Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Steve Jobs (2015)

steve jobs
Image is property of Legendary Pictures, Scott Rudin Productions, Mark Gordon Company, Universal Pictures

Steve Jobs – Film Review

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogan, Jeff Daniels

Director: Danny Boyle

Synopsis: An account of the founder of Apple Steve Jobs, focusing on three different points in his life, before the launch of 3 different new products.

Review: Chances are good that if you’re reading this, you have some sort of apple product at your home or in your office, be it an iPod, a Mac or an iPad. There’s little question the impact that Apple has had on this market, quite simply, it has revolutionised the industry. But with all the hype that surrounded the launch of these products, there were a few behind the scenes issues that confronted the company’s founder Steve Jobs, and this focuses on the challenges that he faced prior to the launches of these inventions, personal and political. The second film about the creator of Apple, and a film that does do the man some justice. It’s a tale of motivation, what pushes his buttons to bring these revolutionary products to market, and will they work?

With screenwriter Aaron Sorkin on board, a writer who managed to make a website about one of the biggest websites the world has ever seen, Facebook, insanely enjoyable and interesting. Similarly with the little details about numbers and maths behind a sport. He does provide once again some very fascinating and riveting dialogue as Steve Jobs battles with assistants and angry ex girlfriends about children that may or may not be his, or if the product launch is encountering a thousand and one problems, whilst also feuding with former employees who are demanding some of the credit for the products that Apple has created. The writing, as usual with Sorkin, is excellent. All of this stuff should sound very boring for many of us, but through brilliant writing, it could easily bore the audience to tears with a load of technical mumbo jumbo that could whizz over our heads, but it does not. That being said, with the film being dialogue driven, some of it does come off as less uninteresting than some other parts.

Therefore with mostly great screen-writing, you hopefully can expect some great acting, and everyone in this film is absolutely on point. Most of all is Michael Fassbender as the late Steve Jobs. He has the accent nailed, the look nailed, and he really gets into the role and plays him as tremendously well as someone with Fassbender’s insane talent can, and certainly much better than Ashton Kutcher did. Along with Fassbender, the rest of the cast also bring their A game. Kate Winslet as Jobs’ assistant and good friend Joanna Hoffman, who is supportive of Jobs while also frustrated at his stubbornness. Also venting his anger at Jobs is Steve Wozniak played by Seth Rogan who is unhappy that Jobs is not giving him credit where credit is due for what he believes is his contribution to the company of Apple.

The film is divided into three acts, each act set in a different time before Steve is unveiling different products and each act is shot in a different way, the earliest being on 16mm film, with the most recent act being filmed on digital. It was a very smart decision and reflected the way that the technology has changed as time passes through each act. However, despite the dialogue being very interesting, there are some parts that do drag, most notably the controversy between Jobs and a woman who is claiming that a girl is his daughter. It just feels a bit repetitive with her popping up every so often saying that Jobs owes her money for this, and for that, and it just gets a bit irksome. The technology behind these products is what is interesting but there’s just a bit too much focus on the family drama.

Nevertheless, the film remains very interesting to watch with some very good performances that could very well get some Oscar nominations for the acting and the writing. Boyle does a tremendous job with the directing as well, he gives everyone a chance to shine, from Jobs, to Wozniak, to Jeff Daniels’s John Sculley. It’s not quite on the level of The Social Network, or Moneyball in terms of a very riveting and very intriguing. Yet it does remain a very interesting and well acted dialogue driven movie, that gives its audience a glimpse into the life of the man who created one of the most successful companies the world has ever seen.

Despite some slow moments, the screenplay ensures the dialogue is for the most part very interesting, with assured direction, and the performances are all electric, that could get some awards nods.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens (2015)

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

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens -Film Review

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker

Director: J.J. Abrams

This review is 100% spoiler free

Synopsis: Three decades have passed since the events of Return of the Jedi, from the ashes of the old Empire rises a new threat in the form of the First Order who threaten to unleash more tyranny on the galaxy. The key is the location of someone important who’s disappeared, with the Resistance, headed up by Leia Organa, also on the hunt for this vital information.

Review: It kind of goes without saying, that Star Wars is one of the biggest franchises the world of movies has ever seen, and when the announcement of three more films were coming to a galaxy near us, it was glorious news, and music to the ears of every fan of this franchise. With each little bit of information that was revealed, from the cast, to the director, to the trailers. Excitement and anticipation for this new Star Wars  film has been massive. So much so that some fans were afraid it would disappoint. Well fear not young padawans, because JJ Abrams and his writers, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, stayed on target to ensure this franchise has a much needed return to form.

