Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

tarzan
Image is property of Warner Bros, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac Entertainment.

The Legend of Tarzan – Film Review

Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L Jackson, Djimon Hounsou

Director: David Yates

Synopsis: Tarzan, now going under the name John Clayton, lives in London with his wife Jane, until he is forced to return to his roots as plans for a mining colony threaten the wildlife.

Review: For many people of the younger generation, their first introduction to the character of Tarzan was Disney’s 1999 animated movie, but he is in fact a character who first appeared in the novel Tarzan of the Apes, which was first published over 100 years ago. He has been represented many times and now director David Yates, famed for his sterling work in bringing the Harry Potter franchise some of its best films, now attempts to give his take on the Lord of Apes for a new generation, and well Tarzan certainly knows how to swing from branch to branch effortlessly, but this retelling of Tarzan’s story does not come out swinging, instead falling somewhat flat on its face after missing its aim.

Tarzan has moved on from his jungle days by the time we meet him and has settled down with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie) and living in rather comfortable quarters in London. He is determined to move on, but of course, he is forced to revert to his animal like mannerisms when the area where he was raised comes under attack, principally from Ernest Rom. (Christoph Waltz) So off comes the shirt and Tarzan is reborn!

With a director of the quality of David Yates behind the camera, fans of the character must have been optimistic for a solid portrayal of the titular character. There’s no question that Alexander Skarsgard got his physique but his performance is painfully wooden in more than a few places. Naturally you root for him as he’s the protagonist but he’s not exactly a hero to get your blood pumping, in a way that a character like Tarzan very easily could. Margot Robbie gives everything she has as Jane but the script is on the whole a bit weak, with character development being on the scarce side including the main antagonist Rom. Waltz has shown he can be a really compelling villain to watch in the past, but here, not so much as his villain is just bland and uninteresting. The bright spot is by far and away Sam Jackson’s character, as he brings some much needed humour to the story, but it’s not enough to save the movie from its slow, dreary pace.

Yates certainly manages to bring some nice visuals to the story here, with some very impressive sweeping shots of the landscape, but these are negated by some less than impressive visuals of the animals. It’s rather obvious that these are CG creations, and it takes you out of the experience, as with today’s technology, it’s very possible to make CG creations look genuine and authentic but its almost as if the production had reached its budget and had to make the CG animals at the last minute. As such, the action scenes, while they are very well handled, certainly do not engage the viewer as much as they could and maybe should.

Rupert Gregson Williams’s score is decent enough, but it is not enough to save this latest retelling of the tale of Tarzan from its mediocrity. It is baffling how a quality director like Yates, who gave us some of the best Harry Potter movies, can’t take a character like Tarzan and make him a lot more compelling. Tarzan remains a loved literary figure, yet one can only hope that this retelling of his story is a “Legend” that will be forgotten soon enough.

A thoroughly uninteresting retelling for the Lord of the Apes, with a poor script, bland characters and some inexcusably bad CGI, this is certainly not a Legend, in any sense of the word. 

C-

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

startrekbeyondposter
Image rights belong to Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions and Alibaba Pictures

Star Trek Beyond – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Sofia Boutella, John Cho, Anton Yelchin

Director: Justin Lin

Synopsis: In the middle of their five year mission, the Enterprise is lured into a trap by a deadly alien threat by the villainous Krall, who threatens to tear the Enterprise, and indeed Starfleet apart.

Review: It has been an incredible fifty years since Gene Roddenberry’s first television series carrying the title Star Trek burst onto small screens. Since then, thirteen feature films have made their way onto the big screen, and we have had plenty of spin-off TV shows. While not all of these have endured the kindest of reactions from Trekkies and critics alike, one thing cannot be disputed, the franchise has prospered through this half a century, making its mark on popular culture. When it came to the third installment of the rebooted franchise, with its golden anniversary on the horizon, fans were surely hoping that the franchise would strike gold once again, and well they are in luck, as its thirteenth feature film has done exactly that.

With the man behind Star Trek and Into Darkness, a certain Mr JJ Abrams going off to a galaxy far far away, a number of directors were in the frame to take over the responsibility of the director’s chair, with producer Roberto Orci at one stage at the helm. However, that responsibility ultimately went to Justin Lin, of Fast and Furious fame. When the first trailer dropped many feared that this would be Fast and Furious but in space. However, credit where credit is due, as Lin has put together a very enjoyable and extremely well made movie that feels like a Star Trek movie should. With Scotty himself, Simon Pegg helping to write the script, they certainly aimed for a film that would please fans, given how Into Darkness was not very well received by some sections of the Trekkie community. The action here is once again of a very high quality with more than a few pulse racing sequences, the best of these scenes are by far on the hostile alien world that the Enterprise crew find themselves on. A few shaky cam scenes aside the action is put together very well and there are more than a few very funny moments packed into the movie’s run time.

