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Film Review: Widows

“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

Film Review: The Fate of the Furious

“Our Paths Have Crossed Before, Dom. You Just Didn’t Know It. I Think I Need To Remind You Why You Chose To Be Here…”

Franchises, franchises everywhere. Whilst the unexpected is utterly unreliable when it comes to the release of particular films in the current cinematic tidal wave, it does seem that the golden dollar bill sign is precedent as the leading force in the development of modern cinematic treats, evidenced by the return of the ridiculously indestructible Fast and Furious series in the form of The Fate of the Furious, a continuation of the franchise two years on from the previous instalment which managed to take an eye-whooping 1.5 billion dollars at the global box office. Whilst the mountain of eye-rolling snobs sniff at the sight of yet another jumped-up, adrenaline-heavy fluff piece, myself included, there is to some degree a sense of enjoyment watching a series continuing to live on despite stretching out what is a basic plot thread throughout eight films, due primarily to a overly ripe cast which all seem to have bundles of laughs causing endless waves of destruction and chaos with a seemingly blank cheque book at their disposal. As for the franchises latest offering, The Fate of the Furious is a surprisingly dull affair, offering very little originality amongst a tonally bipolar and utterly stupid narrative which aside from a few, minor elements could be regarded as the worst the series has had to offer so far.

Of the good things within Furious 8, Jason Statham absolutely steals every single scene in which he is present, from scenes consisting of a constant battle of words between himself and Dwayne Johnson to a final act in which he massacres a variety of killers whilst attempting to save the life of a incredibly important minor, all the while aboard a seemingly untraceable aircraft, one which is operated by Charlize Theron’s Cipher, a character which unfortunately offers no sense of threat whatsoever despite her attempts to come across all edgy and unhinged by wearing Metallica tees and moulding her hair on the likes of Bob Marley and Gary Oldman’s character in True Romance. The absolute absence of threat is fundamental to the film’s overall flaws, with each of the characters acting and performing in such a superhuman manner that the risk of injury or even death is so minimal that at times the film seemed to sink to the level of the worst the Roger Moore era Bond films had to offer, whilst the truly awful CGI comes across as so lazy and haphazard, particularly when considering the array of practical-based action we have witnessed recently within good examples of the genre such as The Raid and Mad Max: Fury Road. If The Fate of the Furious is indeed the future of the franchise, perhaps it’s time to hang up the cape, but with astronomical ticket sales inevitable, the likelihood of such is as solid as Vin Diesel becoming the next US President. Well, to be fair, that wouldn’t be the worst option right now.

Overall Score: 4/10

Duo Review – Fast and Furious 7 – Too fast?

Pete Fast and Furious movies are one that hold a spot in my heart. It was always fun and entertaining and I’m sure a lot of people agree with me. With the unfortunate death of Paul Walker, development of the film was halted and many presumed the end of an era for the Fast crew. However, with some movie magic, they brought Walker back for one last time. Was it worth it? From a monetary aspect, I’m sure they will do just fine. For me, I’m on the fence. I enjoyed the movie but I spent most of my time picking up on stupid little things.

With the movie franchise moving towards a more realistic approach from cars with 18 gears and an engine to rival a 747, I expected a little more common sense in this instalment. Dropping out of a plane in cars happened, it was tested in WW2, slamming your parachute on while at terminal velocity was not. Its moments like these that can be extreme fun if done correctly, but with it being the majority of the release trailers, it lost that charm in minutes. There are many of these moments that are so incredibly stupid and over done to the point of exhaustion. Hit in the head with a wrench? Get up. Have 30 tonnes of concrete dropped onto the lower half of your body? walk into prison and this sort of whacked out shit goes on and on and on.

So avoiding the blatant WTF’s and moving onto the ‘story’. Once again, we follow Toretto and the gang who have pissed of Owen Shaw’s big brother. He gets angry and is on a man hunt to kill them. Toretto crosses path with some CIA black ops guy to find hacking software that can monitor everyone in the world and give their location for man-hunts. Save the hacker, use the tool. Simple but surprisingly good for a franchise known for its corny one-liners and story. It went in a direction that we couldn’t have expected and for once, had a mix of actual enemies rather than The Rock and drug pedallers.

Fast 7 was shot beautifully and often you couldn’t tell the difference between the CGI versions of Walker although the rest of the CGI looked ripped from the latest top of the line show coming from Syfy. I’d say it was a fitting tribute for him. I’m still trying to come to terms with why the child threw out a Red Porsche toy car. Was it simply coincidence or a dig at the car?

The Fast franchise is always poorly acted and I’m almost sure Vin Diesel cannot whisper. Nothing new there then. So, what are you waiting for, get on down to your local, enjoy mindless entertainment with a half-decent story and help fund the next 18 movies in the franchise. My rating for Fast is 7.

Dan  Before entering viewing mode for the newest film in the overlong Furious franchise, I have always created a check list that gets mentally crossed off during the course of that particular offerings’ runtime, with Furious 7 being no exception. On that list includes, scenes of the camera focusing intensively on rather attractive women wearing barely anything at all. Check. Scenes of cars driving along long, open roads whilst “gangster rap music” plays over the top. Check. Scenes where the law of physics is completely disregarded whether by cars or just humans themselves. Check. You might get the idea that Furious 7 filled my mental check-list completely, yet surprisingly this did not prevent it from being actually quite fun and probably one of the best entries in the Furious series so far.

Firstly, the film is completely bonkers. It did a good job in reminding me how fun it is to cause absolute carnage on rampages on GTAV, with the latter stages of the film seemingly being just that, with unlimited amounts of collateral damage to buildings, cars, ambulances, civilians, drones, all being displayed on screen whilst simultaneously having the time to show The Raid style hand-to-hand fights, and a battle sequence taken straight out of Street Fighter. And I loved it. It has been a long time since a film has been so completely ludicrous that you forget the major plot holes and chances to say, “he wouldn’t survive that”, and just let it ride on, destroying completely everything in its’ path.

In terms of criticism, the film is way too long and easily could have removed the sequence in which the team head off to Abu Dhabi, which seemingly was only there to showcase the Lykan Hypersport, which in itself to be fair, kind of symbolises the entire film. It’s ridiculous (I mean you can get diamonds in the headlights), it’s unbelievably quick (240mph), but is also a wonder to behold. The film also concludes in a fitting tribute to the late Paul Walker, and I think I can say honestly say, who would have been thrilled with the finished product. Peace out. 7/10

Overall Score: 7/10