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Monday, 6 August 2018

Movie Review - Ant-Man and the Wasp


The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to thrive as the most successful in cinema history, now with it's latest release as the sequel to 2015's Ant-Man. Paul Rudd returns to us once more in the lead role, this time alongside Evangeline Lilly as the secondary eponymous superhero Hope van Dyne/The Wasp, both of whom team up with van Dyne's father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) in a plot to rescue her mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the mysterious Quantum Realm.

Ant-Man and the Wasp thankfully never tries to be too excessively dark or serious, instead giving us a laid back experience with some extremely funny moments portrayed well by it's strong cast. In spite of this, it occasionally has an extreme obsession with such humour, trying a little too hard with mediocre results. The best examples appear with supporting character Luis (Michael Pena), an old friend of Scott Lang, who largely serves a comic relief but in the end is naught but an irritating supporting role trying too hard to make the audience laugh. Some may find him appealing, who knows, but I certainly found him more annoying than anything; Pena does his best, it's just most of the content he's given that makes him irritating to watch.


But that doesn't render the film bad throughout; Paul Rudd in the lead role does his best once more, delivering a witty and charming performance from start to finish, and our titular female hero Janet/The Wasp is helmed superbly by Michelle Pfeiffer and serves as an undoubtedly strong inspiration for badass female heroes in general. Both her and Ant-Man himself are involved in all manner of gripping set pieces that use the concept of size alterations to delivery genuine thrills but also genuine laughs, crafted through superb visual effects and thankfully never milking said size alteration concept too much - the film's climax is notably where said praise is most applicable. These lead roles are backed by a decent lineup of supporting performances, namely from Michael Douglas and Laurence Fishburne.

Our central antagonist lies in the hands of Hannah John-Kamen, portraying Ava Starr, a female version of Marvel's lesser known villain the Ghost. Deformed by her exposure to the Quantum Realm, Starr finds herself left with all manner of powers that allow her to phase in and out of existence, albeit at the cost of extensive pain and suffering on her end. Though her development is a bit mediocre and occasionally filled with contrivances, Ava Starr remains a fairly entertaining and intimidating villain portrayed well by John-Kamen, and one definitely contributing to well to many of the film's gripping set pieces. All this combined makes Ant-Man and the Wasp and entertaining if somewhat forgettable superhero flick, one for audiences of various demographics to enjoy.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Movie Review - Mission: Impossible - Fallout


The Mission: Impossible series reached new heights back in 2011 with Ghost Protocol, climbing even further in 2015 with the equally renowned Rogue Nation; and now, should you believe it, even further with it's latest installment, Fallout, where eternally badass IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is tasked with intercepting the sale of plutonium cores at the hands of The Apostles, a terrorist agency formed by the remains of The Syndicate, previously lead by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) before his capture two years prior.

To be considered a good MI film, there's one thing Fallout has to nail: set pieces. The franchise in general is known for being one of the best within the action genre, something bolstered significantly by Tom Cruise's love for performing his own crazy stunts and doing it so perfectly. Thankfully, Fallout does not disappoint; indeed, viewers are treated to a juicy lineup of exciting action sequences from beginning to end, alongside equally intense, fast paced fight sequences, which keep you on the edge of your seat as you near the more dramatic moments of the story. Inevitably, there are one or two brief moments where you may feel a set piece is slightly dragging, but this doesn't make them any less impressive in the long run.


But once again this isn't a mishmash of crazy action scenes with nothing constructive to link them together - Christopher McQuarrie has drafted another superb script to direct, developing an engaging story with a number of smart twists and turns as it progresses. All this is further brought to life by the superb efforts of a fantastic cast, from familiar faces Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, to of course Cruise himself, as well as an excellent performance by Henry Cavill as August Walker, a CIA assassin tasked with working alongside the IMF team following controversy from a failed mission. Cavill's talent and the character's strong development make it an interesting role within the film's brilliant narrative; there's certainly more to everything here than meets the eye, making it a compelling watch throughout.

