Sunday 18 December 2011

Movie Review - Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

A visually stunning, witty and cleverly plotted fare, the original Sherlock Holmes stood tall as one of the finest films of 2009 and it's no wonder two years later a sequel has popped up in the form of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Now, the bold detective (Robert Downey Jr.) and his sidekick Watson (Jude Law) must conquer the scheming Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) and overthrow his sadistic plans for global war.

At just over two hours, the film is far from short and whilst it can feel a bit dragged out it generally uses its time wisely. Action packed set pieces include a high octane fight scene on a speeding express train and an exhilarating forest chase; stylistic camerawork and editing really add to the intensity and enjoyment of these scenes, making the film all the more fun to watch.

But when it comes down to the story the film is not at all a mish mash of action scenes. With a brand new villain, Professor Moriarty (well, new for these films), a clever and slowly unravelling story is constructed and flows nicely. There's a few twists and some well thought out explanations of character motives and, as you'd expect, the always entertaining deductions of a crime scene by our two protagonists; all this ensures that the story fits together nicely, like a perfect puzzle.

Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as the eponymous hero with sheer excellence; his performance is funny, witty and extremely convincing, making the character not only lovable but extremely enjoyable to watch in whatever situation. Jude Law is another fantastic member of the cast, delivering the same level of humour and intelligence to his character as before; the two protagonists also share a delightfully funny chemistry together. Our antagonist, James Moriarty, is played brilliantly by Jared Harris; though he's not fully developed into a villain as seemingly frightening as Lord Blackwood, he still manages to come across as sadistic and intelligent with an appealing finesse.

Fans of the original 2009 Sherlock Holmes will lap this film up in an instant; it's hard to decide which is superior as they both share a similar level of humour, wit and an equally clever plot. But rest assured, anyone who enjoyed the original should adore this sequel, and likewise anyone who didn't like the original may not find much to please them here.

Monday 31 October 2011

Movie Review - The Woman in Black (1989)

The Woman in Black: a fantastic ghost story from start to finish, creating huge levels of eerie tension yet also telling a deep, emotional story that unravels in a satisfying, organic fashion and paves the way for a relentless barrage of supernatural hauntings. Though most people know the novel by the stage play adaptation which began in 1987 (and continues showing often to this day), a more obscure and equally incredible portrayal of the story is none other than the 1989 television film; airing on Christmas Eve that year, it became an unexpected success but soon exceedingly rare due to legal distribution issues. So, with Halloween under way, let's take a look at this classic horror flick and see why it shouldn't be missed.

Arthur Kidd (Adrian Rawlins) is a young lawyer whose firm dispatches him to the lone market town of Crythin Gifford to attend the funeral of the late Alice Drablow and retrieve some legal documents from her house on Eel Marsh. But when Arthur arrives at the town, he feels a growing sense of unease as locals seem reluctant to talk about Alice Drablow or of a pale woman dressed solely in black. As Arthur continues to work at Eel Marsh House, he slowly uncovers the true origins and intentions of The Woman in Black (Pauline Moran); and her frightening purpose.

Those looking for a well crafted horror film will find much to love about The Woman in Black. Admittedly things can feel a bit slow sometimes, but the film consistently relies on the use of tension through powerful mise en scene and excellent sound design to create an uneasy, frightful atmosphere; perfect for the type of film it is. The Woman in Black is rarely seen; she appears sporadically, and is often absent when you don't expect it, which conjures a relentless amount of tension for first time viewers. And when she is actually shown, prepare to get serious goosebumps.

But rest assured this is no clumsy barrage of jump scares or just a flood of tension with no backbone; the plot really sews together the entire sequence of events organically and wonderfully, making for some shocking revelations and clever narrative twists as Arthur investigates the tales surrounding The Woman in Black as well as Eel Marsh House. Being an adaptation one can expect a number of changes to the source material which are always welcome; this movie mostly got the changes spot on, but there were a few I was not a huge fan of. For those who have read the novel, I will just say the rocking chair and leave it there.

