Month: December 2016

January film preview

2016 is a year I think we’d much rather all forget and as we look towards the next 365 days to come, here are a few prominent films coming out in January in what will hopefully be a great year for film, let’s see what January has in store! (US release dates by default). Happy new year guys! See you all in 2017.

Underworld: Blood Wars – released on the 8th of January

Directed by Anna Foerster

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Laura Pulver, Peter Anderson

The final film in the Underworld series sees a return to Selenes’ (Beckinsales’) world as vampires they continue to wage war against lycans, a few individuals seek to use her and her daughter with the aim of ending the war between the two sides for good.

 

Split – released on the 20th of January

Directed by M. Night shyamalan

Starring: James Mcavoy, Anna Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley.

Drama and thriller by Shyamalan, centred on three teenage girls who are kidnapped and held captive by a man with a split personality disorder.

 

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage – released on the 20th of January

Directed by D.J. Caurso

Starring: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Samuel L Jackson, Kris Wu, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev.

Government agent Xander Cage returns in this…. awaited sequel, as Xander comes out of exile to face down a tyrant and recover a powerful weapon before it gets into the wrong hands, he finds himself teaming up with unlikely allies.

 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter – released on the 27th of January

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Iain Glen, William Levy.

The final film in the Resident Evil franchise (maybe) sees us return to a world overrun with zombies as Alice returns to the source of the zombie outbreak in Raccoon city, teaming up with an unlikely ally to take the evil Umbrella corporation one last time.

The Magnificent seven review

The Magnificent Seven is a western directed by  Antoine Fuqua and a modern re-make of the classic film of the same name, itself based on the idea of the Seven Samurai film, as a group of seven gunman/mercenaries get together to help an impoverished town against a tyrant and his gang, the film stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Vinent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee, Manuel Garcia Rulfo, Haley Benett, Peter Sarsgaard, Matt Bomer.

The story is a familiar, literally as this is a remake and you might have watched the original but in short, a small town is set upon by a gang of ruffians and a group of outlaws band together to save it and thus the plot follows that set up, there really isn’t that much else to the film to be honest but to be fair, it doesn’t really try to be anything else or falsely market it self to be. What’s good about The Magnificent Seven is that it’s a mostly faithful remake and doesn’t take the story in weird directions just for the sake of different, which is an interesting positive, as re-makes are often criticised for being shot for shot the same as the original and bringing nothing new to the table. Though in the case of this re-make, we do get some modern updates with a multi-racial and diverse main cast which makes for a more representative Western and for an interesting group of characters, all quite well cast and distinct from each other.

From the serious and excellent shot Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), utterly convincing as a bad ass to the wise cracking, good time Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), you even get good humour from none other than Vincent D’Onofrio as Jack Horne, overall the cast is good, as are the performances. Levity is important to a story like this, to balance the somewhat serious tone and it makes for a good overall balance in what is a fairly engaging plot as we see the magnificent seven come together somewhat predictably. That being said, they make a good team and seeing them in action is fun, with a few well done action sequences. Chris Pratt in particular seems like a natural in a Western and it was about time for him to get prominent role in one, I feel.

Where the film falls short is in atmosphere, though some scenes are tense, particularly involving Denzel Washingtons’ Chisolm and Peter Sarsgaard as the villainous Bartholomew Bogue, there isn’t much else to most other scenes and they sort of just plod along, with you knowing how things will more or less go and then it all ends, if I had to raise one big criticism of the film, it’s that it’s just okay, a serviceable reboot that’s well acted but a bit lifeless otherwise. There’s not much to the film in terms of a great story (it’s pretty basic storytelling) or vibrancy even with the likes of Pratt and Washington which is a shame, the result is a passable Western/drama but not much else.

6/10

. Strong, diverse cast

. Well shot film

. Characters a re a bit one dimensional

. Story is lacking, fairly bare bones

Merry Christmas!

It’s been a funny old year hasn’t it…. a year of ups and downs… and downs, quite a lot of downs but we put it all behind us as we look forward to a new year and spend Christmas with our family/loved ones close to us, merry Christmas to all my followers, to everyone who reads this and to everyone celebrating it today and I hope you’re all having a great, joy filled day whether that be with Christmas films, mulled wine, other types of wine, christmas crackers and of course, pigs in blankets.

Have a great one guys.

