Month: August 2016

September film preview

Well there goes summer eh! I know, far too soon…. but as the year winds down and we get into film awards season with summer hot on its heels, September is about to roll on in with a few interesting films on the way, here are a few to keep an eye out for. (US release dates by default).

 

Morgan – released on the 2nd of September

Directed by Luke Scott

Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor Joy, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie, Michelle Yeoh, Paul Giamatti.

Morgan is a Sci-fi thriller about a humanoid created and raised in a laboratory who goes rogue, as her creators and the government try to capture and stop her.

 

 

Sully – released on the 9th of September

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Autumn Reeser.

Biographical drama and re-telling of the true story of US airways flight 1549 that was landed in the Hudson river by pilot Chelsey Sullenburger just minutes after take off after engine failure.

 

Snowden – released on the 16th of September

Directed by Oliver Stone

Starring: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Scott Eastwood, Melissa Leo, Timothy Olyphant, Rhys Ifans.

Biographical drama following the controversial whistle blower Edward Snowden who leaked information from the NSA in 2013, we see his life and upbringing.

 

Blair Witch – released on the 16th of September

Directed by Adam Wingard

Starring: James Allen McCune, Valorie Curry, Callie Hernandez,

Blair Witch makes it return with Blair Witch, following the events of the Blair Witch Project, a group of college students venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland after the disappearance of James Donahues’ sister 20 years previously which was connected to the legend of the Blair Witch,

 

The Magnificent Seven – released on the 23rd of September

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hyun Lee, Manuel Garcia Rulfo.

The classic Western The Magnificent Seven gets a modern re-boot with this incarnation, following seven mercenaries/outlaws that band together to fight against oppression against the town of Rose Krick.

 

Deepwater Horizon – released on the 30th of September

Directed by Peter Berg

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien, Kate Hudson.

Biographical disaster drama based on the true events of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosio nadn oil spill in the gulf of Mexico.

Batman Begins review

Batman Begins is the start of Nolans’ acclaimed Batman trilogy and the only film in the series to have Batman in the title, random bit of trivia there and it’s about the story of Bruce Wayne and his journey to realizing himself as the Batman, we see the trauma he went through as a child witnessing his parents murder. And we see how he grew up as a bit of a special child with his fortune and solitude, eventually growing into a young and curious man, taking a journey of self discovery, training in martial arts and survival under Ra’as Ghul, as gets closer to creating the Batman persona.

The film stars an all star cast, including the brilliant Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, Liam Neeson, Michael Kane, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe and Morgan Freeman, with Bale in arguably his breakout role as Bruce Wayne, he’s a perfect fit in the role and envelopes the character with as much enthusiasm, charisma and integrity as you’d imagine Bruce Wayne to have. While Liam Neeson is equally brilliant as Ra’as, the immortal, cryptic leader of the league of assassins, who often has an alterior motive and questionable means to get things done, though he’s not strictly an evil character and is one of Batmans’ best villains. Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) also plays a big part in the story and plans to submerge Gotham into chaos with his fear Toxin, Murphy is great in the role and brings that level of controlled psychopathy that Scarecrow inhabit, while the other charactersare all well cast and great fits, especially Christian Bale as Batman. The plot is great and is very well paced, whizzing by as you watch it because it’s so engaging and entertaining, a testament to its’ great writing and Nolans’ excellent direction as Nolan tends to make engrossing dramas that are intertwined with other genres, from sci-fi to pyschological thrillers, focusing intently on characters, their ambitions, motivations and Begins is no exception

Batman Begins marks the start of the ‘gritty re-boot’ in superhero films, in the sense that films can be dark with brooding heroes and be hugely successful, though Batman Begins is dark, it’s not unrelentingly bleak and its’ highpoints are positive, it’s great to see Batman fighting to save Gotham and the exciting musical score accompanies fight sequences perfectly.

