Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Sicario (2015)

Image is property of Black Label Media, Thunder Road and Lionsgate

Sicario – Film Review

Cast:  Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya

Director:  Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: In the war on drugs on the USA/Mexico border, an FBI agent is recruited as part of an undercover operation to take down a leading drug cartel.

Review: Whenever you depict war on film, chances are the results usually aren’t going to be pretty, especially the story you’re telling is focusing on the war on drugs and drug cartels near the US/Mexico border. Some folks are going to get their hands dirty and things are going to get messy very quickly, with some fatalities along the way. Though this is an ongoing conflict, and even though the events portrayed here are fictional, you would be forgiven for thinking that you are in fact watching a documentary about this struggle, and not a fictionalised version of events.

The gritty and dark nature of the story then is perfect material for Denis Villeneuve, the director behind Prisoners, the dark and unsettling drama about a family who see their young daughters mysteriously disappear. Once again Villeneuve chooses a subject matter that will almost undoubtedly be very unsettling for some, but at the same time, it’s a story that is told with such conviction you will not want to take your eyes off the screen. The main protagonist here is Blunt’s Kate, an FBI agent who just wants to do what’s right, and that desire takes her into this conflict, and what she sees really opens her eyes. Alongside her is Josh Brolin’s Matt, an agent that is quite casual about the mission they’re on and Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro who by contrast, is not fucking around.

Don’t get in this guy’s cross hairs…

Taylor Sheridan in his debut screenplay tells the story in a very ambiguous way, is what we’re seeing right or is it wrong? There’s certainly some things displayed on screen that are certainly very wrong, and not exactly pleasant, but for a film about the war on drugs, that is hardly a surprise. The film might be a slow burner, but the script keeps you hooked in the story, and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score will keep you on the edge of your seat. The three leading actors all deliver performances of a very high award worthy calibre, but special mention must go to del Toro who has perhaps never been better in his career and was mightily unlucky not to have received an Oscar nomination. He’s a man who is driven by his motivation, and that makes him one scary dude that you don’t want to anger, and if you have angered him, well you’re in deep trouble.

Villeneuve’s direction is masterful with some breathtaking wide shots of the FBI teams on their patrols, the camerawork is so authentic, it really makes you feel as if you’re on patrol with these guys. It kind of goes without saying at this point but Roger Deakin’s cinematography is as beautiful to the eyes, and Johannson’s score is to the ears. Deakins’s work, as is so often the case is just mesmerising to look at, even with the depravity that you see on screen sometimes. It’s incredible to think that he has never won an Oscar across his superb career, despite amassing THIRTEEN nominations. It’s only a matter of time before he lands that coveted Oscar gold, Blade Runner 2049 perhaps?

With a pulsating final sequence that will have you biting your nails until the credits begin to role, Villeneuve reinforced his growing reputation as a film-maker to watch, which he further cemented with his magnificent alien invasion flick Arrival. To make a movie about such a weighty subject matter cannot be an easy task, but with Prisoners and with Sicario, Villeneuve really proved more than anything than when it comes to directing, he most definitely is a Sicario himself, one that is absolutely deadly and does not miss.

Dripping with gorgeous visuals combined with some heavy subject matter seems an unlikely recipe for success, but with electric performances and assured direction, this is superb tense and gritty entertainment.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

John Wick (2015)

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Image is property of Summit Entertainment, Thunder Road Pictures, 87Eleven Productions, MJW Films and DefyNite Films

John Wick – Film Review

Cast:  Keanu Reeves, Alfie Allen, Michael Nvqist, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe

Directors: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch

Synopsis: John Wick is a former hitman who after falling in love seeks to leave the profession behind. After a brutal attack by some gangsters that takes those closest to him, he decides to suit up and take revenge.

