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Film Review: Toy Story 4

“You’re Bonnie’s Toy. You Are Going To Help Create Happy Memories That Will Last For The Rest Of Her Life…”

Come the end of Toy Story 3 back in 2010it’s fair to say that a huge majority of both film critics and fans alike seemed to all be in universal agreement that the story of Woody and Buzz had been wrapped up rather beautifully, concluding a trilogy of award-winning animation movies which would forever be regarded as Disney Pixar’s very own pièce de résistance and a particular franchise that would never be topped. When the first whispers of a further sequel arose therefore, a wave of pandemonium and panic justifiably surfaced across social media, with the same critics and fans jaw-dropped at the idea that such a beloved trilogy could potentially be tarnished for what seemed to exist for no other reason than that of a quick cash-grab, and whilst many may head into Toy Story 4 carrying a suitcase worth of trepidation, what a huge relief it is to report that Disney Pixar’s latest is a heartwarming, hilarious and sometimes beautiful animated delight, a third sequel which mixes the return of all of the franchise favourite characters with interesting new inclusions alongside a central narrative which although does feel overly familiar for a series spanning twenty years plus, will undoubtedly work for both children and adults alike.

With a different director at the helm once again, Pixar Animation Studios stalwart, Josh Cooley, is gleefully offered the top job, taking the directing mantle away from the likes of John Lasseter and Lee Unkrich, after his work on recent animated works including Inside Out and Up, and with a script from a whole army of screenwriters, including Lasseter himself, Toy Story 4 primarily picks off where its’ predecessor ended, with Woody (Tom Hanks) and co. now being cared for by young Bonnie, the playful daughter of the parents living next door to Woody’s previous owner, Andy, and with Woody now being resigned to a limited amount of playtime, Bonnie soon finds herself a new best friend in the figure of Forky (Tony Hale) a makeshift, DIY hybrid of trash and toy whose lust for freedom results in Woody and the gang attempting to rescue him and bring him back to the loving arms of his creator. With more comedic punches than so-called contemporary comedies, an array of interesting new characters including Keanu Reeves’ (John Wick) Duke Caboom, and simply stunning animation, Toy Story 4 is indeed Disney Pixar at their most charming, and whilst the overall plot does seem slightly run-of-the-mill and franchise built, Cooley’s movie benefits from a tonal sensibility that only the best Disney movies can do, with it the type of movie which within the space of just over ninety minutes makes you smile, laugh and cry all at the same time. Oh, and I loved the massive nod to The Shining. 

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: The Post

“What Are You Going To Do, Mrs Graham…?”

Working on its’ production during the latter stages of finalising the upcoming science fiction spectacle Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg’s first of two movies arriving within the space of just four months, The Post, arrives suspiciously close to the one year anniversary of a certain American President’s inauguration, and in a time when media scrutiny, both on paper and in the online stratosphere, is rife more than ever, Spielberg’s latest is a topical drama which not only manages to balance a hefty load of important and ever-present societal issues, but a film which captures quite brilliantly a moment in media history which ultimately turned the table for press freedom and solidify the right to question and challenge the decisions of our leaders and representatives to rule. Focusing on the high profile leak of the Pentagon Papers, classified documents detailing America’s involvement during the much maligned Vietnam War, The Post follows on the one hand, a Spotlight-esque narrative which features Tom Hanks’ Ben Bradlee as he battles to locate the sacred papers and subsequently publish amidst legal scrutiny and fears of incarceration, but more importantly, Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Katherine Graham, the owner of The Washington Post who attempts to balance the arrival of the scandalous papers with the survival of her family business after she is made heiress due to the death of her late husband.

With the two leads on top dramatic form, Hank’s confident, swaggering, editor in chief with a crystal clear view regarding the purpose of the press is brilliantly contrasted by the performance of Streep’s Graham, with her managing to convey the radical development of a figure who begins unsure and insecure in a world primarily ruled by men to a fist-pumping advocate for female empowerment. With the narrative funneling through conversations which tackle conflicted interests between the press and those that are meant to being held to account, the righteousness of war and the decision between what is right and what is easy, Spielberg’s latest is undeniably audience pleasing, with even a handful of cheese-twisted dramatic turns somewhat passable, but within all the flashiness and swirly whirly camera angles which convey a heavier sense of cinematic wantness than Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight ever did, The Post works best when the gripping search for the truth is front and centre of the story, and with the holy trilogy of Streep, Hanks and Spielberg, The Post is the slice of entertaining period drama you expected, just with added excellence.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: Sully: Miracle on the Hudson

“No One Warned Us. No One Said “You’re Going To Lose Both Engines At A Lower Altitude Than Any Jet In History”…”

