinematography and excellent directing, frequent Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer once again weaved his magic and produced a terrific score to accompany the film. The action scenes are accompanied by sweeping music that adds a great level of intensity to what’s occurring on screen.

Many great directors pick out the perfect actors for the roles they write, and Nolan is no exception. Fresh from his Oscar success, Matthew McConaughey is on hand to lead this voyage, and he does so in great style. While his accent is hard to grasp at times, you empathise with him and his struggles with his daughter and his determination to save her and his family that are trapped on a dying Earth. Anne Hathaway also gives an excellent performance as one of the fellow astronauts on their mission. Child actresses can sometimes be hit and miss on such big blockbuster occasions. Yet on this occasion Mackenzie Foy was on stellar form as Cooper’s daughter Murph. Her emotion and connection with her father is felt, you care about her relationship with Cooper and want to see them reunited. This continues when Murph has grown up and is played equally brilliantly by Jessica Chastain. Unfortunately, Cooper’s son played by Casey Affleck is left somewhat underdeveloped, as there is no connection there with his character, in comparison to that of Murph. His son is somewhat left on the sidelines, yet the emotional bond between Murph and her father drives the film, and does so to incredible proportions.

One minor fault in that the film’s run time was maybe just a bit too long, and could have potentially wrapped up sooner. However in this world of film-making, an original film that is not a sequel, or a franchise is rare and Nolan has once again brought an incredible experience to the big screen. Brains, beauty and incredible story telling, It is almost like Gravity meets 2001: A Space Odessy . In a year that has brought us some remarkable films, Interstellar  has taken off and landed among the best films of the year, and is an out of this world addition to the remarkable filmography of Christopher Nolan.

With breath taking cinematography, wonderful acting and a powerful emotional story at its core of human courage and sacrifice. Interstellar is a cinematic event will scramble your brain cells, but at the same time, it is one that will take your breath away.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

GOTG 3
Image is property of Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Guardians of the Galaxy – Film Review 

Cast:  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Djomon Hounsou, Glenn Close

Directors: James Gunn

Synopsis:  When a team of space criminals come into possession of a valuable space orb, they must band together to prevent the villainous Ronan from seizing it and wreaking havoc and mass destruction.

Review:  If someone says to you: “name a Marvel superhero character,” the names of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America or Spider-Man might come to mind. However, the names of the likes of Groot , Gamora, Star Lord and Rocket Raccoon might not sound as familiar. Yet with this latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that will most certainly change. This film when it was announced had a lot of people scratching their heads in bemusement and uncertainty. Fans wondered if it could be pulled off, and Marvel had pulled it off and the gamble has paid off immeasurably.

Director James Gunn has put together one of, if not the funniest Marvel films to date, with a very entertaining script as well as some intense and enthralling action sequences. Being the title characters, a lot is expectedly riding on the Guardians, and they deliver. With previous Marvel films that lead to the Avengers, we had several movies detailing their stories and their struggles. Guardians does not have this luxury, as we are introduced to our protagonists immediately, but James Gunn did an exceptional job in making the audience care about each of the main ensemble.

Star Lord (Chris Pratt) is the leader of the team. He is like the love child of Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones , and his scenes are wonderful to behold. Witty lines and real heart and charisma go into his performance. Likewise with the Green skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who’s again a really interesting character to watch with a very intriguing back-story.  The main comedy relief comes from the likes of Drax (Dave Batista) who has some of the most hilarious dialogue we have seen all year, including a difficulty to understand metaphors. Groot (Vin Diesel) is a sentient tree, he doesn’t say much, all of three words, but he adds a great comical presence in the film. Yet, the star of the show is the gun wielding raccoon, Rocket. Brilliantly voiced by Bradley Cooper and terrifically brought to life on the big screen, he is a character that will have tears rolling down your face due to laughter.

Together, the ensemble have some brilliant moments together. Yet the film does have its problems, namely the villains. The three main baddies Ronan (Lee Pace) Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Korath (Djimon Hounsou)  are not as fleshed out as much as the Guardians. Their make up is all very well done with Gillan looking very menacing as the blue skinned Nebula and there is more to her character development than her villainous counterparts. With Thanos lurking in the shadows, it is almost a desire to cut to the chase and have the Guardians fight Thanos, as we know of his presence in this universe. Although chances are that could certainly happen in a coming movie (Avengers 3 perhaps?). Despite this one mishap, the film stands as one of the best we have seen this year. The visuals are all superb, with brilliant make up on each of the characters, and some top drawer action scenes that will fill the audience with immense satisfaction. The penultimate movie of Marvel’s Phase 2 has left its mark on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we will definitely be seeing more of Groot and Star Lord in the future.

A terrific ensemble, brilliant dialogue, top quality visuals and make up, some outstanding action sequences and lots of very memorable characters. The villain is a let down, but it does not take anything away from this fantastic addition to the Marvel Universe.

a