“I’m Dealing With The Future Of The Planet. I’m The Necessary Shock To The System. I Am Human Evolutionary Change…”
After a rather petulant, if supposed, high-profile, on-set fall out, the hotly reported, rather extended and overly silly “feud” between the muscle-headed duo of both Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Vin Diesel results in the release of Hobbs and Shaw this week, a similarly stupid, bloated and mind-numbingly dull spin-off from the jaw-droppingly successful Fast and Furious franchise, a blockbuster series which staggeringly continues to make shed loads of money even when the quality chops and changes more often than the leader of the Conservative party. Whilst the Furious franchise has become less about fast cars and more about fuel-injected explosions over the course of nearly two decades, Hobbs and Shaw is the first to overtly discount any notion of similarity from the set up of the series’ first couple of movies and fall more into the bracket of full-on, high-octane, science fiction oriented action, one which sees The Rock and Jason Statham pretty much play themselves as they happily accept bundles of cash in order to reprise the titular roles of Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw respectively in order to prevent a catastrophic, world-ending, overly cliched bad thing from occurring. Whilst I am all for silly, hot-headed nonsense from time to time, Hobbs and Shaw is the type of action movie which is so painfully sterile and cheap, you long for the craftsmanship of 1990’s era Michael Bay to come in and at least churn out a decent level of enjoyment, but with excess for the sake of excess and an annoying scent of self-congratulating sprayed upon it, the Furious franchise’s first spin-off makes you long for the return of Vin Diesel.
Let’s start with the stars of the movie themselves. Take The Rock for instance, a dramatically effective action superstar with enormous physicality to boot who when placed in semi-decent, B-movie esque action romps in the ilk of Skyscraper can be thoroughly enjoyable to observe, but for too long now seems to be continually placed in simply awful works of cinema including the likes of San Andreas, Rampage and Jumanji, all of which unsurprisingly then proceed to take millions upon millions of dollars resulting in the cycle of bang-average movies continuing forevermore. In the case of Hobbs and Shaw, the addition of the always likeable Statham and Idris Elba should indeed be a trio made in heaven, but thanks to a quite awful screenplay, one full of genre-literate cliches and dodgy accents, eclectic editing which literally made me cheer inside once a shot held still for more than thirty seconds, and digital effects which take you completely out of the action due to their sheer cheap and tacky sensibility, Hobbs and Shaw is a real cause for concern regarding the way in which summer blockbusters seem to be heading, particularly when you look at the other examples this year alone in the ilk of Godzilla and Men in Black, but with the movie guaranteed to be a box office marvel as it provides certain types of audiences with enough to keep them coming, I for one can only speak the truth, and in the case of Hobbs and Shaw, it really is quite crap.
Overall Score: 3/10
“I Sent You To London So You Wouldn’t Start A War In Kingston…”
With hot rumours surfacing of him taking the role of the next James Bond and the return of BBC’s hit crime drama, Luther, in the near future, it’s fair to say that Idris Elba is indeed a busy, busy man, and with a fundamental warmth and undeniable likeability, Elba’s career seems to be going from strength to strength even when the steely-eyed few still remember Elba’s superb performance as Stringer Bell in the greatest television programme of all time, The Wire. It comes with a particularly heavy heart therefore that Elba’s directorial debut, a hazy adaptation of Victor Headley’s 1992 cult novel, Yardie, is unfortunately a plodding, strangely dull and overly cliched crime drama which fails to ignite the touchpaper of Elba’s switch from in front of the camera to behind it. With dedicated performances from many newcomers within the cast, an eclectic mix of groovy musical accompaniments and an obvious love for the source material from Elba, Yardie isn’t exactly terrible, but its’ major flaws are so crushingly obvious that it’s hard to paint over the cracks in order to make the film better than it really is.
