Month: October 2016

November film preview

So yeah, I kinda missed the October film preview which was a shame but I was determined to get back on track and do one for the remaining two months of 2016 (where did the year go?), with Oscar contender season in full swing now, the big hitters are on the way as is possibly the potentially biggest film of the year revenue wise in Rogue One. The weather’s starting to get frightful but the films are so delightful…. wait that’s a jingle more for December right? Well anyway, here are some prominent November films to come! (Going with US release dates by default)

Hacksaw Ridge – released on the 3rd of November

Directed by Mel Gibson

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn.

Biographical war drama based on the real life and real life story of pacifist/non-conscientious objector, army medic Desmond T Doss who served in the US military during WWII an his exploits, having refused to use weapons at all during his time on duty, eventually saving the lives of dozens of his comrades and receiving the medal of honour from president Harry S Truman.

 

Doctor Strange – release on the 4th of November (US release date, already out in a number of countries)

Directed by Scott Derrickson

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Michael Stuhlbarg.

Doctor Strange, an origin film on Steven Strange and how he becomes the sorcerer supreme, being a former world renown surgeon who loses his ability to work after a car accident and goes on a journey of self discovery in the intent of finding a cure and a new way of life, in south east Asia, he comes across a new dimension of possibilities and realms.

 

Arrival – released on the 11th of November

Directed by Denis Villenueve

Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma, Mark O’Brien.

Sci-fi drama depicting the scenario and outcome of people making, well attempting to make contact with alien species who inexplicably arrive on Earth in several mysterious spacecraft and as everyone seeks answers, a linguist, mathematician and US army colonel are brought on board to try and decipher the aliens intentions and make contact with them before potential war breaks out over the aliens presence.

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them – released on the 18th of November

Directed by David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne,  Colin Farrel, Jon Voight, Katherine Waterstone, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller.

Harry Potter spin off set in 1920s New York  in the same Wizarding world, the story follows magician Newt Scamander who sets about on a mission to find and capture magical beasts that are out loose in the city causing chaos, while darker forces are out at play.

 

Nocturnal Animals – released on the 18th of November

Directed by Tom Ford

Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gylenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laure Linney.

Nocturnal Animals is a psychological thriller following Susan Morrow, an art gallery owner who is haunted by her ex husbands’ novel, which she perceives as a veiled threat to her.

 

Manchester by the Sea  – released on the 18th of November

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Starring: Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams, Matthew Broderick.

Drama following Lee Chandler, now taking care of his deceased brothers child while dealing with his ex wife and th community he lives in.

 

Moana – released on the 23rd of November

Directed by Ron Clements and Jon Musker

Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Temuera Morrison, Nicole Sherzinger, Alan Tudyk.

Animated film set on the island of Polynesia, we see the life of perky navigator Moana who teams up with the God Maui and sets about on a journey to discover a mysterious fabled island.

Evil Dead (2013) review

Evil Dead is a remake of Sam Raimis’ original Evil Dead, the first film in the series without Bruce Campbell or Sam Raimi. It’s a supernatural horror film, directed by Fede Alvarez, the setting is more or less the same with a group of teenagers venturing to a cabin in the woods and unwittingly uncovering an ancient incantation which unleashes supernatural forces on them all. The film stars Shiloh Fernandez, Jane Levy, Jessica Lucas.

Even for being a remake, a type of film much maligned and almost never well received, Evil Dead was surprisingly good, it doesn’t make itself out to be a film that does something drastically new with the story or take things in a weird direction but it works with what it has and is a pretty well crafted horror film, much like the original Evil Dead. With a great cast, helmed by a great performance from Jane Levy as Mia who is very emotive and expressive, the rest of the cast is also good and really sell the terror that the characters have in various elaborate situations they get caught up in.

Being a modern, updated film, the effects are better and look great, great as in disgusting of course as this is Evil Dead and some scenes are pretty horrific and done well with an impressive use of practical effects and actor dedication as well, Jane Levy really puts in a great shift to do some things. And the plot is faithful to the original as well, with some re-created scenes which are done in a good way and aren’t exactly shot for shot re-made, the new effects work well in showing the new spirits and forces and add a sense of genuine terror to proceedings.

And while the plot isn’t drastically changed or altered, it still works as an engaging and interesting story, which hits its emotional highs and is pretty tense in its other moments with some great shots which emphasize the characters paranoia and them not quite knowing what’s going on, the rule of less is more should always be followed in horror, even more overt supernatural horror like Evil Dead. And interestingly in the case of the film, even when the more is being shown, it’s still scary, menacing and it works, much to the directors credit, Evil Dead is a rare case in being a good remake and it works as a good horror film that does the original film a good homage, not veering off wildly from the original plot and staying faithful, without dull and uninspired.

