Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)

Image is property of Marvel Studios, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures

Spider-Man: Far from Home – Film Review

Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Samuel L Jackson, Cobie Smoulders, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon

Director: Jon Watts

Synopsis: Following on from the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker is preparing to go on a school trip with his friends around Europe. However, in a world that will never be the same again, a new threat is lurking in the form of the mysterious Elementals…

Review: After twenty-two films and an utterly incredible journey, the Marvel Cinematic Universe culminated in Avengers: Endgame, a film that has changed the MCU forever more. However, even after all that drama and heartbreak, the MCU is not slowing down. Previously, after their flagship Avengers ensemble showdowns, Marvel turned to the smallest hero in their roster, namely Ant-Man. Now though,  it’s up to everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man to pick up the pieces in the wake of the earth-shattering events of that climatic battle with the Mad Titan Thanos.

In the months since that intense battle, Peter is in an extremely tough spot, having lost his friend and mentor Tony Stark. On top of that he is trying to balance school life with his superhero web-slinging duties. With an upcoming school trip to Europe, Peter hopes that will take his mind off things and allow him to live a normal life. However, whilst he is off seeing the sights of Europe and trying to tell his crush MJ (Zendaya) how he really feels about her, a terrifying new threat emerges in the form of the Elementals. Whilst simultaneously, a mysterious new force in the form of Quentin Beck (AKA Mysterio) emerges, who claims to be from an alternate dimension.

“Karen, activate stealth mode….”

This is his fifth outing as everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, and Tom Holland proves once again that this is the perfect role for him, as he turns in another excellent performance . He’s got the bravado that a hero should have, but he’s still a lovable, if slightly awkward, dork. Though she had a relatively minor role in Homecoming, Zendaya’s MJ has a lot more screen time, given that she is now the subject of Peter’s affections, and the duo have solid chemistry. Similarly, the bromance between Peter and Ned is as strong as ever. Indeed, all of the class from Angourie Rice’s Betty to Tony Revelori’s Flash Thompson, have a lot more to do, likewise for the ever-reliable Happy Hogan.

Given how many Spider-Man films that have graced the big screen, it’s clear that director Jon Watts is aiming to broaden the horizons of Spider-Man. We have almost never seen him venture outside of the Big Apple, so to see him spin his webs around the globe is an extremely refreshing change. As these ominous Elementals threaten to wreak havoc on our world, which is where Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio comes into the picture. Mysterio by name, mysterious by nature as on first glance he seems like the kind of hero to fill the void that was left by Tony Stark, but that is just scratching the surface. When you get an actor of Gyllenhaal’s talents, it can only be a positive, and Gyllenhaal excels in this very intriguing role.

The screenplay by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, carries over the John Hughes esque high school comedy vibe from Homecoming, and the jokes remain witty and hilarious. With each movie that Marvel has made since they were able to incorporate him into the MCU, they have taken the character in directions that haven’t been attempted before, especially with a truly mind-bending, and awesome, third act. In a post Iron Man/Captain America MCU, Marvel will need heroes to step to fill that void as we move into Phase 4, and in everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, you have a hero who is more than capable of taking on that mantle.

Closing out Phase Three of the MCU, Far From Home is another fast paced, entertaining, globe trotting adventure that cements Tom Holland’s status as the best live action Spider-Man we’ve had to date.


Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Life (2017)

Image is property of Skydance Media and Columbia Pictures

Life – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Synopsis: An international crew on the ISS capture what they believe to be the first sign of life from Mars. Yet upon examination, the extraterrestrial being they have found is not very hospitable…

Review: When you have the premise of a crew of human beings aboard a space station in space, and there are some aliens involved, it’s almost a certainty that this means doom and gloom for those poor souls on board. Aliens don’t tend to be the sort of beings that want to sit down and have a beer and natter about everyday life. Nope, they usually want your flesh and blood and that’s exactly what you get in this intriguing mesh of sci-fi meets horror meets thriller.

Indeed, this is a genre and a combination that is not exactly new to audiences, as it’s become a very trodden path down the years. As such there’s nothing truly revolutionary about the story, but it still manages to be suspenseful and gripping to watch. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick of Deadpool fame do their best to try and add something new to the table and save for one scene where the Martian symbiote decides to make a meal out of a lab rat, it’s your standard Humans vs Alien set up, with the humans trying desperately to survive. The cast do their best but ultimately there’s very little flesh on the bones of the characters (not such good news for Mr ET in that case!) The acting is of a decent order, but there’s no standout performance from what is a very talented cast, which is a huge frustration.

Indeed the likes of the Alien trilogy and Gravity have set the bar of quality in this genre, the latter of which particularly when it comes to recreating the look and feel of a space environment.  The effects are well done, as is the production design and set decoration. Director Daniel Espinosa does make it feel as though you are in space, but given today’s technology, and after seeing what Cuaron managed to achieve with Gravity, this is not as jaw dropping as it perhaps once was. What this film does very well though is the tension. Through some very quick cut editing and some solid camerawork, the tension really begins to build when the alien is coming after the crew one by one, and the remaining crew work out their plan for survival, which isn’t exactly easy in such narrow hallways aboard a space station.

