Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Avengers: Infinity War – Film Review

Cast: Spoilers!!

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: Thanos, the Mad Titan, is seeking possession of the Infinity Stones that would give him unrivalled power, and it’s up to the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him as the fate of the Universe hangs in the balance…

This review will have no spoilers…

Review: Ten years in the making, with eighteen previous entries in this incredible cinematic universe that we have watched grow over the past ten years. It has been quite the fun and enjoyable ride, but this is what it has all been building towards. After all the work that was put in to establish this world and its characters in the previous decade of Marvel goodness, it would be fair to say the weight of expectation on this film was enormous. Therefore, one must give kudos to the Russo brothers, who return to the directors chairs of the MCU for the third time, and complete their hat-trick in spectacular style.

The plot, without straying into spoiler territory, focuses on the maniacal Thanos and his quest to obtain the infinity stones with the help of some underling servants known as the Black Order, to wreak unprecedented destruction on the universe, which understandably captures the attention of just about every MCU hero we have met thus far. Given the sheer number of heroes we have met thus far, there was understandable concern from certain quarters as to would they be able to balance the story with so many larger than life heroes? Well as they proved with Civil War, the Russos and returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, do just that.

Each hero that we meet is given their chance to shine and there’s no one that feels out of place. They are all relevant pieces in this battle, and as such , everyone has ample screen time in this battle that simply put, has unprecedented stakes for all of our heroes. Yet despite these threatening stakes, as Marvel so often does, the film is peppered with plenty of humorous moments. But these never negate the moments of drama or danger that these heroes find themselves up against, as you feel that no one, no matter how big or how long they have been a part of the MCU, is in very serious peril.

Speaking of, it has been no secret that the MCU has had some trouble with crafting compelling villains. With a few exceptions, many of them have been very bland and forgettable. Thankfully, that is not applicable with Thanos. It is hard to humanise a villain who wants to kill at will, but he is given the crucial depth that a good villain needs to get in order to make them memorable. Furthermore, they need to be given a presence that our heroes feel, and they certainly feel Thanos’s presence alright, the much needed villain to truly break the villain curse that has plagued so many MCU movies.

As they demonstrated with both of their previous MCU entries, the Russos are once again right on the top of their game when it comes to delivering the compelling action scenes that were used so effectively in their previous MCU films. There are plenty of these throw-downs scattered throughout the film, you really feel the scale of the events that are taking place within this world that we as an audience have grown with over these past ten years. It is some heavy stuff and with this latest entry, again without straying into spoiler territory, it is a film that will have a major impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we have known it.

With only a handful of films left in what has been the third phase of their cinematic universe, it is hard to not feel that all of this is all coming to a close. In a film like this, you need to just give the audience a complete and emotional sucker punch that leaves them reeling, and by the end of this movie, said sucker punch will have been delivered. Though there is still a second part in this story, and a few other films in Phase 3 to come, there is no escaping the fact that with this film, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been shaken to its core.

It has all been building towards this, and it brought home the goods. So many heroes could have been problematic, but it is all weaved together tremendously well, and a truly memorable villain in Thanos sets things up perfectly for Avengers 4.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Doctor Strange (2016)

Image is property of Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios
Image is property of Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios

Doctor Strange Film Review

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong

Director: Scott Derrickson

Synopsis: After a car accident ruins his hands and his career, brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon Dr Stephen Strange, travels across the world in search of a cure and discovers mystic powers beyond anything he could have ever imagined.

Review: You have to hand it to Marvel Studios, and in particular its president Kevin Feige. Under his stewardship the MCU has blossomed into a very powerful cinematic machine, and certainly they have maintained audience interest by crucially throwing some variety in there. The studio is clearly choosing to take risks, rather than just pump out Iron Man 4 or 5. These risks that might not have paid off, but paid off they most definitely have. The likes of Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man are perfect examples, and while there is usually some big superhero team up film or a film with heroes turning on each other. Nevertheless, the studio delivers, and they have managed to do so yet again with their fourteenth entry into the MCU, this time, they decided to go a bit mystical and dabble in the world of magic.

