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Saturday, 25 August 2018

Movie Review - Christopher Robin


Disney's live action revivals of their animated classics continue to be met with mixed results from many dedicated fans, as well as highly shifting financial outcomes. The likes of Beauty and the Beast and The Jungle Book certainly make their mark on the industry with earnings hovering around the $1 billion mark, whereas the likes of this year's Christopher Robin, featuring characters from the beloved Winnie the Pooh films, in turn adapted by A. A. Milne's classic stories, certainly doesn't impress as much. With it's global earnings not even at $100 million despite being in cinemas for quite some time in many places, it more closely sits alongside the disappointment of last year's Pete's Dragon - a more niché tale that sadly didn't have the larger target audience to win over.

Christopher Robin isn't exactly a direct live action remake of Disney's Winnie the Pooh animated efforts, as is obvious by even a brief glance at the poster in all honesty. What we have here is a tale featuring the eponymous childhood icon having to leaving his life within the Hundred Acre Wood behind, his friends there with it, upon departing for boarding school; soon enough he reaches adulthood, in the hands of Ewan McGregor, where a difficult balance between his work and family life ultimately lead to an ongoing struggle that sits out of his hands. It's here his childhood friends Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, the lot, all make their way back into his life, with him their to aid them and them their to aid him.


Pooh and his friends find themselves largely inspired by their original animated designs, brought into the live action world with a stuffed toy aesthetic which gives them a charming appearance that largely fits the film's visual style; though admittedly Pooh isn't as easy to engage with as the others at first, strutting about like a pale zombie, destroying all in his path and blathering on about honey until it really starts to get tiresome. Disney also bring new talent into the vocal cast, including Peter Capaldi as Rabbit and Toby Jones as Owl (both of whom you barely see sadly), though Jim Cummings returns as Pooh and Tigger once again; whilst his voice has always been a great one in recent times for said roles, the chance to refresh the characters for a live action portrayal (especially one sticking to it's British routes) seems wasted in the end, and hearing the voices we all love from the jubilant animated films within the real world just feels a little unusual at times, forever talented as Cummings will be.

Perhaps this criticism is more aimed at Pooh than Tigger, for the latter's charm is much stronger considering his upbeat, colourful nature, despite some similarly destructive behaviour at times - such a criticism can apply to many of these characters to be fair. In terms of the films' overall story, there is an awkward pace it must be said, as the script struggles to balance the key elements of the protagonists focus on work and family as well as the sudden return of his childhood friends. There isn't an extensive focus on the characters Robin interacts with bar Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore in all honesty; even the bond with his sulky wife and daughter feels flat at times, and the climax itself also feels somewhat rushed, if briskly paced and admittedly fun. All these traits make Christopher Robin a charming if somewhat forgettable family film, one with some surprisingly strong themes, bolstered further by a solid (if occasionally tryhard) performance by Ewan McGregor and fantastic visual effects. It doesn't set any new remarkable standards for it's genre, and to be honest drags significantly as we near the finale, but still goes to show how Disney is the master of helping to flourish the charm of childhood nostalgia.

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 clichés 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.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Movie Review - Deadpool 2


An R rated film starring a Marvel hero who perhaps isn't the most well known among the general public - and yet 2016's Deadpool found itself one of the year's most successful films, and most of us will say such an accolade doesn't go undeserved. Helmed by Ryan Reynolds' charmingly foul performance as the titular antihero, it's balance of well structured humour and epic set pieces arguably makes it one of the most original superhero films in recent times - a sequel was always inevitable considering it's profitable potential, but thankfully it's more than just a quick cash grab.

The story involves the audience quite literally in a sense - a plot burdened by lazy writing (as Deadpool himself enjoys claiming) begins with the tragic death of Wilson's true love Vanessa and his befriending of rebellious mutant kid Russell (Julian Dennison) when thrown in the "Icebox" detainment unit - all this coincides with the rise of a new villain known as Cable (Josh Brolin), who journeys from the future to seek vengeance on those responsible for destroying his own.


