Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Avengers: Endgame – Film Review

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: After half of the galaxy’s population is vanquished by the Mad Titan Thanos,  the Avengers still standing must take their final stand, and do whatever it takes to reverse the terrible damage that has been inflicted upon the universe…

This review will be 100% spoiler free…

Review: It is quite remarkable to think when a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist announced that he is Iron Man, audiences had absolutely no idea of the journey that they were about to go on. As the years went by, piece by piece, the Marvel Cinematic Universe assembled itself into this enormous cinematic juggernaut almost unlike anything we had seen in cinematic history. Now, eleven years since Tony Stark uttered those famous words, and the twenty one films that followed afterwards, this journey is now at its end.

Set directly after the events of Infinity War, The Avengers who survived Thanos’s snap are all left completely desolate and broken after failing to stop the Mad Titan succeeding in his aim to bring balance to the world by wiping out half of all life. It’s a completely bleak existence for them all, but when an opportunity to undo the catastrophic damage that Thanos has done to the Universe presents itself, the Avengers take their final stand for a mission that represents the biggest fight of their lives, with literally everything on the line.

Having pulled off a masterfully crafted piece of action cinema, full of stupendous action set pieces with Infinity War, the Russo brothers, and returning writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely go very much in the opposite direction for this sequel. The film, in all of its three hour run time, significantly dials back the action, in favour of more personal, more sombre moments of reflection. It bides its time, exploring the emotions, and the development of these characters. As we watch our heroes contemplating what might have been, whilst simultaneously licking their wounds and dealing with the enormous consequences of Thanos’s actions. It crucially allows the audience to watch these heroes that we have known and loved across this last decade of Marvel films, be in a such a traumatic place, the likes of which we haven’t really seen before in the MCU.

It is quite incredible that in this decade and almost two dozen MCU films that the cast that has been recruited for all these eclectic and colourful characters has been practically flawless across the board, with so many memorable characters that have undoubtedly charmed their way into the hearts of audiences around the world. There isn’t a false note in any of the performances, for this film and for its predecessor, but as the marketing for the film demonstrated, the MVPs here are the original gang of Avengers (Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Thor.) It’s this group of heroes that first banded together to save the world in the first Avengers film. We as an audience owe so much to these guys for being the awesome bunch of characters that they have been across these movies, and for laying the foundations that this incredible universe has been built upon.

This isn’t to say that some of the newer crop don’t get their moment to shine, because they most certainly do. Furthermore, in these dire circumstances, the film finds its ways to be extremely humorous once again. Though the action is dialled back significantly, it wouldn’t be an Avengers film without some intense action. With that, as they have done for the last three films that were under their expert vision, the Russos continue on that trajectory to again deliver an absolutely jaw dropping sequence, one that hardcore fans of the MCU will undoubtedly enjoy every minute of it.

It is worth re-emphasising the sheer scale of what Marvel has achieved across these films. The work that all of the writers and film-makers, and all of the crews who have worked on these films have done, to make this cinematic universe so successful.  Three phases, twenty two movies, rich and well developed characters, laughter and gags aplenty, and plenty of insane and jaw dropping action sequences, it has all been a fantastic journey to have been on. While the MCU will undoubtedly carry on past this point, part of the journey is the end, and now this iteration has reached its Endgame, and that final outcome is a marvellous and unprecedented achievement that will go down in cinematic history.

A monumental cinematic achievement that delivers the conclusion the legions of MCU fans were hoping for. A triumphant conclusion to one of the most impactful franchises of modern cinema.

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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

Arrival (2016)

arrival
Image is property of FilmNation Entertainment, Lava Bear Films, 21 Laps Entertainment and Paramount Pictures

Arrival – Film Review

Cast:  Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: When 12 alien ships mysteriously appear in places around the world, a team of experts are gathered to assess the extra terrestrial visitors, and to determine: just why are they here?

