Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ant-Man (2015)

Image rights belong to Marvel Studios
Image is property of Marvel Studios

Ant-Man – Film Review

Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Judy Greer, Michael Pena

Director: Peyton Reed

Synopsis: Scott Lang, a one time crook and master-thief, is seeking to re-establish himself in society after a spell in prison, yet Dr Hank Pym, is seeking to recruit Lang to become a new superhero, one that involves stealing  and a large amount of insects…

Review: When the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off back in 2008 with the roaring success of Iron Man, audiences may have wondered: where is this leading? Will audiences get sick of it? What nonsensical gimmick are they going to try and pull off next? When last year’s smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy was first announced, question marks were raised, a talking tree and a raccoon? Have Marvel lost their marbles? Yet the naysayers soon shut up as Guardians came out blew everyone away, becoming a critical and commercial success.

Similarly, when it was announced that an Ant Man film was in the works, there was scepticism, particularly when long time writer/director Edgar Wright left the project after having been attached to it for a long time, with creative differences being cited. Would this latest gamble for Marvel work? In short, well yes, yes it absolutely did.

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The departure of Wright may and probably will leave audiences wondering what he would have brought to this, but fear not as Wright’s replacement, Peyton Reed, stepped up to the mantle in terrific style. The story focuses on Scott Lang (Rudd) who has just been released from prison and is seeking to reconnect with his daughter. Yet his luck is gone, and he resorts to his familiar petty thief ways in order to earn some dough. Yet this presents itself with the perfect opportunity as Dr Hank Pym (Douglas) wants to recruit Scott to take on the role of the Ant Man in order to prevent Pym’s rival Darren Cross from unleashing chaos on the world by making a replica of Pym’s original shrinking formula.

With this now being the twelfth film in the MCU, and after this summer’s blockbuster Age of Ultron, Marvel was in the position of having to reinvent the franchise in order to keep things fresh, and avoid things becoming stale. While there are similarities with a number of previous MCU films,  Ant Man does offer something new and unique enough to ensure that the wheels on the all powerful Marvel bus are not coming off.

Paul Rudd really shines in the role of Scott Lang who is tasked by former Ant Man Hank Pym (an electric Michael Douglas) to become the Ant Man and pull off a daring heist, which again feels fresh as a superhero heist movie is a very rare thing. Rudd brings charisma, humour and charm to the role, which is complemented superbly by the comedic timing of Michael Pena. Guardians certainly packed plenty of laughs, and through a script with contributions from Wright, Joe Cornish, Paul Rudd and Adam McKay, the humour is again excellent and adds a lot to the film.

With Age of Ultron, Marvel wheeled out their titan characters once more, there was that big scale spectacle as the whole world was at stake. Thus with this tale, there was a bit of downsizing to do (quite literally). But with that downsizing of scale, there is no downsizing of story, heart and excellent characters that add more strong characters to the ever growing Marvel Universe. Principally, Paul Rudd absolutely shines as the titular hero and delivers a superb performance. When it was announced that it would be Scott Lang and not Hank Pym taking up the mantle, eyebrows were raised but Rudd pulls it off in magnificent style, with some great comedic timing which, 60% of the time, works every time! The action sequences are handled and executed very well , and when our titular hero shrinks in size, the audience is along for the small but exhilarating ride. Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas as father and daughter are also excellent and their fascinating backstory could lead to a sequel should Marvel decide to roll out Phase 4.

Yet as with many Marvel movies, the real let down here is the villain, the Yellowjacket. (Corey Stoll) While admittedly one of the stronger MCU villains in recent years, there was a lot that could have been explored more deeply with his character, which was ultimately not utilised to as great of an effect as it could have been. Nevertheless, Ant Man has proved to be the exciting close to Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that everyone was hoping it would be. Phase 2 brought us a lot of greatness but it feels like Marvel is about to step it up another gear as all attentions will now be turning to Phase 3, as war is coming.

Hilarious, action packed, with some great character additions to the MCU  a golden lead performance from Paul Rudd and expertly handled action sequences. Let the excitement for Phase 3 begin now…

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Jurassic World (2015)

jurassic-world-own-raptors-poster
Image is property of Amblin Entertainment, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures

Jurassic World – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, BD Wong, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio.

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Synopsis: In order to boost falling attraction numbers at the dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, the company creates a new dinosaur, with disastrous consequences…

Review: Sometimes in Hollywood you do wonder if, or indeed when a movie will ever make it to the big screen and escape the doldrums of development hell. Sometimes they don’t but sometimes, films emerge triumphant after a lengthy period of production nightmares. For instance, take the latest entry into the franchise of dinosaur themed mayhem, otherwise known as Jurassic Park. Originally intended for a 2005 release, and thus descending into nearly a decade of the aforementioned development hell. Through all of that though, the final product was completed and it has emerged into a roaring triumph.

