Posted in 1980-1989, Film Review

Blade Runner (1982)

Image is property of Warner Bros, The Ladd Company and Shaw Brothers

Blade Runner: The Final Cut – Film Review

Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: Set in 2019, A police officer, known as a Blade Runner, is tasked with hunting down and eliminating four human like beings, known as replicants…

Review: Every once in a while, a film comes along that initially audiences, and indeed critics do not appreciate upon initial viewing. Yet, over time, opinions change and it becomes clear that some films need perhaps another watch, to allow audiences to really appreciate a film in all of its majesty. Never is this more applicable than for Ridley Scott’s neo-noir classic Blade Runner. It would be fair to say that upon its first arrival in cinemas back in 1982, this film was hardly a run away success with the critics divided. Yet decades after its release, its holds its place as a sci-fi masterpiece.

Over time, numerous cuts of the movie have emerged (eight in total) but the final cut is almost certainly the cut that you should seek to watch. Immediately right from the opening shot, there is something so mesmerising to look at Los Angeles in 2019 as was envisioned back in the 80s, though we don’t quite have those flying cars as of right now! The CGI, for a film released at that time, is breath-taking and still holds up to this day. The set decoration also really helps capture that futuristic vibe perfectly, with a very futuristic sounding score from Vangelis.

All the various cuts would suggest that in all of this time Scott was not quite ever fully satisfied with the film, but despite all these versions, the core story at the heart of the film remains a very fascinating one that explores a plethora of different themes, all of which perhaps have helped the film to stand the test of time. Artificial intelligence was not exactly anything new in terms of science fiction cinema, yet the way it approached the subject and its exploration of many other themes ensure it has become a landmark piece of not just science fiction cinema, but cinema in general. That being said, the screenplay is bogged down in places by some pacing issues, as some scenes do drag for longer than they perhaps need to.

blade runner 1982

Harrison Ford was at the time, one of the hottest properties in Hollywood. Fresh from his success in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones universes, he certainly showed he had the charisma to be the leading man. As Rick Deckard, the man charged with hunting down these sinister replicants, he doesn’t quite have that Han solo or Indy-esque charm about him, but his performance ensures that Deckard is a testament to his talent that he added another memorable character to his collection. However, leading replicant Roy Batty (Hauer) manages the quite remarkable feat of stealing the limelight away from Ford, giving a very chilling performance. He deftly manages the balance between maniacal evil and compassion. Furthermore, he also gives what has deservedly gone down as one of the greatest (and improvised) monologues in film history.

Minor nitpicks aside, there can be no doubt that the impact this film has had, and continues to have over science fiction cinema cannot be underestimated. Indeed, the cult following that this film has gained in the years since its release certainly tells you all you need to know.  when a film has stood the test of time, even in spite of several different versions and quite the extensive amount of tinkering on Scott’s part. Nevertheless, what exists in the Final Cut of this film is a staple of science fiction cinema, and will more than likely continue to be so for several more decades to come.

Not so greatly received upon release, but over time, generations have appreciation for the wonder and beauty of the story that Scott brings to the table. It has deservedly gone down as a landmark piece of cinema.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment

War for the Planet of the Apes – Film Review 

Cast:  Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Amiah Miller

Director: Matt Reeves

Synopsis: After the devastation caused by the skirmish between Apes and Humans, Caesar and his apes now face a new threat in the form of a vicious Colonel who’s intent on eradicating the Apes once and for all

Review: “Apes, together, strong!” These were some of the words that we saw written on one of the walls of what was once the stronghold of the colony of super-smart Apes led by Caesar. The Ape that kick-started the rise of the Ape revolution that we saw in the first chapter of this reboot. We watched in awe as he became the leader of that colony. Then came the second chapter, where Caesar saw his leadership and his ideals challenged. It was the dawn of the Ape uprising, as one ape went rogue, and things went a bit awry for mankind and ape-kind both, and the war that was triggered as a result of that conflict, is now upon us, and it ain’t pretty.

Continuing in the same vein as both Rise and Dawn, this is a very personal story for Caesar, once again voiced and mo-capped tremendously by Andy Serkis. After the events of Dawn, the actions of the mutinous Koba and the utter contempt for humanity  he had have had a lasting effect on Caesar. And when the humans and the apes clash once again, it proves to be the final straw for Caesar, and he sets out on the hunt for the vicious colonel (Harrelson) who is determined to eradicate Caesar and all of his apes, once and for all. Thus, this sets the wheels motion for another deeply personal and brilliantly told personal clash. Back once again after directing Dawn, Reeves has really showed himself to at the top of his craft, both as a writer and as a director, so it’s no wonder that he’s been handed the keys to the Batmobile.