With Bruce donning the cape because Gotham is in a bad way, riddled with crime and without a symbol of justice or a hero that people could look up to. Batman Begins is a great film because it also hits its emotional highs and lows well which is a good thing for any action film, but especially for a comic book film, you sympathise for Bruce when he’s at his lowest, seeing his parents murder, doubting himself as an adequate symbol of justice for Gotham and cheer when he’s at his best, saving the day and being Batman in full flow. The characterization in the film is done very well and importantly, it really feels like a comic book film from the costumes, the street thugs reacting to Bruce when he’s finally Batman, to the great score for the film, everything is heightened to a degree and Gotham itself feels other worldly while still intentionally resembling New York, with its steaming alleyways and urban sprawl and looking visually great all the while.

All in all, Christopher Nolan crafted a believable and enjoyable introduction to his Batman and it’s a fantastic place to start, the characters are great, enthusiastic and well constructed, the action is also great, high tempo and great to watch and the story is still one of the best in any Batman film to date.

8/10

. Great performances throughout, especially from Bale and Neeson

. Brilliant score, matches the film well and adds atmosphere, tone

. Very well paced story, engaging throughout

Top 5 best films of 2016 so far

So we’re already 8 months into 2016 (where did the time go?) and we’ve seen a bit of a mix of movies, not a tonne of great ones in my opinion if I’m being honest but a few stand outs nonetheless so I thought I’d rank my favourites so far.

  1. Captain America: Civil War – 8.5/10

No major surprise here for me with my number one choice, Marvels formula continues to work its magic and after years of hype and build up, it payed off in an excellent way with arguably the best film in the MCU, even with having to manage a tonne of characters and a packed story, giving all of the characters something to do – which often involves fighting each other, in some phenomenal action sequences no less. And though the villain is a tad un-necessary some may say, the outcome is still impactful. There’s loss, weight to the events in the film and a feel of lasting effect as well to the previous films in the MCU that allows Civil War to be the more mature yet entertaining and fun thrill ride it is, with added new characters for good measure with the great Black Panther and an awesome cameo from Spiderman, bravo Marvel, bravo.

 

2. Deadpool – 7.5/10

Marvels other early in the year film was for all intents and purposes a smash hit, the long, long awaited faithful adaptation of the Merc with a mouth on the big screen was and is beloved and rightfully so, simply taking a character onto the big screen and having them be as they are, with great writing and humour and Ryan Reynolds taking on the role he was seemingly born to play. Aside from the comedy, the action’s also pretty great and the acting in general is solid, a very fun and entertaining flick.

 

3. Zootopia – 7.5/10

Disney nails it yet again with an entertaining, engaging and creative concept for an animated film that works on a lot of levels, a surprisingly deep story that keeps you interested throughout, it has some brilliant voice acting and great plays on mixed stereotypes of animals and how they would behave as anthropomorphic animals in a functional society. It’s a great family film but it also has things for the adults to get with its well played humour and surprisingly deep subtext while also being light and cute enough for the kids.

 

3. 10 Cloverfield Lane  – 7/10

10 Cloverfield Lane was just a bit of a surprise, a film announced out of nowhere that no one saw coming but a pleasant surprise it was, a taut and tense thriller with a chilling premise and plot that grips you and keeps you engaged for its duration, it has some great acting and pacing to keep you enthralled and guessing. Goodman brings a strong performance and play well alongside Mary Winstead who’s awesome in the weary, survivor girl type role.

 

4. The Nice Guys – 7/10

(I’ve seen this, will get a review out shortly!) Shane Blacks’ signature style oozes out in The Nice Guys in a flashy and entertaining buddy cop mystery comedy that works surprisingly well, with Gosling and Crowe making a great pairing, the humour comes thick and fast and overall hits the right notes while the plot keeps you engaged, it’s one of the more creative premises for a 2016 film and it paid off.

