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.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Sicario 2: Soldado (2018)

Image is property of Lionsgate

Sicario 2: Soldado – Film Review

Cast: Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener, Isabela Moner

Director:  Stefano Sollima

Synopsis: As the drug war at the US-Mexico border rages on, and with the cartels now transporting terrorists across the border, the US government recruits Matt Graver (Brolin) and Alejandro (del Toro) to fuel tensions between rival cartels…

Review:  Every once in a while, a film comes along that is so gritty and grounded in terms of its execution, that you could be forgiven for thinking that it was a real life drama that was unfolding in front of you. One such film that falls into this category is 2015’s Sicario. The scope of this film focused on the battle on the drug trafficking across the US-Mexico border, and the murky boots-on-the-ground mission that ensued. It was a simple story, but one that was told magnificently through superb cinematography and directing, and a compelling lead performance from Emily Blunt.

So for this next mission, unfortunately all of those three aforementioned components are gone. Blunt’s Kate Macer is out of the picture and out go Denis Villenueve and Roger Deakins as director and cinematographer, and in come Stefano Sollima and Dariusz Wolski respectively. Brolin and del Toro return as does Taylor Sheridan on screenplay duties. This particular story is one that feels very timely as the cartels are smuggling terrorists across the border and so in an attempt to retaliate, the US Government wants to put petrol on the fire and ignite a war amongst the cartels.

Taking the reins from Villeneuve is a big ask, but Sollima’s direction is assured and retains that gritiness and horrifying realism that the first film captured. In addition, with Brolin and del Toro, you know you’re going to get confident performances from these two. However, as good as these guys are, the absence of Blunt feels like a missed opportunity as no one really steps up to fill that important moral compass role that she represented, even in such a murky and dangerous world. Because these guys are not heroes, not in a million years.

And it’s good night for this person…

With the high of his directorial debut Wind River, Taylor Sheridan again pens the script. Though he has written four stellar screenplays, this is his first major misstep. Though this film is a lot more complex than the first film as it tries to weave several different strands together, but this results in a very messy and meandering story that just does not mesh those strands together well enough, and is really unfocused. What’s more the characters of Matt and Alejandro are barely developed from the first film, which is a real shame as for Alejandro especially, given the enthralling and deeply personal arc that his character went on in the first film. There is an attempt to expand on that arc, but it is minimal at best.

That is not to say, there are one or two moments in the film that really ground the film in reality, especially a scene near the beginning that bluntly remind the viewer that this is a dangerous conflict that we face in the world today. Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score is assured, but nowhere near on the level of the brilliant, incredibly tense score that Johann Johannsson (RIP) provided for the first film. There is an argument to be made that a sequel was certainly not needed for this film, and when you take away the elements that made that first film great, it should come as no surprise that you’re going to get a film that despite the best efforts of everyone involved, is really lacking the quality that made its predecessor such a riveting piece of cinema.

Retaining the dark and gritty nature of Sicario, Soldado tries to deliver a more complex story, but its messy screenplay severely lacks the spark and emotional punch that its predecessor delivered. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox and Marvel

Deadpool 2 – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Zazie Beetz, Brianna Hildebrand, Julian Dennison, TJ Miller

Director: David Leitch

Synopsis: When the menacing mutant Cable travels back in time and threatens the life of a troubled young mutant, Deadpool must bring together a team of heroes and to stop him.

Review: The journey for Wade Wilson AKA Deadpool to get to the big screen for his first outing a couple of years ago was a troubled one. Yet when he finally arrived in all of his red spandex glory, it smashed all sorts of records and changed the game as far as comic book and superhero films go. Though in Deadpool’s case, the hero “tag” is perhaps not one he is best suited to. Nevertheless, the fans responded and, with his katana in hand, the Merc with a mouth cut box office records cut in half, and it was inevitable that a sequel would be given the thumbs up.

While the first film was your classic origins story about how the man became the Merc. This time around, we meet Wade trying to balance his Deadpool duties with his personal life with Vanessa. This is until his path crosses with Russell, a mutant with some fire abilities, and the villainous Cable, who travels back from the future with the sole goal to kill this boy. Part of what made the first film the juggernaut of the success it was its routine fourth wall breaking, pop culture references, quite excessive uses of profanity and upping the violence factor considerably. If the first film was not your thing, chances are this film will not bring you over. The story does go in interesting and ballsy directions that keeps things moving swiftly along in a gleefully bloody direction.

