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Film Review: Molly’s Game

“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

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Film Review: Thor: Ragnarok

“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

Film Review: The Dark Tower

“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

Film Review: Star Trek: Beyond

“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

Film Review: The Jungle Book

“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

Film Review: Zootropolis

“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

Top 5 Movies of 2013!

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.

1 – RushRush 2

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

Pacific Rim 43 – Pacific Rim

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.

Pacific Rim – Review

4 – Only God ForgivesOnly God Forgives 3

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

Thor – The Dark World – Review & SPOILERS

ThorSeeing that over the last few days, I’ve been hammering (get it!?, get it!?) out Assassins Creed: Black Flag so I can get a review out of it, I didn’t want to leave anyone out of my recent travels.

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 Thor 1know 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.

Pacific Rim – Review -SPOILERS-

Pacific Rim 2If you have been following me on Twitter, you are sure to have noticed my excitement over this film. If you haven’t been following my Twitter, go ahead and follow, Its free!

Here is a collection of reasons why I fan girled over this movie:

1) Giant monsters

2) Idris Elba

3) Carnage

4) Massive fights

A general overview of the story is an alien invasion via the Pacific ocean by an alien race using giant monsters. We spend most of the time in Hong Kong, which isn’t a surprise after the whole Godzilla incident.  To defend against the incoming assaults, the human race bands together to fight the ugly bastards. So looking at the basics of the story, we can find it to be a little simplistic or basic yet it follows a few little sub stories throughout. One is the research team, which takes you onto the streets of Hong Kong and into its dark underworld ruled by Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman). Another is the story behind the damaged Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) which explains her connection to Idris’ Stacker Pentecost. The little stories inevitably collide and aid the final event, but it is nice that it jumps between them and doesn’t overplay the action scenes.

Speaking of actors and the action, both were brilliantly executed. The crazy researchers were both irritable but comedic in their own style Pacific Rim 4which makes their performances stick out vividly in my mind, but the main man for me was Idris Elba, whose ability to switch between anger to a calm silence which makes you shiver in anticipation for his next move. As you see in the trailer, Idris has a prominent speech to raise morale. A well written speech, well performed with a vigour that makes his character even more believable. I do have a couple of bones to pick with acting though. A scene which entails a young Mako Mori is disturbing and wrong on so many levels. Good child actors are hard to come across, but when she moans like she’s in an Asian porn movie on repeat, it turns a few heads and should have been toned down to avoid such incidents.

As one of the only giant monster movies in recent years, its safe to say that it has enough to compensate for the years the genre has been non existent. In true Hellboy fashion, monsters are big, stunning to look at and violence is plentiful, splashed with wisps of humour. The action and fight scenes were incredible and great fun to watch. Shots are erratic and hard to track but immerses you into the settings while disorientating you like our heroes. If you are anything like me, you would have been giggling and Pacific Rim 3laughing like a little kid at the sheer carnage and the severe beatings that were being rained down by both sides.

Just looking at the scenes, it is obvious that the film had a huge budget and FX specialists worked day and night to create some of the best visual effects that I have ever seen.  Everything looked real; the scales on the beasts, water rippling at every move, glass twinkling in the Hong Kong’s neon and the general scenery which was flawless all the way though. Even set pieces were gorgeous. The blending of so many colours, lights and debris was stunning and is the perfect example of what the area would look like. We also have the costumes which were a mix of many different style. From a Sci-fi white to a badass carbon fibre armour, the suits are simplistic, yet elegant. It’s also nice to see that the women aren’t sexualised throughout with skimpy armour and little clothing. You will also notice Hannibal’s distinctive golden armour plated shoes which are just crazy and would fit well in my collect, so if you know where I can find them, be sure to comment below!

I’m still pumped from seeing it and want to get my hands on anything and everything in relation to the movie (Already got the soundtrack!), which will most likely be a badass poster and maybe my first collectable statue. But anyway, the movie is a must see blockbuster hit. Certainly one of my favourite films of this year and is a good summer smasher, so this movie shall be getting a 8/10 simply for its generic story and a few little niggly bits throughout.

Pacific Rim

Luther – Season 3 – BBC UK – Episode 1 – SPOILERS-

An explosive opening to an explosive series. Luther has to be oneLuther 3 of my favourite shows and characters that I have seen on the my television for many, many years. Idris Elba portrays the deeply troubled an dark detective with such ease and grace that it feels real.

I won’t ruin this for anyone, but BBC Iplayer is easily accessible and I only have a few key points to pick out!

So, we open at what appears to be the end of the series. The blues are blazing and a fire rages behind a steel garage door, it beings to creep up as fire licks at the back wall and we see Luther, his partner and what I can only assume to be the killer. Suddenly a bang, and fire roars out of the building as
Idris walks out without a care in the world.

From now, it appears that detective Ripley (Luther’s partner) has now joined forces with a few rogue officers who have it out for the way Luther takes justice into his own hands and his rational choice which is legally wrong by morally right. We also have the introduction of a new love interest and a killer who looks to be our main protagonist for the whole series.

Whether this series will turn out like season two’s miniseries or a full length series. However, this episode has shown that they have retained the gritty lighting, the rough landscapes and the heart pumping tension which is raised in an amazing style. No music, just the breathing, creeks of the floor, a flick of a switch and it suddenly ruptures into violence. The techniques here will be great for the big screen, and as some of you may know, there is talk about a movie after this series.

The sudden return of a British great, which seals the UK’s reputation for gritty street dramas and brilliant television. If you missed it, be sure too jump onto BBC Iplayer and get watching!

Luther 2