No guys, Clint Eastwood’s latest isn’t a continuation of the Monsters Inc. character but instead a biographical drama based upon the extraordinary events that took place on 15th January 2009 when US Airways Flight 1549 was miraculously landed upon the Hudson River by pilots Chelsey Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles after a bird strike had completely destroyed both the left and right engines, leaving them in the air with no thrust and little chance to return to ground safely. Such a remarkable and historical achievement was inevitably set to hit the big screens sooner rather than later and what Eastwood has accomplished with Sully is creating a gripping and intelligently played drama which tackles not only the experience of Captain Sully’s landing but the repercussions of it too. With Tom Hanks performing effortlessly in the lead role as the titular Sully, Eastwood’s latest is indeed a hit, albeit suffering from some minor issues which prevent it from being up there with his best work as a director.

Inevitably, the fundamental narrative that fluctuates throughout Sully is a gripping enough plot in itself to catch the eye of even the least cinematically viable audience with a good, uplifting heroic story being the mark of a bankable picture, particularly when you have the reliable hands of Hanks as your movies’ star, and whilst the movie skips between the past and the present of our titular hero, the most effective parts of the movie take place during the films’ big set pieces, primarily the landing itself as well as the discussions that take place afterwards where although the narrative is hyped up completely to function as the drama, still manages to work, even if Eastwood manages to make every single journalist and white collar worker look like the villains of the piece. What the film didn’t need however was the cringey CGI crash scenes which took place inside the traumatised mind of our hero which completely reverses the effect of the movie and removes it from the subtle and understated nature of a film like Spotlight and instead becomes more of a popcorn movie as a result. Of course, popcorn movie goodness is not entirely a bad thing and whilst Sully does manage to come away as an effective telling of an incredible achievement within recent history, it isn’t really anything more than that, but, as with anything with Tom Hanks in, Sully is still an enjoyable and well made drama.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Inferno

“I Want To Know What I’m Involved With…”

In the IMDB trivia page for Inferno, the wildly unwanted continuation of Ron Howard’s big screen adaptations of Dan Brown’s ridiculously popular string of novels, one of the most interesting facts was that during production the film was hidden under the code-name “Headache” due in part perhaps to the constant concussion that professor of symbology Robert Langdon apparently suffers from throughout most of the film’s bloated 120 minute run-time, yet in my own personal opinion, the “headache” in question can only relate to one thing; the effect the film has on those who bear to see it. Not only is Inferno one of the most painfully boring films I can remember seeing in a long, long while, with recurrent fidgeting and patches of drowsiness inevitably resulting in short yet effective cat naps, my experience of watching Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones run amok across Europe in order to locate their next museum-infested clue was indeed one of utter horror, one which will not escape my memory quickly, unlike the bland and completely ludicrous story which encompasses Inferno.

Where other films this year, particularly the woeful array of summer blockbusters, have suffered from fundamental issues of awful storytelling, Inferno takes such a core element of film-making and throws it into one of the rings of hell, with not one moment of dramatic tension or effective storytelling giving the movie the right to command its’ shockingly long two-hour runtime, a runtime which feels almost twice as long due to the filmmakers decision to create dull, two-dimensional characters who are hell bent on running from museum to museum in order to find the titular “Inferno”, a deadly disease created by Ben Foster’s kooky radicalist, Bertrand Zobrist, who believes the only way to sustain humanity is basically to destroy it, a plot line left over from Utopia anyhow, and a plot line which results in the said disease being carried inside a jiffy bag which floats harmlessly within the Basilica Cistern. No, I’m not kidding.

With a twist as obvious as the “radical” twist-ending in this year’s Morgan, which although I’d fallen asleep already to really understand what it all meant, still managed to annoy me to the extent I thought falling asleep might make it better, and an ending what verges on the edge of cheesy, cliche-ridden claptrap, Ron Howard has succeeded in creating a true stinker of a movie, one in which not only the audience will be bored of ten minutes in, but has even effected the actors on-screen with Tom Hanks seemingly passing the time in order to pick up the cheque and ride out his mistake of signing on for three Dan Brown-based movies, and whilst Felicity Jones at least brings some sense of kooky campness during the second half of the movie, you can’t help but feel she would rather be back on the set of Rogue One as fast as possible. Inferno isn’t the worst film of the year, but it is definitely the most boring cinematic achievement I can remember in recent years. And remember, I’ve seen The Cobbler. 

