Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

kubo
Image is property of Laika and Focus Features

Kubo and the Two Strings – Film Review

Cast: Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes

Director: Travis Knight

Synopsis: After a terrible accident in his past, young Kubo sets off on an adventure to retrieve some valuable items from his past to help defeat a sinister force.

Review: Animation is such a staple of modern Western cinema, largely thanks to the work of animation powerhouses like Disney and Pixar, using computer animation to create magical and exciting adventures for all generations. Yet for animation studios like Laika and Studio Ghibli, in these cases, they use somewhat more unique methods to tell their stories. For the former, the use of stop motion animation is their party piece, and their latest film reinforces their growing reputation as an animation studio that is certainly showing its credentials with each new film they release.

Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy with a magical musical instrument who is looking after his sick mother, who warns him of the perils of being out at night, as Kubo is being hunted by some deeply sinister forces who want to take something from him. Due to these sinister forces, Kubo is sent on a mission to hunt for three valuable artefacts that will enable him to defeat those that are pursuing him. Aiding him on this quest are the appropriately named Monkey (Theron) and Beetle (McConaughey).

Original films are something of a rarity in modern cinema, and this story is a wonderful breath of fresh air, that’s mysterious, magical and exciting all rolled into one. There are elements of Ancient Japanese history without any doubt and maybe a hint of influence from Ghibli, but the screenplay, written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler is rich in detail and boasts some very compelling characters, and an adventure that packs plenty of heart and humour, not to mention some absolutely flawless animation. Kubo is our young hero and Parkinson’s work bringing him to life is so stellar that you just want to root for him and defeat those evil forces who are trying to take something from him.

Along with a compelling lead, the side characters are also extremely compelling and well developed. Monkey is certainly a “take no nonsense” kind of character but she has plenty of heart and compassion for Kubo. Likewise for Beetle, though he comes across as something of a bumbling idiot, he too certainly shows spirit and a fierce desire to aid Kubo on his mission. Likewise with Parkinson, the voice work of Theron and McConaughey is so on point that as an audience, you are on the side of these heroes, and although their voice work is equally stellar, you are most certainly not on the side of Rooney Mara’s Sisters  and neither that of the primary antagonist, Ralph Fiennes’s Moon King.

Despite being an extremely well made and beautiful film to watch, the screenplay isn’t perfect, there are a few points where the film stumbles a bit, and while his voice work is great, when casting such a brilliant actor in Fiennes, who can certainly do bad guys very well, you would hope his character is sinister and terrifying, and while he can be, certain elements of his design did leave something to be desired. Nevertheless though, Kubo is another fine string to add to Laika’s bow of really well made animated storytelling. The studio is certainly on a roll right now, and definitely one to keep an eye on in the years to come.

Beautiful detailed animation, combined with an enthralling story and tremendous characters, Kubo is an animation that will tug at the heartstrings of everyone, no matter how young or old they are.

a 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

deathly-hallows-2
Image is property of Warner Bros and Heyday Films

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, David Thewlis,  Michael Gambon, Julie Walters,

Director: David Yates

Synopsis: As Harry, Ron and Hermione continue their quest to destroy the Horcruxes, Lord Voldemort and his followers bring the battle between good and evil to Hogwarts, for one final showdown.

Review: For everyone who read these beloved series of books and went on this epic journey with Harry, Ron and Hermione on the big screen, this is where everything ends (or so we thought at the time!) After going on said journey, spanning eight films and ten years, it was important to ensure that the franchise went out in style, and go out in style, they certainly did.

The first part to this concluding story to the Harry Potter universe, while having its few moments of enjoyment was ultimately all set up for this conclusion. We pick up immediately with the events of the first film, with Dobby having bravely given his life for our key trio to help them escape the clutches of Lord Voldemort. For Harry, Ron and Hermione there is no time to dwell, and their search for those elusive Horcruxes continues. The pacing of the first part was a bit slow, as the relationships of our three leads was put under severe pressure. However, now the trio are united in their quest, and right from the off, this film is a pulsating, emotional ride that never lets up and delivers the satisfying conclusion that the legions of Potter fans around the world will have hoped for.

