Month: August 2015

Fight Club review

I think I’ve already broken rule #1

Fight Club is a drama based on the novel of the same name by Chuck Palahnuik, directed by David Fincher, starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meatloaf and is very much a film of its time in the late 90s’ anti-establishment style of The Matrix, though it’s still relevant to today. The character of the narrator is somewhat of a blank slate, dissatisfied with his dull work life and longing for something more, he meets the wild, unpredictable Soap Maker Tyler Durden and gets brought into the Fight Club.

Where he meets other disenfranchised, jaded modern city workers who go to the club for catharsis and to just feel like men, fighting bare knuckle and shirtless, there are 8 rules of fight club with the most important two being, “you DO NOT talk about Fight club”. The films’ story is and it stands out from a lot of other dramas in its’ material and execution, the premise is a interesting on a basic level, imagining an underground fight club for dissatisfied, emasculated feeling male city workers, seeing them unleash their raw angst through fighting. But the plot dramatically veers off from the fight club itself into interesting and surprising places, things you definitely didn’t see coming the first time around.

Pitt brings a wild, unhinged role to life as Tyler Durden in one of the best performances of his career, he’s unpredictable, seemingly has his head on straight and is also charismatic and a leader of men, drawing people to his cause while Norton is the practical opposite as the Narrator, insecure, unsure of himself and much more of a follower. While Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) brings a quirky, surreal touch to an already surreal feeling film.

David Fincher relishes in the film with his grounded directorial style, depicting the gritty violence, which fits in with the context of the film and with an long running underlying tone of control, influence masculinity, the film has some pretty vivid imagery and looks great in several scenes, with an effective use of slow-motion that’s made more effective with near constant narration by Norton. Nortons’ narration adds that extra element to the film which not only adds exposition but gives us his own point of view as he goes on a pretty wild ride after meeting Tyler, this is a fish out of water type story with a bit of a difference. And the film works effectively as a sort of character study for the narrator and Tyler Durden initially getting on but finding them selves on differing stances. What if you met someone that embodied your raw, unhinged drive and desires, what would happen? Though the film does ask that question, it also flips the script and makes you remember and view the entire film from a changed view point after the twist is revealed, a very mind bending plot point to say the least.

Fight Club is a film that has been analyzed and broken down a thousand times with undertones in the film that are as intriguing as the films plot itself but I think the film is better enjoyed as a great nuanced drama with a solid story and brilliant characters characters and the joy of the story is that you can get enjoyment out of just watching it or breaking it down and discussing it further but either way, you’re engaged.

Fight Club stands the test of time as one of the best and most imaginative dramas of modern film, it’s a fantastically well directed story with some great, iconic performances and a plot that twists, turns and keeps you engaged throughout.

8/10

. Engrossing plot that takes interesting turns

. Brilliant performances from Pitt, Norton

. Very well shot film

Goodfellas review

Goodfellas pic

Martin Scorcese directs the crime drama Goodfellas as poor child Henry Hill works his way up the mob ranks alongside his friends and tastes life as part of the mob in full, the film stars Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro.

Scorcese brings his deft touch and careful handling of long running stories to Goodfellas, a story I like to think is sort of a modern Greek tragedy, with twists, left turns, U-turns as the plot goes in all sorts of directions, it’s quite long but worth watching. With a great cast from DeNiro in a more calm persona, Pesci in one of his most manic and intense roles and Liotta in one of his most trans-formative, Scorcese gets the best of the actors and crafts a vibrant group of characters with some brilliant writing, which works to reflect a feeling of realism to the gritty world of the mob in the past and the reality that people really lived with.

And with some great directing, the film really captures how you can imagined parts of America actually were at the time with rampant crime, gang wars and so on, the costumes are on point as well and work to create a believable setting, while the effects in the movie again service believability – so yes a lot of shootouts. The plot is a memorable and fairly long one but that doesn’t take away from the film itself, you get the feeling of an epic biopic in a way, following Henry (Liotta) along his journey as a naive kid to a respected mobster and his escapades along the way, with his lunatic friend Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci). Pesci is part of some of the most memorable scenes in the movie and amps it up to 10 on the intensity scale but is never quite hammy, balancing his anger with his own twisted sense of justice and reward while Liotta really has some emotional and harrowing scenes in which he shines in.

