Thursday, 27 August 2015

Movie Review - Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Fresh from the success of Ghost Protocol in 2011, the Mission: Impossible series is back for it's next outing as IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) faces one of his biggest challenges yet: to hunt and take down a sinister crime organisation, known only by rumours to many, dubbed the Syndicate.

There's no action performer like Tom Cruise - it's common knowledge that the man is an absolute lunatic when it comes to stuntwork, performing even the most dangerous things (hanging on the edge of plane, anyone?) simply to produce engaging action scenes. This, combined with some excellent choreography and camerawork, helps Rogue Nation become one of the most gripping action films in recent cinema; but thankfully, this is much more than style over substance.

It's all backed by a superb script by director Christopher McQuarrie, which delivers a complex and well structured story, boasting all manner of twists and turns but not so much that the audience gets tired out. The story pieces together like a perfect jigsaw, with initially subtle inserts forming crucial plot points in unique ways, and the climax is so beautifully structured that it just shows how much thought went into developing it. Main antagonist Solomon Lane is played superbly by Sean Harris, though at times he seems a bit underdeveloped; and of course, the usual supporting cast of Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Ving Rhames join Cruise as a fantastic lineup of sidekicks, with Renner especially standing out in the crowd, as well as Alec Baldwin as CIA director Alan Hunley.

Rogue Nation is a yet another example of how modern action cinema can thrive as both a thoughtless yet thrilling 'popcorn' flick, but also as an intelligent and complex film from beginning to end - and one that isn't afraid to embrace a mixture of humour and intense thrills to create a gripping experience. It's another outstanding addition to Cruise's already renowned filmography, and one any fan of the franchise (and even action movies in general) should definitely check out. It most certainly overtakes Ghost Protocol as my favourite of the series.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Movie Review - Fantastic Four

The Fantastic Four team have not been treated well when it comes to movies. The original two films back in 2005 and 2007 suffered from inherent goofiness and ridiculous narratives; so, when this much more intense looking reboot was announced and advertised, I was extremely enticed to see how it'd turn out. I drifted away from paying attention to it for a while after, and when I came back closer to it's release, I found horrendous reviews from both critics and audiences, and dismal box office figures. Just what the hell happened here?

Fantastic Four is an origin story that explores humanity's attempt to teleport to another unknown world to potentially harness it's unique resources. The genius mindset of young scientist Reed Richards (Miles Teller) is brought on board, alongside Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), and Susan Storm (Kate Mara), as well as the disgruntled Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell). The group decide to teleport to the world themselves when the machine is seemingly complete, but this gravely backfires, mutating them into beings with strange supernatural powers - and unleashing a friend turned enemy that they must stop before it's too late.

Sounds okay, doesn't it? It isn't. Director Josh Trank supposedly struggled on this film due to poor communication with the producers, and his vision was seemingly taken from him when the studio dominated production towards it's final stages. Whether this is true or not we don't know, but we can safely say that something went badly wrong in the midst of it. The pacing of the narrative is an absolute mess; it takes ages for the superhero team to come forward, and when they do, the film adopts time jumps to shrug off any development, making it a jarring experience. The team has absolutely no chemistry and don't really do anything together throughout most of the film. It's even stranger towards it's ending; it feels like we're still in the middle, but suddenly when the villain turns up we're immediately at the climax, then ten minutes later it's all over. There's also a really dull tone throughout, lacking fun and excitement that a superhero movie really needs to have, regardless of how "serious" it aspires to be.

Doom himself looks awesome, and Kebbell does admittedly give him a disturbing tone, but otherwise he's a lousy, generic foe with little thought behind his motivations. The story is all over the place, juggling around the importance of each character and struggling to focus on any of them in a well structured manner. In terms of action, we have literally nothing of interest; even the final battle is boring and over very quickly. The cast in general is good, and they perform well enough despite the atrocious script, and of course the special effects still dazzle, but this just isn't enough to save Fantastic Four from being one of the worst superhero movies in recent times. Avoid at all costs.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Movie Review - Inside Out

It's been five years since Toy Story 3 earned Pixar the acclaim we expect from them, with Cars 2, Brave, and Monsters University leaving much to be desired by many viewers. The latter two I still thoroughly enjoy, but it's this years Inside Out that truly brings Pixar back on form - not only thanks to it's bravely original premise, but also it's masterful, flawless execution.

Inside Out tells the tale of Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias), a young girl who struggles to cope with moving to a new home as her father is forced to change jobs. Inside her head, her five emotions Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Bill Hader) attempt to guide Riley through her life at Headquarters, the centre of her mind. However, the challenges of moving to a new environment overwhelm their own abilities, and when Joy and Sadness are whisked away into the depths of Riley's mind following a major breakdown, they are forced to journey back to Headquarters to bring Riley back to her old self.

Inside Out is based on an original concept derived from writer/director Peter Docter, around the thought of what exactly goes on inside people's heads to influence their personality and emotions. Such a concept is pieced together with witty and charming attention to the exact inner workings of a child's mind, including their vivid, colourful imaginations, and naive emotions that better with age and experience in new situations. Pixar convey this idea with a dual appeal, making it accessible and approachable to young audiences, but never sacrificing the true complexity it requires, and so adults can see it as much more than another generic colourful flick they have to entertain their kids with.

This ranks as one of Pixar's best efforts and without a doubt one of the best animated films to be released; not only due to the storytelling, but of course the gorgeous animation, talented vocal work (particularly from Richard Kind as Bing Bong), and a moving score by Michael Giacchino. It's another testament to how audiences will seek out original animated offerings providing they boast stories and ideas that have a widespread appeal, and in that respect, Inside Out delivers everything you could possibly ask for.