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)

rogueone
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!

felicity-jones-jyn-erso-rogue-one-disguise
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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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Avatar (2009)

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

Avatar Film Review

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribsi, Joel David Moore, C. C. H. Pounder, Laz Alonso

Director: James Cameron

Synopsis: A paraplegic former marine is recruited as part of a mission on the alien world of Pandora, to drive a hybrid body known as an Avatar, and soon finds himself with conflicting thoughts as to where his loyalty truly lies.

Review: If ever you were to talk about certain directors and their passion projects, then for the mastermind behind Aliens and the first two exceptional Terminator films, James Cameron, Avatar is most certainly his passion project. Back in 1994, the director wrote an 80 page vision for the film, yet his vision could not be realised due to the limited technology that was available to him at the time. As such, the project was put on the back burner, but years later after going through much effort to create a rich and immersive world, and finally that vision was truly realised, and it certainly was worth it.

The world of Pandora is immediately visually absolutely stunning and breath taking to look at, it looks and feels as though Pandora could be a place somewhere out there in the universe. The terrain and the wildlife are all so rich in detail, it is incredible to watch, and the indigenous people of Pandora, the Na’vi are also equally beautifully realised, again they feel as though they could be a species that actually inhabits a planet somewhere out there in the reaches of the universe. Cameron went to great effort to create their language and his endeavour absolutely pays off. It is so authentic and so beautiful, if it was a real place, admit it, you would want to go there. The visual effects are truly magnificent and the film absolutely deservedly bagged an Oscar for its astounding visual effects, it was a game changer when released back in 2009 and remains the absolute pinnacle of what a film can achieve in terms of visual effects.

Of course, a film with pretty visuals looks great but, being all style and no substance wouldn’t be any good to anybody. Fortunately, that isn’t the case as the screenplay, penned by Cameron does have substance to it. At the heart of the story is Jake Sully (Worthington) who after a death in the family is recruited to the Avatar programme, an arm of the human operation on Pandora which is seeking possession of an extremely rare mineral. With use of said avatars, Jake becomes a part of the Na’vi clan and soon falls head over heels for the fierce and strong willed Neytiri (Saldana). Yet the love story is only one facet of the story, with many themes running through it, some of them could be perceived as being very political, but it drives home the message in an emphatic manner, carrying plenty of emotion and suspense with it, and James Horner’s score, is equally brilliant.

As a leading man, Worthington is functional, but he could have been a lot more compelling and less monotone would have been helpful. Saldana though shines as Neytiri, she’s very well developed and a very capable warrior who certainly can hold her own against anyone. The chemistry between the two leads is for the most part, solid, but it is a bit iffy in other parts. Signourney Weaver is also excellent as Grace Augstine, the head honcho of the Avatar programme. The humans here though are the main baddies with Parker Selfridge (Ribsi) and Miles Quaritch (Lang) the principal antagonists, with Lang being the standout as a gruff colonel who won’t take any bullshit from anybody. Cameron is one masterful director and here he helms the action to an impeccable quality. It is a rare feat to make the audience want to see members of its own species fail, but everyone watching should definitely be on Team Na’vi when the shit starts to go down.

Avatar certainly was responsible for the resurgence in 3D, and that certainly helped boost its numbers at the box office, as it smashed records here, there and everywhere taking just seventeen days to make one billion dollars, before eventually ending up with a total of nearly THREE billion, or 2.788 billion to be exact, to earn the title of the highest grossing film of all time, a title it has retained to this day, and it will take an almighty force (Star Wars?) to take that title away. Or maybe given Cameron is planning on return to Pandora at some point down the line, that title will remain with this franchise, whenever that sequel will eventually arrive in cinemas.  One thing is for sure though, is when that sequel does arrive, there will be no shortage of people out there, keen to make a return to the vast and incredible world of Pandora.

