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Film Review: Darkest Hour

“You Cannot Reason With A Tiger When Your Head Is In Its’ Mouth…”

Proclaimed by many as history’s greatest Briton, the enigmatic presence of Winston Churchill has been the focus of much filmic and televisual escapades ever since the conclusion of the Second World War, and whilst there has been a continued succession of recent releases over the past few years or so detailing similar events, Joe Wright’s (Atonement) latest, Darkest Hour, is a much welcome, audience pleasing history lesson which details the rise of Churchill’s ascent into the role of Prime Minister during the early years of the Second World War. Propelled by a staggeringly dramatic and joyously brilliant career defining performance by Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Wright’s movie covers similar ground obtainable in the likes of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk in it’s detailing of Operation Dynamo, Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest in regards to the period detail of war-torn Britain, and of course, Jonathan Teplitzky’s own depiction of the great man in last year’s Churchill in which Brian Cox’s (Manhunter) own portrayal was similarly well received, and whilst the overall picture doesn’t succeed in attempting to offer something new to the already overcrowded war drama genre, Wright’s direction and management of Oldman’s performance results in undoubtedly the definitive portrayal of Britain’s most iconic and favoured wartime leader.

Filled with wit, solid dramatic timing and an uncanny usage of famous characteristics and mannerisms, Oldman’s performance is one of immense proportions, an awards touting tour de force which of course utilises to full extent a generous helping of makeup and costume design, but crucially one which doesn’t come across as something of a caricature in its’ depiction of the more obvious Churchill behavioural patterns. Managing to fit in everything from the mumbling, slobber fuelled and sometimes completely incomprehensible dialogue to the constant yet important prop of the infamous cigar, to which Oldman’s own admission caused a touch of nicotine poisoning, the performance is the reason many will flock to the cinema to see the movie, and whilst Oldman’s transformation is remarkable, the change isn’t so dramatic that the actor inside is weighed down too much for his original talents to be indistinguishable. Concluding in a similar manner to Dunkirk with the show stopping “We shall fight on the beaches” speech, this time presented within the grandiose halls of the House of Commons, Darkest Hour is the sort of Oscar bait drama which although seems primarily to be a showcase for the brilliance of its’ leading actor, still manages to be a well played and thoroughly enjoyable piece of cinema, and with Bruno Delbonnel’s (Inside Llewyn Davis) smokey cinematography and a well measured orchestral soundtrack to move it along, Wright’s latest is the kind of awards pushover that’s not trying too hard to make you enjoy your stay and for that alone, Darkest Hour is a solid thumbs up.

Overall Score: 7/10


Film Review: Dunkirk

“There’s No Hiding From This Son, We Have A Job To Do…”

The release of a new Christopher Nolan movie is always the time for utmost rejoice, a filmmaker who fundamentally adores the classic ways and means of cinema, and more impressively, a director who, like a modern incarnation of Steven Spielberg, is a guaranteed win for both box office and critical success, something of which each and every one of his films have achieved since his early work all the way back in 2000 with Memento. After the brilliance of Interstellar, a film which although may have been slightly divisive with critics, undoubtedly remains up there with the best work Nolan has offered up so far in terms of spectacle, the London-born filmmaker returns this week with Dunkirk, a live-action blockbuster focusing on the infamous titular evacuation which took place during the early stages of the Second World War and a movie which holds extra levels of kudos for being filmed in the heart of my very own hometown in sunny, sunny Dorset. Whilst you can expect nothing less than a movie with many different levels of wonder from a director such as Nolan, Dunkirk still manages to exceed the already vertigo-esque levels of anticipation which preceded it, and to put the experience of watching Dunkirk into words is a staggering undertaking in itself but what Nolan has ultimately accomplished can only be regarded as a masterpiece of spectacle, sound and sumptuous levels of tension, resulting in the best film to be released so far this year.