Further pushing the levels of tension and outright horror is of course the acting; Adrian Rawlins performs Arthur with a great deal of curiosity and arrogance (this is good! The character is like that in the novel), and it's extremely easy to take him seriously when he is subjected to the terrors inside Eel Marsh House. The Woman in Black herself is portrayed without words as one should expect, but her facial expressions (and of course her frightening make up) make for a very strong performance that will surely get under your skin, especially when she is shown more clearly.

Why is it that such a great movie has to be so rare? If you plan to watch this you can find it on Youtube in several parts, but unfortunately home video copies are usually very rare and expensive if found. I'd recommend any fan of the horror genre checking this film out though; with a fantastic eerie atmosphere, well crafted spooky sets and an excellent story, it provides a well rounded adaptation of Susan Hill's classic novel and, hopefully, will scare the life out of you...it certainly did for me!

Now, let's hope the 2012 adaptation will be just as good, if not superior.

Sunday 23 October 2011

Movie Review - Johnny English Reborn

Though it was never seen in the same limelight from critics perspectives, the original 2003 Johnny English appears to have established somewhat of a fanbase; and now, eight years on, this sporadic 2011 sequel once again starring Rowan Atkinson is surely a treat for said fans, despite its identical critical mauling.

Once again parodying the acclaimed James Bond-esque spy genre, the film follows a disgraced Johnny English (Atkinson) who returns to his position at MI7 when a group of assassins dubbed 'Vortex' formulate a plot to murder the Chinese premier; of course, our titular character's prime idiocy makes this no easy feat, resulting in mish mash of slapstick chaos as we go from one lead to the next.

Though humorous, there's a distinct lack of, shall we say, 'wit' in many of the jokes; the film relies heavily on daft slapstick humour, which in fairness still conjures a lot of laughs, but eventually dissolves into mundane repetition. It's certainly funny and exceedingly amusing but at the end of the day there's not a lot of intelligence behind the comedy, making for a film that provides a lot of entertainment but at the same time feels a bit shallow.

A pretty forgettable cast of characters also downgrades the level of humour throughout; aside from Johnny English himself, pretty much none of characters provide any sort of comic or emotional engagement. The story is riddled with clichés and is certainly nothing to write home about, but at the end of the day, it's not unreasonable to say it does conjoin nicely with the tone of the film, and simply allows all this spy craziness to take place realistically.

Johnny English Reborn is not a bad film, far from it actually; it's really funny sometimes, and consistently entertaining at best. But it's mindless entertainment, with not much wit behind the jokes and little else to offer. The characters aren't truly amusing, save for the titular one and perhaps his sidekick, and it just isn't very stimulating at times. Fans of the original will lap it up, but for those who aren't interested, there's no point.

Friday 7 October 2011

Movie Review - The Lion King 3D

A whopping 17 years after its initial release, Disney's The Lion King returns to the big screen in dazzling 3D; though some will see this as a lame cash grab, others (the sensible ones) will see it as a golden chance to relive a timeless classic. But no matter where your ideologies lie, it's hard to deny the film's pure excellence even to this day.

A story inspired by Hamlet ties together the beautiful animation and jubilant musical sequences; in a kingdom of anthropomorphic animals in Africa, we meet young cub Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas/Matthew Broderick) who is destined to take the throne of Pride Rock. However, when his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones) is killed and he himself exiled, he seeks to run from his past through Hakuna Matata (no worries!), taught by new friends Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumba (Ernie Sabella). But when his past soon catches up with him, he realizes that running is no longer an option and that he must confront his sadistic uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) to take back his rightful throne; thus cementing his place in the Circle of Life.

The film shows no signs of age even 17 years on; the well paced plot of love, bravery and friendship still exudes a variety of emotion and laughter, the latter stemming mainly from lovable sidekicks Timon and Pumba, and the cast of characters is just as memorable as any other Disney classic.

It's also great to look at, boasting rich and beautiful animation with eye popping colours and dazzling scenery; this accompanied by a truly fantastic musical score by Hans Zimmer and an equally jubilant array of songs by Elton John and Tim Rice already gives The Lion King enough reason to be loved. In 3D, the film lacks some of its vibrancy, though you'll be surprised how well a 2D animated film translates to 3D graphics. It doesn't detract from the experience nor does it truly enhance it, but you'll notice times where the 3D definitely conjures some amusing visual effects.

