Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Avengers: Endgame – Film Review

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: After half of the galaxy’s population is vanquished by the Mad Titan Thanos,  the Avengers still standing must take their final stand, and do whatever it takes to reverse the terrible damage that has been inflicted upon the universe…

This review will be 100% spoiler free…

Review: It is quite remarkable to think when a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist announced that he is Iron Man, audiences had absolutely no idea of the journey that they were about to go on. As the years went by, piece by piece, the Marvel Cinematic Universe assembled itself into this enormous cinematic juggernaut almost unlike anything we had seen in cinematic history. Now, eleven years since Tony Stark uttered those famous words, and the twenty one films that followed afterwards, this journey is now at its end.

Set directly after the events of Infinity War, The Avengers who survived Thanos’s snap are all left completely desolate and broken after failing to stop the Mad Titan succeeding in his aim to bring balance to the world by wiping out half of all life. It’s a completely bleak existence for them all, but when an opportunity to undo the catastrophic damage that Thanos has done to the Universe presents itself, the Avengers take their final stand for a mission that represents the biggest fight of their lives, with literally everything on the line.

Having pulled off a masterfully crafted piece of action cinema, full of stupendous action set pieces with Infinity War, the Russo brothers, and returning writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely go very much in the opposite direction for this sequel. The film, in all of its three hour run time, significantly dials back the action, in favour of more personal, more sombre moments of reflection. It bides its time, exploring the emotions, and the development of these characters. As we watch our heroes contemplating what might have been, whilst simultaneously licking their wounds and dealing with the enormous consequences of Thanos’s actions. It crucially allows the audience to watch these heroes that we have known and loved across this last decade of Marvel films, be in a such a traumatic place, the likes of which we haven’t really seen before in the MCU.

It is quite incredible that in this decade and almost two dozen MCU films that the cast that has been recruited for all these eclectic and colourful characters has been practically flawless across the board, with so many memorable characters that have undoubtedly charmed their way into the hearts of audiences around the world. There isn’t a false note in any of the performances, for this film and for its predecessor, but as the marketing for the film demonstrated, the MVPs here are the original gang of Avengers (Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Thor.) It’s this group of heroes that first banded together to save the world in the first Avengers film. We as an audience owe so much to these guys for being the awesome bunch of characters that they have been across these movies, and for laying the foundations that this incredible universe has been built upon.

This isn’t to say that some of the newer crop don’t get their moment to shine, because they most certainly do. Furthermore, in these dire circumstances, the film finds its ways to be extremely humorous once again. Though the action is dialled back significantly, it wouldn’t be an Avengers film without some intense action. With that, as they have done for the last three films that were under their expert vision, the Russos continue on that trajectory to again deliver an absolutely jaw dropping sequence, one that hardcore fans of the MCU will undoubtedly enjoy every minute of it.

It is worth re-emphasising the sheer scale of what Marvel has achieved across these films. The work that all of the writers and film-makers, and all of the crews who have worked on these films have done, to make this cinematic universe so successful.  Three phases, twenty two movies, rich and well developed characters, laughter and gags aplenty, and plenty of insane and jaw dropping action sequences, it has all been a fantastic journey to have been on. While the MCU will undoubtedly carry on past this point, part of the journey is the end, and now this iteration has reached its Endgame, and that final outcome is a marvellous and unprecedented achievement that will go down in cinematic history.

A monumental cinematic achievement that delivers the conclusion the legions of MCU fans were hoping for. A triumphant conclusion to one of the most impactful franchises of modern cinema.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Captain Marvel (2019)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Captain MarvelFilm Review

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law

Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Synopsis: Whilst training on the alien homeworld of the Kree, a soldier has flashbacks of what she believes was her past life on Earth. With the threat of an alien invasion, she tries to piece together her memories whilst stopping the incoming attack…

Review: For all the might of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its powerful array of characters, there has been one thing really missing from its roster. While the universe has seen plenty of powerful and inspiring women, it never had a female led film. This has all changed with the introduction of Captain Marvel, and though it has been a long time coming, this heroine makes quite the entrance, and she might just be the most powerful of them all.

Our titular hero is training on an alien planet belonging to the Kree (the race of Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy) with no knowledge of her past. Whilst on a mission, led by Jude Law’s Kree general to retrieve something of critical importance, she becomes caught in the crossfire of a war being waged by two alien species. Through a sequence of events, she arrives on Earth in the 90s, which coincides with one of those hostile alien races infiltrating the planet.

Look into my eyes….

One thing that any superhero film has got to get right is the casting for its main hero, and with an actress of Brie Larson’s immense talents, Marvel once again got their casting spot on. Larson gives Captain Marvel personality and depth, and she is a hero you definitely want to root for. As with any hero, she has moments of vulnerability but, she takes those head on and become the hero, which is just so satisfying. Though he might be de-aged Samuel L Jackson is once again extremely entertaining as Nick Fury. With the film being set before he became the gruff eye-patched badass we know and love, he is able to get out and about and not glare menacingly at people. Also, yes that little ball of fur AKA Goose the Cat is the purrrrrfect (sorry) little companion.