 

5.  Suicide Squad – 7/10

Yes… it’s actually in my top 5 and as you know it’s one of the most divisive films of the year but by jove is it not fun, a very well cast film, it’s a genuine thrill ride and Ayers imagining of the squad feels modern and grittier and it works, with some cool cameos thrown in there as well, it could have used more Joker but for what you get, it’s an entertaining romp. Admittedly the villain is a bit weak and cliché and aspects of the film feel as scattered as Harley Quinns’ train of thought but the positives outweigh the negatives for me overall to make it a film I look back on fondly.

Aliens review

Aliens is the 2nd outing in the Aliens franchise, released seven years after Alien, directed by James Cameron, the planet that housed the Aliens has been colonized but contact with a team based on it is lost and a team of marines is sent to investigate, the film stars Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Bill Paxton.

The xenomorph returns in Aliens, an out and out action film set on the homeworld of the Alien with an expansion of the world of Alien, more aliens and the return of action hero Ripley (Sigourney Weaver),  who is brought back into the action as part of a military team sent to investigate the base. Aliens is very much a blockbuster but it has the rare reputation of being a good action blockbuster, James Cameron took the premise of Alien and ran with it, making a creative expansion on the first film, the sequel feels distinctly different and still works as an action thriller.

While still having heavy features and elements of the horror genre with the xenomorphs still being terrifying and the humans having to go up against them, though with an advantage this time around of a lot of weapons to choose from, the side characters are a bit one dimensional but work for the story as a whole as they have enough personality there for you to care about them as the story goes on. Sigourney Weaver again gives a good performance in the film and brings believable fear and intensity to the role as Ripley, a pretty awesome overall character, she’s great in action scenes and is a believable as a character who’s again a bit out of her depth but grows in confidence as the plot goes on. while Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) and Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn) are memorable, fun characters. Biehn in particular relishes in the role, making another hit 80s action film collaboration with director James Cameron.

Aliens is also important for being a modern sci-fi action staple in terms of its tropes with its characters, a team of meathead space marines going on a mission and the action that ensues as a result of that and people have seen the film as inspiration for a lot of sci-fi video games since like Halo, Gears Of War for example, which just lends to how influential the film has been.

The pacing for the plot is also pretty good, even with the film clocking in at 137 minutes, it’s engaging throughout and only gets more tense as things go on and as we see more and more xenomorphs, one alone was terrifying enough as we know but as it turns out, several xenomorphs doesn’t necessarily remove the tension or make things less scary. Aliens is a great action film with a well structured plot, a fun set of characters and the return of both Ripley and the xenomorph in a different, interesting way.

8/10

. Takes a vastly different direction from Alien and still works

. Has some well worked tense scenes

. Has some good performances

We need to talk about the DCEU

So I just saw Suicide Squad the other day as you can tell with my recent review and wait… no, no, no, no, no, no, no (mama mia mama mia), 27% on Rotten tomatoes, really? Did I see the same film as the majority of film critics, do people really think it was that bad? I mean seriously, it’s nowhere near as bad as the worst films of the year, Gods of Egypt et al and come on, 27% is pretty freaking low. I’m making this post to raise a point, the DC live action films get a bad wrap generally speaking bar Christopher Nolans’ hallowed trilogies but the recent entries in the DCEU are all critically tanking and you have to wonder why.

A plethora of reasons you may add, Zack Snyder, not staying true to characters comic book roots, lens flare, dark, gritty and boring characters etc but even with all of the above, what’s really lead to Suicide Squad having a 27% on Rotten tomatoes, Batman V Superman having also having 27% and Man of Steel having a 55%, sure these films are divisive and maybe not all that great. But to come out and say they’re all without question that bad is one – clearly an exaggeration and two – probably a process influenced by pre-conceived thoughts, what I’m saying, is that I think DC films are being judged on two scales, as they are as individual films and because of DC films reputations.