JJ Abrams may have returned in a producer capacity only, but full credit must go to him for putting together this amazing ensemble because once again, each and every one of them deliver great performances. Yet again it is Chris Pine who really shines the brightest, with major kudos also going to Quinto and Karl Urban as Spock and Bones respectively. The latter duo in particular share a lot more screen time in this installment, and all the better for it as they make an effective duo! In terms of new arrivals, the standout by a considerable distance is Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah. Her work in Kingsman showed how much of a badass she could be and likewise here. The real let down here is the villain played by Idris Elba, an actor of immense talent, but his character could have been a little bit more fleshed out, and given a little bit more to do. He’s better than Nero from the 2009 reboot, but he’s by no means on the level of Cumberbatch as Khan, not even close.

That being said, those who may have feared that this film would fall out of warp and crash and burn were proven to be very wrong indeed. The score by Michael Giacchino is once again of a very high quality. Thirteen maybe an unlucky number for some, but not for Star Trek, Star Trek is showing no signs of slowing down, and indeed, a fourth film is already in the works. Mr Roddenberry would undoubtedly be pleased to see the prosperity the franchise has enjoyed, and is continuing to boldly go where no franchise has gone before!

The foundations that were laid by Abrams have been greatly added to by Lin, the cast remain excellent, as does the chemistry between the leads, with the quality action sequences also being maintained. At this rate, the franchise is at full warp speed and nothing is going to stop it!

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Nice Guys (2016)

the nice guys
Image rights belong to RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Waypoint Entertainment, Silver Pictures and Warner Bros Pictures

The Nice Guys – Film Review

Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Margaret Qualley, Angourie Rice

Director: Shane Black

Synopsis: Two unlikely detectives are pitted together to solve the case of the death of a porn star, and soon find themselves on the hunt for a missing girl.

Review: Everyone loves a story about a detective, or a private investigator. Stories such as these are packed into popular culture with the many portrayals of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock coming to mind. So often you think of these private investigators as good guys, doing a job for the good of the community, investigating crime and so on. Yet in the case of the comedy duo at the centre of the new film from Shane Black, as the film’s poster suggests, they’re really not nice guys, but they do try to make the world a better place and are given the chance to do just that when a case falls into their hands.

Shane Black’s last directorial outing, Iron Man 3, was a little bit different after his smash hit and directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but here he returns to that genre with great aplomb. It’s 1977 Los Angeles, and our two detectives Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) become involved in the hunt for a missing girl named Amelia, whose disappearance leads to a whole series of interconnected events that are occurring. The duo are the most unlikely partners and given how their first meeting goes, it is somewhat amazing that they agree to work together. Yet this makes their relationship all the more interesting, and hilarious to watch as their efforts to crack this case develop.

The script, penned by Black and co-writer and Anthony Bagarozzi, is absolutely hilarious. The laughs are packed throughout the run time of the movie, which may be odd given the nature of the story about a missing girl, but they make it work, they make it work very well. Part of that is down to the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe, their characters are completely opposite to each other in terms of their methods, but as they say opposites do attract and it’s certainly applicable here. The daughter of Gosling’s character, played by Angourie Rice is also excellent. Young actors can be the kiss of death in movies, but she is not the kiss of death in the slightest. The script also keeps you hooked as you watch the case develop and see all the clues that they acquire gradually form the big picture.

While Iron Man 3 is far from the greatest Marvel movie ever made, Black showed there that he certainly knows how to handle action sequences, and he demonstrates that here once again. There are some gripping and tense shootout scenes, packed with some terrific camerawork, that again manage to weave humour into them and it’s done very well indeed. Black from his previous written works certainly knows the genre well and how to make it pretty damn entertaining.

There are some characters that you would have maybe liked to have seen a bit more of, but it cannot be denied that Black has come up trumps with a very witty, hilarious and original piece of film-making, packed with some great performances, that will have you laughing all the way through.

Brilliantly funny, with great lead performances from Crowe and Gosling, with an amazing script, the King of the Buddy Cop movies is back on his throne!