There are some memorable moments, and one death in particular that is particularly horrifying to watch that could perhaps cause one or two astronauts to have nightmares, but overall Life does not better the films that serve as its inspiration. The film does have some interesting things to say about humanity as a species and does offer up interesting questions as to what would the reaction of humanity be if we discovered life on a different planet that is not our own. An event that might well happen several decades from now, so should that event ever come to pass, perhaps this film can serve as a lesson.

  Suspenseful, gritty and visually impressive without a doubt, but a lack of memorable characters and originality prevents this from becoming a true classic of the extraterrestrial/space genre.

Posted in Film Review

Everest (2015)

Image rights belong to Cross Creek Pictures, Walden Media, Working Title Films and Universal Pictures

Everest – Film Review

Cast: Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Debicki, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley.

Director: Baltasar Kormákur

Synopsis: At the top of tallest mountain in the world, a group of climbers face a fight for survival as they run into trouble as a deadly snow storm

Review: Eight thousand, eight hundred and forty eight metres, the height of the tallest mountain in the world, a place where the temperature never rises above freezing, going as low as minus 36 degrees Celsius in the winter and rising to minus 19 degrees in the summer (on average.) The challenges and risks of climbing this beast is one that would probably make many people considering to ascend it running scared. Even the most experienced of mountaineers can encounter problems and make a fatal mistake, and after watching this drama come true story about a 1996 expedition to Everest’s summit, one may rethink any aspirations to take on this perilous quest, in a similar vein to 2013’s Gravity, that may have killed any desires to become an astronaut amongst audience members. The opening captions at the beginning only remind viewers of the sheer dangers that climbers face when taking on this challenge. The human body is simply not built to function at those altitudes.

The film focuses on several expeditions seeking to reach the top of the world, which just so happen to be led by rival companies. One of these led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and another by Scott Fischer. (Jake Gyllenhaal) During a fateful excursion to the summit, problem after problem begins to surface, and these snowball (pun intended) into a desperate fight for survival for our group of mountaineers. As was the case with Gravity, it could have been easier for them to shoot on green screen, however director Baltasar Kormákur puts the viewer right into the heart of the mountain with some majestic shots of the summit and surrounding areas, whilst cleverly using places such as the Ötztal Alps in Italy to double up as Everest. The use of practical shooting locations which also included Nepal gives the film definitive authenticity. The audience feels like they are climbing the mountain with the climbers, and feel the sense of peril that the group find themselves in when the storm closes in.

With quite an extensive cast, including some big Hollywood names, you would expect the acting to be top of the range, and well it is. The likes of Josh Brolin, and Jake Gyllenhaal do deliver some wounded and yet powerful performances, but the centre fold of the film is Jason Clarke’s Rob Hall and he is the star of the show as the leader of the main expedition featured. It is mainly through his perspective that we watch the events unfold as the expedition bids to reach the summit. Yet with many people in the film, there is a risk that the extensive cast get  shall we say, swallowed up by the mountain, and unfortunately this does come to pass. The film tries to flit from one expedition to another with multiple strands of the story, thus making it difficult for the audience to keep track of what is going on all the time.

The cinematography and the score are both tremendous, with the latter adding much to the film’s tension filled scenes. In addition, the nature of the story is extremely impactful. “Because it’s there,” a line that is often said in the film. Yet it serves as a reminder for the viewer that just because something as wondrous as Everest is there, the challenges and risks of climbing it are extensive, and a quest to summit the top of the world is one that should not be taken lightly.

Visually mesmerising, with some great individual performances crammed into the somewhat overcrowded cast, the downer is that many of these performances end up being lost in the vast white slopes of Everest itself.


Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Nightcrawler (2014)

Image is property of Bold Films and Open Road Films

Nightcrawler – Film Review 

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton, Kevin Rahm.

Director:  Dan Gilroy

Synopsis: A man desperately seeking work finds himself a unique opportunity to get into the world of LA crime journalism, as he gets more and more into it, he ventures into a dark and dangerous world of crime.

Review: The news, something that many of us pay a very close attention to, and has a deep impact on many lives across the globe. Every day, we see stories from across the globe that trigger reactions in all of us. Crime stories in particular often have the most impact on people as they usually take deep root, particularly when innocent victims are attacked and struck down in what may seem unprovoked assaults. As it is told in the movie “think of our newscast as a screaming woman running down the streets with her throat cut.” The media thrives on these sorts of stories, and in particular the TV news plays its part in bringing these stories to life, especially through TV news. In the city of Los Angeles, one man happens to find his calling.