7/10

. Good use of practical effects

. Has some great performances

. Engaging plot

28 Days Later review

28 Days Later is a horror film, directed by Danny Boyle, set in the UK, after a large amount of the population is infected Rage virus, an incurable illness which turns people into homicidal, raging individuals, set four weeks (or 28 days) after the onset of the virus, the story follows people in London, setting about trying to survive and find a place to survive in.

The film stars Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Toby Sedgwick, David Schneider and is a film driven by a few performances, Murphy especially in his breakout role, the film isn’t full of huge name actors and that does contribute to the story feeling a bit more visceral and gritty in a way, the lack of A-list actors not taking away from the film at all. The plot is gripping and very much a thrill ride, following Jim (Cillian Murphy) as he wakes up in a hospital and comes to terms with the state of London and the existence of Rage infected people in a very visceral way, coming across some of them and running for his life. Murphy is the blank slate for the audience and the shoes to imagine yourself in and his experience is pretty bleak, you want the guy to survive and empathise with him being so in the dark in the situation (as you the viewer are), so you naturally root for him and feel attached to the character.

In the way the film is shot, Danny Boyle crafts a tense and stripped back take on the traditional zombie film, though the infected in this series don’t eat people and just kill them because they’re so driven to kill because of the virus, that in itself is a nuance for the zombie genre and it’s done well. 28 Days Later is an excellent example of less being more in telling a story, exposition is there as the story goes on, but initially you’re as clueless and as Jim is, not knowing what’s happening now or where everyone is, though you do get an overview of the story at the start. The mystery is still highlighted in the films’ iconic and haunting scenes of an abandoned, decrepit Central London.

Also in simply getting shots like that, Danny Boyle shows the amount of time and effort that was put into the film, effort which is also seen in the infected who are pretty terrifying, distinctly human and not shuffling around like zombies, they sprint like Olympic athletes and are all over unprotected people in seconds, presenting a formidable threat. The film is pretty gory to say the least but not gratuitously, you very much understand and see what the infected do when they get their hands on a non-infected and that fact alone makes them pretty terrifying, with scenes being shot to reflect the infecteds’ sheer rage and manic rush people have to get away from them during an encounter. Scenes with attacks have fast cuts and shaky cam, as if there’s an invisibly bystander witnessing what’s going on, drawing the viewer further into the scene and giving you an over the shoulder view of the action, while we also get to see sweeping wide shots of an empty, inactive London, with the only action being the infected chasing people which makes for a stark contrast.

Their speed plus the well done makeup in the film contribute to their sheer presence being so menacing, seeing non-infected characters out in the open and facing them, you know something’s about to go down and seeing how people react to the infected and try to get away is always gripping and tense.

28 Days is modern horror at its’ best with a clear, menacing threat, a great story and continual foreboding sense of terror and tension maintained throughout the story, while the story itself is interesting and very much an emotional roller coaster.

8/10

. Great performances in the film

. Fantastically shot film, captures the tension in scenes

. Very intense, gripping scenes

The Awakening review

The Awakening is a horror film set in England in 1921, with a grief stricken population following the losses of WWI, a skeptic hoax exposer sets about disproving ghosts are haunting a boarding school but seen comes to realize that things may not be as they seem, the film stars Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton.

A horror film with a pretty old school feel to it, not just because it’s set almost 100 years ago, there’s a very appealing to the yes production value to The Awakening and it’s shot beautifully, showing the pristine lakes and vast interiors of the manor setting in the plot, not to forget the costumes which are well crafted and and help to suspend your disbelief if the story being set in 1921. The visual style also helps in creating some of the scares as things go on as everything feels very ‘real’, especially with this being a period horror film, without digital cameras, the internet and so on, the scares feel a bit more authentic in a sense, with close attention to creaking floorboards, weird looking walls and so on as the mystery of the story unfolds. And Florence (Rebecca Hall) investigates just what is really going on, you want to find out as much as she does and the way things are presented reveals snippets of info to the audience, while keeping them guessing. With some strong performances on the whole in the film, Rebecca Hall especially is fantastic and believable in her how she portrays her characters arc and development from start to finish, fully engrossing her role.

The plot is one that isn’t entirely new with the sceptic turned believer horror trope in a ghost story but it does feel fairly fresh in the way the film presents it and with its visual style and not really relying on jump scares or overtly showing ghosts and ghouls to try and scare the audience but implying something’s just around the corner or behind a character. There’s something inherently scary about ghosts and un-seen things with no explanation that the plot taps into and explores in an interesting way, at the start with the idea of spiritual mediums and them being all scams for one and just the idea that the supernatural may just be real, something characters like Florence has to confront.