The cast? Brilliant. Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Rowan Atkinson, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella all play their respective characters flawlessly, establishing their unique and charming personalities with ease. It's not commonplace to see a Disney film with mediocre voice performances, and The Lion King certainly doesn't break this convention.

There's much to love about this timeless classic, be it the gorgeous visuals, memorable music or lovable characters. For Disney fans of any breed, The Lion King 3D is a rerelease you simply cannot miss.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Movie Review - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Denying Gary Oldman a well deserved Oscar nomination (let alone the award itself) is beyond criminal; however, has the time finally come to right this wrong? Assembling an all star cast of sterling British talent (including Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones, John Hurt and Oldman himself), this new adaptation of John le Carré's renowned novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is surely a big fat yes.

A rather complicated narrative from beginning to end, the film revolves around British intelligence officer George Smiley (Gary Oldman) coming out of semi-retirement to locate a Soviet mole within MI6 (the "circus", as it's colloquially titled). A web of increasing complexity is woven as the story continues; sometimes you may be utterly confused, as it tends to branch out to multiple strands, but if you can understand the entire synopsis (a second watch would benefit for me, as I struggled at times) then you'll surely find it engaging. Those who fall behind, like myself, may end up getting exceedingly bored during the middle segments, which is where my appreciation for the film began to dwindle.

Visually stunning, the mise en scene employed throughout casts a true essence of isolation and mystery; the camerawork is smooth and tense, the dreary colour of everything captures the apt mood and the usage of sound is excellent for a tense atmosphere; ambience can often be exaggerated, or completely absent, to fit a sense of urgency or tension respectively.

There's no shortage of top notch acting here; every cast member, from Colin Firth to John Hurt to Tom Hardy, performs brilliantly, despite the character development sometimes stalling due to a lack of focus. Gary Oldman performs the lead role in a conservative fashion; the character isn't very memorable (I say this as a positive; that was an intentional character element) or overly portrayed, which works just as good as one might think. When you've got a cast this balanced and wonderful, it's no surprise the acting is one of the best elements to the film.

Those looking for an intelligent film will surely find much to lap up here, but those not familiar with the source material may not fully understand the narrative. Though a very well made motion picture, it's just not completely engaging throughout its two hour run time. If you can look past these flaws, there is much enjoyment to be had, and with fine performances and excellent mise en scene, it's clear a huge amount of effort went into it.

Friday 9 September 2011

Happy Birthday - to me!

It's been a while since I did a blog post, so I thought I'd post this as it is my 17th birthday today! I very much enjoyed it; spending the majority of it at my new college (first day) wasn't actually bad at all. In fact, I loved it there, and I look forward to going there next week.

What did I get, you ask? Xenoblade Chronicles (took me a while to track it down, and I shall review it very soon), a 36 x 24 inch poster of Casino Royale and a 17 x 11 inch poster of Atlantis: The Lost Empire. I also got some clothes and money, which is cool.

I'm afraid I now have nothing else to say. Tomorrow I'll post the plans for my October 2011 videos, and my next video will be the following Monday. Until then, I bid you farewell.

Monday 22 August 2011

Movie Review - Cowboys & Aliens

As the 2011 summer movie season draws to a smooth closure, Jon Favreau's Cowboys & Aliens has arrived with a bizarre fusion of cowboys and alien invaders (you knew that already? Oh, I wonder how...). Does it manage to blend these two premises in an ideal fashion? Well, the answer is yes. And no.

In 1873 New Mexico, a man named Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakes in the desert with a strange metal band attached to his wrist and no memory of his past. He soon stumbles across the small town of Absolution; not only discovering that he is a wanted criminal, but also witnessing a large group of extra-terrestrial invaders kidnap innocent locals. With the only weapon capable of fighting back, Jake must now lead a team alongside Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) to rescue the locals, defeat the enemy and, most importantly, find out where exactly he came from.