Lou Bloom is a dark and twisted individual, portrayed excellently by Jake Gyllenhaal. This man possesses an incredible personality and an insatiable desire to achieve great things. When he stumbles upon an accident and finds someone filming it for TV news for profit, he finds what he knows he was born to do. Thus he sets out to become a “nightcrawler” and develops a strong ability for this unique career, to the point where he gets too good it at it, so much so that he meddles in criminal activity to get the perfect shot, or sabotage his rivals so it is his shot that gets the news studio’s approval and thus he can get the big story on the TV news and earn that big pay cheque to go with it.

Through his pursuits, he develops a grand ego and spectacular self-delusion, he hires an assistant (Riz Ahmed) and immediately, there is talk of him and his company and his ego just gets bigger and bigger. Through all of his arrogance, you want to hate him, but you really just cannot bring yourself to do so. Through his extreme of confidence, he doesn’t hold back in demanding what he wants, even though in some cases he cannot have it, and in that, there is almost a desire to root for him as he goes from once crime scene to the next. Yet at many points he turns into a dangerous psychopath that you probably should not root for. Enter Rene Russo as TV boss Nina, who’s out looking for any footage she can to splash all over the TV news that day.  When he has what she needs, he senses an opportunity to either get a pay rise or make sexual advances on her and will seek to do anything he can to get that ultimate goal that he desires, to be the best man in his field. His exploits do not make you like him, or the way he treats people particularly Nina, but yet his confidence and sheer self-ambition ensure your interest in him does not waiver and despite his blunt walk of talking to people and his extreme self-confidence, he keeps you interested.

Through his various screenwriter endeavours, writer/director Dan Gilroy in his directorial debut, brings us a dramatic character driven story with a fantastic script that bagged him an Oscar nomination for original screenplay and a well-deserved one at that. The streets of LA are looking vibrant and bright as well as they since 2011’s Drive came along. He handles the intense action scenes very well, it is riveting and pulsating cinema that just keeps the audience engaged and reminds them what it is like to view a film, in a cinema in all of its dazzling glory.

What is more, it reminds you that despite the dominance of superhero movies, young adult novels and reboots and continuation of many a popular franchise that mesmerising, unique and outstanding stories are still being brought to the big screen.  Though it only scooped the one Oscar nod, it arguably could and should have another for Gyllenhaal’s outstanding performance, nevertheless despite its significant lack of award nominations, it has much to say for itself. A magnetic screenplay with terrific acting and exquisite directing, watching the news will never quite be the same again.

With a brilliant screenplay, terrific performances with a career best from Gyllenhaal, this is a visually explosive thriller that ensures the news will never be seen in quite the same light again. 


Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Prisoners (2013)

Image is property of Warner Bros and Alcon Entertainment

Prisoners – Film Review 

Cast:  Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: When the young daughters of two families go missing after a family get together and police attempts to find the missing girls do not yield rewards. The father of one of the girls goes on an all out  mission to find his missing daughter.

Review: It’s quite possible that the worst nightmare of any parent  would be if your child suddenly goes missing without a trace, and there are no indications as to where they might have gone. This is the exact scenario we have in this film for two distraught families, as their daughters vanish and the families  are anxiously waiting to see if their children are all right While the police launch their search for what happened.

The film begins sweetly as the two families get together for Thanksgiving dinner. It appears everything is fine , the families are enjoying themselves and having a good time. Then all of a sudden, the young daughters of the respective families are gone. Thus the panic sets in and the hunt for these girls begins, that spans across the duration of the film.  Right from the moment the girls have disappeared, the film is a tense and emotional ride as the police hunt begins.

The acting in the film was excellent from start to finish. Hugh Jackman was one of the stand out performances. We know he can go mental as his portrayal of Wolverine demonstrates, but here he goes that little bit further. When the Police efforts to find his daughter yield no rewards. He goes on a desperate mission to locate his missing child, and will stop at nothing until he has found her, even if this means he has to break the law, he is a man that will do it, in an attempt to get his child back. His desperation puts him on a collision course with the Detective who’s looking for the children, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal). His character goes through low points as he seeks to solve this case and the clashes between him and Jackman’s character add to the tense atmosphere that begins to build as soon as the girls have vanished. The other parents played by Maria Bello, Terrence Howard and Viola Davis show the real and raw emotion that any parent would most probably go through if their child vanished. Paul Dano and Melissa Leo were also excellent in their roles and no one gave a bad performance.  Jackman and Gyllenhaal were the stand out performances and both were unlucky not to land Oscar nominations for their roles.

The film is two and a half hours, while that may seem long, the events on screen keep the audience engaged.  It is a beautifully shot film, with excellent cinematography from Roger Deakins, and the direction and execution by Denis Villeneuve is also superb, combined with a great musical score. The tension gradually builds and builds with each scene that passes as you wonder if the families will be reunited with their children. As the film’s subject matter is very dark, it may not be a movie that has a high level of re-watch-ability. However it is still a brilliantly shot film with great characters and a fascinating plot that will keep you interested throughout the hundred and fifty minute running time.

Dark and gritty as you might expect with such a heavy subject matter, but it is visually stupendous to the point where you’ll find yourself transfixed by the events on-screen