Month: July 2016

Star Trek Beyond – review

The latest instalment in the new Star Trek franchise goes beyond, directed by Justin Lin as the crew of the enterprise, now 2 years into their mission go through the motions and carry on in their endeavour as they investigate a mysterious incident which leads to the enterprise being attacked and the crew taken, the film stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho, Karl Urban, Sofia Boutella, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin.

There’s a notably different feeling to Beyond, with more of a focus on individual characters I feel, even though the overall story is still important, space faring is again and exploration a key element as it was in the previous films with the plot exploring the affect on the characters of prolonged co-habitation and exploring in space. From what it makes characters like Kirk feel and think about their long term goals to how the crew feel about each other having been together so long, this made for some interesting character exploration in a film that has its fair share of action and spectacle.

The cast is again on their A-game and a lot of the fun of watching Beyond comes from their interactions, you can see the cast genuinely get along and enjoy each others companies, with Urban as Bones and Quinto especially relishing in their respective roles and with the crew split up and spread out, you get to see pairings of characters you haven’t seen before, which was interesting. While new characters in the villainous Krall (Idris Elba) and the warrior Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) made for some interesting additions, while it was great to see Yelchin as Chekov one last time in a role he seemed to truly enjoy. Plot wise, the film isn’t all that great to be honest, with a pretty by the numbers story that which would have felt at home in one of the older TV shows but it’s not a huge let down, though having saying this, the plot does go in interesting directions but in comparison to Trek ‘o9 and Into Darkness, the story doesn’t quite match up in quality.

There’s a familiarity of tropes, themes and visuals here in relation to the other two films with a nice mix of humour derived from the well written characters, good action and some great spectacle and believe me, seeing the USS Enterprise never gets old, though seeing it destroyed is always a shame! There are some pretty spectacular set pieces present with some creative ways of executing them and you can tell Simon Peggs influence with the writing was definitely there in a few scenes and I think he did a pretty good job, not hamming up the film with too many clichés but still making things feel familiar and bringing fans what they enjoyed about the previous two Trek films with some added new aspects. Overall Star Trek Beyond is a fun roller coaster ride with some good action, great spectacle and great character interactions, the films have a great formula now and it’s genuinely fun to watch the crew of the Enterprise do just about anything, things here and there may feel a bit generic but the sum of its part is a good blockbuster and a great film to sit back and watch in summer.

7/10

. Great character interaction, cast revels in their roles

. Has some great set pieces, spectacle

. Plot is a bit by the numbers

Doctor Strange trailer #2 – comic con

Doctor Strange comic con trailer

Comic con aka the gift that keeps on giving has given us some more Marvel news overall as you may be aware but also some publicly released trailers, one for Luke CageIron fist but also for the upcoming and anticipated Dotor Strange which is looking pretty great.

We get a continuation of the narrative thread the first trailer brought to us, showing Stevens Stranges’ origin story, with him being a renowned surgeon who loses use of his hands after a car accident and turns to mysticism to find a form of release. We see Strange being essentially coached by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who teaches him about different realities and shows him the abilities that her order is capable of, Steven is understandably curious and confused but seems fully on board in learning more as he’s travelled to south-east Asia and essentially given up his old life.

Mads Mikkelsens’ character seems to be the leader of a certain type of movement that seems to want to disrupt order and presumably, Strange and his friend Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) will be combating them, we also see some mroe mind bending, trippy visuals with dimension and reality bending magic as well as teleportation. And importantly, Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme, cape and all, doing what Sorcerer Supremes’ do of course and looking the part. Overall I’m looking forward to Dr Strange and I’m fully onboard with Marvel going into the fantastical and magical realm with the film as it may open avenues for interesting new plot lines and characters.

There are still questions a-plenty about the plot, will Mordo and Strange turn on each other at some point as they’re enemies in the comic, what exactly is the antagonists plan (if it is Mads Mikkelsens character), does the Ancient One have any nefarious intentions or motive for Strange? Well we’ll find out the answers one way or another when the film comes out but I’m impressed Marvel – as I usually am, the film’s looks solid. Dr Strange is out on the 4th of November.

