Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Venom (2018)

Image is property of Sony, Columbia and Marvel

Venom – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Reid Scott

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Synopsis: Investigative journalist Eddie Brock investigates the Life Foundation and its shady experiments. In doing so, he becomes one with a sinister alien symbiote that gives him superhuman abilities..

Review: It would not exactly be an astute observation to say that over the last few years, Hollywood has treated audiences to a rather large amount of superhero films. The market has become extremely well saturated and so in order to make an impression in this crowded field, you really have got to stand out. Hence, a film that focuses on a character who is not exactly a hero by any stretch of the imagination, can give you that opportunity. While this is not exactly new ground (see Deadpool), it nevertheless gives you a chance to create something unique. Specifically in Eddie Brock/Venom, you have a chance to truly show that “the world has enough superheroes.” Unfortunately, this chance is completely squandered.

Immediately, you know that this is not in the hands of those folks who, piece by piece, put together the wonder that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It starts off interestingly enough though as a mission by the Life Foundation brings these alien symbiotes back down to earth to use them for experiments, and our eponymous anti-hero is born when investigative journalist Eddie (Hardy) merges with one of these symbiotes when clandestinely investigating this organisation. Now Eddie and this Venom creature must learn to live and co-operate with each other whilst trying to prevent the organisation and its CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) from carrying out future experiments.

“Bring Your Symbiote to Work Day” did not end well…

Given that a previous version of this character was completely shoehorned into Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, and was only given the most briefest of nods in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a solo film seemed like a good idea, and on paper, the potential is there. With an actor as good as Tom Hardy in the lead, there is cause to be optimistic. While he is certainly trying his best, there is something about his performance that just doesn’t quite click, and his accent is a little iffy in places. Opposite him, Michelle Williams also tries her best, but the lack of chemistry between her and Hardy really hinders the plot. The screenplay also really doesn’t help matters as the set up of Brock becoming Venom is really sloppy in its execution. Also Riz Ahmed is completely wasted in a villainous role, that had this been part of the MCU, would put him in the not-so-prestigious company of some of the weaker MCU villains. Also his main goal just does not make any sense whatsoever.

The dialogue all round here is generally pretty poor. There are some funny moments but it is definitely more of a case of laughing at the characters, rather than with them. What is somewhat interesting is the dynamic between Brock and the villainous symbiote. There is at the very least a solid distinction that they are two very different people, something that the Topher Grace iteration of the character didn’t quite get right. What’s more, moments that are clearly intending to be funny, just come across as awkward, embarrassing and extremely painful to watch.

Fleischer’s past works include Zombieland and Gangster Squad, so he knows how to craft action scenes. While there are some competently made action scenes, we have seen the Marvel Cinematic Universe really show us how it is done when it comes to this aspect. There is nothing here that stands out when you compare it with some of the work that has come from the MCU. Furthermore, a film such as this is tailor-made to push the boundaries and go for some really strong violence, but it doesn’t utilise this opportunity and that is extremely disappointing.

Much like Universal’s Dark Universe, that has seemingly died a death after one film, it might well be the case that Sony’s Marvel Universe is over before it has a chance to get going. However, if he became part of the MCU, the potential that is there for a such an interesting character to be given the big screen treatment that could maybe do the character justice, which would be most welcome after two cinematic misfires.

An insipid and lacklustre attempt to bring something new to the genre, complete with a messy screenplay, and extremely bland and uninteresting characters.

We… are most definitely NOT Venom.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Revenant (2015)

revenant
Image rights belong to New Regency Picture, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Regency Enterprises and 20th Century Fox

The Revenant – Film Review

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Synopsis: When a fur trapper is viciously attacked by a bear and left for dead by his men, he sets out on a quest for revenge against them who left him to die.

Review: From a story about a man who was a washed up superhero trying to put on a Broadway play in one year, to a chilling tale of revenge for another man in the 1820s, it is quite the contrast for Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu. His 2014 effort Birdman for all its eccentricities, won the director three Academy Awards. Yet he surpasses himself with this true story, about one man’s fight for both survival and vengeance in equal measure, and with a whopping total of twelve Academy Award nominations received, it makes what has been a well documented troubled, delayed and hellish shoot all the more worth it, especially as it is almost certain to take home a few golden statues this year.