The screenplay, co-written by Reeves and Matt Bomback, once again makes the smart decision to focus on Caesar and his apes, and their motivations for doing what they’re doing. Caesar stands out by far, but Maurice (Konoval) has a much greater role as Caesar’s most trusted adviser, and Rocket (Notary) likewise. A new addition to the Ape clan is Steve Zahn’s self named “Bad Ape” who certainly adds the humour this time around, but it’s gratefully kept to a minimum and thus it doesn’t become annoying. Dawn certainly offered plenty of exhilarating action sequences and once again Reeves delivers equally enthralling action sequences, whilst also delivering an intense psychological battle that pits Caesar against, by far the most compelling human antagonist of the franchise to date, Woody Harrelson’s Colonel, a man who is determined to ensure that humanity retains its place as the dominant species of the planet.

The CGI is once again, particularly for the Apes, is absolutely faultless. It’s so life like that once again you forget that they’re portrayed by actual actors in rather unusual suits. Though Serkis has often been overlooked for his work in these films in terms of awards recognition, he absolutely demonstrates his talents in bringing such emotional depth to a character, one who really makes the audience root for him, and want to see the obliteration of their own species. His performance is truly awards worthy, but award or not, his sterling work has ensured Caesar’s place as one of the most iconic film characters of the decade without a doubt. Michael Giacchino’s score is as you would expect, absolutely flawless.

Though there will almost certainly be more to come for this franchise, with Rise, Dawn and now War, we we have a trilogy that improves on what came before, and thus giving us one of one of the best trilogies of modern times. Apes, together, strong indeed.

The third chapter in trilogies so often disappoints, but no so here. With a thrilling personal story, combined with another excellent turn from Serkis as Caesar, to ensure that this trilogy is completed in great style, with the best film in the trilogy.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Ingenious Film Partners and Chernin Entertainment

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Film Review 

Cast:  James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo

Directors: Rupert Wyatt

Synopsis: Whilst carrying out some tests to research a cure for Alzheimer’s, a determined scientist discovers a young ape who after experimentation, develops remarkable advanced intelligence.

Review: As a species, humanity has had the dominion of Planet Earth has for the past two millennia. Of course, the idea that one day something else could come along and take that away from humanity is a theme that has been explored a considerable amount in cinema. There’s the classic alien invasion films, but the idea of super smart apes taking over the planet is one that has been around since the 1960s and the original Planet of the Apes film featuring Charlton Heston, which spawned four sequels. Then came Tim Burton and Mark Wahlberg in 2001, to which a sequel never materialised and after another decade, the franchise was rebooted once more.

In this new take on the franchise, Will (Franco) is a scientist aiming to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s. His research leads to the developing of a drug that is given on some Apes, which leads to one particular ape developing unprecedented abilities and super advanced intelligence that Will decides to adopt and name Caesar. As we watch Caesar grow up, and his intelligence becomes apparent, he begins to start questioning himself. All the while, the development of the drug begins to create tensions for the humans and as you might imagine a conflict between the humans and the apes starts to brew.

The wonder of modern technology meant that the apes were brought to life via motion capture work, and it’s just remarkable how advanced the technology has become. The technology is so impressive that it could almost make you forget that there is an actor who’s bringing the character to life. Though there are a handful of actors who bring the apes to life, the main man is the King of Motion Capture, Mr Andy Serkis himself. His work here is flawless, giving Caesar a very distinct personality, and a character you absolutely can empathise with.  Given that it is in fact Caesar who is the main character in the film, writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver give him the most back story out of everyone by far, which does mean the back story of others does suffer a little bit.

As Caesar’s main father figure, Franco is excellent in his role as one of the few humans that Caesar trusts, along with Will’s ailing father Charles (Lithgow) and love interest Caroline (Pinto). There’s not a great deal of development on them, but they’re characters you care about.  There’s one human who doesn’t quite view Caesar the way Will does, and that is Tom Felton’s Dodge Landon. Channelling his inner Draco Malfoy, he’s a man who relishes mistreating apes and putting them in their place, and when he meets Caesar, he’s certainly got his hands full, as it’s all well and good telling the audience that Caesar is a smart ape, but actions sometimes speak louder than words, and this is definitely the case with Caesar.