Like a dinosaur trapped into an enclosure that has broken free, Jurassic World has been unleashed. With Colin Trevorrow now at the helm, taking over from Steven Spielberg (wait, there was another guy?), in only his second full length directorial feature following his 2011 film Safety Not Guaranteed,  he has brought this franchise wholly back on course after the big disappointment that was Jurassic Park III (oh that’s right…). With the disappointment of that hanging over it, the franchise that was ironically at risk of becoming a fossil after  fourteen years in the wilderness, this is if you do count the aforementioned lacklustre third showing, (to which it is possible many do not) has come out roaring and proves that there is still much life left in this franchise.

Having been over a decade, almost all of the former cast members have now become fossilised, and in their places, enter Chris Pratt as gruff raptor trainer Owen Grady who is sought after by the park’s operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to ensure that the park’s big, bad and risky science project, the Indominous Rex is suitable for public viewing before the exhibit is unveiled. It is at this point, that everything starts going wrong (as you might expect) with some dinosaur made havoc being unleashed on the Jurassic world visitors as well as our protagonists, who include Claire’s two young nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) who are desperately trying to avoid becoming a meal for the terrifying Indominous.

jurassic world
Stay, my pretties…

As previously mentioned, this new adventure is a much needed return to form for the franchise. Following from his turn in the box office stomping, smash ride Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt shows his action chops once again and provides a solid performance as the film’s primary protagonist. Claire, the aunt of the two boys caught up in the mayhem, initially shuns her two nephews in favour of keeping an eye on the proceedings in the park, and seeks to maintain her professional, businesswoman persona even in the face of the carnage. Yet when caught in the thick of it, she drops this and shows family compassion and courage particularly when her nephews are in some serious trouble. The nephews themselves at times can be exceedingly frustrating and annoying, particularly the younger one. There are some story lines with them that are left at loose ends, which is a bit frustrating. Furthermore the dialogue at times feels very wooden, but it’s not what we came here for, we came for some dinosaur carnage, and boy do we get it.

With action and chase sequences that pack a punch and are without doubt an homage to the 1993 classic, Trevorrow does manage to reinvigorate the action. With a premise that is similar to the previous films, it could very easily go wrong, but it feels new and fresh, even though we have been getting monster filled carnage in movies during this franchise’s absence such as Godzilla and Pacific Rim. It at this point could very easily become stale, however it is not. Trevorrow through his action scenes clearly respects the first film, and the game-changer for cinema that it was. Yet there is enough on show here to recapture the imagination, wonder and joy that so many people experienced when the first movie came out, especially with the final throw down which is nothing short of terrific. The CGI remains top notch, with some solid directing and a top score by Michael Giacchino, there is a lot of fun to be had. There was very little chance of bettering Spielberg’s 1993 belter, but Trevorrow and gang gave a right good go of it, and for that, credit where credit is due. The park opened, and it opened in style.

With a script that does feel a bit wooden, and at times stale, the movie is weighed down somewhat, but with cool throwbacks to the 1993 classic, and some exhilarating action sequences, there is plenty more life in this franchise. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond (2015)

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Image rights belong to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond – Film Review

Cast: Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy

Director: Brad Bird

Synopsis: When a teenage girl (Robertson) finds herself in the possession of a mysterious pin, she sees an incredible whole world flash before her eyes and goes in search of answers

Review: When Summer movie season rolls around each year, sequels, reboots, and franchises tend to dominate this time of year in the Hollywood calendar.  So when an original piece of film making comes around, it is a refreshing sight. Even more so when a project lands a director as skilled as Brad Bird at the helm with a script penned by Bird and Damon Lindelof, there is a lot of potential for greatness. Bird proved himself in his live action debut with the best entry in the Mission Impossible Franchise, Ghost Protocol. Combined  his animated expertise with great films such as Ratatouille and The Incredibles, with a film based on a theme park attraction that Walt Disney made part of Disneyland in 1955, there was a lot of potential in this adventure.

With the trailers leading up to the film, much was shrouded in secrecy, again something to be praised considering many trailers just blunder and throw WAY too much information in before the movie is released (here’s looking at you Terminator Genysis.) The premise centres around this cool, exciting futuristic world, known as Tomorrowland where only a select few number of people get to go to.

One of these people is spirited teenager Casey Newton, played wonderfully by Britt Robertson, who comes into the possession of a Tomorrowland pin, which with a single touch, transports her to the titular land for the briefest of moments. Inspired by what she has seen, she tries to understand what this place is and how to get to it. Her search leads her to Frank (George Clooney) who has become a downbeat, somewhat depressed former child prodigy (for reasons you will find out) and Casey believes he has the answers to her questions surrounding the mysterious realm of Tomorrowland and the visions she has seen.