Focusing on Aml Ameen’s (Kidulthood) Dennis “D” Campbell and his rise within the criminal underworld of a poverty stricken Kingston, Jamaica, the early exposition of the movie is recalled through the age-old use of voice-over, and whilst my own personal preference for storytelling undoubtedly favours a “show me, not tell me” format, Elba’s particular narrative technique does quickly become overly cheap and relatively boring as every single movement is described when the audience is already ten steps ahead. With the movie primarily suffering from an utter lack of effective characterisation which results in the film simply being observed than truly being sucked into the drama, the overly familiar gangster set-up fails to carry any fresh ideas, even when its’ key characters on the surface are interesting but are unfortunately let down by poor writing and dialogue which is as hokey as it is sometimes undecipherable. With a groovy soundtrack and some smokey, 70’s era London cinematography, Elba’s vision for the movie is admirable but with the whole much weaker than the sum of its’ parts, Yardie is a yawn-inducing disappointment.
Overall Score: 4/10
“You Managed To Build A Multi Million Dollar Business Using Not Much More Than Your Wits…”
The first film of 2018 has swiftly arrived and brings with it the talented presence of writer/director Aaron Sorkin whose screenplays for the likes of The Social Network, Moneyball and Steve Jobs have placed him at the top of many’s list for the most in-demand screenwriter in America. Turning to the director’s chair for the very first time, Sorkin utilises the prestigious talents of Jessica Chastain in a dramatic representation of Molly Bloom’s autobiographical memoir about the rise and fall of her independently managed luxurious poker empire and the subsequent legal battles following the fallout of a statewide led criminal investigation. With Sorkin’s recognisable literary craft sweeping throughout, Molly’s Game is a rigorous exercise of the American’s unmistakable style audiences have grown to respect and love, and whilst a lengthy and bloated narrative timeline does weaken the finished product and prevent the movie being held in the same esteem as previous Sorkin penned releases, Molly’s Game is a flashy full house of a movie with a Chastain on unmissable form.
Beginning with a quickfire introductory voiceover outlining a young Molly Bloom’s disastrous Olympic skiing experience, Sorkin’s narrative weaves its way sharply and smoothly throughout a first act which follows Chastain’s Bloom as she develops from wandering idealist to opportunist successor, one who uses her real estate agent contact (Jeremy Strong) to flex her intellectual muscles and take over control of an infamous and highly prestigious unlicensed poker ring. With the money flowing, the famous faces increasing and a drug addiction mounting, Sorkin’s script attempts to mix in a wide range of elements of both a personal and dramatic nature of which the source material may have successfully delved into on paper, but even with a two and a half hour runtime to play with, these multiple plot threads do end up feeling convoluted come the final act where even the addition of a ever reliable Idris Elba does strangely seem somewhat added on, with his character never really having the depth to solidify his existence. However, with Chastain owning a leading role which carries all the charisma and charm you would expect from an actress renowned for playing similar characters in Miss Sloane and Zero Dark Thirty, Molly’s Game is a zippy and smart character drama which excels thanks to the involvement of a writer whose move to directing has began more than rewarding.
Overall Score: 8/10
“We Have To Stop Her Here And Now, And Prevent Ragnarok, The End Of Everything…”
With arguably two of the weakest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, the return of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor marks the seventeenth entry in the gargantuan comic franchise, and whilst the character is awash with charisma and undeniable charm, it seems Hemsworth’s God of thunder has been the recipient of being better served when mixed in with the collective Marvel characters rather than being free to fight battles on his lonesome. Inevitably therefore, Ragnarok, directed by New Zealand’s Taika Waititi, manages to follow in the footsteps of Captain America: Civil War by for all intents and purposes being an Avengers movie, just without the titular phrasing slapped across it, with Hemsworth’s character this time being surrounded by the likes of Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner and the return of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in his battle against Cate Blanchett’s evil goddess of death, Hela. With Waititi’s previous works including the likes of What We Do In The Shadows and last year’s critically acclaimed independent groundbreaker, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the Kiwi’s ascent into Hollywood stardom continues the MCU’s usage of interesting, promising directors after Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 and Jon Watt’s take on Spiderman: Homecoming earlier this year, and what Waititi has managed to achieve with Ragnarok is undeniably create the best of the Thor standalone releases so far, but with a aching sense of inconsequentiality running through it, the latest MCU release is supercharged in style but lacking wholly in any sense of prolonging substance.
