“What I’ve Learnt From Men Like Your Late Husband And My Father Is That You Reap What You Sow…”
For a director who already holds widespread acclaim and critical pedigree with so few releases, even with only his fourth release, Oscar winning director, Steve McQueen, unfortunately already bears the pressure of making sure every release is made with the similar style and pedigree of the multi Academy award winning, 12 Years a Slave, back in 2013, following on from the equally impressive one-two of the Michael Fassbender led, Hunger and Shame. With Fassbender surprisingly not on the guest list for McQueen’s latest, the Brit teams up with the brilliant Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl and the recently adapted Sharp Objects, for a contemporary adaptation of Lynda La Plante’s Widows, a subverted crime thriller first brought to the small screen on ITV during the mid 1980’s and now transferred to modern day Chicago which sees Viola Davis (Fences) as the mournful Veronica Rawlins, who after the death of her husband and his thieving band of criminals, orchestrates a heist of her own alongside the widowing wives of her husband’s deceased gang in order to pay back the seething crime boss who her husband had previously ripped off. Boasting one of the most impressive ensemble casts of the year, McQueen’s latest is a expertly crafted, if slightly conventional, heist thriller, one which blends a top notch screenplay with top of their game performers and a movie proves that even when hitting particular genre conventions, some filmmakers just have the natural knack to create brilliant pieces of cinema.
As per pretty much all of McQueen’s previous work, the focus of Widows is undoubtedly on the individual players which carry Flynn’s words from paper to screen, and with a healthy abundance of depth and substance given to the film’s primarily female leading force, the storytelling begins at a perfect, precise pace, using the early dramatic set piece in which we see the criminal gang led by Liam Neeson’s (The Commuter) Harry Rawlins both enter and exit the story in dramatic fashion as a opening into the world of the wives left behind. Supported by the likes of the excellent double act of Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) and Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious), the plot is primarily seen through the eyes of the simply magnanimous Viola Davis as the headstrong and independently ferocious widower who is caught in the crossfires of Brian Tyree Henry’s (Hotel Artemis) crime boss turned political aspirer and the ominous presence of Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) as the merciless gang enforcer. Whilst McQueen understands the nature of the genre in which Widows ultimately sits, the Heat-esque crime procedural feel of the film takes cues from the work of Michael Mann by portraying the landscape of a city with obvious purpose, summed up particularly in one superb one-take tracking shot in which we see Colin Farrell’s (The Beguiled) slippery politician be driven from an area riddled with poverty and famine to another plated in excess and wealth in the space of a few, short minutes, a take which reminds everyone of the one-shot conversation between Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham in McQueen’s first feature, Hunger. Whilst the concluding act does feature a rather anticlimactic central heist and an alarming sense of rushness as the credits begin to roll, Widows is stylish cinema made by people who understand how film’s should be made for audiences after something more than your average blockbuster, and when you have this much talent on just one film set, the outcome was always going to be something rather special.
Overall Score: 8/10
“Someone On This Train Does Not Belong. All You Have To Do Is Find Them…”
Whilst many took to the idea that Liam Neeson had adhered to his word of refusing to star in any future action movies, something of which which he stated profoundly across media lines last year, it comes at no surprise that this week audiences are treated to The Commuter, the latest from Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra, whose reunion with Neeson follows on from their previous work together on Non-Stop and Run All Night, with the word of the Irish actor much more uncertain and dishonest since he laughed off the possibility of Taken 3 in 2013, a sequel which was then swiftly released only two years later. Whilst the obvious similarities to previous action movies are inevitable for a movie starring an actor recently renowned for jumped-up, high octane nonsense, Neeson’s latest is a movie both ridiculous and enjoyable in equal measure, a laughably absurd ideas thriller which although suffers from a wide range of clearly defined issues, is indeed up there with the better Neeson action movies to be released since his turn as the revenge seeking killer in Pierre Morel’s 2008 cult classic, Taken, a movie which launched a latter-stage chapter of the actor’s career to ridiculous levels of newly found action hero fame.