As previously mentioned, Bird has almost a perfect track record when it comes to the previous movies he’s been at the helm of, and with his latest adventure, there are undoubtedly elements that are absolutely superb. For instance, the visuals are absolutely flawless. The look and feel of Tomorrowland, as if it is a place you could actually go out and visit, is tremendous and much praise must go to Bird for the visuals and the flawless direction that is on show throughout the duration of our ride in Tomorrowland.

With solid direction, our leading lady, Casey provides charm and humour, whilst also holding the movie on her shoulders and giving a very solid performance. Likewise with George Clooney, though his character’s circumstances mean he may seem like a miserable old sod, but there is empathy for him and he does not wallow in his self pity and works with Casey and the duo have excellent on screen chemistry. The chemistry between Clooney and the breakout star of the film, Athena (Raffey Cassidy) while also decent, could have been greatly improved in parts.

Yet the biggest downer of this film is the script. With such an inventive premise that could have gone in so many unique and interesting directions, it falls flat on its face at times, particularly within the third act. A lot of the momentum and build up that was very exciting in the previous two acts, was ultimately thrown away.  In addition, the whole premise of the movie being Tomorrowland and what is this magical and mysterious place, yet the glimpses of the world are few and far between..

The movie almost dangles the carrot of Tomorrowland in front of you and then only gives you the tiniest bit when you came wanting more, so much more. With it emerging that Brad Bird chose to make this when he had the opportunity to direct The Force Awakens, it will undoubtedly leave many frustrated. While Bird’s latest foray into live action was exciting and intriguing, and he gives it his all one cannot help but wonder that Bird’s decision to direct this instead of Star Wars really feels like it was a missed opportunity for something truly spectacular, something truly out of this world.

Something this unique and original does not come along every day, and with top notch visuals and some excellent leading performances, there was much potential, which ultimately was squandered with a lacklustre finale, and that is a real shame. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

mad max
Image rights belong to Kennedy Miller Mitchell, Village Roadshow Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures

Mad Max: Fury Road – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Adelaide Clemens, Riley Keough

Director: George Miller

Synopsis: Humanity is on the brink following a collapse in law and order in the face of tyranny and resources are scarce. However, humanity’s last hope might just be in the form of a wandering road warrior…

Review: If the title of a film alone was to offer any indication of the spectacle that the audience is going to be treated to, then very few films can compete with the Mad Max franchise. Cars, explosions, extremely intense chases. The adjective “mad”  certainly is one of many that could be used to describe it, but truth be told, mad is only scratching the surface of this larger than life, and exhilarating franchise, because it is MUCH more than mad, it’s INSANE.

Returning for a fourth adventure after a three decade hiatus following the release of Beyond Thunderdome in 1985. The third entry was a somewhat less than spectacular outing, but with the two solid previous entries before it, full of intense chases, explosions and edge-of-your-seat action sequences, there was much potential and hope for this new instalment with a bigger budget. With the vision and genius of Oscar winning director George Miller who brought this crazy world into existence back once again for this latest adventure that exceeds all of the previous films of a franchise that is surely going to explode into life once more.

With Mel Gibson occupying the titular role in the previous instalments, and owning it throughout, the role has passed on to Tom Hardy. From Bane to Mad Max Rockatansky, quite the career progression! But like most Tom Hardy performances, the man is on outstanding form here. He may be a man of few words, but he is definitely a man of action, quite often of an explosive variety, as he strives to protect a group of people seeking to break away from the main colony.

Leading the charge against the Road Warrior is the villainous Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and aiding Max in his fight is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Female characters in modern cinema rarely have that tough, strong woman spirit about them, yet Furiosa is an exception and then some. She more than gives Max a good run for his money and should provide a shining light for Hollywood writers on how to write a decent female character.  Yet the villain, was a bit of a weak link, as he was overshadowed by his crazy army of War Boys.

As previously mentioned, madness is an adjective that barely scratches the surface of this film, as it is absolutely insane. Almost immediately from the off, the film is packed with some crazy, enthralling action sequences. The previous films established themselves as benchmarks for action films in the late 70s and early 80s, yet that benchmark has been blown away (quite literally) by this new adventure.  The action here is simply incredible, whilst at the same time being completely insane and almost ridiculous. Guitars that shoot out flames, cars, lots and lots of explosions. It is almost like Top Gear blended with a Michael Bay movie full of explosions, except this film, unlike many of Michael Bay’s movies has real heart and feeling to it.