The prequels, while they had some good points were ultimately a missed opportunity. The effects were there to make 3 more brilliant films in the wake of the original trilogy, but this opportunity was squandered. From the outset JJ Abrams wanted to return to practical effects, whilst obviously using CGI where necessary. What’s more the prequels suffered from a lack of an absorbing and engaging story.

ForceAwakens

With JJ being such a fan of the original, it is very apparent that he knew what the audience wanted, and the story, without straying into spoilers is very engaging and gripping to watch. There’s no nonsensical talks about treaties or whatever, it’s the sort of exciting driven plot that was so successful to create this beloved universe. From the off, it’s pulsating action that keeps the audience engaged from the first scene to the last scene. It’s everything we wanted from the prequels, which on the whole, the prequels failed to give us.

With the original trilogy, we got a great ensemble of characters that we liked and wanted to root for. Which somehow frittered away with the prequels, but once again there is a great batch of very interesting and developed characters. First of all we have Daisy Ridley as Rey, a scavenger on Jakku who through circumstances ends up being pursued by the villainous First Order along with John Boyega’s Finn, a stormtrooper gone rogue. Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, the Resistance’s best pilot. Flying the flag for the dark side is Adam Driver’s ominous Kylo Ren, and the sinister General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Andy Serkis’s mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke.

All of the principle cast are electric in their roles but special mentions must go to Boyega and Ridley, especially Ridley. Almost an unknown prior to her casting, she gives such a powerful and real performance that her name will be remembered for a very long time to come. John Boyega, another relative unknown is another name that will reach into the stratosphere and beyond. Kylo Ren is an antagonist that definitely ranks as among the best the saga has seen, he’s very menacing and frightening, and his back story is very intriguing and dark in equal measure, with his motivations being very crystal clear.

The chemistry between new and old characters is also magnetic. You’d think that a newcomer like Ridley couldn’t stand up to someone like Harrison Ford, but she does and then some. Ford as Han Solo is his usual charming, arrogant self and even after all this time, he still absolutely owns the role, as does Carrie Fisher in her role as General Leia Organa, as she now calls herself. Throughout the film there are definite homages to the original trilogy, but they don’t come off as just downright rip offs at all. It’s all very well executed, from the direction to the effective use of practical effects. It’s no secret that the prequels were effects driven movies and the notion that these could drive the plot was one of their biggest mistakes, as such there were none of those mistakes repeated here. The effects help the story on but the core element of the story is very much driven by the characters and their journey.

With all that said, there is only really one major nitpick. For all the great characters that we got that were not downright infuriating to watch, some characters did not feel fully utilised and some were left somewhat underdeveloped. However, the mistakes of the past were not repeated, and Abrams has ensured that this new trilogy has got itself off to a near perfect start with an excellent cast, great screenplay, exciting action, solid use of practical and special effects where necessary. And of course Mr John Williams’s music is as brilliant as it always has been. The franchise is full light speed ahead now,  and all eyes will now be on Episode VIII, so it’s over to you Rian Johnson!

A return to form for Star Wars after the mishap of those prequelsexciting characters,  a terrific story with some truly compelling villains and a solid combination of practical and special effects. The new trilogy, off to a perfect start, it got!  Hmmmmmm.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015)

mockingjay2
Image rights belong to Lionsgate and Color Force

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis: The war in Panem reaches its climax, as Katniss and her team, along with all of the districts of Panem prepare to launch a full out assault on the Capitol and President Snow, and to bring an end to tyranny that has plagued them for over 75 years.

Review: Another year, and another curtain falls for the (possible) last time an incredibly popular franchise, The Hunger Games. While many may feel this should have happened twelve months ago after the first part of Mockingjay, which while solid left fans a little bit wanting, as there was an aching desire for a lot more in the way of action. This closing instalment does bring said action, in considerable quantities. Yet it’s not all plain sailing, although for the most part, the odds are in the favour of this franchise.

Picking up where we left off, Katniss despite almost being murdered at the end of the last film, is preparing for her long awaited attack on the Capitol to hunt and kill President Snow. Very little time is wasted as the assembled crew battle their way into Panem and have to negotiate some sinister traps. Like in Catching Fire, director Francis Lawrence helms the action sequences extremely well and on the whole they do provide some exciting and nervy scenes as the team negotiate the mire that is the Capitol’s deserted and almost wasteland like streets. Yet for all the intense drama, there are a number of really impactful moments that hit hard in the book. Yet when put on the big screen, they are not as nearly as emotional or hard hitting as they should have been. We’ve spent three films with some of these characters, the emotional pay off should amount to more than it does.