Faced with the passing of father Odin, Thor heeds the warning of the coming of Cate Blanchett’s Hela, the Goddess of Death, whose desire to overthrow the Asgardian kingdom could potentially lead to the coming of Ragnarok, a prophetic armageddon which eradicates the existence of Asgard from the face of the universe, but with the God of Thunder’s preoccupied exile onto the planet of Sakaar, Thor must first overcome the greatest gladiator battle of all time before returning to save his home planet from certain destruction. With the chugging riffs of Led Zeppelin and a colourful, sparkly tone which made Guardians of the Galaxy so joyous throughout, Ragnarok is a movie which soaks up the fundamental ridiculousness of Thor’s character and simply hands the audience an undeniably entertaining comic adventure on a multi-coloured plate, and whilst the rib tickling comedy and likeable characters, both old and new, keep the audience chuckling and the lengthy running time manageable, the latest Marvel adventure does suffer at times from having almost too much to say without any of it having any real consequence. With a emo-inflicted villain who is too camp to take seriously, strangely jarring cameos from particular Hollywood stars and a limited screen presence from the likes of Jeff Goldblum and Idris Elba, Ragnarok suffers where the likes of Civil War prevailed, with the latter working with each pieces of the chess board onto something of consequence, and considering the future which lies ahead for the fate of the MCU, Ragnarok is indeed a highly enjoyable addition to the Marvel universe but ultimately doesn’t seem exactly necessary.
Overall Score: 7/10
“You Can’t Stop What’s Coming. Death Always Wins…”
Growing up with Stephen King books going as far back as I can remember, the cinematic accessibility of the American’s many novels has resulted in a variety of classic movies over the course of nearly half a decade, and whilst The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me are arguably the standout examples, even when Kubrick’s famous horror barely resembles the source material, The Dark Tower series has seemingly been in production hell since the first whispers of a possible adaptation came to the floor at the turn of the 21st century. With previously attached filmmakers J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard both passing on the project, the task has fallen into the hands of Danish director Nikolaj Arcel, who along with King’s own blessings and Howard’s descent into a production role, has finally managed to create a live-action adaptation of King’s monstrous fantasy epic. Being an avid reader of all things King, The Dark Tower series is indeed a collection of novels which I have enjoyably devoured, and whilst King’s own notion of such a series being a cross between The Lord of the Rings and Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, the novels do have weaknesses, particularly within the concluding three releases, and whilst many have bulked at particular high profile changes which have occurred in the transition from paper to screen, Arcel’s adaptation is a release I have been eagerly awaiting since the first trailer was announced and with the fundamental and historical issues some stories have when making the jump to the big screen, the question on everyone’s lips is; was it worth the wait?
In a nutshell? Not quite, and whilst Arcel’s adaptation of King’s novels suffers from a wide range of basic filmmaking issues, The Dark Tower was a movie in which I was never bored, never lost in the rapid overlapping of plots and crucially, never bothered by the gargantuan and radical differences that have occurred between the process from paper to screen, and because of this, the movie was a rare case of a film which seemed to be rather enjoyable even when the weaknesses are so apparent on screen. In my own view, my ability to overlook such downfalls such as awful editing, ear-scraping dialogue and cheesy special effects, is ultimately down to my affinity to the source material and although the convoluted plot will undoubtedly seem incoherent and completely bonkers to an audience coming to the film with no previous knowledge of the characters or the setting, Arcel’s movie is so obviously an adaptation made solely for the readers of the series, and for that alone, I applaud the ballsy approach to create such. With obvious production problems at the heart of the finished article, The Dark Tower is a movie which worked more than it failed, and whilst the rafter of negative reviews and poor box office numbers will unfortunately class the film as a failure, Arcel’s adaptation will no doubt be the beginning of a series which is destined to be explored much, much more either on the big screen or the small.