Approached by the mysterious Vera Farmiga during his daily commute, Neeson’s Michael MacCauley is tasked with attempting to hunt down a particular unknown fellow passenger without truly understanding the reasoning behind such, aside from the offer of excessive monetary reward. Jumping in and out of the shadow of previous film ideas as swift as the film’s chaotic editing, The Commuter is the type of movie which evokes so many previous stories that the film almost becomes a entertaining ferris wheel of bingo in which you tick off every film that comes to mind as the carnage unravels in the loudest and silliest way possible. Switching from Red Eye to Source Code to Under Siege 2 as quickly as possible within a completely manic first act which does manage to contain a rigid element of threat and mystery rather entertainingly, The Commuter then concludes with a amalgamation of Unstoppable and 16 Blocks with added predictability and cheesiness, and whilst Neeson’s latest is obviously not as smart or original as it may think it is, the action is decent enough and the tone is welcoming and undeniably crowd pleasing, and for a man who may have given up on action movies for good, you can’t deny Neeson does look like he’s enjoying himself. As are we.
Overall Score: 6/10
“The Moment You Set Foot In That Country, You Step Into High Danger…”
Is there really a better way to start off the year than in the presence of the master of cinema himself, Martin Scorsese? Well, it does depend on what mood he is in I suppose. Whilst I can enjoy the silliness of films such as Cape Fear and Shutter Island, particularly the latter with its’ brilliantly honky soundtrack, every true cinephile wishes for the chance to witness for the first time the next Taxi Driver or Goodfellas, particularly when those respective films are the ones which will go down as the true classics of the Scorsese back catalogue. What we have with the latest Scorsese flick therefore is a highly publicised pet project of the legendary director, one which has been squirming within development hell since the 1990’s, and one which acts as the end point for the unofficial trilogy of religion-based dramas which began with The Last Temptation of Christ, succeeded with Kundun and now concludes with Silence, based upon the 1966 novel of the same name by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō and featuring a screenplay by Gangs of New York writer Jay Cocks as well as Scorsese himself, adding writing credits to a film for the first time since Casino. Whilst Silence is undoubtedly an impressive piece of cinema, boasting some fine performances and stunning cinematography, Silence is a Scorsese movie which can only be described as an incredibly laboured experience, one which falters in its’ rather plodded screenplay and a runtime which sits on the edge of utter misjudgement.
With a eye-boggling length of 160 minutes, 15 minutes longer than Goodfellas and pretty much nearly an hour over Taxi Driver, Silence is not only a movie which portrays the element of faith being tested on-screen, it is also a movie which tests its’ audience’s patience, relying on the overkill of numerous torture scenes to get its’ point across, acting as the cornerstone of each chapter, amongst endless acts of faith-ridden sacrifices and the questioning of a faith which has completely been lost in the “swamp” of 17th Century Japan. Whilst the movie plods along in a sub-par Apocalypse Now-esque fashion, Silence is saved by some top-end performances throughout, particularly from the leading trio of Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson, whilst Issey Ogata’s eerie portrayal of High Inquisitor Inoue Masashige adds the villainous element to alarming effect. Whilst the release of a Scorsese movie is undoubtedly a cause for celebration, Silence feels like exactly what it is; a glorified pet project for a man whose best seems to be behind him. Whilst Silence is no means a terrible film, it is one of those rare cases of a movie which is undoubtedly an impressive example of film-making, but instead of blessing us with a masterclass, only succeeds in testing our patience. Lose a good forty minutes, use fewer examples of torture and we might have had a real winner to start the year. Sorry Martin, A Monster Calls is a better film.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Who Is To Say That It Is Not Everything Else That Is The Dream…?”
Opening against the likes of Scorsese and Assassin’s Creed, A Monster Calls, the latest from impressive director J. A. Bayona, ultimately offers more of family-friendly adventure then perhaps others on show at the start of 2017, a family-friendly adventure boasting a CGI’d Liam Neeson-shaped tree, one which bears a striking resemblance to the Ents from The Lord of the Rings, who forms part of an impressive cast featuring the likes of Rogue One’s Felicity Jones and cult favourite, Sigourney Weaver. With Bayona’s career beginning in a solidly admirable manner with his directorial craft stamped on both the Guillermo Del Toro produced horror The Orphanage and the disaster drama The Impossible, A Monster Calls is a melancholic and poignant tale of one boy’s capacity to cope with the horrors which wait for him in the future, featuring a superb performance from young Lewis MacDougall and a screenplay which admirably attempts to be something much more mature and complex than your average fantasy romp.
