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

Wind River (2017)

Image is property of The Weinstein Company, Thunder Road Pictures and Ingenious Media

Wind River – Film Review

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen

Director: Taylor Sheridan

Synopsis: In the depths of Wyoming, USA, a rookie FBI agent and a veteran hunter to solve the mystery of the death of a young woman…

Review: Winter, a season that can be extremely punishing and harsh if you venture out in the wilderness not fully prepared for the brutality that that particular time of year can deliver. And it’s in winter in Wyoming, USA that sets the stage for the second directorial effort of Taylor Sheridan, the scribe behind the quite brilliant Sicario and Hell or High Water. Much like both of those films, there’s some crime involved. But this time there are no drug cartels or bank robbers to be found, it’s the mystery surrounding the death of a young woman’s body that is found in the brutal wilderness and the job of law enforcement to investigate what happened.

Leading the investigation is  Jane Banner (Olsen) a rookie FBI agent who’s called to the scene of the crime after the discovery was made by Cory Lambert (Renner) Together, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye  these two go on the hunt for the clues that they hope will lead to finding out those who are responsible for this young woman’s death. In the same way that The Revenant might have made you feel cold whilst you were watching, the use of practical sets makes the audience feel like they are in the deep wilderness of this harsh place which can send a cold shiver down your spine. Clearly choosing to shoot on practical locations gives the film a real authenticity and adds to the gritty nature of the story.

Avengers on a mission…

Sheridan showed his writing credentials with the aforementioned films he scribed, and once again his script though it does wobble in places is strong and is ably backed up by well developed, interesting characters. As a man who married into a Native American family, Cory is a man driven by his desire for justice due to the connections he has with the deceased woman in question and Renner’s performance is excellent. Though initially reluctant he joins Banner on her quest for justice, and in this frozen land where nearby help is not exactly forthcoming, the two of them must use their experience to help solve this case. Olsen is also on good form, if perhaps not as well developed as she maybe could be in the officer leading this investigation but nevertheless, the characters are well written to keep you engaged in the story.

The pacing is a bit slow to begin with as the investigation begins and the hunt for clues begins. However despite the slowish pace in the beginning, the story remains riveting to watch. Once the investigation has yielded some substantial results is when the film really picks up the pace and delivers some pulsating and tense scenes, particularly when you reach the third act and the key details of this investigation begin to emerge. Sheridan showed his skill when it comes to screenwriting, and he transfers those skills to directing tremendously well with great wide shots of the territory that really make you feel that this place is cold, vast and very unforgiving.

Though the crux of the movie focuses on the hunt for clues surrounding the deceased young woman, the film does have a bigger picture focus that while is an important part of the film isn’t explored perhaps as much as it ought to be, at least not until the end credits when it really hits you like a wrecking ball. The score composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis helps keep the tension up particularly in that mesmerising third act that will ensure you feel those cold chills in your body, almost as if you were the ones in this brutal environment that makes you realise, that in spite of whatever horrors humanity may commit, that Mother Nature is a merciless force you dare not mess with.

Tremendously well made, with two excellent performances at its core, and a story that will shock you and send a cold shiver down your spine.

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.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Film Review 

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

Director:  Joss Whedon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Godzilla (2014)

godzilla 14
All image rights belong to Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros

Godzilla – Film Review 

Cast:  Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanbe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, David Straitharn, Juliete Binoche

Director: Gareth Edwards

Synopsis: A retelling of the story of the world’s most famous monster. As an accident at a Japanese power plant leads to the discovery that mankind has been hiding some rather large secrets that represent a huge threat to humanity.

Review: When looking at the various incarnations of huge monsters that are ingrained in popular culture, Godzilla is for many people, one of the biggest and best that has ever been brought to the big screen. Ever since the original 1954 creature stomped into existence, we have seen cities get destroyed by large monsters right throught cinematic history. Godzilla has gone through several incarnations since and with the disappointment of the 1998 version, director Gareth Edwards would have probably felt the pressure to deliver the Godzilla movie that the fans want to see.

In this respect, the director of Monsters has hit the mark as we have a new version of the iconic monster that seems like it is hoping to be a throwback to the 1954 film, and bring a very realistic take on the King of the Monsters. A version that should atone from the horrors of the 1998 incarnation of the legendary character.  At the same time, the focus of the film is largely on the humans. The focus is what would be the consequences if a giant monster rose out of the ocean and threatened our very existence. It is a battle to stop these monsters from destroying everything the human race has ever known.

As the film’s focus is on the human struggle, we have our lead characters Ford Brody (Taylor-Johnson)with his wife Elle (Olsen)   and Ford’s father Joe (Cranston). The latter of which is convinced that humanity is holding some gargantuan secrets. Although he is not in the film a lot, when he is on screen, the Breaking Bad star is on superb form. He is a scene stealer, in particular with one of the very first scenes in the film, his emotion really shines through. While, his son Ford was almost emotionless and stoic at times. While the Ford family look for the answers to their past. In another corner,  we have an alliance of scientists and military, led by Ken Watanbe and David Straitharn, working together in order to try and understand the rather large problem and the best way to deal with it. Overall the human cast, without doubt, a talented group of actors, do a great job in portraying the horrific problem that has arisen.

With the focus being on the humans, Godzilla does not have a large amount of screen time in the film, and in that respect, some may walk away disappointed. However when he is on the screen, it is fantastic to watch. Edwards and his team certainly intended to create their  version one that honoured the original. The battle scenes with Godzilla are enthralling to watch and on several occasions there is the iconic Godzilla roar. These titanic duels are going down and buildings are being reduced to rubble. This new incarnation of the legendary Toho monster, truly is something to behold. There are plenty of other enthralling action scenes to get the heart pumping. That being said, with some scenes, it is set to show a clash of monsters that we paid to see. Instead it montages through the action, which may leave the audience somewhat disappointed. It would not be unreasonable to see lots of scenes with Godzilla battling and seeing cities get torn apart, but these are rare in number.

Despite the lack of screen time that Godzilla has, Gareth Edwards made a solid film that does give the iconic character the film that it deserves. The camera work  and directing, are both excellent. Equally as epic, is the score by Alexandre Desplat. The visual look of Godzilla is also superb and while the fight scenes you really wanted to see are few and far between, it is a strong, realistic take on what would happen from the perspective of mankind, if monsters suddenly rose out of the ocean and began to destroy humanity.

While there’s not as much Godzilla screen time as you might expect, with strong human characters and some fantastic action scenes, there is enough in this take on the King of the Monsters that should leave viewers roaring with delight.

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