Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Don’t Look Up (2021)

© Netflix

Don’t Look Up  – Film Review

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Scott Mescudi

Director: Adam McKay

Synopsis: When two astronomers discover a deadly comet is directly on a collision course with Earth, they try to sound the alarm to the rest of the world…

Review: It’s one of the most pressing matters that humanity in the 21st century is having to contend with: the future of the planet that we call home.  It’s an issue that has attracted the attention of the world’s media and has prompted figures from all corners of the globe to take a stand and urge those in positions of power to act before it is too late. Yet, in recent years, we have seen some world leaders fail to recognise what is truly at stake for the future of our planet. Having turned his eye on the 2008 Economic crash and the rise and fall of US Vice President Dick Cheney, Adam McKay has now turned his attention to this impending threat facing humanity, the responses of those who wield the power to do something about it, and how various aspects of modern life cover this pressing issue our planet is facing. And he does so, in the smuggest and most pompous manner possible.

Astronomers Dr Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) and Dr Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence) make an alarming discovery: a giant comet is set to collide with Earth in around six months time. When it collides, it will cause catastrophic destruction on a global scale. Heading straight to Washington D.C. to inform the President (Streep) of their discovery, they are astounded when the White House doesn’t choose to take immediate action to stop the apocalyptic threat. Left with little option, they resort to other methods in order to inform the rest of the planet, in the hope that their warnings of impending doom will somehow prompt those in charge to take action to avert humanity’s destruction.

It is hard to ignore the fact that the idea for this film feels borne out of a particular world leader and his indifference towards the major issue of the environment, and the challenges that the human race faces over this important topic. This feels only exacerbated by the ongoing situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic failure by the US Government at the time, to deal with this crisis in a swift and efficient manner. These categorical failures of leadership seem to be McKay’s motivations for writing and directing his latest satirical attack on the current state of US politics, as well as numerous aspects of 21st-century life in general. Yet, there is absolutely no subtlety about who and what McKay is targeting. It comes across like he’s trying to say to the audience how funny or witty his satire is. When in reality, it comes across as extremely patronising. There’s an important lesson to be taken from the need to focus on the environment. However, as with both his previous films that were very much from a satirical perspective, there’s something that’s unbearably smug and arrogant about the manner in which he seeks to deliver this message.

Because of the gravity of the topic that’s being “satirised”, there was an opportunity to provide some thought-provoking, social satire that is nuanced and subtle in what it tried to convey, In reality, McKay’s screenplay, much like his previous films, is about as subtle as taking a sledgehammer to someone’s kneecaps. The satirical writing, or lack thereof, opts to beat the audience over the head with its themes so obnoxiously that it begins to actively make you angry that you don’t really care what he or the characters are trying to say, which is not good when there’s an important lesson for humanity to take away from the events being depicted. There’s no denying that McKay has assembled some of the biggest names in Hollywood for this cast, with lots of beloved actors. Yet, McKay’s dialogue is so overbearingly smug and obnoxious that you openly despise each and every single one of the characters, which makes the run time of the film feel two or three times as long.

The best of a bad bunch is easily Leonardo Di Caprio’s Dr Mindy, he tries his best but when he’s given such horrific material to work with, he can only do so much. Meryl Streep does a decent enough job at portraying a President who couldn’t give two shits about the public they’re meant to represent. However, it’s so painfully obvious who she, and her son (Hill) are meant to be a parody of, their characters might as well have been named Trump. Such a serious and important topic deserved a film worthy of this talented cast, and a director who did not take an infuriatingly offensive approach to the topic. You may well almost want the world to come to an end by the time this apocalyptic misfire of a film reaches the credits.

 What credit the film warrants for taking on such an important topic is immediately negated by its extremely condescending approach in how it chooses to approach the topic at hand. As a result, the whole film feels utterly pointless as a satire. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

Image is property of Dreamworks Animation Studios

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – Film Review

Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, Kit Harington, F. Murray Abraham, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Gerard Butler

Director: Dean DeBlois

Synopsis: Having become the new chief, Hiccup strives to create a utopia for both humanity and their dragons on Berk. However, a new threat emerges which encourages Hiccup to go in search of the previously undiscovered Hidden World…

Review: When it comes to top quality animation, it is hard to compete with the juggernauts that are Disney Animation Studios, and their subsidiary company Pixar, but if there is one company that is giving them a solid run for their money and pushing them hard, then Dreamworks Animation is perhaps that company. Apart from one notorious Ogre and his friends, no franchise better epitomises the excellence of their output over the last few years than the How to Train Your Dragon franchise.