Deadpool 2 adopts the same charms as it's predecessor and in many ways improves upon them with even wittier, perfectly timed gags, from violent slapstick to a number of hilarious one liners - much of it certainly not for the faint of heart. But while it's narrative isn't without fault, mainly it's final act dragging a tad at times, there's a surprising amount of thought put into it in a way that makes this once again more than a tonnage of random giggles; many things may feel cliché, but the film embraces this in a perfect way to benefit it's sense of humour without it feeling like a forced attempt to justify, well, lazy writing. 

This is all blended with the right amount of gripping action sequences which, humour aside, do offer their fair share of genuine thrills providing you're able to stomach some of the incredibly graphic violence. Perhaps the films' biggest perk is once again the central performance by Reynolds himself - the rebellious badass finds himself just as loveable as he was in the original, his bitter outlook on life and it's consequential influence on his questionable acts of not quite heroism adding up to the majority of the film's biggest laughs. Perhaps the focus is largely pinned on him much more so than the many other supporting roles, but said supporting characters still mustn't go unnoticed - familiar faces like T.J. Miller and Leslie Uggams among many others support Reynolds in many of the funniest scenes, and Josh Brolin finds himself performing strongly (and hilariously) in another villainous Marvel role, despite his character feeling a little forgettable at times.

If my endless waffling hasn't made it apparent yet, Deadpool 2 is a hilarious and suitably action packed superhero flick, with a strong script brought to life through a superb cast and excellent visual effects. It's not for everyone, but after seeing the original's unexpected rise to immense fame, it seems to still clicks with quite a lot of us - and rightfully so.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Movie Review - Avengers: Infinity War


Another money making machine from Marvel arrives - Avengers: Infinity War has the iconic heroes face arguably their toughest foe yet, the power hungry Thanos (Josh Brolin), who seeks to acquire all the legendary Infinity Stones to gain control of reality itself. Dozens of previous MCU films have built up to this gargantuan story, evident when you see just how many heroes are blended together in comparison to the first film back in 2012. For those who may not even be the biggest fans of this ever expanding franchise, this certainly remains a superhero thrill ride worth checking out.

The MCU has been somewhat on and off for me in recent times - for every brilliant entry, there seems to be an equal amount of mediocre and sometimes downright awful ones. Sometimes I fear many more recent entries seek to do nothing other than to build up the story to these epic ensemble blockbusters. With this is mind, Infinity War thankfully doesn't feel like a forced blockbuster blending many iconic heroes together to simply turn a truck sized profit; while not without it's faults, it's a largely well structured, thrilling adventure that, as has been said by many viewers and critics, never forgets the necessary depth and humanity required to make this more than a mishmash of chaotic battle scenes.


Infinity War is of course a film that prides itself on superb special effects, and said special effects are handled masterfully. Be it the incredible motion capture on the likes of Brolin as Thanos, or simply the lineup of stunning action sequences, it maintains the MCU's legacy of having some of the best visual thrills since Iron Man kicked things off over a decade ago now. Yeah, some of it's action scenes may drag at times, and perhaps become somewhat samey as we approach the conclusion, but it doesn't stop the from being enjoyable; and within them as we near the finale come a fair share of interesting twists and turns in the overall story, helping to keep us hooked even further.

The cast is also without a doubt one of the film's finest merits, many will agree. Our favourite MCU stars from previous hits are back, with a solid chemistry between one another that helps their interactions feel far less forced. It's Josh Brolin of course who stands out , at least in my eyes, not only due to the brilliant aforementioned motion capture effects but also his sinister yet emotionally stirring performance as one of the best villains in a superhero film to date. His talent thrives for sure, but such praise is also earned by the majority of the actors it can be said - ranging from beloved Downey, Jr. to more recent arrivals like Chadwick Boseman. I won't grossly defend every inevitable flaw - things do get a bit jumbled as we near the end, and there are flashes of excessive silliness at very awkward moments, but all in all Marvel brings us another exciting, largely well structured blockbuster. One can now only look forward to where the plot takes us next...