Review: Alien invasion, a classic trope of the science fiction genre, One that so often delivers films where you sit back and just watch a load of mayhem and destruction with cities getting blown to smithereeens and the aliens must be stopped at all costs. While these can be fun and very enjoyable, science fiction is a genre that has the potential to go really deep and provide the audience with a thought provoking piece of story telling that gets the brain working and leaves its audience in awe and spectacle, and this latest film from director Denis Villeneuve ticks that box, and then some.

Adapted from the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer, we focus on Dr Louise Banks (Adams) a brilliant linguistics professor who is called in by the US military to help deal with the mysterious alien invaders and to understand just who are they, what do they want, and above all are they a threat to humanity? Aiding her in her quest is physicist Ian Donnelly (Renner) and together these intelligent academics must decipher what these extra terrestrial beings are up to. Heisserer’s screenplay is excellent, exploring some really interesting themes that we have seen before in science fiction. Yet these are told in such a brilliant and engaging way that it keeps your eyes firmly transfixed on the screen. The mystery is maintained throughout the film’s running time as for a while, the craft of the visitors is not revealed, and it brilliantly keeps the viewer engaged. It is smart and very thought provoking story-telling that keeps you hooked from the very first shot, all the way to the last shot.

The centrepiece of this story is of course Adams’s Dr Banks, a wounded soul who has suffered some terrible tragedies in her lifetime, and yet, she remains strong willed, determined to do all she can to understand what the alien visitors are after, and not to bow to the will of her military superiors, most notably Forest Whitaker’s Colonel Weber. Adams has had a very distinguished career, earning five Oscar nods, and another one could very well be coming her way next year. She carries the film on her shoulders, and reinforces her reputation as a very stellar actress. Renner also gives a very grounded and superb performance, who does his best to sprinkle a bit of humour here and there into the story, but the limelight belongs to Adams and she absolutely bosses it.

arrival-movie

The directing from Villeneuve is masterful in its execution, aided by flawless cinematography from Bradford Young. The wide shots of the alien craft as they appear in the sky are truly something to behold. The flawless cinematography is aided by outstanding visuals and magnificent visual effects. The aliens themselves feel so real and authentic, you don’t see it as a computer generated image. Similarly with the alien crafts, though they do resemble pieces of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, are beautifully designed and like their inhabitants feel very real and authentic. Re-teaming with Villeneuve after Sicario, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score is mesmerising to the ears, as Villeneuve’s visual brilliance is appealing to the eyes.

Language and science are two subjects that rarely go hand in hand, but here they most certainly do and the results are a joy to behold. The mystery will hook you in and will not let go. With the Blade Runner sequel being Villeneuve’s next film, fans of Ridley Scott’s classic can rest assured knowing that project is in very safe and capable hands.

A beautifully refreshing take on what is a very common sci-fi trope, with thought provoking themes and ideas, anchored by a powerful performance from Adams.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

ghost protocol
Image rights belong to Paramount, Bad Robot, Skydance Productions and TC Productions

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Lea Seydoux, Michael Nyqvist

Director: Brad Bird

Synopsis: The IMF is disavowed following a mission, and must use any means they can to take down a growing terrorist threat, bent on global destruction.

Review: If there is one movie star today who absolutely commits himself to every stunt he does, for the sole purpose of giving the audience the ultimate thrill, edge-of-your-seat action, then look no further than Tom Cruise. In this fourth instalment of the Mission Impossible franchise, Cruise really decided to up the “holy shit” factor by actually scaling the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and in doing so produced one of the best set pieces ever put to film.