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Me Before You (2016)

me before you
Image rights belong to Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema, Sunswept Entertainment and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Me Before You – Film Review

Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Charles Dance, Janet McTeer, Jenna Coleman, Matthew Lewis, Brendan Coyle

Director: Thea Sharrock

Synopsis:  After losing her job, a young woman finds herself work caring for a young disabled man, and the two form an unlikely bond.

Review: The twist on the common love story, where one of two of the people involved have a tragic set of circumstances is a route that many romantic films seem to be taking these days. The likes of 2014’s The Fault in our Stars, a tale of two young people stricken by illness. In this tale crafted from the novel of the same name by JoJo Moyes, who is also on screenplay duties, one half of this unlikely pairing has his life changed forever after a tragic road accident. The other is a down on her luck woman who is employed by his parents to be a full time carer.

Full time caring is almost certainly not an easy profession in the slightest and life for plucky and chatty Louisa Clark (Clarke) is certainly that in the initial stages as her patient Will (Claflin) is cold and detached towards her. His accident has left its mark and he is bluntly unwilling to communicate with many people. Yet through her resilience and charm, she cracks that hard exterior and the two begin to build a relationship. Clarke is a bit irksome in the early stages of the film, she is certainly not the Mother of Dragons here. Having said that, overall her performance is compelling as their relationship grows. Claflin too also delivers a superb performance. Their chemistry together is believable and you will them to cherish the other’s company. The rest of the cast certainly bring their best, but it is the performances of the two leads that drive the film forwards.

me before you

The script tries to manage comedy, love and tragedy at various points, to mixed results. The dialogue is far from the atrocius levels of say Twilight, but it could certainly be improved in more than few places. There are some humorous moments of course, but ultimately the story, being centred about a man who has essentially lost control of his entire body, is a little bit sombre. Yet there are some positive and cheery messages that the viewer can cling to if they find themselves in the face of adversity or times of hardship. As one character says “You get one life, it’s your duty to life your life as fully as possible.” It can be easy to feel regret the circumstances, but above all, you must not lose heart, and cherish those closest to you.

Controversy over the film’s handling of the subject matter has surfaced, with the ending of the film being the main focus of the criticism. It is understandable criticism, but one would hope that the film’s positive messages can leave the viewer hope and encouragement when the credits begin to roll, even if the tears are flowing, which they probably might.

The performances of Claflin and Clarke are excellent, and despite the film’s sombre tone, there are plenty of positive messages for audiences to cling to.

b

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

X Men: Apocalypse (2016)

xmen apocalypse
All image rights belong to 20th Century Fox, Kinberg Genre, Marvel Entertainment and Bad Hat Harry Productions

X Men: Apocalypse – Film Review

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner, Oscar Isaac, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn

Director: Bryan Singer

Synopsis: After awakening from a multiple millennium long sleep, the world’s first mutant En Sabur Nur otherwise known as Apocalypse finds himself in the 1980s and seeks to bring about human extinction, and Charles Xavier and the X Men must stop him.

Review: Despite the nine films we have now had in this franchise, the events of 2014’s Days of Future Past scrambled those timelines for good and effectively erasing all the X Men films from existence, with the exception of 2011’s First Class. The reboot that set the wheels in motion for this new trilogy and the new direction that the franchise is heading. The first X Men trilogy certainly had after two great instalments, an ignominious third chapter is probably the reason the whole franchise got rebooted to get to where we are now. After two spectacular entries to the new trilogy, one could have hoped for that brilliant third chapter, yet sadly, the latest instalment once again falls short of matching the great quality of the films that came before it.

This isn’t to say that Bryan Singer’s latest venture into the world of mutants is anything like the car crash that was The Last Stand, it certainly has its moments, but there are problems too. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender having firmly established themselves in their roles as Professor X and Magneto bring very credible and powerful performances to the mix. For Magneto in particular when it looks as things are looking up for him in a new life, it isn’t long before it all goes very badly wrong. While she doesn’t give her strongest performance as Mystique, Jennifer Lawrence, also brings some solid acting to the mix.  Without doubt one of the highlights of Days of Future Past was Quicksilver’s moment of brilliance. He has a similar scene here, and it is fun to watch him in action, but it’s nowhere near as glorious as his moment in Days of Future Past.