Review: Cinema is not exactly short of complete badasses who can and will come after you, and kill you without mercy should you mess with them. The likes of James Bond, Ethan Hunt and Jason Bourne, or the Bride from the Kill Bill movies are a few names that might come to mind. Yet back in 2015, another name was added to that list of characters, who you dare not cross, this man’s name, is John Wick. Cross him at your peril, especially if you harm his pets, as he will rain a few hundred bullets in your direction.

john wick

Keanu Reeves is no stranger to the action genre, what with The Matrix being arguably the most notable thing on his CV to date, and he’s a fitting choice to play this awesome badass hitman. He handles the stunts superbly well and as a protagonist, you just want to root for him and see him waste the bad guys. And, for first time directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, themselves former stunt men, they know and fully understand that you came here to see Wick waste some bad guys, and they certainly deliver the goods. The action is directed superbly well, and the stunt work is faultless. What’s more, there’s no shaky camera work of any kind. It’s all in the frame and all there for you to watch in all of its bloody glory as the bodies pile up.

Visually, the film is super stylish and everything is very well made, the lighting in some scenes is exquisite and it is edited together seamlessly. It is gripping stuff to watch, even if certain aspects of the plot are so paper thin. This is not an in depth character study, this is just a good old fashioned action flick, in which you throw popcorn in your face and enjoy the action. That being said, besides Wick, there’s not a great deal of character development, and there definitely could have been some more meat on the bones of these characters, their motivations, and why they do what they do.

The acting is functional from everyone involved except for Keanu of course, who stands out as a cut above the rest, as he should. But again, this is no Oscar bait movie driven by its screenplay, this is not what you came for. You come to see one man fight bad guys, and that is what you get. What’s more, with this fantastic introduction to this sort of hitmen underworld of hitmen hotels, bars and doctors etc might all sound ridiculous and dumb, but it most certainly is not! With Stahelski returning for the movie’s sequel and Leitch going off to direct the sequel to Deadpool, there’s plenty more to come from these two, and plenty more from Mr Wick too!

You walk into this film knowing what you’re about to see, and it’s nothing but damn glorious fun, with a terrific central performance from Keanu Reeves.

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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.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Spotlight (2015)

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Image rights belong to Anonymous Content, First Look Media, Participant Media, Rocklin/Faust and Open Road Films

Spotlight – Film Review

Cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Brian D’Arcy James

Director: Tom McCarthy

Synopsis:  Telling the true story of a group of journalists working for the Boston Globe newspaper who uncover the horrific details of child molestation at the hands of Catholic priests and the subsequent attempts to hush everything up.

Review: Every so often in the world of news and current affairs, along comes a story that is so shocking and galling for a number of reasons, it would cause you to read your newspaper, watch your television, or listen to the radio with just disbelief and horror that such an event came to pass. Many stories revealing such wickedness often slip under the radar, and do not see the light of day, and that may have been the case for the subject of this powerful drama of the scandal that rocked not only the Catholic Church, but the entire world to its core. It may well have not reached the public’s attention, if it wasn’t for the grit and graft of some brave journalists.

The screenplay, penned by McCarthy and Josh Singer, which was on the 2013 Black List of unproduced screenplays pulls no punches whatsoever. The story is gripping, and disturbing at the same time. When nudged by an incoming new editor in the direction of the scandal, the team of journalists quickly begin to find something deeply disturbing, and as the film goes on, interview after interview, the full extent of the scandal emerges on the team and the full realisation of the crimes that have been committed come into view.  The dialogue scene to scene keeps the attention of the viewer transfixed on the screen. With each conversation, whether with a lawyer, some victims, some people within the church, or whoever it may be, the team show great tenacity to dig deeper and deeper scratching every surface they can until there’s a story for them to run. It’s a dialogue driven film, but when it’s written this well, it’s riveting to watch.

The ensemble cast each deliver truly excellent performances, but it’s the performances of the Spotlight team in particular that shine the brightest. After his Oscar nominated turn as a washed up superhero in Birdman, Michael Keaton delivers another excellent performance as the editor of the team that comprises of Rachel McAdams’s Sacha Pfeiffer, Mark Ruffalo’s Michael Rezendes and Brian D’Arcy James’s Matt Carroll with John Slattery’s Ben Bradlee Jr. and Liev Schreiber’s newly appointed editor Marty Baron keeping a watchful eye over things. All excel but the standout performances are that of Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, who have both gained well earned Oscar nominations for the Best Supporting Actor and Actress respectively. Ruffalo in particular has an almost Hulk-esque moment at one point when the full depravity of the scandal comes becomes very crystal clear.