Avoiding completely the notion of a stereotypical, singular, character-driven wartime epic in the vein of Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan and Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, Nolan’s determined decision to focus on the triage of land, sea and air narrative threads means that although we are in the company of many different characters throughout each of them, their really isn’t time to discover backstory for any of the respective characters before the real power of the movie starts to come to fruition. From the first opening shot, screeching bullets and the tick-tock of Hans Zimmer’s unbelievably stunning soundtrack grip you in a contortion of spellbinding unrelenting tension, with the face of Fionn Whitehead’s youth-inflicted Tommy at the heart and centre of peril for most, if not all, of the time you share his particular journey of death and destruction, all caused by the unseen entity of the enemy soldier. Whilst Zimmer is renowned for being the brains behind classic musical soundtracks of the past, Dunkirk is undeniably up there with his best work to date, using Nolan’s own personal fob-watch at the heart of the metronome-esque piece of music which fuels the rising anxiety which encompasses the main thrust of the narrative, and by utilising his work hand in hand with the simply stupendous sound design, Dunkirk is the type of movie which is crying out to only be watched on the biggest screen possible in order to truly experience the craft at the heart of it.

With the film’s cinematography being left in the hands of Hoyte van Hoytema, whose previous works includes Her, Spectre and Nolan’s own science fiction epic, Interstellar, it comes as no surprise that Dunkirk is absolutely beautiful to behold, and although the particular screening in which I was in was the normalised digital approach to projection, if you are lucky enough to get the chance to witness Dunkirk in IMAX 35mm or 70mm, take it, with scenes of tantalising air to air battles and sweeping camera shots of soldier infested beaches showcasing an artist at the top of his respective game. Whilst pretenders such as the likes of Michael Bay believe the best use of IMAX cameras is to showcase how endless amounts of pointless explosions look within the format, thank god for the likes of Christopher Nolan, a filmmaker who is grounded completely in the epic grittiness of practicality and more importantly, a director who believes wholeheartedly in the importance of film. Dunkirk isn’t simply just a movie, it is a masterstroke of spectacle and a work of artistic tendency, and a film which not only results in the best blockbuster of the year and perhaps, even the past decade, but is the finest of examples of why cinema is so darn integral and important to those who truly love to witness a filmmaker at the peak of his powers. Nolan is just that, and in spades.

Overall Score: 10/10

Film Review: Hacksaw Ridge

“Most Of These Men Don’t Believe The Same Way You Do, But They Believe So Much In How Much You Believe…”

Eleven years after the non-stop intensity of Apocalypto, everyone’s favourite crazy American Aussie returns to directorial duty with Hacksaw Ridge, a similarly profound and incredibly violent tale focusing on the true events of The Battle of Okinawa in the early months of 1945 and specifically upon the actions of Desmond Doss, the only conscientious objector to ever receive the Medal of Honour for his services during the taking of the titular Hacksaw Ridge, a cliff face of the Maeda Escarpment surrounded by Japanese forces. Taking on the challenge of a non-fiction wartime miracle, Mel Gibson’s latest suffers from a fundamental flaw of being a movie of two halves, with the first half being primarily a cheesy, eye-gouging hour of character development which evokes everything from Forest Gump to Full Metal Jacket and a second half which can only be regarded as a simply stunning visualisation of the madness of war and one which ranks up there with the best there is to offer in regards to on-screen depictions of the Second World War.

In the lead role as Desmond Doss, Andrew Garfield attempts to shows off his best Virginian accent amidst a performance which reeks of similarity to his character in Martin Scorsese’s Silence in terms of his seemingly unbreakable penchant for sticking to his faith, whilst the rather formulaic and obvious narrative twists doesn’t exactly give much meat to any other character throughout the course of the movie, particularly Teresa Palmer who is wasted as Doss’ wife, Dorothy, who seems to be key in the first half of the movie but then disappears into the abyss of two-dimensional nothingness come the second act. Star of the show however is a joint title for both Hugo Weaving and Vince Vaughn, with the latter channelling his meanest R. Lee Ermey and provoking a rafter of laughs from the audience during a superb Drill Sergeant scene which of course harks back to Full Metal Jacket, a film which similarly suffers from a superb first act but then loses steam after the half way mark. After the brilliance of Apocalypto, Hacksaw Ridge does seem like a fall back into second gear, with Gibson’s latest more of a crowd-pleasing romp in contrast to his other work yet for the time it was on screen, it was a solid and overly violent roller-coaster. Well, just in its’ second act.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Allied

