Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Men in Black International (2019)

Image is property of Sony, Columbia Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Men in Black International – Film Review

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson,

Director: F. Gary Gray

Synopsis: When Earth comes under attack from an unknown hostile alien force, rookie agent M (Thompson) gets partnered up with the brash Agent H (Hemsworth) and together they must stop the impending attack…

Review: There comes a point in a franchise’s life when after a very successful first entry, the studio then decides to seize on that success and make one or two sequels. Though since it has been seven years since the last film in this franchise, it begs the question, was anyone asking for another Men in Black film? If a decision is going to be made to reboot or spin-off a franchise, give the audience a story worth telling. Because, once again, we have another film in a franchise that barely has a reason for justifying its existence.

As this is a spin-off, Will Smith’s and Tommy Lee Jones’s Agents J and K are now consigned to legend, and in their places come Chris Hemsworth Agent H (for hothead) and Tessa Thompson’s M (for marvellous). These two are recruited by the MiB London division to investigate some mysterious extraterrestrial occurrings, and the usual shenanigans involving aliens and men (and this time) women suiting up to take down these extraterrestrial nefarious evil doers.

By far and away, the best thing about this film is Tessa Thompson’s performance as Agent M, she is the most fleshed out person in the film and she adds some much needed charisma, something that is severely lacking in many of the other characters. Hemsworth is enjoyable as H, though this is far from his best work. These two have  proven themselves to have good chemistry due to their work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the camaraderie and banter between the two is one of the few delightful elements of the film. In addition, Kumail Nanjiani has a small but brilliant part that gives the movie the majority of its laughter.

For such an exciting cast, there’s barely an ounce of charisma on anyone else, save for Emma Thompson’s Head of the New York division of the MiB, who is not given enough screen time. On a similar note, in what could have been a very intriguing role, Rebecca Ferguson, who is sporting a very interesting wig, is reduced to a glorified cameo. The script from Iron Man duo Art Marcum and Matt Holloway gives them such inadequate material to work with, it’s a frustrating waste of the talents of these two fantastic actresses. It definitely doesn’t help that for the first act or so, the film is completely bereft of a discernible plot or a sense of direction that its moving in.

Though once things start to gather some pace, there are some exciting moments but these are really few and far between, and the addition of F Gary Gray as director adds nothing new. Don’t be surprised if after coming out of the film, you feel as though you yourself have been neuralised because there is nothing in this film that remotely stands out as memorable or exciting. The attachment of some new blood and a new director offered an opportunity for this franchise to start afresh and blast off in exciting new directions, but it’s an opportunity missed. No need to get suited and booted for this one, as those suits should have been left in the wardrobe, and hopefully the sunglasses and the neuralisers will be put into the drawer and never be seen again.

Hemsworth and Thompson’s are welcome additions to the cast, but an uninspired plot, bland storytelling and completely forgettable action scenes render this a complete damp (alien) squib.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

Image is property of Paramount, Bad Robot Productions and Skydance Media

Mission Impossible: Fallout – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, Ving Rhames, Vanessa Kirby Michelle Monaghan, Henry Cavill, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Synopsis: When the IMF learns of an organisation in possession of some deadly nuclear weapons, they face a race against time in order to prevent global catastrophe…

Review: Though the word Impossible is in the title, the Mission Impossible franchise continues to prove that nothing is impossible when it comes to creating mind boggling stunts, and combining that with very well crafted and compelling stories. The remarkable stunts however are in no small part down to the incredible work of Tom Cruise who goes all out in terms of giving the audience the perfect, adrenaline fuelled thrill ride. And with each new entry into this franchise, it continues to offer that, and in jaw-dropping and spectacular fashion.

With this being the sixth entry into the franchise, this can be the point where things start to run out of steam, but this can definitely not be said for Mr Cruise who is showing no signs of slowing down even well into his fifties, and long may that continue. In the wake of the events of Rogue Nation, after a mission goes awry, a sinister group threatens to unleash global nuclear catastrophe. Consequently, the IMF once again finds itself in a desperate mission to save the world once more. However, it wouldn’t be a MI film if there weren’t some solid characters, a bunch of agendas flying around, people being double-crossed, and some people with some sinister motivations.

Bit high up here, isn’t it?

Cruise, as he has been across all 6 films, is once again terrific as Ethan Hunt, likewise for his IMF companions in Luther (Rhames) and the tech wizard Benji (Pegg). Though the absence of Jeremy Renner’s Brandt is never really explained. Also making her return is Ilsa (Ferguson), mysterious as ever, and out on her own mission that threatens to get in the way of Hunt’s. This in turn drags Sean Harris’s nefarious Solomon Lane back into the picture, which isn’t really good news for anyone. As for the newbies, Henry Cavill, and his well publicised moustache, certainly gives Hunt another headache that he could really do without. Fresh from her work on The Crown, Vanessa Kirby’s mysterious role was an interesting one, but sadly she is somewhat underused as is Angela Bassett as the new director of the CIA.