From the Doc

My top 5 most anticipated 2017 films

So as 2016 winds down to an end with just over a week left in the year, what better time to look ahead to the films to come for the next year and at a glance, I think 2017 has a few potential gems in store, here is my top 5 and you know what, it was actually kinda difficult to pick a top 5 with some great films vying for my top spots but here they are:

1. Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 2 – released in May 2017

My number one choice sort of goes without saying if you’ve followed my blog for a decent amount of time and know I’m a big comic book film and MCU fan but yeah we’ve seen a recent full teaser trailer and Guardians Vol 2 looks like a lot of fun, in a similar vein to the first film but with more characters, great visuals and well, the Guardians we now all know and love. Guardians snuck up on audiences from obscurity and took them on a great, thrill ride with arguably hard sell characters that worked like a charm, especially Groot – who is quite literally a talking tree, a tree that everyone loves of course, Marvel knows how to take far out ideas and sell them to audiences and the sequel should be no different, I’m expecting great things from Vol 2.

 

2. Alien: Covenant  – released on the 19th of May 2017

I am so looking forward to this film, with not that much publicity or promotion for it to be honest apart from stories here and there and a poster (I guess we’ll get a trailer in the coming weeks) but even with next to nothing but speculation, I can’t wait for the sequel to Prometheus, to see how that story gets followed up on and how it all links to the beloved albeit horrifying Alien, sci-fi horror is touched on here and there but never really to any good quality and I feel Alien has an iconic position in that sub-genre. I love mysteries in film, I always get kicks out of trying to figure them out along with others and it’s always a joy to see a director return to their first love (Ridley Scott back to Alien) in this case, a world very uniquely his and pretty fascinating in my opinion, so seeing David and Elizabeth Shaw again should be interesting, with added Xenomorphs perhaps?

 

3. Star Wars Episode 8 (VIII) – released in December 2017

Star Wars, seriously, enough said… but of course no top 5 list for 2017 can be complete without the upcoming episode 8 as we all wait for the next film in the new trilogy and as we wait for answers to the big question, why has Luke been on a random island in the middle of nowhere for so long? I’m curious to see where the story goes and what becomes of Finn and the scarred but hardened Kylo Ren, in what’s been said to be a darker sequel, the Empire Strikes Back of the new films perhaps, though I’d like to see some deviation from the original trilogy in terms of story, plus the Knights of Ren, the revelation of supreme leader Snoke and what Luke had to say to just as he sees Rey and about everything that’s happened in the past 20 years or so, can’t wait to see it!

 

4. Kingsman: The Golden Circle – released on 6th of October 2017

I adore Kingsman: Secret Service, with great action and an irreverent sense of humour to itself, it’s just a pretty fantastic spy/action film and I’m expecting bigger and better things for the sequel and if that’s managed, it will be one hell of a film. After watching Kingsman I left clamoring for more and with an expanded and actually pretty great cast, with some hopefully good execution and the returning Taron Egerton, Mark Strong and apparently Colin Firth as well… we should be in for a treat.

 

5. Justice League – released in December 2017

I almost felt compelled to put Justice League on my list, the superhero team up film that fans have been wanting for years, decades even is almost here, I grew up watching the cartoons on Cartoon network, I’m familiar with the characters so I’m so in, we’ll see if DC can pull it off but I have pretty high hopes with the direction it seems to be going in and this could well be the turning point for DC one way or the other, then again it’s only been bad for them so far (reviews wise at least) so I’m hoping it’s good.

As I said before, tough list to narrow down with some pretty great looking films being left off and just not quite making it into my top 5 which include, Kong Skull IslandLoganSpiderman: HomecomingBladerunner 2049Ghost In The Shell, to name a few but overall 2017 is shaping up really nicely, have any thoughts, opinions? What would be in your top 5? Feel free to comment.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – review

We’re not calling them anthology films any more but hey, it was cool

Star Wars gets its latest overall entry with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, directed by Gareth Edwards and focused on the first paragraph in the crawl for A New Hope, showing how a group of tenacious rebels stole crucial plans to the Death Star and got them to the rebel alliance, the film stars Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Alan Tudyk, Wen Jiang, Jimmy Smits.

Rogue One is very different right from the off, this being a story that’s an off shoot from the main episodic series but still connected to them, there is one Sith in the film as you already know but the Jedi/Sith and direct influences of them is practically non-existent, which makes for an interesting change in pace and even combat, though the force is often mentioned – mostly thanks to Chirut Imwe played by the brilliant Donnie Yen. The diverse, multi-cultural cast makes for a great statement and contrast to the Empires uniformity and everyone is on point, Alan Tudyk makes for great comic relief as K-2SO, a re-programmed imperial droid who works for the rebels and has many a good one liner in him, making for some interesting inter play. Especially with Jyn – played by Felicity Jones, who really surprised me as I initially thought she came across as flat in the trailers, Jones is expressive, emotive a believable driving force of Rogue One, as is the conflicted Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna, who brings depth to the idea of a rebel soldier. There’s also a great emotional core to the story with Jyn and her father Galen and without getting into spoilers, we see how there are good people in places you’d least expect.