“Being Good At This Job Isn’t Very Beautiful…”

Brad Pitt. Marion Cotillard. Robert Zemeckis. Add into the mix screenwriter Steven Knight, best known for Eastern Promises and Peaky Blinders alongside a range of lesser work such as Burnt and last years’ unbelievably dire Seventh Son, and Allied could be regarded as a much anticipated meeting of the majestic, with all factors of the film’s main quartet being able to hit full stride when needed. Unfortunately for Zemeckis and co,. Allied isn’t exactly a work of cinematic art, in fact, it is far from it, with the film’s impressively strong beginning being offset by a shabby middle and end, alongside some strange plot decisions and an ending so fluffy it wouldn’t be amiss in a Disney movie. As for the film’s narrative, Allied follows the relationship of Max (Pitt) and Marianne (Cotillard) who fall in love after their success during a mission within German-occupied Morocco in the height of the second world war. After returning to London, Max is told some grave news regarding his recently wed wife, grave news which shakes his life to the core.

As is the perils of modern day cinema, if you’ve seen the trailer for Allied, which wouldn’t be much of a surprise seeing how it seems to be absolutely everywhere at the moment, you’ve basically seen the majority of the film, albeit the movie’s climax, a climax which isn’t entirely much of a shocker in itself, and this is a fundamental issue regarding the film’s overall quality. IF the big reveal wasn’t blasted at the audience before they’d even set foot into the cinema, maybe the attraction of Allied would have been less so but this may have been made up for in terms of shock factor when the reveal was made in the actual film. Who knows, and more importantly, who cares. Allied isn’t the best work to come from the likes of Robert Zemeckis, the man behind fantastic work such as Back to the Future and Forest Gump, and instead is rooted somewhere between the likes of What Lies Beneath and The Walk. A solid, if rather hokey, thriller sums up Allied but hey, hokey is good sometimes.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: War Dogs

“When Does Telling The Truth Ever  Help Anybody…?

One of the most crystal clear components of War Dogs, the latest comedic drama from Hangover Trilogy director Todd Phillips, is the obvious and sometimes uncanny influence of Martin Scorsese, particularly that of Goodfellas and Casino, with the fast-paced formula and quick-fire editing of War Dogs being the staple within a blueprint which verges on the edge of daylight robbery. Saying that, although the principle layout of War Dogs is not exactly the most original, the film is saved two-fold by the inclusion of Miles Teller and Jonah Hill in the films’ lead roles, lead roles which are characterised clearly by each side of a coin, with Teller’s David Packouz being the twisted moral compass in partnership with Jonah Hill’s greed-infested monster, Efraim Diveroli. Adding to the Scorsese influence is the notion that War Dogs is essentially Lord of War meets Wolf of Wall Street, a film in which Hill also starred in and a film which too has a black heart at its’ core, showcasing the evilness of greed and the consequences certain actions inevitably lead towards. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun though.

In a year in which The Big Short gave us a comedic insight into the downfall of the economy and America’s presidential race being wholeheartedly in the spotlight, War Dogs does seem rather timely. A satire into the gun-ho nature of the US war efforts, War Dogs does feature some rather top-end black humour and although the movie does suffer when heading into the direction of vulgar, laddish type humour between our two leads, reminiscent of the director’s previous work, its’ the dramatic seriousness within the movie which makes the film work as a whole, particularly the third and final act in which we witness the inevitable downfall of our two leads who realise to what extent their “illegal” doings have had on not only themselves, but the country as a whole. War Dogs is by no means perfect, but it is very entertaining and a double-bill with a film like The Big Short would be a quickfire lesson into the politics and principles of the world as we know it today. Nihilism is a bitch.

