Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Vice (2019)

Image is property of AnnaPurna Pictures and Plan B Entertainment

Vice  – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrell, Tyler Perry

Director: Adam McKay

Synopsis: A study of the life of Dick Cheney and how he went from an alcoholic Yale dropout to becoming one of the most powerful Vice Presidents in the history of the United States.

Review:  The President of the United States, one of, if not the most powerful individuals in the world. Yet today’s political climate is one that, especially in the last few years, has become increasingly divisive and hostile when it comes to, well just about anything and everything. Yet while Presidents tend to enjoy the bulk of the limelight, the Vice President is someone who may not receive quite so much of the media spotlight, but, much like the President, the power and influence they can have is quite frightening given, the current incumbents in these positions.

For a director whose early films were very much in the realms of comedies, Adam McKay has experienced quite the transition into more serious heavy-hitting film-making. The Big Short dabbled in the 2007 collapse of the housing market, and he goes much more political with this film. To go from that to a deep foray into early 2000s US politics, which was a chaotic time (to put it mildly) for the country as a horrific attack on US soil, put them on the war footing, is a bold move. Not least because in a deeply divided political spectrum, if you’re going to tell a story about how one politician of a particular political persuasion ruthlessly rose to power, that portrayal isn’t likely to sit very well with those who also are of that politician’s political persuasion.

Christian Bale is no stranger to dramatic physical transformations, having done so for a plethora of roles, and here he does it once again. He is unrecognisable under all the make up that helps him deliver an emphatically authentic performances as Dick Cheney. he goes from a drunkard college dropout, to the very top of the pyramid of US politics. Right by his side is the ever reliable Amy Adams as his wife Lynne, who as her husband rises in stature and acquires more power, she takes full advantage to further her own career, making them an extremely powerful couple. With Cheney arguably becoming even more powerful than his commander-in-chief: one George W Bush, played by an entertainingly buffoonish Sam Rockwell.

McKay chooses to tell this story in a manner that is helpful to digest the information to the audience, especially if they’re not au fait with early 2000s US politics. What is irksome is the way that he jumps from one point early in Cheney’s life, to a much later point with no explanation as to why, it’s all a bit sloppy in terms of its structure and some streamlining would have been most beneficial. While there are some funny moments, these are ultimately few and far between, which is problem for a film that is clearly trying to portray itself as political satire, it isn’t really that satirical, or funny. Furthermore, at a run time of 132 minutes, there’s a lot of unnecessary filler that really hampers the pacing.

Though there is one instance that shows Cheney’s compassion, these are overshadowed by the cold and ruthlessness nature that he possessed on his way to the top of the Washington power pyramid. The way in which McKay delivers his overall message is done in quite a reprehensible manner that, quite justifiably, will leave those who dwell on the Republican side of the aisle feeling a bit peeved. Though having said that, when you think of the current administration and his VP, and the power that they can wield, that’s quite daunting to say the least.

There’s some good intentions here, but a strong pair of performances from Adams and Bale cannot save a film that is very obnoxiously put together and just too full of its own self importance. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Arrival (2016)

arrival
Image is property of FilmNation Entertainment, Lava Bear Films, 21 Laps Entertainment and Paramount Pictures

Arrival – Film Review

Cast:  Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: When 12 alien ships mysteriously appear in places around the world, a team of experts are gathered to assess the extra terrestrial visitors, and to determine: just why are they here?

Review: Alien invasion, a classic trope of the science fiction genre, One that so often delivers films where you sit back and just watch a load of mayhem and destruction with cities getting blown to smithereeens and the aliens must be stopped at all costs. While these can be fun and very enjoyable, science fiction is a genre that has the potential to go really deep and provide the audience with a thought provoking piece of story telling that gets the brain working and leaves its audience in awe and spectacle, and this latest film from director Denis Villeneuve ticks that box, and then some.