Under Wyatt’s direction the film is visually crisp with action scenes that are absolutely exhilarating to watch. With scenes that take place on California’s Golden Gate Bridge standing out as a particular highlight. The film’s pacing isn’t perfect, there are a few lapses in the plot where the film does drag. However there are one or two moments “holy shit” moments that more than make up for this. If a franchise has been dormant for a decade, any reboot’s key purpose is to reinvigorate interest in the franchise in a substantial way, and in that sense, it certainly was mission accomplished.

What a reboot should be, centred by a magnificent performance from Serkis with some stunning CGI and a very intriguing story, one that paved the way for future greatness.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Image is property of Paramount and Hasbro studios

Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Film Review

Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Frances McDormand, Patrick Dempsey, John Malkovich, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Leonard Nimoy

Director:  Michael Bay

Synopsis: When a  Transformer ship crashes on the Moon back in the height of the Cold War, triggering the Space Race, it possesses technology that could prove pivotal to the fates of both humanity and the Transformers themselves

Review: When you launch a live action franchise that is based off a hugely popular toy series, it’s almost a certainty that you will get people into the cinemas to see said films and the studio will make a nice juicy profit from these movies. However, you still have to make a good film that will ensure audiences keep coming on back once you decide to make sequels right?

Well not always as it happens, because even if you have one fun enough popcorn flick, but then that’s followed up with to put it mildly, a really disappointing follow-up, it creates the dilemma as to whether the audiences will return for a third film, under the same creative team as the previous two? Well yes as it turns out cos Hollywood does like to make those sequels, and the popularity of the Transformers franchise certainly compelled people back to the cinema, and thankfully this time director Michael Bay listened somewhat to the complaints that people had with Revenge of the Fallen, but not all of them.

In the wake of the previous movie Sam, now with new squeeze Carly (Huntington-Whiteley) is looking for fulfilment after having saved the world twice from the Decepticons, but of course those dastardly Decepticons are by no means willing to wave the white flag in their mission to conquer Earth yet, with their plot hinging around the Transformer ship that crashes onto our Moon carrying in it the former leader of the Autobots Sentinel Prime (Nimoy) and a transformer technology that if the Decepticons get their hands on it, is bad news for humanity as you would expect, and Earth becomes Transformers Bayhem once again.

Chicago has seen better days…

For a franchise that has Transformers in the title, you would like to see a lot more focus on the bots rather than the humans, but for around the first hour, we see Sam struggle in a pretty tedious job rather than see Autobots and Decepticons laying it down, and it’s all just not very interesting, even with a good highway chase thrown in there. However, after Sam learns of a sinister plot that involves the aforementioned Transformer ship that crashed on the Moon, and its subsequent ramifications, the film does begin to pick up the pace a lot. Yet the journey getting there is not exactly enjoyable as you feel like there are some scenes that could have been left on the editing room floor.

It’s when we reach the third act and the city of Chicago has endured a bit of damage that the film really hits its brightest spots and its Autobots v Decepticons Round 3. Bay certainly likes to film his actions scenes with a lot of explosions and here he does so once more. Visually Michael Bay does make some impressive fight scenes and while they are fun to watch, there is not enough substance in them to justify the rather long running time.

The film doesn’t really boast much in the way of top notch acting talent too unfortunately. LaBeouf was watchable for the first film but here his appeal has just fizzled away, Huntington-Whiteley, while being much better than her predecessor isn’t exactly giving an award worthy calibre performance, McDormand as the new Government MVP and Patrick Demspey as the primary antagonist do offer some great performances, but it is the best of a bad bunch. It is a shame that there can be a truly great Transformers movie in there somewhere, and the first film was almighty close to achieving that, but with subsequent films, Bay did not build upon what he had achieved the first time around, and while the end product this time around is not awful, it is a mishmash of robotic mayhem thrown in with some inane human drama.