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Movie Review - A Quiet Place


Horror is certainly one of the most difficult genres to tackle in this day and age - genuinely scaring the audience without spamming repetitive jump scares or creating inadvertent giggles is tricker than it sounds, and so many horror flicks in modern cinema are consequently met with mixed results. However, every so often a rare gem comes along, one absorbing, narratively compelling, and equally thrilling; one such gem has now arrived in the form of A Quiet Place, at the hands of acclaimed actor and now rising director Josh Krasinski.

A Quiet Place doesn't go into it's premises backstory with extensive detail, which isn't perhaps hugely necessary but may yield mixed results for many; in 2020, humanity finds itself largely wiped out at the hands of a group of powerful monsters with remarkable hearing skills. The Abbott family finds themselves one of very few survivors in the wasteland around them, communicating through sign language and scavenging secretly for supplies to prevent detection from the creatures hunting them down.


Again, not a huge amount of backstory is explored, which will confuse and maybe frustrate some viewers, but in the end such unaddressed concepts don't prove too detrimental to the overall story. In fact, many other key factors are indeed explained through subtle methods, such as brief glances at newspaper headlines within the Abbott's home; a clever if sometimes incomplete method of storytelling. Such subtlety also helps the unsettling moments nicely prosper; A Quiet Place certainly earns it's place within the horror genre, crafting a gripping atmosphere that'll keep viewers on the edge of their seats, and restricting the jump scares to moments that are genuinely freaky, not just a cheap barrage of loud noises.

What helps such a thrilling vibe prosper even more is of course the efforts of the cast themselves; Krasinski stars at the Abott father, Lee, alongside Emily Blunt as mother Evelyn, Noah Jupe as son Marcus, and Millicent Simmonds as daughter Regan. Their chemistry and development is strongly managed, bringing to life a number of heartwarming and equally heartbreaking moments as the story slowly unfolds. As for our main villains, their disturbing design and limited visibility for most of the story arguably benefits their intimidating presence, but they thankfully remain just as outright terrifying when seen up close on several occasions; it's this coupled with the overall pale and sombre visual design of the ruined Earth that makes all the scares occurring within it even more fitting and effective. Such traits all in all render A Quiet Place one of the best horror films modern cinema has seen in a long time without a doubt, and one any fan of the genre must check out as soon as they can.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Movie Review - Pacific Rim Uprising


Hollywood loves it's sequels - but it seemed strange to many that Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim of all films earned itself a sequel five years after release, considering it's extremely weak domestic earnings and fairly average global earnings of $409 million, rendering it far from a commercial failure but not exactly record breaking considering it's naturally colossal budget. With it's US opening weekend set to barely reach $30 million, it seems this year's Pacific Rim Uprising will also be relying on international takings to being recouping it's beastly costs. Reviews have also been less inspired than the original; is such mediocre reception deserved?

Set in 2030, a decade after the original, Uprising focuses on Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of acclaimed war hero Stacker Pentecost, who earns a living selling Jaeger tech on the black market, which soon leads him to a hidden independently made Jaeger built at the hands of young orphan Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny). Both eventually find themselves captured by the authorities and escape prison with an alternative to join the Jaeger program itself, a familiar and unwanted sight for Jake, which finds itself thrown into action once again when a number of unexplained rogue Jaeger's begin to reek havoc, linking to even bigger threat that ignites the return of the menacing Kaiju monsters and their sinister goals for world domination.


Uprising of course isn't going to win any awards for it's story - probably an obvious claim for those who've even yet to see it. However, what's interesting is the path the narrative takes as things get going, becoming more than a simple rehash of the first movie. There's a decent level of heart to it, and while it's emotional moments are cliché for sure, the cast portray such moments with solid performances, notably Boyega and Spaeny in their lead roles, and the morals conveyed are relatively touching if somewhat uninspired. It's this that makes the story a decent skeleton to link each of the inevitably gripping action sequences, and while a number of contrivances and daft plot twists do certainly pop up out of the blue as we approach the climax, it's all still, again, just that bit more than a dull rehash of the first movie.