There is a sense of tragedy to the bad situations the characters go through but you get recognize that it’s part and parcel of their lifestyles and they all chose to live that way so have to deal with it but even with some rather nasty characters, you do sympathize with them and what they go through, though some just really have it coming. Another thing the film does really well is using tension and that feeling of paranoia that becomes very present in Henry in his later years, still part of the mob but wanting to get out and live normally, he fears for his own life and his families and simply wants normalcy, something you get the feeling other characters also want but just can’t get now that they’re so deeply entrenched in the mob.

Scorcese crafts a very lived in, gritty world with some great characters and a brilliant story, emotional, dramatic and tragic, it’s a very modern greek tragedy if it can be classed as one and an great story overall.

8/10

. Has some fantastic performances

. Great characterization, you see Henry grow up, mature and develop

. Plot keeps you engaged despite the long run time

Pulp Fiction review

Quentin Tarantino directs this iconic crime drama, centred on varying tales of revenge, a storytelling formula which has come to be the staple of the acclaimed director, the film stars Samuel L Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames.

With so many things to talk about in regards to the film, let’s start with the ambition undertaken from Tarantino to craft an independent film of such big scale with such big stars, the drive to make a film like this as a third outing is a bit crazy but it really payed off, riding the wave of crime dramas with with a humorous, biting edge to them. Also Tarantino struck gold with his casting as he usually does, with Samuel L Jackson in one of his best career performances as Jules, a silver tongued and hilarious mobster who brings the writing to live, working alongside Vincent Vega (John Travolta).

The writing here is so, so good and it’s Tarantino at some of his most expressive and elaborate with some extended dialogue laden scenes which make for great viewing and some awesome iconic characters who never ham it up either, despite some monologues, a credit to how good everyone in the film is. In films it can be all too easy to wade into pretentious scene chewing with a lot of dialogue but Tarantino is an expert at using dialogue to further plot, keeping it snappy and actually interesting. Pulp Fiction works oddly enough because it’s so funny and enjoyable, despite being a crime drama with a fair amount of blood in it and some serious themes. Scenes like the Jules and Vincent interrogation involving bible verses, Vincent and Mia Wallaces dance, it’s all just very entertaining and the film overflowing with style, with certain chic characters like Jules and Vincent.

I love how the film works well with scenes that would be simply be scene transitions in other films, making them again into very enjoyable segues whether its the characters talking about food or how they’ll do their next job, there’s very gritty, realistic characterization there and its a credit to the writing in making such human feeling characters who mess up, get frustrated and so on.

There’s also a good use of music in certain parts, balanced with the film going without it to emphasize the gritty tone. And also there’s a great aesthetic to the film, something maybe not as talked about but the costumes, the props, all look great as do the gory effects which bring you down to earth in a film that’s almost a comedy, that feeling of bumbling mobsters going about their business evokes The Goodfellas in a way, though not to the point where you feel like it copies from it, Tarantino is known for drawing inspiration from various sources and past works so the comparison is apparent.

Pulp Fiction is a modern great, a fantastic crime drama that pulls no punches and flexes its comedic muscle as well with some brilliant writing and awesome characters with a twisting plot that keeps you engaged throughout with a few unexpected events, one of the 90s best films and a classic crime drama.

8.5/10

. Stellar writing and great hummour

. Has some fantastic performances

. Very engaging plot

Prometheus 2 is up next for Ridley Scott

The news earlier in the week and you may have heard it already but rejoice Prometheus fans out there, all five of you… but who am I kidding, I liked the film. Anyway Ridley Scott is reportedly prioritizing the sequel to Prometheus and getting that done as his next project, which is scheduled to start filming at the start of 2016 with a possible release sometime in 2017.

This means that Neil Blomkamps’ upcoming Alien movie will remain upcoming for a little while longer though, as Ridley Scott prefers to get the new Prometheus out beforehand as it seems he doesn’t want a new Alien film to take too much attention away from the Prometheus films and because Sigourney Weaver needs to be more available to shoot the new Alien film. All in all it’s good news for Alien fans though as new films are well on the way and we won’t have to wait that much longer.