Throwing up nothing that you haven’t seen before, but considerably improving on what its predecessor gave us with some impressive visuals and action, that are weighed down by indifferent acting and a shaky script.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Scott Free Productions and TSG Entertainment

Alien: Covenant – Film Review

Cast:  Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo

Director:  Ridley Scott

Synopsis: The crew of the Covenant make course for a chartered planet that’s seemingly hospitable for humanity to colonise. Upon arrival however, they make a horrifying discovery that has them fighting for their lives…

Review: When you are the creator of a franchise that has made its mark on pop culture and was a game changer in the science fiction/horror genre, it always feels like there’s a certain amount of pressure when said director make a return to the franchise, as Ridley Scott certainly found out. The expectation that was on the shoulders of Ridley Scott when 2012’s Prometheus, the first film in a prequel series of events taking place before Scott’s 1979 classic. It was not the happiest of returns to the franchise for Scott, as the film’s divisive reaction can testify. However, for this newest instalment Scott decided to return to more familiar routes.

The year is 2104, and the crew of the Covenant are soundly asleep in their stasis chambers, destination planet Origae-6. Yet when disaster strikes and fatalities occur, newly appointed Captain Oram decides to change course and head for a new planet that looks perfect for them to colonise. But of course, once they land there and begin to have a look around, it’s not long before the crew realise something is very wrong and the members of the team are all locked in a desperate bid for survival against some Neomorphs who as to be expected, are looking to make a meal out of the crew, LITERALLY!

“Doctor, I think I might be a little unwell…”

Given that Scott is in many ways the founder of this franchise, it’s almost a given that the film will look visually mesmerising, and here he continues that trend. The production design and set direction are excellent, and the cinematography is all just wonderful to look at, but great visuals do not make a great film alone, you need to have some characters that you want to get on board with, and this is where the film falters a little bit. Many of the crew have so little development that you just don’t care about them, perhaps cos you know they’re just meat for the aliens. Thus you don’t have any sadness for the characters when they’re picked off. The death scenes are nowhere near as iconic, but Scott definitely throws in throwback moments that fans will undoubtedly enjoy. Chest popping death scene anyone?

That being said there are a few standout performances, most of all from Michael Fassbender in a dual role playing two versions of an android whose motivations you’re never quite sure whose side he’s really on. Katherine Waterston due to tragic circumstances at the film’s outset is fuelled by grief and anger, which makes her a character the audience can get on board with. When the shit goes down, she really delivers a wounded and powerful performance, in many ways, she’s the new Ripley, but not quite as badass, and Danny McBride really helps give the film a little sprinkle of humour.

I’ll make a meal out of you…

Much like Prometheus, the film’s script is a little choppy and does falter at times in the second act. You do get the feeling that there are certain plot points that perhaps ended up being edited out of the final product, but the overall script delivers a story that certainly fuses elements of Prometheus and the original Alien film in ways that should be appeasing to fans of the franchise. Whilst also bringing that  signature sci-fi gore that this franchise has become synonymous with. It’s similar in many ways to the films that have come before it, but as has been proven in the past, that is by no means a bad thing, and here it helps the film remain on course, and ensures it becomes a worthy addition to the franchise.

It doesn’t offer anything new to the franchise, but by fusing the best parts of Prometheus and Alien combined with an excellent dual performance from Fassbender, ensures it doesn’t become another disposable alien flick.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Image is property of Hasbro Studios, Dreamworks Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Film Review

Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Ramón Rodríguez, John Turturro, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Tony Todd

Director:  Michael Bay

Synopsis: After saving the world from the Decepticons, Sam (LaBeouf) tries to leave all that behind and go to college. However, due to some clues that are in his possession, the Decepticons are ferociously hunting Sam once more…

Review: The first live action foray into the world of live action talking robots, was certainly if anything a noisy affair. Lots of explosions thrown in with robots fighting in a human metropolis. If that for whatever reason, didn’t provide you with a couple of hours of some mindless dumb popcorn entertainment, chances are this sequel to Bay’s Transformers mayhem probably won’t tickle your fancy much either, as it serves up more of the same in many ways, but the results this time, are not nearly as pleasing to the eye as the first instalment.

With the Decepticons seemingly defeated, Sam Witwicky now seems determined to lead a normal life, by going to college. Unfortunately for him, his role in the Transformers Civil War is not yet over, as a clue to another ancient artefact’s location on Earth sees him become the target for the Decepticons once again, and cue again lots of explosions and a Transformer Civil War reignites on Earth once more. What Bay does well is the visual effects are once again excellent, and for what it’s worth the opening sequence is for the most part, extremely entertaining to watch. These scenes are scattered throughout the film, and they, along with Steve Jablonsky’s score, are undoubtedly the high points of this expensive metal extravaganza.

