Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Ant-Man and the Wasp – Film Review

Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Hannah John-Kamen, Judy Greer, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer

Director: Peyton Reed

Synopsis: With Scott Lang (Rudd) still under house arrest, Hope van Dyne (Lilly) and her father Hank Pym (Douglas) believe that they may have uncovered a clue as to how retrieve Hope’s mother from the Quantum realm…

Review: Sometimes you have to wonder, is Marvel intentionally picking on the smallest hero they have to follow and pick up the pieces in the wake of a cinematic juggernaut? It was 2015, when we were first introduced to Scott Lang, and his chance encounter that led him to becoming the titular hero, all while following in the wake of Age of Ultron. Now three years later, and the torch is once again passed to Ant-Man once again who must step up, in the aftermath of the earth-shattering events of Infinity War.

However, as was the case in 2015, turning attentions on its smallest (and sometimes biggest) hero provides a much welcome comic relief that helps lighten the mood. We find Scott, after running away to join Cap in Civil War has consequently been put under house arrest. However, his quantum realm foray in the last film triggers a potential lead to Hope’s mother, long since believed to be lost there several decades ago. Scott finds himself teaming up with Hank and Hope once again in a bid to find her. All the while, new threats emerge hoping to steal some of Pym’s rather fantastic tech for their own mischievous purposes.

You all look like insects from this height…

The film does follow its predecessor in a lot of ways, not least of which is how zany it is. Same universe though it may be, it feels like it is another world away from the likes of Black Panther. The story is also similar, lots of chit-chat about ants, as well as some science-y lingo and of course, as you would expect at this point from Marvel, lots of humour. When you have an actor well known for his comedic chops like Paul Rudd as your leading man, you know that you’re going to get a charismatic and funny performance, and once again Rudd delivers exactly that.

Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas are also on excellent form once more, with the former finally able to get her wings as the new Wasp and take some bad guys down. Though not all of the humour works unfortunately, Michael Pena’s very funny flashbacks from the first film are once again called upon, but this time it feels a bit forced for the sake of an extra laugh or two.

What Edgar Wright would have brought to this franchise, we will almost certainly never know. Nevertheless, Peyton Reed proved he was an assured choice to direct the first film and once again, he directs the action sequences with a zippy energy that keeps the plot moving along at a steady pace. However while it should keep the attention throughout, there is nothing here that will likely stick in the mind of the audiences once we hit the credits. The story does try to have a more personal edge to it, but this again is a bit hit-or-miss. And while there is an attempt to flesh out chief villain Ghost (John-Kramen), she does unfortunately fall into the category of somewhat disposable MCU villains, likewise for Walton Goggin’s smarmy businessman.

For the most part, the film stands on its own two feet (or should that be wings). It is an undeniable blast of colourful and fun insect sized entertainment, there is nothing here to leave a lasting impression. As for where it stands in relation to the seismic events of Infinity War, make sure you stick around for the mid credit scene, as that is one that is likely to have a very significant impact for MCU films to come.

Retaining the eccentric humour of the first film, competently acted and directed by all concerned, but ultimately, there is not enough sting in this one to rank it up there with the very best film to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tomb Raider (2018)

Image is property of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. Pictures

Tomb Raider (2018) – Film Review

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas

Director: Roar Uthaug

Synopsis: After an explorer vanishes without a trace, his fearless daughter Lara Croft sets out on a mission to his last known location, and to discover what exactly was the true purpose of her father’s venture…

Review: It seems as though there is one genre of films that whenever a new one is announced, that said film is doomed to be a failure before it is even released to the general public. This genre is of course films adapted from popular video games. It is fair to say that over the years, they have gained a reputation for being, simply put, not very good. Two such examples, would the two Tomb Raider films that starred Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s. Though they did not enjoy the best of receptions, the legacy of Lara Croft as an iconic video game character remains very much intact, so much so that another attempt at bringing perhaps the most iconic video game character of the 90s to the big screen was almost inevitable.

Indeed, a good decade and a half later, and here we are. In terms of our badass heroine, it is out with Jolie, and in with recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander who works in a pretty much dead end job in present day London, though questions still remain her regarding her long lost father. When she stumbles upon a clue that links to his last known location, she decides to set out in search of what it was her father was investigating. Of course it would not be a Tomb Raider film if Lara doesn’t find herself in a spot of bother when she lands on this island and must use all of her skills to negotiate the obstacles she finds in her path.

