Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Hail Caesar
Image rights belong to: Working Title Films, Mike Zoss Productions and Universal Pictures

Hail, Caesar – Film Review

Cast: George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Alden Ehrenreich, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Synopsis: 1950s Hollywood, and a film studio is in the middle of its big budget production of Hail, Caesar! Yet when things begin to go awry, the studio must battle to keep things afloat.

Review: The Oscar winning Coen Brothers on writing and directing duties? Check. An all star cast including Oscar winners and nominees? Check. A film set in a time that many would consider to be in the Golden Age of Hollywood? Check. With all these combined, you would think that the visionaries behind The Big Lebowski, the superb 2010 remake of True Grit and No Country for Old Men, would strike gold with this unique and original story, as they have done in the past? The answer, is unfortunately, no.

The centre piece of this whole wacky movie is that of Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix, the head of Physical Productions and also the man who is there to ensure that the studio’s dirty linen is not aired in public. Yet problems begin to arise here, there and everywhere, most notably the fact that the lead actor on the studio’s massive movie, Baird Whitlock (Clooney) suddenly disappears, after being kidnapped. Yet despite all this, the burden falls onto Mannix to keep everything afloat. The Coens certainly know how to do humour, and do it very well as The Big Lebowski demonstrates, and that humour is on display here and to the maximum with plenty of humorous moments.

Furthermore with a top cast of A list Hollywood talent assembled, all excel in their roles. However some are given more opportunities to shine than others, which is a shame as there are some very entertaining characters who you would like to have been given a bit more screen time. Ralph Fiennes in particular has one absolutely golden moment, but this is not followed up. Many of the talents are vastly underutilised and it is just a bit frustrating to watch as you would like to see them have more scenes.

In terms of plot, it is a bit of a mess to be honest. Mannix is the main man and its his story that is the centrepiece. Yet there are so many different stories running along at the same time, that it is a little confusing to keep up. What’s more, there are several plot points that are just left hanging. It feels like the Coens just thought of a bunch of random sketches, and concocted them together into one film. As such when the big reveal of what is arguably the film’s primary plot occurs, you just don’t care as much as you could, or maybe should as the script is just too messy and all over the place.

What is not out of place though is the detail, 1950s Hollywood has been captured tremendously well and with the one and only Roger Deakins as the cinematographer, you know the film will look absolutely immaculate, and it does. However, despite this incredible attention to detail, this was a real missed opportunity for the Coens to add another top drawer film to their incredible filmography. The film is seen as the Coens love letter to 1950s Hollywood, but it’s a shame that said letter is written in poor handwriting, to the point where it’s almost incomprehensible to read.

1950s Hollywood has been impressively recreated and the Coens pull good performances from their A list cast, particularly from Fiennes and Ehrenreich, it’s just such a shame that it’s all wasted on a weak script.

 C+

Advertisements
Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond (2015)

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

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond – Film Review

Cast: Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy

Director: Brad Bird

Synopsis: When a teenage girl (Robertson) finds herself in the possession of a mysterious pin, she sees an incredible whole world flash before her eyes and goes in search of answers

Review: When Summer movie season rolls around each year, sequels, reboots, and franchises tend to dominate this time of year in the Hollywood calendar.  So when an original piece of film making comes around, it is a refreshing sight. Even more so when a project lands a director as skilled as Brad Bird at the helm with a script penned by Bird and Damon Lindelof, there is a lot of potential for greatness. Bird proved himself in his live action debut with the best entry in the Mission Impossible Franchise, Ghost Protocol. Combined  his animated expertise with great films such as Ratatouille and The Incredibles, with a film based on a theme park attraction that Walt Disney made part of Disneyland in 1955, there was a lot of potential in this adventure.

With the trailers leading up to the film, much was shrouded in secrecy, again something to be praised considering many trailers just blunder and throw WAY too much information in before the movie is released (here’s looking at you Terminator Genysis.) The premise centres around this cool, exciting futuristic world, known as Tomorrowland where only a select few number of people get to go to.

One of these people is spirited teenager Casey Newton, played wonderfully by Britt Robertson, who comes into the possession of a Tomorrowland pin, which with a single touch, transports her to the titular land for the briefest of moments. Inspired by what she has seen, she tries to understand what this place is and how to get to it. Her search leads her to Frank (George Clooney) who has become a downbeat, somewhat depressed former child prodigy (for reasons you will find out) and Casey believes he has the answers to her questions surrounding the mysterious realm of Tomorrowland and the visions she has seen.