King Arthur: Legend of the sword comic con trailer

King Arthur Legend of the sword trailer

We have our first look at the upcoming King Arthur film from WB, directed by Guy Ritchie, a… different looking take on the legend of King Arthur as I’m sure you already know of, with Arthur (Charlie Hunam) this time seeming very much the reluctant hero and not wanting to fight at all or get involved in trouble.

We see the sword in the stone – Excalibur, get drawn by Arthur and some similar looking tropes from Arthurian legend films with knights in armour, castles etc and the like but I’m pretty sure we see giant elephants and some magic being showcased, so this looks to be a mix of fantasy elements (magic was always part of the legend to be fair) alongside the re-telling of the legend. Mixed in with guy Ritchies distinct directorial style with a very much more grounded and streetwise seeming Arthur this time around, for a film I’ve heard next to nothing about I’m intrigued though and I’m always down for a guy Ritchie film so yeah.

King Arthur is out in 2017.

Kong Skull island comic con trailer

Kong Skull island comic con trailer

You’ve got to love Comic con, trailers galore… and here’s another for the upcoming Kong Skull Island, out in March 2017, a sort of origin story for the famous ape in film history and a grittier looking depiction at that. We see an expedition to skull island in search of Kong which goes wrong after it seems some of the crew gets attacked (by Kong presumably) and things seem to take a turn for the worst afterwards. And going by the premise of the film, this will come to explain how Kong becomes ‘King Kong’ and how he becomes known to the Western world in the context of the films universe, leading to people trying to capture him in future films (if they don’t do it in this one).

There seems to be a bit of misleading having gone in between the expedition itself as John Goodmans character seems to know more details than Samuel L Jacksons’ character and it seems like he’s lead people there in search of Kong, whose existence and size may come as a complete surprise to them. There are also indigenous natives to the island who probably are aware of Kong but probably revere him as opposed to the foreigners who have come out of curiosity (and also with guns). We still don’t really know much about the plot and this is guess work from me but I am wondering why they came so heavily armed and if the expedition was aware of Kong, were they always going to the island intended to catch him or just to see him? Did they not know about his size?

There are many questions to be answered but Skull Island looks interesting, a film not on that many peoples radars but it could be turn out to be pretty decent, I get a 2014 Godzilla vibe from it with the grittier look and the whole not really seeing Kong in the trailer, though I hope we do see a lot more of Kong in Skull Island than we saw of Godzilla in Godzilla ’14.

Kong Skull Island is out in March 2017.

Justice League comic con footage

Alrighty, so this was expected but to actually see footage of this long, long awaited film is still amazing, the culmination of years of planning from Warner Bros and Zack Snyder, the first trailer for Justice League starts off where Batman V Superman left off, with Bruce and Diana tracking down and trying to recruit meta-humans to form a team following the death of you know who. Bruce is trying to track down Aquaman initially from the looks of things but will also presumably go in search of Cyborg and The Flash (all characters who already have their powers and have been transformed), with Diana helping him as Bruce warns against an incoming danger that necessitates the existence of the Justice league – presumably Darkseid.

This is very much an introductory look to show everyone how the film’s coming along and to give us all a feel of what’s to come but so far I’m intrigued.

There’s a different type of tone to the film, distinct from Batman V Superman and I believe reports that the studio execs wanted things to be a bit lighter and have more levity as we can see with pretty much every scene with Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) who looks like a great fit so far. And generally, I think the league is well cast and Affleck seems to revelling in the role of an older, snarkier Bruce and even quips with his sardonic sense of humour with other characters which is great to see.

And while this isn’t a tonne to go off of, I’d say it’s so far so good honestly, the tone looks lighter which is something a lot of people seemed to have wanted, the costumes look good and everyone seems to be fitting well into their roles – seeing more of Cyborg would be nice though, I’m hooked – I was going to see the film no matter what but it’s great to get a first proper look at things, DC seems to be listening to audience feedback and changing things accordingly which can be a good thing. Have you watched the trailer, do you like it or loathe it? Feel free to sound off.

The Purge: Election year review

God bless America, The Purge: Election Year is directed by James DeMonaco and returns us to the fictional world and near future of the US run by the founding fathers as a presidential hopeful aims to abolish the purge for good but is targeted by the very people who brought the tradition to the American people, the film stars Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson.