Bruised and beaten, but still the ultimate badass…

The problematic dialogue has unfortunately not gone away, there are times when it is painful to just watch once again. The chemistry between the lead characters is not awful but its paper thin at best. The plot, once again is completely ridiculous and it seems was once again nothing more than an afterthought in production. You go into these movies to see Autobots fight Decepticons, but that is almost second fiddle here, as the humans are the centre of the attention. As such when those humans are front and centre for the majority of the run time, it’s really frustrating, especially since screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have proven themselves to be capable screenwriters.

As well as the bland humans, well they’re ably supported by some equally bland new Bots. Of course Optimus is his usual Peter Cullen-voiced badass self and the not so talkative Bumblebee. The rest apart from Ironhide are not nearly as developed as the aforementioned robots in disguise, thus rendering them big and uninteresting pieces of tin. Two robots that are not uninteresting, but for all the wrong reasons, are The Twins. Annoying and just offensive, it’s a pity they didn’t end up in the scrapheap of the editing room. In the Decepticon corner however, there is the eponymous Fallen who wants to do what Megatron did, and that is essentially destroy the human race, with a really absurd way of doing so. Bay’s style of editing is carried over from the first movie, and while it does have its merits to the way he frames his action scenes, it could quite possibly be migraine inducing.

It had its flaws but Bay had the platform to build on what he achieved from the first one and make a meaningful sequel. From quite the considerable production budget, the end result is certainly bigger in scale, but better it most certainly isn’t. There’s enjoyment to be had, as such it’s not a complete car crash, but  it’s not far off. Ultimately it is one colourful and noisy mess that doesn’t add anything new to the franchise. Instead it takes the problems of the first film, and just makes them that so much more noticeable.

Nothing more than meets the eye to be found here, a messy and absurd script is slightly compensated by some good effects, but even they become extremely tiresome after a while.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Transformers (2007)

Image is property of Dreamworks Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Transformers – Film Review

Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel, Rachael Taylor, John Turturro, Peter Cullen

Director:  Michael Bay

Synopsis: When a teenager buys his first car, which turns out to be a Transformer, he gets dragged into an ancient war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, and a battle for humanity’s survival.

Review: Making an adaption of a popular toy franchise, one that has been around since the mid 1980s, would seem like a safe bet for cinematic greatness. After all, when said franchise has spawned a plethora of spin off TV shows and an animated movie among other things, that have had a very loyal fan-base down the years, it was always bound to get the live action film treatment, and a popular toy franchise fused with live action must equal greatness, right? Well, not quite.

As this is a tale of two factions of alien robots, disguising themselves as regular Earth vehicles, doing battle over a transformer cube artefact, this is very much a popcorn flick where you leave your brain at the door. No thought-provoking themes to be found here, just sit back and watch at the metallic mayhem that director Michael Bay throws at you, which should for the most part leave you very well entertained as it truly is breathless stuff at times. There is a plot, of sorts, but it’s all pretty much irrelevant once we arrive at what we signed up for. Basically, the Autobots and Decepticons battling for possession of this cube, set in human territory, and Sam Witwicky (LaBoeuf) is at the centre of this fight.

Not your regular bunch of vehicles…

Bay certainly likes to tell his stories with some explosions, or ten, and when its all out Transformer Battle Royale, in a scrappy fight to the death, it certainly is pulsating stuff. Bay certainly favours quick cut editing, and it is used to great effect here. What is also truly excellent is the CGI, especially when the robots are transforming, it all looks absolutely superb.  What’s not as interesting however is the bits in between with some of the human characters. LeBoeuf is interesting enough as the human lead, even if he is a bit of a dork. The chemistry between him and and Mikaela Banes (Fox) is shaky at first to say the least, it’s not the best it could be, but it’s not the worst that’s ever been put to screen, although some of the initial dialogue between the two is just uncomfortable to watch, for all concerned. Leading the military contingent is Josh Duhamel’s Major Lennox, who certainly carries the most charisma amongst all of the human contingent.