Of the newcomers, by far the biggest stand-out is that of Sophie Turner’s young Jean Grey, a perfect casting choice as she gives off that vulnerability but extraordinary power that we saw from Famke Jensen in the first two X Men films, with her love interest Cyclops now played by Tye Sheridan. The two of them share a connection over their powers and it is exciting to see where this could go. Similarly Kodi Smit-McPhee gives an excellent performance as a young Nightcrawler. The script by Simon Kinberg does give each of these characters to flesh out their characters, but this isn’t applicable to every mutant.

Yet when it comes to the villains, this is where the film REALLY loses its way. Oscar Isaac may have been an inspired choice to play the titular villain as he’s fast becoming a very prolific and great actor. Yet frustratingly, his performance while having its menacing moments, does feel somewhat underwhelming in a similar vein to Ultron in last years’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is supposedly the most powerful mutant to have ever existed and he is nowhere near as menacing as he could and perhaps should be. This frustration extends to his horseman, Storm, Psylocke, Angel and Magneto. With the exception of Magneto, their motivations are not entirely made clear and they are also given very little material to work with and flesh out their characters, unlike the younger mutants who are fighting for the X Men.

The plot is a little bit disjointed and messy in terms of its pacing at times, and there is one side arc that arguably could have just been cut out of the film altogether, although it is quite possible that it was there to help set up a future X Men film down the line. The CGI remains of a decent standard and the action scenes in particular the final throw down are enjoying to watch, but they are nowhere near as enthralling as those that were helmed by Vaughn in First Class and by Singer himself in Days of Future Past. Thus ultimately this was a real missed opportunity for Singer to make a film worthy to its two predecessors and to cement itself as a great X Men trilogy. The film’s extensive cast all certainly give their all, but with so many characters all vying for screen time, some do get left in the shadows of the great Egyptian pyramid that Apocalypse emerged from.

McAvoy and Fassbender bring the best performances, and a handful of new performances shine, but the underwhelming villain mean this doesn’t match the quality of Days of Future Past.

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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

Captain America: Civil War – Film Review

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Daniel Bruhl

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: With tensions between the Avengers high following political interference, this results in a rift that divides the team with Captain America leading one faction and Iron Man the other, leading to all out war.

Review: The number thirteen is considered by many to be a very unlucky number, well not for Marvel Studios. After two successful phases and twelve films of their cinematic universe that have enjoyed phenomenal success with audiences across the globe, their thirteenth entry into their MCU, sees the return of the Russo brothers directing the story that many fans have been hoping to see, this of course being Civil War.

The actions of the Avengers in places such as New York, Washington DC and Sokovia have taken their toll, and the world has decided enough is enough. The actions of these superhero folk must now be put into check, and for some of the team this is the step they must take. For others, this is a step too far and the disagreements spill out into a proper war between heroes that have been friends for the most part for several movies now. For the majority of the MCU movies, we have seen the hero, whoever they may be, fighting a villain who is all too similar to them, you think Ant Man VS Yellow Jacket, Captain America VS Red Skull, Iron Man VS Iron Monger. This isn’t to say these battles were boring, but it did begin to get formulaic, well not any more. The formula is thrown completely out of the window.

The story penned by Winter Soldier writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely does allow each character ample screen time. Each character is sufficiently fleshed out enough so that you understand why each character is on their respective side. In addition, while you may have picked your side before the film was released, the story does a tremendous job of making the audience conflicted. There is not a protagonist and an antagonist, the perspectives of both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are well realised and you fully understand where both of them are coming from.

Chris Evans and RDJ have both owned the roles they have played since they first took them and here they once again both deliver excellent and sincere performances as the leads of what is a superb ensemble cast, each character is wonderfully portrayed by their respective actor. The new players making their debuts into this mad Marvel world are also outstanding with Chadwick Boseman excellent as Black Panther and Tom Holland’s portrayal as Peter Parker/Spider-Man is the best that has ever been put to screen. Marvel films certainly have an element of humour in plenty of them, as this comes from your friendly neighbourhood Spider Man and Ant Man, and it’s glorious. For many, there was a feeling that this was going to be Avengers 2.5, but fear not, because this is most definitely a Captain America movie, as it carries on themes that were present in The Winter Soldier.

The Russos certainly showed their hand when it came to action sequences with the Winter Soldier, and here once again, their work is excellent and shows that the Avengers: Infinity War movies are in very safe hands. Right from the very first sequence, the suspense is maintained throughout, and it’s helmed superbly. There is a little bit of shaky cam and some fast editing, but the directors manage to use them very effectively to get the heartbeat of the audience beating fast. Furthermore the airport battle that is shown in the trailers, can definitely lay claim to hands down, the best action battle that the MCU has seen to date, it certainly is a proper war between these guys and it’s just awesome to watch.