Seeing the Western aesthetics juxtaposed alongside soaring CGI space ships isn't as crude as it may initially sound; it's something that may not seem ideal to some, but the visual side of this film is actually very impressive. A good selection of shooting locations help to set and maintain the Western vibe the movie exudes, a factor also complimented by some nicely crafted sets. It's all wonderfully shot, too; the camerawork often seems to draw attention to the expansive environments the characters often navigate through, which again compliments the Western spirit of the film. The CGI effects used when the extra-terrestrial villains enter the fray are also nicely done, but it's ultimately pretty generic and not as impressive as the aforementioned Western scenics.

As we begin in the same situation as our main character, with no knowledge of his past, the story feels a lot more interesting. And it does unfold pretty nicely; well, for part of the film. It gradually explains numerous unanswered questions, and what it does explain is exactly the problem. I won't spoil, but let's just say there's a lot of really daft plot elements in here that not only feel incredibly tacky but also extremely cliché; for instance, the true motivations of our alien villains or the actual identities of some the characters. Speaking of the aliens, they're main problem is a complete scarcity of intimidation or mystery. There's simply no interesting substance to them because they're just generic creatures who never emit any sort of fear; not only this, but their dramatic entrances which spawn some of the set pieces (which, in fairness, are pretty awesome) are rather sporadic. When it comes to the characters, they are quite likeable, especially Lonergan and the Colonel, and they share a solid chemistry together. Well, as long as you ignore the incredibly bland romance that Lonergan and Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde) share.

A strong cast featuring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell helps give Cowboys & Aliens a little more momentum with its characters and, to a small degree, its story. The performances are universally excellent, with Craig bringing a gritty yet somewhat comedic charisma to Jake Lonergan (not to mention providing a solid Western accent) and Ford establishing the Colonel as a warrior with a heart. The only real downside is the flat nature of some of the well acted characters; some of them are killed off quickly before trying to be established as an importance, but a few who remain are exceedingly uninteresting (Olivia Wilde comes to mind, despite her being really hot), yet sometimes the movie wants to take them seriously and try to act as if the audience genuinely cares for them.

I didn't expect a masterpiece when I saw this movie, and what I eventually watched was certainly not that. However, if you can bury through the flaws that Cowboys & Aliens suffers from, you'll uncover a reasonably solid and entertaining summer movie. Excellent visuals and performances help to redeem it from some of its faults, but ultimately only those who were interested from the start should give it a watch.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Movie Review - The Inbetweeners Movie

The Inbetweeners is easily one of my favourite television comedies, capturing the awkward vibe of teenage life and blending it superbly with a hilarious wit. So although I'm inevitably saddened by the third series drawing the show to a closure, the big screen adaptation is here to give our hysterical quartet a satisfying write off, and believe me, you fans certainly won't feel short changed.

Having left sixth form, the lads Jay (James Buckley), Simon (Joe Thomas), Neil (Blake Harrison) and Will (Simon Bird) depart for a two week clunge-tastic holiday in Malia, Crete. But things don't go according to plan as the chances of them getting laid by four generous girls they repeatedly encounter begin to deteriorate, causing them to turn on each other unsurprisingly and stir up pure madness in the process.

The Inbetweeners Movie truly is a delight for those who adore the television series; yes, in some parts the gags are of extremely bad taste, and it doesn't possess the same level of wit as its small screen counterpart, but there's going to be a plethora of moments where fans will feel right at home. The characters are their usual, socially inept selves, causing pure teenage mayhem wherever they set foot and managing to turn a basic conversation into a dramatic and equally comedic nightmare. Though the age certificate may suggest otherwise, it's a tad more crude than the show in some respects (you will see for yourself), and it never feels watered down to simply attract a wider audience.

In terms of story, there isn't much depth to this movie. It's essentially just a series of funny events that set up the next. The backbone of the story is certainly here to keep the events sewn together nicely, but it's ultimately the characters and their idiocy that's being focused on, which works just fine. There's a few pacing problems here and there, and some forced emotional scenes (though in all honesty I doubt any of them were intended to be taken seriously) but these don't detract from the solid sense of humour the movie possesses. Though truly a satisfying conclusion for these great, eccentric characters, there's a distinct (albeit not unexpected) lack of depth to the script.