I personally am intrigued by the ideas put forward by Prometheus and I’m curious to see where Scott will take his created prequel but not really a prequel story next and of course there are a load of questions still unanswered, where do the tall bald aliens come from and why do they hate humans? What exactly is the black goo? Does any of this really have anything to do with Alien? Whether any of these questions will get answered is uncertain but I think one thing is certain, we’ll probably just have more questions by the time the film comes out.

But you know, I think there’s still room for some interesting storytelling and themes to come and I have faith Ridley Scott will make another captivating film in the universe he’s made.

Edward Scissorhands review

What happens if you’re a gentle, loving soul but also have scissors for hands? Tim Burton poses the question in a way that only Tim Burton can in Edward Scissorhands, starring Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall.

Burton was in full flow in the 90s, off the back of the successful Beetlejuice and 1989 Batman, his visual and tonal style already well established with his unique form of storytelling really comes to the forefront in Edward Scissorhands, a very literal fantasy imagining of a sort of folkloric character in Edward, a very calm and kind individual with an unfortunate disfigurement.

And what a great performance from Depp, one of the best in his career as Edward, he really delves into character and inhabits Edwards’ psyche throughout bringing a really measured performance and showing the range that he has as an actor, meanwhile Winona Ridyer is also great as Kim, bringing an enthusiastic and emotional performance, this is easily one of Depps most iconic roles and deservedly so as he really disappears into character. I fondly remember the film because of how jovial it feels despite it having a rather dark premise and gothic themes, the odd tonal balance here really shouldn’t work but it does and the film, like Edward himself has more to it than you you would think at first. The music in the film is great and really highlights the emotional points both high and low points, matching with the scenarios Edward finds himself in, in relation to the towns people and his own mental state in a way.

The heart of the plot is a romance and a sort of forbidden relationship Romeo and Juliet style between Edward and Kim, with events following almost along the same lines and with the way Burton presents the plot, it almost comes across as modern fairy tale in its themes, style and tone. And the cinematography and style of the film is definitely one of its strong points, from the winter setting and abundance of snow which gives scenes a more serene feeling to the creative design and look of Edward himself, pale as snow and dressed all in balck, Burton is wonderfully creative here and crafts a film that doesn’t quite look like anything else aside another Burton film.

With Edwards inability to hold people or animals because of his hands, it results in rather tragic situations as people view him as a monster who’s out to harm and are intimidated by his appearance, the message here is pretty clear, don’t judge a book by its cover and there’s surprising depth in places you might not expect, but in the the film works, that message is conveyed in an engaging and well crafted story.

7.5/10

. Has some strong performances

. Striking visual style

. Interesting storytelling, feels like a fairy tale

September film preview

As summers end draws ever closer, we can look ahead to what September has in store for film in the build up to awards hype season and the run up to the final months of the year (US release dates by default).

The Transporter: Refueled – released on the 4th of September

That franchise everyone kinda forgot about is back and refueled but with a new cast and new director, though things will be following the same style and frenetic action that made The Transporter films popular but you know, without Jason Statham, it’s directed by Camille Delamarre and stars Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Loan Chabanol, Gabriella Wright.

 

The Visit – released on the 11th of September

M. Night Shyamalan makes his latest directorial outing in The Visit, a psychological horror following two kids as they’re left to stay at their grandparents house while their mother goes on holiday, however the kids discover things aren’t as they seem and there’s something wrong with their grandparents, the film stars Kathryn Hahn, Ed Oxenbould, Peter McRobbie, Benjamin Kanes.

 

Black Mass – released on the 18th of September

Scott Cooper writes and directs this biopic following the real life and crimes of notorious Irish American mobster and gang leader in Boston, Whitey Bulger, who later becomes an FBI informant to protect his own assets, the film stars Johnny Depp, Kevin Bacon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgeton, Sienna Miller, Dakota Johnson.