Of course action and visual effects is where Uprising does stand out in an impressive fashion. The Jaeger's pummelling each other in many epic bust ups, mercilessly trashing every environment that surrounds them, equates to some superb set pieces that naturally make for the film's best moments. Some may certainly feel dragged out, and perhaps a little repetitive, but if you come to see the film it's arguably these scenes you're here to focus on, and they surely won't disappoint most fans. It's all brought to life, as with the original, some remarkable visual effects; Jaeger's not only look fantastic, but are animated just as superbly - and of course, IMAX is definitely how the film was meant to be viewed, as may seem obvious. It's story may be second rate to many, but at least there's a fairly decent amount of effort put into it, and, as I've made quite clear by now, the set pieces we're treated to alone will make Uprising worth watching for fans of such stuff.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Movie Review - Game Night


A premise I was certainly excited to see unfold when the first trailers came to my attention, Game Night sees a group of friends whose most recent weekly, well, game night, becomes something much more dramatic when a staged murder mystery soon evolves into one quite the opposite; with lives at stake and major criminals behind the scenes, it's now down to said friends to piece together exactly what is going on and put a stop to it before major repercussions soon come to fruition.

Leads Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams helm most of the story, supported by a lineup of similarly talented actors - Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons, and many more. Said well chosen cast help bring many of the film's best moments to life without a doubt, particularly Chandler and Bateman as long lasting sibling rivals. Whilst I'd love to of course say the same about McAdams given her role as Bateman's wife, it's hard to remain as interested in her persona at times given her occasionally excessive, hyperactive nature, rendering her an irritating listen in many scenes.


Whilst the overall cast is certainly decent and visibly talented, and all perform their roles without any major flaws, it's only really our aforementioned leads Bateman, McAdams (when not bellowing every comedic line), Chandler, and Plemons that stand out for the majority of the story. Of course supporting roles don't require as strong a focus on development, but the outright lack of it in areas also leaves some of the other characters extremely forgettable and somewhat bland at first. Similar flaws also extend into the overall story, which arguably drags a little during it's opening moments, courtesy of a sluggish pace and somewhat repetitive humour; it comes and goes without an awful lot of charm, but thankfully such standout flaws largely brush off as we venture into the meat of the story...

While I struggled to find the overall viewing as much of a consistent gem like many others did, it's certainly the second half where the story becomes just that little bit more involving, presenting us with many cleverly structured plot twists and balancing witty humour with some genuine thrills as the climax approaches - this is of course where our cast, despite their flaws, really pull off their best efforts, thus perfectly bringing a well structured finale to life. Of course one doesn't expect the introductory moments of the film to be in a similar category of excitement, but it's a shame Game Night isn't really as interesting when it begins as it is when it ends - for the most part, it starts off samey and boring, morphing into something far more engaging as it progresses, thus making it a fairly decent if unbalanced viewing for the most part.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Movie Review - Black Panther


The MCU continues to grow as each year passes; we now approach it's ten year anniversary with Iron Man hitting cinemas as far back as May 2008, and with each year since more and more heroes have hit the big screen to renowned success and widespread acclaim. Yet another example arrives in the form of Black Panther - far from the most well known hero to the general public, but one whose opening box office takings would make you assume quite the opposite.

The story branches away from the meat of the MCU narrative, taking us into the fictional nation of Wakanda, home to a number of supernatural tribes powered by the rich material known as Vibranium. Using said material to devise advanced technology, the Wakandans segment themselves from the main world, their actions directed by the Black Panther leader. Said role is soon assumed by newest king T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) - who then finds himself on a quest to prevent Vibranium from falling into the wrong hands following the malevolent actions of vengeful soldier N'Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan).