Overall Score: 8/10 

Look at the flowers, Treyarch – Call of Duty Black Ops 3 – REVEAL TRAILER

The biggest disappointments in gaming are back with another CoD. Treyarch really don’t know when to stop with all of this. The extreme suckyness that is the Black Ops series some how is being continued. It may have worked for Modern Warfare, lads but they started good…

So yeah, have a glimpse at the biggest reskin of Titanfall you have ever seen and try to enjoy the last breaths of Treyarch before the community hopefully put it down. But y’know, as I’m a sucker for something to do, I may just buy it because I need something to fill in until Titanfall 2 actually rolls in.

Here is the worst game trailer you’ve seen for a triple A title in years!


Film Review: American Sniper

Born In The USA

Now that the Oscar nominations have been let loose on the world, it is time for me to catch up on all the films that I haven’t seen which have been nominated for ‘Best Picture’. Beginning my journey, albeit a very small one with only three films needing to be watched, is American Sniper, the new movie directed by The Man With No Name, starring Bradley Cooper, last heard as a gun-toting raccoon in last years’ wonderful Guardians of the Galaxy. Shall we begin?

American Sniper focuses on the life of Chris Kyle, the “deadliest marksman in US military history”, who during his time as a Navy Seal, racked up 255 kills. 160 of which were confirmed, whilst attempting to highlight the effects war can have on soldiers, both in a wartime environment and a ‘normal’ one. The word, “attempting”, is probably the key fulcrum on which this review is based as the movie fails to paint a picture of how horrific war actually is, and instead, relies too many times on scenes that go full-on Call of Duty, with Black Hawk Down being the obvious inspiration, which in my mind, is something I have seen too many times before.

In terms of the good, Bradley Cooper does a solid job portraying Kyle, whilst Sienna Miller, who subsequently has seemingly reappeared out of nowhere in American Sniper and Foxcatcher, does an equally as good job playing the role of the estranged wife who is caught between Kyle’s love for her and his love for war. Aside from the two Kyles, the rest of the film is seemingly enriched with 2-D characters who come and go in relatively forgettable fashion, whilst the contrast between Kyle and the enemy sniper is rather poorly done and should have had more depth in order for me to actually care for the twisted relationship between the two. The word “depth”, in general, springs to mind, as their simply wasn’t enough in this film to justify its’ two hour plus run-time, and it seemed to drag on and not really grip me like I wished it would.

Overall, American Sniper, is a solid, yet unspectacular, flag-waving war film that attempts to show the true horrors and effects of war yet only succeeds in falling flat on its’ face. Although it has been nominated for “Best Picture” at the forthcoming Oscars, it is probably the weakest of all the films in that category and in my opinion, should easily be replaced by Foxcatcher.

Overall Score: 6/10


Fury 2In December of last year when I worked on the list of stuff I shall be keeping an eye out for, I noticed an unnamed David Ayer project featuring Brad Pitt, Shia Labeouth, Jon Berthnal, Logan Lerman and Michael Peña as a five man tank team during world war 2 in Nazi German towards the tail end of the conflict. Seeing we haven’t had a great war film in many years, the concept of approaching the conflict from the tank teams perspective was rather intriguing. As my love for Brad Pitt kept growing, my excitement for little titbits of news and information was building huge expectations in my mind. The trailer alone helped solidify what I was going to think of this film and to put it simply, the film was great.