An absolute visual masterpiece, rich with gorgeous and vivid detail, with some great characters and a for the most part compelling story with some powerful themes, Avatar remains a wonderful, breath-taking cinematic achievement.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Arrival (2016)

arrival
Image is property of FilmNation Entertainment, Lava Bear Films, 21 Laps Entertainment and Paramount Pictures

Arrival – Film Review

Cast:  Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: When 12 alien ships mysteriously appear in places around the world, a team of experts are gathered to assess the extra terrestrial visitors, and to determine: just why are they here?

Review: Alien invasion, a classic trope of the science fiction genre, One that so often delivers films where you sit back and just watch a load of mayhem and destruction with cities getting blown to smithereeens and the aliens must be stopped at all costs. While these can be fun and very enjoyable, science fiction is a genre that has the potential to go really deep and provide the audience with a thought provoking piece of story telling that gets the brain working and leaves its audience in awe and spectacle, and this latest film from director Denis Villeneuve ticks that box, and then some.

Adapted from the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, with a screenplay by Eric Heisserer, we focus on Dr Louise Banks (Adams) a brilliant linguistics professor who is called in by the US military to help deal with the mysterious alien invaders and to understand just who are they, what do they want, and above all are they a threat to humanity? Aiding her in her quest is physicist Ian Donnelly (Renner) and together these intelligent academics must decipher what these extra terrestrial beings are up to. Heisserer’s screenplay is excellent, exploring some really interesting themes that we have seen before in science fiction. Yet these are told in such a brilliant and engaging way that it keeps your eyes firmly transfixed on the screen. The mystery is maintained throughout the film’s running time as for a while, the craft of the visitors is not revealed, and it brilliantly keeps the viewer engaged. It is smart and very thought provoking story-telling that keeps you hooked from the very first shot, all the way to the last shot.

The centrepiece of this story is of course Adams’s Dr Banks, a wounded soul who has suffered some terrible tragedies in her lifetime, and yet, she remains strong willed, determined to do all she can to understand what the alien visitors are after, and not to bow to the will of her military superiors, most notably Forest Whitaker’s Colonel Weber. Adams has had a very distinguished career, earning five Oscar nods, and another one could very well be coming her way next year. She carries the film on her shoulders, and reinforces her reputation as a very stellar actress. Renner also gives a very grounded and superb performance, who does his best to sprinkle a bit of humour here and there into the story, but the limelight belongs to Adams and she absolutely bosses it.

arrival-movie

The directing from Villeneuve is masterful in its execution, aided by flawless cinematography from Bradford Young. The wide shots of the alien craft as they appear in the sky are truly something to behold. The flawless cinematography is aided by outstanding visuals and magnificent visual effects. The aliens themselves feel so real and authentic, you don’t see it as a computer generated image. Similarly with the alien crafts, though they do resemble pieces of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, are beautifully designed and like their inhabitants feel very real and authentic. Re-teaming with Villeneuve after Sicario, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score is mesmerising to the ears, as Villeneuve’s visual brilliance is appealing to the eyes.

Language and science are two subjects that rarely go hand in hand, but here they most certainly do and the results are a joy to behold. The mystery will hook you in and will not let go. With the Blade Runner sequel being Villeneuve’s next film, fans of Ridley Scott’s classic can rest assured knowing that project is in very safe and capable hands.

A beautifully refreshing take on what is a very common sci-fi trope, with thought provoking themes and ideas, anchored by a powerful performance from Adams.

a

 

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Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

the-phantom-menace-poster
Image rights belong to Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – Film Review

Cast: Liam Neeson, Ewen McGregor, Jake Lloyd, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker

Director: George Lucas

Synopsis: When the planet of Naboo comes under attack from the sinister Trade Federation, it falls to two Jedi Knights, and a mysterious young boy to try and solve the conflict.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Review: Back in the 1970s, in 1977 to be precise a film was released that would later go on to redefine not only the science fiction genre, but films in general. A film that would go on to have two successful sequels and remain insanely popular to this day.This film is of course Star Wars, and the man behind this remarkable feat of cinematic brilliance was George Lucas. Therefore when plans were announced to expand on this universe with a prequel trilogy, fans must have been overjoyed, and excitement built. However, ultimately their excitement and anticipation was misplaced.