Set one year after How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hiccup has ascended to the position of chief of Berk and is simultaneously being besieged by questions as to whether he is ready to propose to Astrid. As he is adjusting to his new responsibilities as leader, the island of both people and dragons is becoming more and more populated. Furthermore, a new threat is emerging to the people of Berk in the form of Grimmel, a dastardly figure who will stop at nothing till he has hunted all the dragons down, which naturally puts him on a collision course with Hiccup’s ambition to create a human and dragon utopia.

“Look at the shiny lights….”

One key aspect of this animated franchise is the core relationship between our primary antagonist Hiccup and his relationship with Toothless. Together, these two have been on a remarkable journey, and in Toothless Hiccup has a creature with whom he has experienced a substantial amount of friendship, unity, and as we saw in the last film, devastating heartbreak. For Toothless, the adorable beast that he is, his attention is now on a mysterious new female Light Fury that has arrived on the island, nicknamed a Light Fury by the locals. that Toothless has fallen head over claws for. Hence, putting the pair’s friendship to the ultimate test.

As ever Hiccup is the protagonist you can’t help but fall in love with and just want to root for him, especially when it comes to making that all decision to propose to Astrid, whilst at the same time, doing his utmost to keep his people safe, talk about pressure being on the shoulders of such a young leader! Though he has able support, it can be hard Which brings us to Grimmel (F.Murray Abraham). His terrible plan is certainly one that requires Toothless and Hiccup to take to the skies for one final showdown. Given how how the bar was set by the nefarious Drago from the previous film, Grimmel is certainly dastardly but he doesn’t quite match those standards of uncompromising villainy.

The film had some really high octane action sequences, and once again, there are more than a few scenes that are just a visual treat for the eyes. However, it does downplay the action in favour of considerably more emotional stakes. An admirable choice to make, though it doesn’t quite match up to the lofty standards set by the previous instalments. However, fans of this franchise can rest assured that if this is the last time that this series takes flight, Dreamworks has produced a series that is up there with the likes of Toy Story as one of the finest animated trilogies ever made.

Third films in franchises so often disappoint, and while The Hidden World doesn’t quite soar to those wonderful heights set by the previous instalments, it is without doubt, a worthy conclusion to the franchise.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Moneyball (2011)

moneyball
Image is property of Scott Rudin Productions, Michael De Luca Productions and Columbia Pictures

Moneyball – Film Review

Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt.

Director: Bennett Miller

Synopsis:  A true story focusing on Billy Beane’s efforts to restructure a baseball team on a shoestring budget and in doing so transforms the sport of baseball.

Review: Sports films often feature scenes of glorious success, and sometimes dark misery for the protagonist in question, whether that be Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt or Niki Lauda in 2013’s Rush. Or Sylvester Stallone from the Rocky series. The viewer watches with glee and sometimes anguish as the main sporting hero is either put through their paces, goes through a horrific event, or comes out on top in glorious fashion. There is that moment where everything appears to be going completely horribly wrong and the protagonist must find a way to turn it all around. However, in the case of Moneyball, there is a remarkable absence of sporting-y action to witness. Is this a problem? Well no not really, because director Bennett Miller to use a baseball analogy, has hit a home run to win the championship with this remarkable tale of triumphing against the odds. It’s not all balls, bats and runs that define this engaging story, but one of numbers, facts, and one man’s relentless desire to see his methods through.

The story focuses on Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) as the general manager of the Oakland Atheltics, who has the unenviable task of rebuilding the club’s squad after a number of high profile exits, yet he has to operate on a very small and tight budget, with not much room for negotiation. Through his challenges he hires economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) and together, they develop some unprecedented ideas about the value of a player and seek to revolutionise the very nature of the sport and change the game forever. It’s not about the big dollars of a brand new signing, but rather the clever way to cut costs down and still produce a team that is capable of challenging for the very top honours in the sport. This may not sound like a thrilling premise, or one to get the pulses racing like many other sports films would. However, the sport is on the periphery of this story, and even if you have never watched a baseball match before, or have no interest in the sport, it is not a vital ingredient of the enjoyment of this movie, that comes in the shape of their performances and the brilliant screenplay penned by The Social Network‘s Aaron Sorkin. One could think you’re sat in the middle of a very boring maths class with all these stats and numbers being chucked in your direction, and you’re sat there struggling to make sense of it all. However, thanks to the excellent screenplay and dialogue, this is not so.