Who would have thought a series like The Purge would have one – kept going and two – actually get sort of interesting, traditions are continued as the overall story is, with Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) now working security detail for presidential candidate Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), both characters having been adversely affected by the purge, Leo especially as we saw in The Purge: Anarchy. Things are bigger now, following the trend of the series in general, The Purge exploring a night of purging affecting a particular family, Anarchy exploring purging affecting groups of people and deeper reasons for the tradition, Election Year takes a look at the peoples view of the purge, from certain people in the population, to the powers that be.

Don’t get me wrong, Election Year really isn’t that deep but the themes and ideas that it touches on sort of are and they’re a lot more interesting than the core plot of the film itself, things are still in the same style of the series with hyper violent crazies populating the streets and going out to purge, the dialogue is laughable at times and as over the top as the idea of purging itself.  Which is a shame as there are decent elements to the film and the bad writing does take you out of it, in a film that seems to be caught between wanting to entertain and be taken somewhat seriously, slightly satirizing the current exaggerated and circus like state of American politics to the highest degree. We also get some interesting imagery – and we have through all of The Purge films of purgers of all types donning masks as they go about their business, these people are crazy but looking at why they do what they do may have been more interesting.

The plot is fairly predictable but for what its worth, it is one of the more interesting ones from the series, with some decent action sequences and a some good leads, Grillo is again brilliant as Leo Barnes and totally believable as someone you’d want to trust your life with, while Elizabeth Mitchell also does well in her role and fits the profile of her characters. The other characters do feel a bit like copies of some we saw in Anarchy and don’t bring much to the plate, though we do get to see the existence of other factions that are anti-purge and have plans of their own. Things do sort of go through the motions and feel tropey, though you may have come to expect in thrillers like this relating to character actions, twists and suspenseful moments, such things are to be expected but it is a bit boring to see them coming.

And well, there really isn’t that much else to say about Election Year, it’s a decent enough popcorn thriller with an interesting core concept that expands on the two previous Purge films but not to any meaningful interesting depth but that’s okay as that wasn’t really to be expected from the film.

6/10

. Good casting, Grillo is great

. Shallow exploration of themes over generic thriller template

. Predictable plot

Drive review

Nicolas Winding Refn directs Drive, a drama about a skilled stunt driver who also doubles as a getaway driver, the driver finds himself in increasingly dangerous situations however as he chooses to help out a neighbour, the film stars Ryan Gosling, Carrey Mulligan. Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Oscar Isaac.

Drive is an intriguing drama, mainly intriguing because of its unique set of characters, namely in the nameless driver played by Ryan Gosling, he’s stoic, often silent but has a strong aura and charisma about him, he’s a strong character who you want to get to know more and explore more and this is really brought by Goslings great performance. And along side Gosling, while Carrey Mulligan is believable and very earnest as the drivers neighbour Irene. And as the film doesn’t have a a lot of characters, it does ride (pun intended) fairly heavily on the Drivers and Irenes’ relationship which feels quite natural with ups and downs, awkward moments but a real feeling of two people really being drawn together.

You really feel the frustration through both Irene and the driver with their situations as they strive for better things but know life and situations are often complicated, especially with the double life of the driver. The faster and more tense moments in the film are great, well shot and thrilling in moments with good use of practical effects and excellent set pieces with some pretty spectacular driving, these scenes are well shot and great to see in the film which is first and foremost a drama, but it’s nice to see the more fast paced scenes. And Gosling is great in the role and sells the idea of being an expert in his field, a quite but confident stunt driver.

Nicolas Winding Refn adeptly directs both the action and slower moments in a story that gets progressively more interesting and engaging as it goes on I feel, helped by a fantastic soundtrack which evokes feelings of the 80s, matching certain scenes perfectly and bringing a lot of atmosphere to the film. With the music often being quite laid back and simplistic, which matches the minimalistic approach to the film as a whole, Drive feels very indie in its style and unsurprisingly so.