The acting is where the jokes are truly brought to life in a flawless manner; our main quartet steal the show easily with their awkward, snide and downright silly performances, triggering most of the laughs throughout these 95 minutes. The other series favourites like gargantuan dickhead Mister Gilbert and Jay's insane father make small yet hilarious appearances, and the four girls who debut (Laura Haddock, Tamla Kari, Jessica Knappett, Lydia Rose Bewley), while certainly not the source of all the laughs, are a pleasure to watch all the same.

A hilarious if imperfect experience from start to finish, The Inbetweeners Movie succeeds in creating a big screen adventure that almost matches the brilliance of the television series (yes, almost) and will certainly please all long time fans, including you 12 year olds who will undoubtedly sneak into the cinema. Those uninterested certainly won't be won over, but this is utterly essential for those who adore the previous misadventures of the four beloved lads.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Movie Review - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

A decade has passed since Tim Burton's critically panned remake of the 1968 hit Planet of the Apes, and now this classic series is being steered into a new direction with this 2011 reboot that starts afresh; establishing a brand new origin story for a future series and divulging the events that triggered the ape's reign over our world. Far from a lazy cash in, Rise of the Planet of the Apes succeeds in breathing new life into this somewhat familiar tale, and will surely leave audiences hungry for more.

The story focuses on Caesar (Andy Serkis), a chimpanzee whose intelligence is radically boosted when his owner Will Rodman (James Franco) tests a potential cure for Alzheimer's on him. Disdained by society and soon imprisoned amongst other apes, Caesar bestows the same intellect boosting virus on his fellow captives, leading to an all out war between apes and humans which will ultimately decide the fate of mankind.

Unlike past iterations, the apes present in this film are all products of computer technology; advanced CGI motion capturing was utilized to model and animate them, which is done in a very lifelike fashion. The mannerisms, movements and facial expressions are all exceedingly realistic, managing to capture the typical behaviours of a chimpanzee yet also conveying a powerful level of humanely emotion to the audience. There are times where the apes look rather synthetic, but it doesn't detract from the experience and for the most part the effects are astounding.

Initially, the story's pacing seems a bit too quick, rushing into the birth of Caesar and his human like cognition without focusing a great deal on the characters. It's not a major issue, however, and it ends shortly upon Caesar's entrance when the emotional complexity is surprisingly well thought out. Caesar is a character explored strictly through mannerisms and facial expressions which, thanks to a fantastic performance by Andy Serkis, works magnificently in communicating a great deal of passion to the audience. The focus here is certainly not apes overthrowing mankind; it's the motivations behind it, which is something evident by the action sequences only being present in the final act, so that viewers can expect a satisfying story and not an endless barrage of noisy violence.

James Franco stars as Will Rodman, the scientist behind Caesar's radical intelligence. The character isn't explored a great deal when compared to Caesar himself, but Franco's performance is still solid, which is more than I can say for co-star Tom Malfoy...I mean Felton. Not only is his character a complete stereotype with no sense behind his actions, but the performance was relatively weak, lacking any real interest and making the character stick out like a sore thumb alongside the rest of the performances (do I really need to bring up Caesar again?).

Though not without its problems, the first of which being an annoying title, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is still brilliant summer entertainment. The story is well told and very temperamental, the effects are truly stunning and Caesar is just downright awesome. If the level of quality demonstrated throughout this film carries over into the inevitable sequels, then Rise of the Planet of the Apes is set to pioneer something truly great.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Movie Review - Super 8

Lens flares. Annoying scattered rays of light that dare to interfere with the lenses of innocent little cameras, often rendering what is recorded undetectable. But in the far reaches of the galaxy, there exists a man; a man unlike any other. A man who has mastered the art of lens flare-ography, in order to incorporate the most exaggerated and colourful lens flares into his motion pictures. 

He goes by the name J.J Abrams. And now I will review Super 8, which also has lens flares, courtesy of our aforementioned mastermind.

The story, set in 1979, revolves around a group of children who witness a devastating train crash when filming their own zombie movie. What follows is a series of inexplicable disappearances, attacks and sightings as the children come to realize that the train crash was no accident; and that it has released a menacing presence into their town.