Being the Oscar winner she is, a good Jennifer Lawrence performance is almost a given, and of course she’s as excellent as she has been right throughout the franchise’s beginnings. She clearly is carrying that deep trauma that has been effecting her by the events of the first three films, but at the same time she maintains that steely determination to carry out her goal “to make Snow pay for what he’s done.” Yet for Lawrence’s brilliance, the rest of the cast are not given much of a platform to shine, and some do get lost in the sea of the makeshift games of the Capitol. The cast is extensive with plenty of considerable talent in there from some of Hollywood’s biggest names, but not many show their quality, and in those rare moments that they do, it is fleeting, gone before it had a chance to really show itself.

You can tell that the film-makers were looking to honour the book in every way they can, and full credit for them for attempting that. However this extreme loyalty to the book means that the script unfortunately does suffer in places, with some very slow moments that drag on for longer than they need to. This gives weight to those who argued that the film should never have been split into two parts, and on the evidence of this final film, they may have a point. It’s not the fiery and astounding conclusion that some may have hoped for. However, there is still plenty here for hardcore fans to enjoy. The odds have been in their favour from the franchise’s beginning and it ends the series on a satisfying note.

An improvement on the first part, Part 2 delivers the action the fans were hoping to see, but there are shades of the problems that bogged down Part 1, while some of the important events do not have that emotional punch that they ought to.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Walk (2015)

the walk
Image rights belong to TriStar Productions, ImageMovers, LStar Capital, TriStar Pictures

The Walk – Film Review

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Synopsis: An account of the story of high wire artist Philippe Petit and his incredible and very dangerous mission to hang a high wire between the two towers of the World Trade Centre, and walk on it.

Review: For many people,  images of the old Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre will sadly be forever associated with the terrible events of September 11th 2001. And while the images of the atrocities of that day may never be vanquished from people’s minds, one must not forget that the buildings, whilst still under construction were at the centre of what has since been called “the artistic crime of the century,” when an insane French high wire artist strung a wire between the two buildings and walked on it, a distance of a whole 1,387 feet between man and a terrifying fall to the ground below.

The subject of this daring and somewhat mad story has already been the subject of James Marsh’s Oscar winning documentary Man on Wire. When asked why the awful events of 9/11 are not mentioned in his documentary Marsh said that the act by Petit was: “incredibly beautiful” and that it “would be unfair and wrong to infect his story with any mention, discussion or imagery of the Towers being destroyed.” With this film it is clear Zemeckis is going for a similar effect, it is almost a love letter to the buildings, to remember the Towers for what they were, and of course to retell the tale of Petit’s stunning feat. The big selling point of Zemeckis’s tale however, is to put the audience on that wire, to put you in his shoes when he took those first steps, and it does this with great effect.

The process to get to that point goes back to Petit’s days as a street performer in France,with Petit narrating the story atop the Statue of Liberty, and when he sees a picture of the towers, he has his Eureka! moment and sets about on his mission to walk on a wire between the buildings.  Along the way he recruits a number of people, most notably his girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) and Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), the latter of whom helps him hone his craft as high wire artist. The pace of this first half of the movie is somewhat slow and overly long at times, but the interest is not lost. It is when we arrive in the Big Apple that the real planning begins, and the film turns into an exciting heist film, although nothing gets taken, except quite possibly the audience’s breath. The towers have been beautifully recreated by Zemeckis and his team, and when the mission to string the wire between the buildings is being carried out, it carries a lot of suspense with it, as the mission could have easily been over before it began.

Joseph Gordon Levitt certainly brings his usual charisma and charm to the role of Petit, except if you’re a man who has a mission to walk between two of the tallest buildings in the world, you’re going to have something of an ego, and unfortunately he does carry this ego, and at times, he can be an extremely obnoxious t**t, even when talking to his girlfriend who is doing everything she can to help him carry out his dream, and also to his team of assembled contributors. For the most part, JGL has the French accent on point, but there are times when it falters a little bit. Nevertheless, the story remains engaging and when we get to the act itself, it is truly majestic, incredible to behold and incredibly suspenseful although for the viewer who has a fear of heights, it might make it uncomfortable viewing.

With the most subtle of gestures it is clear that the film and filmmakers pay great respect to those who lost their lives during horrific events of 9/11, and indeed the film was dedicated to those who died that day. With that in mind, the film serves a reminder to the watching viewer, as the tagline reminds us” every dream begins with a single step,” and your dreams are obtainable also, even if they are as wacky and downright dangerous as Petit’s was.