There's very little I have to fault with MI series' latest installment - again, perhaps one or two set pieces may drag ever so slightly at times, and as we approach the climax the story may be a bit hellbent on throwing a tad too many twists at the audience, making it a tad confusing at times, thrilling as it all is in the end. It remains a cleverly structured and thoroughly enjoyable action flick that shows how the franchise really does stand on top within the genre, offering some of the most fast paced, intense set pieces fans could ever ask, brought to life with superb special effects and stuntwork. I seem to say this every time a new installment comes out - but I think perhaps Fallout now ranks as my favourite of the series, it must be said.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Movie Review - Incredibles 2


Incredibles 2 is certainly one of the most anticipated animated films in recent times - it's been fourteen years since the original impressed us and left us dying for a follow up, and it's clear by this sequel's box office records that said hype has indeed been lived up to on a financial level. Critics are equally impressed - but is all this acclaim truly deserved? It seems most audiences would agree, but I find myself rather unsure, despite being both a huge fan of Pixar and of course the original film itself.

Incredibles 2 follows directly on from the original as the titular heroes fight off the villainous Underminer (John Ratzenberger), only to generate further controversy following all the destruction done in the process; however, they eventually find themselves approached Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), owner of DevTech, who seeks a way to restore superheroes' former glory amongst the general public. His schemes are initially helmed by Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), who ventures on a series of missions to demonstrate the unseen potential superheroes truly have once more, soon bringing her face to face with a mysterious new foe known simply as the Screenslaver.


The Incredibles stood out amongst the animated genre upon release for many reasons, though one such reason was it's thoughtful story that blended together a lot of complex themes and ideas; so it's a shame this long awaited sequel doesn't really live up to that level of quality, and certainly not the immense expectations behind it. Perhaps the biggest issue is simply the structure of the story itself - Elastigirl is primarily the star of the show this time round, and while she certainly helms a lot of gripping and superbly choreographed set pieces, it's a shame the former greatness of Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is long gone, with him now stuck in the role of an overworked babysitter, struggling to understand Dash's (Huck Milner) strangely complicated homework, Violet's (Sarah Vowell) teenage emotional turmoil, and of course the insanely repetitive chaos involving Jack-Jack's handful of newly developed powers.

As a result of these awkward jumps between Elastigirl's heroisms and Mr. Incredible's disastrous babysitting, the plot in general is just fairly shallow - with a dull villain and somewhat predictable plot twist as we approach the climax. On the flipside, the final fight itself is perhaps one of the films' best moments, blending the antics of all kinds of heroes into a creative climactic battle - I only wish this was a bit more regular, instead of having most heroes jammed into roles that are essentially borderline comic relief. Incredibles 2 is a decent film, boasting beautiful animation and a plethora of gripping set pieces, but it also just feels unfocused and excessively silly; too often I felt like I was watching some sort of parody of the genre, and not the near masterpiece almost everyone else believes it to be.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Movie Review - Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom


The modern film industry is arguably infested with more sequels than ever before in recent years, particularly with the advent of evergrowing shared universes, which themselves are leading to the revival of many age old franchises that rank among the most treasured in cinema history. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a sequel that slots nicely into such a category - the truck sized earnings of 2015's Jurassic World made a sequel an irreversible decision from a business perspective, but while Universal's bank accounts will be looking good soon enough, it's a shame this level of positivity can't quite be applied when discussing the finished project itself.

Three years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park, the volcanic activity within Isla Nublar begins to reemerge, placing the now freely roaming at dinosaurs at risk of extinction once more. Some won't let such tragedy unfold - dinosaur activist Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas-Howard) and Navy veteran Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) join a team of fellow activists to rescue a number of species from Nublar before time runs out, though these actions ultimately leave them tangled in a scheme that brings to fruition another threat against them all.


Fallen Kingdom's biggest setback is that which has plagued almost every other sequel to the beloved 1993 classic - a story that holds little merit and is simply more of the same. Whilst Jurassic World had it's interesting premise with John Hammond's original bizarre dream of a dinosaur infested theme park coming to fruition at last, there was little potential for a continuation outside of financial gain; Fallen Kingdom provides visual thrills and excitement within it's very best moments, but said moments are dwindling in overall variety, and outside of them we have very little to be truly absorbed in. You'll find little has been done to stir things up - the plot is another generic blend of cardboard cutout villains motivated by naught but fancy profits, seriously miffed off dinosaurs causing a ruckus and killing a number of disposable extras, and of course the iconic idiocy and greed of man as the central cause of all this unwanted chaos to begin with.