We meet Doctor Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon and a rather good one at that, until a car accident leaves his career and life seemingly in ruins. Driven by desperation, he travels across the world in the hope of finding a cure but instead finds a temple of sorts, governed by the Ancient One, and she teaches Strange all about the mystic arts and dabbling in a world that has not graced the MCU stage up to this point, and it is rather thrilling to watch the MCU go in new directions and make a solid success out of it.

Marvel were desperately keen to recruit Cumberbatch for the titular role, going so far as to alter their schedule to accomodate him after he was committed to a theatre run as Hamlet, and it is easy to see why, as Cumberbatch really does shine in the role. After playing the role of the brilliant and cocky but ultimately tragic Alan Turing in the Imitation Game, he shows that cockiness again to great effect. Initially, Strange is about as arrogant as they come, but with good reason. Post-accident however is where Cumberbatch really shines, having truly realised how little he really knows.

Tilda Swinton might have seemed a strange (pun most definitely intended) choice to play The Ancient One, but she also delivers a capable performance. Yet besides these two characters, not one else really gets their chance to shine. Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor do not get the screen time and development actors of their immense talent deserve. Also the Achilles Heel for Marvel lets them down again, this being their villain. Mads Mikkelsen is without question a fine actor, but his performance as the villainous Kaecilius whilst menacing, does leave a lot to be desired.

Director Scott Derrickson, of horror movie fame, also on screenplay duties along with Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill deliver a solid script is but certain things could have been better developed. Marvel have made their name delivering some great humour in many of their films, and this is no exception. There are more than a few great moments that will make you laugh out loud. Yet despite the great humour, the script does lack in a number of places as some scenes do feel a bit rushed. Yet the action sequences are directed exquisitely well and the special effects are mind-bendingly brilliant. It’s almost as if the film makers rolled Inception, The Matrix and Harry Potter into one and the end result is some REALLY trippy shit, but an absolute blast to watch, aided by great cinematography and a superb score by Michael Giacchino.

Marvel have shown they are not afraid to take risks, and while that does deserve praise, it does mean that there could be some trips further down the line. For some, Strange could have been this film that doesn’t deliver the goods, but thankfully that just isn’t the case. It’s another unique and incredibly interesting dimension that has been added into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and you certainly get the feeling that we will be going back into this world somewhere down the Phase 3 (or maybe even Phase 4) line. Yet so far it’s 14 and not out for Marvel Studios.

Anchored by an excellent performance from Cumberbatch with some astounding visuals, Marvel took their biggest risk to date, but the end result is one mind-bending and thrilling ride. 

Rating: A-

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

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Image rights belong to Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions and K/O Paper Products

Star Trek Into Darkness – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy

Director: JJ Abrams

Synopsis: When Starfleet comes under attack, the crew of the Enterprise are challenged to apprehend the culprit, a man who goes by the name of John Harrison, a man who is on his personal mission of vengeance.

Review: JJ Abrams certainly undertook his own almost five year mission when it came to his work with the Star Trek franchise. After directing its enormously successful 2009 reboot, and with a little break in between in which he directed 2011’s Super 8, the director sat back down in the Star Trek director’s chair once again for its 2013 sequel. Under his guidance, the franchise returned to prosperity with the first movie in the rebooted franchise, and this installment of the franchise certainly helped to continue that trend.

Abrams certainly understood that what makes Star Trek is the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Despite being friends, they still have their differences and come to several disagreements which threaten to tear them apart. This is until a very frightening threat emerges against Starfleet in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, a man we initially know as just John Harrison, but if you have seen the movie, you know that he is hiding some secrets about his true identity. The first film suffered from a lack of a really compelling villain. However with Cumberbatch, there was no chance of that repeating as he is electric to watch. His work in the Hobbit movies certainly showed he has a very menacing and sinister way of delivering his lines, and he was completely compelling to watch, as he battles with the Enterprise, it makes for some really entertaining moments.