The first film had the immediate sense of intrigue and excitement, and you would have thought that the creator of this universe would recapture that immediately. Yet right from the opening credit crawl, something just doesn’t feel right. This is not the Star Wars movie we were looking for, it is trying to be a part of the much loved franchise and although it technically is, it just feels hopelessly out of place. The first three films had great writing, some terrific characters, and some brilliant action scenes and combined great use of practical as well as visual effects, but virtually none of that is employed here, with some stilted dialogue and some horrendously written characters.

It is worth wondering when watching this film, is this the director who created this universe with his 1977 masterpiece? The main plot revolves around peace treaties, and political squabbling. It just doesn’t boast the excitement of the original trilogy, or have that emotional punch towards the climax, and the writing is absolutely nowhere near the level of quality that was on show in the original trilogy (for the most part.)It is almost painful to watch at times watching these characters devoid of any emotional connection to the audience. The film struggles to retain interest in the story, which in parts is down to the horrendous overuse of CGI. There is so much on show here it is once again painfully apparent that some shots were done on a computer, and the lack of quality written characters, despite some considerable talent in front of the camera, shows the real weaknesses in Lucas’ script, which is evident with what many believe is one of the worst characters ever put to film: JAR JAR BINKS!!!

Right from the off, this creature instantaneously irritates, with his nonsensical actions as well as his dialogue and he is just downright infuriating to watch. Also annoying, but not quite to the level of Mr Binks is the introduction of Anakin Skywalker, played by Jake Lloyd. The big selling point of the prequels is to watch Anakin turn from the good Anakin to the evil Darth Vader, but he spends the majority of the movie moaning and it’s just painful to watch, particularly because Jake Lloyd does not give a good performance at all, but then again with the script by Lucas being as bad as it is, it doesn’t help him shine. Vader is one of the most iconic villains in film history and his back story is just ruined by this terrible performance. The absence of the emotional connection for the film is seriously damaging and the overuse of the CGI particularly in some of the action sequences is so noticeable that it hurts your eyes while you watch. It’s like being fed with the same food day in and day out, after a while you’re going to get bored, and the effects are a bore at times. The effects do not hold up in parts and they add nothing of substance to the movie.

With all that said, there are some, but not many plus points, namely the John Williams score remains as excellent as it always has been. There are some cool scenes such as the Pod racing sequence, and there is a very cool character in Darth Maul. In addition he is part of what is probably the best scene in the movie, the light sabre duel between him, Qui Gonn and Obi Wan. But yet again, there is frustration as Darth Maul has has very little screentime and is ultimately killed off before we had a chance to see what he could really do. It is ultimately a shame that after 3 near perfect movies, and a 16 year interval between Return of the Jedi and this, this is the end product. It’s a real shame because with the advancement in the effects at the time, there was scope for greatness, but this fritters away into a gigantic CGI and effects heavy mess.

With a poor script, and a frustrating over-reliance on CGI, as well as some truly atrocious acting and characters, this was such a missed opportunity to expand on the brilliance of the original trilogy, but instead chose a path of mind numbing mediocrity. 

C-

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Martian (2015)

the martian
Image rights belong to Scott Free Productions, Kinberg Genre and 20th Century Fox

The Martian – Film Review

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kata Mara, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: An astronaut is presumed dead after a deadly storm separates him from the rest of his crew. Yet after surviving the storm, he is alone on Mars and must use all the resources he can find to get back to Earth.

Review: The thought of being the only person on an alien world, with seemingly no means of getting off, and being one hundred and forty million miles from home, is one that would probably send most people in that situation absolutely bonkers, and give them a complete sense of hopelessness with very little chance of survival, and result in them frittering away the remainder of their days on the Red Planet. However, this is not applicable in the case of Mark Watney, who instead of that aforementioned feeling of impending doom, after he has been abandoned by his crew as he is presumed dead during a deadly storm, opts for one of upbeat and positive. In turn providing an extremely entertaining space adventure that fuses comedy and some intense moments brilliantly.