With such a delicate and controversial subject matter, approaching this film cannot have been easy for McCarthy and Singer, yet it is handled tremendously well. The direction is subtle but it emphasises is firmly on the need for justice for the victims. The reporters are not patting themselves on the back and having a drink celebrating at such a big scoop, instead they’re just aghast at what they have observed during their investigation. It is uncompromisingly brutal when the penny drops and there is a need and a desire to print their story and bring the perpetrators to full justice. In this day and age when the internet is taking over the journalism and publishing industry, it just goes to show that through real grit, determination and hard work, shocking truths such as these, can be brought to the attention of the public, and full credit to the brave journalists who did so.

Uncompromisingly brutal when it comes to the subject matter, with terrific performances and excellent well written dialogue, Spotlight will shake you to your core.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Big Short (2015)

the-big-short
Image rights belong to Plan B Entertainment, Regency Enterprises and Paramount Pictures

The Big Short  – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt

Director: Adam McKay

Synopsis:  An account of a group of people who foresaw the collapse of the housing market and the crumbling of the world’s economy in 2008.

Review: When the world’s economy went pretty much to shit in the latter half of the noughties, one thing we all knew was that the global economic situation was in complete disarray, with jobs being lost and lives ruined. But the vast majority probably had no idea who was to blame, why this happened, could it have been prevented and did anyone see this enormous mess coming? The answer to all of those questions is yes, four individuals to be precise who not only saw what was coming, but decided to do something about it and challenge the banks on their greed and their failure to avoid this catastrophe. Enter Anchorman director Adam McKay and screenwriter Charles Randolph, giving the account of how the entire world’s economy crashed and burned.

The account follows three different groups of people, who at various stages foresaw the impending doom, and each goes about their responses in very interesting ways. Firstly you have Christian Bale’s drumming, no shoes wearing kind of guy who likes to listen to metal music whilst foreseeing the imminent disaster via numbers on a screen. Then we have Steve Carrell’s melancholic hedge fund manager who teams up with Ryan Gosling’s trader, and finally we have Brad Pitt’s veteran banker, aided by two newbie investors. Through these three perspectives McKay flits between them as the months go by, and the financial crash looms on the horizon. The acting from all is of a very good calibre, with Bale being the stand-out amongst the ensemble and ensuring another Oscar nomination comes his way. After his unique role in Foxcatcher, Steve Carell again shows he too is a force to be reckoned with as he, mixing grumpiness and comedy surprisingly well.

Your average viewer is in all probability not going to have much clue when it comes to explaining the reasons behind the economic crash, and lots of the economic terminology are likely to sail over their heads. Therefore in order to understand the specific terminology that the cast are speaking of, there are some amusing celebrity cameos who are there for the purposes of dumbing it down so that those audience members who are not well versed in economics are able to catch their drift. There is humour peppered throughout to keep the story flowing, something McKay knows very well from his Anchorman days, and it does to a certain extent. However due to the vast amount of financial terminology, it means the story does falter a little bit. The interest in the story does diminish, which it shouldn’t given the impact that this crash undoubtedly had on many people the world over.

McKay presents his vision of this story almost documentary like with a lot of use of hand held cam in a handful of scenes. There is also a lot of breaking the fourth wall with the characters taking the audience for a ride. Yet the breaking of the fourth wall and the use of handheld cam does not always work. The latter in particular, it makes it look a bit sloppy and badly edited. And as this style is not always implemented, the film lacks a bit of consistency in terms of delivery and tone. It tries to be both a comedy and a documentary, and while sometimes it does work, others it really doesn’t. The film is probably the best attempt at telling the story of the housing crash, but even then, unless you’re very well versed in economics and all that jazz, the film is probably going to leave the audience found wanting when the credits begin to roll.