The acting here is certainly championship quality with Brad Pitt really shining in the lead role as Billy Beane. He anchors the movie with his usual charm and you root for him, because he’s the underdog, going up against all the seasoned scouts who ridicule him and his seemingly preposterous ideas. Also on top form is Jonah Hill as the economics graduate. A man who has spent many years of his career in comedy and has honed his craft in said genre, really showed his terrific acting ability with a serious and strong performance that earned him his first well earned Oscar nomination. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman also delivered a subdued but nonetheless powerful portrayal of the Oakland A’s manager, and the clashes between him and Beane do provide some first class acting and riveting story-telling under the masterful direction of Bennett Miller. For many sports fans, the action on the pitch, be it football, baseball, rugby, cricket or whatever, is what matters. Yet after watching Moneyball, you will come to realise that what goes on behind the scenes is equally, maybe even more important than what goes on on the field of play.

Acted to perfection, with a sharp and engaging screenplay, Bennett Miller and co have hit a home run, and in some style too, to the tune of 6 well earned Oscar nods.

a

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

wolf of wall street
Image is property of Red Granite Pictures, Appian Way Productions, Sikelia Productions, Emjag Productions, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures

The Wolf of Wall Street – Film Review

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau, Joanna Lumley

Director: Martin Scorsese

Synopsis: Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort who starts work as a trainee stockbroker before going at it alone by starting his own stockbroker company. He soon acquires a vast fortune through various methods and it is not long before the authorities are on his trail

Review: What do you get if you cross one of the best directors of the current generation, with one of the finest actors working today? Simple really, you get this hilariously entertaining, enthralling account of the life of Jordan Belfort. A life that involved involving stockbroking, money laundering, debauchery and raucous behaviour throughout its three hour running time. Scorsese, in one of his funniest films to date, brings the story of Jordan Belfort to life in an uproarious way that will have you entertained from start to finish.

The story of Belfort is a man who begins his profession as a stockbroker, and through a series of twists and turns eventually sets up his own company that continues to grow and grow making millions upon millions of dollars. Money, money, money, is always at the forefront of his thoughts. However not all of this money has been acquired by legal means. The excitement grows as the FBI are soon on the hunt for Belfort to question. Through this three hour tale, Scorsese gives us a little insight into what the life of someone who works on Wall Street may entail.

Belfort is wonderfully portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio. He has several monolgues in the film where it almost feels like he’s talking to you as the viewer and he’s taking you along for the ride. Furthermore whenever he has a microphone in his hand, you pay close attention to what he’s saying. There are (hopefully) no aspirations among audience members to follow DiCaprio down the path he’s taken, but you watch with excitement as his journey unfolds. The ambition that comes from this character ensures the audience are on board with his endeavours.

Another strong performance in the film comes from Jonah Hill in probably his best film role to date. His work in Moneyball earned him his first Oscar nomination, and this performance here earns him another nomination.His character adds  another level to the hilarity that is has already been put on screen. He has some golden moments in this film, one scene in particular with him and DiCaprio that should have you in hysterics. From scene one to the final end scene, this film is packed to the brim with hilarious moments.

Plenty of these scenes are filled with hard drug use and outrageous behaviour that may be too much for some but these scenes while they may be crude in nature, are brilliantly shot and wonderfully acted by everyone involved, including a great cameo appearance from Matthew McConaughey. Margot Robbie also gives a great performance as Belfort’s poor wife Naomi. As the film goes on, she has to put up with her husband’s decadent lifestyle and gets increasingly frustrated by him.

Despite the crude behaviour that is packed throughout this film’s run time, it does not condone the shocking behaviour that is seen. There are consequences for this sort of behaviour and the film really hammers that point home. It’s three hour run time is maybe a bit too long but overall with first class performances from DiCaprio and Hill, combined hilarity throughout, The Wolf of Wall Street  was one raucous and side-splitting piece of story telling that definitely adds itself neatly to the collection of the wonderful filmography of Martin Scorsese.

A solid performance by DiCaprio, with a tremendous supporting turn from both Hill and Robbie, with masterful direction as usual from Scorsese.

a