Visually, Super 8 is a very dark film. A large portion of it is set during the nighttime (WITH MANY LENS FLARES), sometimes giving the viewer limited visibility which helps to draw you into the experience, upping the mystery factor so that you end up feeling just as nervous as the characters themselves. It's actually very effective; the alien is rarely shown fully (don't worry, it's not down to stupidly rickety camera movements) so the level of suspense reaches a powerful peak in some scenes, and it provides a sinister atmosphere which compliments the story and themes nicely. A fantastic musical score (composed by Michael Giacchino) also gives life to the film's scenes, escalating the chaos during some of the set pieces, yet also helping to move the temperamental moments at an ideal pace. It's not all great, though; at some points I grew tired of them trying to conceal the appearance of the alien, and felt as if the movie was just trying to annoy me.

The story unfolds nicely as everything progresses. We're left in the dark initially in regards to several character motives and other plot elements, but these are all tied up as we follow the main characters' attempt to figure out the reasoning behind the strange occurrences in their town. It sort of plays out like a mystery tale which the characters must solve, and this is effective in keeping you hooked throughout the course of the story. But after all this tension, build up and eventual explanation, I was really letdown by the ending, which felt extremely anti-climactic. The alien is revealed, but downplayed significantly, misplacing all the tension and intimidation surrounding it; everything just culminates so quickly and in a very unsatisfying manner.

Although I was very skeptical at the prospect of such young actors starring in this movie, I must confess they all did an excellent job. The characters each have their own distinctive personalities (though at times it felt like these were just pulled out of a stereotype hat), their own quirky lines and are all in all very likeable. The only major grudge I had were the moments where every character seemed to be yelling incomprehensible blabber at one another comedically; it's funny at first, but the movie abuses it a bit too much (LIKE LENS FLARES), so it eventually develops into something rather irritating. The alien in the film seems to take a back seat at times in exchange for some character development; this works fine for the most part, as we'll obviously want to learn more about these characters (and we do), but it sort of downplays the whole alien idea; so much so that I sometimes forgot about it.

The style of this film reflects that of many of Spielberg's renowned summer blockbusters, so if you're a fan of those, then Super 8 is worth a watch. A powerful sense of the unknown lies throughout the story, keeping you gripped in regards to how various things will culminate or be revealed. It has its fair share of stupidity, and a weak ending as previously mentioned, but if you're interested (AND LIKE LENS FLARES) then I have no problem with recommending it.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Movie Review - Captain America: The First Avenger

The final installment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe before 2012's The Avengers has finally hit cinemas in the form of Captain America: The First Avenger. We've seen the likes of Iron Man, Hulk and Thor on the big screen since it all started in 2008, but now it's time to take a trip to the past and see how the world's first Avenger came to be.

Set in 1942 during the Second World War, the film tells the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), an aspiring soldier deemed physically unfit to enlist in the US Army. However, after being chosen as a participant for Project Rebirth, he is transformed into Captain America; an advanced super soldier who must guide the United States to victory. He eventually finds himself leading an army to take down the notorious Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), the leader of the HYDRA terrorist organization, who has unleashed a god-like threat in order to achieve world domination.

Visually, Captain America succeeds in capturing the essence of the 1940s through some excellently crafted sets, props, costumes and an ideal choice of shooting locations. This is what forms the World War II vibe one would expect; but then, in the spirit of a good ol' fashioned comic book film, we have the abundance of fictional, high tech weaponry and the dynamic CGI set pieces as well as some awesome fight scenes, which genuinely do look cool in 3D. Captain America's suit has also been given a solid revamp; a polished blend of the iconic colour scheme and a bulky army uniform, ensuring that we can still recognize the hero without bursting into hysterics at a ludicrously tight outfit. 

Not only is our titular hero a real pleasure to watch when beating down mindless henchmen, but he's a solid character in terms of depth and emotion as well. He's always likeable; and never made out to be a brutal, cheesy superhero with no purpose but to save mankind. Underneath all his muscle is a heart, and it's really easy to relate to him during some of the hurdles he encounters throughout the film. Our villain, Red Skull, is a bit flat and generic, but remains a solid antagonist; his evil insanity clearly illustrated with every scene. There's a fair few characters you won't honestly care for, though; namely Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) who serves as the Captain's love interest. The romance is bland, forced and rather sappy, which in fairness is the case with a lot of comic book movies, but it doesn't stop the character being anymore wooden.