For each new entry into the franchise, a new director accepted the mission to helm the project. However, this time McQuarrie is once again writing and directing.  Given the slick style of action that he brought to the table, it is a welcome one to see him return. This film has almost every action set piece you can think of, and it’s just absolutely glorious to watch. There are some necessary breathers, which is helpful because by the time we reach the final action set piece, it really goes up a notch. The word tense REALLY just doesn’t do it justice, especially if you are afraid of heights. Sometimes you do wonder how on earth they accomplished what they did, this is action film-making at its absolute best.

The franchise has certainly seen absolutely batshit stunts like the thrilling Burj Khalifa scene in Ghost Protocol, but here Cruise might have just outdone himself with some of the stunts that are on show here, particularly in that enthralling final action scene. With each entry, this franchise just continues to just be a source of spectacular and electrifying entertainment, and arguably getting better with each instalment. The fallout of the film-making brilliance that you see on screen here means that should anyone choose to accept the mission to direct any future instalments, that itself is going to be its very own impossible mission. Good luck to whomever decides to take that challenge on.

A very well crafted and engaging story, fused with excellent action set pieces and some absolutely jaw-dropping stunts once more. Please fasten your seat-belts, you’re in for a pulsating ride. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Life (2017)

Image is property of Skydance Media and Columbia Pictures

Life – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Synopsis: An international crew on the ISS capture what they believe to be the first sign of life from Mars. Yet upon examination, the extraterrestrial being they have found is not very hospitable…

Review: When you have the premise of a crew of human beings aboard a space station in space, and there are some aliens involved, it’s almost a certainty that this means doom and gloom for those poor souls on board. Aliens don’t tend to be the sort of beings that want to sit down and have a beer and natter about everyday life. Nope, they usually want your flesh and blood and that’s exactly what you get in this intriguing mesh of sci-fi meets horror meets thriller.

Indeed, this is a genre and a combination that is not exactly new to audiences, as it’s become a very trodden path down the years. As such there’s nothing truly revolutionary about the story, but it still manages to be suspenseful and gripping to watch. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick of Deadpool fame do their best to try and add something new to the table and save for one scene where the Martian symbiote decides to make a meal out of a lab rat, it’s your standard Humans vs Alien set up, with the humans trying desperately to survive. The cast do their best but ultimately there’s very little flesh on the bones of the characters (not such good news for Mr ET in that case!) The acting is of a decent order, but there’s no standout performance from what is a very talented cast, which is a huge frustration.

Indeed the likes of the Alien trilogy and Gravity have set the bar of quality in this genre, the latter of which particularly when it comes to recreating the look and feel of a space environment.  The effects are well done, as is the production design and set decoration. Director Daniel Espinosa does make it feel as though you are in space, but given today’s technology, and after seeing what Cuaron managed to achieve with Gravity, this is not as jaw dropping as it perhaps once was. What this film does very well though is the tension. Through some very quick cut editing and some solid camerawork, the tension really begins to build when the alien is coming after the crew one by one, and the remaining crew work out their plan for survival, which isn’t exactly easy in such narrow hallways aboard a space station.

There are some memorable moments, and one death in particular that is particularly horrifying to watch that could perhaps cause one or two astronauts to have nightmares, but overall Life does not better the films that serve as its inspiration. The film does have some interesting things to say about humanity as a species and does offer up interesting questions as to what would the reaction of humanity be if we discovered life on a different planet that is not our own. An event that might well happen several decades from now, so should that event ever come to pass, perhaps this film can serve as a lesson.

  Suspenseful, gritty and visually impressive without a doubt, but a lack of memorable characters and originality prevents this from becoming a true classic of the extraterrestrial/space genre.

Posted in Film Review

The Girl on the Train (2016)

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Image is property of Dreamworks, Universal Pictures and Reliance Entertainment

The Girl on the Train Film Review

Cast:  Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Edgar Ramirez, Luke Evans and Allison Janney

Director: Tate Taylor

Synopsis: Rachel (Blunt) is an alcoholic, unemployed,  divorced, woman who becomes fixated on the people she sees while on her daily train journey, until one day, she sees something that turns her world upside down.

Review: Ah trains, don’t you just love them? For many of us, they are a valuable asset that we use to get to our day jobs, even if they can be a bit late or a bit too full on occasions. Whilst on board, many of us bury our heads in a newspaper or listen to music, but what if you saw something that shocked you? And before you know it, one thing leads to another and you find yourself entangled in a criminal investigation over a missing persons case? This is precisely the situation the lead character finds herself in in this missing persons thriller.

Adapting from Paul Hawkins’s best selling novel of the same name, Rachel having lost her job and seeing her marriage fall apart has become a hopeless alcoholic who seems destined to go off the rails (pun absolutely intended.) Her life has hit a red signal, and in order to maintain a routine she take the train every day and becomes attached to the people she sees, making up stories about their lives. This is until she finds herself right in the thick of a criminal investigation and after become a bit too intoxicated one particular evening and in a similar vein to Gone Girl, we have an intriguing mystery on our hands.