With a somewhat slow opening, a film like this could easily dragged down to mediocrity, but JGL’s performance is of a solid standard, and with Zemeckis’s expert direction, the walk itself is truly spectacular to watch, particularly in IMAX 3D. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Martian (2015)

the martian
Image rights belong to Scott Free Productions, Kinberg Genre and 20th Century Fox

The Martian – Film Review

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kata Mara, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: An astronaut is presumed dead after a deadly storm separates him from the rest of his crew. Yet after surviving the storm, he is alone on Mars and must use all the resources he can find to get back to Earth.

Review: The thought of being the only person on an alien world, with seemingly no means of getting off, and being one hundred and forty million miles from home, is one that would probably send most people in that situation absolutely bonkers, and give them a complete sense of hopelessness with very little chance of survival, and result in them frittering away the remainder of their days on the Red Planet. However, this is not applicable in the case of Mark Watney, who instead of that aforementioned feeling of impending doom, after he has been abandoned by his crew as he is presumed dead during a deadly storm, opts for one of upbeat and positive. In turn providing an extremely entertaining space adventure that fuses comedy and some intense moments brilliantly.

With his fourth entry into the science fiction genre, director Ridley Scott has produced a much needed return to form somewhat after his most recent run of films have been met with a less than positive response, namely Prometheus, Exodus and The Counselor.  The likes of Alien and Blade Runner showed that Scott knows the genre and knows how to pull it off in some style, and in what is almost a blend of Gravity and Interstellar produces a third another enthralling space adventure in as many years. Interestingly enough (spoiler alert for Interstellar!) Matt Damon who had a surprise cameo in the aforementioned film is back in a very similar situation to the one he found himself in Interstellar, but this time he is the man we’re rooting for, and he brings charisma and great humour to this role, so much so that you cannot help but want him to succeed and find his way home. With his situation looking increasingly bleak, he has to use his intelligence and his botanist skills to ensure his survival.

While The Martian battles to stay alive on the Red Planet, the focus alternates between the team at NASA who are working to try and bring him home alive, whilst dealing with the PR disaster that a man was left behind on a hostile world. Whilst at the same time, going back and forth with his crew mates who are solemnly making their way back to Earth, contemplating their supposedly fallen friend’s fate. The cast is quite extensive and filled with some big Hollywood names, with the likes of Jessica Chastain as the captain of the Mars mission, Jeff Daniels as NASA’s CEO, Chiwetel Ejiofor with his expert knowledge of the Red Planet and Sean Bean as a flight director. It’s a big scramble for these guys to get the materials they need to ensure that whatever they can do to get Mark Watney home, they will do it, but not without some bickering and disagreement along the way.

It takes some bravery to take a story like this in which one man is almost certainly staring death in the face and make it uniquely entertaining, but this film managed to do it and do it perfectly, thus props must go to screen writer Drew Goddard for that. Matt Damon effortlessly brings his unique brand of humour and charisma to the role, whilst using his ingenuity and remarkable intelligence to try and survive. Yet it is far from sunshine and rainbows all the time, as there are more than a few intense moments where our leading man is put in some more than perilous, potentially fatal situations.

The Mars scenery is beautifully recreated and the direction, as is more often than not the case with Scott, is excellent. The score by Harry Gregson-Williams is tremendous and adds plenty of suspense and drama along the way. The film does drag in places and could have maybe been cut down in parts, but nevertheless, it is a pleasure to see Scott truly back on top form and for Damon to once again remind us of his remarkable talent.

With a terrific (and large) ensemble cast, filled with the cream of the Hollywood crop, with a superb and humorous lead performance from Damon, to go along with a very witty screenplay, this is Scott’s best picture in some years.

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Posted in Film Feature

Top 10: Most Anticipated Autumn/Winter Films (2015-2016)

oscar 2016 season

Summer movie season is officially over, and we now enter Oscar season territory, the time when studios release their films that they hope will be celebrating come Oscar season next February . There has been some great cinema so far this year, but there’s some very interesting pictures on the schedule. So without further ado, I give you my 10 most anticipated films of the next few months.

