Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Avengers: Infinity War – Film Review

Cast: Spoilers!!

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: Thanos, the Mad Titan, is seeking possession of the Infinity Stones that would give him unrivalled power, and it’s up to the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him as the fate of the Universe hangs in the balance…

This review will have no spoilers…

Review: Ten years in the making, with eighteen previous entries in this incredible cinematic universe that we have watched grow over the past ten years. It has been quite the fun and enjoyable ride, but this is what it has all been building towards. After all the work that was put in to establish this world and its characters in the previous decade of Marvel goodness, it would be fair to say the weight of expectation on this film was enormous. Therefore, one must give kudos to the Russo brothers, who return to the directors chairs of the MCU for the third time, and complete their hat-trick in spectacular style.

The plot, without straying into spoiler territory, focuses on the maniacal Thanos and his quest to obtain the infinity stones with the help of some underling servants known as the Black Order, to wreak unprecedented destruction on the universe, which understandably captures the attention of just about every MCU hero we have met thus far. Given the sheer number of heroes we have met thus far, there was understandable concern from certain quarters as to would they be able to balance the story with so many larger than life heroes? Well as they proved with Civil War, the Russos and returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, do just that.

Each hero that we meet is given their chance to shine and there’s no one that feels out of place. They are all relevant pieces in this battle, and as such , everyone has ample screen time in this battle that simply put, has unprecedented stakes for all of our heroes. Yet despite these threatening stakes, as Marvel so often does, the film is peppered with plenty of humorous moments. But these never negate the moments of drama or danger that these heroes find themselves up against, as you feel that no one, no matter how big or how long they have been a part of the MCU, is in very serious peril.

Speaking of, it has been no secret that the MCU has had some trouble with crafting compelling villains. With a few exceptions, many of them have been very bland and forgettable. Thankfully, that is not applicable with Thanos. It is hard to humanise a villain who wants to kill at will, but he is given the crucial depth that a good villain needs to get in order to make them memorable. Furthermore, they need to be given a presence that our heroes feel, and they certainly feel Thanos’s presence alright, the much needed villain to truly break the villain curse that has plagued so many MCU movies.

As they demonstrated with both of their previous MCU entries, the Russos are once again right on the top of their game when it comes to delivering the compelling action scenes that were used so effectively in their previous MCU films. There are plenty of these throw-downs scattered throughout the film, you really feel the scale of the events that are taking place within this world that we as an audience have grown with over these past ten years. It is some heavy stuff and with this latest entry, again without straying into spoiler territory, it is a film that will have a major impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we have known it.

With only a handful of films left in what has been the third phase of their cinematic universe, it is hard to not feel that all of this is all coming to a close. In a film like this, you need to just give the audience a complete and emotional sucker punch that leaves them reeling, and by the end of this movie, said sucker punch will have been delivered. Though there is still a second part in this story, and a few other films in Phase 3 to come, there is no escaping the fact that with this film, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been shaken to its core.

It has all been building towards this, and it brought home the goods. So many heroes could have been problematic, but it is all weaved together tremendously well, and a truly memorable villain in Thanos sets things up perfectly for Avengers 4.

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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 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.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

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Image rights belong to Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions and Alibaba Pictures

Star Trek Beyond – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Sofia Boutella, John Cho, Anton Yelchin

Director: Justin Lin

Synopsis: In the middle of their five year mission, the Enterprise is lured into a trap by a deadly alien threat by the villainous Krall, who threatens to tear the Enterprise, and indeed Starfleet apart.

Review: It has been an incredible fifty years since Gene Roddenberry’s first television series carrying the title Star Trek burst onto small screens. Since then, thirteen feature films have made their way onto the big screen, and we have had plenty of spin-off TV shows. While not all of these have endured the kindest of reactions from Trekkies and critics alike, one thing cannot be disputed, the franchise has prospered through this half a century, making its mark on popular culture. When it came to the third installment of the rebooted franchise, with its golden anniversary on the horizon, fans were surely hoping that the franchise would strike gold once again, and well they are in luck, as its thirteenth feature film has done exactly that.

With the man behind Star Trek and Into Darkness, a certain Mr JJ Abrams going off to a galaxy far far away, a number of directors were in the frame to take over the responsibility of the director’s chair, with producer Roberto Orci at one stage at the helm. However, that responsibility ultimately went to Justin Lin, of Fast and Furious fame. When the first trailer dropped many feared that this would be Fast and Furious but in space. However, credit where credit is due, as Lin has put together a very enjoyable and extremely well made movie that feels like a Star Trek movie should. With Scotty himself, Simon Pegg helping to write the script, they certainly aimed for a film that would please fans, given how Into Darkness was not very well received by some sections of the Trekkie community. The action here is once again of a very high quality with more than a few pulse racing sequences, the best of these scenes are by far on the hostile alien world that the Enterprise crew find themselves on. A few shaky cam scenes aside the action is put together very well and there are more than a few very funny moments packed into the movie’s run time.