Adapted from the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer, we focus on Dr Louise Banks (Adams) a brilliant linguistics professor who is called in by the US military to help deal with the mysterious alien invaders and to understand just who are they, what do they want, and above all are they a threat to humanity? Aiding her in her quest is physicist Ian Donnelly (Renner) and together these intelligent academics must decipher what these extra terrestrial beings are up to. Heisserer’s screenplay is excellent, exploring some really interesting themes that we have seen before in science fiction. Yet these are told in such a brilliant and engaging way that it keeps your eyes firmly transfixed on the screen. The mystery is maintained throughout the film’s running time as for a while, the craft of the visitors is not revealed, and it brilliantly keeps the viewer engaged. It is smart and very thought provoking story-telling that keeps you hooked from the very first shot, all the way to the last shot.

The centrepiece of this story is of course Adams’s Dr Banks, a wounded soul who has suffered some terrible tragedies in her lifetime, and yet, she remains strong willed, determined to do all she can to understand what the alien visitors are after, and not to bow to the will of her military superiors, most notably Forest Whitaker’s Colonel Weber. Adams has had a very distinguished career, earning five Oscar nods, and another one could very well be coming her way next year. She carries the film on her shoulders, and reinforces her reputation as a very stellar actress. Renner also gives a very grounded and superb performance, who does his best to sprinkle a bit of humour here and there into the story, but the limelight belongs to Adams and she absolutely bosses it.

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The directing from Villeneuve is masterful in its execution, aided by flawless cinematography from Bradford Young. The wide shots of the alien craft as they appear in the sky are truly something to behold. The flawless cinematography is aided by outstanding visuals and magnificent visual effects. The aliens themselves feel so real and authentic, you don’t see it as a computer generated image. Similarly with the alien crafts, though they do resemble pieces of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, are beautifully designed and like their inhabitants feel very real and authentic. Re-teaming with Villeneuve after Sicario, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score is mesmerising to the ears, as Villeneuve’s visual brilliance is appealing to the eyes.

Language and science are two subjects that rarely go hand in hand, but here they most certainly do and the results are a joy to behold. The mystery will hook you in and will not let go. With the Blade Runner sequel being Villeneuve’s next film, fans of Ridley Scott’s classic can rest assured knowing that project is in very safe and capable hands.

A beautifully refreshing take on what is a very common sci-fi trope, with thought provoking themes and ideas, anchored by a powerful performance from Adams.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

American Hustle (2013)

All image rights belong to Columbia Pictures , Atlas Entertainment and Annapurna Pictures
Image is property of Columbia Pictures , Atlas Entertainment and Annapurna Pictures

American Hustle – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K, Michael Peña, Robert DeNiro

Director: David.O Russell

Synopsis:  Con artist partners Iriving Rosenfeld (Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Adams) are forced into working with FBI Agent Ritchie DiMaso (Cooper). Together they target and con people such as corrupt politicians to ensure Rosenfeld and Prosser do not run into trouble with the law.

Review: 1970s America, a place with jazziness  and interesting fashion styles. Mixed in with  all this are con artists, an FBI agent and some corrupt politicians. As the film’s tagline reads “everyone hustles to survive”   In that we get a very enthralling and complex story with people hustling to make themselves a living, by any means necessary. A funny caption at the start of the film eludes to the fact that the film’s events are based on a true story, although some details may be fictitious.

The ensemble of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence were all fantastic in their roles. Russell seems to know how to get his actors to perform to their full potential. He worked with Bale and Adams on The Fighter and with Lawrence and Cooper in Silver Linings PlaybookIn both of those films the actors were people who were a bit crazy but it worked as Bale and Lawrence both won Oscars for their roles in those films with Cooper and Adams receiving nominations. Again he finds roles for these actors that suit them perfectly and everyone was on top form.

The dialogue between them was a joy to behold as it felt so natural between each character It has come as little surprise to see that the performances of Bale, Adams, Cooper and Lawrence have all been recognised as the four are all nominated for Oscars once again. Bale and Cooper for Best Actor and Supporting Actor respectively and Adams and Lawrence for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively.

