Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

First Man (2018)

Image is property of Universal and Dreamworks

First Man  – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciarán Hinds

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis: Telling the true story of astronaut Neil Armstrong and how, through many years of intense training at NASA, he became the first man to walk on the surface of the Moon.

Review: In terms of the greatest historical moments of the 20th century, there is perhaps few that could rival the moment where for the very first time, the world watched as the human race set foot upon the surface of the moon. The man who took that very first step, and uttered the immortal line “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for Mankind,” was Neil Armstrong.  It is this man’s remarkable life and journey that incredibly hasn’t really been explored to such an extent on the big screen before, this is until Damien Chazelle came along.

After working together so successfully on La La Land, Gosling re-teams with Chazelle to play Armstrong, and Gosling once again excels. Right from when we meet him, you get the impression that this guy is focused and determined, something that has run through both of Chazelle’s last two films. He’s much more stoic here, but no less resolute in his mission, except there’s no jazz clubs involved this time. Josh Singer’s script goes into some quite personal detail that people might know about Armstrong including his family life, and the deeply personal tragedy that he goes through in the early stages, whilst also focusing on his NASA training, and all the perils that he faced on his journey to becoming the first man to walk on the moon.

Claire Foy, having donned the crown of Queen Elizabeth II, steps into a very different role as Armstrong’s wife Janet. A role that is quite clichéd for sure, yet it’s one she absolutely shines in alongside Gosling to be there as his figure of support, and at the same time, when it comes to the eve of his lunar mission, to voice her fury at the very real possibility that her husband might never see their kids again. Their relationship is the fierce beating heart of this story, and while the rest of the cast all give solid performances to complete a solid ensemble cast, no one else apart from Foy really has enough time to shine alongside Gosling.

For a director who’s only 33, he has already had a remarkable run of success with his previous two films Whiplash and La La Land, both garnering critical praise and awards aplenty, including the Best Director Oscar for Chazelle for the latter. The ambition for a film like this almost goes without saying, but Chazelle rises to the challenge and delivers another immensely well crafted film. Re-teaming with some of his frequent collaborators in the cinematography (Linus Sandgren), score (Justin Hurwitz) and editing (Tom Cross) departments, the film is crafted to perfection. The space scenes, especially the final lunar landing are so masterfully executed, it feels so real and authentic, and Hurwitz’s score is just superb.

Given the scope of this story, spanning almost over a decade into just over two hours, seems like an impossible task but Singer manages to streamline it as effectively as he can. Yet the pacing does suffer around the second act, especially when there is not a great deal happening down on Earth. However once, we gear up for the all important third act, the spectacle is turned up to ten, and never ceases for the rest of the film. For a director as young as Chazelle, to have an absolutely stellar hat-trick of films already under his belt is a remarkable accomplishment.

A remarkable and fascinating look at the mission to the moon and the man at the centre of it, with superb performances from Foy and Gosling. Another out of this world addition to the stellar filmography of Damien Chazelle.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros. Pictures, Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures and Scott Free Productions

Blade Runner 2049 – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Ana De Armas, Sylvia Hoeks

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: Set thirty years after the original Blade Runner, after uncovering a decades old secret, Blade Runner Officer K (Gosling) goes on the hunt for information, and his investigation leads him to a very familiar face…

Review: In terms of a challenging project for a director to get their hands on, being tasked with making a sequel to one of the most beloved science fiction films of all time, is surely right up there with the hardest.  Having garnered quite the cult following, in spite of decidedly mixed critical reactions upon release, Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic has built a legacy that has endured.

So in a time when Hollywood certainly likes making a sequel or two, one was perhaps almost inevitable. Though a sequel was for a long time in development, with Scott considering the possibility of directing, those plans were shelved. As such, the chance and indeed the enormous pressure of making this fell to Denis Villeneuve, and well simply put, it’s a challenge that he rose to in magnificent style delivering a superb blockbuster that combines tremendous style with emotional substance.

I see your true colours shining through…

Right from the off, Villeneuve, re-teaming with the great Roger Deakins following Prisoners and Sicario, they beautifully recreate that futuristic and visually mesmerising world that was so elegantly brought to life, but once more with those murky undertones. With superb production design this time being provided by Dennis Gassner, it’s all just a stunning visual treat to watch. Having shown his ability to dabble in mind-bending science fiction with his astonishing masterpiece Arrival, Villeneuve has once again shown he’s a formidable force to be reckoned with behind the camera. Oscar nominations are surely bound to follow, and hopefully this time, this will be the time that Deakins takes the statue, one can hope. But Oscar or not, Deakins has added another visual masterpiece to his glowing portfolio.

The great risk of making a sequel to something so beloved is that if you fail to live up to those lofty expectations, it could taint the original for some. However, the story crafted by original Blade Runner scribe Hampton Fancher along with Michael Green, delivers a deeply personal story that expands the world that was so elegantly brought to life in the original film. At the centre of the new story is Officer K who works as a Blade Runner, and stumbles upon a secret that opens up a can of worms. Much like its predecessor, the film is a slow burn in terms of pacing, it is not all out guns blazing action. Instead the film takes time with its story, which works to its advantage, whilst delivering those moments of intense action when it really needs to.