During WW2, Nazi weaponry was typically far more advanced and their tanks were tearing into US units with ease. The tale doesn’t have a narrative that drives the movie like an action movie. Documentation springs to mind with its portrayal of the lives of those who fought in these tanks and the hardships they went through. After loosing their machine gunner, the Fury team were given Norman (Logan Lerman), a young man with no combat experience, 8 weeks in boot camp, never been in a tank and never killed before. Quite common in the time but we follow him as he is forced into the deep end with a crew of hardened fighters who don’t take kindly to having a weakness in the armour. The main character appears to be Norman. Over the 2 hours his character changes vastly and to see the conflict and infighting that gets him to where he needs to be is really engaging towards the audience. In this short period of time, we follow a boy become and man and what it makes of good men and the pain they went through to do their job. The final act is where the real action sets in with a convoy of tanks making their way too hold off a possible German advance but soon gets whittled down by a German tank. Upon defeating it, Fury stands on its own and carries its orders out until they hit a mine and lose one of the tracks. During repairs its found that Nazi forces are moving down the road and the final decision to fight or run is made. If I were to spoil it here, I don’t feel that would be fair. It ends rather dramatically with a blaze of glory and a barrage of emotions which I can only describe as epic. With its character driven story, it can feel a little slow towards the beginning when Norman is reluctant to do much but it grows even bigger with each step he takes.

From what I’m aware, the tanks used for filming were genuine vehicles and a great addition when you consider the over saturation of CGI in modern media. Visually the movie was great. I didn’t see any CGI that wasn’t the obvious blood splatter and shots on the tanks. Everything was fantastic in the visual department. The only issues that I do have were a few of the goofs. More down to the cutting and editing but switching from day to night in one cut was rather jarring. With the ringing of bullets and the roars of engines, the sound was clear and crisp. Enough to excite but not to deafen. Although with excitement we normally have music to help ramp the scene up. I don’t remember any of the songs and nothing really captured me enough to return home and search for whatever song was used (although I now probably will) like I enjoy and that’s a real shame for a movie that has prided itself on great cinematography and prop work.

There really isn’t much to talk about in the case of acting. We have a group of actors that have already proven themselves as adequate in many of their other appearances. Although Logan stands as the main, Brad Pitt steals it from him with a far superior performance and Shia was rather good. With his recent outbursts and nutty-ness, his career was in real turmoil but he has certainly managed to pick it up and be a part of something to really be proud of. The rest of the cast were brilliant too. There’s really no fault on their part. So my overall conclusion is that the movie is brilliant. The goofs can be forgiven but they are rather drastic and shows sloppiness by the cutting crews and there were some rather lengthy chunks of space that felt rather empty that didn’t achieve much for the flow. I seriously think the movie deserves all of the praise it is getting and I look forward to getting it on DVD with a few little extras and maybe a directors cut. My score for Fury is 8/10

Fury 3

Lone Survivor – Review – SPOILERS

Lone Survivor 1It’s not rocket science, the trailer and the films name really do make the outlining plot obvious. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the majority of the movie. Presented as an all American patriotic war film based on a true story, but the Lone Survivor is something far bigger. Based on the operation Red Wings, a 4 team squad have to take down a high profile Taliban target. With no comms, the strike team find there cover blown with no support or commanding orders. Left alone, it’s a right for survival which costs the lives of 3 of the squad leaving only Mark Wahlberg’s Marcus Luttrell to fend for himself.

The story is great. Once again, I’m not versed into the ins and outs of what actually happened and expect the odd embellishment from time to time, but there were a few bits that I was a little saddened by. With a lack of character development throughout, the death of the soldiers do very little to cause an emotional response. Running up to the outbreak of violence, characters are introduced but the movement is incredibly slow. Characters we meet are completely irrelevant and hold no emotion value while in this time, they should have focused on character progression rather than a slew of names and faces. One piece I really enjoyed was the representation of the Afghan people. Moving away from a typical “everyone of them is involved with the Taliban” approach, and taking a positive view and portraying it to a world through a form of media that normally attacks Afghanistan.