First up I have a few honourable mentions. The first of these is The Danish Girl, this is a new film from Tom Hooper, director of The King’s Speech and Les Miserables, winner of 4 and 3 Oscars respectively, and this looks like it has lots of awards potential with Eddie Redmayne being strongly tipped to get a second Oscar in succession. The second is Steve Jobs, the second film attempting to tell the story of the legendary Apple CEO. The first Jobs film with Ashton Kutcher I have not seen but it did not get the best reception, however with Aaron Sorkin on screenplay duties and Danny Boyle behind the camera, there is scope for greatness. The Good Dinosaur, this summer’s Inside Out is my favourite film of the year thus far, and thus Pixar could be on a roll with two original pieces of work this year. Last but not least is Joy. Despite having one of my favourite actresses in Jennifer Lawrence, I am not entirely sold just yet, and although David O Russell is in the director’s chair, the teaser didn’t blow my mind, but I remain hopeful given David O Russell’s track record of previous films with J Law. With that done it’s time for the top 10 and we start with:

10. Bridge of Spies

Tom Hanks (left) stars in Steven Spielberg's (right) Untitled Cold War spy thriller, which is the true story of James Donovan, an attorney who finds himself thrust into the center of the Cold War when the CIA sends him on the near-impossible mission to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot.

Steven Spielberg’s follow up to his 2012 picture Lincoln, reuniting with Tom Hanks once again, set in the Cold War focusing on one man’s efforts to save a pilot trapped in the Soviet Union. The time period, the director and cast all look great so here’s hoping for more excellence from arguably the greatest director working today.

 

9. Everest

everest

It would be easy for a film like this to decide to shoot on green screen, as was the case (for obvious reasons) with 2013’s Gravity. But the fact that the crew actually went to some pretty dangerous, mountainous locations will definitely give this film a real authenticity, and here’s hoping that the story is just as enthralling because it looks like it will be.

 

8. Black Mass

black mass

Could this be the return to form for Johnny Depp? His films as of late have all been pretty much panned, the likes of Mortdecai and Transcendence come to mind, but in this picture, it definitely looks like it could be that much needed comeback for Depp and early reception is looking very promising indeed.

 

7. The Martian

the martian

Ridley Scott’s recent films have also not had the best of receptions. However, this film adapted from the hugely popular novel by Andy Weir also could be the return to form for the great British director. He knows the sci-fi genre well with Blade Runner, Alien and Prometheus. With Matt Damon in a role that bears a throwback to his role in last year’s Interstellar, so here’s hoping.

 

6. Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

mockingjay2

Katniss’s story will finally be brought to a close this November. Judging from the trailer, it looks like this will make up for the lack of action that left many audiences wanting in the first part, and if you’ve read the book, you know there is going to be some fireworks! Be prepared!

 

5. The Revenant

revenant

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s next film after his Oscar winning Birdman looks very intriguing with Leo DiCaprio in the lead role as a man who is after his comrades after being left for dead. The trailer alone boasts some astounding cinematography and this MIGHT just be the role that FINALLY lands DiCaprio that long overdue Academy Award. 

4. The Walk

WALK_INTL_1SHT_TSR_LK2_3DIMX3D_02.indd

“The artistic crime of the century,” what many people call Philip Petit’s remarkable feat as he tightrope walked between the two Twin Towers in 1974. With Robert Zemeckis on directing duties and Joseph Gordon Levitt as Petit, this will hopefully be an amazing cinematic experience that will get audiences on the edge of their seat.

 

3. The Hateful Eight

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Mr Quentin Tarantino’s next film hit a bunch of production problems. It wasn’t happening at one time after a script leak, but it is and the teaser trailer is awesome. Teases that tension that Tarantino is brilliant at but does not reveal any major plot points. With a top notch cast including Sam Jackson, Bruce Dern and Kurt Russell, this could well be another great addition to the Tarantino filmography.

 

2. Spectre

spectre

The follow up to the phenomenally successful Skyfall, Sam Mendes is back as director and so too is Daniel Craig. This time we’re reuniting Bond with villainous organisation SPECTRE and the trailers so far have been awesome and with two time Oscar winning actor Christoph Waltz as the main antagonist, there’s every chance we could see the best Bond villain the franchise.

And my most anticipated movie of Autumn/Winter is:

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1: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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Are you surprised? Like many people I am a huge fan of this franchise and this film has got me extremely excited. When it was announced that a new trilogy was on the way I was a bit sceptical but with JJ Abrams as director, and the very talented cast they have assembled, with an exciting mix of Star Wars veterans and newcomers, I am sold. The trailers have been very intriguing and quite rightly everything is under close wraps. With JJ Abrams’ past work in reviving Star Trek as anything to go by, this should be the return to form that the Star Wars franchise needs, due to er, the unfortunate event of those prequels. The first of a new planned trilogy and with many more films on the slate, Star Wars isn’t going anywhere, and all the better for it.

