Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mortal Engines (2018)

Image is property of Universal Pictures, Media Rights Capital and WingNut Films

Mortal Engines – Film Review

Cast: Hera Hilmar, Hugo Weaving, Robert Sheehan, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang

Director: Christian Rivers

Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic world, society as we know it has fallen into ruin. Cities that have become civilisations on wheels, utilising smaller civilisations for their resources in order to survive…

Review: If you are looking to adapt a fantasy novel to the big screen, one man who would be extremely helpful to have on your team, would be visionary director Peter Jackson. The man who of course brilliantly brought the world of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies to the big screen is once again behind the wheels of another dip into the world of fantasy of sorts, except this time, there’s no magic rings, elves or goblins to be found. This time around, it’s a bit more closer to home, sort of.

Set a thousand years into our future, in this time frame civilisation as we know it has collapsed. Resources are scarce, and cities have become meals-on-wheels that roam around the terrain, looking to prey on smaller territories. The leader, or Prime Minister if you will, of what has become London, is Valentine (Weaving) who is looking to establish London’s domination over all of the other territories. In his path, however stands Hester Shaw (Hilmar) a woman who is on her own mission, a deeply personal one at that, against Valentine.

For a directorial debut, Rivers’s direction shows signs of promise as he packs in some exhilarating action sequences, including one right from the opening moments of the film. Having worked extensively with Jackson crafting the magnificent visual effects for both his Middle Earth trilogies, it should come as little surprise that the visual effects are excellent. When it comes to these cities, you really feel the scale of them and just how absolutely enormous they are. The excellent production design also helps to provide a really futuristic feel to these cities.

Lovely scenery….

As the most well known name in this cast, Weaving as the lead antagonist is sadly functional at best. Hera Hilmar as Hester Shaw is the most compelling of the bunch as our main heroine. The film really strives to give her a compelling backstory to make you care about her. Unfortunately though, it’s just not as exciting as it wants to be, as there is a real dearth of personality on just about every character that you see on screen. Except for Stephen Lang’s character, who despite his nature, might just have more humanity than everyone else in the film, which is really saying a lot.

Given that the series of novels that the film is based on compromised of four novels, you would think that there is more than enough source material for the screenwriters to work with. Furthermore, when you have Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens writing the screenplay, you would think that there’s enough talent there to craft something compelling, but there is so much in this screenplay that is missing, most notably some heart.

Furthermore, it feels as though there is so more backstory that is just breezed over and barely explained just to squeeze into a two hour film. It feels that feels as though this, could and should, have been a TV show instead. There was a chance to craft the next big franchise, but alas, too many similarities to superior properties meant that the wheels came off, and that opportunity was completely squandered.

Visually impressive with some superb production design, but a pretty weak screenplay that overall fails to give its characters the charisma it needs to really give this story some momentum.  

 

Advertisements
Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

King Kong (2005)

Image is property of WingNut Films and Universal Pictures

King Kong – Film Review

Cast: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis, Thomas Kretschmann, Evan Parke, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, Kyle Chandler

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: A venture to make a film, led by an eccentric film-maker in the hope of capturing an uncharted piece of land on film leads to the discovery of a truly terrifying place, home to among other things, a giant ape…

Review: Of all the monsters to have featured in monster movies that have been released down the decades, there are perhaps only two monsters that have a claim to being the most iconic monsters to have ever graced the silver screen. One of these is of course Godzilla, and the other is of course Kong.  Both have featured in many films in the past and have been pitted against each other once before (and will do so again in 2020!) For Kong however, his first foray on the big screen came in 1933, at a time when the World was in the midst of the Great Depression, and so for director Peter Jackson, having just come off his phenomenal success with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, decided to tackle this story about a gargantuan Ape.

Interestingly, the 1933 film was Jackson’s inspiration for wanting to become a filmmaker and it’s clear in each frame that Jackson creates that he has an immense passion for this story, and as such wanted to do his utmost to pay tribute to the original. Indeed, Great Depression USA is where he sets the scene where Ann Darrow (Watts) who’s been made redundant is seeking work and she comes across Carl Denham (Black) an eccentric filmmaker seeking a female lead on an adventure to film the mysterious Skull Island, which Kong calls home. When they foray to said island and Ann is taken prisoner by Kong, a rescue mission is launched, and some monkey mayhem ensues.