As always the rebels contrast the empire and their troops who dogmatically follow orders but we get an interesting and not before seen look at war in the Star Wars universe, something touched on in the Force Awakens but further explored, we see the dirty side of the rebellion in the work of spies and assassins and the fact that people are often conflicted by their orders – on both sides, makes things really interesting.

And generally speaking, director Gareth Edwards brings home the gritty reality of war in this universe, ground and space battles feel vast and epic with some great visuals and brilliant set pieces that hammer home the notion that the Empire and Rebellion have been at war for a while and a lot of people have felt direct loss or have lost something – which drives a lot of the rebels, fairly unsurprisingly. We also see the fact of friendly fire touched on, which is something new for Star Wars and also, a fact of war.

To touch on the visuals – they’re great, there are some pretty spectacular although spoiler-ific scenes, involving the Death Star and its power but generally, there’s a lot of action, the set pieces look great and there’s a climactic third act that’s a particular stand out.

And yeah, this is a war film so you can expect some loss and the tone is decidedly pretty dark, though there is slight comic relief, the weight of death in the film is certainly there – as it is in most Star Wars films but more so here I feel, seeing boots on the ground on both sides, up close and personal for a change, far removed from Jedi and Sith duelling with powers that can be viewed as magic from the outside looking in. Though that being said, Darth Vaders’ cameos are possible highlights and definitely showcase his power and dark reputation. Rogue One is a really solid entry into the franchise, bringing the reality of war and a fascinating look at the over-arching war between the Rebels and Empire itself and the intricacies of it. The cast does a great job with a few stand outs in Jones, Luna and Tudyk, with an engaging and well contained story, even for a plot we already know the outcome to and the result is something Star Wars needed, something different but impactful nonetheless.

7.5/10

. Has some great set pieces, action sequences

. Characters are all pretty engaging, some are multi-dimensional

. Introduces an interesting, gritty side to the conflict in Star wars

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them – review

The Harry Potter franchise gets its latest entry with Fantastic Beasts, directed by David Yates as Wizard Newt Scamander travels to New York in the 1920s’ on a secretive mission involving his case of magical beasts, while unintentionally coming into contact with the American wizarding world and other dark forces, the film stars Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farell, Dan Fogler, Jon Voight, Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller.

There’s a nice, jovial feeling to Fantastic Beasts which is what initially attracted me to the film, not being a Potter fan myself, I thought the just looked interesting and I’m sure many a Potter fan loved the references to the original series, seeing magic again on the big screen and seeing a whole new location explored within the wizarding world and what a setting it is. Early 20th century New York (1920s) is a setting you’re probably somewhat familiar with, with the amount of gangster films and or dramas set in it but there’s something so enduring, interesting and luxurious in the way we imagine it on screen and this comes to life in some great mis-en-scene and costume design to evoke the feeling of New York during that time.

The characters look and sound distinctly like New Yorkers and it’s a great touch, to see how Americans live with magic, even calling muggles or non-wizards ‘No Mags’, the era coupled with magic makes for an interesting combination with speak easy bars with criminal wizards, MACUSA – essentially a wizard regulation and police force and strict rules wizards must follow to keep magic hidden from No Mags, the world conveyed feels very well constructed and almost y’know, believable aside from all the magic. And the Americans’ way of life makes for some surprisingly deep and controversial ethical situations with how wizards and No Mags relate and even with punishments for wizards.

On to the  more technical elements of the film, the visuals are great, the CGI is good, not exactly breath taking but finally seeing the beasts in their glory does make for some great visual spectacle and emphasizes Newts’ care for the creatures, the set pieces are pretty good as well, big in scale as we get action that sweeps across areas of New York City, the modern, urban setting making for an interesting playground for the magical beasts that are set loose in it. The beasts themselves are also interesting and unique characters with their own unique special traits and abilities, making for interesting retrieval missions for Newt and company. And speaking of spectacle, scenes of wizards doing basic spells, from teleporting to moving inanimate objects is quite simply great spectacle as it contrasts starkly with the modern setting.

A possible negative is the pacing, sometimes the film does lumber on a bit and you might feel yourself willing the plot to move along but it does and when it gets going, it’s pretty good, the slower moments work well because of the generally good cast, Eddie Redmayne is fantastic as Newt, really sinking himself into the role as the passionate and caring but often distant Newt, an inherently likeable character who you know there’s more to, meanwhile Katherine Waterston makes for a nice opposite to Redmayne as the plucky, out of her luck Tina. There’s another sub-plot going on involving dark magic that you may see coming from a mile away but I didn’t mind it too much and I feel it added something the the plot overall.