In a world where humanity and replicant are deeply intertwined, the lines between the two are almost non existent, and no one exemplifies this better than K. Gosling’s performance shows him in his much grittier, more melancholic mood in the same a similar manner to his performance in Drive. Charisma to boot (as well as a cool coat) he makes for a very compelling protagonist. For Harrison Ford meanwhile, after having made a triumphant return as Han Solo, he’s on masterful form once again as Deckard.

Ford is not here to just collect a pay cheque, as he delivers a performance that really packs the emotional punch making Deckard a relevant piece in this dystopian world of futuristic Los Angeles. Other new figures also include Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace and his associate Luv (Sylvia Hoeks). Leto might have copped a lot of flak following the much maligned Suicide Squad, but he is effective as the eccentric leader of a global corporation. Meanwhile, Hoeks’s Luv certainly makes her presence known.

The expectations were enormous. And with the pressure to deliver something to stand shoulder to shoulder with a film that has help to significantly define this genre, was equally gargantuan. Yet Villeneuve once again shows his remarkable credentials by delivering a sequel that beautifully pays homage to its predecessor, whilst at the same time, making things feel almost new and fresh. There will have been those who said that the original was untouchable, but we have seen things you people wouldn’t believe, and it is truly something to savour.

As visually mesmerising as its predecessor, and continuing the themes that are just as thought-provoking now as they were when the first film was released. A worthy sequel to one of the most significant films ever made.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

La La Land (2016)

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Image is property of Summit Entertainment, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures and Marc Platt Productions

La La Land – Film Review

Cast:  Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis: An actress desperately trying to catch her big break in Hollywood meets a jazz pianist struggling to make ends meet, and the duo begin a blossoming romance.

Review: The art of cinema is one that can have great impact on the human soul whenever we sit down to watch a film for the first time. Cinema has the power to generate so many emotions among its audience, from the most euphoric moments of unrivalled joy to the dark moments of despair. Writer and director Damien Chazelle’s previous directorial outing Whiplash certainly had a mixture of those happy and sad moments, more of the latter than the former mind you. Yet for his new picture, again with a musical theme at its brimming heart, definitely has a lot more of those moments of pure unparalleled joy.

An insane but quite brilliant musical number set on an LA freeway sets you up for the kind of ride Chazelle is about to take you on, as we meet Emma Stone’s Mia, an actress who, despite audition after audition, is just not getting any rewards. By chance she runs into Ryan Gosling’s Seb an aspiring Jazz pianist who also happens to be in something of a rut, this is until he meets Mia, and the two fall head over heels for one another and begin planning a life for themselves together, with both having big aspirations and dreams. It all seems so perfect for them, until their careers threatens to pull them away from one another, and both are presented with a difficult decision. Though this is very much a musical at is heart, its packed with great humour, romance and drama all fused into one glorious picture. right from the aforementioned musical freeway scene, you’ll be hard pressed to not find yourself tapping along with the music.

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With this marking their third collaboration since Crazy, Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, it’s crystal clear at this point that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have brilliant chemistry together, and it is their chemistry along with brilliant performances from them both that help elevate La La Land to a golden standard for musical cinema. As well as the electric performances, the music is also beautiful to listen to. With each note that Stone and Gosling sing, it will find its way to melt your heart and fall in love with these characters, even if a member of the audience is about as emotionless as a Cyberman from Doctor Who, it will lift your spirits and leave you floating on cloud nine. All of us undoubtedly have dreams and aspirations for want we want to do with our lives, and this film has much to say about following your dreams, that will hit home with almost everyone.

Despite those moments of sheer joy, it is not all sunshine and rainbows for our leads, as they encounter some tricky obstacles in both of their lives. Rest assured however, that no one is throwing any chairs at anyone this time, and no psycho music teachers brutally tearing people down. This is nowhere near as intense as Whiplash was, but it’s just as well written and equally tremendously acted, with a glorious cameo appearance from J.K Simmons, this time not in raging jazz teacher mode.

Chazelle, with only his third feature film, seems to have found his spark, when it comes to live action musicals, currently he is the man of the moment, and is certainly proving himself to be a formidable director and one to watch. A recording breaking Golden Globe haul accomplished, with the Oscars in sight, La La Land looks certainly set to sing and dance its way to more awards glory.

With some thumping good tunes, Stone and Gosling on electric form, and a deep, thought provoking story, this is cinema at its heart-warming and magical best.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Nice Guys (2016)

the nice guys
Image rights belong to RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Waypoint Entertainment, Silver Pictures and Warner Bros Pictures

The Nice Guys – Film Review

Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Margaret Qualley, Angourie Rice

Director: Shane Black

Synopsis: Two unlikely detectives are pitted together to solve the case of the death of a porn star, and soon find themselves on the hunt for a missing girl.

Review: Everyone loves a story about a detective, or a private investigator. Stories such as these are packed into popular culture with the many portrayals of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock coming to mind. So often you think of these private investigators as good guys, doing a job for the good of the community, investigating crime and so on. Yet in the case of the comedy duo at the centre of the new film from Shane Black, as the film’s poster suggests, they’re really not nice guys, but they do try to make the world a better place and are given the chance to do just that when a case falls into their hands.