Overall Score: 6/10
“We’ve Got No Ship, No Crew, How’re We Going To Get Out Of This One…?
Taking the helm as only producer this time around, it is resoundingly safe to say that J. J. Abrams is the all-round geek saviour of the 20th century where long before breaking box office records and smashing countless other cinematic achievements with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mr. Abrams lit the fuse once again in regards to the nations’ love of Star Trek, with a brand new team of space explorers being offset with a brand new timeline, expanding the stories of the crew upon the Enterprise to new and exciting limits. Now, six years since the first Star Trek reboot, Star Trek: Beyond continues the blockbuster success of the franchise, where although it could be regarded as the weakest of the three so far, Justin Lin’s directorial space debut is solid and sometimes spectacular summer popcorn fun featuring everything you would expect from an array of actors each used to their own talents on and off-screen in the six years from which they first began their voyage into deep space, albeit if the series itself is beginning to feel ever so slightly formulaic.
Beginning with a portrayal of a day in the life of our beloved Enterprise crew, Star Trek: Beyond begins rather slowly and then ascends into a two-hour survival mission against the ominous yet dedicated figure of main antagonist Krall, played expertly by everyone’s favourite Bond hopeful, Idris Elba, and his pack of cronies, hell bent on bringing destruction to those who wronged them in the past. If anything, Krall’s role in Beyond is all too small, where although Elba’s performance is enough to make him an effective bad guy, the script just doesn’t allow his character to become complex enough to make him memorable. Of course, the one-two of Pine and Quinto brings the bromance factor to the table, sidelined by the cling-on (no pun intended) of third wheeler Bones, whilst the bad-ass duo of Zoe Saldana and Sofia Boutella gives the female characters an extensive role to bring to life. Of course, overshadowing the release of Beyond is the deeply saddening loss of Anton Yelchin, an actor lost too young and an actor whose roles in films such as Green Room and the Star Trek franchise means he will not swiftly be forgotten. Beyond is Star Trek to the T. A classic adventure with some great thrills, if not entirely up to the mark of its’ predecessors within the 21st century revival trilogy.
Overall Score: 7/10
“I Am Mowgli, And This Is My Home..!”
Of all the Live-Action Disney remakes that have graced our screens over the course of the past few years or so, the latest from Iron Man’s Jon Favreau could easily be regarded as perhaps the best of the lot, with Kenneth Branagh’s take on Cinderella last year arguably being the closest Disney re-imagining that manages to at least rival and in some areas, better, the latest take on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, a film featuring an impressive foray of CGI inflicted animals, each with their own personalities, aided by a stellar voice cast featuring the likes of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley and of course, Idris Elba as the terrifying figure of Shere Kan, an enemy completely parallel to the one featured in the 1967 Disney animated classic, highlighting the darker and scarier direction Favreau’s film has decided to go in. The real question still remains though; does the latest incarnation of Mowgli and Baloo’s story give justice to both Kipling and the 1967 animation? It does indeed, although, perhaps inevitably, probably won’t be as endearing as the latter has been in terms of longevity and legacy.
Of the film’s many successes, the CGI animals throughout the entirety of the film are a sheer wonder to behold, with flawless design and an incredibly voice cast accomplishing the incredible feat of forgetting the animals’ fictionalised reality and entirely believing in them from the outset. A dour joke at the beginning that fell flat on its’ face aside, the CGI through the course of the film is easily the best use of the technology in recent memory, perfectly realising the characters of Kipling, particularly that of the stand-out trio in Bill Murray’s charismatic Baloo, Idris Elba’s sinister Shere Kan and finally, Christopher Walken’s King Louie, harbouring a comical updated version of “I Wan’na Be Like You”. Letting the team down rather comprehensively however is Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa, a involvement way too short to have any impact whatsoever. Of course, being the only real-life actor within the film, Neel Sethi’s portrayal of Mowgli is one of depth and interest, a testament to the young acting abilities of Sethi, a previously unheard actor. Not any more I would think. Disney does it again, congratulations, The Jungle Book is a easy-going family treat, one that will please everyone that intends to see it. With a sequel already in the works, it is safe to say the story of Mowgli has a very strong future indeed. Any news on Star Wars now?