 

The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials – released on the 18th of September

Thomas and friends face a new ordeal in The Scorch Trials, now out of the maze but not away from danger just yet, they discover what’s become of the planet in the scorch, the group aims to find out the mystery behind WCKD, the maze and its intentions for them all as they try and survive once again. Directed by Wes Ball, the film stars Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Aidan Gillen, Giancarlo Esposito.

 

Sicario – released on the 25th of September

Dennis Villenueve directs crime thriller Sicario, as FBI agent Kate Macy is enlisted to work alongside a joint task force to take out a drug lord across the border in Mexico, the film stars Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber.

 

Everest – released on the 25th of September

Everest is a Biographical disaster film based on real events in the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, the film focuses on the attempt to survive by two separate expedition groups, the film stars Jake Gylenhaal, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Emily Watson, Robin Wright, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington.

Saving Private Ryan review

Steven Spielberg directs this epic war drama centred on the WWII story of a group of US soldiers going deep into enemy lines to save Paratrooper Private Ryan whose brothers have been killed in the war, the film stars Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore.

Grit and realism are the keywords here as Spielberg crafts a very real feeling world taking place in the midst of the worst war the world has ever seen and the film work of a master director is very visible as the cinematography, music and acting all contribute to the films tone and style. Right from the offset with the gruesome and terrifying opening sequence, you get the tone that the film is going with with a claustrophobic feeling inside the landing boats as they come ashore and get riddle with machine gun fire, we see from the point of view of those inside the boats, uncomfortable and terrified.

And we see how the soldiers viewed coming to the beach as the US and allied forces suffered heavy casualties in the Normandy landings, there’s a very gritty, visceral approach war here and its just depicted for what it is, gruesome and awful with a fare amount of gore, we follow the soldiers as they go about their mission with a plan but having to overcome various obstacles and Nazi opposition at every turn. The unpredictability of the situation they’re in makes it all the more tense and a compelling story to watch, knowing anyone can be shot at almost any moment and Hanks unit is way outgunned and outnumbered. There are some stellar performances in the film though with Tom Hanks especially shining as Captain Miller, bringing a sense of gravitas and passion to the role.

While Edward Burns also gives a great performance as Private Reiben, the actors work with each really well in the plot and collectively contribute to a feeling of camaraderie and unity as they go through such horrid situations but do so together. I also like that Spielberg strayed from making the film feel like a patriotic triumph and he made a film that avoids politics, just showing a single mission and an interesting story that took place in a past real world setting, the subject material is handled with care and the result is just a slice of WWII and some of the horrors that really did occur in it.

8/10

. Excellent camera work to evoke emotion and convey tone

. Has some strong performances

. Very engaging plot

The Truman Show review

Peter Weir directs this comedy drama about an insurance salesman who discovers his entire life is actually a TV show, starring Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, with a wickedly inventive and well executed premise and great casting choice in Jim Carrey as Truman, the film works really well.

The casting choice of Carrey as Truman was an inspired one and not an outright comedic role, it works really well with Carreys mannerisms and comedic timing in a very light hearted drama, meanwhile the supporting cast is also good, it is The Truman Show literally and figuratively and Carreys performance does carry the film and surprisingly well. And the fact that in the more dramatic moments, Carrey is still good is quite awesome and also a credit to the films great writing with a intriguing plot and an engaging plot that keeps your interest all the way through.

The setting for the film is well done to re-create an idyllic suburban lifestyle and it’s funny looking back on what was being done to please Truman after what was just an elaborate TV show but also a bit tragic and even profound as this man discovers his entire life was a lie in the vein of some other late 90s films (The MatrixFight Club) and just entertainment for the great viewing audience. And the film also takes a big shot at reality TV, before it was even a thing in popular culture, ironically springing into the main stream in 2000 right after films like The Truman Show, what is an acceptable level of entertainment at the expense of a human being?

Also what is the Truman show, why was it made and what world does a show like this this even take place in, if you’re asking questions like these then you’re engaged and intrigued and rightfully so as the film crafts a captivating and interesting narrative, one in which you really sympathize with Truman and want him to escape the show as things progress. With Truman going on his own journey in the plot as things go on, everything still jovial and light hearted with some quite funny moments as well as characters/actors in the context of the show struggle to keep Truman none the wiser and in the show itself to ridiculous levels and Carrey plays off these moments really well.