Hawkins novel is very unpredictable in terms of its narration and storytelling, and screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson, manages to adapt it for the most part pretty well. The change of setting from London to New York will undoubtedly upset fans of the book, but it doesn’t detract from the story. The main character here is of course Blunt’s Rachel. Although the novel’s version of the book describes her as being overweight, Blunt does her level best and gives a wounded performance as Rachel. The film does a good job of making you feel sorry for her, but at the same time, makes her look like a terrible human being when she’s a drunken mess, giving subtle warnings over the dangers of booze. The blackout scenes are handled expertly by director Tate Taylor, and adds to the intrigue of the story, it begs the question, just what did Rachel see that night? Through a mixture of past and present storytelling, the blanks are slowly filled, and the tension is well built throughout.

Blunt is well aided by an excellent supporting cast some of whom like Rachel are a bit on the unstable side. Haley Bennett as Megan, the person at the centre of this investigation also gives an unpredictable performance. After showing what an unbelievable badass she was in Rogue Nation, Rebecca Ferguson also is excellent as Anna, the new love of Rachel’s ex husband Tom (Justin Theroux) These characters get the most character development, understandably so, yet you would have liked to have seen other characters such as Megan’s husband Scott (Luke Evans) get more screen time. The script does lack a bit of focus on occasion, but this does not derail the intrigue and suspense that has steadily been building up.

The comparisons between this and Gone Girl are to be expected, and while Gone Girl is a superior movie, this adaption certainly holds its own as a very suspenseful thriller, particularly for those who have not read Hawkins’s brilliant novel. Adaptations from page to screen can sometimes go awry, but thankfully not on this occasion.

Unpredictable, tense and expertly directed by Taylor with a superb performance from Blunt, be sure to catch this one before it leaves the platform.

Rating: A-

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

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Image is property of Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions, TC Productions, China Movie Channel, Alibaba Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Synopsis: When the IMF learn of the existence of the Syndicate, a group committed to destroying them by causing global panic, Ethan Hunt and his team have to go rogue and take them down

Review: Is there an actor working today more insane and more gutsy than Tom Cruise? Here’s an actor who absolutely commits to his roles, including taking on some ludicrously dangerous, death defying stunts all in the name of some awesome entertainment. Climbing the tallest building in the world? Check. Fighting on top of a high speed train? check? Clinging on for dear life as a jet takes off with him on the outside? Check. On the basis of this evidence, the answer is yes, Tom Cruise is certainly one of the most barking mad actors in the business, but all the better for it, because it provides us cinema goers with some awesome high pulse action sequences and a thrilling movie that reminds us why we pay money to go watch these movies on the big screen. In what is his fifth outing as Ethan Hunt, Tom  Cruise shows no signs of slowing down, He’s choosing to accept these missions, and we the audience are very grateful that he is.

The MI franchise has had a few stutters on its way to its fifth outing. Yet the last picture, Ghost Protocol was a storming critical and commercial success, so Rogue Nation had much to live up to. However in the hands of Christopher McQuarrie, taking over directing duties from Bird Bird, the ship is well and truly afloat once more. This time, the team has the task of tracking the Syndicate, an organisation which ruthlessly carries out tasks with the intention of causing mass panic on a global scale, and much like in Ghost Protocol, they have to go it alone after they are disbanded by the CIA. Right out of the gate, the action on show is fantastic, from the enthralling opening sequence of the plane, as we saw in the trailer and on the poster, to a spectacular battle right in the middle of an opera show.

There are more than enough action scenes to get the heart truly pounding, but through all of these impossibly plausible action scenes (clue is in the name) there is emotion that resonates throughout the story, similar to that of Ghost Protocol. Yes there is a lot of crazy and borderline ridiculous action going on, but the story packs heart in there. The audience cares about these characters, and feel on edge when they seem to be in extreme peril.

Cruise, as usual, brings his A game to this movie and shines brightly. Yet a key theme of these movies has been the team element. Cruise is awesome, yes but the team play an important role in the mission as well. Simon Pegg, returning as Benji Dunn, effortlessly provides the comic relief once more, whilst also maintaining a very serious tone as the gravity of the situation they are in is fully realised. Taking over the role of femme fatale from Paula Patton is Rebecca Ferguson, who provides great charm and sexiness, whilst also being a very dangerous badass in a dress! Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner are both back to complete the team line up, and together they all make a powerful ensemble.

Previous MI villains haven’t always been the greatest, and it is certainly the franchise’s Achilles Heel. No one has really topped Phil Seymour Hoffman’s turn in MI 3. However, we are here presented with a much strong villain, with some more clear motives. Yet the series has really lacked that strong, powerful villain that is so often present in for instance the James Bond franchise.  But take nothing away from Rogue Nation, it packs a lot of fun into its 130 minute running time, and with talk of a sixth film in the franchise in the works, Tom Cruise shows no signs of slowing down just yet.

 With a great ensemble cast, and some superb action sequences, nothing is truly impossible with this franchise

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