Although Cumberbatch steals the show, the Enterprise crew certainly also show their credentials once again, with Chris Pine remaining excellent as Kirk. Much like Cumberbatch, he is very compelling to watch, and even more so when the two of them clash. In addition, Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana certainly command more screen time than the others, with Simon Pegg once again providing the comic relief as Scotty. The acting remained of a very stellar quality and the action remains just as exciting here as it was in the first movie. Abrams once again demonstrated his tremendous skills when it came to the action sequences. Once scene in particular that takes place on the Klingon home-world shows Abrams at his best. The film never stops, and Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman back on script duties do some tremendous work to provide newer fans of the franchise to enjoy, whilst also throwing things in there that should satisfy every Trekkie on the planet.

The prosperity returned to the franchise under Abrams’s tutelage and direction without a doubt, despite what some Trekkies may tell you. The movie has suffered over the years and was voted the worst film in the franchise, yet it provides plenty of entertainment for everyone to enjoy. Although he moved on to direct this franchise’s great rival in Star Wars, it is hard to argue against the terrific job Abrams has done for the franchise, he brought it back to prominence and at the end of his four year mission, he has vacated the chair, and certainly left the franchise in a better position than when he found it, of that there is no question.

Certain Trekkies will undoubtedly argue otherwise, but this chapter continues from where the first film left off, with great action sequences, a really deep and emotional story and a tremendous performance from Cumberbatch as the antagonist. Live long and prosper indeed!

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Imitation Game (2014)

imitation game
Images is property of Black Bear Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment Bristol Automotive, StudioCanal and The Weinstein Company

The Imitation Game – Film Review 

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, Allan Leech, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance,

Director: Morten Tyldum

Synopsis:  An account of how mathematician Alan Turing and a team of analysts helped to crack the Enigma code to help the Allies in their efforts to win the Second World War.

Review: When images of World War II come to mind, you tend to think of aspects such as the air raids or the Normandy landings, and the heroes are those who took part in those Normandy raids. Yet the the breaking of the German enigma code was a vital part of the war effort that almost flew under the radar of history and behind this incredible feat lies the story of one particular war hero. A torn and brave man whose story is one that is not widely known among the general public, but a very important one that needs to be known by everyone, for the work he accomplished and for the gross injustice he suffered in the years following the war, this is the life of Alan Mathison Turing.

The film documents the vast majority of Alan Turing’s life, from his school years which included suffering from bullies, discovering cryptography and of course his vital work in the Second World War playing a key role in the breaking of the enigma code, through to his persecution as a homosexual, due to the fact it was a criminal offence at the time.  A script that was on 2011’s Black List, and sold for a seven figure sum, a poignant and hard hitting story about a true war hero has been wonderfully brought to life thanks to the brilliant screenplay by Graham Moore and the wonderful direction of Norwegian director Morten Tyldum. He captures the period of late 1930s early 1940s England perfectly.

In a role that has landed him his first Oscar nomination, Benedict Cumberbatch is on stellar form as Alan Turing. Interestingly Leo Di Caprio was intended to play Turing, but it arrived on the busy shoulders of Cumberbatch, and although Di Caprio would have been an interesting choice, Cumberbatch was perfect in this role. The man, the genius, the outcast who was hated by his colleagues and superiors initially for his stubbornness and refusal to co-operate with his co-workers. Yet through all this his brilliance and incredible intelligence shone through. In equally outstanding form is Keira Knightley playing fellow code breaker Joan Clarke. The chemistry between her and Cumberbatch is wonderful. The rest of the cast also are outstanding, Matthew Goode as fellow code breaker Hugh Alexander and Charles Dance, channelling his inner Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones, are the key stand out performances in an excellently acted movie.