Despite a mixed bag of human characters, the action that Bay delivers is more than enough to leave the viewer satisfied. Casting the OG voice of Optimus Prime Peter Cullen to reprise his role was a smart move to win over the fans, as Cullen’s deep voice brings an aura of authority to Optimus which being the leader of the Autobots, is kind of important. Similarly, as he is no stranger to playing bad guys, Hugo Weaving as the voice of the Decepticon big gun Megatron, another superb choice. Many of the Decepticons are in many ways very disposable, but in terms of the Autobots, there’s a good contingent of memorable friendly bots that you definitely want to root for.

It may not be perfect, in fact some of it is extremely cheesy, but when the action is this good, that’s really what matters as that is precisely what you sign up for. For fans of the original, they might have some nitpicks, but it cannot be denied that Bay delivers the sort of dumb, loud popcorn entertainment that you want from this sort of film, and Steve Jablonsky’s brilliant score complements it perfectly. There’s nothing more than meets the eye about this,it is big, loud and ridiculous fun and it does what it exactly says on the tin.

The script was clearly not high on the agenda of the production team, and it didn’t need to be, as Bay delivers precisely the sort of popcorn entertainment that you signed up for.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2- Film Review

Cast:  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker

Director:  James Gunn

Synopsis: Whilst on an assignment for an alien race called the Sovereign, after the deal goes awry, the Guardians find themselves on the run, when they encounter a man who is claiming to be Star Lord’s father.

Review: It is fair to say that Marvel Studios certainly rolled the dice and took a big risk when they decided to green-light a full feature film about a crew of heroes that the vast majority of movie goers across the globe had no idea who they were. Many thought that this film would be the studio’s first mishap, and well we all know that simply wasn’t the case as the first film smashed all expectations and ensured that everyone knew their names, and rightly so, the Guardians became hot property.

Now well into Phase 3 of the giant Marvel machine, it was inevitable that our favourite bunch of lovable arseholes would get a new adventure. The first film was such a mystery, audiences had no idea what to expect going in. Thus given that so many loved what they saw the first time around, writer and director James Gunn decides to follow a similar route this time around, allowing these characters that we grew to love and laugh at, to develop their relationships. What’s more, they have some familial issues and any familial squabbling issues that may be brewing beneath the surface, and there’s a LOT of that going on this time.

The most lovable bunch of misfits in the Galaxy…

Though there’s some bickering, Gunn’s script packs humour in abundance. It has become almost a trademark of the MCU to this point but, this might just be the funniest film of the franchise to date. Everyone has their moment to shine, but in the case of some characters they get several moments to shine, looking at you Drax the Destroyer! Much like the first film, there’s a plethora of very memorable lines that will get those laughing muscles moving, and the story for the first act is extremely enthralling. The Guardians are all once again on excellent form, with the villainous Nebula given much more to do this time around, oh and yes Baby Groot is perhaps the most adorable little sentient plant being you’re maybe ever going to find on the silver screen.

Visually the film is just dripping with so much colour it’s wonderful to look at, and it packs some tremendous action scenes to accompany the superb visuals. Which in turn is also helped by the ensemble of music that makes up Awesome Mix Vol 2, which is just as catchy as its predecessor. However, that being said, not everything is nice to look at as there are points where it becomes extremely obvious that there’s a lot of CGI on screen. The villain was the thing that really let the first film down, and sadly yet again, the main villain (fear not no spoilers here!) is still something of a disappointment.

This individual in question is not as disposable as some previous MCU villains, but nowhere near as memorable as say Loki. Their motivations being a little perplexing, and once their intentions are known, the film meanders and goes from the sublime to the truly ridiculous, which given that this is a film with a talking tree and a genetically engineered raccoon, is quite an accomplishment! But yet again it does feel like a missed opportunity for Marvel to rectify the difficulties that they have had in bringing a truly compelling villain to the big screen, save for the God of Mischief of course.

Nevertheless, this sequel is a worthy companion piece to the original film, once its characters are front and centre. Choosing to walk a similar path that the first film went might seem boring and unadventurous to some, but when it is this entertaining and absolutely hilarious to watch, you can hardly blame Gunn and Marvel for sticking to what they know, cos that produced the goods the first time around.  This band of lovable misfits certainly remain an absolute blast of marvellous entertainment.

Not quite as enthralling as its predecessor, but this sequel packs the humour, the exhilarating action sequences, and yes another awesome soundtrack to boot.