Though Drive has these impressive elements, it’s not perfect, the lack of dialogue may be a bit too jarring for some with that coming across as lazy writing or the lack thereof, as well as the lack of any real exploration of the drivers backstory or personality, a character whose name we don’t even find out. Understandably some people see the film as being shallow but I think it still stands as an engaging, interesting story, admittedly not that deep but still a well directed and engrossing drama with some great cinematography and a pretty stylised feel to it which harkens back to dramas of decades gone by.

7/10

. Has some great performances from Gosling, Mulligan

. Brilliant soundtrack

. Somewhat shallow characterization but the main characters are interesting

Gravity – review

Gravity is a space bound drama, directed by Alfonso Cuaron following the events of a space mission after a catastrophic event, as a medical engineer and an astronaut try to survive in orbit and without any outside help, the film stars George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, Ed Harris. Gravity has an incredibly straightforward premise and it plays out equally simply with things being normal and quickly spiraling out of control, Cuaron is a great director and brings a dramatic touch to the film which looks great visually and makes great use of 3D to immerse audiences in the film.

And from the different satellites in the film to the effects of space collisions with all the various parts flying off into all directions, to seeing Earth from low orbit, space has almost never looked this good, the film doesn’t have that much dialogue or character interaction to it but works in Ryans’ (Sandra Bullock) own arc in the story as she comes to grips with her situation, gets her bearings and tries to figure a way to get back to earth in one piece.

Bullock does bring a pretty good performance to the table as well, bringing a believable sense of panic and uncertainty as she reacts to her situation, including some very tense scenes with her trying to grab a hold of passing satellites, the plot taking place in space heightens the tension as well, as a misstep or slip could prove catastrophic and send a person off into the black abyss of space forever. Hence she needs to make her every move precise and meticulous, emphasising the cost of any small mistake.

And the film does emphasize that fact and the enormity of space as it is, as the plot develops, it’s interesting to see part of Ryans state of mind and what she’s going through as she tries to calm herself down and formulate a plan, mentally going back to fellow astronaut Matt Kowalskis’ (George Clooney) words to help motivate her into action, this may seem a bit convenient for the plot but seeing Ryan develop as the story went on was a nice touch.

Gravity is a great looking film which garnered a lot of hype and critical acclaim off of its visuals and the visuals were deservedly praised, though the film as a whole isn’t a great drama in my opinion though it has some good performances in it, it falls just short of being great due to a not so stellar and weak plot. The stranded single setting main character finds themselves scenario has been done multiple times with different angles but Gravity doesn’t really bring anything new to the table other than some great use of 3D, the film was a risky move for Cuaron, working as a drama with a small cast and a wafer thin plot but all things considered, it worked out decently enough in the end.

6.5/10

. Film has some great visual effects and good use of 3D

. Has some well crafted tense scenes

. Plot is a bit thin on the ground

Green Room – review

Green Room is a thriller directed by Jeremy Saurnier, following a heavy metal band who unwittingly get themselves caught up in a criminal groups plans after witnessing a murder, the film stars Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner.

Sometimes simplicity works and works really well, especially in the thriller genre and Green Room makes effective use of a basic premise and runs with it, taking things in interesting directions, you get right into the story and immediately get a feel for the main characters featured, they’re friends, carefree and a little bit messed up but you can tell they’re close. And with just a few lines of dialogue and a few scenes near the start, the plot establishes that rather than wasting time with overt hints or flashbacks and this speaks to the more understated and laid back style of direction present in the film.

Green Room doesn’t hold your hand or guide you as the story goes along but simply lays things out plainly as they are, as grim as they may be and it’s interesting to watch – though this may be frustrating for some viewers and understandably so, if you want more context for what’s going on or some more explanation, you may be a bit disappointed. The group of friends in the band have great chemistry and are completely believable as they are, with their distinct traits and some naturalistic interaction, Pat (the late Anton Yelchin) for example is calm, collected but also a bit anxious, really believably portraying his character. While Tiger (Callum Turner), appropriate to his name is a bit wild and unpredictable, the performances all around are pretty good and the casting is spot on, with a surprise turn for Patrick Stewart who plays boss Darcy.