Shane Black’s last directorial outing, Iron Man 3, was a little bit different after his smash hit and directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but here he returns to that genre with great aplomb. It’s 1977 Los Angeles, and our two detectives Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) become involved in the hunt for a missing girl named Amelia, whose disappearance leads to a whole series of interconnected events that are occurring. The duo are the most unlikely partners and given how their first meeting goes, it is somewhat amazing that they agree to work together. Yet this makes their relationship all the more interesting, and hilarious to watch as their efforts to crack this case develop.

The script, penned by Black and co-writer and Anthony Bagarozzi, is absolutely hilarious. The laughs are packed throughout the run time of the movie, which may be odd given the nature of the story about a missing girl, but they make it work, they make it work very well. Part of that is down to the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe, their characters are completely opposite to each other in terms of their methods, but as they say opposites do attract and it’s certainly applicable here. The daughter of Gosling’s character, played by Angourie Rice is also excellent. Young actors can be the kiss of death in movies, but she is not the kiss of death in the slightest. The script also keeps you hooked as you watch the case develop and see all the clues that they acquire gradually form the big picture.

While Iron Man 3 is far from the greatest Marvel movie ever made, Black showed there that he certainly knows how to handle action sequences, and he demonstrates that here once again. There are some gripping and tense shootout scenes, packed with some terrific camerawork, that again manage to weave humour into them and it’s done very well indeed. Black from his previous written works certainly knows the genre well and how to make it pretty damn entertaining.

There are some characters that you would have maybe liked to have seen a bit more of, but it cannot be denied that Black has come up trumps with a very witty, hilarious and original piece of film-making, packed with some great performances, that will have you laughing all the way through.

Brilliantly funny, with great lead performances from Crowe and Gosling, with an amazing script, the King of the Buddy Cop movies is back on his throne!

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Big Short (2015)

the-big-short
Image rights belong to Plan B Entertainment, Regency Enterprises and Paramount Pictures

The Big Short  – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt

Director: Adam McKay

Synopsis:  An account of a group of people who foresaw the collapse of the housing market and the crumbling of the world’s economy in 2008.

Review: When the world’s economy went pretty much to shit in the latter half of the noughties, one thing we all knew was that the global economic situation was in complete disarray, with jobs being lost and lives ruined. But the vast majority probably had no idea who was to blame, why this happened, could it have been prevented and did anyone see this enormous mess coming? The answer to all of those questions is yes, four individuals to be precise who not only saw what was coming, but decided to do something about it and challenge the banks on their greed and their failure to avoid this catastrophe. Enter Anchorman director Adam McKay and screenwriter Charles Randolph, giving the account of how the entire world’s economy crashed and burned.

The account follows three different groups of people, who at various stages foresaw the impending doom, and each goes about their responses in very interesting ways. Firstly you have Christian Bale’s drumming, no shoes wearing kind of guy who likes to listen to metal music whilst foreseeing the imminent disaster via numbers on a screen. Then we have Steve Carrell’s melancholic hedge fund manager who teams up with Ryan Gosling’s trader, and finally we have Brad Pitt’s veteran banker, aided by two newbie investors. Through these three perspectives McKay flits between them as the months go by, and the financial crash looms on the horizon. The acting from all is of a very good calibre, with Bale being the stand-out amongst the ensemble and ensuring another Oscar nomination comes his way. After his unique role in Foxcatcher, Steve Carell again shows he too is a force to be reckoned with as he, mixing grumpiness and comedy surprisingly well.

Your average viewer is in all probability not going to have much clue when it comes to explaining the reasons behind the economic crash, and lots of the economic terminology are likely to sail over their heads. Therefore in order to understand the specific terminology that the cast are speaking of, there are some amusing celebrity cameos who are there for the purposes of dumbing it down so that those audience members who are not well versed in economics are able to catch their drift. There is humour peppered throughout to keep the story flowing, something McKay knows very well from his Anchorman days, and it does to a certain extent. However due to the vast amount of financial terminology, it means the story does falter a little bit. The interest in the story does diminish, which it shouldn’t given the impact that this crash undoubtedly had on many people the world over.

McKay presents his vision of this story almost documentary like with a lot of use of hand held cam in a handful of scenes. There is also a lot of breaking the fourth wall with the characters taking the audience for a ride. Yet the breaking of the fourth wall and the use of handheld cam does not always work. The latter in particular, it makes it look a bit sloppy and badly edited. And as this style is not always implemented, the film lacks a bit of consistency in terms of delivery and tone. It tries to be both a comedy and a documentary, and while sometimes it does work, others it really doesn’t. The film is probably the best attempt at telling the story of the housing crash, but even then, unless you’re very well versed in economics and all that jazz, the film is probably going to leave the audience found wanting when the credits begin to roll.

The acting is of a very decent order, with a solid enough script but unless you’re well versed in economics and the whole crisis, you may not be as interested in the story as you perhaps ought to be.

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