A badass with a bow, watch out Katniss…

For this film to really stand any chance of being a success, it was essential that they cast a capable actress in the lead role. Though casting an Oscar winner is by no means a guaranteed recipe for success, Alicia Vikander brought charisma and personality to the role. She compliments this the physical attributes that are key traits of what makes Lara Croft, well Lara Croft. Vikander gives a committed performance and showed herself to be more than capable of handling the physicality of the role and the demanding action scenes. Though there is nothing ground-breaking about the, these scenes are for the most part fairly well handled by director Roar Uthaug.

It is essential in a film like this that your main character is well fleshed out, and this screenplay does just that. It gives Lara a backstory that explores her origins principally  her relationship with her father and how that has had an influence on her and her tomb raiding adventures. Though it sometimes comes across as a bit soppy, as it is an integral to who Lara is as a character, it does its job. Once we get to the crux of the adventure though is where things start to get really interesting. The plot, certainly recaptures that gritty nature of the games, and while it is entertaining, could be deemed to be a little bit by the numbers.

Yet, for what it is worth, this lays the foundations for the start of what could well turn out to be a franchise. There isn’t a great deal of character development for some of the other characters, most notably Kristin Scott Thomas and Walton Goggins. Nevertheless, the film achieves its goal of delivering a solid adventure for the legend that is Lara Croft, with plenty of visual nods to the franchise that die hard fans are undoubtedly going to appreciate.

The story treads familiar ground, but a strong capable performance from Vikander anchors the film and proves that adaptations of video games aren’t all bad.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Hateful eight
Image rights belong to The Weinstein Company and FilmColony

The Hateful Eight – Film Review

Cast: Kurt Russell, Samuel L Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Synopsis: When eight strangers become trapped in a lodge during a ferocious blizzard in Wyoming, USA, a mystery begins to unfold as to whether some people are who they say they are.

Review: When you walk into a film written and directed by the one and only Mr Quentin Tarantino, chances are you know what to expect. After all he is a man who has made his name in Hollywood for his extremely well written characters, excellent dialogue, and some VERY bloody violence. All are on show and then some with his eight feature film, which is his second Western after the glorious Django Unchained, which happens to be his highest grossing film of all time.

While Django was set pre Civil War, Mr Tarantino takes us post Civil War in this film, with the focus being on a group of individuals (eight in total funnily enough) who get acquainted with one another while they are trapped in a small building during the blizzard that has set them back on their way. Yet immediately something is off, the suspicion and mistrust begins to grow amongst the characters, as some have doubts as to whether they are who they are claiming to be. There’s a mystery that needs to be solved and it isn’t long before things start to get a little bit messy.

Tarantino is one of the finest directors working today, his movies are synonymous with terrific writing, sharp dialogue and very strong characters. All of the ensemble cast truly shine in their roles with each and every one of them giving truly excellent performances. However, there are a couple of performances that truly deserve special praise and could well be in with a shot of picking up some awards. Principally, Tarantino regular Mr Samuel L Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh give arguably the best performances of this incredibly talented cast, but that should take nothing away from all of the other performances, because they are all superb. It is at times a very dialogue driven film, but this is not a problem,  because the dialogue is so riveting and so well written, that the audience is captivated the entire time, watching these characters interact and develop distrust and suspicion.

As is the case with nearly all of Tarantino’s films, the great acting is matched with great writing, and the Hateful Eight is no exception. In this over three hour story, the first hour or so is all build up, getting to know the characters, meeting them one by one. The tension here remains at a minimal level, but there is not exactly a warm feeling between anybody. The early build up is a little slow, until we get to Minnie’s Haberdashery, and that’s when any warm feelings are immediately turned as cold as the weather outside, and the tension and suspicion gets stronger with each passing minute of screen time. Tarantino does enjoy some good monologues and there’s a few to be witnessed here. It wouldn’t be a Tarantino movie if there was no violence and when the axe finally drops and it begins, boy does it provide some glorious and bloody entertainment for the audience and then some!

The cinematography on show, provided by another frequent Tarantino collaborator Robert Richardson is gorgeous, capturing the setting of a chilling winter in the USA perfectly. The audience feels the freezing temperatures the characters find themselves in. The score composed by Ennio Morricone is also equally superb. Like with The Revenant, this cannot have been an easy shoot for the cast and for the crew, but for all the troubles of everyone involved, it was all worth it to deliver another extremely good film from Tarantino that is sure to receive a bunch of Academy Award nominations in this upcoming awards season, and they would be very well deserved ones at that.

A little slow in the early stages, but it pays off big time in the end, with superb writing, tremendous acting, terrific directing, and a top score. Another superb edition into the near perfect filmography of Quentin Tarantino.

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