The acting is of a very decent order, with a solid enough script but unless you’re well versed in economics and the whole crisis, you may not be as interested in the story as you perhaps ought to be.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Room (2015)

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Image rights belong to Element Pictures, No Trace Camping, Film4 and A24 Films

Room – Film Review

Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Synopsis:  A mother and her son are locked in a tiny room and are being held captive, and these four walls are all the boy knows of the outside world.

Review: As human beings, we all know of the world we live in. The wonders and sometimes horrors of our world can inspire, they can amaze, and they can horrify in equal measure. We’re accustomed to our surroundings, and our homes. So imagine if the four walls of a small shed were all you knew of the world, and what you called home, and you had no idea of what exists beyond those walls. Well for young Jack (Jacob Tremblay) that is exactly what he thinks. His mother on the other hand knows that there is life beyond their solitary confinement but she hasn’t seen it in seven long years after being kidnapped. But she has her little boy, and that is keeping her going through all the years of captivity and hardship that she has endured.

The screenplay, written by Emma Donoghue which is adapted from her book of the same name, is very heart-wrenching, and there are some uncomfortable moments in the early stages. There is a very obvious inspiration (if you can call it that) to the tale of one Josef Fritzl. Yet despite the hardship and somewhat lack of space that the two of them do have those rare moments of joy and happiness between them, and these are a joy to watch as the audience is almost constantly reminded of the bleak reality of their situation, this is until they make a plan to escape their captivity. Director Lenny Abrahamson does a tremendous job of putting the audience in the position of our characters, you feel as though you are in these awful surroundings with them, and through brilliant camera work, he is able to provide new views on the tiny surroundings, quite incredible considering that it’s a very small shed.

The acting on show, particularly from our two main stars is tremendous. Brie Larson especially giving a career defining performance as the troubled mother. You really feel for her character and what she’s going through and it is heart breaking to watch her go through the torment of captivity. She has been picking up plenty of awards in this awards season and she stands every chance of adding the Academy Award to her collection. Young Jacob Tremblay is also fantastic in what is one of the best child performances in a long time. He’s convinced that “room” is all that exists in the world, that people on TV are not real, and his conviction is very real and tremendously powerful. Awards have come his way too, and like with his co-star, very well deserved ones at that.

The story has some very dark moments that could make Room uncomfortable viewing for some, and while it is a very impactful script, there a few things that are left unanswered or unexplained, things that you would have thought that they would have touched upon in a bit more detail. Nevertheless, the film remains a moving story to watch, with some tremendous acting and directing, and proves just how powerful the love a mother has for her child, no matter the desperate or horrific circumstances of a situation, is truly unbreakable.

Two very powerful performances anchor this incredible story, that is both heart-breaking and uplifting in equal measure

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

Top 10 Best Films of 2015

2015, a year that broke box office records here, there and everywhere! A return to a galaxy far far away, more dinosaurs, more superheroes, a fair few spy movies, the revival of some long running franchises, and some original pieces of work thrown into the mix as well. It was a promising year for movies, and it some cases it delivered, some it did not. In any case, there were more than a handful of great movies that came out in 2015. With all that said it is time, now that some of those limited release films that came out at the end of the year have reached me here in the UK ( I am classing these as 2015 releases, as per IMDB) With that said, I now give you my picks for the 10 best movies of the year.

One thing to bear in mind, is that grades here do not matter, a film may get a high grade or the perfect grade, it will not necessarily mean that film will be the best film of the year, this is my list of my favourite movies that I had the most fun with or enjoyed the most.  Before I get into the body of my list I do have some honourable mentions, films that were awesome and that didn’t quite make the list with there being 10 spaces, but were still a lot of fun.