Overall Score: 3/10 

Film Review: Bridge of Spies

“We Have To Have The Conversations Our Governments Cant…”

Much like Disney, Marvel, and Bond, the singular word that is “Spielberg” automatically creates a blinding vortex of cinematic vigor and eager anticipation, a feat of which is arguably expected more so than any other directorial name that has come and gone in the past thirty years or so in the eyes (or ears) of the widespread general public. Of course such a household name such as Steven Spielberg has been helped in part to the simply spellbinding back catalogue that Steven Spielberg has created over the course of more than forty years, of which includes my personal favourites Minority Report, Saving Private Ryan, and the first three Indian Jones movies among many many others that have gone on to win both critical and financial acclaim as well as a rafter of awards including the odd Oscar or two. With Bridge of Spies, Spielberg’s latest offering only continues his remarkable career, combining the reliable acting efforts of Tom Hanks, the writing credits of the Coen Brothers, and a Thomas Newman score, creating a classy, entertaining, and pleasingly intelligent Cold War thriller.

Bridge of Spies focuses on the true story of American lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) and his attempt to successfully negotiate the exchange of the captive Soviet Union spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) for Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), an American pilot who was shot down and captured by the Russians during the height of the Cold War in 1957. What makes Bridge of Spies rather splendid is due to a wide range of different factors. One of the most important within the film was how, much like many Cold War era flicks including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Dr. Strangelove, Bridge of Spies manages to effectively handle the strange sense of paranoia and impending doom present in such an ambiguous era where nuclear disaster was a realistic and dangerous threat to both the Soviet Union and the US. Although not being directly part of the main plot threads, the possibility of nuclear war is rife throughout Bridge of Spies and is particularly startling during a scene in which we witness a young classroom watch help guides regarding what to do if a nuclear strike ever occurs on US soil, a frightening experience if ever there was one.

Yes, the Coen Brothers led script is aptly superb, and Janusz Kaminski’s chilly cinematography adheres to the notion of the rather ironically named “Cold War”, but the true winners here are no doubt the leading actors with Tom Hanks continuing on with his fine acting form present in Captain Phillips, whilst esteemed stage actor Mark Ryland as the Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel. also stands out with his suave, silent and sophisticated portrayal of the convicted felon, unsure of his future in either the confines of the US or his freedom in the homeland of Soviet Russia, being a integral part to the films’ effectiveness. Although a shade too long in places, and ending on a sense of sentimentality that Spielberg is wholly renowned for, Bridge of Spies will no doubt be a huge part of next years’ Oscar ceremonials as classy Spielberg war flicks tend to be the best kind of Oscar bait, but unlike some supposed Oscar tipped films that are set to come out in the upcoming months or so, Bridge of Spies is one film where it does deserve the credit it hopefully will get in the near future or so and fits snugly into the ever-growing list of films directed by one Comrade Spielberg.

Overall Score: 8/10 

Saving Mr. Banks – Quicky Review!

Yeah, so this has been a draft for about 2 weeks now. Sorry about that….Saving Mr Banks

Mary Poppins is a character that will stay with many of us for the rest of our lives and will be remembered for many years to come. A tale of a wondrous nanny with magical abilities and a loving heart cemented it’s place in many hearts and minds, even when it was just a book! Saving Mr. Banks details the creation of Mary Poppins and P.L. Travers’ aversion to it’s filming without her specific sign off.

Going into the theatre, the trailer didn’t look all that, but considering I have a soft spot for anything vintage or Disney orientated, I looked forward to exploring the workings and production of a story that was a staple in my childhood. The opening scene of the iconic Disney castle logo was the 1960’s version and kept it’s grainy 30mm film aspect and was an incredible gorgeous but subtle piece even before the movie starts, almost as if it’s taking it’s hat off, bowing in respect to the past.

Jumping into the movie, we follow 2 time lines. The first is obviously the 1960’s era that depicts Travers’ struggles and the weeks she spent in California working on the film. Our second time line is Travers as a young girl in Australia that depicts a life vastly different to her current lifestyle. The stories merge intermittently throughout to give context to certain scenes and motivations. They also help illustrate Travers’ attitudes and aversion to change. The merging of the lines is perfectly done. Nothing is harsh on the eye and you don’t get dropped into another scene that opens up another avenue, it seamlessly blends together. Even though the stories follow the same character, the pieces are juxtaposed against each other. While one starts off happy, it deteriorates while the other flourishes the longer it goes on.

Many scenes are dotted throughout the movie that are just perfect. There is no doubt about it. A mix of the exuberant colours, great acting and a brilliant script that really resonates. A particular favourite was when Travers’ was leaving the US. Through the time she spent there, a personal driver was assigned to drive her where ever she chose. Ralph (Paul Giamatti) was his name. Blissfully unaware to who he was driving about, he would talk about the beauty of life in LA and his disabled daughter. Just before Travers leaves, Ralph found out from his daughter about her and asked for a signature. The ensuing conversation is a real tear-jerker and still stays with me even when I saw it weeks ago.