There we have it, my top 10 most anticipated Autumn/ Winter films. What are your most anticipated movies of this upcoming Oscar season? Any movies on my list that you feel should not be on there? Comment below and tell me what you think. Or you can tweet me at @Martin_rich_91. We should be in for a great few months of cinema!

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kingsman- The Secret Service (2015)

Image rights belong to Marv Films, Cloudy Productions, Shangri-La Entertainment, TSG Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Film Review

Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Samuel L Jackson, Sophie Cookson, Sofia Boutella

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Synopsis:  A young man, down on his luck, is given the chance to turn his life around, and to apply for a unique organisation called the Kingsmen.

Review: When you think of the spy movie genre, the likes of a sophisticated gentleman sipping a Vodka Martini whilst dressed in a sharp looking tuxedo may come to mind. Over the years, the James Bond franchise has dominated the spy genre, and this film recognises that. Yet it is not a rip off, not at all, it is director Matthew Vaughn’s love letter to the genre. It’s not quite From Russia with Love, more like From Vaughn with Love. The class and sophistication that is reminiscent of 007 is most certainly present, but Kingsman comes along, and ups the fun ante by a considerable amount.

The focus of this story is Eggsy (Taron Egerton). Immediately it is apparent that this is a guy who is seemingly on the road to nowhere, almost destined for prison. This is until a gentleman in the shape of Harry Hart (Colin Firth) comes in. An opportunity has arisen to apply to become one of the Kingsman, a very unique organisation. All the while, as with almost all spy movies, there is a crazy villainous dude (Samuel L Jackson) who has some rather disturbing plans to bring about the end of the world via a device that many of us find ourselves glued to these days. Thus we descend into familiar territory, gadgets, crazy fights, and just some good fun entertainment, that is definitely worth the price of an admission ticket, and then some. The fun is here, and so is the vulgarity and the violence that would make Quentin Tarantino very proud indeed.

KSS_JB_D11_01307 – Harry (Colin Firth), an impeccably suave spy, helps Eggsy (Taron Egerton) turn his life around by trying out for a position with Kingsman, a top-secret independent intelligence organization.

As in 2010 with Chloe Grace Moretz, Matthew Vaughn has unearthed another gem of a young, talented actor in Taron Egerton. His character transformation from young troubled kid living in a rather sorry looking estate to a sophisticated gentleman is a joy to watch. There providing his support is an electric Colin Firth, who is definitely having the most fun he’s had in quite some time. Here is a gentleman who will sip a beer and then smash you over the face with the glass! Together their chemistry is enthralling to watch. You really witness that Harry sees something of a kindred spirit in Eggsy. While his character’s lisp is a little bit annoying at times, Samuel L Jackson also brings his A game to his villainous role, and like Firth, he definitely looks as though he’s having an absolute blast. Accompanying him is a lethal femme fatale in Gazelle, who is armed with some dangerous blades on her feet in a throwback to old school Bond villains.

To some this may feel like a James Bond rip off, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no denying that James Bond has a big influence, what with all the references that are littered throughout, but this is definitely a Matthew Vaughn picture. The action is handled extremely well with exhilarating scenes aplenty. Although some scenes may unsettle some as they venture into the Tarantino scale of madness. There are also times when it is seemingly apparent that there is a stunt double in action. However, the sharp, funny screenplay by Vaughn and Jane Goldman packs plenty of emotion in there as well. The villainous plot is a little bit ridiculous and implausible, but you leave your brain at home here, you are here to be entertained, and Vaughn and co bring that in abundance, shaken and stirred to the best degree possible. Fasten your seatbelts, cos you’re in for a blast, innit bruv!

Enormously entertaining with plenty of wit, humour, vulgarity and some terrific action scenes, the gauntlet has been well and truly thrown down to Daniel Craig and co with this year’s Spectre. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ex Machina (2015)

ex machina
Image is property of DNA Films, Film4, Scott Rudin Productions and Universal Studios

Ex Machina – Film Review

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander

Director: Alex Garland

Synopsis: A young man is selected to take part in a unique programme that develops and evaluates the world’s first artificial intelligence.

Review: As humans, we all go through life wondering what does it feel like to be alive? We all go through different stages, birth, childhood, teenage years, graduation, jobs and of course ultimately death. In these big moments, we are overcome by emotion and feel what it is like to be alive. But what if you’d been brought into the world by some technical genius who sought to create the world’s first proper artificial intelligence? How do you express how you feel? How do you convey emotions? Are you truly alive? This is the enthralling premise of the directorial debut of Alex Garland, who primarily is known for his screen-writing credentials on the likes of Dredd and 28 Weeks Later. However, his first foray into directing is a dazzling, beautiful piece of work.