The first of these is Kingsman: The Secret Service, this movie knew it was a silly spy movie, but it was extremely entertaining and very violent in places, but the action was extremely exciting, and we got to see Colin Firth beat people up! Next up is Spectre, the 24th James Bond film. Now I know some people, including one very good friend of mine, did not like this movie at all but I thought it was a well directed film with some great action sequences, and a very sexy but badass Bond girl in Lea Seydoux. The villain played by Christoph Waltz was admittedly a little underutilised, and while it did revert to established Bond formula a bit too much, it was still a blast to watch, although it’s not on the same level as Skyfall or Casino Royale.  Third is The Walk, the new film by Robert Zemeckis, this was a gripping watch, telling the true story of Phillippe Petit, the man who strung a tightrope between the Twin Towers. While a little slow to get going, the scene where he walks the wire was among the most gripping scenes I saw all year.

10. Ant Man

Read my Ant-Man review

Image rights belong to Marvel Studios

When the year began and we had two new MCU films to look forward to, nearly everyone was more excited for Avengers: Age of Ultron than Ant Man, yet for many, the former was a bit of a disappointment, perhaps suffering from very large expectations. And while Ultron certainly was not a massive failure, it was not nearly as enjoyable as Ant Man. When Edgar Wright exited Ant Man, many thought it was a doomed project destined for failure, yet it came through in great style. Paul Rudd was tremendous as the titular character, Michael Douglas was fantastic as Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly was also in great form, it exceeded all expectations and ensured a sequel has been added into Phase 3 of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.

9. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Read my Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation review

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The fifth entry in this franchise that continues to pack awesome action and among the handful of spy movies that were released in 2015, Rogue Nation is arguably the best, and has a claim to be the best Mission Impossible movie to date. Tom Cruise as usual doing all of his owns stunts including actually hanging onto a moving plane, as well as the introduction of the awesome Ilsa Faust played by the amazing Rebecca Ferguson, as well more awesome humour providing by the great Simon Pegg. Christopher McQuarrie’s screenplay and direction was excellent and it’s no surprise that he’s back on board to direct the sixth film in the franchise.

8.The Martian

Read my The Martian review

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A real return to form for director Ridley Scott, whose recent films were disappointments to many, so to see him come back with a truly great movie was awesome to see. Matt Damon was brilliant in the lead role as a man who is left behind on Mars. The screenplay was sharp and surprisingly very humorous given the dire nature of his circumstances, and the rest of the very large cast were also great with the likes of Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and Sean Bean all giving excellent performances, with amazing visuals and outstanding special effects that were almost a throwback to Scott’s early science fiction roots.

7. Mad Max Fury Road

Read my Mad Max Fury Road review

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The fourth film in this franchise, and the film that could and should rewrite the book on how to film action movies. It was an utterly thrilling film filled with practical effects and mind blowing action sequences, with cars, explosions and flaming guitars to boot, and not a shaky camera to be found anywhere. Tom Hardy didn’t have much dialogue but he was excellent in the title role, but the person who stole the show was undoubtedly that of Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, showing Hollywood writers how to write an awesome badass female character who doesn’t need a man to show what a strong character she can be. Take note please writers and directors!!!

6. The Hateful Eight

Read my The Hateful Eight review

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The eight film by Mr Quentin Tarantino, and another superb addition to his near flawless filmography. A brilliantly shot film with wonderful cinematography, a terrific score by Ennio Morricone, and a tremendously talented cast including Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Samuel L Jackson, it’s not quite on the same level as Inglorious Basterds or Django Unchained, but it was still a well written and very entertaining film with a great mystery at its core that was just fascinating to witness on the big screen, of course with Tarantino’s signature dialogue and violence.

5. Creed

Read my Creed review

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The seventh instalment of this series, and it might just be the best the series has ever produced, certainly one of the best performances ever from Sly Stallone that has been ensuring he has received well deserved awards nominations and victories, but another top notch performance from Michael B Jordan. The fight scenes were tremendously well handled, and the story to boot, whilst taking many notes from the original, was an inspired decision as we have a new Rocky for a new generation.