You care for these characters and you want them to succeed in their crazy quest and avoid their maniacal pursuers. There is no shaky cam, just well filmed, hardcore intense action scenes to take your breath away, in the same way that movies such as 1991’s Terminator 2 Judgement Day did. We have already seen some terrific action movies as we approach this halfway point in the decade, and Mad Max: Fury Road is definitely up there with the best of them so far in the 2010s.

Miller said in an interview that there could be more from the Road Warrior depending on how well Fury Road did, and judging by its success, we could very well get more craziness, cars, explosions and electric flame throwing guitars back on the big screen before long. Brace yourself, because you have arrived at madness station and this is not going to be the only stop on this train! Oh what a fantastic movie!

Visually incredible with explosive and some extremely well filmed and realistic action sequences that are just crazy and awesome to behold, the path down Fury Road is one you will not want to miss!

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Film Review 

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, James Spader

Director:  Joss Whedon

Synopsis: When Tony Stark seeks to create a peacekeeping program around the world, he mistakenly creates the villainous Ultron who then seeks to bring humanity’s destruction, forcing the Avengers to suit up once more…

Review: How do you top the biggest superhero movie ever made? This was the challenge that faced Joss Whedon when it was announced that a sequel to 2012’s The Avengers was in the works. The first film smashed box office records and became the third highest grossing film of all time. It may have looked a daunting task for the man behind such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. As with The Avengers, Age of Ultron is the culmination of all the second phase of Marvel’s ever expanding universe, the phase that brought us a gun wielding raccoon and a talking tree let us not forget. and yet again, Marvel and Whedon have hit it right out of the park with this highly anticipated sequel that will set events in motion for Marvel’s upcoming phase three.  

As with a handful of Marvel’s Phase 2 movies, the tone of this sequel turns very dark almost right of the gate as the team are gunning for HYDRA and Loki’s sceptre from the first film, believing it may have something of significant value. Providing some sweet action scenes right out of the gate that are almost as good as anything that we saw in the first film. Super powerful shields are combined with almighty hammers that were forged in the heart of a dying star, is it little wonder that DC is struggling to compete, who needs Batman V Superman(!)

Through some discoveries, Tony Stark seeks to create a peace keeping programme ” a suit of armour around the world” as he calls it. Yet his plan goes awry as the being he creates is the villainous Ultron who seeks to obliterate the Avengers and mankind both. Thus drawing the team together once more to prevent Ultron from carrying out his evil intentions, and this time instead of one battle in New York City, the fight goes global and the ante and the stakes are upped considerably.

When the team met in the first movie, it certainly wasn’t sunshine and rainbows, they bickered and squabbled on almost anything they could, until they were forced to unite to save the world. Again the team has some internal conflict to deal, largely down to the addition of Scarlet Witch. Through her manipulative mind bending powers, she troubles each of the team with some less than pleasant visions of the future that create disharmony among the team. On top of this disharmony, the team have to take down Ultron, voiced excellently by James Spader. While Marvel has enjoyed dominance over DC for a number of years, the villains in the MCU, with the exceptions of Loki and The Winter Soldier, have on the whole been weak links. However this does not apply to Ultron. Through Spader’s excellent work, through every word he speaks he displays his utter contempt for humanity and desire to see us wiped off the map.

With a lot happening in the film, it would be very easy to get lost in the world and all of the action, because there is a lot of it on show. Yet Whedon, as the master of character, shines through once again. When a character is on the screen, they get their moment and chance to shine and through the excellent writing and performances you see certain characters share sympathies with the others. The returning team are all once again superb in their roles and the ensemble has grown this time around including new additions Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. They are initially are hostile towards the team but are eventually coerced into siding with the Avengers.

Their Eastern European accents are quite noticeable and there are times when they lapse a little bit, but they are solid additions to the great plethora of superheroes of the MCU, especially in the case of Scarlet Witch who adds another strong female lead, something that is lacking in the world of Marvel and comic book movies in general, while this addition of Quicksilver, while solid, does not quite match Evan Peters’ portrayal of the character in last summer’s Days of Future Past.

Yet again, Whedon has hit it out of the park and delivered what every single Marvel fan wanted. Flawless visual effects are combined with  a strong story, some great performances, and excellent direction. The story does lag a little in places, but overall Whedon delivers. As events in the Avengers set the wheels of phase 2 in motion, the same is almost certainly applicable here with the likes of Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 all in the Marvel pipeline. With Ant Man set to see out Phase Two, before next year’s Captain America: Civil War arrives to kick off Phase Three, this current phase of Marvel-ous domination is preceding as planned.

Bolder, darker, and just as amusing as the first Avengers outing with a terrific and growing ensemble of some truly great characters, the all powerful Marvel machine is in full throttle, and there may be no stopping it.  

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