Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Cats (2019)

Image is property of Universal, Working Title and Amblin Entertainment

Cats – Film Review

Cast: Francesca Hayward, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson

Director: Tom Hooper

Synopsis: A group of Cats known as the Jellicles come together to make a decision known as “the Jellicle choice,” a decision that will give one lucky cat an exciting new opportunity to start life anew….

Review: It was almost an event unto itself. Back in July this year, a trailer landed onto the internet, but this was no ordinary trailer, it was something much more horrifying, this being the trailer for Cats. Quickly becoming this overnight, much talked about sensation, but for all the wrong reasons. The collective claws of the internet came out and the film became the subject of much ridicule and being the butt (or should that be tail) of so many internet jokes, it seemed completely dead on arrival. It should come as no surprise to learn that it is a complete furry cat-astrophe.

The plot, if you can really call it that, is focused on a group of cats known as the Jellicle cats. An abandoned cat, Victoria (Hayward) is found by the group and they take her in. Every year, the leader of this group must make the Jellicle choice, a decision which will give one lucky cat the chance to start a new life. The big problem is this “plot” only comes into view about two thirds of the way through the film. For the first two thirds, a bunch of rather famous people take it in turns to sing a song. It almost feels screenwriter Lee Hall and writer/director Tom Hooper were playing with a proverbial ball of string before they realised they needed to have a plot, of some kind.

You’ll never look at your cat the same way ever again…

The only actor who can really take any sort of credit for their performance is that of newcomer Francesca Hayward, as she shows glimpses of her talent as a singer and a performer. Yet, in a cast filled to the brim with so much talent, you expect so much better considering the calibre of the likes of Judi Dench, Ian McKellen and Idris Elba. The most fundamental job for a musical is to have good music, and there are a couple of strong performances to be found. Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of “Memory” is impactful and “Beautiful Ghosts” written by Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber certainly has some touching moments about it. The rest of the music is perfectly fine, but beyond those two songs, it is all just very generic and forgettable.

But what’s unfortunately not so forgettable, is the visuals, and more specifically the look of the actors in these bizarre concoctions of “cat-suits”. While certain elements such as the fur look at least somewhat plausible, overall they most assuredly don’t look completely look like cats, but nor are they human. It is the most peculiar hybrid that is guaranteed to invade your nightmares. The very fact that at times you can quite clearly see their human fingers, and other human like features is just comically inept and extremely distracting. Seemingly no effort whatsoever has been made to modify the appearances of the actors to make them even vaguely look feline. Their hands don’t look like paws, and their human noses are extremely noticeable. It’s just a gigantic mess.

Given that such high calibre films like The King’s Speech, and the 2012 version of Les Misérables on his CV, one would really expect better of Tom Hooper to try and make this musical adaptation translate to the big screen in a manner that is not inherently horrifying. Yet in spite of some visually splendid production design, this monstrosity proves that not everything translates to the big screen. This adaptation is one that should have stayed on the scratchpad of ideas, where it deserved to remain, eventually to be scratched into oblivion where it belongs. Someone should have paws-ed for thought before green-lighting this thing, but they didn’t, and this nightmare came to fruition, which isn’t good news for anyone.

Take away Francesca Hayward’s promising performance, along with a few good songs, and there’s really not that much to salvage from this monstrosity. A furry nightmare of hellish proportions.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Skyfall (2012)

skyfall
Image is property of Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures

Skyfall – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomi Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Bérénice Marlohe

Director: Sam Mendes

Synopsis: When MI6 comes under attack from an unknown threat, Bond finds his loyalty to the organisation and M, put under extreme pressure. Shaken from a near death experience, Bond must put aside questions and hunt down the ominous threat looming over MI6.

Review: Dr No, the first time a suave and charismatic agent known as James Bond came onto screens and audiences got their first look at what has since become an iconic character and franchise. In those fifty years, 23 films arrived, and on the fiftieth anniversary of the franchise, the 23rd film in this remarkable franchise blasted its way onto our screens and in doing so with Daniel Craig’s third outing as 007 cemented itself as one of the best the series has ever seen in its long and illustrious history, and for Craig to once again reinforce himself as one of the finest actors to ever don the 007 tuxedo and hold that license to kill.

In this latest adventure, Mr 007 has been through some trouble and in a brilliant opening chase sequence, is after an important piece of hardware that has some top secret information on it (as par the norm with Bond!) Yet when things go awry and it is only due to desperate need that he returns to espionage duty when a large threat is hanging over the British Secret Service. Yet he is not in the best of shape and must get back into the game. As per the course, we have our usual Bond elements, beautiful women, gadgets, and the so on. However what Skyfall does so brilliantly is make Bond a human being and a man with layers to him. He is not a superhero, he is mortal and at his heart he’s a very wounded man. You really feel Bond’s mortality in this story, he could very easily die and credit for that must go to screenwriters Robert Wade, Neal Purvis and John Logan.