JJ Abrams may have returned in a producer capacity only, but full credit must go to him for putting together this amazing ensemble because once again, each and every one of them deliver great performances. Yet again it is Chris Pine who really shines the brightest, with major kudos also going to Quinto and Karl Urban as Spock and Bones respectively. The latter duo in particular share a lot more screen time in this installment, and all the better for it as they make an effective duo! In terms of new arrivals, the standout by a considerable distance is Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah. Her work in Kingsman showed how much of a badass she could be and likewise here. The real let down here is the villain played by Idris Elba, an actor of immense talent, but his character could have been a little bit more fleshed out, and given a little bit more to do. He’s better than Nero from the 2009 reboot, but he’s by no means on the level of Cumberbatch as Khan, not even close.

That being said, those who may have feared that this film would fall out of warp and crash and burn were proven to be very wrong indeed. The score by Michael Giacchino is once again of a very high quality. Thirteen maybe an unlucky number for some, but not for Star Trek, Star Trek is showing no signs of slowing down, and indeed, a fourth film is already in the works. Mr Roddenberry would undoubtedly be pleased to see the prosperity the franchise has enjoyed, and is continuing to boldly go where no franchise has gone before!

The foundations that were laid by Abrams have been greatly added to by Lin, the cast remain excellent, as does the chemistry between the leads, with the quality action sequences also being maintained. At this rate, the franchise is at full warp speed and nothing is going to stop it!

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

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Image rights belong to Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions and K/O Paper Products

Star Trek Into Darkness – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy

Director: JJ Abrams

Synopsis: When Starfleet comes under attack, the crew of the Enterprise are challenged to apprehend the culprit, a man who goes by the name of John Harrison, a man who is on his personal mission of vengeance.

Review: JJ Abrams certainly undertook his own almost five year mission when it came to his work with the Star Trek franchise. After directing its enormously successful 2009 reboot, and with a little break in between in which he directed 2011’s Super 8, the director sat back down in the Star Trek director’s chair once again for its 2013 sequel. Under his guidance, the franchise returned to prosperity with the first movie in the rebooted franchise, and this installment of the franchise certainly helped to continue that trend.

Abrams certainly understood that what makes Star Trek is the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Despite being friends, they still have their differences and come to several disagreements which threaten to tear them apart. This is until a very frightening threat emerges against Starfleet in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, a man we initially know as just John Harrison, but if you have seen the movie, you know that he is hiding some secrets about his true identity. The first film suffered from a lack of a really compelling villain. However with Cumberbatch, there was no chance of that repeating as he is electric to watch. His work in the Hobbit movies certainly showed he has a very menacing and sinister way of delivering his lines, and he was completely compelling to watch, as he battles with the Enterprise, it makes for some really entertaining moments.

Although Cumberbatch steals the show, the Enterprise crew certainly also show their credentials once again, with Chris Pine remaining excellent as Kirk. Much like Cumberbatch, he is very compelling to watch, and even more so when the two of them clash. In addition, Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana certainly command more screen time than the others, with Simon Pegg once again providing the comic relief as Scotty. The acting remained of a very stellar quality and the action remains just as exciting here as it was in the first movie. Abrams once again demonstrated his tremendous skills when it came to the action sequences. Once scene in particular that takes place on the Klingon home-world shows Abrams at his best. The film never stops, and Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman back on script duties do some tremendous work to provide newer fans of the franchise to enjoy, whilst also throwing things in there that should satisfy every Trekkie on the planet.

The prosperity returned to the franchise under Abrams’s tutelage and direction without a doubt, despite what some Trekkies may tell you. The movie has suffered over the years and was voted the worst film in the franchise, yet it provides plenty of entertainment for everyone to enjoy. Although he moved on to direct this franchise’s great rival in Star Wars, it is hard to argue against the terrific job Abrams has done for the franchise, he brought it back to prominence and at the end of his four year mission, he has vacated the chair, and certainly left the franchise in a better position than when he found it, of that there is no question.

Certain Trekkies will undoubtedly argue otherwise, but this chapter continues from where the first film left off, with great action sequences, a really deep and emotional story and a tremendous performance from Cumberbatch as the antagonist. Live long and prosper indeed!

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Star Trek (2009)

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Image rights belong to Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot Productions and Spyglass Entertainment

Star Trek – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy

Director: JJ Abrams

Synopsis: James Tiberius Kirk is a young man with seemingly no future ahead of him, until he is persuaded to join Starfleet and follow in the footsteps of his father.

Review: Reboots certainly are a very common occurrence in Hollywood movies these days, with every popular franchise getting one. So of course, it was only a matter of time until Star Trek underwent the reboot treatment. A franchise that has endured the test of time, and has had its fair share of setbacks and disappointments. Seven years after 2002’s Star Trek Nemesis was released,  fresh after directing the third Mission Impossible Movie, JJ Abrams came on board, sat in the director’s chair and fired this franchise into warp speed and in very impressive style too.