Honestly it’s just not the same for Marvel and Marvel has to be a part of this conversation, whose films are all generally liked, even the stinkers like Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and The Incredible Hulk (08) which I think Suicide Squad is better and easily more enjoyable than, in fact Thor: The Dark World is the weakest film in the MCU by far and it still has 66%, which is ridiculous. Yes Marvel does tend to make better quality films and they’ve perfected a formula for entertaining flicks that are blockbuster successes but they’re not flawless and the MCU definitely isn’t. So either DC and Marvel are being judged on different scales or DC simply makes films the majority of people hate – which I think is blatantly untrue, critics maybe but audiences at large? No.

Moreover, there seems to be an ever growing divide between the critics and the fans, the fans tend t like the DC films more while the critics vote in the opposite direction, there is a slight divide with Marvel fans and critics but they tend to skew towards the same view in most cases, so why does DC tend to be the outlier? Their films have high production values, great casts and all the right things to be successes but they seem to fail every time and hell, even though I’ll admit they haven’t been knocking it out of the park, I just feel like everything they make is overly criticised and savaged by people in almost an internet mob mentality. To put it out as simply as can be, if Marvel and DC both made a very similar film thematically, structurally and tonally and released them around the same time, the Marvel film just would get higher ratings and you know it would – and that’s a problem, the Marvel film may be better sure but so could the DC film. We saw this, this year even with BVS and Civil War, though Civil War had several films to come off of in an established universe and BVS just had Man of Steel and a tonne to set up, so it is what it is.

But when it really comes down to it, reputation and prejudice absolutely play a part in reviews for critics at large I feel and that influences how critics review, in an ideal world we’d all review films objectively with no influences on our thoughts but that’s not really possible and I think critics are letting a bit of Marvel favouritism show and it’s not great news for comic book films or reviewing as a whole. People can defend their views by saving X film was this, this and this but the thing they probably won’t admit is that they go into these DC films already expecting the worst and disliking the properties based on past films reputations, it’s a shame that DC’s having to fight an up hill battle with people already doubting them before they’ve seen their new stuff but I think that’s the way things are.

Are people, critics and general movie goers judging DC films a bit more because of their reputation? Yes probably, Does DC need to twice as hard to get even half as good ratings as Marvel films? Absolutely, is it fair? No, but I think it needs to be pointed out because it’s just gotten a tad ridiculous, the fanboy-ish love and hate over DC and Marvel films needs to be eased down and we need some perspective and rational thinking. Not every new DC or Marvel film is the worst thing ever or the best thing ever, things can be okay and that’s…. okay, I’m sure DC will make that gem of a film in due course but until then, can we get some more reasonable thinking and not toss out extremely skewed views like free candy? Maybe not, but hey that’s my opinion, agree, disagree? Feel free to let me know.

Suicide Squad review

Suicide Squad is a comic book film directed by David Ayer based on the DC comic series of the same name, centred around a group of misfit and expendable mercenaries/villains that are put together by Amanda Waller in order to take on near impossible, dangerous missions. The film stars Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje.

David Ayer embraces the filthy with Suicide Squad, playing up on the attributes of the characters at hand and giving them a more… gritty, modern feel which honestly works for the most part, especially with Capt Boomerang (Jai Courtney) who’s surprisingly actually pretty good overall  and genuinely funny and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). These updated adaptations work because they’re so well played out by a excellently assorted cast t I might add, Will Smith as Deadshot raised eyebrows at first but he nails the role with a nice combination of confidence, humour and driven focus towards his goals, similarly Margot Robbie is a perfect fit for Harley Quinn, nailing her unpredictability and waywardness. On the whole everyone pretty much brings good performances and it’s fun to see such strong willed characters interact, Jared Leto especially as the Joker is an acquired taste but I enjoyed his adaptation, he’s intimidating, wild and utterly believable as form of the Joker though this adaptation definitely isn’t for everyone and may feel a bit too ‘gangster’ for some.