Overall Score: 7/10
“It’s Called A Hustle Sweetheart…”
And finally, here we are at last. The showdown between two heavyweights. The greatest battle ever to have graced this crazy world. That’s right guys, it’s Zootropolis against Batman V Superman. Disney against Warner. Bunny against Bat. See what I’m getting at? Good, I’ll stop now. Continuing the riveting success of movies of the animated variety over the course of the past few years or so is Disney’s latest pet project (No pun intended) Zootropolis, a film proud enough to stand toe-to-toe with BvS in hope of snatching that esteemed number one spot in the top ten list come the end of the Easter Holidays. If money doesn’t speak volumes to you however, then the critical concentration of the two films is the thing you may indeed be looking at, with Zootropolis being leagues ahead in terms of overall quality in comparison to the Batman behemoth, with laughs being rife all the way though it’s Chinatown-esque mystery themes and nods to the adult variety which will bound to leave all audiences leaving the cinema with a smile. And a new annoyingly catchy song to hum to.
Leaving the carrot-harvesting life of her surroundings, optimistic young rabbit Judy Hopps enrols within the Police Recruitment program whereby she is reassigned to the vast and sprawling city of Zootropolis after graduating top of her class and having the esteemed reputation of becoming the first rabbit to do so. Although beginning life as a lowly traffic warden, Judy soon becomes unravelled in a kidnapping plot and with the help of fox con-artist Nick Wilde, she attempts to uncover the deep, dark secrets surrounding the cities anthropomorphic lifestyle. Featuring fantastic visuals and a incredible voice cast including the likes of Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and Ginnifer Goodwin as the young Officer Hopps, Zootropolis manages to encapsulate all the things that make animated movies the success that they are, with well-timed jokes cracked left, right and centre whilst the well-designed characters are crafted with more-than-enough detail to keep all the little ones interested and engaged. Although it perhaps doesn’t include the same wonder factor of last years’ brilliant one-two of Inside Out and Song of the Sea, Zootropolis is indeed a brilliant addition to the Disney canon, one in which I could watch again and again and continue to smile. Oh yeah, and that Shakira song is damn catchy.
Overall Score: 8/10
2013 has been one hell of a year. We have yet to hit our first birthday (Feb. 18th) but I’ve had plenty of time to spend procrastinating, watching films and playing games. Nothing different to my normal lifestyle, apart from the fact that this site gives me a reason to sit up until 3AM.
In no particular order, I have chosen my 5 favourite movies of the year.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Rush details the lives of famed racing drivers Nikki Lauda and James Hunt. Ron Howards directions gave this movie an incredible feeling. It is a raw depiction of one of the most dangerous sports with little regulation and safety precaution. Gloriously shot, the colours pop and focus is always drawn perfectly with the right balance of focus in high speed chases. An exciting thrill ride with an intriguing story and a must-see for any F1 fans, both new and old. Full throttle excitement with some strong language and a feels trip for old fans. Rush – Review
2 – Captain Phillips
Based on the events in 2009 where Somali pirates board the MV Maersk Alabama. The five day ordeal is compressed down quite substantially but still is a brutal watch. Nothing is skimped out and you can really feel the tension oozing off screen. The space that they had to work in is also incredible when you think about it. The work that went into getting the stunning shots is massive and it paid off 100%. With Tom Hanks at the helm, his acting talent shines. Contrasted against Barkhad Abdi, two completely different men bounce off of each other. Abdi’s skeletal frame is token to how well they have cast everyone. A roller-coaster ride with one of the best ending scenes I have ever seen. Packed with emotion, superb acting and gorgeous filming, anyone with half a brain will adore. Captain Phillips – Review
Giant monsters, giant robots and a shit ton of action? What’s not to love!? Yeah the script and acting are a little wack but no one can say that Pacific Rim is a terrible movie. Visual effects are probably the best I’ve seen in many years and the choreographed fight scenes are just epic. Plus a bit of Idris Elba never goes a miss. The perfect movie. Nothing to complicated, great fun and a gaggle of laughs.