Just casually jumping out of a plane, as you do…

Every once in a while, when an actor takes on a superhero role, they are just such a perfect fit that you just cannot see anyone else stepping into their shoes, and Reynolds fits into this description with his performances, gone be the memories of the first time he stepped into the role of this character. Likewise to that other time he took on the mantle of a different hero. Aside from the returning Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, there are a plethora of new characters this time around. Though many are just filler, the main ones to focus on are the lucky superhero Domino (Beetz) and Josh Brolin’s Cable, clearly having not filled his villainous boots after going after those Infinity Stones as Thanos.

The film boasts considerably more action than its predecessor, and having suited up John Wick for the first time (in addition to having killed his dog), former stuntman David Leitch takes over from Tim Miller as director. Like he demonstrated with John Wick, the action scenes are slickly produced and just extremely entertaining to watch. Though the film is for the most part extremely entertaining with some excellent gags to some classic Hollywood cinema (one will stick out in your mind in particular) the plot while undoubtedly entertaining, does run out of steam in a few places, and is a little bit thin on the ground.  Furthermore, you will find it difficult to look at certain plot points and think back to certain films of the past.

In any case, with the memories of the ill-fated first time he stepped into the role, it is great to see Reynolds seemingly have such an absolute blast with the role that he has completely made his own. In this era of superhero and comic book genre dominance, it is refreshing to see this type of superhero film that just honestly doesn’t give a shit and just wants to serve the audience up with a quality sized slice of hilarious, fourth-wall breaking and crude entertainment. If that is what you’re after, then Mr Deadpool is the man to provide that, in hilarious and extremely bloody fashion too.

As crude as its predecessor, all while delivering much bigger action set pieces and some very amusing gags, all while building depth to the Merc with a Mouth’s character. Maximum effort, maximum enjoyment. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Avengers: Infinity War – Film Review

Cast: Spoilers!!

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: Thanos, the Mad Titan, is seeking possession of the Infinity Stones that would give him unrivalled power, and it’s up to the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him as the fate of the Universe hangs in the balance…

This review will have no spoilers…

Review: Ten years in the making, with eighteen previous entries in this incredible cinematic universe that we have watched grow over the past ten years. It has been quite the fun and enjoyable ride, but this is what it has all been building towards. After all the work that was put in to establish this world and its characters in the previous decade of Marvel goodness, it would be fair to say the weight of expectation on this film was enormous. Therefore, one must give kudos to the Russo brothers, who return to the directors chairs of the MCU for the third time, and complete their hat-trick in spectacular style.

The plot, without straying into spoiler territory, focuses on the maniacal Thanos and his quest to obtain the infinity stones with the help of some underling servants known as the Black Order, to wreak unprecedented destruction on the universe, which understandably captures the attention of just about every MCU hero we have met thus far. Given the sheer number of heroes we have met thus far, there was understandable concern from certain quarters as to would they be able to balance the story with so many larger than life heroes? Well as they proved with Civil War, the Russos and returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, do just that.

Each hero that we meet is given their chance to shine and there’s no one that feels out of place. They are all relevant pieces in this battle, and as such , everyone has ample screen time in this battle that simply put, has unprecedented stakes for all of our heroes. Yet despite these threatening stakes, as Marvel so often does, the film is peppered with plenty of humorous moments. But these never negate the moments of drama or danger that these heroes find themselves up against, as you feel that no one, no matter how big or how long they have been a part of the MCU, is in very serious peril.

Speaking of, it has been no secret that the MCU has had some trouble with crafting compelling villains. With a few exceptions, many of them have been very bland and forgettable. Thankfully, that is not applicable with Thanos. It is hard to humanise a villain who wants to kill at will, but he is given the crucial depth that a good villain needs to get in order to make them memorable. Furthermore, they need to be given a presence that our heroes feel, and they certainly feel Thanos’s presence alright, the much needed villain to truly break the villain curse that has plagued so many MCU movies.

As they demonstrated with both of their previous MCU entries, the Russos are once again right on the top of their game when it comes to delivering the compelling action scenes that were used so effectively in their previous MCU films. There are plenty of these throw-downs scattered throughout the film, you really feel the scale of the events that are taking place within this world that we as an audience have grown with over these past ten years. It is some heavy stuff and with this latest entry, again without straying into spoiler territory, it is a film that will have a major impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we have known it.

