“The Age Of Stone Is Over. Long Live The Age Of Bronze…”
Best known for his work on the many forms of Wallace & Gromit and the ever-charming Shaun the Sheep franchise, Nick Park is undoubtedly the first name which springs to mind whenever the art form of stop-motion animation comes into discussion, and his return to the big-screen this week in the form of Early Man is one which reminds how much of a delicate and impressive pastime such a particular form of expressive freedom actually is, and with the likes of Chicken Run and 2015’s rather surreal Shaun the Sheep Movie both proving financially and critically successful, the cinematic appeal of stop-motion still applies more than ever. Utilising an equally impressive voice cast featuring the likes of Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers), Park’s movie centres around a rather straightforward and overly predictable heroic narrative focusing on Redmayne’s ambitious caveman, Dug, who challenges the rule of Hiddleston’s green-eyed, wealth obsessed and questionably accented Lord Nooth to a game of football in order to claim back their quaint and idyllic homeland of which was stolen in order to mine out its quantity of ore.
Whilst the feature includes a wide range of chuckle-inducing, zippy one-liners, ranging from cute, animated asides to comments about the state of modern-day football, Park’s movie unfortunately never feels expressive or varied enough to warrant its’ big-screen release, with a ninety minute runtime attempting to squeeze as much out as possible of an incredibly basic plot and failing, resulting in a sense of a one-note joke being somewhat stretched to the widest extent possible and creating a staggering pace which begins the terrible feat of time checking curiosity. Thankfully for Park however, the stop-motion animation is flawless and beautiful enough to somewhat paper over the cracks, and with a concluding act which although confines to the plot’s heavy predictability, is impressive in its’ charming demeanour and positive sensibility, resulting in Early Man managing to succeed in being a solid, if overly throwaway, ninety minutes of animated escapism in which will undoubtedly work for kids more than it may work for us picky, somewhat legged, coffee consuming adults.
Overall Score: 6/10
“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
“It’s Time To Show Kong That Man Is King!”
As per the new craze of recent cinematic ventures, the newest big-screen franchising exploration comes in the form of classic Hollywood monsters being revamped and reissued in Legendary Entertainment’s so-called “MonsterVerse”, beginning of course with Rogue One director Gareth Edward’s excellent Godzilla in 2014 and continuing this week with Kong: Skull Island, a “re-imagining” of the infamous giant ape who graces the big-screen for the first time since Peter Jackson’s take on the character back in 2005. Helmed by The Kings of Summer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, as well as featuring arguably one of the best casts of the year with Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson all vying for screen time, Skull Island is the type of movie which justifies the existence of IMAX-infused mega screens, with the trailer alone being rife with a heightened sense of spectacle and splendour. As for the finished article, Skull Island is indeed the silly, OTT monster-mad movie I think many were expecting without ever pushing the boundaries of being anything more than such.
Light on characterisation yet heavy on the spectacular at times, Skull Island is inherently silly from beginning to end, with a runtime which feels almost half the length of Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation but too feels completely different in tone, relying on the effects-heavy production of giant spiders, murderous “skull-crawlers” and of course the titular Kong himself rather than any meaningful contribution to fleshing out its’ leading stars in a manner which took up the first hour of Jackson’s movie back in 2005. Helping the film along in its’ choppily edited fashion is the rip-roaring sound of the 70’s, with a soundtrack which ranges from Black Sabbath to David Bowie. evoking the shadow of a film like Apocalypse Now, an argument particularly obvious due to Skull Island’s Vietnam War setting, whilst the CGI-fuelled monster-battles feel almost too much like a Jurassic World rip-off at times to be put in the same league of jaw-dropping splendour as its’ predecessor within the same cinematic universe, Godzilla. Much likes its’ titular ape, Skull Island is a big and fluffy piece of escapism which knows what it wants to be and doesn’t attempt to be anything more. Yeah, that’s right, Kong is very fluffy. Well, sort of.
Overall Score: 7/10
“You Are Definitely The Best Amenity In The Building…”
Everywhere I seem to look at the moment, the grand and overly eye-catching figure of one Tom Hiddleston seems to be there, from gracing the small screen in the BBC’s adaptation of John le Carre’s The Night Manager to being plastered on the front cover of my monthly cinematic refresher in the form of Sight & Sound magazine in which he speaks about his latest venture away from his most recognisable role as Loki in the MCU in Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, the long awaited adaptation of the controversial J.G. Ballard novel released way back in 1975. Being a life-long fan of Wheatley, with Kill List being one of the best cinematic experiences I can recall in the past few years, and featuring a cast including Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Jeremy Irons and of course, Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Laing, I ventured into High-Rise with a steeping sense of anticipation, anticipation that was swayed by the fundamental strangeness of Wheatley’s latest with High-Rise being an interesting case of a film that may need to be seen more than once in order to fully understand it.
Beginning with a pitch black sensibility, one that encompasses many of Wheatley’s movies such as Sightseers and Down Terrace, High-Rise welcomes us into the world of Hiddleston’s Dr. Robert Laing, months into his move into the titular high-rise where a certain turn of events have turned the structure into a world of sheer madness, a world where eating a pet dog is the norm and paint pots are the most luxurious item to get hold of amongst the death and destruction that is tearing the world inside the high-rise apart. The film then flicks back three months and paints a picturesque view of the titular high-rise, a rather obvious metaphor for the class war system in society, with the lower classes, formed of nuclear families and the less well-off living at the bottom of the structure whilst the ruling classes enjoy debauchery and excess way up at the top, with Jeremy Irons’ Anthony Royal, the architect of the structure, living life in the penthouse with his estranged wife Ann, played in full-on cabin fever style by Keeley Hawes. An interesting concept indeed, and one that Wheatley fully understands, resulting in a film that breaks boundaries of socialistic ideas and ideals whilst consciously showing a sheer bonkers concept of one outcome of class wars within society.