With his fourth entry into the science fiction genre, director Ridley Scott has produced a much needed return to form somewhat after his most recent run of films have been met with a less than positive response, namely Prometheus, Exodus and The Counselor.  The likes of Alien and Blade Runner showed that Scott knows the genre and knows how to pull it off in some style, and in what is almost a blend of Gravity and Interstellar produces a third another enthralling space adventure in as many years. Interestingly enough (spoiler alert for Interstellar!) Matt Damon who had a surprise cameo in the aforementioned film is back in a very similar situation to the one he found himself in Interstellar, but this time he is the man we’re rooting for, and he brings charisma and great humour to this role, so much so that you cannot help but want him to succeed and find his way home. With his situation looking increasingly bleak, he has to use his intelligence and his botanist skills to ensure his survival.

While The Martian battles to stay alive on the Red Planet, the focus alternates between the team at NASA who are working to try and bring him home alive, whilst dealing with the PR disaster that a man was left behind on a hostile world. Whilst at the same time, going back and forth with his crew mates who are solemnly making their way back to Earth, contemplating their supposedly fallen friend’s fate. The cast is quite extensive and filled with some big Hollywood names, with the likes of Jessica Chastain as the captain of the Mars mission, Jeff Daniels as NASA’s CEO, Chiwetel Ejiofor with his expert knowledge of the Red Planet and Sean Bean as a flight director. It’s a big scramble for these guys to get the materials they need to ensure that whatever they can do to get Mark Watney home, they will do it, but not without some bickering and disagreement along the way.

It takes some bravery to take a story like this in which one man is almost certainly staring death in the face and make it uniquely entertaining, but this film managed to do it and do it perfectly, thus props must go to screen writer Drew Goddard for that. Matt Damon effortlessly brings his unique brand of humour and charisma to the role, whilst using his ingenuity and remarkable intelligence to try and survive. Yet it is far from sunshine and rainbows all the time, as there are more than a few intense moments where our leading man is put in some more than perilous, potentially fatal situations.

The Mars scenery is beautifully recreated and the direction, as is more often than not the case with Scott, is excellent. The score by Harry Gregson-Williams is tremendous and adds plenty of suspense and drama along the way. The film does drag in places and could have maybe been cut down in parts, but nevertheless, it is a pleasure to see Scott truly back on top form and for Damon to once again remind us of his remarkable talent.

With a terrific (and large) ensemble cast, filled with the cream of the Hollywood crop, with a superb and humorous lead performance from Damon, to go along with a very witty screenplay, this is Scott’s best picture in some years.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ex Machina (2015)

ex machina
Image is property of DNA Films, Film4, Scott Rudin Productions and Universal Studios

Ex Machina – Film Review

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander

Director: Alex Garland

Synopsis: A young man is selected to take part in a unique programme that develops and evaluates the world’s first artificial intelligence.

Review: As humans, we all go through life wondering what does it feel like to be alive? We all go through different stages, birth, childhood, teenage years, graduation, jobs and of course ultimately death. In these big moments, we are overcome by emotion and feel what it is like to be alive. But what if you’d been brought into the world by some technical genius who sought to create the world’s first proper artificial intelligence? How do you express how you feel? How do you convey emotions? Are you truly alive? This is the enthralling premise of the directorial debut of Alex Garland, who primarily is known for his screen-writing credentials on the likes of Dredd and 28 Weeks Later. However, his first foray into directing is a dazzling, beautiful piece of work.

In recent years, we have seen science fiction films go from apes with incredible intelligence, to time travel, and to interstellar voyages and back on a crazy big budget scale. Yet there is none of that crazy grand scale adventure here. At the heart of the story here, is a simple tale of humanity, emotions, feelings. Yet also at its core, its dark, dangerous and somewhat eerie. We have seen forays into beings of artificial intelligence, with the likes of Kubrick’s 2001 and The Matrix, yet nothing on quite the personal, intimate level that we see here in Garland’s sharp screenplay. The interaction between the AI being, played wonderfully by Alicia Vikander and the lucky (or is he?) programmer Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson. As they interact, you feel the tension building. Does he have feelings for her? Does she have feelings for him? Is she really that different from a human being? There’s no guns blazing, high intense action here, but the dialogue between the two is extremely riveting to watch, as their chemistry grows, it definitely provides some of the most intense dialogue so far this year.