The film is a barrage of fun, a thrill ride that’s brought on primarily because of the characters, their interactions and their nature in being villains, it’s intriguing to watch this group of people that aren’t necessarily driven to do good, ‘do good’ and be set on a mission and you’re curious to see how things pan out and the story doesn’t disappoint. While not being perfect, things are definitely rushed in places in relation to June Moon/Enchantress and her journey and there is far too little Joker for my liking but the exploration of Deadshot and Harley Quinn we do get is fairly good. The plot is fast paced, seeming to fly by with barely a moment to stop and take a breath which you could accuse of being rushed but I feel it fits the non-stop action and fever pitch tone of the film and too many breaks in the action would have made it harder to watch in my opinion.

That being said, the quieter and more intimate moments that are in there take you surprise in their depth and placement, these characters are flawed, traumatized or just flat out crazy like Capt Boomerang but they are the way they are because of their past and certain events, not just being villains because they’re ‘bad’. Giving dimensions to bad guys and seeing their rationale when they’re left to it makes for pretty interesting viewing, when you get to see these people justify…. or not justify their actions, relate to each other and reminisce on their pasts.

And there’s also fair amount of well done set pieces showcasing the characters attributes, Deadshots’ excellent aim, Killer Crocs physique and Katanas’… katana skills, seeing the diverse group of characters just do their thing their own way is great to watch. Suicide Squad on the whole is just a lot of fun with good set pieces, great character interaction amongst the squad and some strong performances with some good cameos peppered in there some plot points are rushed and the villain felt a bit shoehorned in for the sake of a big final act but the plot is still engaging and a bit of a thrill ride.

7/10

. Fun, engaging plot, fast pacing suits the tone

. Great performances from Smith, Robbie, Davis and everyone else is generally good

. Some plot points are rushed and feel shoehorned in, cliché villain

Warm Bodies review

Jonathan Levine directs Warm Bodies, based on the novel by Isaac Marion, centred on an unlikely bond formed between a zombie and normal human, leading to a set of unforeseen events, the film stars Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Rob Corddry and Dave Franco. Warm Bodies is a zombie film with a difference and a premise that sets it apart straight away, humans survive in a world with zombies but the zombies themselves also live in fear of feral, wilder zombies who can eat them and anything else they want to.

The world set up here is an interesting one with its take on zombie fiction and its own lore and it’s a credit to an ambitious idea which aims to expand on a popular sub genre, the story may feel a bit familiar of course, a sort of twisted tale of Romeo and Juliet but it’s still executed well and makes for an engaging plot. From the contrasting world of the humans and the zombies to their ongoing war, the world created here is alive and feels fresh. While the characters get brought to life by some pretty good performances, the expressive and emotional Nicholas Hoult plays against type as the zombie R, dead and emotionless though he does get to change things up as the plot progresses, while Theresa Palmer is brilliant as Juliet, enthusiastic, hopeful and a morally good person. Making for some interesting contrast with some rather unlikeable characters like Perry, played by Dave Franco, the zombies are the villains as seen by people but people can also be pretty awful and that point is sort of made in the story.

There’s a fair amount of comedy present as well in the plot, a decidedly lighter tone zombie film of course with the use of voiceovers for R, funny situations characters find themselves in and humorous dialogue between characters, even R and M (Rob Corddry) as zombies have some funny, non-verbal scenes and good chemistry. And Warm Bodies works as a comedy and a fun, enjoyable watch, with some darker, serious moments as well peppered in the story which don’t necessarily feel too out of place either, bringing a nice balance to things. And despite the generally warm, light tone to the film, you do get reminded of the situation and that humans and zombies can’t really co-exist, the plot expands on the rules of its own world as it progresses, culminating in a conclusion that may feel a bit too predictable and sentimental to some, but I think it’s fitting for this type of story. There’s an interesting emotional core to the story with R and Juliets’ fledgling romance and you do really root for them all the way.

And despite feeling like a story you’ve seen before, Warm Bodies is still a fun watch and a spin on the traditional forbidden love story, with some great performances and good writing to make an overall fun romp.