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 2010-2019, Film Review

Rogue One: A Star Wars story (2016)

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Image is property of Lucasfilm Ltd and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rogue One: A Star Wars story – Film Review

Cast:  Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmad, Alan Tudyk, Forest Whittaker

Director: Gareth Edwards

Synopsis: Telling the tale of the brave rebels who upon hearing about the Empire’s construction of a deadly weapon capable of destroying entire planets, set out on a brave mission to find and steal the weapon’s plans.

Review: “There will be no episode 7” the words of one George Lucas back in 2005, and for a long time that looked as though Lucas’s stance would not change. This is of course until Disney came calling to the tune of 4 billion dollars, and last year Episode 7 did arrive courtesy of JJ Abrams and Disney. Of course Disney had no plans to stop at Episode 7, with as well as two films to complete the new trilogy, there would be as of right now, three anthology films to come as well, giving Star Wars fans across the galaxy one new film every year until 2020.

Of course, as Lucas himself found out, making a prequel or three can be a risky endeavour, so the new creative faces behind the resurgence of Star Wars decided to pitch a story that would not touch the existing saga, but one that would sit nicely between say a couple. In the case of Rogue One, it sits between Episodes III and IV, the focus is on a rag-tag group of rebels led by Jyn Erso (Jones) who make a daring move for the plans to the lethal Death Star weapon. The franchise has boasted plenty of great action down the years, but rarely have they ever felt like it was truly Star WARS. Well enter director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy who really put the war in Star Wars and then some!

Edwards proved he could handle action well like he did in 2014’s Godzilla reboot, and here he demonstrates his considerable talents once again. The action particularly in the third act is utterly compelling and just brilliant to watch in all of its glory. It’s almost like Saving Private Ryan, but in Space! Much like what Abrams did with Awakens, the world Edwards has also created just looks and feels like Star Wars, with a few familiar faces in there brought incredibly to life by the wonder that is CGI but of course some new characters, all of whom are compelling to watch, but some are more developed than others. The cinematography too is tremendous, and much like Awakens, there is a great emphasis on the use of practical sets, and not relying on Green Screen, bonus points if you can spot the use of a London Underground station as an Imperial base!

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Image is property of Disney.

Jones is excellent as Jyn Erso, a character who has had a difficult past, but after a big discovery becomes personally connected with the story, she’s the lead and the most well developed, because she is a key part of the Imperial’s plans for reasons that will not be disclosed here, but there are others who absolutely shine as well. Cassian Andor (Luna) is excellent as the main support for Jyn, with Donnie Yen as a blind Rebel warrior at one with the force, and an absolute badass! Comic relief characters often come in droid shaped sizes, and this void is filled excellently by newbie K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk. Beyond these guys, the rest of the crew are a little bit light on character development, but the aforementioned trio certainly aren’t. On the flip side there’s one key new villain in Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic, almost your typical pantomime villain, who sneers at just about everyone and anything. Of course one Darth Vader makes his presence known once again, largely thanks to James Earl Jones’s booming voice and it’s an absolute joy to see one of cinema’s best ever villains back on the big screen.

Many took aim at Awakens  for being too similar to A New Hope. For sure there are some obvious visual nods and throwbacks, to please the fans, but ultimately given the poor reception of the prequels it was the safe route to have taken to launch the new trilogy. Of course Rogue One does do something similar with neat little visual nods to certain characters but by the time the enthralling third act arrives, gone are the Star Wars familiarities, it’s all out war in every sense of the word, with reminiscent shots of World War II and epic battles occurring on the beaches of this planet, and the CGI remains at a very high standard, with Michael Giacchino stepping in as a late replacement for Alexandre Desplat, delivering another superb score, the first not composed by John Williams.

For Disney, their colossal investment to take control of this franchise is certainly looking to be a wise decision, and one that is looking set to pay off big time. The studio raked in the cash following the release of Force Awakens. Although it’s unlikely that Rogue One will make the 2 billion The Force Awakens made, there’s every chance that Rogue One will make some serious cash. Right now, The Force is strong with this franchise, and the all powerful Disney machine in many ways resembles the Galactic Empire in terms of its sheer power, but Disney certainly doesn’t seem to have any plans to build a giant planet killing weapon!

This is everything the prequels should have been but really weren’t. It manages to strike a great balance between everything you know and love about this franchise, whilst also going in some exciting new directions.

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