If being based solely from the trailers, it would be obvious to assume that A Monster Calls primarily shouts out to the younger viewers out there, and whilst an element of fantasy is ripe throughout the movie, the true nature of A Monster Calls is so much more understated than one might expect, particularly with a gigantic digital tree at the heart of the film, with Bayona taking full effect of Patrick Ness’s adapted screenplay of his own novel in creating a film which will strangely appeal more to an adult audience than one might expect. Furthermore, the ominous and ambiguous nature of The Orphanage is relevant once again, with Bayona choosing to use the sensual appeal of silence to follow our hero to full effect and only using background music when absolutely necessary, creating that eerie atmosphere present within the director’s earlier works. What we have with A Monster Calls therefore is the creepy, cold nature of The Orphanage mixed together with the tough examination of humanity from The Impossible. Does it work? Yes, and although there are moments of slight wanderings, A Monster Calls is a poignant and overtly eye-watering success, only continuing the reputation of director Bayona many-fold.
Overall Score: 7/10
For an actor with an Oscar under his belt, Liam Neeson appears to have just given up caring. Whether its his agent or the fact that he is looking for something to do rather than hang around the retirement home watching Loose Women on daytime. Run All Night is one of these films. It seems as if Jaume Collet-Serra has one heck of a hard-on for trying to recreate Taken but with the same actor. In his 6 movie directorial roles, 3 of those have Neeson as the poster boy all playing the same action man role. The Taken formula has become so blistered and bruised by the constant beatings that I may have to call the Samaritans.
My presence at the movie theatres has been somewhat less frequent this year so I can’t judge many, however, Run All Night has to be the worst film I’ve seen all year. It will sit on my list of awful movies in a fairly moderate position, not quite overtaking anything Seth Rogen or Franco have anything to do with.
Run All Night is the story of a drunkard gangster whose worth to society is the killing of other mobsters. Its been rather quiet for some time it appears and shit goes to pop when his estranged son witnesses a murder by the mob bosses son and flees. Neeson kills the mob bosses son to save his son from being kill by the mob bosses son. This is probably the most interesting part of the film in a story sense. So once Neeson kills the mob bosses son, he calls the mob boss and tells him he killed his son. The mob boss (Neeson’s now former friend) decides to kill him, his son and his sons family. Sounds exciting, right? No. Its just a dull catch and mouse chase with an ending you could have predicted from the moment Liam Neeson was handed the script. If you want mindless entertainment, you won’t find it here.
With acting worse than a small budget hentai, Neeson is as convincing as Kristen Stewart “happy”. The rest as just as dull and extremely overzealous, visual transitions are a mixture of stock footage suddenly zoomed in to look realistic but looks like utter dogshit. If you’d like to get close to characters, understand what pushes them or experience their raw emotions, you also won’t find that. Many of them appear only to fade away. Sway in on screen with a glancing photo bomb to then run off giggling. Joel Kinnaman was more convincing as Robocop than an actual human while Ed Harris spoke like a king but walked like a peg-legged zombie.
If you want to laugh at something that actively tries to be good, you could probably watch this. I wouldn’t recommend seeing the movie in the cinema or DVD until its either being thrown at you for free or the supermarket throws them into the bin as only one person bought the DVD out of the 10,000 copies they ordered. 5/10 for something that you can laugh at, a 4 would equal it to This Is The End, so that isn’t fair to put it in that bracket. IMDB’s 7.3 rating and Rotten Tomatoes 60% amaze me, obviously, if you feel otherwise, leave a comment and let us know what you thought!
Let’s be honest, what do we really expect from a Liam Neeson movie? The answer is – Not much, not much at all. We also know his acting range which is rather short. Movies like Luc Besson’s ‘Taken’ demonstrate the exact character archetype and cast-typing that goes through every writers mind when they write a mid-level thriller on a budget. Although the Taken series is very beloved by myself. Mindless, simple and to the point action that is only a little exaggerated by the fact Neeson isn’t getting any younger and no emotional ties needed to connect to a rather cool frontman.