Any attempted emotional depth largely feels forced and forgettable, and often quite sappy, with numerous tired clich├ęs recycled within a script flooded with numerous contrivances. My bitter self emerges once more, but rest assured Fallen Kingdom isn't necessarily a bad film, per se; it's still entertaining for the most part, and offers a decent array of laughs and genuine thrills, once again brought to life through some stunning visual effects and well structured (if occasionally silly) action sequences, and of course all is portrayed well through a strong, well chosen cast. It's just a shame the filmmakers have made little effort to try and breathe any sort of new life into the age old series, instead settling for a flimsy narrative that recycles all these tired conventions. At this rate, it seems things have definitely run their course, hard as it is for studio executives to come to terms with.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Movie Review - Solo: A Star Wars Story


The Star Wars sequels have got off to a pleasant start in terms of box office receipts, though some of it's plot directions have been left with mixed responses from some of the most dedicated fans; said trend doesn't change much for this year's Solo, another spinoff from the main series that explores the backstory of one Han Solo. I won't claim to know the Star Wars series and all it's expanded universe stuff inside out, but upon watching it's latest blockbuster, I only had one response: why all the negativity from some?


Solo once again is an exploration of the iconic Han Solo's development and how he came to be the rebellious hero we all know and love. His character now finds itself in the hands of one Alden Ehrenreich, developing into the eventual bounty hunter we've all come to know in a mission to reunite with his lover Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) following a failed escape from the oppressive world of Corellia. His subsequent adventures bring him into partnership with the stern Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and of course the beloved yet short tempered Chewbacca, and soon enough on a mission against rising crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).

Of course with a film like this, the initial factor of much controversy is always going to be the recasting, should the new talent brought in be an acclaimed, hugely award winning superstar or not. Many reviews have left questionable feedback of Ehrenreich's effort in the role of Solo, but it seems quite a lot of said reviews leave such mixed responses and only seem to justify it with how his efforts can't match that of the beloved Harrison Ford. Such a mindset isn't a healthy (or fair) one; we can't endlessly compare our young Solo to the original to outline his overall quality, but once again it seems such a trait is inevitable with any recasting. Ehrenreich, at least in my eyes, does a fab job with his portrayal - he is still the same sly, skilful, and witty hero, one who always has a plan and works hard to pursue it. It's still largely our same Solo that we know well from the originals, yet of course more vulnerable given his younger and less experienced nature. All in all, Ehrenreich finds himself worthy "predecessor" to Harrison Ford, so to speak.


But it's not just Ehrenreich who performs well - in fact his efforts lead a generally superb cast all over. Woody Harrelson as our secondary protagonist Tobias Beckett is on a similar level of quality, and shares a perfect chemistry with Ehrenreich, as does his long term lover Qi'ra, despite her confusing characterization in latter parts of the narrative; and once again (without becoming too obsessive), one Joonas Suotamo dons the costume perfectly in his efforts as Chewbacca. Our villain once again lies in the form of Dryden Vos and the talents of Paul Bettany, and while he may not be the most memorable or thoroughly developed foe in film history, or hell even the history of this franchise, Bettany's efforts make him a threatening one whenever he's on screen for sure. One can also appreciate Donald Glover in his relatively minor role as Lando Calrissian, though he may come and go at bit awkwardly at times.

In traditional Star Wars fashion, Solo adopts a fantastic visual style, for the most part deftly blending fine costume work, animatronics, and CGI effects. Perhaps some of the fully animated characters can stick out a bit awkwardly when blended into scenes with animatronics or costumes, but it's not hard to say that the gargantuan budget is put to great use when it comes to all these aesthetics. Solo isn't free of any flaws; some of it's story elements can feel a tad rushed when important, particularly as we approach the end, and others slightly dragged out - perhaps it's 135 run time wasn't quite needed for some of the material included. What's more is whilst we're treated to a handful of superb set pieces, beautiful to admire in IMAX, maybe they can occur too often in rapid succession and drag out a tad when it feels they should be coming to a conclusion. But negativity aside, Solo remains a fun time at the movies, just as the original series always was, and all those involved have made a great effort without a doubt.