It is extremely positive to see, at long last, a MCU film directed by a woman. Furthermore, Boden and Geneva Robertson-Dworet become only the second and third women to receive writing credits. The screenplay wastes no time putting the audience right in the picture from the word go, but its not without its problems. It does wobble in one or two places, most notably the second act. The pace comes to a sharp halt, as it strives to weave some extremely relevant political subtext into the story. Admirable as this may be, it doesn’t quite flow as seamlessly as it could do. With this being the 21st film in this universe, it is difficult for the filmmakers to make something that really stands out from the rest. There’s nothing on the magnitude of say one Mad Titan snapping his fingers and half the population turning to dust.

However, this isn’t to say that the action Boden and Fleck give us isn’t extremely entertaining. It is exhilarating, especially once we hit the third act and Captain Marvel has acquired her stripes, accompanied by a glorious 90s soundtrack. The arrival of Captain Marvel brings a new dimension to the MCU that opens up an array of possibilities for the future of the franchise, that will hopefully have more female heroes front and centre.

 The familiar formula of MCU films of the past is very much present, but with a terrific lead performance by Larson, Captain Marvel is a very welcome addition to the Marvel roster.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Free Fire (2017)

Image is property of Film4 Productions, BFI, Rook Films Protagonist Pictures and StudioCanal UK

Free Fire– Film Review

Cast: Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Jack Reynor, Enzo Cilenti

Director: Ben Wheatley

Synopsis: Two parties meet in an old abandoned warehouse to complete a deal to buy some guns. However when the deal goes awry, the bullets begin to fly…

Review: Whenever you have a set up in a film that consists of several groups of people meeting up in a disused warehouse/factory to negotiate the sale of some weapons, appropriately enough in the case, some guns, chances are that something will go amiss. Tensions will flare for one reason or another, some folks will get angry and before you know it we have one absolutely mental shootout that has every single character fighting to stay alive.

Before those bullets fly however, we’re introduced rather quickly to our core group of characters. On one side you have Cillian Murphy as an Irishman who’s looking to buy the guns from and Sharlto Copley’s very thick accented Vernon, in a deal that has been facilitated by Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) . The script, co-written by director Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump does its best to flesh out the characters, which it does well for some, but less so for others. Copley’s arms dealer is perhaps the shining light of this unpleasant mob. He’s a man who’s clearly got the eye for Justine, despite his less than pleasant attempts to flirt with her, amusing to the audience perhaps but less so for Justine. However, the pleasantries do not last for long, and soon enough everyone is armed and ready to kill,  and a fight to be the last man (or woman?) standing ensues.

Immediate, the film has the feel as if it was a film that was made in the era that it’s set, it has a real 1970s vibe to it. Wheatley and Jump’s script is filled with some very funny moments, with some superb lines of dialogue that feel almost as if Mr Tarantino himself wrote them. Speaking of, there will no doubt be comparisons to Reservoir Dogs given the premise and the similarity that everyone is soon turning on one another to create multiple Mexican stand off-ish situations. Except there’s no squad of men in your standard suits, as the clothes this time are a little bit more garish.

When the shooting is taking place it is gripping for the most part, however there are moments where the films lapses in terms of pace as the various crews lick their wounds in-between firing off a round of bullets, many of which do not find their targets. The nature of the shootouts are very stop-start with a lot of angry talking and yelling from the characters in between the exchanges of bullets and angry curse words being hurled, and lots of hobbling around desperately seeking cover from the bullets raining down upon them.

Wheatley helms the action by and large pretty well, the scenes are well cut together and the editing in scenes where there bullets are raining down is really well done. At the start, the tension is built really well as you know that someone is going to get trigger happy at a moment’s notice. Yet this tension is not maintained throughout the firestorm that ensues. The great humour and angry insults that the characters hurl at each other keeps the story going but for a 90 minute feature, it does drag at times, which given the premise of bullets here, bullets there and bullets everywhere is perplexing, but when the film does finally reach its conclusion, it’s a satisfying one that ensures it hits in target and in style too.

A stylish fusion of comedy and action, with some very quotable dialogue and mostly pulsating action sequences ensures that for the most part hits its target with precision.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Image is property of Legendary Pictures, Tencent Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures

Kong: Skull Island – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Toby Kebbell, John C Reilly

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Synopsis: The discovery of an uncharted piece of land in the Pacific Ocean leads a team of scientists and soldiers right into the home of some larger than life beings, including a giant ape, who don’t exactly welcome them with open arms…

Review: It seems that in the wake of the success that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has enjoyed, almost every studio nowadays is looking to form their own cinematic universe, because as Marvel has demonstrated, it can make some serious dough. Some cinematic universes have enjoyed success, whilst others have yet to really click. Now Legendary and Warner Bros, in the wake of 2014’s Godzilla are launching their MonsterVerse. A Godzilla Vs Kong film is being lined up for release in 2020, but before the Kings of Monsters can battle, we are reintroduced to this latest version of the Eight Wonder of the World, for his eighth foray on the big screen.