However, there are certain parts in which the story did play things safe but it is hard to deny the quality job that the Russos have done in making what are the two best movies of the MCU to date. Phase 3 has got off to the best start it possibly could have, and in this era of superhero movie dominance, Marvel for now at least, continues to lead the way over DC by a significant distance.

A thrilling ensemble cast with some superb performances from MCU veterans and the newbies alike, on top of some outstanding action sequences, the MCU is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Midnight Special (2016)

midnight-special
Image rights belong to Faliro House Productions, Tri-State Pictures and Warner Bros Studios

Midnight Special – Film Review

Cast: Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton, Jaeden Lieberher

Director: Jeff Nichols

Synopsis: A father, whose son holds special, not-from-earth powers, goes on the run in a bid to protect his son from various people who want to use his powers for their own ends.

Review: Imagine if you found out one day that your child possessed special and mysterious powers and that a range of different people, ranging from the government to a religious sect, wanted to take them away for their own means, be this saving the world from what is perceived as a potential extraterrestrial threat. Well chances are you’d be pretty scared and would find yourself on the run in a bid to protect your child from harm. This is precisely the situation that Roy (Michael Shannon) finds himself in as he bids to protect his son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher)  and with the help of Lucas, (Joel Edgerton) they must outrun all those that are coming after them.

Right from the get go, it is clear that director Jeff Nichols has been inspired by the likes of Steven Spielberg, with some very possible nods to some of Spielberg’s masterpieces such as ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Not just Spielberg, but 80s sci-fi in general. Yet despite these influences, it does not feel in the slightest like a copy or a rip off, the film definitely has its own style. The intrigue is established from the opening shot, it’s not immediately apparent why these two men are moving this child across the country during the night, the news clearly has an agenda of its own though, perceiving this boy as a very dangerous alien threat with powers that could have dire consequences for the world. Nichols’s screenplay is not afraid to go to some uncomfortable places, such as religion, whilst at the same time going very deep with this and asking some very probing questions about faith. Science and religion are two things that don’t usually go together, but Nichols manages to fuse them both into the story very effectively.

The cinematography by Adam Stone is tremendous as visually the film is remarkable. With many scenes taking place at night, the camera-work involved is superb as it actually looks like the characters are in the dead of night. What’s more these night scenes have an eerie feel about them. This eerie feel and tone is something that does run throughout the whole movie as there’s an eternal mystery of his powers. Jaeden Liberher’s performance is haunting and very powerful in equal measure. The chemistry he shares with his father is very believable and Shannon shows what a tremendous actor he is with another fine performance that shine the brightest in this movie.

For all of its mystery and intrigue, the film does suffer from pacing issues, there are some moments where the plot slows down to a frustratingly slow pace, which means a little bit of the initial intrigue is lost. Furthermore, the screenplay fails to touch upon certain plot points that would have made the story a lot more enjoyable. Specifically the lack of a back story surrounding Alton and where and or why he got his powers. However, the intrigue and excitement levels increase massively with a very exciting conclusion, that exemplifies the  significant power of parenthood and how a bond between parent and child can be very deep indeed. A very ambitious and original premise, but not as rewarding as you’d like it to be.

An intriguing concept and premise, with some top powerful acting and wonderful cinematography, but the expansion of certain plot points wouldn’t have gone astray.

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Zootopia (2016)

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Animation Studios
Image rights belong to Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

Zootopia – Film Review

Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate

Directors: Byron Howard and Rich Moore

Synopsis: Judy Hopps is a determined rabbit with ambitions of becoming Zootopia’s first rabbit police officer and making the world a better place, and she must put all of her skills to the test to crack a troubling case.

Review: When you do think of animated movies that have plenty to offer for viewers of all ages, young and old alike, the folks at Walt Disney Animation Studios certainly have a strong grip on this genre. Their last three films: Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Wreck it Ralph have all come along in this decade alone, grossing over two billion dollars combined, and thrilling audiences at the same time with heartfelt and very clever stories. Well for their latest adventure this decade, in almost a throwback to their roots of movies involving animals that talk, Wreck-It Ralph director Rich Moore teams up with Tangled co-director Byron Howard to give us a beautifully realised urban metropolis that happens to be full of animals, and once again, Disney delivers the goods in amusing and heartfelt style.