And even if you don’t care to read too much into the world the film creates, it’s an engaging, funny and entertaining story with some great performances and a great example of good execution of a great idea.

8/10

. Inventive, interesting idea done well

. Engaging plot

. Great use of humour

Batman Returns review

Tim Burton returns to direct his 2nd Batman film, Batman returns, as Gotham is threatened by Penguin who plans to take over the city, Batman must also deal with Catwoman who may or may not be on his side, the film stars Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken.

Style is something Tim Burton knows how to convey and he certainly makes great use of his own personal touch in Batman Returns, a really comic book looking film with exaggerated character appearances, costumes, hairstyles and sets which really make Gotham come to life and look good on screen, the prominence of black and dark colours is notable but not surprising for a Tim Burton film. And his distinct visual style works really well with Batman as it turns out in things like stylized sets and costume design (a lot of black again). Michael Keaton returns as a stoic Bruce Wayne/Batman and is once again great in the role, with a certain gravitas about his performance, if he says he’ll do something you really believe he will, while DeVito is wonderfully over the top and about as much of a supervillain as you can get with his portrayal of Penguin, a very literal portrayal.

Burton took a few creative liberties in making Penguin look and act like a penguin and while it’s some silly fun but it doesn’t take away from the movie and as a character as he’s still a good villain, while Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman is brilliant in an awesome and iconic performance, she looks the part and is great on screen together with Keaton, really capturing the adversarial relationship between the two characters. Returns has a simple and easy to follow plot that’s also still quite engaging, the Penguin is bad and needs to be stopped but it won’t be that easy and never is for Batman, the lunacy and specific aims that Penguin has make him a peculiar villain and he makes for a character that’s easily underestimated that also has some added depth to him.

The effects and visuals that made Batman ’89 such a hit return to good effect with the iconic Batmobile coming back, the special effects are also done decently and fit well in fight scenes and Keatons’ Batman is great in action. And the costumes in particular in the film are a highlight, over the top for some characters (e.g. Penguins henchman) but suitably fitted for Batman and Catwoman. The great score from Batman also makes its triumphant returning, roaring into scenes along with the Batmobile and it fits perfectly, bringing an upbeat, heroic motif to watching the caped crusader beatdown criminals.

And while things are fairly formulaic, Batman Returns is still a fun, good Batman film with awesome performances from Keaton, Pfeiffer and DeVito and a fun, comic book-y feeling Batman feel to things.

7/10

. Great performances from the main cast

. Good use of music

. Very distinct visual style to characters, sets

Captain America Civil War concept art reeased

Team Iron Man (Pro-registration)
Team Cap (Anti-registration)
More concept art shown on Jeremy Renners twitter account

So we have some concept art from the upcoming Civil War movie, highlighting who will be on which side as Marvels heroes battle it out over the government enforced superhero registration act. Lines clearly drawn down the middle and there’s even a little surprise there with Black Widow on Iron Mans side as opposed to Caps, though rumours are out there that one person on one of the teams may not be a mole for the other side, so that should be interesting.

Seeing all the characters lined up and present is pretty cool though, especially Black Panther in costume, who looks quite good actually and even The Winter Soldier, free to act on his own at the end of The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man is here as well, standing on Hawkeyes shoulder. There are some notable omissions here of course, Thor – he may not be in the film at all and we’ll have to wait and see a trailer to get more info on that and even then Marvel may sneak him into the film and no Hulk, who reportedly isn’t in the film at all either, though Mark Ruffalo was seen near the set when they were filming and Spiderman, not present on either side but he is in the film.

Scarlet Witch as well isn’t clearly shown on either side but will be in the film, possibly sitting out aligning herself to either side but even as Avenger, I doubt she’ll warm easily to Iron Mans side.

All in all though, things are looking pretty good and for a Marvel story that a lot of fans thought wouldn’t really work due to a lack of characters, it’s shaping up nicely and it will of course just gross a lot of money, all of the money in fact and could well outgross both Avengers films in the end, which might not be that surprising as it’s Marvels biggest, most ambitious film yet. Civil War is released on the 6th of May 2016.