4. Ex Machina

Read my Ex Machina review

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In this age of films when prequels, sequels and reboots dominate, it is always refreshing to see an original film be brought to the table and when they’re as thrilling, intriguing, and exciting as Ex Machina was, then that is a bonus. This was a mesmerising take on what is very familiar ground in the sci fi genre, artificial intelligence. The main trio of actors, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander were all magnificent in their roles in a beautifully directed film with a very sharp screenplay from Alex Garland which also marked his directorial debut.

3.  The Revenant

Read my The Revenant review

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Sixth time lucky in terms of landing that elusive golden statue for one Leonardo DiCaprio?  He bagged the Golden Globe so here’s hoping but if he doesn’t win it for his terrific performance in this film, I don’t know what will win him the honour. His dialogue is minimal but he threw everything into this role and it was a gripping and enthralling movie from beginning to end, with another great performance from Tom Hardy who has had quite an extraordinary twelve months. The action scenes, most notably with the bear did not make comfortable viewing, but the cinematography was perfect, it was a visual masterpiece and is being bestowed with some well deserved awards and cemented Alejandro G Iñárritu’s reputation as a truly formidable director.

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2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Read my Star Wars: The Force Awakens review

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Bad Robot Productions

The anticipation for the return of Star Wars was off the charts, with real pressure on the shoulders of JJ Abrams to deliver a satisfying film after the disappointments that were the Prequels. However, Abrams pulled through and ensured this franchise returned to form. Like with Creed, it did borrow a lot from previous films, but with seven films now in the franchise, there is kind of an established formula to follow that all six films previously tried to follow, with some being more successful than others. However, the story was thrilling with exciting new characters like Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren, as well as the old cast all returning. It got the new trilogy off to a perfect start, and is still raking in the dough.

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1. Inside Out

Read my Inside Out review

inside out

The animation juggernaut that is Pixar has produced some of the most beloved animation films of all time. The likes of Finding Nemo, Toy Story and The Incredibles all jump to mind. And after some sequels, they reverted back to the original ideas and produced what for me, might just be their best film yet, in Inside Out. This film, exploring the inner workings of a girl ‘s mind and her emotions after she moves home, was simply put, genius.  As human beings we all experience different emotions at significant moments in our lives, and to see this portrayed on screen was just a joy (see what I did there?) to witness. These animations do work on two levels that give lots for kids and adults to enjoy, but this film definitely panders more towards the adults with its story that will resonate with all who see it. Gorgeously animated with a mixture of great humour and some very emotional moments that will bring you to tears, and a tremendous cast of voice actors including Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black and Mindy Kaling. Inside Out is certainly one of the best animated films so far this decade, and my favourite film of 2015!

So there you have it, my best films of 2015. What were your picks? Comment below and tell me what were your favourite movies of 2015, or feel free to tweet me at @TTSilverScreen, and be sure to like me over on Facebook!

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Creed (2015)

creed
Image is property of New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures

Creed – Film Review

Cast: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew

Director: Ryan Coogler

Synopsis: Adonis Creed is the son of the legendary boxer Apollo Creed, and when he realises he wants to emulate his father and become a professional boxer, he seeks out his father’s old rival, the one and only Rocky Balboa, to train him.

Review: You would think when a film series gets to its seventh instalment, that it’s possibly running out of ideas and that it may be time to put the series to bed. Yet certain franchises keep roaring on with some making over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. While not quite making those mega bucks the likes of Star Wars and Fast and Furious has been making, the Rocky franchise has come out fighting with a remarkable revival and has reinvigorated the it when many thought it was on the ropes and down for the count for good.

The main focus of this new chapter is on that of Adonis “Donnie” Creed, played by Michael B Jordan who despite being in a decent well paid job, strives for something different, namely to become a legendary fighter and to emulate the great achievements of his father. With six chapters coming before it, the production team behind the film had a choice, do you go with the established formula that the previous films set out, or try to reinvent the wheel and start fresh. Thankfully, the decision was evidently made to go with the former and tread familiar ground by using most of the notes from mainly the very first film in the franchise, and it does this in glorious fashion, providing a brand new Rocky for a brand new generation.