The story of this giant ape is mainly told through Ann’s eyes, and Naomi Watts is superb in this role. It might seem impossible that a woman and an ape could become so close, but her performance makes it so believable. As Ann’s human love interest, Adrien Brody also gives a stellar turn as Jack Driscoll, a famous playwright whom Ann is an enormous fan of, and there’s Jack Black’s Carl, who despite his ambition, is ultimately not a really nice fellow. The focus is primarily on these three, although there is perhaps a bit too much focus on some other characters who you don’t care about enough. As such, a considerable chunk could have been taken off its 3 hour running time.

Jackson, with the Lord of the Rings trilogy showed off his ability to make some jaw dropping compelling action scenes. Though there are some that feel a bit scrappy and in some ways incomplete, there are more than a few others that are just  brilliant to watch, with more than a few iconic shots thrown in there for good measure. The special effects are truly phenomenal, all of the Skull Island residents are tremendously well realised, and if you have a fear of insects, one scene in particular might chill you to your core. Jackson again uses the New Zealand scenery as Skull Island, and there are more than a few spectacular shots. It’s so well realised it doesn’t feel like a movie set. The motion capture work that brings Kong to life is utterly tremendous and yet again Andy Serkis deserves enormous plaudits for his work with the technology in bringing characters such as these to life. That Oscar will surely come eventually. Although the film did manage to scoop three well deserved gongs, including one for visual effects.

When you think about a story about a 25 foot gorilla and a human female meeting and almost falling in love seems like a concept so ridiculous it should have been laughed out of production. Yet in 1933 it worked, and in 2005 it worked again, to great effect. It’s so effective that you might find yourself fighting back the tears once the dramatic final showdown on the top of the Empire State building has come to a close. And after this adventure has reached its conclusion, there might perhaps be just one question on your mind, does Beauty truly kill the Beast?

A remake done good with plenty of heart and emotion, and some chest thumpingly great action sequences, the King of the Apes roared again.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

All image rights belong to New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films
Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Film Review

Cast:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen , Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen , Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett , John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Billy Boyd , Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom , Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Bernard Hill ,Miranda Otto, Karl Urban

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: While Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli lead the charge against Sauron and his armies of Mordor, Frodo and Sam continue their quest to destroy the ring and banish evil from Middle Earth, once and for all.

THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, SO BE AWARE MY PRECIOUSSSSSS….

Review: The journey to bring The Lord of the Rings to the big screen was one that started all the way back in 1995, and that reached its conclusion in 2003 with this closing chapter of this masterful trilogy. You just did not want it to end, but all good things must come to an end, and there isn’t a better way to close the book on this epic masterpiece than to go and make what is without doubt, one of the best films ever made, and quite possibly the best film of the 2000s. New Line Cinema rolled the dice with Peter Jackson and this adaptation and this gamble paid off big time, with three tremendous movies making one of the best trilogies of all time.

With Saruman and his armies now vanquished, the Iron Fist of Mordor and Sauron’s flaming eye is now firmly focused on Gondor as he bids to topple the world of men once for all. Yet in his path stand the rest of the Fellowship with Pippin and Merry following their victory over Isengard, who briefly rejoin the rest of the Fellowship to celebrate, but that joy is short-lived as the enemy prepares to strike. Gandalf and Pippin depart for Minas Tirith to help Gondor prepare for the imminent war and the rest of the Fellowship to mobilise Rohan and its armies for the grave and massive incoming army that is about to descend on the world of men. Sauron moves to conquer all and only it is in the hands of Frodo and Sam, aided by Gollum who all the while is growing ever more deceitful and treacherous, to stop Sauron consuming Middle Earth in darkness.

Throughout the near ten hour run time of the entire trilogy (not counting the extended editions) Peter Jackson threw some terrific action sequences upon the audience. You thought the Battle of Helm’s Deep was outstanding and a wonder in terms of film-making, the battle of Pelennor Fields is somehow almost on another level. Trolls, Catapults of severed human heads flung at the walls of Minas Tirith, Nazgul, Oliphants, this battle has just about everything, and it’s a cinematic battle of immense quality that could and should certainly stake its claim as one of the finest ever put to screen, featuring among other things, Legolas take on an enormous oliphant all by himself, which leads to one of the best one liners ever said by the great Gimli son of Gloin.

Given the stakes in the movie, the tone is considerably darker here, and this is noticeable from the very beginning with a rather twisted tale of how Smeagol was transformed into the creature otherwise known as Gollum. This dark tone is a recurring one throughout the film’s run time as Sauron’s power seems to be unstoppable for the Fellowship to contain. All the while, the Ring is taking a heavy toll on Frodo as he and Sam move closer to Mount Doom. All the while Gollum, purporting to lead them to Mount Doom, is scheming to try and take the ring back again. The script weaves between the different story lines as brilliantly as it can. Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh again wrote the screenplay and it was this screenplay that won the trio a well deserved Oscar for their efforts. Indeed the film swept the board at the 2004 Oscars, winning all of the ELEVEN Oscars it was nominated for, setting a record in process, jointly tying with Titanic and Ben-Hur for the most Oscars ever won.