It's a narrative with a lot of depth and branches to it, so summing it up is quite difficult - those who haven't read the comic books may find themselves a little confused at times, though it does it's best to establish characters and their motivations in the best possible way, blending such development with a number of entertaining, beautifully filmed set pieces. Black Panther adopts a rich, stylishly dark visual style that makes it's briskly paced fight scenes superb to watch, and certainly leads to a lot of absorbing tension during it's more atmospheric moments. Thankfully this isn't just a mindless blend of action, however; the film does it's best to develop a cast of strong characters and mix them into the suitably complex story. The traditions of the Wakandan tribes are nicely captured without becoming too excessive, helping to establish the world around us as we head through each phase of the plot.

What I also found equally enjoyable about Black Panther is how it's almost entirely absent of any scene that contributes to building the MCU franchise and little more. Many recent films in the franchise that I've admittedly still enjoyed have had their fair share of forgettable moments that, again, simply exist to just merge other characters in the series together - Black Panther lacks such stuff, making it a well focused and consistently engaging story that doesn't branch away at any point to simply build the franchise around it and awkwardly link it into other MCU flicks. All these perks, coupled with some excellent performances, notably Boseman and Jordan in their lead opposing roles, make for a gripping superhero hit from start to finish; sure, the story, fab as it is, may be a little puzzling at times, and perhaps some moments do drag, but we're still left with a fine entry to the MCU that even non comic book fans can enjoy.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Best and Worst of 2017 - Best Five Films


I've already covered the worst cinematic efforts of last year, and my list of the finest is late to say the least - sadly Disney decided to release Pixar's latest product Coco two months later here in the UK and considering it's outstanding acclaim upon debut in the US, I decided to wait and check it out before listing my favourites of the past 12 months. Perhaps I've also been a bit lazy in recent times...so, with Coco reviewed a few weeks back, let's finally commence with a long overdue ranking of the best films of 2017...

#5 - It


First brought to life as a television flick starring Tim Curry in 1990, Stephen King's arguably most renowned novel made it's way to cinema screens for the first time last September to rather outstanding results, scooping up $700 million in global earnings to rank as the horror genres highest grossing effort. Such accolades don't go undeserved - thanks to a superb script, haunting visuals, and a fantastic lead performance by Bill Skarsgård, It ranks as a terrifying yet thoughtful tale, far from afraid to censor the novel's key thrills whilst also never forgetting the complex story behind it all. Certainly one of the best horror films I've seen in quite a long time, and one fans of the genre must make checking out a huge priority.

#4 - The Disaster Artist


Tommy Wiseau's masterpiece of bad filmmaking The Room remains an icon to many - and so a film based on it's development, in turn adapted from the 2013 memoir of the same name, was inevitable for sure. James Franco finds himself helming and starring in this retelling of Wiseau's adventures throughout his films' bizarre production stages, and while Franco's own re-enactment of some of The Room's most infamous scenes are not always as faithful as one would hope, his overall effort in capturing the detail and depth to each character in such a story is inspiring for sure. Ranking as a humourous yet surprisingly deep story, The Disaster Artist is also an admirable and reasonably faithful effort to retell a strangely iconic part of film history.

#3 - Paddington 2


Paddington, released back in 2014, raised initial concerns of being a beloved childhood character being forced into a silly modern, pop culture riddled story simply to cash in on the appeal and earn a quick buck for needy film studios. Thankfully, the final product was a loveable and superbly told family adventure, and this all carries over into the sequel with equally fantastic results. With our titular hero once again brought to life with superb visual effects and rich voice work from Ben Wishaw, what also makes this another loveable watch is of course the superb blend of tender emotions and big laughs - we're left once again with a film apt for wide range of audiences in almost every way, only building upon the many successful merits of it's predecessor.

