Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mortal Engines (2018)

Image is property of Universal Pictures, Media Rights Capital and WingNut Films

Mortal Engines – Film Review

Cast: Hera Hilmar, Hugo Weaving, Robert Sheehan, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang

Director: Christian Rivers

Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic world, society as we know it has fallen into ruin. Cities that have become civilisations on wheels, utilising smaller civilisations for their resources in order to survive…

Review: If you are looking to adapt a fantasy novel to the big screen, one man who would be extremely helpful to have on your team, would be visionary director Peter Jackson. The man who of course brilliantly brought the world of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies to the big screen is once again behind the wheels of another dip into the world of fantasy of sorts, except this time, there’s no magic rings, elves or goblins to be found. This time around, it’s a bit more closer to home, sort of.

Set a thousand years into our future, in this time frame civilisation as we know it has collapsed. Resources are scarce, and cities have become meals-on-wheels that roam around the terrain, looking to prey on smaller territories. The leader, or Prime Minister if you will, of what has become London, is Valentine (Weaving) who is looking to establish London’s domination over all of the other territories. In his path, however stands Hester Shaw (Hilmar) a woman who is on her own mission, a deeply personal one at that, against Valentine.

For a directorial debut, Rivers’s direction shows signs of promise as he packs in some exhilarating action sequences, including one right from the opening moments of the film. Having worked extensively with Jackson crafting the magnificent visual effects for both his Middle Earth trilogies, it should come as little surprise that the visual effects are excellent. When it comes to these cities, you really feel the scale of them and just how absolutely enormous they are. The excellent production design also helps to provide a really futuristic feel to these cities.

Lovely scenery….

As the most well known name in this cast, Weaving as the lead antagonist is sadly functional at best. Hera Hilmar as Hester Shaw is the most compelling of the bunch as our main heroine. The film really strives to give her a compelling backstory to make you care about her. Unfortunately though, it’s just not as exciting as it wants to be, as there is a real dearth of personality on just about every character that you see on screen. Except for Stephen Lang’s character, who despite his nature, might just have more humanity than everyone else in the film, which is really saying a lot.

Given that the series of novels that the film is based on compromised of four novels, you would think that there is more than enough source material for the screenwriters to work with. Furthermore, when you have Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens writing the screenplay, you would think that there’s enough talent there to craft something compelling, but there is so much in this screenplay that is missing, most notably some heart.

Furthermore, it feels as though there is so more backstory that is just breezed over and barely explained just to squeeze into a two hour film. It feels that feels as though this, could and should, have been a TV show instead. There was a chance to craft the next big franchise, but alas, too many similarities to superior properties meant that the wheels came off, and that opportunity was completely squandered.

Visually impressive with some superb production design, but a pretty weak screenplay that overall fails to give its characters the charisma it needs to really give this story some momentum.  

 

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Image is property of Hasbro Studios, Dreamworks Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Film Review

Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Ramón Rodríguez, John Turturro, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Tony Todd

Director:  Michael Bay

Synopsis: After saving the world from the Decepticons, Sam (LaBeouf) tries to leave all that behind and go to college. However, due to some clues that are in his possession, the Decepticons are ferociously hunting Sam once more…

Review: The first live action foray into the world of live action talking robots, was certainly if anything a noisy affair. Lots of explosions thrown in with robots fighting in a human metropolis. If that for whatever reason, didn’t provide you with a couple of hours of some mindless dumb popcorn entertainment, chances are this sequel to Bay’s Transformers mayhem probably won’t tickle your fancy much either, as it serves up more of the same in many ways, but the results this time, are not nearly as pleasing to the eye as the first instalment.

With the Decepticons seemingly defeated, Sam Witwicky now seems determined to lead a normal life, by going to college. Unfortunately for him, his role in the Transformers Civil War is not yet over, as a clue to another ancient artefact’s location on Earth sees him become the target for the Decepticons once again, and cue again lots of explosions and a Transformer Civil War reignites on Earth once more. What Bay does well is the visual effects are once again excellent, and for what it’s worth the opening sequence is for the most part, extremely entertaining to watch. These scenes are scattered throughout the film, and they, along with Steve Jablonsky’s score, are undoubtedly the high points of this expensive metal extravaganza.

Bruised and beaten, but still the ultimate badass…

The problematic dialogue has unfortunately not gone away, there are times when it is painful to just watch once again. The chemistry between the lead characters is not awful but its paper thin at best. The plot, once again is completely ridiculous and it seems was once again nothing more than an afterthought in production. You go into these movies to see Autobots fight Decepticons, but that is almost second fiddle here, as the humans are the centre of the attention. As such when those humans are front and centre for the majority of the run time, it’s really frustrating, especially since screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have proven themselves to be capable screenwriters.