The film focuses on a young James T Kirk, a man who is sort of on the road to nowhere and likes gets into a few fights. He is looking for something to give his life significance and meaning and he eventually finds this in Starfleet. Also arriving on the Starfleet scene is the Vulcan Spock, who due to his human mother is almost looked down upon by his fellow Vulcans. Through this the two of them form an understanding of what it’s like to be cast aside, and a friendship of sorts, is formed, but it’s not without its problems. With the timeline in this movie dramatically altered, Abrams almost gives himself a clean slate to work from, but he also knew how to make this reboot work and work well. Yes it is cool to see ships travel at Warp Speed and to see impressive planets, but at its heart, Star Trek is a franchise that focuses on its characters, as the brilliant pairing of William Shatner and the late Leonard Nimoy demonstrated in the older films.

The new cast certainly give credit where credit’s due, but they all make the roles their own. Special mentions must go to Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Much like Messrs Shatner and Nimoy, the pair of them are brilliant in the roles of Kirk and Spock respectively. They may bicker and clash about almost anything they can, but there is a connection, a mutual admiration in many ways between them. Also great is Karl Ubran as Dr Leonard McCoy AKA Bones. He gives off that typical Karl Ubran gruffness, and he is a little bit grumpy for sure, but there is sincerity and depth to his performance, as is just about everyone else. Star Trek is nothing without the crew of the Enterprise and this crew all give very fine performances, and you enjoy watching them work.

Abrams certainly showed with MI that he knows how to handle action, and here he displays it once again. The action is glorious to watch and there’s plenty of it too. From the epic clash in the opening sequence to a enthralling space jump sequence that is packed with his trademark lens flares in more than a few scenes. One could certainly never accuse Abrams of lacking style. He brings a very exciting style to the way he directs and it works very well for the film.  However, the main thing dragging this movie down is the villain Nero played by Eric Bana. He looks menacing enough for sure, but he is in many ways a throw away villain, and will not leave the viewer with a lasting impression when the credits begin to role.

That being said, despite his predisposition to the Star Wars Franchise, Abrams gave the Trekkies just what they needed after seven years. Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, along with Abrams certainly set out to please the fans, and bring new people on board to the franchise, and they certainly did just that! It was just about the perfect start for this new Star Trek franchise with all phasers set to thrill!

A really smart reboot with brilliant acting from Pine and Quinto, with some great action scenes and superb direction from Abrams. The more than five year mission to get here was certainly worth it!

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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Image is property of Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Guardians of the Galaxy – Film Review 

Cast:  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Djomon Hounsou, Glenn Close

Directors: James Gunn

Synopsis:  When a team of space criminals come into possession of a valuable space orb, they must band together to prevent the villainous Ronan from seizing it and wreaking havoc and mass destruction.

Review:  If someone says to you: “name a Marvel superhero character,” the names of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America or Spider-Man might come to mind. However, the names of the likes of Groot , Gamora, Star Lord and Rocket Raccoon might not sound as familiar. Yet with this latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that will most certainly change. This film when it was announced had a lot of people scratching their heads in bemusement and uncertainty. Fans wondered if it could be pulled off, and Marvel had pulled it off and the gamble has paid off immeasurably.

Director James Gunn has put together one of, if not the funniest Marvel films to date, with a very entertaining script as well as some intense and enthralling action sequences. Being the title characters, a lot is expectedly riding on the Guardians, and they deliver. With previous Marvel films that lead to the Avengers, we had several movies detailing their stories and their struggles. Guardians does not have this luxury, as we are introduced to our protagonists immediately, but James Gunn did an exceptional job in making the audience care about each of the main ensemble.

Star Lord (Chris Pratt) is the leader of the team. He is like the love child of Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones , and his scenes are wonderful to behold. Witty lines and real heart and charisma go into his performance. Likewise with the Green skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who’s again a really interesting character to watch with a very intriguing back-story.  The main comedy relief comes from the likes of Drax (Dave Batista) who has some of the most hilarious dialogue we have seen all year, including a difficulty to understand metaphors. Groot (Vin Diesel) is a sentient tree, he doesn’t say much, all of three words, but he adds a great comical presence in the film. Yet, the star of the show is the gun wielding raccoon, Rocket. Brilliantly voiced by Bradley Cooper and terrifically brought to life on the big screen, he is a character that will have tears rolling down your face due to laughter.

Together, the ensemble have some brilliant moments together. Yet the film does have its problems, namely the villains. The three main baddies Ronan (Lee Pace) Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Korath (Djimon Hounsou)  are not as fleshed out as much as the Guardians. Their make up is all very well done with Gillan looking very menacing as the blue skinned Nebula and there is more to her character development than her villainous counterparts. With Thanos lurking in the shadows, it is almost a desire to cut to the chase and have the Guardians fight Thanos, as we know of his presence in this universe. Although chances are that could certainly happen in a coming movie (Avengers 3 perhaps?). Despite this one mishap, the film stands as one of the best we have seen this year. The visuals are all superb, with brilliant make up on each of the characters, and some top drawer action scenes that will fill the audience with immense satisfaction. The penultimate movie of Marvel’s Phase 2 has left its mark on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we will definitely be seeing more of Groot and Star Lord in the future.

A terrific ensemble, brilliant dialogue, top quality visuals and make up, some outstanding action sequences and lots of very memorable characters. The villain is a let down, but it does not take anything away from this fantastic addition to the Marvel Universe.

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