#2 - Coco


Again, I had to see this first before making this list - it may have not even made it on, but based on it's overwhelming critical success, I had a major feeling it simply would. Alas, Coco certainly stands tall as one of Pixar's very best efforts, let alone one of the best films of last year, showing how the studio has yet to lose their touch when it comes to crafting beautifully original stories that help prove animation still has the potential for complexity and emotional depth - not just ranking as colourful silliness to keep the kids quiet. It succeeds in pretty much every key category for sure - it looks gorgeous, has a handful of memorable songs, and a rich narrative that has the courage to explore deep themes in an approachable manner, leaving it a heartwarming masterpiece for all age groups.

#1 - War for the Planet of the Apes


The Planet of the Apes series recovered from a downward spiral with it's 2011 reboot, which revitalised the central story with a well told origin tale featuring some of the most exceptional motion capture CGI effects seen in a modern blockbuster. Last year's War for the Planet of the Apes brought the central trilogy to a close, despite potential for more sequels, and everything you'd expect from a closing installment is met in this emotionally stirring yet still suitably epic sci-fi hit. Alongside remarkable special effects, it's the lineup of fine performances that also help bring a well structured story to life in the best way possible, notably Serkis as ape leader Caesar once more and Woody Harrelson as our intimidating villain, simply known as the Colonel, who lacks the amount of screentime one may expect from a major foe but this somehow doesn't prevent him from remaining a thrilling antagonist. All this coupled with gripping yet never overly excessive set pieces leave this a superb finale to a fantastic story, maintaining all the positives of the previous entries and treating us to a lot more to boot.

Apologies once again for the major delay with this post, but there you have it - now let's see how this year's lineup of films compare...


Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Movie Review - Winchester


The supernatural horror genre, in fact perhaps even the horror genre as a whole, is an ideal one for low budget flicks. Budget doesn't always equal success, as many classics have made clear, but of course such classics didn't reach their acclaim just because of low budgets. Winchester is another awkward example of this, and one that also utilizes one of the biggest marketing tools for a horror project: based on true events...

Okay, well yes, it is to an extent based on a true story - that of the renowned Winchester Mystery House, residence of firearm magnate William Winchester and his widow Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren). This bizarre landmark holds various backstories as a cursed one for ghosts of Winchester gun victims to chill, a story Winchester uses as we bring mental health doctor Eric Prince (Jason Clarke) into the mix. With Sarah deemed mentally unsound to helm the company in her grieving state, Prince is hired to make a diagnosis for himself that will support or debunk such claims of Sarah being cursed...let's face it, being a supernatural horror film, what route do you think we'll be going down?


The more I left the gap between seeing the film and writing this review, the more difficult the latter became. Winchester I never recall being a painfully awful horror flick, but without a doubt a boring and forgettable one. What's most apparent upon watching is how reliant the film is on cheap and eventually irritating jump scares; the human body's natural flinching response to such sudden loudness is passed off as genuine fear once again, and I'm sure I'm not the only person who finds such a strategy tiresome and irritating. To be fair, sometimes the content making you jump can be quite threatening and induce mild scares, but this seldom occurs and for the most part you're putting up with a string of thunderous sound effects and occasional generic screams.

Whether a horror film sucks in the scare department or not, it still has to be held together with a half decent story, and Winchester doesn't offer much here either - simple parts of the narrative are frequently dragged out to desperately piece together a feature length tale from fairly mediocre source material, and a our newcomer fictitious characters including lead Eric Prince don't offer much to keep us compelled. Whilst Jason Clarke gives a decent performance, once again considering mediocre source material, it doesn't truly save the character from being bland and largely uninteresting. Same can be said for Helen Mirren who, fantastic an actress as she always will be, fails to be more than a pale lady walking around adopting a moody expression, perhaps opening up a bit more as the film nears it's climax but not so much to keep her consistently interesting. It's this mixture of weak scares and boring characters that makes Winchester a dull horror effort through and through, with praise only really viable for it's decent production design and little more.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Movie Review - Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle


Though a sequel to a 25 year old cult hit seems odd, Welcome to the Jungle has become a surprise success to say the least; nearly $900 million in global earnings despite a relatively minor debut, and a high level of acclaim for critics and audiences alike. With the original having Robin Williams dragged into a supernatural board game of sorts, Welcome to the Jungle brings the concept into the modern era with a lineup of teens being dragged into the mysterious Jumanji video game, taking on the form of their chosen avatars, and left with a mission to escape before time (or their extra lives) runs out.