As well as the bland humans, well they’re ably supported by some equally bland new Bots. Of course Optimus is his usual Peter Cullen-voiced badass self and the not so talkative Bumblebee. The rest apart from Ironhide are not nearly as developed as the aforementioned robots in disguise, thus rendering them big and uninteresting pieces of tin. Two robots that are not uninteresting, but for all the wrong reasons, are The Twins. Annoying and just offensive, it’s a pity they didn’t end up in the scrapheap of the editing room. In the Decepticon corner however, there is the eponymous Fallen who wants to do what Megatron did, and that is essentially destroy the human race, with a really absurd way of doing so. Bay’s style of editing is carried over from the first movie, and while it does have its merits to the way he frames his action scenes, it could quite possibly be migraine inducing.

It had its flaws but Bay had the platform to build on what he achieved from the first one and make a meaningful sequel. From quite the considerable production budget, the end result is certainly bigger in scale, but better it most certainly isn’t. There’s enjoyment to be had, as such it’s not a complete car crash, but  it’s not far off. Ultimately it is one colourful and noisy mess that doesn’t add anything new to the franchise. Instead it takes the problems of the first film, and just makes them that so much more noticeable.

Nothing more than meets the eye to be found here, a messy and absurd script is slightly compensated by some good effects, but even they become extremely tiresome after a while.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Transformers (2007)

Image is property of Dreamworks Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Transformers – Film Review

Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel, Rachael Taylor, John Turturro, Peter Cullen

Director:  Michael Bay

Synopsis: When a teenager buys his first car, which turns out to be a Transformer, he gets dragged into an ancient war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, and a battle for humanity’s survival.

Review: Making an adaption of a popular toy franchise, one that has been around since the mid 1980s, would seem like a safe bet for cinematic greatness. After all, when said franchise has spawned a plethora of spin off TV shows and an animated movie among other things, that have had a very loyal fan-base down the years, it was always bound to get the live action film treatment, and a popular toy franchise fused with live action must equal greatness, right? Well, not quite.

As this is a tale of two factions of alien robots, disguising themselves as regular Earth vehicles, doing battle over a transformer cube artefact, this is very much a popcorn flick where you leave your brain at the door. No thought-provoking themes to be found here, just sit back and watch at the metallic mayhem that director Michael Bay throws at you, which should for the most part leave you very well entertained as it truly is breathless stuff at times. There is a plot, of sorts, but it’s all pretty much irrelevant once we arrive at what we signed up for. Basically, the Autobots and Decepticons battling for possession of this cube, set in human territory, and Sam Witwicky (LaBoeuf) is at the centre of this fight.

Not your regular bunch of vehicles…

Bay certainly likes to tell his stories with some explosions, or ten, and when its all out Transformer Battle Royale, in a scrappy fight to the death, it certainly is pulsating stuff. Bay certainly favours quick cut editing, and it is used to great effect here. What is also truly excellent is the CGI, especially when the robots are transforming, it all looks absolutely superb.  What’s not as interesting however is the bits in between with some of the human characters. LeBoeuf is interesting enough as the human lead, even if he is a bit of a dork. The chemistry between him and and Mikaela Banes (Fox) is shaky at first to say the least, it’s not the best it could be, but it’s not the worst that’s ever been put to screen, although some of the initial dialogue between the two is just uncomfortable to watch, for all concerned. Leading the military contingent is Josh Duhamel’s Major Lennox, who certainly carries the most charisma amongst all of the human contingent.

Despite a mixed bag of human characters, the action that Bay delivers is more than enough to leave the viewer satisfied. Casting the OG voice of Optimus Prime Peter Cullen to reprise his role was a smart move to win over the fans, as Cullen’s deep voice brings an aura of authority to Optimus which being the leader of the Autobots, is kind of important. Similarly, as he is no stranger to playing bad guys, Hugo Weaving as the voice of the Decepticon big gun Megatron, another superb choice. Many of the Decepticons are in many ways very disposable, but in terms of the Autobots, there’s a good contingent of memorable friendly bots that you definitely want to root for.

It may not be perfect, in fact some of it is extremely cheesy, but when the action is this good, that’s really what matters as that is precisely what you sign up for. For fans of the original, they might have some nitpicks, but it cannot be denied that Bay delivers the sort of dumb, loud popcorn entertainment that you want from this sort of film, and Steve Jablonsky’s brilliant score complements it perfectly. There’s nothing more than meets the eye about this,it is big, loud and ridiculous fun and it does what it exactly says on the tin.