Stand outs in the film include Colln Farrel as Graves who’s actually one of the best parts of the film, having on screen gravitas and a presence about him and while he doesn’t interact too much with Redmayne, it’s great to see them both in scenes. Fantastic Beasts is a pretty fun ride I have to say, even as a non Harry Potter fan, it’s got great references for fans of the franchise I’m sure, who will love a return to the wizarding world and an interesting, engaging story for people unfamiliar with the franchise, there are some pacing issues but with a good cast, fun set pieces and and nice visuals, you probably won’t be too bothered by them.

7/10

. Has some fun fantastical set pieces, the beasts are awesome

. Good casting choices, Redmayne and Farrel are great

. Pacing is a bit slow at parts

Dunkirk official trailer 1

So a little known film called Dunkirk is on the way next year and yes, it’s Christopher Nolans’ latest film, a project you may not have been aware of but something I’ve been keen to see something from as I’m a fairly big Nolan fan, anyway Nolan makes his trip into the WWII drama sphere with the film, based on real events after allied British, Canadian and French forces were evacuated from northern French shores after being surrounded by German forces.

Dunkirk is an interesting choice for Nolan and definitely a departure from his previous films with it being a war film of course, it’s something he’s not touched on as yet and also with the film being non-fiction and a period drama, there’s quite a sombre tone to the film as is to be expected and once again, this will help with that key emotional core to a Nolan film, hitting you right in the heart strings. Overall I’m interested, we do get a decent amount of films based on WWII every now and then but Dunkirk is an event I haven’t seen on the big screen before, so it should be something different. Also worth pointing out is Tom Hardy collaborating with Nolan once again, making this their 3rd film together after Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, Harry Styles from ex One Direction is also in this so yeah…

 Dunkirk is out in July 2017.

Kill Bill Vol 1 – review

Quentin Tarantino directs Kill Bill Vol 1 in a story that centres on the character of The Bride, a jilted and betrayed former assassin who seeks vengeance on the people who left her for dead, the film stars Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A Fox, Michael Madsen.

Kill Bill is an entertaining revenge story, charting the backstory and adventures of the Bride, a character you sympathise with a lot and back, Uma Thurman is perfectly cast in the role and brings insecurity, intensity and a level of confidence in the character as she progresses and develops, her character arc is a great one and she does change drastically as things go on. While the other characters in the film are all colourful and larger than life borderline comic book characters that make for some pretty memorable moments, especially in the Brides targets, O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), Vernita Green (Vivica A Fox), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) and of course Bill himself (David Carradine), a veritable rogues gallery for the bride.

The plot is very engaging and a genuine thrill ride, playing out like a typical revenge story with the Bridge going her business and going after her targets but Tarantino elevates the film to above average levels with his adoration of great aesthetics, his great writing, including a brilliant soundtrack which evokes the feeling of classic martial arts films, which accompanies the films expertly choreographed action sequences which are great to watch and make for some great set pieces.

The writing is great, hearkening back to revenge films of the past with a heavy Japanese influence in it as Tarantino pays homage to the martial arts genre the story is clearly inspired by. There are some great quotes and one liners throughout the plot as well, the soundtrack is great and suits some crucial scenes with the songs being used to emphasize action going on or the Brides state of mind, e.g. heightened music when she’s angry or in an intense mood, with good use of some great east asian music as well. And the film is beautifully shot with some great use of close ups, while the more stylized looking scenes are a wonder to look at, focusing on the prominence of colours in certain scenes and there’s great framing of action scenes, showing you everything and I mean everything, Kill Bill overflows with style and it’s a joy to watch.

Yes, the film is rather gory and in Tarantino style doesn’t shy away from showing it, blood spray and dismemberment galore, with that particular scene of the Bridge and the crazy 88 being one of the most memorable and one of the most bloody scenes probably in modern cinema, though it’s not quite gratuitous in my opinion as it fits with the stories’ over the top, near comic book style as you (probably) cheer on the bride to get her revenge.

Kill Bill is a brilliant action/thriller and Tarantino shines in creating a stylized, elaborate and well crafted story of vengeance, with some great cinematography, characters and action which have elevated the film to a quite an iconic status in modern cinema, one of Tarantinos’ best and most memorable films for sure.