Although no one was nominated in any of the acting categories, everyone on screen gives utterly tremendous performances, right from those who were introduced to us in Fellowship and Two Towers, to those who were introduced in this concluding chapter. Of the new cast, John Noble’s Denethor, the father of the late Boromir and Faramir (David Wenham) certainly makes an impression, and quickly becomes a very dis-likeable man due to his mistreatment of Faramir, who he views in a considerably lesser light than his brother. The extended edition of Two Towers introduces the audience to Denethor but it’s here where he shows his utter contempt for Faramir. Viggo Mortensen shone as Aragorn in the previous movies, but here he really steps up to the plate as he accepts his true destiny, to become King. Also deserving of praise is Miranda Otto as Eowyn. “I can fight,” she says in Two Towers before the Wolves of Isengard attacked, and boy was she right. She certainly showed a woman can fight and own a battle scene just the same as a man. Sean Astin and Elijah Wood are also tremendous but Astin in particular really shone as Sam battles to support Frodo who is becoming corrupted by Gollum’s influence.

There really is no shortage of superlatives that can describe The Lord of the Rings trilogy in all of its magnificence, but Peter Jackson could and should remain immensely proud of what he and his team brought to the big screen. If Tolkien could see what Jackson did with his beloved book, he would surely be thrilled that his masterpiece was brought to life in such spectacular fashion. If you count the extended edition, these movies are just over eleven hours of pure cinematic joy, spectacle, drama and emotion with so many wonderful and brilliant characters. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has cemented its status as one of the best that has ever been put to screen with three perfect movies that have secured their well deserved place in the record books, and will hopefully be adored for generations and generations to come.

The third chapter in a trilogy can so often be a huge let down. Not a chance of that happening here, this is pure cinematic perfection and glorious entertainment, the trilogy took its well deserved crown. One trilogy to rule them all!

a

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

 

fotr
Image is property of New Line Cinema, The Saul Zaentz and WingNut Films

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Film Review

Cast:  Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd , Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm,

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: When a young hobbit Frodo Baggins receives the One Ring of Power. He along with eight unlikely companions set off on a quest, to journey to the heart of Middle Earth and Mordor and destroy the Ring.

Review: When discussions about films and more specifically film trilogies rage across film schools, and fans of films in general, several trilogies may get mentioned and debated vehemently. Yet, the name of one trilogy that could and should always be mentioned is Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.  A project that Jackson considered way back in 1995, but through various deals falling through, and tough negotiations that reached an impasse, with talk of it being two films instead of three. It was a tough challenge and despite the production impasses, it pulled through and the final end product is what many believe to be one of the finest trilogies in the history of cinema. and thank goodness it was three films and not two!

Thanks to the brilliance of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the mastermind behind this incredible world of Middle Earth, came into being, and his trilogy of novels, and it was Peter Jackson who took up the challenge to adapt it for the big screen. With a screenplay by Jackson, his wife Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, the land of Middle Earth is beautifully realised and the world is established in all of its glory. On top of that, we are provided with some sweet action sequences within the first 20 minutes. Yet there is much to be built up, events to be established in order to bring those who will have not read Tolkien’s works up to speed. Build up can be a slow tedious process, but not here. The world of Middle Earth is so enthralling, it’s just gripping to watch as the audience is introduced to this vast world and all of its key characters, of which there are many.

The cast is quite extensive, but every single performance on show shines and shines brightly. However, it is the main ensemble of the Fellowship all lead the way with sublime performances from each and everyone one of them. However, there are however some stand out performances among the wealth of great acting on show. Elijah Wood as Frodo, who is the one tasked with the seemingly impossible challenge of destroying the ring. Viggo Mortensen as the fearless and strong warrior Aragorn, who is a key piece of the puzzle, and Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey likewise. With the late and great Sir Christopher Lee also showing his tremendous ability and deep booming voice as Saruman the White. Sean Bean also gives a very memorable performance as Boromir the warrior of Gondor. All of the aforementioned give superb performances and the acting from all is of such a top quality, that you do not see the actors any more, you see the characters, and that’s a credit to everyone involved.