With a huge cast of actors and many recognisable faces, we understand their abilities. Fortunately, they manage to maintain a high standard of acting that doesn’t diminish. I was extremely surprised to see Colin Farrell appear. I didn’t expect to see so many people. Farrell also has experience as an alcoholic, so jumping into the boots of one isn’t much different to what he used to do. Not being a huge fan of him, I do have to say that he played the role with dignity and portrays Travers Goff as a wonderful human being struck by something difficult to control. Obviously, Tom Hanks is Walt Disney and I really enjoyed his performance, even though I’m hearing complaints about his southern accent. Personally, I have no idea what they are grinding at but otherwise all the acting was superb.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had real trouble trying to find something wrong with the movie. I didn’t want to sit here a praise it endlessly without something to pick on. The only thing I can think of is that I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Disney. Not just the theme park but a little more into the background of Walt. Seeing I’ve run out of things to say, I believe that this movie is worth a good 9/10. Mary Poppins is brilliant story that has influenced countless generations and the premise to delve into it was a great idea while seamlessly blending two time lines into one.

Saving Mr Banks 1

Captain Phillips – REVIEW- SPOILERS

Captain Phillips 2Captain Phillips is a shining example of film-making that will stand with some of the all-time greats in years to come. Standing as one of the best movies this year, Captain Phillips is sure to get some awards. The story details the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in almost 200 years, done so by Somali pirates on the horn of Africa. The true element to this story really engrosses you into the thick of it. Genuine fear will send your heart racing too sinking deep into your chest in a matter of seconds, then an incredibly powerful ending that tugs the heart strings. The ending is also completely improvised and made the Navy medic cry in the first take.

Captain Phillips 3

They’re not here to fish

A movie with such a good script and storyline obviously needs a powerful cast behind it to really portray the characters effectively. Fortunately enough, Greengrass has selected quite the collection. In general, Tom Hanks is a top line actor who can fill seats but also give a top class performance, without compromising everyone else on screen. A group of people who look creep up from time to time in the movie world were very silent throughout, but the lines they were given made life difficult when they never met the pirates until the scene which really instilled a sense of fear into the whole of the boat crew. Then we have the Somali pirates who are dropped in at the deep end for their first IMDB credit and I can see them doing fairly well for themselves in the future. A calm and collected Muse (Barkhad Abdi) bounces off of Captain Phillips on a regular basis and the confrontation is electric. Muse speaks the logic of Somalia of achieving something, and living happily while Phillips tries to reason with him and save everyone’s lives. This could be a connotation for what America should stand for and what they actually do but that’s just digging. A big name cast is very hard to work out to some decent standard, a mass of A-listers can end up looking like they are fighting for dominance on screen but utilizing a varied cast can always pose a better acted movie experience even when big actors draw people in, it shows an intention to make it about the story and not money.

All I can do is credit this film. I’ve been on large cruise ships and small vessels over the years and I understand how much room you have. Filming at sea on a giant cargo vessel is really difficult as you have to consider many variables. Keeping the footage relatively smooth is probably one of the harder parts but it utilizes this to look like a documentary and the second hardest is using space effectively. You’re at sea, it’s not easy to get expansive landscape shots when you’re drifting out in the ocean. To compensate and keep shots moving, helicopters are used fairly often to track the ships as they sail. From expansive padding too story footage – When hidden in the engine room, you almost feel like you’re hiding with the crew just by how it is all framed. A shot that grinds on me a little is the initial sighting of the pirates. The cliché shot is when the perspective shot of looking through a scope with a slightly grainy effect added really doesn’t look that good. I would have preferred to have seen a fast paced collection of close ups to build up some more excitement.

Captain PhillipsThe sound for the whole of the movie was good. The rumble of the engines and the ting from assault rifle rounds hitting the ship and pinging around are crystal clear. When the navy jump in the sound is very clear but in comparison to the pirates when they boarded the ship, it was really difficult to keep pace with what was being said, fortunately there are subtitles but these don’t always help when you have everyone shouting. Not much could be said about the soundtrack for the movie, the only thing really is that it wasn’t very striking, it didn’t ring in my mind repeatedly which was a shame but easily forgiven.

So finally we have my opinion on the film. An incredible movie which stands as one of the best this year. Rivalling Rush is hard to do but this movie is put together perfectly and with Tom Hanks final scene, it’s extremely moving. Overall, a 9/10 to equal Rush. A bit more focus on the soundtrack and a few little camera angles would have pushed it forward for me.

Sorry that it has been a while. With everything that is going on, I’ve lost a lot of motivation for anything regarding work or reviews. I just need to get back into the flow of things. I hope you enjoyed the post, if so, like it, Comment, subscribe to the Youtube channel or tweet me on twitter!