8/10

. Engaging, well paced story

. Fantastic soundtrack that matches certain scenes well

. Excellently choreographed action scenes

Spiderman: Homecoming trailer #1

We finally have our first look at Spiderman Homecoming and it’s really happening, Spiderman is in the MCU (not that this is news or anything) but it’s cool to see, especially to see Tony Stark in the film, even in Iron Man garb, what struck me initially from watching is how the film really does look like a high school coming of age film that’s also a Spiderman film and that’s a credit to director Jon Watts.

As well as to a genuinely younger cast and an actual teenager actor playing Peter Parker for once, we see Holland as Spiderman being his typically fun loving and quippy self, being already fairly good at fighting – though he’s still excited by going out and putting the bad guys away. Which is fun, though he’s also initially lacking in social confidence as he longs for the schools queen bee – which isn’t necessarily Mary Jane Watson (played by Zendaya) which makes for an interesting dynamic and presumably he’ll become enamoured with MJ after he realises she’s ‘the one’, again something relatable to high school years, liking or lusting after people that weren’t quite right for you.

The coming of age feeling is quite prominent here, especially with Tony Stark giving a motivational narration of sorts to Peter, talking about how school sucks and how Peter wants to be a hero but he’s not quite ready yet, which is interesting as we’re seeing Peter with a direct father figure in his life in his first outing, which we didn’t quite get in Sam Raimis’ Spiderman or The Amazing Spiderman and it’s also important to point out that this isn’t an origin story as Peter already has his suit and powers and we probably won’t be seeing Uncle Ben dying again (thankfully).

And we also see the Spidey suit in action with its quite classic, 1960s’ cartoony look, with web wings and everything and yeah it looks very visually distinct from Spiderman suits we’ve seen in films before, we also get a look at the villain in the film, a quite techy looking Vulture played Michael Keaton but overall I’m into the tone and vibe of the film so far, it doesn’t look to be compromising the teen drama side of things for the sake of it being a comic book film. But at the same time we’ll still get action, spectacle and of course Iron Man as well, which should spice things up, I’m fairly impressed and also not surprised, this is Marvel doing Spiderman after all, Homecoming is out on the 7th of July 2017.

The Dark Knight – review

Christopher Nolans’ 2nd entry in the Dark Knight trilogy brings a new threat to Gotham and Batman in the Joker, a maniacal figure, bent on challenging Batman mentally without remorse, the film stars Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gylehaal, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy.

The Dark Knight is a wonder of a film, a big, epic expansion on the origin story and world establishing that was done in Batman Begins, we see Batman at his best and in his prime, battling the very villains he inadvertently created in putting on the cape – namely, the Joker and more than just being a crime drama, the Joker presents an interesting look into the psyche of Bruce. The performances in the trilogy as a whole are stellar but especially this time around with Bale in his element as the gravelly, often shouty Bruce Wayne, an excellent Batman and Heath Ledger in a career defining performance and utterly brilliant as the Joker, the two play off each other superbly and make for great rivals. The Joker makes a compelling villain because he’s one – unhinged and two simply wants chaos and to mess with Batman, a man who can’t be bargained, reasoned with or talked to, still doing what he does with no superpowers or abilities, is pretty terrifying.

While the supporting cast is also on their A-game from Michael Caine to Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart. You can really see the ambition and scope of Nolans film production here with the massive, creative set pieces and the sheer scale of some chase sequences for example, done practically and shot expertly to emphasize tension and the technology at Batmans disposal – plus the tumbler is just pretty incredible to look at. A credit to Nolans own stylized vision and adaptation of elements of the Batman universe, he grounds comic book characters and brings a realistic feeling to things while still conveying a captivating and enjoyable tone to proceedings, helped by great visuals and brilliant story telling, the Hong Kong plane extraction scene for example goes to show Nolans love of visual spectacle.

The Dark Knight is just a step above other quite a lot of other superhero films and manages to just be a fantastic crime drama because it dares to tell a compelling, engaging story while still based off of comic books, from Nolans imagining of the corruption in Gotham to how he portrays the mob, to how he portrays Batmans larger than life villains, that grounded tone makes for more impactful events, in relation to characters getting injured or killed fore example, resurrecting in a Nolan Batman film? Not a chance. And that realism is helped with some top notch writing, witty, well thought and endlessly quotable, the dialogue present here is just so, so good and feels really distinct and representative of each character, culminating in some great scenes, namely the Batman – Joker interrogation.

And for a film that’s 152 minutes long, it certainly flies by with excellent pacing and expert storytelling, combining just the right amount of exposition, drama, action and genuine high stakes for several, almost all of the characters present, The Dark Knight truly is a cinematic masterpiece and is endlessly re-watchable I feel.

10/10

. Has some stellar performances, great casting choices

. Visually spectacular film, awesome, grand set pieces

. Excellent writing, dialogue