This time however, rather than be brought back to the human world, a human venture is lead right into the land Kong calls home, with Bill Randa (Goodman) in charge with Preston Packard (Jackson) as the stern military leader. Also along for the ride are photographer Mason Weaver (Larson) and expert tracker James Conrad (Hiddleston). It isn’t long before Kong enters the fray, in what must surely be the largest Kong ever put to screen, and he’s certainly not happy, which is understandable given what some of the humans do immediately upon arrival.

“GET OFF MY LAND!!!!”

When Kong last graced the big screen courtesy of Peter Jackson back in 2005, you empathised with Kong and the connection he felt with the woman he falls in love with. What’s more, there was a connection between a handful of those human characters, as a select few were well developed, fleshed out characters you cared about. In this instance, these humans are just SO bland and frankly boring. The bright sparks are that of Sam Jackson’s Packard, your no-nonsense military man who just wants to get the job done, and there’s John C Reilly who without saying too much has come to know Kong quite a bit, though how he acquires that knowledge is somewhat baffling. The rest, however, are really bland, uninteresting and severely lacking in character development which when given the talent of the likes of Brie Larson, John Goodman and Tom Hiddleston, is just baffling.

What is good however is Kong himself, the CGI for him is decent, but isn’t nearly as good as Jackson’s version of the character. That being said, he’s still far more compelling than just about any of the human characters. Yet the screen time he receives is just not as much as you would like him to have. So when he isn’t on screen, the film isn’t nearly as compelling as it ought to be. You’re left with characters who aren’t well developed enough for you to care about at all, but then again, the script that they’re given to work with isn’t the best quality either. There are some great action scenes involving the eponymous  gargantuan ape and a few other inhabitants of the island. Though there’s great cinematography with some superb wide shots of the island, the directing is extremely choppy and yet again the CGI for some of these is not up to the standard it should be, which is extremely perplexing given the substantial budget of the film.

With the two films now in the bag, the MonsterVerse is taking shape, though it hasn’t had the roaring success it would have wanted so far. The monsters have for the most part been well realised, but the human characters in both movies have left a lot to be desired. The difference is that Godzilla had a select few characters that were well developed, but the same cannot be said for the characters in this new Kong adventure. There is an admittedly cool post credits scene, but you’ll be left wondering what could have been, given that the end product is the equivalent of a giant piece of ape shit.

A classic case of style over substance, some decent CGI and a few good action scenes cannot mask the disposable characters and a frustrating lack of screen time for the titular monster.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Room (2015)

room-2015
Image rights belong to Element Pictures, No Trace Camping, Film4 and A24 Films

Room – Film Review

Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Synopsis:  A mother and her son are locked in a tiny room and are being held captive, and these four walls are all the boy knows of the outside world.

Review: As human beings, we all know of the world we live in. The wonders and sometimes horrors of our world can inspire, they can amaze, and they can horrify in equal measure. We’re accustomed to our surroundings, and our homes. So imagine if the four walls of a small shed were all you knew of the world, and what you called home, and you had no idea of what exists beyond those walls. Well for young Jack (Jacob Tremblay) that is exactly what he thinks. His mother on the other hand knows that there is life beyond their solitary confinement but she hasn’t seen it in seven long years after being kidnapped. But she has her little boy, and that is keeping her going through all the years of captivity and hardship that she has endured.

The screenplay, written by Emma Donoghue which is adapted from her book of the same name, is very heart-wrenching, and there are some uncomfortable moments in the early stages. There is a very obvious inspiration (if you can call it that) to the tale of one Josef Fritzl. Yet despite the hardship and somewhat lack of space that the two of them do have those rare moments of joy and happiness between them, and these are a joy to watch as the audience is almost constantly reminded of the bleak reality of their situation, this is until they make a plan to escape their captivity. Director Lenny Abrahamson does a tremendous job of putting the audience in the position of our characters, you feel as though you are in these awful surroundings with them, and through brilliant camera work, he is able to provide new views on the tiny surroundings, quite incredible considering that it’s a very small shed.

The acting on show, particularly from our two main stars is tremendous. Brie Larson especially giving a career defining performance as the troubled mother. You really feel for her character and what she’s going through and it is heart breaking to watch her go through the torment of captivity. She has been picking up plenty of awards in this awards season and she stands every chance of adding the Academy Award to her collection. Young Jacob Tremblay is also fantastic in what is one of the best child performances in a long time. He’s convinced that “room” is all that exists in the world, that people on TV are not real, and his conviction is very real and tremendously powerful. Awards have come his way too, and like with his co-star, very well deserved ones at that.

The story has some very dark moments that could make Room uncomfortable viewing for some, and while it is a very impactful script, there a few things that are left unanswered or unexplained, things that you would have thought that they would have touched upon in a bit more detail. Nevertheless, the film remains a moving story to watch, with some tremendous acting and directing, and proves just how powerful the love a mother has for her child, no matter the desperate or horrific circumstances of a situation, is truly unbreakable.

Two very powerful performances anchor this incredible story, that is both heart-breaking and uplifting in equal measure

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