This frighteningly true story focuses on DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass who is part of a fur trapping expedition in the USA and after being brutally attacked by a bear protecting her cubs, he’s left behind principally by John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and left to die, except he doesn’t die, and after personal tragedy, he’s now on an angry quest for revenge, as well as a difficult struggle to survive the severe force of nature, that is well, nature. The bitter cold that the characters find themselves in almost filters its way through the audience as the incredible cinematography makes the audience feel as if they are in this perilous and horrendous situation that Glass in particular finds himself in. It’s a chilling 156 minute tale.

The aforementioned cinematography is simply flawless, and is almost certain to bag a hat-trick of Oscars for DP Emmanuel Lubezki after winning for Gravity and Birdman. The decision to use natural lighting was a masterstroke, giving a real look of authenticity and the film is visually magnificent with more than a handful of spectacular shots that will take your breath away. It is without a doubt one of the most visually impressive movies that has ever been made.

Through all the stunning cinematography, there are a handful of really unpleasant and brutal scenes, namely the bear scene. It is a tremendous visual achievement, and is gripping to watch, but also equally disturbingly realistic and gory. The performances from all of the cast are all excellent but the two that stand out by far are those of Tom Hardy and Leo DiCaprio, the latter of whom really threw himself into the role, to the point where he must have got hypothermia on several occasions.

You watch with suspense as he crawls across the landscape, driven by a fierce desire for revenge and the sheer will to survive against the uncompromising force that is nature. You root for him and you want him to succeed and again, it could be the role that finally lands DiCaprio the Oscar at the sixth time of asking, and also gives Hardy a decent shout at getting his first statue.

Hardy is also equally mesmerising as the film’s villain, yet there were times when he was very difficult to understand, often reverting to his sort of trademark mumble. Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson, who has had quite the year after Ex Machina and Star Wars, are also tremendous. Yet this is the DiCaprio show, and he totally owns it.

The violence on show here is pretty intense and certainly not for the faint of heart, yet for all the production problems, rebellion by the crew, and the delays to the shoot, which forced Hardy to drop out of this year’s Suicide Squad. Their efforts paid off, in a big way, with an equally tremendous score to go with it. It is uncompromising, brutal, and one of the best movies of not only the past twelve months, but this decade and one of the most riveting pieces of cinema you will ever watch.

Visually magnificent, with tremendous performances from DiCaprio and Hardy in particular,  this is an incredible film-making achievement and is not to be missed. 

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Posted in Film Review

Legend (2015)

legend
Image rights belong to: Anton Capital Entertainment, Cross Creek Pictures, StudioCanal, Working Title Films and Universal Pictures

Legend – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hardy, Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton.

Director: Brian Helgeland

Synopsis: An account of the lives of the Kray twins, at the height of their criminal empire in the East End of London in the 1960s.

Review: Ask anyone in England about the Kray twins, and you’re probably going to get a less than positive reaction, and for good reason. It is no secret that both Ronnie and Reggie Kray were nasty pieces of work. So when choosing to make a film about the lives of two violent and dangerous gangsters who were arguably at the top of the criminal underworld, and the celebrity stage in the 1960s. It begs the question, who do you cast as two of the most evil men in twentieth century England? You get the very popular Tom Hardy, of course and get him to double up as both of the Kray brothers in a remarkable performance.

You may think that since one man is doubling up as both brothers that they’re unlikely to share screen time together, well director Brian Helgeland manages to pull off this, and in some considerable style. They don’t just share screen time, oh no. They bicker and squabble too, sometimes with other people and sometimes with each other and the fists come out! It’s Bane VS Max Rockatansky set in 20th century England! It is very clear that these are two men who although they may look alike and share many similar traits, and a last name. They are ultimately two different people and Hardy’s performances show the difference between the two. Reggie the charming ladies man of sorts, with Ronnie being the more dark and dangerous of the two brothers, like a bomb that could go off at any second.