Walk Among the Tombstones is something a little different. Evidently the writers have tried to create something very difficult and provoking but in reality have created something extremely basic. With an intention to create something convoluted, the aim is to make it difficult to understand and to leave you dazed as you try to figure the mystery yourself before the puzzle pieces are fitted finally by the story. Any aspect of thriller was drilled out by the fact that there was no mystery. Nothing solid enough to bite into as everything is already being shown. Even in the trailers we know the back story of Neeson’s character ‘Matt Scudder’ before the movie even came out. Other than that, we hear about it towards the end rather than fairly early on if it mattered so little. The reality of Among the Tombstones is that we have a cop drama with very little drama and action. As an unlicensed PI, Scudder is called upon to investigate the rape, black mailing, murder and dismemberment of Kenny Kristo’s (Dan Stevens) wife. It soon becomes clear that these guys work over women of particularly dangerous men who are traffickers of illicit drugs. Their connection to the drug industry means that police contact will only end with them in jail. Forced to pay the ransom, the women never return and the money disappears. This time, its caught the attention of Neeson who takes it upon himself to end it, once and for all. See, not very elaborate…
So we’ve spoken out Neeson’s acting degree and its short tether. Now we must look at the rest of the gang. Eric Nelsen plays the character who originally introduces Scudder to Kristo. A troubled artist who left the army with a heroin addiction. With that sort of premise, his character could have been something intricately deep but he just sits in the background with a lit cigarette and little chance to flourish. As for Nelsen’s acting, it was rather bland. Simple and easy. Certainly not worthy of an Oscar and not worth loosing any sleep over when you forget his name. Dan Stevens is a man who has only recently popped onto my radar with The Guest released in recent week. With experience in Downton Abbey I feel its safe to say that he is a fairly solid actor. Although his lines weren’t great, he is convincing enough to make you feel sympathy for his character but once again he was let down by a rather disappointing script. As for our villains, don’t expect anything good. For a pair who have some ghastly scenes that managed to make me recoil into my shell, they had the worst directing ever. There is a significant difference between acting dark and psychotic and just plain nothing. There was nothing remotely scary about this pair, one of which does very little talking and looks like he’s continuously got a crowbar wedged up his arse. So bad that I won’t even grace their IMDB’s on this page. Or that I’m too lazy.
Is it worth a night out to see? Sure…A Wednesday with EE/Orange 2 for 1. A fairly dull movie with little to engage or excite. Action that is practically non-existent with a rather annoying child that appears throughout. 6/10.
Lego stands as one, if not the greatest toy(s) in history. Everyone will remember playing with it at some point in their life and it’s creative pliability made it branch across the ages. It’s this extensive creativity that has continued to evolve to encompass boardgames, video games, theme parks and now a film! The wide access to Lego makes this movie an instant box office success, but does the movie stand up as a quality piece of entertainment to other audiences. Obviously, The Lego Movie is aimed at children. It’s a bright, colourful adventure with light humour that screams a child film that will deter many teenagers/young adults from seeing it. As I’m still a big kid inside with a lot of nostalgia, I felt I needed to go. Upon walking into the cinema, it was filled with children. I avoided looking at how many of the snotty things were actually around me but could easily hear the muttering of what felt like hundreds but could have been one. But, you know, one is enough.
Anyway. The movie is geared towards the younger audience through everything it does. The inclusion of Jonah Hill, Morgan Freeman, Charlie Day and Will Arnett appear more of a gimmick towards nabbing a few extra ticket sales from fans of those involved. It’s likely that the voices could have been done by other people without bringing in A list actors to fill the gaps. Jonah Hill doesn’t even have a big role so it feels as if the money spent on him could have been used to extend the length of the film. However, being that the movie isn’t based upon something already created, Lego didn’t have the foundations of Star Wars or Lord of The Rings to develop upon like their games.
Being that the film is targeted at children, the story could have suffered. However, it plays out much like a childs imagination would have played it out. The story of little Emmet in a world so advanced, he blends into the background and stumbles into a deadly situation that leads him on a rather enthralling journey that defies a lot of preconceptions. An evil, corrupt government and police force is quite a shock in a U rated film. Teaching that police are not always these good people is very difficult for children to understand for kids but nowadays the older generations are seeing this more and more. It’s an interesting choice that plays towards the demographic but maintains its child exterior. Obviously, there was going to be a love story and I noticed that this connection beats out so many like it that have cropped up in live action. Plastic figures with limited facial movement/expression had more emotion on their faces than Kristen Stewart and a better love story that Twilight could have ever produced.
Lego stands upon the idea of fun. It’s a ride that isn’t trying to provoke philosophical thoughts. The action was fast, a little jarring at points with the aggressive cuts but flows the way everyone imagines. It’s a genuinely good film with so much hard work and dedication that has to be applauded. Perfect for children and is entertaining to everyone else, apart from the god awful selection of music. That truly was horrific. But otherwise, the movie deserves an 8/10. It’s a kids movie made by Lego, what the hell did you expect me to say!? Tune in for Monuments Men review and Titanfall videos over the next week!