Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Spider-Man (2002)

 

Image is property of Columbia Pictures and Marvel

Spider-Man Film Review

Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Willem Dafoe, Rosemary Harris, Cliff Robertson, J.K. Simmons

Director: Sam Raimi

Synopsis: When a high school student called Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gains spider like powers, he becomes a super hero and adopts the identity of Spider-Man and fights crime in New York City.

Review: If you ask someone to name a popular superhero, chances are good that one of the ones they will mention would be that of the wall crawling superhero, otherwise known as Spider-Man. Right from his inception in 1962, to today, he has become a very popular character, and is indeed a fan favourite for many. The late 70s/early 80s saw a number of made-for-TV movies bring him to life, but after a two decade absence, he was finally brought to the big screen in 2002, and he certainly made an almighty impression.

Charting his origin story, we meet Peter Parker, a nerd in every sense of the word who happens to live next door to the girl who he has an immense crush on, Mary Jane Watson (Dunst). Whilst on a school trip Peter gets bitten by a radioactive spider, which coincidentally gives him spider-like powers and enhanced strength and speed. Emboldened by his new abilities, he goes on a quest to win MJ’s heart, but this quest leads to the callous murder of someone very close to him (you know who!) and this prompts him to become the titular hero and protect the Big Apple.

Certainly got a great view from up here!

Whenever you make a superhero film, it’s of paramount importance that you make the hero likeable and someone the audience can root for, and Tobey Maguire as Parker does just that. He’s a bit of a dork, but he’s a lovable dork, and when he becomes the wall-crawling hero, he really bosses it and gives a terrific dual performance. as Peter’s two best friends Kirsten Dunst and James Franco are excellent as Harry Osborn and Mary Jane, even if they were a little old to be playing high school students. On the flip side Willem Dafoe is also tremendous as Harry’s father Norman, and much like Maguire, also gives an excellent dual performance as the villainous Green Goblin, and yes, the great J.K Simmons as J Jonah Jameson, is one of the best casting choices for a comic book movie, ever.

Having been a fan of the comic book,  Sam Raimi was brought on to helm the project and he certainly does a terrific job. With experienced screenwriter David Koepp, the story is told in a very entertaining way. It’s humorous when it wants to be so and when it wants to be dark, it manages to completely flip that humorous tone on its head, and does so very successfully. There are more than a few scenes that really REALLY push the boundaries of its 12 rating. The action is directed masterfully too, when Spidey and the Goblin are throwing punches, or spinning webs, it’s really gripping to watch, and their final battle, is dark, psychological, mesmerising entertainment.

Though there are a few things such Goblin’s suit that can be a little bit irksome (we can see your mouth move mate!) Furthermore, certain sections of dialogue, particularly the scenes with MJ and Peter, are perhaps a little bit too cheesy. Overall, the journey to bring a live action iteration of the character to the big screen paid off enormously, and perhaps it paved the way for the dominance of superhero films that started towards the later half of the 2000s and continued well into the 2010s. With Danny Elfman’s majestic score to boot, the immortal words of Uncle Ben certainly ring true, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and with the power that was placed in Raimi’s hands, he undoubtedly delivered the goods.

Delightful blockbuster entertainment at its best with a likeable protagonist, a menacing and deeply troubled antagonist and brilliantly weaved action sequences.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Zootopia (2016)

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Animation Studios
Image rights belong to Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

Zootopia – Film Review

Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate

Directors: Byron Howard and Rich Moore

Synopsis: Judy Hopps is a determined rabbit with ambitions of becoming Zootopia’s first rabbit police officer and making the world a better place, and she must put all of her skills to the test to crack a troubling case.

Review: When you do think of animated movies that have plenty to offer for viewers of all ages, young and old alike, the folks at Walt Disney Animation Studios certainly have a strong grip on this genre. Their last three films: Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Wreck it Ralph have all come along in this decade alone, grossing over two billion dollars combined, and thrilling audiences at the same time with heartfelt and very clever stories. Well for their latest adventure this decade, in almost a throwback to their roots of movies involving animals that talk, Wreck-It Ralph director Rich Moore teams up with Tangled co-director Byron Howard to give us a beautifully realised urban metropolis that happens to be full of animals, and once again, Disney delivers the goods in amusing and heartfelt style.

The centrepiece of this furry tale is a plucky bunny named Judy Hopps, who possess a fierce desire to buck the trend and become a police officer, the first bunny to do so, whilst at the same time she stubbornly refuses to conform to what’s expected of her which is become a carrot seller. She’s a very believable heroine that young female viewers can certainly look up to. Upon arrival in the big league, she is almost instantaneously looked down on by the other recruits, and given a pretty thankless task which stumbles her onto something quite substantial that will require all of her intelligence to help solve.