Where the film does indeed falter is in its’ rather bloated attempt to showcase a dystopian 1970’s world in which our hero Dr. Laing, presides in, both inside the high-rise as a laughing stock of the ruling class but a figure of interest to the lower levels, and outside in his role as a doctor, a role in which Lain eventually leaves behind to the feral nature of the high-rise. Cut perhaps 20 minutes and the film would have been much less of a drag at times, with endless scenes of excess and carnage eventually becoming tiresome towards the latter stages of the film, whilst the inevitable change from normal to mayhem happens way too quickly and without any sense of depth and true reason. That aside, High-Rise is indeed an interesting and captivating black-drama, one that suits Wheatley’s eye for the strange and the jet-black satirical humour. Not Kill List but a real win indeed, High-Rise should be next on your cinematic watch-list.
Overall Score: 8/10
“Beware Of Crimson Peak…”
Sometimes a film can be so incredibly mouthwatering and exciting, whether it be a release from a new favourite director, a return to acting from an esteemed actor or actress, or even something as minute as a certain film featuring a song that you admire on the soundtrack, (take Muse on the World War Z soundtrack for instance; a mediocre movie but one that holds a place deep in my heart for the use of one Muse song) that no matter what the final result is in terms of the film’s overall critical appeal, such a film is always set to be brilliant in the eyes of a small contingency of followers. In the case of Crimson Peak, the hype-train was well and truly boarded months back when I realised the core ingredients was made up of director and writer Guillermo Del Toro, the visionary mastermind behind the pretty-much perfect Pans Labyrinth and other horror pieces such as The Devils’ Backbone and The Orphanage, if only on production duties, and the holy trinity of recent acting favourites of Mia Wasikowska (Stoker), Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers, Only Lovers Left Alive) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, The Martian). Sound too good to be true? Indeed, with Crimson Peak not being a case of complete disappointment, but something that seemingly had all the tools to become a masterpiece on the same level as Pans Labyrinth yet ultimately, has failed to become so.
After the idealistic young novelist Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) falls in love with the dashing, if rather mysterious Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), much to the disdain of her father Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), she decides to accept his hand in marriage and follow him to his place of residence, the rustic, ancient Allerdale Hall in Cumbria, England, home not only to Thomas but to his sister Lucille (Chastain) who is reluctant at the thought of her brothers’ choice in marriage. Living in the screeching, clay-ridden confines of Sharpe’s mansion, Edith begins to witness a wide range of activity from both the abnormal and paranormal, with her husband and newly proclaimed sister-in-law perhaps hiding their true intentions for Edith and her involvement in the prophetic notion of the cryptic and titular Crimson Peak. In terms of the films’ successes, both costume and production design are enigmatic and entirely flawless, with the construction of the dying, decomposing Allerdale Hall being a sight to behold and arguably being the star of the show, with the design being made to within an inch of its’ life and surely bringing with it a well-deserved Oscar nod and hopefully, win.
Within the success of the production, it’s a shame that Del Toro couldn’t spend a similar amount of time on the script, with the plot to Crimson Peak being rather cliched and wholly un-original, something of which made the surprises not entirely surprising and the creepy, if rather obvious foreshadowing. rather plodding, resulting in a conclusion that was quite inevitable, something of which I can’t can’t quite comprehend from the director and writer of the wonderfully complex and deliciously dark Pans Labyrinth. Even with the minimal plot in hand, each of the three leads make the most of the script they are given and fully embrace the Gothic romantic nature of the film’s tone, with Wasikowska and Hiddleston being undeniably perfect in their casting, albeit if sometimes the chemistry between the two did seem rather off, perhaps due to the ambiguous nature of Sharpe’s true intentions. Pans Labyrinth it is not, but Crimson Peak remains a rather gorgeous experience in terms of its’ visual presentation yet suffers from a rather underwhelming script, resulting in a flawed but fun piece of cinema that manages to explore the heavily-examined Gothic theme in the hands of Del Toro.
Overall Score: 7/10
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.
Yesterday, Marvel released the new trailer of the sequel to Thor; “Thor: The Dark World” and damn, this has got me excited!
Set after the events of the Avengers and some spaceship is attacking earth once again. Forcing Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to return to the protection of civilisation and Jane foster (played by the beautiful Natalie Portman).
As far as I can tell, most of the characters and actors from the first film have returned, but one of the characters everyone has wanted to return, made his appearance at the end of the trailer. I am obviously talking about Loki, played by the talented Tom Hiddleston and from the looks of it he is teaming with Thor! Exciting stuff!
According to IMDB, it will be directed by Alan Taylor and he has been apart of some fantastic stuff, such as a favourite TV show at the moment Game of Thrones as CO-executive producer and director for a few episodes and he did some directing in the Sopranos, both top and fantastic shows so it will be interesting to see what he brings to Thor.
The poster at the top says that it will be released the 8th of November that is for the US and for those in the UK it is to be released 30th of October, I can’t wait. Make sure to check out the trailer below and tell us what you think.