By stark contrast, Oscar Isaac playing the eccentric playboy billionaire Nathan, gives off contrasting signals. Sometimes he’s very warm and friendly, other times he feels cold and detached, which one might suspect if you lived in a vast complex with a considerable amount of money at your disposal to build an AI. The relationship between the three characters is thoroughly compelling as you wonder if any of them have any ulterior motives. All three are electric together which should be encouraging for this December’s Star Wars. Yet by far the biggest shining performance is that of Alicia Vikander’s work as Ava. She maybe an AI but with every action she takes, she feels like a real human being. Sexiness and remarkable intelligence combined, every man’s dream.

For a directorial debut picture, the film looks immaculate, with wonderful shots of breathtaking scenery. The look of Ava in her full mode is also immaculately well realised. Sometimes in film, it can be painfully apparent that what you are looking at is CGI but not in this instance. She may look like a robot, but Vikander’s grounded and sublime performance will make you think again. Likewise, this film will have you thinking about its content and characters long after you finish watching.  This is a landmark achievement in CGI films, and will have a great impact on the genre going forward as it feels remarkably real and personal. Also this is not the last we will hear of Alex Garland as a director or Alicia Vikander.

A thought provoking, imaginative and original sci-fi flick with tremendous performances from the three leading actors and a wonderful directorial debut from Garland. 

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Jurassic World (2015)

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Image is property of Amblin Entertainment, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures

Jurassic World – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, BD Wong, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio.

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Synopsis: In order to boost falling attraction numbers at the dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, the company creates a new dinosaur, with disastrous consequences…

Review: Sometimes in Hollywood you do wonder if, or indeed when a movie will ever make it to the big screen and escape the doldrums of development hell. Sometimes they don’t but sometimes, films emerge triumphant after a lengthy period of production nightmares. For instance, take the latest entry into the franchise of dinosaur themed mayhem, otherwise known as Jurassic Park. Originally intended for a 2005 release, and thus descending into nearly a decade of the aforementioned development hell. Through all of that though, the final product was completed and it has emerged into a roaring triumph.

Like a dinosaur trapped into an enclosure that has broken free, Jurassic World has been unleashed. With Colin Trevorrow now at the helm, taking over from Steven Spielberg (wait, there was another guy?), in only his second full length directorial feature following his 2011 film Safety Not Guaranteed,  he has brought this franchise wholly back on course after the big disappointment that was Jurassic Park III (oh that’s right…). With the disappointment of that hanging over it, the franchise that was ironically at risk of becoming a fossil after  fourteen years in the wilderness, this is if you do count the aforementioned lacklustre third showing, (to which it is possible many do not) has come out roaring and proves that there is still much life left in this franchise.

Having been over a decade, almost all of the former cast members have now become fossilised, and in their places, enter Chris Pratt as gruff raptor trainer Owen Grady who is sought after by the park’s operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to ensure that the park’s big, bad and risky science project, the Indominous Rex is suitable for public viewing before the exhibit is unveiled. It is at this point, that everything starts going wrong (as you might expect) with some dinosaur made havoc being unleashed on the Jurassic world visitors as well as our protagonists, who include Claire’s two young nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) who are desperately trying to avoid becoming a meal for the terrifying Indominous.

jurassic world
Stay, my pretties…

As previously mentioned, this new adventure is a much needed return to form for the franchise. Following from his turn in the box office stomping, smash ride Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt shows his action chops once again and provides a solid performance as the film’s primary protagonist. Claire, the aunt of the two boys caught up in the mayhem, initially shuns her two nephews in favour of keeping an eye on the proceedings in the park, and seeks to maintain her professional, businesswoman persona even in the face of the carnage. Yet when caught in the thick of it, she drops this and shows family compassion and courage particularly when her nephews are in some serious trouble. The nephews themselves at times can be exceedingly frustrating and annoying, particularly the younger one. There are some story lines with them that are left at loose ends, which is a bit frustrating. Furthermore the dialogue at times feels very wooden, but it’s not what we came here for, we came for some dinosaur carnage, and boy do we get it.