The story from Jared Bush and Phil Johnston is, somewhat surprisingly for a children’s film, really quite in depth. It is very apparent that the story’s inspiration is drawn from the crazy world we all inhabit, where everything should be a Utopia, but it really isn’t. Also as it often the case with Disney and Pixar films, there’s plenty of references that will fly over the heads of the younger viewers, but give adults watching a good chuckle, including some great references to some well known movies and TV shows.

The voice cast of these eccentric bunch of animals is also top of the range. Ginnifer Goodwin gives Judy that fierce determination so much so that you just cannot help but want her to succeed, with Jason Bateman also providing some great work as a crafty and devious fox. Their chemistry is perfect as they’re polar opposites in terms of the animals they are, but at the same time, there is a mutual understanding between the two, and it works to perfection There’s plenty of A list talent who lend their voices with the likes of Idris Elba, Octavia Spencer, J.K Simmons and somewhat surprisingly, Shakira all providing some tremendous work but is Goodwin and Bateman who definitely steal the show.

Most animated movies these days do cater for viewers of all generations, Pixar films have certainly got this nailed down but so too have their Disney Animated Studios counterparts. The themes and the message of this movie are surprisingly deep and thorough, and despite being a delightful work of fiction, will certainly give the older watching viewer plenty of food for thought when the credits begin to roll.

Superbly animated with some very sincere and well developed characters, added with excellent voice work. Another fine addition to the Disney animated collection. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Whiplash (2014)

whiplash
Image is property of Sierra/Affinity, Bold Films, Blumhouse Productions, Right of Way, Films Sony Pictures Classics

Whiplash  – Film Review 

Cast: Miles Teller, J.K Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis:  A story of an aspiring young drummer who gets his chance to enrol at a music school as he seeks to impress a brilliant but maniacal music coach who will push his students to breaking point…

Review: Jazz music, a sweet and relaxing genre of music that you put on after a difficult day’s work,  or to the background music for a beautiful date. It’s the perfect music for a laid back occasion, right? Normally yes but under the guidance of one music teacher, a day’s work for a young upcoming drummer, the jazz music will involve your teacher screaming in your face, sweating buckets, and also throwing objects at you after a mistake.

That young drummer is Andrew played by Miles Teller, a young man who’s determined to make the grade as a drummer and in style. He will do whatever it takes to be the best, and that includes dumping his poor girlfriend along the way as he sees her as an obstacle on his path to success. Teller is fantastic in this role that is a breakthrough performance for him. With the Fantastic 4 reboot on the way later this year, this was his chance to shine, and boy did he hit every note spot on. The frustration, the joy and the tears of a young man doing everything he can to be the best, is some of the most riveting and suspenseful cinema you will ever see.Anyone watching can empathise as we all would go through anything to achieve our hopes and dreams to be the best in our profession. With one masterful performance on board, it is matched by another superb performance by J.K Simmons as Terence Fletcher.

This man is a HARDCORE instructor, screaming expletives, hurling chairs, and making his musicians perform until blood is dripping from their hands and they cannot play any more. A real psychiatric war breaks out between our two main stars, and it is flawless in its delivery and execution. Teller is absolutely on point no question, yet this is the performance of a career from Simmons. You want to hate him for the way he treats his students, and his harsh and somewhat brutal methods, but you understand the drive and passion he has for the craft and wanting to see his students achieve success. Simmons swept the board in this year’s awards season and fully deserved every gong that came his way, which included the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Through the scenes where Andrew is performing and Fletcher is conducting, there is an incredible amount of tension. Arm rests are gripped tight as you pray for our resolute and determined young performer to not make a mistake. You would think that this sort of scene would not create a terrible feeling of nervousness and dread among the audience, but it certainly did this and with great aplomb. It pulls at your heart strings and tears them out violently and as the film reaches its intense climax, heart rates will only get faster and faster, kind of like the beating of the drums, faster and faster until you are completely out of breath and blown away with what you have seen and you need a minute or two to calm down once the film has reached its nail biting finale. The film also offers one of the best endings we have seen in the past year of cinema. With no action, it packs anxiety and tension in more than a few scenes, as much as any hostage scenario or high octane thriller that has graced our screens in years gone by. However as the film reaches its crescendo,  you find yourself hoping for an encore.

Pulsating and nerve-racking throughout combined with two outstanding performances that will leave you breathless, this is the Mozart of film-making, incredible genius and perfection

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