Chris Evans fits the role of the Captain exceedingly well, never showing him to be a brute or an arrogant patriot. We get the feeling that his superhuman strength is merely physical; he's still a human deep down, and can suffer just like one, which is all endorsed by Evans' great performance. Hugo Weaving is also a great choice for his character; the German accent he has going on is solid, and although the character is (as previously said) a bit generic, Weaving still manages to exemplify what makes an intimidating villain. Though the supporting characters aren't the most interesting, they're all performed nicely, even Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and especially Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips.

If you're a fan of superhero movies, or have enjoyed the previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then Captain America: The First Avenger is an essential watch. Pleasantly old school with an abundance of satisfying set pieces, fight scenes and a handful of great performances, it is sure to please all fans of the genre and will leave you with a ravenous appetite for The Avengers next year.

Oh, and stay behind for a bloody awesome post credits scene.

Sunday 24 July 2011

Movie Review - Cars 2

It's hard to deny that Pixar Animation Studios have an excellent track record in the film industry, having produced an abundance of top quality CGI animated films such as Toy Story (and its sequels), Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, WALL-E and much more. Despite not being necessarily known for it, they've recently been pinning their focus on sequels to some of their older hits, and whilst this worked brilliantly in 2010 with Toy Story 3, a beautifully animated and wonderfully satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, I'm afraid to say that this year's Cars 2 doesn't share such a success.

The story revolves around Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) as they travel the globe during the World Grand Prix, which McQueen is determined to win. However, amongst all this, Mater learns of an evil mastermind who is violently sabotaging races worldwide, and inadvertently teams up with British spies Finn McMissile (Sir Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) in order to unmask this criminal and save the day.

Being a Pixar film, it should be fairly obvious that the aesthetic side of things is top notch. Environments are truly wonderful to behold, with some being nicely modelled after real life landscapes, and character animation is incredibly fluid. It's not as colourful as some of Pixar's other flicks, but rest assured, everything looks great. The film is also viewable in 3D format, and to me this felt very conservative. The 3D isn't really that spectacular even during the action or racing sequences, and in all honesty I wouldn't recommend it.

Whilst Cars 2 provides some pleasant eye candy, the story is where things fall a bit short. Granted, the story is by no means terrible, but when you remember that this is Pixar, everything seems a tad too unoriginal and predictable and there's a severe lack of development in some of the characters. Take Lightning McQueen; who, after being the central character of the original film and experiencing noticeable changes in his personality throughout, has been downgraded to a completely flat supporting character. That's right; Mater is the main character of this film (why the poster implies otherwise I have no idea), and whilst he's certainly a lot of fun, the film doesn't really enable you to relate to him that well and his comedic idiocy gets a bit old after a while. The story won't grab you, but the film is stuffed with a plethora of nicely animated Bond-esque action sequences and some intense racing scenes, and whilst these to get old after a while, they're still the highlights of the film by far.

The voice cast of Cars 2 is pretty much the same as that of the past movie, but of course we have some new additions for certain new characters, most notably Sir Michael Caine who fits the character of Finn McMissile perfectly. He's English, so he's automatically awesome anyway, but the voice over he provides shows both the sophisticated yet earnest nature of the character. Mater is yet again comically voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, and as I previously said the character is pretty funny, but after a while his charm dies off and he descends into a pit of extreme annoyance. The rest of the voice cast perform nicely, especially Owen Wilson and Emily Mortimer who, alongside Caine, provide the best vocal performances in the film, at least in my opinion.

As a standard animated film, Cars 2 is decent and, at times, a lot of fun. As a Pixar film, not to mention a follow up to Toy Story 3, it's very average. Not at all bad, mind. In fact, it's still an enjoyable film, but when it comes to the story and characters, everything just feels far too wooden and you'll be paying more attention to the action sequences than you will to the actual plot. If you really want to see the film, then by all means do so, but if you weren't very interested from the start, you should give it a miss.