In recent years, we have seen science fiction films go from apes with incredible intelligence, to time travel, and to interstellar voyages and back on a crazy big budget scale. Yet there is none of that crazy grand scale adventure here. At the heart of the story here, is a simple tale of humanity, emotions, feelings. Yet also at its core, its dark, dangerous and somewhat eerie. We have seen forays into beings of artificial intelligence, with the likes of Kubrick’s 2001 and The Matrix, yet nothing on quite the personal, intimate level that we see here in Garland’s sharp screenplay. The interaction between the AI being, played wonderfully by Alicia Vikander and the lucky (or is he?) programmer Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson. As they interact, you feel the tension building. Does he have feelings for her? Does she have feelings for him? Is she really that different from a human being? There’s no guns blazing, high intense action here, but the dialogue between the two is extremely riveting to watch, as their chemistry grows, it definitely provides some of the most intense dialogue so far this year.

By stark contrast, Oscar Isaac playing the eccentric playboy billionaire Nathan, gives off contrasting signals. Sometimes he’s very warm and friendly, other times he feels cold and detached, which one might suspect if you lived in a vast complex with a considerable amount of money at your disposal to build an AI. The relationship between the three characters is thoroughly compelling as you wonder if any of them have any ulterior motives. All three are electric together which should be encouraging for this December’s Star Wars. Yet by far the biggest shining performance is that of Alicia Vikander’s work as Ava. She maybe an AI but with every action she takes, she feels like a real human being. Sexiness and remarkable intelligence combined, every man’s dream.

For a directorial debut picture, the film looks immaculate, with wonderful shots of breathtaking scenery. The look of Ava in her full mode is also immaculately well realised. Sometimes in film, it can be painfully apparent that what you are looking at is CGI but not in this instance. She may look like a robot, but Vikander’s grounded and sublime performance will make you think again. Likewise, this film will have you thinking about its content and characters long after you finish watching.  This is a landmark achievement in CGI films, and will have a great impact on the genre going forward as it feels remarkably real and personal. Also this is not the last we will hear of Alex Garland as a director or Alicia Vikander.

A thought provoking, imaginative and original sci-fi flick with tremendous performances from the three leading actors and a wonderful directorial debut from Garland. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

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Image is property of Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions, TC Productions, China Movie Channel, Alibaba Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Synopsis: When the IMF learn of the existence of the Syndicate, a group committed to destroying them by causing global panic, Ethan Hunt and his team have to go rogue and take them down

Review: Is there an actor working today more insane and more gutsy than Tom Cruise? Here’s an actor who absolutely commits to his roles, including taking on some ludicrously dangerous, death defying stunts all in the name of some awesome entertainment. Climbing the tallest building in the world? Check. Fighting on top of a high speed train? check? Clinging on for dear life as a jet takes off with him on the outside? Check. On the basis of this evidence, the answer is yes, Tom Cruise is certainly one of the most barking mad actors in the business, but all the better for it, because it provides us cinema goers with some awesome high pulse action sequences and a thrilling movie that reminds us why we pay money to go watch these movies on the big screen. In what is his fifth outing as Ethan Hunt, Tom  Cruise shows no signs of slowing down, He’s choosing to accept these missions, and we the audience are very grateful that he is.

The MI franchise has had a few stutters on its way to its fifth outing. Yet the last picture, Ghost Protocol was a storming critical and commercial success, so Rogue Nation had much to live up to. However in the hands of Christopher McQuarrie, taking over directing duties from Bird Bird, the ship is well and truly afloat once more. This time, the team has the task of tracking the Syndicate, an organisation which ruthlessly carries out tasks with the intention of causing mass panic on a global scale, and much like in Ghost Protocol, they have to go it alone after they are disbanded by the CIA. Right out of the gate, the action on show is fantastic, from the enthralling opening sequence of the plane, as we saw in the trailer and on the poster, to a spectacular battle right in the middle of an opera show.

There are more than enough action scenes to get the heart truly pounding, but through all of these impossibly plausible action scenes (clue is in the name) there is emotion that resonates throughout the story, similar to that of Ghost Protocol. Yes there is a lot of crazy and borderline ridiculous action going on, but the story packs heart in there. The audience cares about these characters, and feel on edge when they seem to be in extreme peril.