Considered the biggest Marmite film of this year, I felt that this movie was a work of art. Directed by the same guy as Drive, the gruesome violence transcends into this wonderfully excessive environment. Yeah, sure, Ryan Gosling isn’t an amazing actor and has the voice of a prepubescent boy who can’t convey anger without squeaking away like he lost a game of Call of Duty. All that aside, it is a really meaty and creative piece of work. It’s a film that demands a lot from it’s audience and if you’re in the right mindset, you could really enjoy the neon lights and the twisted story to this dramatic thriller. Only God Forgives – Review
5 – Saving Mr. Banks
Seeing that I only just reviewed this the other day, I was in love with this movie. It’s a real feel good movie which feels like it has every bit lovingly worked upon to give it this feeling. The jumping between time periods to elaborate and expand the story is a wonderful addition to document the life and creation of the beloved Mary Poppins. An all around great film with little – if anything wrong with it. Saving Mr. Banks – Review
Earlier today we Brits were treated to the release of yet another Marvel movie! This instalment of Thor details the resurgence of the Dark Elves – a race who ruled the universe in complete darkness and seek to bring back the black with the use of a super weapon which does a lot of complicated science stuff. So, we have more aliens fighting alien. I always feel that this is what makes Thor shine. It’s not always bound to saving earth. It’s a much wider aspect that opens up far more avenues for high octane fun. With a mix of brilliant cameos and sassy jokes, Thor is definitely a must-see.
As I’ve already explained the story, I don’t feel much need to complain about it. With a lot of twists and turns, you are drawn into the story, even if moments are predictable. Being that it is a Marvel movie, it is going to have the good vs bad which drives the story forward even if it feels a little generic.
Visually, it was almost perfect. ALMOST. Certain green screen scenes and long distance shots made characters stick out like a sore thumb, overly bright in a dark area and this really agitated me. The same could be said about some of the fight sequences that do exactly the same. Otherwise there are some brilliant visual effects all the way through astonishing costume design that makes everything look badass.
Marvel are not known for Oscar worthy scripts and acting but it wasn’t bad. Yeah, there was a few cheesy lines but they were mixed in with witty one-liners that were very funny and kept a continual up beat feeling throughout. The sassy nature of Loki with his banter towards Thor is golden. It helps to enforce the fact that they are siblings. This sassy nature also uses Loki’s power to transform himself into Captain America and spout excitable, patriotic nonsense which he is notorious for but also makes Loki look like he is trying to impress his older brother. With another guest appearance from Stan Lee, the film seems complete. The only other thing to focus on is the acting. Hemsworth and Hiddleston were perfect, as ever. My issue rides with Natalie Portman who plays a pretty pathetic character in the first place but she doesn’t look genuine – almost uncomfortable in her role. Fear ends up looking more like shock. An additional actor that many people don’t really focus on when they think Thor is Idris Elba. If you haven’t read my Pacific Rim review, you should know that I love this man and I feel he didn’t have a big enough role within this film and I wanted to see what happened to him at the end.
Overall, I consider a 8/10 a good score. It’s a darker and more personal twist for Thor to undertake and appears to be the current trend at Marvel (Look at Iron Man). Yet, some acting, some poor CGI and a few loose ends within the story do drag it down for me. Superhero/action movies will never achieve a 10/10, simply because they are more for fun rather than the critical film making that many critics desire.
I’m sorry for such a short and crazy review but seeing I’m running on 5 hours sleep and trying to keep up with everything that’s going on is not an easy task.