The script was clearly not high on the agenda of the production team, and it didn’t need to be, as Bay delivers precisely the sort of popcorn entertainment that you signed up for.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Hacksaw Ridge (2017)

hacksaw-ridge
Image is property of Lionsgate, Pandemonium Films, Permut Productions, Vendian Entertainment and Kylin Pictures

Hacksaw Ridge – Film Review

Cast:  Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey, Vince Vaughn, Rachel Griffiths

Director: Mel Gibson

Synopsis: Telling the incredible true story of Desmond Doss, a Devout Christian who signs up for the US Army and serves as a medic in the heart of World War II, all while refusing to carry a gun.

Review: For many of us, the horrors of war are something we are all too familiar with. From learning about terrible wars of the past to the brutal wars of the present, war is rarely anything other than a very dark time for humanity. Yet undoubtedly in such dark times, acts of incredible bravery and selflessness are committed, and for director Mel Gibson, the telling of one remarkable true story is in many ways his redemption, and a superb return to form for a man who it would be fair to say had something of a fall from grace, never being too far away from controversy.

Yet, despite all that controversy, Gibson has come out fighting with his first stint in the director’s chair after directing 2006’s Apocalypto. Set in the heart of Japan in 1945, the USA is battling the Japanese at the Battle of Okinawa and after some troubling times with his training Desmond Doss enters the fray of war, and never fires a single shot or carries a gun. It seems such a ludicrous decision to enter the hell of war without anything to protect yourself but the screenplay, penned by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan helps you understand where Doss is coming from, he’s a man who resolutely sticks to his principles. His superhero days may be behind him, but with this performance and his sterling work in Silence, Garfield is showing himself to be a tremendous actor and his performance is extremely powerful, ensuring a well earned Oscar nomination as well.

hacksaw-ridge-2

Garfield is the leading light of an extremely well polished cast, that includes Hugo Weaving as Doss’s alcoholic father who witnessed the devastation of World War I and is loathed to lose his sons to the horror of warfare. Teresa Palmer is equally excellent as Doss’s love interest Dorothy. The scenes between the two could have been a real stumbling block and detriment to the plot, but the chemistry between Garfield and Palmer is superb and their romance is far from a hindrance, instead adding real depth to Doss’s character. Vince Vaughn also turns in an excellent performance as Doss’s stern Sergeant who certainly does his best to add the humour while all of the recruits undergo some intense army training. At the same time, all the new recruits look down on Doss for his beliefs, and make his life a hell on Earth, and this is before they are even in reach of the war zone.

For Gibson, a nomination for Best Director might have seemed far-fetched but his work here is extremely deserving of a nomination. He helms the film superbly well, the action is extremely tense to watch and the work that he achieves, along with his sound team, fully capture what it must be like to be in the middle of a war zone. The film’s editing also helps add to the gritty realism. The violence is not glorified in the slightest, it’s just very frighteningly realistic. Be under no doubt, this is not a film for the squeamish, the bullets fly by their thousands and the blood and guts flow. Yet through all of this, the film shows to the audience that it can really pay to stick by your principles, even if everyone is trying to belittle you for holding on to those beliefs.

Though this is for all for all intents and purposes a war film, the themes of anti-war and pacifism are strong, as well as being true to one’s beliefs, and the themes and messages that the film conveys should hit home with the audience and leave a lasting impression on them. War certainly is hell, but the actions of brave men like Desmond Doss should and will hopefully never be forgotten. Furthermore, they can serve as a great lesson for all, of the true valour of bravery and heroism, even in the most desperate and hopeless of situations.

An explosive, and quite brilliant return to the director’s chair for Gibson, with Garfield giving arguably the performance of his career, and just maybe the best war movie of the 2010s thus far.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

First avenger
Image rights belong to Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures

Captain America: The First Avenger – Film Review

Cast: Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci, Dominic Cooper

Director: Joe Johnston

Synopsis: A frail young man with aspirations of serving his country during World War II is given a chance to become the superhero Captain America via a super secret programme.

Review: When the world erupted in war back in 1939, countries the world over were all looking for able and strong men to sign up for their respective armies to take on and bring down the evil Nazi regime.  In the case of one frail sickly young man, who was absolutely determined to sign up and fight for his country, yet his aspirations were forever getting trampled on due to his poor health. This is until, through a top secret programme, he has his chance to become a super soldier. This man is of course Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America.

the first avenger

Back when the all powerful Marvel machine was still in its first warming up phase, director Joe Johnston with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, provide an interesting take on the back story of one of the most popular heroes of the MCU. His journey from a weak young man, to a near invincible badass though was far from an easy one, but it is very interesting to watch. Beaten up by what seems like every kid in his neighbourhood as a child, the early scenes of the film show just how down on his luck he is, with everyone including his best friend, Sergeant James Barnes AKA Bucky (Sebastian Stan), going off to war without him.