With a movie set in the heart of the Second World War, not a single shot is fired, yet the film packs riveting  scenes, that can get you off your seat as easily as an intense action scene, with some heartbreaking moments on top of that. The cracking of enigma was a major factor in the success of the Allies, and although the part the Polish played in the breaking of enigma is glossed over, the story triumphantly delivers . It is horrific to watch as we see Turing go through what he does after the war is over and what the brutal treatment of people, like Turing who were homosexual endured. It was something people incredulously at the time believed to be a curable condition and also was a crime on top of that.

The story does do a Tarantino and jumps back in time to his days as a schoolboy and back to his days at Bletchley and forward to his persecution, yet it all flows superbly and comes to a head incredibly well with an emotional punch with a heartbreaking closing scene. The work that Turing did was vital not only to the success of the Allies but for the future as through his work he is widely believed to be the father of computer science. An achievement like that cannot be ignored, and this film honours Turing in the best way possible.

Wonderfully acted, brilliant dialogue, directed beautifully with a gripping story that everyone the world over should know about, this is a film that gives one of Britain’s true war heroes the credit he strongly deserves. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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Image is property of Warner Bros, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films and New Line Cinema

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Film Review

Cast: Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Kenn Stott, Graham McTavish, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Aidan Turner, James Nesbitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis:  The Dwarven company along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey continue their quest to reclaim their homeland of Erebor. However, the villainous Smaug is waiting for them and evil is beginning to stir in Dol Guldur…

Review: A fiery return to Middle Earth and with the Desolation of Smaug comes a bigger and better adventure than An Unexpected Journey. The first instalment suffered from a slow start and thus it took its time to get going. Despite this,  it was still a thoroughly enjoyable adventure. However, this second instalment wastes no time and immediately picks up from where the first film ended, as the company of Dwarves along with Bilbo and Gandalf continue their quest to reclaim Erebor.

Right from the get go, this film is immediately packed with some great scenes. From being chased from a bear-man to battling spiders that almost feast on our gang of little heroes. From there we have an enthralling chase down a choppy river as the Dwarves flee in wooden barrels, whilst being pursued by the pack of Orcs that continue to hunt them, as well as a group of elves led by Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). While these two characters did not feature in the work of J.R.R Tolkien, and while that may upset some of the die hard Tolkienites (hardcore fans of Tolkien’s work) they were both excellent characters who were exciting to watch and memorable.

On the subject of memorable, there is a character (or should I say beast) that is very memorable and is one of the best villains that has been put on the big screen in a long time. This beast is of course, Smaug the dragon, voiced and motion captured by the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch. This beast was ENORMOUS and very menacing. The dialogue that Smaug and Bilbo share in this film is wonderful. With the sinister voice of Cumberbatch that sent shivers down my spine,  this villain was superb and the scenes with him are among the best in the film.

Martin Freeman continued to excel in the role of Bilbo and Sir Ian McKellen was also ontop form as Gandalf.  A number of the dwarves within the company unfortunately do fade into the background, but there are those who come to the fore, Thorin (Richard Armitage) being one of them. He is the strong courageous leader that he was in the first film. Meanwhile the elderly Balin (Ken Stott) is another member of the dwarf company that shines through as the wisest member of the company.

Unlike the first film, this adventure does not suffer any pacing issues and is packed with action in almost every scene. The arrival at Laketown does slow things down but this is not  bad thing as the audience need the time to breath with all the action that leads up to it. Again there were a few CGI issues as some things did not look as authentic as they could have been. However, on the whole, this film is very well executed and is one of the best films of the year. It is packed with great action scenes and boasts one of the best villains in modern cinema. Be prepared for a fantastic cliff hanger that is definitely going to ensure you will want to come back to Middle Earth for the third and final instalment…

The stakes are upped considerably from the first film, delivering incredible action and a magnificent performance from Cumberbatch as Smaug the dragon, can we go back to Middle Earth now please?

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