The tale of these two brothers is told through the eyes of the young, innocent Frances (Emily Browning) who falls for Reggie. Her sweet and innocent character is ultimately what draws Reggie to her, before she witnesses the dark and dangerous underworld as she becomes his girlfriend and later wife. It’s through her perspective that we watch as the two brothers rise up through the criminal ranks and see their empire expand into something vast and substantial. Whilst at the same time, the criminal lifestyle ebbs away at Frances and the love she strongly displayed for her husband in the early years, quickly breaks down as their relationship crumbles. Hardy shines as both brothers but it is portrayal of Reggie that definitely seeks to tug at the audiences’ heartstrings as he seeks to try and build a life away from the criminal hive with Frances. It is the crazy actions of Ronnie that drive a firm wedge between Reggie and Frances and causes friction between the two brothers.

Emily Browning also gives a very strong performance as  Frances, although the material she was given is often a bit lacking at times and there was a lot more to be explored with her character, leaving her somewhat underdeveloped. In addition the rest of the principal cast also feel somewhat underutilised, but the focal point of the film is on our leading men.  For a film about two very sinister men, there is a surprising amount of humour involved. The humour works, but it does not hide the sinister nature of the trade of the Krays. Though Reggie tried to be a ladies man and compassionate towards his wife, it is ultimately in vain. The film of the title ultimately rings true, the tale of Ronnie and Reggie Kray is one of legend, a dark and murky legend that has become firmly entrenched in 20th century British history, and one that is not going to go away any time soon.

Although the script does lack in places, and the rest of the cast feel really criminally underdeveloped, Tom Hardy is brilliant and award worthy in two mesmerising leading performances. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

mad max
Image rights belong to Kennedy Miller Mitchell, Village Roadshow Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures

Mad Max: Fury Road – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Adelaide Clemens, Riley Keough

Director: George Miller

Synopsis: Humanity is on the brink following a collapse in law and order in the face of tyranny and resources are scarce. However, humanity’s last hope might just be in the form of a wandering road warrior…

Review: If the title of a film alone was to offer any indication of the spectacle that the audience is going to be treated to, then very few films can compete with the Mad Max franchise. Cars, explosions, extremely intense chases. The adjective “mad”  certainly is one of many that could be used to describe it, but truth be told, mad is only scratching the surface of this larger than life, and exhilarating franchise, because it is MUCH more than mad, it’s INSANE.

Returning for a fourth adventure after a three decade hiatus following the release of Beyond Thunderdome in 1985. The third entry was a somewhat less than spectacular outing, but with the two solid previous entries before it, full of intense chases, explosions and edge-of-your-seat action sequences, there was much potential and hope for this new instalment with a bigger budget. With the vision and genius of Oscar winning director George Miller who brought this crazy world into existence back once again for this latest adventure that exceeds all of the previous films of a franchise that is surely going to explode into life once more.

With Mel Gibson occupying the titular role in the previous instalments, and owning it throughout, the role has passed on to Tom Hardy. From Bane to Mad Max Rockatansky, quite the career progression! But like most Tom Hardy performances, the man is on outstanding form here. He may be a man of few words, but he is definitely a man of action, quite often of an explosive variety, as he strives to protect a group of people seeking to break away from the main colony.

Leading the charge against the Road Warrior is the villainous Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and aiding Max in his fight is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Female characters in modern cinema rarely have that tough, strong woman spirit about them, yet Furiosa is an exception and then some. She more than gives Max a good run for his money and should provide a shining light for Hollywood writers on how to write a decent female character.  Yet the villain, was a bit of a weak link, as he was overshadowed by his crazy army of War Boys.

As previously mentioned, madness is an adjective that barely scratches the surface of this film, as it is absolutely insane. Almost immediately from the off, the film is packed with some crazy, enthralling action sequences. The previous films established themselves as benchmarks for action films in the late 70s and early 80s, yet that benchmark has been blown away (quite literally) by this new adventure.  The action here is simply incredible, whilst at the same time being completely insane and almost ridiculous. Guitars that shoot out flames, cars, lots and lots of explosions. It is almost like Top Gear blended with a Michael Bay movie full of explosions, except this film, unlike many of Michael Bay’s movies has real heart and feeling to it.

You care for these characters and you want them to succeed in their crazy quest and avoid their maniacal pursuers. There is no shaky cam, just well filmed, hardcore intense action scenes to take your breath away, in the same way that movies such as 1991’s Terminator 2 Judgement Day did. We have already seen some terrific action movies as we approach this halfway point in the decade, and Mad Max: Fury Road is definitely up there with the best of them so far in the 2010s.