Of course, this is one exhilarating and intense action sequence in a movie jam packed with amazing sequences and some really great characters, all under the supervision of animation veteran Brad Bird. The IMF has been disavowed after a pretty catastrophic event which they are subsequently blamed for, and it is up to them to clear their name and find the real perpetrator. From a thrilling prison break sequence in the beginning, a daring mission in Moscow, the aforementioned scaling of the Burj Khalifa, to a climatic chase in Mumbai. The action sequences are thrilling and very intense at times, and can certainly lay claim to some of the best in the franchise. Yet, there are plenty of moments to allow the audience to catch their breath.

burj khalifa

Aptly for the fourth film in the franchise, the IMF has four key players, Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, Benji Dunn (Pegg), and newbies Jane Carter (Patton) and William Brandt (Renner). Together the four of them make a pretty effective team, although it’s not always happy times, as Agent Carter has a vendetta, specifically against the secondary antagonist played brilliantly by Lea Seydoux. Each of the actors give excellent performances. Sure Cruise’s Hunt is the main character but the team play an important role too and that is stressed throughout out this movie, they are a team, and they get stuff done as a team. Pegg’s Benji is there to provide the humour, and he does so wonderfully well. Lea Seydoux appears as a secondary antagonist, but she is a much more compelling villain.

The real trouble here is the main villain, Nyqvist is fine in the role, but he is a bit generic. A madman who wants to wreak global nuclear destruction, not exactly anything new in the genre of spies and espionage movies. However, it serves to help the plot move forward, which also in itself is a little bit generic, as it tries to create a new Cold War, except this one wouldn’t be so cold as to very very hot one. Nevertheless, it remains a very exciting movie to watch, and a stylish one at that! When a franchise reaches its fourth instalment, there are times when a franchise needs to be put to bed, or it proves to provide awesome entertainment that ensures it keeps going. The latter is applicable here and when the fifth instalment came out last year, it went on to produce even more greatness for the franchise.

Gripping action sequences, with top performances from its cast, especially from Cruise, the Mission Impossible franchise continues to accept its missions, and with great style too! 

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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

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

mission-impossible-5.35209
Image is property of Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions, TC Productions, China Movie Channel, Alibaba Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Synopsis: When the IMF learn of the existence of the Syndicate, a group committed to destroying them by causing global panic, Ethan Hunt and his team have to go rogue and take them down

Review: Is there an actor working today more insane and more gutsy than Tom Cruise? Here’s an actor who absolutely commits to his roles, including taking on some ludicrously dangerous, death defying stunts all in the name of some awesome entertainment. Climbing the tallest building in the world? Check. Fighting on top of a high speed train? check? Clinging on for dear life as a jet takes off with him on the outside? Check. On the basis of this evidence, the answer is yes, Tom Cruise is certainly one of the most barking mad actors in the business, but all the better for it, because it provides us cinema goers with some awesome high pulse action sequences and a thrilling movie that reminds us why we pay money to go watch these movies on the big screen. In what is his fifth outing as Ethan Hunt, Tom  Cruise shows no signs of slowing down, He’s choosing to accept these missions, and we the audience are very grateful that he is.

The MI franchise has had a few stutters on its way to its fifth outing. Yet the last picture, Ghost Protocol was a storming critical and commercial success, so Rogue Nation had much to live up to. However in the hands of Christopher McQuarrie, taking over directing duties from Bird Bird, the ship is well and truly afloat once more. This time, the team has the task of tracking the Syndicate, an organisation which ruthlessly carries out tasks with the intention of causing mass panic on a global scale, and much like in Ghost Protocol, they have to go it alone after they are disbanded by the CIA. Right out of the gate, the action on show is fantastic, from the enthralling opening sequence of the plane, as we saw in the trailer and on the poster, to a spectacular battle right in the middle of an opera show.

There are more than enough action scenes to get the heart truly pounding, but through all of these impossibly plausible action scenes (clue is in the name) there is emotion that resonates throughout the story, similar to that of Ghost Protocol. Yes there is a lot of crazy and borderline ridiculous action going on, but the story packs heart in there. The audience cares about these characters, and feel on edge when they seem to be in extreme peril.

Cruise, as usual, brings his A game to this movie and shines brightly. Yet a key theme of these movies has been the team element. Cruise is awesome, yes but the team play an important role in the mission as well. Simon Pegg, returning as Benji Dunn, effortlessly provides the comic relief once more, whilst also maintaining a very serious tone as the gravity of the situation they are in is fully realised. Taking over the role of femme fatale from Paula Patton is Rebecca Ferguson, who provides great charm and sexiness, whilst also being a very dangerous badass in a dress! Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner are both back to complete the team line up, and together they all make a powerful ensemble.