The centrepiece of this furry tale is a plucky bunny named Judy Hopps, who possess a fierce desire to buck the trend and become a police officer, the first bunny to do so, whilst at the same time she stubbornly refuses to conform to what’s expected of her which is become a carrot seller. She’s a very believable heroine that young female viewers can certainly look up to. Upon arrival in the big league, she is almost instantaneously looked down on by the other recruits, and given a pretty thankless task which stumbles her onto something quite substantial that will require all of her intelligence to help solve.

The story from Jared Bush and Phil Johnston is, somewhat surprisingly for a children’s film, really quite in depth. It is very apparent that the story’s inspiration is drawn from the crazy world we all inhabit, where everything should be a Utopia, but it really isn’t. Also as it often the case with Disney and Pixar films, there’s plenty of references that will fly over the heads of the younger viewers, but give adults watching a good chuckle, including some great references to some well known movies and TV shows.

The voice cast of these eccentric bunch of animals is also top of the range. Ginnifer Goodwin gives Judy that fierce determination so much so that you just cannot help but want her to succeed, with Jason Bateman also providing some great work as a crafty and devious fox. Their chemistry is perfect as they’re polar opposites in terms of the animals they are, but at the same time, there is a mutual understanding between the two, and it works to perfection There’s plenty of A list talent who lend their voices with the likes of Idris Elba, Octavia Spencer, J.K Simmons and somewhat surprisingly, Shakira all providing some tremendous work but is Goodwin and Bateman who definitely steal the show.

Most animated movies these days do cater for viewers of all generations, Pixar films have certainly got this nailed down but so too have their Disney Animated Studios counterparts. The themes and the message of this movie are surprisingly deep and thorough, and despite being a delightful work of fiction, will certainly give the older watching viewer plenty of food for thought when the credits begin to roll.

Superbly animated with some very sincere and well developed characters, added with excellent voice work. Another fine addition to the Disney animated collection. 

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Eddie The Eagle (2016)

eddie the eagle

Eddie The Eagle – Film Review

Cast: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Synopsis: A young British ski jumper has aspirations of going to the Olympics, finds his calling as a skier and harbours dreams of representing his country at the Winter Olympics.

Review: Everyone loves an underdog story, particularly when it comes to sport especially here in Britain given our questionable record when it comes to a handful of top international sporting tournaments. What’s more, everyone loves a story of one man pursuing his dream with seemingly every obstacle thrown his face and being ridiculed time after time, but no matter what, they keep on going. In the case of Michael “Eddie” Edwards AKA Eddie the Eagle, this is certainly the case as he stops at nothing to try and achieve his dream of becoming an Olympian, even it means making a fool out of himself in the process.

Fresh from his successful break out role in Kingsman: The Secret Service, along with a very humorous turn in the Kray brothers drama Legend, Taron Egerton really shines as the titular character. He is a bit of a dork, but at the same time he’s very sincere and genuine. What’s more, his indomitable spirit and desire to achieve his dream just make you want to root for him and will him to success. Aiding him on that quest is his fictional coach Bronson Peary, played by Wolverine himself Hugh Jackman. Haunted by his past in the sport, he decides to coach Eddie  and himself becomes determined to do everything he can to help Eddie achieve success. The two actors make a formidable duo and it is their friendship that drives the movie forward. Of course the writers did take liberties with the story, but at the core, it’s a powerful true story.

The ski jumping scenes themselves are executed very well with some tremendous camera-work that shows the jumps from the jumper’s perspective,and that might just make anyone watching to never wish themselves to be in that position. Visually these scenes are excellent and  the cinematography is tremendous. When Eddie is perched on the top of those ramps, the tension is kicked up a notch as you will him to succeed. The plot is a bit formulaic as we have seen many other sport movies where an underdog triumphs in the face of adversity.

It is a very by-the-numbers story, and it could have gone into more detail in places, but at the same time it is tremendously uplifting with a great feel good factor. Due to Eddie’s spirit and unwavering desire to succeed, you can’t help but smile by the time the credits begin to roll, and makes you think you can go and follow your dream yourself, even if time after time, obstacles keep blocking your road, or in Eddie’s case, his path to a frighteningly high ramp.

The plot is very by-the-numbers, but two very sincere performances from Jackman and Egerton, with enthralling jump sequences, mean Eddie The Eagle soars.

b