Green Room works on a basic level because of its simplicity in drawing you in and engaging you with its plot – even if you’re already aware of the premise, you probably won’t guess how things turn out and finding out what happens next is all a part of the fun in a story with some interesting twists and turns. There’s a very visceral feel to the plot as things unfold unpredictably with the band mates trapped in the room as they try and figure a way out, you’re effectively on the edge of your seat as you see the present situation and wonder how it can possibly be resolved.

And the naturalistic approach to the film in things like dialogue and in the way it’s shot help to make a feeling of authenticity, as crazy as the plots events may be, with long unwavering shots of characters just talking or hanging out, you get more of a feel of the characters as normal people through this and it helps in sympathising with their situation later on. While other shots in the film are just really well done from landscape shots to minor things from scene to scene, this is great looking film. Green Room is an interesting beast, definitely not for everyone, some may see something profound in it and others may just enjoy it for its basic elements but for its’ worth, I found it to be an engaging thrill ride with interesting twists and turns.

7/10

. Great use of cinematography

. Viseral flow of plot events is engaging

. Has some solid performances especially Imogen Poots and Anton Yelchin

. Lack of exposition may frustrate some viewers

Warcraft – review

warcraft-2016

Warcraft is the most recent video game film (until Assassins Creed anyway) and is directed by Duncan Jones and based on the popular Warcraft video games of the same name in which warring factions of Orcs come together, fleeing their dying lands led by Goldan, the fallen, in search of better ones which leads them to clash with humans in the kingdom of Azeroth. The film stars Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbel, Robert Kazinsky.

Warcraft had a lot of hype and high hopes riding on it and a lot to live up to in terms of adaptation of the lore and game world from fans of the game I imagine but looking at it not as Warcraft fan but as just as a film fan, I think it does a pretty decent job of standing on its own as a decent enough summer blockbuster. Even if you’re not familiar with the locations, characters, magic etc of the lore, you do get guided into things, the Green orcs – more aggressive and bad, the Brown ones are more reasonable, the humans are good (mosty) and want to protect their kingdom but importantly you really don’t need to understand every in and out of Warcraft to understand the Good Vs Evil story, with some added nuance.

The plot is engaging right off the bat, quickly setting up the context of the film and its characters that are distinct and individual, although they make look the same on the surface, the Orcs for example have infighting and different personality traits and also visually look great, with some excellent use of mannerisms and expressiveness in some of them. While other visual aspects in the film also look really good from the magic effects to the high octane set pieces and the action is great with the spice that is the fantasy setting, towering Orcs, giant wolves, Griffins and magic make the fights a bit more interesting than a clash of swords and shields between two armies.

The story lays things outs simply enough and a little hand holding doesn’t hurt, even with exposition here and there though if you’re not a Warcraft fan, you may be wondering what X location or X random word that was just said is but that’s sort of to be expected coming into a world with years of story and lore. Exposition can’t really occur without mouthpieces/characters – and the characters are actually quite fleshed out and engaging to varying degrees, not all being completely good or completely evil, some have back stories that have bled into their presents and nuances that make them interesting, from the Guardian to Lothar. And this may come as an interesting surprise to you if you went into the film expecting a mindless, by the numbers blockbuster, the casting is also pretty solid by the way with some good voice acting for the Orcs and great fits for Lothar (Travis Fimmel), King Lane (Dominic Cooper), Garona (Paula Patton) and especially with Guardian Medivh (Ben Foster).

I say especially Ben Foster as he’s really grown into a great character actor and relishes the role with all its quirks and idiosyncrasies, bringing some interesting interaction between himself, Lothar and other characters, there’s also a nice dashing of levity/humour in places which helps to lighten the mood and keep things light in a plot with some dark themes, from class-ism to mass immigration to going against your own beliefs for the greater good. Warcraft, while not ground breaking is a huge leap in the right direction for video game films with an engaging story, a good set of characters and it stands on its own as a decent film with several fun, enjoyable aspects to it, it’s a good first film if it’s the start of a franchise and I’d love to see what may come next.

7/10

. Has some fantastic visuals, especially with the Orcs

. Brilliant, logical casting choices with some good performances

. Interesting, nuanced characters, themes and plot directions