With the abysmal critical and commercial failure that is Fant4stic unfortunately attached to his CV, Michael B Jordan really shows us what he’s all about as the titular character. He’s driven and determined, but at the same time, feels weighed down and somewhat insecure by the name that he possess and also the legacy of his father. His breakthrough role came with 2012’s Fruitvale Station (which Coogler also directed) and with this, he truly cements himself as one of the finest young actors working today. It is his movie, and he owns it, and was mighty unlucky not to land himself an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Stallone as Balboa, in arguably the role that also made his name in Hollywood, is equally tremendous and gives quite possibly the finest performance ever in his long and illustrious career. The sheer enthusiasm of the young Creed gives him a new breath of life, after watching all those he loved slowly fritter away, and when Creed is offered a massive opportunity, it spurs Rocky on even more to see the young fighter succeed. Stallone has been getting nominations and awards aplenty, and a well deserved Oscar nomination too.

Coogler’s passion for the franchise is very apparent, and through his expert direction and the striking cinematography, the fight scenes are tremendously well handled. They’re extremely gripping to watch as you will Donny to succeed in his fight against some extremely obnoxious opponents. As the audience, you want him to succeed in his quest to become as good as his father was.

A perfect example of the underdog story, using the benchmark that was laid down by the first movie, and done right is just about every way possible. This re-imagining of the 1976 classic ensures that franchise is once again pulling punches aplenty, and will probably have a lot more fights in it in the years to come.

Uplifting, powerful and gripping, producing arguably career best performances from both Jordan and Stallone, Coogler has maybe given the franchise its best movie yet.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Revenant (2015)

revenant
Image rights belong to New Regency Picture, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Regency Enterprises and 20th Century Fox

The Revenant – Film Review

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Synopsis: When a fur trapper is viciously attacked by a bear and left for dead by his men, he sets out on a quest for revenge against them who left him to die.

Review: From a story about a man who was a washed up superhero trying to put on a Broadway play in one year, to a chilling tale of revenge for another man in the 1820s, it is quite the contrast for Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu. His 2014 effort Birdman for all its eccentricities, won the director three Academy Awards. Yet he surpasses himself with this true story, about one man’s fight for both survival and vengeance in equal measure, and with a whopping total of twelve Academy Award nominations received, it makes what has been a well documented troubled, delayed and hellish shoot all the more worth it, especially as it is almost certain to take home a few golden statues this year.

This frighteningly true story focuses on DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass who is part of a fur trapping expedition in the USA and after being brutally attacked by a bear protecting her cubs, he’s left behind principally by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and left to die, except he doesn’t die, and after personal tragedy, he’s now on an angry quest for revenge, as well as a difficult struggle to survive the severe force of nature, that is well, nature. The bitter cold that the characters find themselves in almost filters its way through the audience as the incredible cinematography makes the audience feel as if they are in this perilous and horrendous situation that Glass in particular finds himself in. It’s a chilling 156 minute tale.

The aforementioned cinematography is simply flawless, and is almost certain to bag a hat-trick of Oscars for DP Emmanuel Lubezki after winning for Gravity and Birdman. The decision to use natural lighting was a masterstroke, giving a real look of authenticity and the film is visually magnificent with more than a handful of spectacular shots that will take your breath away. It is without a doubt one of the most visually impressive movies that has ever been made.

Through all the stunning cinematography, there are a handful of really unpleasant and brutal scenes, namely the bear scene. It is a tremendous visual achievement, and is gripping to watch, but also equally disturbingly realistic and gory. The performances from all of the cast are all excellent but the two that stand out by far are those of Tom Hardy and Leo DiCaprio, the latter of whom really threw himself into the role, to the point where he must have got hypothermia on several occasions.

You watch with suspense as he crawls across the landscape, driven by a fierce desire for revenge and the sheer will to survive against the uncompromising force that is nature. You root for him and you want him to succeed and again, it could be the role that finally lands DiCaprio the Oscar at the sixth time of asking, and also gives Hardy a decent shout at getting his first statue.