The dialogue between the characters was so intriguing and fascinating to watch. What is happening on screen keeps you glued to the screen as you watch their schemes unfold.  As you watch the film run from scene to scene it never slows down and remains entertaining throughout.  Special praise must go to Jennifer Lawrence who just continues to have incredible success.  The Hunger Games franchise may have shot her to super stardom and into the hearts and minds of just about everyone. However, her roles under the guidance of Russell show just how versatile she is. There is one scene with her and Amy Adams in the ladies’ bathroom which just leaves you taken aback by her brilliant acting.  In spite of the fact that everyone did a stellar job in their roles, Lawrence definitely stole the show and a second Oscar could definitely come her way.

Although the plot does keep you entertained throughout the film’s running time, a lot is happening that may cause confusion for viewers. The scam that takes place is complex that it is at times not entirely clear who is conning who. You think that person is being conned, but at the same time you wonder are they being conned? The dialogue ensures the audience is focused but they may have trouble keeping up with what’s going on.   In spite of this confusion the film was a very entertaining film that kept the audience engaged throughout whilst at the same time maybe scrambling their brain cells a little bit.

David O Russell is again on top form with the directing and execution with brilliant acting from the ensemble cast. The leading ladies both bagged Golden Globes for their performances whilst the film scooped the Best Motion Picture for a Musical/Comedy. Furthermore there is a great chance the film could add one or two Oscars to its neat collection of awards.

Tremendously well acted with a terrific script and solid direction from Russell, one of the funniest movies of the year.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Man of Steel (2013)

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Image is property of Warner Bros, DC Entertainment, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures

Man of Steel – Film Review

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne

Director: Zack Snyder

Synopsis: When a young man on Earth realises his alien heritage and seeks the answers to his past. As members of his race come looking for him and seek to destroy the planet he has adopted as home, he must rise up to become a superhero and combat the threat that is being posed to mankind.

Review: Man of Steel brings an exciting new take on this popular character. With Zack Snyder at the helm, collaborating with Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer,  we have an action packed and exciting film that has laid the foundations for a DC Universe of films and that could lead one day to an eventual Justice League film, and at the very least the Superman VS Batman film that is all set for a 2015 release.

In the beginning, we see Kal-El’s (AKA Superman)home world Krypton and how it was destroyed which forced his parents to send him to Earth. There are glimpses of Kal-El’s parents played by Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer. We also see the determined and ruthless General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempt a coup to seize control of Krypton in order to save his people. However, this is a coup that ultimately sees him banished to the Phantom Zone. This happens to be a neat convenience for Zod and his supporters when they get freed soon after Krypton is destroyed.

Through a series of flashbacks we see Kal-El’s upbringing by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). Through these flashbacks it is clear to see that certain events in his human upbringing have had their impact on him. The dialogue between Papa Kent and a young Clarke illustrate to great effect the impact that Kal-El will have on humanity. Henry Cavill is terrific in the role of Kal El. He really looked the part and for a  British actor, his accent is absolutely spot on.  The rest of the supporting cast also do a great  job with a special mention going to Michael Shannon as General Zod who was menacing and ruthless. Likewise his sub commander Faora (Antje Traue) was equally menacing and was also superb in her role. Amy Adams was also a solid casting choice in the role of Lois Lane. However, there were times when the chemistry between her and Kal-El was a little lacking.

From his past films, we know Zack Snyder is a very visual director. (Watchmen, 300) From this, you would hope to see exciting and very visual action sequences with Superman and his iconic red cape flying through the air battling his adversaries. Man of Steel certainly brings this in abundance.  The action scenes are pulsating to watch  as buildings come down as Superman and Zod do battle. Yet in this case, one intense action scene is followed up with another intense action scene and it gets to a point where it is almost overkill with the action scenes and that they should have slowed it down when it came to the action.  That being said, some of these scenes were fantastic and completely enjoyable, with a lot of destruction in the process.

With a great origins story, some solid acting all round, particularly from Cavill and Shannon and some sweet action scenes, Man of Steel was a fun film to watch and for me it is the best superhero film of 2013. With the subsequent news of the Superman Vs Batman film that’s planned for a 2015 release, fans of DC have something that they hope can compete with Marvel’s vast and ever expanding cinematic universe.  A lot was riding on Man of Steel, and it definitely delivered.

An exciting new take on a very popular character, with Cavill shining as Superman and some terrific action sequences, the DC Universe has blasted off at long last.

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