As previously mentioned, Bird has almost a perfect track record when it comes to the previous movies he’s been at the helm of, and with his latest adventure, there are undoubtedly elements that are absolutely superb. For instance, the visuals are absolutely flawless. The look and feel of Tomorrowland, as if it is a place you could actually go out and visit, is tremendous and much praise must go to Bird for the visuals and the flawless direction that is on show throughout the duration of our ride in Tomorrowland.

With solid direction, our leading lady, Casey provides charm and humour, whilst also holding the movie on her shoulders and giving a very solid performance. Likewise with George Clooney, though his character’s circumstances mean he may seem like a miserable old sod, but there is empathy for him and he does not wallow in his self pity and works with Casey and the duo have excellent on screen chemistry. The chemistry between Clooney and the breakout star of the film, Athena (Raffey Cassidy) while also decent, could have been greatly improved in parts.

Yet the biggest downer of this film is the script. With such an inventive premise that could have gone in so many unique and interesting directions, it falls flat on its face at times, particularly within the third act. A lot of the momentum and build up that was very exciting in the previous two acts, was ultimately thrown away.  In addition, the whole premise of the movie being Tomorrowland and what is this magical and mysterious place, yet the glimpses of the world are few and far between..

The movie almost dangles the carrot of Tomorrowland in front of you and then only gives you the tiniest bit when you came wanting more, so much more. With it emerging that Brad Bird chose to make this when he had the opportunity to direct The Force Awakens, it will undoubtedly leave many frustrated. While Bird’s latest foray into live action was exciting and intriguing, and he gives it his all one cannot help but wonder that Bird’s decision to direct this instead of Star Wars really feels like it was a missed opportunity for something truly spectacular, something truly out of this world.

Something this unique and original does not come along every day, and with top notch visuals and some excellent leading performances, there was much potential, which ultimately was squandered with a lacklustre finale, and that is a real shame. 

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Gravity (2013)

All image rights belong to Warner Bros, Esperanto Filmoj, Heyday Films
Image is property of Warner Bros, Esperanto Filmoj, Heyday Films

Gravity – Film Review

Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney , Ed Harris, Amy Warren, Phaldut Sharma, Basher Savage, Orto Ignatiussen

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Synopsis: When a medical engineer and an astronaut are working together on a mission in space, disaster strikes as a space shuttle is destroyed in orbit and the two of them are left adrift in space. In order to survive, the two must work together to ensure they both return safely to earth.

Review: Out of this world brilliance. This film is 91 electrifying minutes of cinema that you are unlikely to forget in a hurry.  The film begins in a light hearted fashion as Ryan Stone, (Sandra Bullock) so named because her father wanted a boy  and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) along with a team of astronauts are working on the Hubble telescope. The opening captions of the film remind the viewer how deadly space can be as there is no oxygen, no air pressure and nothing to carry sound. The final caption on the screen reads “Life in space is impossible.” Thus, providing the viewer with a chilling message for what is to come.

The crew are initially a jovial team of astronauts as they work on the telescope. Kowalski in particular floats around without a care in the world. Yet for Dr Stone, she is not as cheerful as the death of her four year old daughter due to an unfortunate accident has taken its toll on her. However disaster strikes when a load of debris flies towards them at frightening speed, the consequences are lethal and Sandra Bullock finds herself 375 miles from home and it’s a long way back. Right throughout the film, you find yourself on edge as you root for her to find her way back home. You can see the death of her daughter has made her a determined woman to get through this horrific ordeal.  Bullock gives an incredible performance and it should land her nominations for Best Actress next year. Likewise Clooney is also on great form here and award nominations could definitely come his way next year as well.

The Computer Generated Imagery on show here is simply fantastic. It makes you feel like you are actually in outer space. Seeing the film in 3D definitely enhances the brilliant effects that you see and it definitely makes the film a lot more enjoyable, which is something that 3D has not always done since it made its return to popularity when 2009’s Avatar came along.  While awards season is still a few months away, I am predicting that Gravity will scoop awards for its special effects, they are spectacular.  The score that was composed by for the film by Steven Price is also wonderful and it without a doubt adds to the drama and suspense of the film.

After seeing this film I certainly have no plans to ever go into outer space. However, take nothing away from Gravity, as it was 91 minutes of complete perfection. It had terrific acting, enthralling drama, breath taking CGI and was accompanied by an outstanding score. Bullock gives one of the best performances of her career and the film has every potential to be a big success in next year’s awards season. This is a must see and is one of the best films of the year.

Visually incredible, with Bullock on the top of her game, and masterfully directed by Cuaron, one of 2013’s best films without a doubt.

a