The cinematography is beautiful from start to finish. The film is packed with some breath taking shots of Middle Earth AKA New Zealand scenery.   There are plenty of superb swooping shots that to leave the audience breathless. In addition, there is some awe-inspiring visual effects such as the with the battle scenes are also sublime but in terms of battle scenes, the best is saved for later in the trilogy. This isn’t to say that there are some terrific battle scenes here, The score composed by Howard Shore is equally epic in every sense. From the jovial tune that we hear in the Shire to the sinister notes we hear when entering  Isengard. Every scene is accompanied by a beautifully composed tune that captures each scene perfectly. Out of the thirteen nominations received, the film bagged four Oscars for Cinematography, Score, Visual Effects and Make-up, and all were very well deserved.

Fellowship of the Ring was the perfect start for this trilogy and it set the benchmark. There are some great themes packed throughout this film. Friendship, honour, sacrifice and loyalty. It is just simply a joy to behold. Every element of this film hits the spot, and it hits it perfectly. Some may say its too long (not counting the extended edition!) While it is long, it is impossible to deny the sheer brilliance of what Jackson brought to the big screen. We will never know what Tolkien would have made of Jackson’s vision of his beloved trilogy, but one would hope that he would have loved what he saw, as audiences around the world certainly did!

Visually breath-taking, with a riveting and terrific story, some superb action sequences, a fantastic score and a tremendous ensemble cast, the first instalment of this trilogy set in motion one of the best trilogies of all time.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

All image rights belong to Warner Bros, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films and New Line Cinema
Image is property of Warner Bros, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films and New Line Cinema

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Film Review

Cast: Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Kenn Stott, Graham McTavish, Aidan Turner, James Nesbitt, Hugo Weaving , Sir Christopher Lee

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: The first instalment of the new trilogy of films from Peter Jackson. When a younger and more reluctant Bilbo Baggins is persuaded to accompany the great wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves on their journey to reclaim their homeland that has been taken over by a dragon…

Review: Hi ho! hi ho! It is back to Middle Earth we go! Except,  in this adventure we have thirteen dwarves, a brave Hobbit and an awesome wizard on a perilous journey to reclaim the Dwarves’ homeland from a dragon. While this film does not quite match the brilliance of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (LOTR), it is still an exciting and enjoyable adventure. Albeit  an adventure that does take its time to get going.

Through a flashback similar to the one we saw in the Lord of the Rings narrated by Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) we instead get a flashback narrated by Old Bilbo (Ian Holm) who reveals how the evil Smaug (voiced and motion captured by Benedict Cumberbatch) took the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.  With this all said and done we remain in the Shire for a good 30 minutes or so as the Dwarves come to Bilbo’s house to sing songs and throw crockery around whilst doing so, much to poor Bilbo’s annoyance.  Even when the adventure does properly get going it is still slow in parts as more stories are told. However when the adventure does finally get going it is fantastic as we witness some thrilling action scenes reminiscent to some of the great moments we had in the LOTR trilogy.

As the titular character Martin Freeman was tremendous in the role of Bilbo. He was likeable and courageous and you find yourself wanting him to earn his place in the company of the Dwarves.  On the subject of the dwarves, while a lot of them fade into the background, there are a few that deserve special mentions. One of these is undoubtedly Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) As the leader of the Dwarf Company you wanted him to be strong, brave and a determined warrior to win back his homeland,and he was all these things. Ken Stott as the elderly Balin is another dwarf who is memorable for his comic relief moments and to be the wise old dwarf that the company need. And of course we have Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey once again. He was incredible in the LOTR trilogy and he is equally incredible in this film, save for the fact that he unfortunately does not take on a Balrog of Morgoth in this film.

While there is evidently a lot more CGI in this film compared to the Lord of the Rings some of which is a bit bothersome there is still plenty of CGI that does take your breath away.  On the subject of great CGI we must talk about Gollum my preciousssss! ( I hope you read that in  Gollum’s voice) Although he is not in the film long, he is just as brilliant as he was in the LOTR trilogy. The Riddles in the Dark scene with him and Bilbo simply is first class entertainment and a definite hight point of the film, along with the last act of the film which is also incredible. Howard Shore’s score is also first class. Shore scooped two Oscars for his great work in the Lord of the Rings and he’s again on fine form here as the score is of the highest quality.

All in all this film was thoroughly enjoyable and a great watch. While it does take its time to get going, when it does get going it is thrilling with some terrific scenes that remind you what you love about the world of J.R.R Tolkien and Peter Jackson to a certain extent.  While the decision to make it into a trilogy as opposed to two films, has been criticised by some people. While the CGI is in places bothersome in parts, it was still a welcome return to Middle Earth and I look forward to the next instalment of this adventure.

The pacing is a little slow, as the film takes it times to get going but to be back in Middle Earth is a joy to behold, and once it’s full steam ahead, there’s much to enjoy.

b