The franchise has certainly boasted some remarkable action sequences, but this time around we certainly have the biggest one, and maybe even the best of the lot. Yates once again directs these scenes with wonderful execution, from the Battle at Hogwarts to a brilliant mini skirmish at Gringotts. With Harry having returned to Hogwarts in search of a Horcrux, The Dark Lord moves in to attack, and the Battle of Hogwarts commences. It’s a visual spectacle and Yates once again helms it in magnificent fashion. Writer Steve Kloves also deserves credit for once again adding some brilliant lines of humourous dialogue. The best of these falls undoubtedly to Julie Walters’s Molly Weasley, with a superb line of dialogue lifted straight from Rowling’s novel, it’s wonderful to watch and Walters delivers the line in great style.

RALPH FIENNES as Lord Voldemort in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 2,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Image is property of Warner Bros.

Yet in spite of the wondrous visuals, this franchise has been built on the characters and there are some truly heart breaking moments where certain characters true natures are revealed. Alan Rickman did a wonderful job bringing Severus Snape to life, but the revelations that are disclosed here show him in a completely new light, and viewers may find themselves reaching for the tissues as Rickman’s performance is so powerful and emotionally heart-breaking, it is undoubtedly his best work in this franchise and reinforces what a wonderful and brilliant actor he truly was. Through all of this magical mayhem and carnage, this franchise has been built on excellent, well developed characters and Snape is one of the many perfect examples of this, with Harry, Ron and Hermione being among many others. Truth be told, every character was brought to life brilliantly by their respective actors, and full credit to each and every one of them for their sterling work.

It was quite a journey that we all went on over the course of a decade, watching these brilliant pieces of literature be brought to the big screen. Four directors, eight films and nearly eight billion dollars grossed at the worldwide box office, this is a franchise that captured the hearts and minds of film goers across the world, and although our journey with the Boy Who Lived might be done, there is still much to explore, With a further expansion of the wizarding world having arrived in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and with four further films to come, the magic of Harry Potter and this incredible world we have all come to know and love, isn’t going anywhere any time soon, even more so when The Cursed Child is inevitably adapted for the big screen.

Sterling performances from just about everyone, some incredible action and breath-taking visuals, the franchise certainly signed off in beautiful and magical style. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

deathly-hallows
Image is property of Warner Bros and Heyday Films

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Film Review

Cast:  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis

Director: David Yates

Synopsis: Harry, Ron and Hermione, now armed with the knowledge of the Horcruxes, set off on a mission to destroy these evil objects to defeat Lord Voldemort once and for all.

Review: This is what the previous six movies of the Potter franchise has all been building towards, the final battle between good vs evil, between Harry Potter and the Dark Lord, except not quite in this film. Although the Deathly Hallows marks the final instalment in Rowling’s series of novels, the film-makers made the decision to split this final chapter into two movies. Although one can certainly make the argument that this was a decision done purely to make more money for the studio, the decision to do so does have its merits, but it does have its problems too, namely that this film is a little bit slow.

The dark tone that has been an ever present since almost Azkaban certainly does not diminish here. With Dumbledore now dead, Harry is armed with knowledge of the Horcruxes, the means that Voldemort uses to ensure immortality, but he knows very little about what they are or where to find them. As such, writer Steve Kloves goes into a bit more detail with certain elements. These are certainly interesting to watch, particularly the opening battle between our heroes and the bad guys, and the scene exploring the origin of the titular Deathly Hallows. Yet ultimately it is all just build up to the big climatic battle that we know is coming in part 2. That being said, writer Kloves is given the opportunity to spend more time on certain things. The origin of the Deathly Hallows is very interesting to watch, and is told in a very interesting manner. Yet, there are some bizarre additions that really don’t make a great deal of sense, namely a random dance scene between Harry and Hermione, it just feels all out of place and does not make much sense.

While there is interest in their quest, there is a severe lack of action, but the action that is given to us is enjoyable to watch. The initial battle of the Seven Potters is very well executed and very suspenseful, with that great bit of humour added in there once more. Yates once again ensures that the directing is of a very high calibre, whilst the film visually remains excellent once more. The explanation of the origin of the Hallows is done in a very interesting and visual way.