As the movie represented itself as an action movie, it’s important to critique this. However, the first thing that I would like to talk about is the use of armour. I understand that they are given Kevlar armour which is supposed to withstand quite the impact, yet it appears that it does very little to stop a bullet when these guys get shot to shit. Now that is out of the way, the action is brutal. There is no other word to describe it. The wounds look real and the deaths are mortifying. One particular shot sits with me and will do for quite some time is the killing of one of the soldiers. After running dry on ammo and suffering multiple gun shot wounds, he props himself up against a tree. The shot expands to center his limp body. As he struggles for breath, Taliban draw closer and aim. Firing two shots that rip through the tree above his head, he doesn’t flinch. The final shot hits Axe (Ben Foster) in the head and sends his head back into the tree only to drop forward seconds later. The lingering shot was amazing. Yet, for a movie at 15+ of age, it seems a little much. With action comes sound. With war comes loud noises. Microphones must have been peaking, at points it scares the living shit out of me because it’s so sudden and really aided in immersing into the movie.

The movie is wonderful. Without digging into everything else too deeply, the acting was alright and visually it was gorgeous apart from the slow-mo team jump which felt generic and cheesy. But otherwise, Lone Survivor deserves a solid 8 out of 10. It’s a great piece of entertainment and deserves a watch from anyone interested in the conflict and to any ladies out there, Taylor Kitsch was massive and Wahlberg didn’t steal all of the screen time!

PS – Another short review as I’m in a race to catch up with The Walking Dead…So. Damn. Good.

Lone Survivor

Battlefield 4 – Quicky Review!

BattlefieldI really don’t know what I expected from a game that is only made for online purposes. Over the last few years, I only bought into Call of Duty and would spend time doing the campaign while sighing over the poorly developed story. This time around, I decided to get both. Seeing that Battlefield 4 was out in America before it was in the UK, it surly pissed a few people off. Alongside pissing off numerous amounts of Russians and Chinese nationals….

Around everything else I had to do, I didn’t stick many hours into the game at all. Probably about 4-5 hours overall. It’s really short and very confusing when you have no idea who “Chang” is. I still don’t know if he has been a theme through the last couple of games but not addressing this to the new players is a really bad play on their behalf. With about six missions that are spread over a few days, everything moves fast. Perhaps a little too fast. The plot twists where predictable and lacked anything that would truly inspire or help you to interact with the characters on a deeper level. So throughout, characters were just distant. You are placed as a Sargent called Recker who doesn’t actually say anything, even when he is being spoken too, a little anti-social if you ask me. It also appears that even when he is in command, everything is decided by everyone else. The rest of the characters are fairly annoying, you cannot relate to them and you learn nothing about them through the time you are with them.

For a game that competes with Call of Duty, every damn year, they should have a lot of effort and resources into the build and development of the game. However, the image was never clear. Surfaces looked fuzzy, AI’s would glitch out, the environment never looked real enough to immerse yourself in. for my first outing, I had really high hopes for it, even with it’s imminent next gen release bragging about higher visual specs.

Where the game shines is in combat. Plug in the headphones, crank up the noise and get ready for a shit show. Reserve ammo and steal what you can as enemies come thick and fast with little room for mistake and manoeuvre. Combat is quite fun, it’s a bit of a switch from CoD but it’s fairly easy to grasp. You cannot just shoot a moving target by sticking the dot on him, you have to consider that the bullet needs to travel to get there, this makes it feel very real and when you have bullets pinging around you, the only thing you want to do is pop the enemy quick before they overwhelm you. The glitchiness (if that’s even a word) of the game got in my way a few times, lining up an enemy only to have it push you away several time, the enemies are also fairly spongy and do take accuracy to put down effectively. This isn’t the case on multiplayer.

In total, it’s a fun and enjoyable game to play, all be it stressful at times but it’s weak and short story mixed in with the general glitches and underwhelming visuals, I have to give it a 7/10.

Tune in next week to see my CoD Ghosts review!

Battlefield 2