7/10

. Interesting set of characters

. Good writing, fun dialogue

. Predictable but engaging plot

I, Robot review

Isaacs Asimovs classic, inventive sci-fi story gets a modern update in this film directed by Alex Proyas as anti-tech cop investigates a murder that might have been committed by a robot, leading to potentially drastic implications for humanity and its relationship with robots, the film stars Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Tudyk.

I, Robot is a wonderfully intriguing premise for a Sci-fi story and the OG of the robot uprising/killer robot sub-genre in Sci-fi, in Asimovs world, robots, now servants to humans and prolific in society are governed by three laws. “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”.

And from there the films premise sort of takes root, set in 2035 as we follow Del Spooner (Will Smith) as he goes about his future cop business, investigating a potential crime committed by a robot which of course brings into question robots, their sentience and how dangerous they potentially could be. I, Robot is quite action packed though despite the themes and it’s very much a hollywood adaptation but that’s not entirely a bad thing, Will Smith is great in the leading role and brings his signature humour and mannerisms to the role, along with some good dramatic chops, acting alongside Bridget Moynahan as another main character Susan Calvin. On the whole the performances are fairly good in the film which is a bit odd to say as one of the important characters is the robot Sonny, voiced by the ever enthusiastic Alan Tudyk who does a great job. And as far as visuals go, the film did a good job and the AIs in the film have a quite a distinct and memorable design with a humanoid design that looks eerily unfinished.

One good thing about the film is the world building it does, quickly setting things up and showing you the future and the state of things, which do take an interesting turn as the story progresses, there are faults here though as typical action clichés rear their head and with some one dimensional characters and some cheesy acting. That being said, I, Robot isn’t a film I’d ever say was dull, with some frenetic future action and visually interesting looking action sequences between Del and the robots who are faster and stronger than any human. The film isn’t as impactful drama wise in its execution of the story as say Minority Report is, also being based on an iconic sci-fi story but it is an engaging and visually packed film with some interesting ideas, once again playing on humanities fears of being usurped and overthrown by its own creation.

7/10

. Plot is well worked, goes on interesting routes

. Has some good visuals, interesting robot design

. Will Smith is a great leading man

August film preview

So I’ve been on holiday this past week but never got to post the August film preview before I left at the end of July, alas we’re only a week into the the new month and I always want to get my month preview posts out so why not. Summer film season is still in full swing as we draw further into the 2nd half of the year and there are some doosies on the way… P.S. I never say that word but yeah, here are a few to look out for.

Suicide Squad – released on the 5th of August (it’s already out but hey)

Directed by David Ayer

Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Scott Eastwood, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.

DCs latest cinematic entry sees the bad guys, mercenaries and villains put together and forced to go on a a dangerous mission for the government due to their special abilities, though how well they’ll be able to get along if at all or how things will go is another question entirely, based on the Suicide Squad comics of the same name.

 

Petes’ Dragon – released on the 12th of August

Directed by David Lowery

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence.

Live action re-boot of the classic film Petes’ Dragon sees the titular Pete who’s been living in the wods with a dragon called Elliot get found by a forest ranger who seeks to help him and find out about his identity and past, while a hunter plans to encroach into the forest and capture Elliot.

 

Ben-Hur – released on the 19th of August

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Tobby Kebbel, Jack Huston, Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi.

Modern re-boot of the classic period drama of the same name sees Judah Ben-Hur who was falsely accused of a murder attempt and after suffering years of slavery under Roman law, seeks to get revenge via a chariot race against his adoptive brother while his life gets changed by experiences with Jesus Christ.

 

War Dogs – released on the 19th of August

Directed by Todd Phillips

Starring: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller.

Drama based on a true story about two American arms dealers who get a contract to supply weapons for the US army in Afghanistan and their ups, downs and mishaps along the way.

 

Don’t Breathe – released on the 26th of August

Directed by Fede Alvarez

Starring: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Stephen Lang.

Thriller about teenage friends who endeavour to get some money decide to break into the house of a blind man as they believe he has stashed money in his basement but things take a turn as the resident turns out to not be as helpless as is first thought.