The key trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione, the centre pieces of this franchise are front and centre once again. Yet here, the friendship is severely tested as the magical objects they are seeking begin to stir up emotions, very much of the wrong sort. The performances of all three have for the most part been on point, but Radcliffe and Watson do give the more well rounded performances. The veteran actors such as Fiennes, Bonham Carter, Rickman and John Hurt merely have small cameos, but in spite of little screen time, they continue to excel.

With an exciting conclusion that sets the stage for what is to come, ultimately, this is merely the calm before the storm that is to come in part 2. Could this have been one big three and a half hour film? Yes it definitely could. While this does have its slow and tedious parts, there is plenty for Potterheads to appreciate and enjoy, but these are quite often very small moments. Yet there are a few really head-scratching moments. However, after seven films, the franchise was poised to close in a very exciting and epic manner.

The moments of magic are limited, and the pacing is slow, but with a thrilling conclusion that delivers an emotional pay off. The stage is set for the exciting conclusion.

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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 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! 

a

Posted in Film Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

GBH
Image rights belong to American Empirical Pictures, Indian Paintbrush, Babelsberg Studio, Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Film Review 

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum

Director:  Wes Anderson

Synopsis: An elderly gentlemen tells the story to a young writer of how he came to be the owner of the titular hotel

Review: Throughout life, you will probably compare many things and see how much two different things may be alike in a number of ways. This is certainly applicable when it comes to the world of film. Many people compare this film to that film through various criteria, and while some films do share similarities,  when it comes to the filmography of one Wes Anderson, it is almost clutching at straws to compare his works to any other film that graces our screens every year, because there really isn’t anything quite like them, and with his latest picture, that trend continues in glorious fashion.

Set in the fictional land of the Republic of Zubrowka in between the First and Second World Wars, it brings us the tale of the titular hotel, and how it fell into the hands of one elderly gentleman (F. Murray Abraham). We then travel to the past to see a younger version of said gentleman, back when he was a lobby boy (Tony Revelori) along side the hotel’s main concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) and the tale of their friendship. His affection for elderly resident Madame D turns sour due to her possession of an invaluable painting which is left to him in her will. Triggering a wild goose chase between her rather peeved family and our lead actors, through museums and ski slopes. With the influx of superhero movies and reboots of popular franchises that were littered throughout 2014, it is refreshing to see that extremely original films like this are still being made, and that they can be uproariously entertaining and just as exciting just like a big budget blockbuster adventure. The sets are full of colour and character, with the costumes also of excellent quality, and it is no surprise that the film bagged Oscars for both Costume and Production design

With a rather large cast in this film, it would seem difficult to stand out, Ralph Fiennes certainly does giving a truly exceptional performance as Gustave H. Prone to outbursts of rather posh sounding expletives aimed at policeman and anyone who dares to be rude to his lobby boy companion, his performance is an undeniable highlight of this picture and was arguably unlucky to miss out on a Best Actor nomination. It is always rather satisfying to hear someone swear in such an elegant manner and through his upper class accent and elegance, he provided some of the most entertaining dialogue of 2014. Newcomer Tony Revelori bursts onto the scene in a terrific debut performance as the lobby boy Zero. The chemistry between the two provides some compelling and extremely entertaining viewing as they go on their adventures of trying to ensure the valuable painting does not fall into the wrong hands. Willem Dafoe is no stranger to the role of a villain, but here he’s not so much Green Goblin, instead channeling a Bond like sort of villain, and here he is again in spectacular form.

Through all the quirkiness and comedy, the film does have some thoughtful and touching moments. The mixture of comedy and touching moments can be a very fine line to walk on, but like a true pro, through Anderson’s masterful direction, the combination of comedy and sadness hits all the right notes, along with the Oscar winning score by Alexandre Desplat. The Grand Budapest Hotel delivers the best service possible, so much so that you will find yourself wanting to book another stay many more times.

Quirky, hilarious, stylish and tremendously acted by the large cast, the latest addition to Wes Anderson’s filmography surely ranks as one of his best

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