With action and chase sequences that pack a punch and are without doubt an homage to the 1993 classic, Trevorrow does manage to reinvigorate the action. With a premise that is similar to the previous films, it could very easily go wrong, but it feels new and fresh, even though we have been getting monster filled carnage in movies during this franchise’s absence such as Godzilla and Pacific Rim. It at this point could very easily become stale, however it is not. Trevorrow through his action scenes clearly respects the first film, and the game-changer for cinema that it was. Yet there is enough on show here to recapture the imagination, wonder and joy that so many people experienced when the first movie came out, especially with the final throw down which is nothing short of terrific. The CGI remains top notch, with some solid directing and a top score by Michael Giacchino, there is a lot of fun to be had. There was very little chance of bettering Spielberg’s 1993 belter, but Trevorrow and gang gave a right good go of it, and for that, credit where credit is due. The park opened, and it opened in style.

With a script that does feel a bit wooden, and at times stale, the movie is weighed down somewhat, but with cool throwbacks to the 1993 classic, and some exhilarating action sequences, there is plenty more life in this franchise. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Interstellar (2014)

interstellar
Image rights belong to Syncopy, Lynda Obst Productions, Legendary Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures

Interstellar – Film Review 

Cast:  Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Bill Irwin, Josh Stewart.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis:  With planet Earth dying due to a lack of food, former engineer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is recruited for a mission to explore new worlds in a bid to find to find a new home world for humanity.

Review: When anyone mentions a list of the best Hollywood directors working today, names like Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese might come to mind. However, one name that will surely go down in the Hollywood Hall of Fame is Mr Christopher Nolan.The man who brought Batman back to the fore of the superhero genre, and with Interstellar, brilliant science fiction story-telling is merged with brains to give what is one of the best films of the year, and certainly one of Nolan’s best.

If you had to describe Nolan in one word, it is ambition. Inception dealt with dreams and the sub-conscious, his brilliant Dark Knight trilogy dealt with order and chaos in society, and with Interstellar, his most ambitious film to date, the premise of wormholes and the theory of relativity, inspired by the work of physicist Kip Thorne. Steven Spielberg was once attached to direct the project, but left and the project fell into the lap of the Nolan brothers.

One could argue that few directors would have the bravery to take on a film of such scope. The sheer ambition of the story might have caused other directors to back off, but not Christopher Nolan. The scale of the film on show immediately and it gets your brain thinking and working, whilst at the same time, leaving you breathless with the  thrilling cinematography that is provided throughout. The launch sequence and the journey to the new worlds, it is all riveting, on the edge of your seat entertainment. Along with the magnificent cinematography and excellent directing, frequent Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer once again weaved his magic and produced a terrific score to accompany the film. The action scenes are accompanied by sweeping music that adds a great level of intensity to what’s occurring on screen.

Many great directors pick out the perfect actors for the roles they write, and Nolan is no exception. Fresh from his Oscar success, Matthew McConaughey is on hand to lead this voyage, and he does so in great style. While his accent is hard to grasp at times, you empathise with him and his struggles with his daughter and his determination to save her and his family that are trapped on a dying Earth. Anne Hathaway also gives an excellent performance as one of the fellow astronauts on their mission. Child actresses can sometimes be hit and miss on such big blockbuster occasions. Yet on this occasion Mackenzie Foy was on stellar form as Cooper’s daughter Murph. Her emotion and connection with her father is felt, you care about her relationship with Cooper and want to see them reunited. This continues when Murph has grown up and is played equally brilliantly by Jessica Chastain. Unfortunately, Cooper’s son played by Casey Affleck is left somewhat underdeveloped, as there is no connection there with his character, in comparison to that of Murph. His son is somewhat left on the sidelines, yet the emotional bond between Murph and her father drives the film, and does so to incredible proportions.