And we see exactly that in some scenes in which we can see more than Florence for example, leading to some pretty tense situations, these get played out effectively as the plot builds its tension and spreads out its scares, not lumping everything in the final third or taking half the film for anything to happen. This is a credit to the good structuring of the plot as a whole with some great pacing and great execution of the story, investigation of the central mystery, its unravelling and of course the revelations that come in a conclusion you may not necessarily see coming.

7/10

. Great performance from Rebecca Hall, good performances all around

. Good execution of the story, plot plays out engagingly

. Effective scares, tension building

28 Weeks Later review

Juan Carlos Frenadillo directs the sequel to Danny Boyles gritty 28 Days Later, set in London 6 months after the outbreak of the rage virus as part of the US army helps a portion of London to try and settle and start over but things go awry, the film stars Jeremy Renner, Rose Byrne, Robert Carlyle, Idris Elba, Harold Perrineau.

28 Weeks definitely feels like a 28… film and carries over techniques from 28 Days in creating effective tension and an unsettling atmosphere but the tone feels a bit different, things feel more expanded story wise as we focus on a group of characters this time around, all trying to survive in London with the rage virus always looming and admittedly later on things take an action oriented slant with quite a few shoot outs, explosions and mass panic.

But something that’s great about the film is that it starts off with a pretty thrilling scene, reminding us of the world that 28 Days set up with its manic infected who would give Usain Bolt a good run for his money in a 100 m sprint, which is part of why they’re so terrifying of course, that and the fact they they never seem to stop or get tired. 28 Weeks set up is quite good though and somewhat of a logical follow up to the world that gets set up and seeing how the military would deal with the situation was a nice touch, things seem under control and regulated as they would, but you know not everything will go exactly according to plan.

There are some effective scares throughout, though the film does take a while to really get going, opening scene aside, which isn’t a bad thing as we get introduced to characters and get some decent drama and build up to inevitable action. This time around there’s a more militaristic approach to how we see the infected and the situation as a whole and that angle in the story was an interesting one, contrasted with how some civilians living in the safe zone viewed the situation, the performances in the film are solid enough with Rose Byrne and Robert Carlyle in particular standing out, you could view Carlyle as the Cillian Murphy of 28 Weeks and he’s a great sympathetic character to get behind and follow.

And though this is a more expanded, action oriented sequel, the infected are still pretty scary and haven’t changed all that much, we simply see a lot more of them and really get a feel of the outbreaks’ wide reach, the action sequences are quite tense and well done. You never quite know if characters will make it through them and even when you think you do, things happen that the plot in sharp left turns, probably leaving you thinking “did… that just happen?”. A good thing in a film like this as you want to be kept guessing and entertained in what is an overall thrilling and decent lead on from the world set up in 28 Days.

7/10

. Interesting expansion of the world of 28 Days Later

. Effective, tense scenes involving the infected

. Plot is engaging, can be predictable in parts but also has shocking moments.

Kung Fu Hustle review

Kung Fu Hustle is an action comedy directed by Stephen Chow, set in Shanghai in the 1940s, a wannabe gangster joins the Axe gang while an impoverished estate is beset on by the criminal gang, who run into some surprising residents there, the film stars Stephen Chow, Xiaogang Feng, Wah Yuen.

Kung Fu Hustle is a very… interesting, quirky film, you may not necessarily have seen it and it occupies the quite limited niche of kung fu, action comedies, pretty much from the offset coming out with noticeable quirkiness and style, jokes come through thick and fast, the Axe gang set about doing a dance number as they terrorize some locals and while this is all very sudden, it immediately sets the tone for the film to come. You shouldn’t expect anything serious from the story and even for a comedy, some aspects feel a bit over the top in the same vein of the Airplane comedies, if I had to compare the film to anything, jokes are quick in succession, the characters ignore the absurdity of certain events and events can get more elaborate and ridiculous as the plot progresses.

The main plot follows Stephen Chow as Sing, aspiring to be gangster, coming across the axe gang and then the residential estate where a large portion of the events of the film take place in, Chow’s good in the role and plays off well with his friend Bone, who doesn’t get to do that much but makes for some good comic relief, on the whole the performances are good with most of them being played pretty straight and some seriously. This makes a bit of a contrast, seeing the more serious characters in such an over the top comedy but again that adds to the humour when you come across the landlords/kung fu masters and the character of the beast and their abilities. A big element of why this film is so memorable and entertaining is of course the irreverent humour, self aware and referential (Matrix jokes here and there) also the actually quite well done action, fight sequences aren’t that long but are fast and well choreographed, making for some great set pieces as supernatural elements, abilities and powers are also featured.