Miller said in an interview that there could be more from the Road Warrior depending on how well Fury Road did, and judging by its success, we could very well get more craziness, cars, explosions and electric flame throwing guitars back on the big screen before long. Brace yourself, because you have arrived at madness station and this is not going to be the only stop on this train! Oh what a fantastic movie!

Visually incredible with explosive and some extremely well filmed and realistic action sequences that are just crazy and awesome to behold, the path down Fury Road is one you will not want to miss!

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

All image rights belong to Warner Bros, DC Comics, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures
Image is property of Warner Bros, DC Comics, Syncopy and Legendary Pictures

The Dark Knight Rises – Film Review

Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: The third and final instalment of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Batman has been declared public enemy number 1 by Gotham City. Meanwhile Bruce Wayne has become a social recluse. However, he is forced to return as the Batman and protect Gotham City as a new threat emerges in the form of the ruthless mercenary Bane who seeks to render Gotham City to ashes.

Review: The thrilling conclusion to the trilogy that firmly put the Batman franchise back on the map of superhero films. At the end of the preceding chapter, we saw how the peace that was established in Gotham was based on a lie, the lie of Harvey Dent. In the introduction of the film, after an enthralling plane heist scene, it shows in great depth that the actions of the Joker have had a deep and lasting impact on the people of Gotham as the people are still dealing with the aftermath of the destruction that was unleashed on the people of Gotham. While they are still on the recovery path, the fearless Bane, played by Tom Hardy, arrives in the city to carry out what the Joker did not, destroy Gotham. One of the main people that the Joker really left his mark on is Batman himself as we see how much he has just completely withdrawn into his shell in the years since. He lost a lot of physical strength in the eight years in between the two films and it sets the scene perfectly for the arrival of Bane as he is in his prime physical condition.

As with previous two chapters of this trilogy, the story of this film is really engrossing. Initially the citizens of Gotham are living on this false sense that peace had been achieved and that all the crime and corruption in Gotham had been eradicated with the Joker’s capture. Yet, Bane takes his chance with both hands to blow this façade apart and he does this ruthlessly and takes out anyone who dares to stand in his way. Hardy is magnificent in this role and in my opinion is the best villain of the trilogy. He has the intellect of the Joker, but a considerable physical advantage that made him a formidable opponent to Batman. His voice, although hard to understand at times, is another factor that makes him a frightening force to be reckoned with. As the majority of his face is covered by his mask, he has to use his eyes to convey his emotion and he does this brilliantly. The film’s action goes up another gear from the previous film as Bane threatens to torture the citizens of Gotham and completely tear the city apart, and it is up to a weakened Batman to come to Gotham’s rescue once more. This film boasts the best action scenes of the entire trilogy.

All of the returning cast again shine in their roles. Special mention must go to Michael Caine who arguably delivers his best performance of the trilogy. The new members of the cast also deliver great performances. Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard both deliver wonderful female performances as Selina Kyle (AKA Catwoman) and Miranda Tate respectively. Hathaway was seductive and brilliantly cunning at the same time, and she excelled as Catwoman. Similarly, Cotillard was equally strong in her leading role as the very intelligent businesswoman Miranda Tate. Joseph Gordon-Levitt also gives a strong performance as the smart and determined policeman John Blake.

The Dark Knight Rises was the film we deserved and the one that we needed to wrap up this magnificent trilogy. Every member of the cast, as with the first two films, played their roles out to absolute perfection. The action scenes are again pulsating to watch and with superb acting by everyone involved, along with the perfect villain, The Dark Knight Rises was one of the best films of 2012 and is the best film of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy in my opinion. In a year that produced some extraordinary films and performances, The Dark Knight Rises was a little unlucky not to pick up at least one Oscar nomination. However it remains one of 2012’s best films. I take my hat off to Christopher Nolan for giving us three individual masterpieces that combine to form one of the best film trilogies of the 21st century.

The third chapter in a trilogy, and one that this time closes the trilogy in just about a perfect way with an emotional story, more great action and an absolutely brilliant villain in Bane.

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