One minor fault in that the film’s run time was maybe just a bit too long, and could have potentially wrapped up sooner. However in this world of film-making, an original film that is not a sequel, or a franchise is rare and Nolan has once again brought an incredible experience to the big screen. Brains, beauty and incredible story telling, It is almost like Gravity meets 2001: A Space Odessy . In a year that has brought us some remarkable films, Interstellar  has taken off and landed among the best films of the year, and is an out of this world addition to the remarkable filmography of Christopher Nolan.

With breath taking cinematography, wonderful acting and a powerful emotional story at its core of human courage and sacrifice. Interstellar is a cinematic event will scramble your brain cells, but at the same time, it is one that will take your breath away.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

edge of tomorrow
All Image Rights belong to Warner Bros, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment, Viz Productions

Edge of Tomorrow – Film Review

Cast:  Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Dragomir Mrsic, Charlotte Riley, Jonas Armstrong, Franz Drameh, Kick Gurry, Tony Way, Noah Carter

Director: Doug Liman

Synopsis: Lieutenant William Cage is an untrained soldier forced against his will to join in a battle fighting against deadly alien foes. But when he dies in combat, he mysteriously awakens, reliving his penultimate day over and over again…

Review: Many movies often borrow elements from movies gone by . They also might borrow from other entertainment forms, and take them in interesting new directions. For instance, if you take the time loop element of movies such as Groundhog Day,  the Normandy beach landings as depicted in Saving Private Ryan, and elements from the popular video game franchise Halo. When these things are merged together, the end product is this thrilling sci-fi adventure.

Adapted from the anime novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Humanity is at war with an alien race and the troops are being rallied in England to prepare for an attack on the enemy foe. Enter William Cage (Tom Cruise), a top General in the US army who is more into talking than fighting. He ultimately is forced onto the front line to help repel the alien forces. Yet after seemingly meeting his maker, he finds himself waking up, relieving the same day again and again.  As the film’s tagline goes” Live. Die Repeat.” and this happens many times. This premise may sound familiar, but with Doug Liman (Bourne Identity, Mr and Mrs Smith) on the director’s chair, what we have an innovative and refreshing perspective on this similar premise.

For three decades, Tom Cruise has given us exciting action movies such as the Mission Impossible series. And yet again, he gives another enthralling performance as we see his character really progress from quite frankly a complete wimp who barely knows how to fight, to a fearless warrior determined to wipe out the foe whilst using his impressive tech suit.  Despite being 52 years of age, the man can still give a solid action performance. As he falls each time, he learns something new and uses this knowledge to his benefit. The key piece in this science fiction puzzle however is Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). Her character has gone through something similar to Cage and he must utilise her knowledge to help win the war.  The two leading actors have great chemistry on screen as she is the one who helps train him into the soldier that he needs to become. Blunt gives an exceptional performance  and demonstrates that you can have a strong female protagonist who does not need a man to stand up and make herself count. In many respects in this film it is vice versa, he is the one who needs her to stand up and make himself count.

Liman himself stated that the scenes with the character repeatedly dying and respawning were  an intentional comparison to video games. The fight scenes are fun to watch, particularly with Cruise running in his tech suit and taking down the bad guys. While the fighting does come across as almost too video game like at times, it is intriguing and there is plenty of action here to get the heart pumping. In particular the final showdown against the aliens is fantastic to watch. The continuous loop element of the movie could be tedious and dull. Yet it works to great effect as each time Cage bites the bullet, there is something new and energising that is brought to the plot, and it effectively moves the plot forward.

With elements of video games and time loops and time travel from past movies all blended together, along with a revitalising and exciting story that keeps you entertained from the word go. The final result is a film you will (hopefully) enjoy and watch many times.

Watch. Enjoy. Repeat 

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