Previous MI villains haven’t always been the greatest, and it is certainly the franchise’s Achilles Heel. No one has really topped Phil Seymour Hoffman’s turn in MI 3. However, we are here presented with a much strong villain, with some more clear motives. Yet the series has really lacked that strong, powerful villain that is so often present in for instance the James Bond franchise.  But take nothing away from Rogue Nation, it packs a lot of fun into its 130 minute running time, and with talk of a sixth film in the franchise in the works, Tom Cruise shows no signs of slowing down just yet.

 With a great ensemble cast, and some superb action sequences, nothing is truly impossible with this franchise

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

American Hustle (2013)

All image rights belong to Columbia Pictures , Atlas Entertainment and Annapurna Pictures
Image is property of Columbia Pictures , Atlas Entertainment and Annapurna Pictures

American Hustle – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K, Michael Peña, Robert DeNiro

Director: David.O Russell

Synopsis:  Con artist partners Iriving Rosenfeld (Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Adams) are forced into working with FBI Agent Ritchie DiMaso (Cooper). Together they target and con people such as corrupt politicians to ensure Rosenfeld and Prosser do not run into trouble with the law.

Review: 1970s America, a place with jazziness  and interesting fashion styles. Mixed in with  all this are con artists, an FBI agent and some corrupt politicians. As the film’s tagline reads “everyone hustles to survive”   In that we get a very enthralling and complex story with people hustling to make themselves a living, by any means necessary. A funny caption at the start of the film eludes to the fact that the film’s events are based on a true story, although some details may be fictitious.

The ensemble of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence were all fantastic in their roles. Russell seems to know how to get his actors to perform to their full potential. He worked with Bale and Adams on The Fighter and with Lawrence and Cooper in Silver Linings PlaybookIn both of those films the actors were people who were a bit crazy but it worked as Bale and Lawrence both won Oscars for their roles in those films with Cooper and Adams receiving nominations. Again he finds roles for these actors that suit them perfectly and everyone was on top form.

The dialogue between them was a joy to behold as it felt so natural between each character It has come as little surprise to see that the performances of Bale, Adams, Cooper and Lawrence have all been recognised as the four are all nominated for Oscars once again. Bale and Cooper for Best Actor and Supporting Actor respectively and Adams and Lawrence for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively.

The dialogue between the characters was so intriguing and fascinating to watch. What is happening on screen keeps you glued to the screen as you watch their schemes unfold.  As you watch the film run from scene to scene it never slows down and remains entertaining throughout.  Special praise must go to Jennifer Lawrence who just continues to have incredible success.  The Hunger Games franchise may have shot her to super stardom and into the hearts and minds of just about everyone. However, her roles under the guidance of Russell show just how versatile she is. There is one scene with her and Amy Adams in the ladies’ bathroom which just leaves you taken aback by her brilliant acting.  In spite of the fact that everyone did a stellar job in their roles, Lawrence definitely stole the show and a second Oscar could definitely come her way.

Although the plot does keep you entertained throughout the film’s running time, a lot is happening that may cause confusion for viewers. The scam that takes place is complex that it is at times not entirely clear who is conning who. You think that person is being conned, but at the same time you wonder are they being conned? The dialogue ensures the audience is focused but they may have trouble keeping up with what’s going on.   In spite of this confusion the film was a very entertaining film that kept the audience engaged throughout whilst at the same time maybe scrambling their brain cells a little bit.

David O Russell is again on top form with the directing and execution with brilliant acting from the ensemble cast. The leading ladies both bagged Golden Globes for their performances whilst the film scooped the Best Motion Picture for a Musical/Comedy. Furthermore there is a great chance the film could add one or two Oscars to its neat collection of awards.

Tremendously well acted with a terrific script and solid direction from Russell, one of the funniest movies of the year.

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