As well as making Bond a very wounded and human character, the screen-writing team also deliver an astounding script with a very good story that keeps you engaged. With each passing film Craig cements himself as the perfect actor to play Bond. In addition, Dame Judi Dench as M probably gives the best performance she ever has in the role. She has dark secrets that she has been keeping from Bond and it really tests the relationship she has with him. With our heroes in place, a good villain is paramount and an essential ingredient of any Bond movie. Enter Oscar winner Javier Bardem as the ruthless, cold, Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent who threatens to unleash chaos on the world. A brilliant and masterful portrayal from the man who chilled everybody to the bone in No Country For Old Men. Here he delivers another wounded performance that is certainly up there with the very best villains that this franchise has ever seen.  Another stellar addition to the cast is the addition of a youthful Q, played by the brilliant Ben Whishaw, who provides some sharp and witty banter with Bond when presenting him with his innovative new gadgets. The cast all play their roles exceptionally well.

With the addition of Roger Deakins as cinematography, the film is visually beautiful with some remarkable shots of astounding beauty and brilliance. In addition to this Sam Mendes did a masterful job behind the camera with some breathtaking direction.  With Thomas Newman’s top notch score to boot, all of the elements mesh perfectly to create a brilliant, exhilarating and enthralling adventure that  ticks all the boxes a Bond film should have but adds darker elements in there with the traditional, to brilliant results. What’s more, the film has an Oscar winning theme song to boot! Vodka Martini shaken and stirred to perfection Mr Bond!

Visually magnificent, with some expert directing, some great acting, particularly from Craig, Dench and Bardem, Bond celebrated his 50th birthday with an almighty bang! 

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale
Image is property of Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Pictures

Casino Royale – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Tobias Menzies, Jeffrey Wright

Director: Martin Campbell

Synopsis: Having recently acquired his double 0 status, Bond is tasked with the mission taking down a terrorist funder, which may involve a high stakes poker game at Casino Royale, with several millions on the table.

Review: So for the 21st film in this remarkable franchise, we go back to the beginning, to the very first novel that Ian Fleming’s literary career. A fresh take on the character for the 21st century audience. With this reboot, came a new face into the iconic role, that of Mr Daniel Craig and a script by frequent Bond screenwriters Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, with the addition of Paul Haggis, with the director of Goldeneye Martin Campbell on board, these combinations were a match made in Double O Heaven! The usual elements come into the mix, of stunts, exotic and beautiful locations, women, cars and exhilarating action scenes that truly get the heart pumping. It’s the perfect mix of classic old school Bond, fused with modern elements.

Having recently obtained his Double 0 agent status, in a rather explosive intro scene, Bond is ultimately tasked with bringing down a man who provides funding for international terrorists. The introduction sets the pace going immediately and the action is fast paced but it is not relentless. There are moments to let him catch his breath and fall in love with another seductive and sexy Bond lady, played by the gorgeous Eva Green. Like many Bond ladies, she’s charming and beautiful but she is a woman of mystery with some secrets of her own. The chemistry between the two of them is fascinating and great to watch them exchange banter whilst falling deeply in love, and Green’s performance certainly puts her up with there with the very best of the Bond ladies of the past.

Facing Bond is the terrorist banker Le Chiffre, played by an electric Mads Mikkelsen. This man is the cold and manipulative villain who while displaying ruthless villainous traits shows a sense of vulnerability, which centres around his own beautiful and lethal lady friend. As the financer for the world’s terrorists, he is forever looking his own shoulder and in many ways you almost feel for him. Mikkelsen gives a tremendous performance and while not quite being the best villain the franchise has ever seen, he more than holds his own. Of course Judi Dench provides a stern and authoritative, yet compassionate turn as M once again.

When Craig was cast, he was met with a little bit of backlash from the fans, with some threatening to boycott the film in protest over his casting. However, with film this he certainly proved he was more than capable of holding his own in the role and he has since established himself as among the very best of the actors who have had the honour of donning the dinner jacket, firmly silencing the doubters. He also shows he’s capable of handling the action scenes, pulling off his best Tom Cruise with his running style. While there are some slow scenes for sure, it allows the audience to catch its breath. The poker scenes are brilliantly filmed, with tension filled moments a plenty.

The directing, score and cinematography are all excellent and this film proved to be the much needed reinvention of the franchise after the disappointment that was Die Another Day. The perfect start for Craig, and reinforcement of Martin Campbell’s credentials as a Bond film maker, having successfully launched the careers of both Craig and Pierce Brosnan in the role as the suave agent with Goldeneye. Bond was back, and his accuracy was on point, and aren’t we all glad it was?

The perfect reinvention for the franchise with some incredible action, intriguing and tension filled dialogue with Craig proving himself in the role and a tremendous showing from Eva Green, the perfect start for Craig. 

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