And even with this being an out and out comedy, it ha some of the most memorable action sequences in a martial arts film for me personally.

In a sense, the film feels like a parody of wire-fu, those Wu-xia films that have characters superhumanly flying everywhere, as characters here leap several metres, stop bullets and are generally a bit supernatural but without any real context or back story behind any of the characters bar Sing, it just sort of makes sense and makes for all the more entertaining action. That being said there isn’t much of a story here and that may bother some, without much explanation for characters abilities or their current situations but that fact didn’t really bother me and I enjoyed watching what was presented. Kung Fu Hustle is a fun romp, not remotely serious, a bit light on story but genuinely funy, fast paced and endless entertaining, this may not be for everyone but if you’re a fan of Wu-xia and kung fu, you’ll probably get a kick out of it.

7.5/10

. Great action set pieces, well choreographed fights

. Genuinely funny, well worked humour

. Engaging, well pace plot

Taken review

Liam Neeson stars in this action thriller, directed by Pierre Morrel, about a retired CIA agent who has to tap into his specific set of skills in order to save his daughter, who is kidnapped while on holiday in Paris with her parents, the film stars Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser.

Taken follows a familiar feeling plot layout for an action thriller involving a kidnapping but it does something different, that different thing is Bryan Mills, a modern cowboy in a sense, Neeson is really well cast as Mills and makes for a pretty badass fighter. While the rest of the cast is also good, Bryans family unit is believable and Maggie Grace is great as Kim, really selling the emotional ordeal that she goes through which makes you sympathize with her and root for Bryan.

The film works because of its well crafted action, tense and frenetic, it’s shot in a way that plainly shows you the gritty, brutality of one on one combat so yeah the film is quite violent but never needlessly so and surprisingly Neeson makes a pretty good action star, sparring off well against the bad guys which results in some exciting set pieces.  The fights themselves are well choreographed and pretty much all pretty tense, even though you can expect Bryan to get through them and despite expectations you may have while you watched, you’ll likely still be gripped nonetheless and that’s a credit to the film as it has an interesting plot. And while the bad guys are cookie cutter henchmen and throwaway characters for the most part, even they are made to serve a purpose and made to look extra vile and bad, to make you want the Bryan to win all the more, Neeson just naturally has a sort of calming and trustworthy aura about him and this translates to the screen with him as Bryan, being a character you root for the whole way.

Neeson is very much the cult action hero these days and Taken is the film that properly launched him in that sort of role, it works a a tense action thriller and is an engaging watch despite its predictable plot, of course spawning Taken 2 and Taken 3 which developed on how people in Bryans’ family could be taken in even more elaborate ways.

7.5/10

. Good performances

. Very well done action scenes

. Engaging plot

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 teaser trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mis9MVfT66k

So this kinda came out of nowhere but yeah, we have our first official look at Guardians 2, very much in a similar vein to Guardians 1 or prime (however you want to call it) with ‘Hooked on a feeling’ playing, but things seem a bit more sombre and serious this time around, as we see various members of the guardians doing their thing in a few scenes and yes, former ravager Yondu is now a Guardian and we see him with Rocket.

We also see Nebula as well as Drax and Gamora but no Baby Groot…. of course not, he’s right near the end on Rockets’ shoulder.

Anyway the tone is not all serious and the latter half shows us some of the levity and banter you can expect, with Drax telling Peter Quill some home truths, though there does look to be a fair amount of action as well from the short snippets we can see. On the whole while we really don’t see a lot from this and while it is just a teaser, it’s looking pretty good and is a upcoming film that I’ve been anticipating for a while. I have full faith James Gunn has done a good job with this anticipated sequel and it should be a blast, where it will rank in the MCU and how it will compare to Guardians 1 however, remains to be seen but I have high hopes.

The Wolf Of Wall Street review

Martin Scorcese directs The Wolf Of Wall Street, a biographical drama and true story about the life of Jordan Belfort, his rise to dizzying success and riches as a stock broker and his involvement in crime, corruption and lifestyle of hedonism, the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal.