Cruise, as usual, brings his A game to this movie and shines brightly. Yet a key theme of these movies has been the team element. Cruise is awesome, yes but the team play an important role in the mission as well. Simon Pegg, returning as Benji Dunn, effortlessly provides the comic relief once more, whilst also maintaining a very serious tone as the gravity of the situation they are in is fully realised. Taking over the role of femme fatale from Paula Patton is Rebecca Ferguson, who provides great charm and sexiness, whilst also being a very dangerous badass in a dress! Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner are both back to complete the team line up, and together they all make a powerful ensemble.

Previous MI villains haven’t always been the greatest, and it is certainly the franchise’s Achilles Heel. No one has really topped Phil Seymour Hoffman’s turn in MI 3. However, we are here presented with a much strong villain, with some more clear motives. Yet the series has really lacked that strong, powerful villain that is so often present in for instance the James Bond franchise.  But take nothing away from Rogue Nation, it packs a lot of fun into its 130 minute running time, and with talk of a sixth film in the franchise in the works, Tom Cruise shows no signs of slowing down just yet.

 With a great ensemble cast, and some superb action sequences, nothing is truly impossible with this franchise

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Inside Out (2015)

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Image is property of Pixar Animation Studios

Inside Out – Film Review

Cast: Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan.

Director: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen

Synopsis: As a young girl is uprooted from Minnesota to San Francisco, her emotions, Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness all battle to try to keep her emotions in check

Review: ‘Do you ever look at someone and wonder “What is going on inside their head?”‘ asks a voice not long into the beginning of Pixar’s latest adventure. A question that many will have thought at some point in their lives when talking to friends or family if they’re doing something idiotic or daft. The human brain is a vast and complicated organ that makes us who we are. Throughout our own lives, we all go through different emotions, some we sometimes cannot explain. Yet rarely, if ever, has a film gone deep into the minds of someone and try to understand the maze that is the human brain. It’s little wonder that Pete Docter is one of the founding members of the Pixar Brain Trust, a group that has all powerful control of the slated movies in production, because this latest flick from Pixar is nothing short of absolute genius. 

The story focuses on that of 11 year old Riley, and the horror she goes through when her father gets a new job that forces the family to uproot for their cosy Minnesota abode to the uncomfortable new life in San Francisco. Her mind goes into overdrive and it falls to her five chief emotions: Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness to keep the ship that is Riley’s mind steady through this frightening storm. The emotions keep things in order in their shiny futuristic headquarters that have all of Riley’s stored memories that are represented by five islands that represent the key things that Riley holds dear in life. However when disaster strikes, and the emotions are separated in the maze of Riley’s mind, the emotions are in a race against time to sort everything out and make things right.

Pixar for many years has been the champion almost of witty, clever and just downright awesome animations in the last decade or two. You look back to the likes of the original Toy Story, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo among others. Stories that hit adults as well as kids in incredible ways that everyone in the family can enjoy, and they have come up trumps yet again with their latest creation. Emotions are what makes us all human, we all go through difficult or testing scenarios in our lives and our emotions can sometimes overpower us, or keep us in check. Thus everyone who watches this movie can relate to it, as everyone has had deep emotions about something, or someone. The concept behind how the emotions and memories work is absolutely superb in its originality and innovation, and what is also superb is the voice work. Leading the way is Amy Poheler as Joy, the lead emotion in Riley’s mind who fights to prevent the other emotions from taking control, Lewis Black brilliantly portrays Anger, Mindy Kaling is Disgust, Bill Hader as Fear and Phyllis Smith as Sadness who is starting to gain prominence as events in Riley’s life start taking turns for the worse, and the emotions are all battling for control of Riley’s mind. The voice work from everyone is outstanding, but by far the leading light (literally) is Joy who has been the mainstay emotion of Riley’s life and the one who keeps things ticking.

The movie could get very lost in the maze that represents Riley’s mind, but at its heart is a very simple story of the human brain and all of the emotions that go with it, and the power that those emotions can have. It is a very simple story that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. The animation is pristine and top quality, as is the norm with Pixar. The studio has triumphed many times down the years and has an almost flawless track recordand this is an excellent  addition to that roster of top quality animations that the studio has produced.  Do not be surprised this bagging Pete Docter another Oscar and Ronaldo Del Carmen his first when next year’s Oscars roll around because the rest of the animated movies this year will need to produce something truly special to top Inside Out.

Original, clever, emotive and an insightful adventure into the workings of the human brain. A movie that will touch the hearts of everyone who sees it. 

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