With only a handful of films left in what has been the third phase of their cinematic universe, it is hard to not feel that all of this is all coming to a close. In a film like this, you need to just give the audience a complete and emotional sucker punch that leaves them reeling, and by the end of this movie, said sucker punch will have been delivered. Though there is still a second part in this story, and a few other films in Phase 3 to come, there is no escaping the fact that with this film, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been shaken to its core.

It has all been building towards this, and it brought home the goods. So many heroes could have been problematic, but it is all weaved together tremendously well, and a truly memorable villain in Thanos sets things up perfectly for Avengers 4.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Sicario (2015)

Image is property of Black Label Media, Thunder Road and Lionsgate

Sicario – Film Review

Cast:  Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya

Director:  Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: In the war on drugs on the USA/Mexico border, an FBI agent is recruited as part of an undercover operation to take down a leading drug cartel.

Review: Whenever you depict war on film, chances are the results usually aren’t going to be pretty, especially the story you’re telling is focusing on the war on drugs and drug cartels near the US/Mexico border. Some folks are going to get their hands dirty and things are going to get messy very quickly, with some fatalities along the way. Though this is an ongoing conflict, and even though the events portrayed here are fictional, you would be forgiven for thinking that you are in fact watching a documentary about this struggle, and not a fictionalised version of events.

The gritty and dark nature of the story then is perfect material for Denis Villeneuve, the director behind Prisoners, the dark and unsettling drama about a family who see their young daughters mysteriously disappear. Once again Villeneuve chooses a subject matter that will almost undoubtedly be very unsettling for some, but at the same time, it’s a story that is told with such conviction you will not want to take your eyes off the screen. The main protagonist here is Blunt’s Kate, an FBI agent who just wants to do what’s right, and that desire takes her into this conflict, and what she sees really opens her eyes. Alongside her is Josh Brolin’s Matt, an agent that is quite casual about the mission they’re on and Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro who by contrast, is not fucking around.

Don’t get in this guy’s cross hairs…

Taylor Sheridan in his debut screenplay tells the story in a very ambiguous way, is what we’re seeing right or is it wrong? There’s certainly some things displayed on screen that are certainly very wrong, and not exactly pleasant, but for a film about the war on drugs, that is hardly a surprise. The film might be a slow burner, but the script keeps you hooked in the story, and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score will keep you on the edge of your seat. The three leading actors all deliver performances of a very high award worthy calibre, but special mention must go to del Toro who has perhaps never been better in his career and was mightily unlucky not to have received an Oscar nomination. He’s a man who is driven by his motivation, and that makes him one scary dude that you don’t want to anger, and if you have angered him, well you’re in deep trouble.

Villeneuve’s direction is masterful with some breathtaking wide shots of the FBI teams on their patrols, the camerawork is so authentic, it really makes you feel as if you’re on patrol with these guys. It kind of goes without saying at this point but Roger Deakin’s cinematography is as beautiful to the eyes, and Johannson’s score is to the ears. Deakins’s work, as is so often the case is just mesmerising to look at, even with the depravity that you see on screen sometimes. It’s incredible to think that he has never won an Oscar across his superb career, despite amassing THIRTEEN nominations. It’s only a matter of time before he lands that coveted Oscar gold, Blade Runner 2049 perhaps?

With a pulsating final sequence that will have you biting your nails until the credits begin to role, Villeneuve reinforced his growing reputation as a film-maker to watch, which he further cemented with his magnificent alien invasion flick Arrival. To make a movie about such a weighty subject matter cannot be an easy task, but with Prisoners and with Sicario, Villeneuve really proved more than anything than when it comes to directing, he most definitely is a Sicario himself, one that is absolutely deadly and does not miss.