Scorcese is a master at crafting epic dramas and The Wolf Of Wall Street is no exception, almost feeling like a modern day gangster story but without the gangsters as we follow the life of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he discovers shares in the 80s and quickly rises to prominence and vast wealth, his story is a fascinating one brought entertainingly to life by Scorcese and a stellar cast. With DiCaprio definitely stealing the show in a great performance, humorous, emotional and often intense, he’s a great embodiment of the person that Jordan Belfort supposedly was like at the time, while his best friend Donnie (Jonah Hill) is pretty consistently funny and surprisingly good in a more dramatic role for himself, working well with DiCaprio in a lot of scenes.

Jordan Belforts’ relationships are an important aspect of the story and we see how he struggles to stay faithful to the women in his life, especially with him relating to Naomi (Margot Robbie) who is awesome in her breakout role, being more than a match for DiCaprio as Belfort, the two of them have a rocky ride to say the least but a believable and entertaining ride to say the least.

Scorcese works well in depicting the insane, crazy world with no limits that some of the super rich in America actually lived in, in times gone by, expertly directed to emphasize the things that Belfort and his cohorts did, not necessarily glorifying or demonizing their actions in my view but just showing a depiction of events that happened and leaving the audience to judge for themselves – something which I think is a sign of intelligent directing. Some of the events presented are pretty crazy and borderline ‘unrealistic’ which highlights the hedonism and extremes certain people in that industry live to in the 80s and while you watch, you’re probably well along for the ride because of the great storytelling, put together by Scorceses’ deft touch.

Most of the good, memorable scenes couldn’t have worked without DiCaprio being so good, in the scenes without narration or music, he brings that intensity and you can really feel it, while in other scenes the writing shines in its comedic value. The writing as a whole for the film is fantastic and works well to serve the characters and each scene, the dialogue between characters feels like real people talking about things, albeit things rich stockbrokers would have talked about and the conversations between the authorities and Jordan Belfort are also great to watch. That yacht scene between DiCaprio and Kyle Chandler springs to mind, with some palpable intensity and tension.

The plot is great because it really gets you invested in the characters that it presents, whether you love or hate Belfort and what he’s doing, you care and you want to find out what happens next and as things go on, seeing the things that he goes through, you will feel something one way or the other. And while being very long and maybe feeling like it drags a bit at the end, the story is brilliant and very well portrayed via the expert mind and craftsmanship of Scorcese.

8/10

. Plot is engaging throughout despite the 180 minute runtime

. Has some fantastic performances, especially DiCaprio, Hill

. The more dramatic and emotional moments hit well, good blend of humour with drama as well

Warrior review

Warrior, directed by Gavin O’Connor is a sports drams centred on mixed martial arts as the son of a former boxer is put through his paces, training in MMA and excelling at it, fast becoming renowned for his talent, he ends up clashing with his estranged older brother, the film stars Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo.

The film is a great character drama, driven by the differing lives and situations of the two brothers, Brendan (Joel Edgerton) and Tommy (Tom Hardy) and their relationship to their recovering alcoholic father Paddy (Nick Nolte), Tommy is a returning US marine who unintentionally gets attention drawn to himself after he enters the ring and shows his skills, he gets into MMA after learning about a $5,000,000 prize for the tournaments winner. While his brother, a high school physics teacher, Brendan is struggling to pay the bills and provide for his family, after being suspended from the school he takes in amateur fights for money and eventually works his way into MMA.

The characters relationships in the film are they key to it being such a great drama and the Conlon family is dysfunctional to say the least, the two brothers aren’t on good terms and the conflict between them is palpable, while the two of them in their own way are very driven individuals and focused on succeeding in their new dedication – MMA. And while the fight scenes are well done and great to watch, seeing the characters really dedicate their time to training and fighting is good, knowing the stakes that exist for them both and what the money could do for them, the story really has a good emotional payoff and is quite tense in some scenes, knowing either of them could do badly and get beaten, though you know Tommy probably won’t as he’s just a beast in the ring.

There are some pretty great performances in Warrior though, delivered by Edgerton and Hardy especially who really envelope their roles and seem quite dedicated, the both of them having trained extensively for months in real life to nail the moves and get the physique. And fittingly, the fights in the film are intense and in your face, with effective use of filming to importantly allow you to see everything that’s going on and not get a shaky-cam feel to the action, you feel every hit and get close ups of characters after they get hit, emphasizing the physicality and intensity of the sport. Also the plot develops in an engaging way, being slightly unbelievable with Tommy just blazing past everyone but you really want to see how things pan out and who wins the tournament, Brendan and Tommys’ final fight is a great emotional pay off and nudges the film to a satisfying emotional crescendo and conclusion Warrior overall is a great drama with brilliant performances, a captivating story shot well which is engaging from the offset.

8/10

. Intense performances from Hardy, Edgerton

. Great fight scenes

. Interesting story