Chris Evans in his second stint as a superhero, after two ill fated spells as the Human Torch in 2005 and 2007, is tremendous in the lead role. His humanity and compassion shines through, and it’s this along with his dogged determination, combined with some convincing CGI that makes him look very frail indeed. that brings him to the attention of Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) the creator of the super soldier programme who fast-tracks Rogers for the programme, and for battle.

Yet despite this very intriguing opening, the film suffers from pacing issues, as Cap instead of being thrown immediately into battle, is made to wait. All the while the war rages on, and the dastardly Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) AKA The Red Skull of HYDRA is preparing to unleash chaos on the world in the form of a very rare off world artefact. The pacing issues persist throughout though as while there are some great action scenes for us to enjoy, a lot of scenes are put together in a montage that almost feels like the studio had blown their production budget on certain effects and were forced to cut back on the action. That being said, there are some action scenes that are just flat out awesome, including taking a zip wire onto a moving train. These scenes do make for some spectacular viewing but a bit more action, and not montaging through considerable portions of it would have been great.

There are plenty of some very big names on display here, and all give great performances. Tommy Lee Jones is on fine form as a gruff US General, Hayley Atwell as the fierce but compassionate Agent Peggy Carter who has something of a soft spot for Cap, and she proved to be such a popular character that she got her own spin off series, and Cap’s best buddy, Bucky. Flying the HYDRA flag along with Herr Schmidt and Dr Arnim Zola (Toby Jones.) While both give solid performances, their accents are somewhat questionable. Yet Johnston managed to create a very gritty Superhero war movie that looks superb with great attention to detail, and he gives a character who has proved to become one of the MCU’s most popular heroes a solid introduction to the Marvel Universe and help build Marvel’s Phase 1 to an exciting climax.

Cap gets his stars and stripes good and proper, with some solid acting and directing, but more action set pieces wouldn’t have gone astray. 

b

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

V For Vendetta (2005)

Image is property of Warner Bros, Virtual Studios, Silver Pictures and Anarchos Productions

V for Vendetta – Film Review

Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, Tim Piggott-Smith

Director: James McTeigue

Synopsis: A freedom fighter, known only as V, is on a mission to bring down a Fascist regime in London by any means necessary.

Review: “Remember, remember the 5th of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason, why the gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot.” A powerful quote and one that is central to this thrilling and mysterious film. V, inspired by Guy Fawkes, is a man on a mission to free Britain from a government that has clamped down on individual freedom and free speech, with his ultimate goal being what Guy Fawkes tried to do, destroy the Houses of Parliament. Anyone who steps out of line, is whisked away and never to be seen again. At the same time, the press is strongly regulated to prevent anyone from speaking out.

Whilst on his mission to bring down the government, he encounters Evey (Natalie Portman) a young woman who aids him in his quest to liberate Britain. V is the one who commits a number of acts and speaks out against the government that has a powerful grip on the country.  His actions and intentions spark a mass panic by the government who brand him a terrorist and set out on a mission to stop him at all costs.

As the film is a politically driven one, there is a considerable amount of dialogue in the film. While this could result in the film suffering from a lack of pace, the dialogue is fascinating as we understand the actions that the Government has taken in order to suppress the people and what drives V to become the masked freedom fighter he is. While the majority of the film consists of dialogue, there are some outstanding action scenes as Norsefire’s Secret Police, The Finger, led by the odious Mr Creedy, a man with no morals whatsoever. (Tim Piggott-Smith) seek to stop V’s “terrorism.”

Hugo Weaving, although he initially was not the first choice for the role, was a perfect choice for the role of V. He delivered his lines, some of which are very memorable, perfectly and the audience really understands what his motives are. He is not an evil man; he simply seeks to bring the Norsefire reign of tyranny to a swift end. Natalie Portman delivers a strong performance as Evey whose life is transformed and changed forever by V. John Hurt portrays the menacing leader of the Norsefire Party, Adam Sutler. Piggott-Smith is perfect as the repulsive Mr Creedy, and Stephen Rea delivers a sound performance as Inspector Finch, the man who has been tasked with stopping V, whilst realising the true nature of the Norsefire regime and its past crimes against its own people. The film suffered a little bit with its pacing as it is a dialogue driven film and thus the plot slowed down at times.

Nevertheless, the film was still a very enjoyable and thought provoking story that left its mark on me. Hugo Weaving was superb as V and has some truly unforgettable quotes. While there is not much action, the action scenes that are in the film are excellent.

With sterling work from Weaving and Hammond, visually stunning and a well crafted story that is full of themes and ideas, V for Vendetta particularly in this day and age, is a film that has messages that may ring true today.

a