Dripping with gorgeous visuals combined with some heavy subject matter seems an unlikely recipe for success, but with electric performances and assured direction, this is superb tense and gritty entertainment.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

No Country For Old Men (2007)

no-country
Image is property of Miramax Films and Paramount Vantage

No Country For Old Men – Film Review

Cast:  Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Woody Harrelson, Kelly MacDonald

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Synopsis: When a man stumbles across a drug deal that has gone sour and finds a suitcase with a large amount of cash, he finds himself being pursued by a relentless hit-man who will stop at nothing to reclaim the cash…

Review: What would you do if you happened to come across a substantial amount of cash that you found in the desert? Chances are you’d probably take the loot and run as fast as you could for the hills. Yet what if you knew (somehow) that the money was the subject of a drug deal that had gone just a bit awry? Would you think twice? You might well do if you knew that there was a psychopathic man after you, who will stop at nothing to recover the loot from said drug deal.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, at the centre of this thriller is Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) who upon finding the aforementioned loot does decide to bag the cash and make a run for it, along with his wife Carla Jean (MacDonald). However his pursuer Anton Chigurh (Bardem) is the crazy mofo who is after the cash, and possess machine like determination in order to hunt Moss down and reclaim the cash. Thus this gives the audience a game of cat and mouse, that is brilliantly written and expertly brought to the screen by the Coen brothers. Right from the moment the chase begins, the tension begins and never abates until the credits role. The dialogue is minimal in some scenes but the tension remains high throughout the two hour run time as you watch this chase unfold.

The film is bolstered immeasurably by the performances of its three main actors, all of whom give excellent performances, Tommy Lee Jones is perfect as the gruff Sheriff Ed Tom Bell who becomes involved in the chase between Moss and Chigurh, all the while becoming horrified with what the world has become. Brolin, as the mouse in the chase, is also excellent determined to do whatever it takes to survive, mainly due to the strong love of his wife . Yet, it is undoubtedly Bardem who gives the most impressive performance. Here’s a man who could make the most innocuous conversation sound utterly terrifying, such as a conversation about the toss of a coin. He hunts his prey with Terminator like efficiency with even a terrifying haircut! He will spare no one in his quest to reclaim the cash, and is certainly remains one of the finest psychopathic, menacing villains that has ever been put to the big screen.

chigurh

The Coens masterful writing, lifting McCarthy’s novel from page to screen excellently, and their exquisite direction is aided by the usually flawless cinematography from Roger Deakins, marking his incredible 8th collaboration with the Coens. Both were recipients of Oscar nods for their incredible work, and in the case of the Coens, it was three times a charm as took home the prizes for directing, writing for an Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, as well as a well earned triumph for Bardem for Supporting Actor. Sadly Deakins did not take home the gong for cinematography, but the sheer quality of his work remains crystal clear. What also remains clear is that this is one of, if not, the finest pieces of work from the Coens. The ending leaves much open to interpretation, as such, it may jar with some, but when you sit down and assess everything you have witnessed, it is absolutely perfect, a word that could be used to describe just about every aspect of this extraordinary film.

Anchored by three outstanding performances by its leads, with brilliant dark humour thrown in for good measure, this is the Coen brothers’s masterpiece, without any question of a doubt.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

True Grit (2010)

True-Grit
Image rights belong to Skydance Productions, Mike Zoss Productions, Scott Rudin Productions and Paramount Pictures

True Grit – Film Review

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Synopsis: A young woman (Steinfeld) seeks revenge for the murder of her father and enlists the help of a US Marshal (Bridges) to help track down her father’s killer.

Review: Remakes and retelling of stories we have seen before tend to have something of a curse upon them. Audiences may tend to moan and whine and say that the new effort to tell a story that has already been told is not worth telling. Well Messrs Joel and Ethan Coen might just have something to say about that, as their retelling of the novel of the same name by Charles Portis, which was first adapted for the big screen in 1969, is well, a remarkable triumph.

The story focuses on young Mattie Ross, a girl of 14 years of age, who after her father is murdered by an outlaw, seeks vengeance on her father’s killer. To do this however, she must enlist the help of the law in the shape of US Marshal Rooster Cogburn and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, and so begins a manhunt. The Coens certainly showed that they understood the Western genre with the thrilling No Country for Old Men, albeit that was a Western set in modern times. Here however, it’s a traditional western tale fused with good ol’ fashioned revenge, and the Coen brothers absolutely nail it once again with a terrific story and a wonderful screenplay, that is aided in no small part by the phenomenal performances of its actors, and the quality of the source material.