Jumanji is a simple blockbuster effort from start to finish, and that works to it's benefit for the most part; the characters each have their own charming if somewhat generic personalities and are brought to life by a loveable cast both in their teen forms and in-game avatars. Dwayne Johnson particularly stands out as a comedic charmer, with much of the humour aimed at his impressive physique as expected, but those behind him are just as loveable in their own unique ways. Jack Black finds himself with an interesting role given that his character within the real world is actually female, now transferred into a male avatar, paving the way for a ton of obvious yet witty jokes that make for a number of crude yet big laughs.

This a story that can't truly prosper without modern special effects - and said effects are beautifully handled without a doubt, leading to many epic set pieces with all kinds of creative fictional creatures. Fans of all kinds of video games will adore the clever references to such game logic, including special moves, character perks, non playable characters and their repetitive dialogue, and various missions that drive the main structure of the game itself. Jumanji uses these conventions to portray a simple yet fun story and also fill it with tons of clever gags, both through witty dialogue and well timed slapstick. Perhaps the film's only real flaws lie within it's undemanding nature, which isn't exactly a trait of a poorly made project, but just inevitable considering it's source material - for one thing the villain doesn't truly stand out as a consistently interesting opponent, though many audiences may have no real issue with such stuff. As it stands, Jumanji is a fun and well structured comedy adventure, portrayed once again through a talented cast and some forever impressive special effects.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Movie Review - Coco


It seems each Pixar's best film usually ends up changing as soon as a new one is released; while not without their slumps, the renowned studio has arguably produced some of the most innovative computer animated works to grace the industry, showing how such a genre can be much more than an array of colours to keep kids occupied for 90 minutes. Their latest effort, Coco, already finds itself hailed as one of their finest yet, and this isn't without good reason once again.

Set during the Mexican holiday Día de Muertos, Coco focuses on aspiring musician Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), whose bitter family continuously seek to drive him away from his ambitions and focus on his future within their own lifestyle - all of which takes a turn for the worse when Miguel himself finds himself warped into the Land of the Dead as the holiday progresses, meeting mysterious trickster Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) and left desperate to return home whilst seizing a chance to fulfil his own dreams along the way.


It goes without saying Coco looks beautiful - even in their worst efforts Pixar will never fail in terms of visual prowess, yet the technical outcome can be no good without equally good art direction, which Coco also masters in every respect. The visuals are colourful enough for kids without disrespecting the key concept behind them, with the Land of the Dead becoming a perfect blend of visual gags representing pop culture yet also a world full of refined detail and life - more than just a vibrant background for our characters to dwell in. Coco is also a musical in many ways at it's core, and the lineup of songs it does offer are certainly memorable to say the least - Gonzalez finds himself performing many of the film's key numbers and does so beautifully; following the film's conclusion, my key impulse took me straight to the iTunes Store.

Amazing presentation makes Coco a delight to look at and listen to - but this is also held together by a brave story that explores thought provoking themes without ever reaching excessive stages or resorting to tired clichés. Viewers won't have to do extensive research on the aforementioned Día de Muertos to understand the ideas the film conveys in it's most heavy moments, making it approachable for all without sacrificing the complexity it aims for. This is a story about culture and family, embracing life yet accepting death, and such powerful themes are conveyed well with a lineup of loveable characters, a well drafted script, and superb overall direction - combine this with gorgeous visuals and superb music, and you have a winner of a film through and through, no questions asked.