Hardy is also equally mesmerising as the film’s villain, yet there were times when he was very difficult to understand, often reverting to his sort of trademark mumble. Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson, who has had quite the year after Ex Machina and Star Wars, are also tremendous. Yet this is the DiCaprio show, and he totally owns it.

The violence on show here is pretty intense and certainly not for the faint of heart, yet for all the production problems, rebellion by the crew, and the delays to the shoot, which forced Hardy to drop out of this year’s Suicide Squad. Their efforts paid off, in a big way, with an equally tremendous score to go with it. It is uncompromising, brutal, and one of the best movies of not only the past twelve months, but this decade and one of the most riveting pieces of cinema you will ever watch.

Visually magnificent, with tremendous performances from DiCaprio and Hardy in particular,  this is an incredible film-making achievement and is not to be missed. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Hateful eight
Image rights belong to The Weinstein Company and FilmColony

The Hateful Eight – Film Review

Cast: Kurt Russell, Samuel L Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Synopsis: When eight strangers become trapped in a lodge during a ferocious blizzard in Wyoming, USA, a mystery begins to unfold as to whether some people are who they say they are.

Review: When you walk into a film written and directed by the one and only Mr Quentin Tarantino, chances are you know what to expect. After all he is a man who has made his name in Hollywood for his extremely well written characters, excellent dialogue, and some VERY bloody violence. All are on show and then some with his eight feature film, which is his second Western after the glorious Django Unchained, which happens to be his highest grossing film of all time.

While Django was set pre Civil War, Mr Tarantino takes us post Civil War in this film, with the focus being on a group of individuals (eight in total funnily enough) who get acquainted with one another while they are trapped in a small building during the blizzard that has set them back on their way. Yet immediately something is off, the suspicion and mistrust begins to grow amongst the characters, as some have doubts as to whether they are who they are claiming to be. There’s a mystery that needs to be solved and it isn’t long before things start to get a little bit messy.

Tarantino is one of the finest directors working today, his movies are synonymous with terrific writing, sharp dialogue and very strong characters. All of the ensemble cast truly shine in their roles with each and every one of them giving truly excellent performances. However, there are a couple of performances that truly deserve special praise and could well be in with a shot of picking up some awards. Principally, Tarantino regular Mr Samuel L Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh give arguably the best performances of this incredibly talented cast, but that should take nothing away from all of the other performances, because they are all superb. It is at times a very dialogue driven film, but this is not a problem,  because the dialogue is so riveting and so well written, that the audience is captivated the entire time, watching these characters interact and develop distrust and suspicion.

As is the case with nearly all of Tarantino’s films, the great acting is matched with great writing, and the Hateful Eight is no exception. In this over three hour story, the first hour or so is all build up, getting to know the characters, meeting them one by one. The tension here remains at a minimal level, but there is not exactly a warm feeling between anybody. The early build up is a little slow, until we get to Minnie’s Haberdashery, and that’s when any warm feelings are immediately turned as cold as the weather outside, and the tension and suspicion gets stronger with each passing minute of screen time. Tarantino does enjoy some good monologues and there’s a few to be witnessed here. It wouldn’t be a Tarantino movie if there was no violence and when the axe finally drops and it begins, boy does it provide some glorious and bloody entertainment for the audience and then some!

The cinematography on show, provided by another frequent Tarantino collaborator Robert Richardson is gorgeous, capturing the setting of a chilling winter in the USA perfectly. The audience feels the freezing temperatures the characters find themselves in. The score composed by Ennio Morricone is also equally superb. Like with The Revenant, this cannot have been an easy shoot for the cast and for the crew, but for all the troubles of everyone involved, it was all worth it to deliver another extremely good film from Tarantino that is sure to receive a bunch of Academy Award nominations in this upcoming awards season, and they would be very well deserved ones at that.

A little slow in the early stages, but it pays off big time in the end, with superb writing, tremendous acting, terrific directing, and a top score. Another superb edition into the near perfect filmography of Quentin Tarantino.

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