In the lead role of Rooster Cogburn, a role that won John Wayne an Academy Award, Jeff Bridges is excellent as he re teams with the directors that brought to life one of the most iconic film characters of all time, that’s the Dude man! His accent is very thick and a little bit hard to understand in places, and while he may have been a bit hostile towards her in the early stages, his relationship with Ross is ultimately what drives the story forward and their chemistry is excellent. Speaking of which, Steinfeld as Ross is also fantastic, in what was an incredible breakthrough performance after she beat well over 15,000 people for the role. Matt Damon also puts in a superb performance as the Texas Ranger but it is the work of Bridges and especially Steinfeld that steal the show, as the two of them ensured Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively came their way, and well deserved ones too.

As usual with the Coens, the film making here is of a very high quality,  the cinematography by frequent Coen collaborator Roger Deakins is as usual glorious. Night time scenes feel realistic and one can almost feel the cold of winter as the Marshal and his employer set off and encounter some of that pesky snow. Deakins certainly knows how to set up a good shot and there are plenty of these packed throughout the movie, with the Coens once again showing they certainly know how to direct remarkable action sequences that are sure to leave the viewer on the edge of their seat.

The Coens certainly know how to leave their unmistakeable stamp on a project, as they did so in emphatic fashion with No Country for Old Men, and here they do so again. As well as the acting nominations, the film secured eight other nominations, and while it failed to secure any, make no mistake, this adaptation, likes its characters certainly is full of true grit, and of a very high calibre to rank itself as one of the finest films the Coens have ever put to the big screen.

Anchored by two tremendous performances from Bridges and Steinfeld, with a great story stamped with that distinctive Coen brothers seal, top drawer film making. 

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Hail Caesar
Image rights belong to: Working Title Films, Mike Zoss Productions and Universal Pictures

Hail, Caesar – Film Review

Cast: George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Alden Ehrenreich, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Synopsis: 1950s Hollywood, and a film studio is in the middle of its big budget production of Hail, Caesar! Yet when things begin to go awry, the studio must battle to keep things afloat.

Review: The Oscar winning Coen Brothers on writing and directing duties? Check. An all star cast including Oscar winners and nominees? Check. A film set in a time that many would consider to be in the Golden Age of Hollywood? Check. With all these combined, you would think that the visionaries behind The Big Lebowski, the superb 2010 remake of True Grit and No Country for Old Men, would strike gold with this unique and original story, as they have done in the past? The answer, is unfortunately, no.

The centre piece of this whole wacky movie is that of Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix, the head of Physical Productions and also the man who is there to ensure that the studio’s dirty linen is not aired in public. Yet problems begin to arise here, there and everywhere, most notably the fact that the lead actor on the studio’s massive movie, Baird Whitlock (Clooney) suddenly disappears, after being kidnapped. Yet despite all this, the burden falls onto Mannix to keep everything afloat. The Coens certainly know how to do humour, and do it very well as The Big Lebowski demonstrates, and that humour is on display here and to the maximum with plenty of humorous moments.

Furthermore with a top cast of A list Hollywood talent assembled, all excel in their roles. However some are given more opportunities to shine than others, which is a shame as there are some very entertaining characters who you would like to have been given a bit more screen time. Ralph Fiennes in particular has one absolutely golden moment, but this is not followed up. Many of the talents are vastly underutilised and it is just a bit frustrating to watch as you would like to see them have more scenes.

In terms of plot, it is a bit of a mess to be honest. Mannix is the main man and its his story that is the centrepiece. Yet there are so many different stories running along at the same time, that it is a little confusing to keep up. What’s more, there are several plot points that are just left hanging. It feels like the Coens just thought of a bunch of random sketches, and concocted them together into one film. As such when the big reveal of what is arguably the film’s primary plot occurs, you just don’t care as much as you could, or maybe should as the script is just too messy and all over the place.

What is not out of place though is the detail, 1950s Hollywood has been captured tremendously well and with the one and only Roger Deakins as the cinematographer, you know the film will look absolutely immaculate, and it does. However, despite this incredible attention to detail, this was a real missed opportunity for the Coens to add another top drawer film to their incredible filmography. The film is seen as the Coens love letter to 1950s Hollywood, but it’s a shame that said letter is written in poor handwriting, to the point where it’s almost incomprehensible to read.

1950s Hollywood has been impressively recreated and the Coens pull good performances from their A list cast, particularly from Fiennes and Ehrenreich, it’s just such a shame that it’s all wasted on a weak script.

 C+

Posted in Film Review

Everest (2015)

everest
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.

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