Thursday, October 27, 2016

Film Review - Dr Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange is the newest Marvel Studios production and concerns Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) a New York Neurosurgeon who loses his gift in a car accident that severely damages his hands, despondent he travels to Kathmandu in India to seek the wisdom of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) but this journey will involve learning a new set of skills and facing down dangerous enemies.

I was a little hesitant heading into this movie primarily because I was very unimpressed with large chunks of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe I felt that it was too timid, too risk averse and all too willing to throw in not that funny one liners into films like Captain America Civil War which were meant to have a more serious tone but Marvel's recent Comic Con show showed me that perhaps Producer Supreme Kevin Feige and Co were now willing to become a little bolder and more risky given where the MCU is now heading.

And this gamble is one that has handsomely paid off as I really really enjoyed this movie for these reasons:

- Firstly the Visual Effects here are Stunning, simply Stunning if this movie does not win the Best Visual Effects Academy Award then something will be seriously wrong as there are scenes here that just make your jaw drop and it made me think that this is what CGI is meant to do, put things on film we can't do with practical effects and it demands for this movie to be seen on the biggest cinema screen you can find and this has already had me drooling of what the Infinity Gauntlet is going to look like in action.

- Secondly Cumberbatch anchors this entire film really well and watching him here reminded me a lot of Robert Downey Jr in the first Iron Man film in terms of seeing an actor completely owning the character they're playing on screen and it makes me very excited to see him in further MCU films, Swinton is okay here while Chwietel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong and Rachel McAdams were okay as well.

- Lastly I also loved the tone this movie set here, it does have humour in it but it never feels like it intrudes on the film as a whole and I was pleasantly reminded of one of my fav shows Dragon Ball and the mystical tone both that show and this film was on show a little bit here.

Unfortunately what really holds this film back is Mads Mikkelsenn playing Generic Marvel Villain number 562 and there's a real irony to this in that Marvel Studios has built this enormous cinematic universe and gone to great lengths and spent lots of time and money to carefully plan out each film and each phase and drawn upon decades of history from the comics and in return have been very very handsomely rewarded with box office success and a loyalty most franchises could only dream of having.

And yet something as basic and as fundamental as having a strong adversary for their heroes seems to elude them, Loki has been the one real exception and that was mainly due to Tom Hiddleston being a great choice for that role but all the others including the evil monk guy (Sorry I forgot his so very forgettable characters name) have been deathly dull and film killing in each way but this is so very much Cumberbatch's film that I didn't mind all that much THIS time around but Josh Brolin's Thanos is the one Mr Feige and Co MUST and I repeat MUST!!! get right because if they don't Infinity War is dead on arrival.

And so that was Dr Strange and this is a film well worth seeing on the biggest cinema screen you can find and stay for the mid credits scene as it is a VERY exciting tease and look I'll be honest and say that I have had my criticisms of the MCU and of Mr Feige but this movie has made me a fan again and Phase 3 is off to a very nice start, 4 out of 5.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Film Review - Jack Reacher Never Go Back (2016)

Jack Reacher Never Go Back is the sequel to 2012's Jack Reacher but this time Christopher McQuarrie has been replaced in the director's chair with Ed Zwick who made the Last Samurai in 2004 with Tom Cruise, here Cruise reprises the role of Reacher where he meets a US Army Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) who ends up in prison convicted of a crime she may well be innocent of.

Jack Reacher 1 was okay and a perfectly entertaining way to spend 2 hours having a relaxing time with a film but Jack Reacher 2 was simply pathetic just yet another example of the fact that 8 in 10 sequels simply don't work and it doesn't work for these reasons:

- Firstly the storyline of the film is not really all that interesting and after a while it becomes completely predictable in terms of "That will happen, that will happen, that will happen" and it pretty much does it is also a very boring movie to sit through and after a while I just didn't care about anything that happened.

- Secondly there is not one single action sequence in this film that I found to be exciting, memorable or tension filled, each of it has this kind of "Padded Knuckles" feeling which is a Simpsons joke where Jimbo beats up Bart for wearing Safety Padding and he says "This Padding's so easy on the Knuckles, I could punch all day" and each action scene feels exactly like that and of no doubt this was done to get that much coveted PG-13 rating which is just a joke.

And also when you compare the action here with the action from Mission Impossible Rogue Nation it falls completely short as it has none of the fun and excitement those scenes had such as the opening Airport hijack, the Underwater Information Retrieval without an Oxygen Tank or the Motorcycle Chase or indeed the fight at the Opera here its just some bash, bash, bash stuff with no invention or excitement in them at all.

- And lastly the performances are all very weak, Cruise looks bored throughout this entire film and I couldn't help but think it was like watching a Dog constantly being kept on a leash when people like Christopher McQuarrie and JJ Abrams have let him off it and well we saw him climbing the tallest building in the world or hanging off the plane as its taking off or doing the Motorcycle Chase without any safety gear and you felt or least I did a real sense of "My God this is crazy but also wildly exciting" but there's none of that here he just scowls through the whole thing.

Smulders fares little better as she just looks angry throughout the whole film and the girl who plays Samantha is forgettable though she does get a couple of good moments but the only person I liked seeing in this film was Robert Knepper who played Minister Antonius in the Mockingjay films he made me smile whenever he came on screen.

And so that was Jack Reacher 2, a boring sequel on almost every level and frankly wait for the Accountant on November 3rd, 1 out of 5.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Film Review - Blood Simple (1984)

Blood Simple is the debut film for the Coens brothers and this one takes place in Texas where Ray (John Getz) is having an affair with Abby (Frances McDormand) the wife of a local bar owner (Dan Hedaya) who is not happy and hires a private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to investigate their affair and possibly murder them.

Blood Simple is a terrific film and while I was watching it I felt like I was watching a great page turning novel put on film and where every element of the film (the editing, direction, camerawork, sound, music and performances) comes together into a beautifully cohesive whole and while it can feel like a slow burn at times it only makes the scenes of violence feel more impactful and more earned in the story and they made me wince a little I have to admit.

The performances are quite good with McDormand, Getz and Hedaya doing very adequate work but Walsh is the show stealer here with his bulky presence adding a real sense of dread to his character who does not muck around when he's on the case, the film also looks gorgeous with many strong visual colours and beautiful lighting in the films many night scenes (the scenes during the day do take away from the impact of the visuals of the film.)

As for the Coens themselves they do terrific work here and while watching this film I thought that this film really felt cohesive in a way that some of their recent films have not this year's Hail Caesar being one of them which while being one of their funny films got too silly for me just as Inside Llewyn Davis was probably a little too maudlin for their serious work whereas this film combines their serious and funny sides really really well perhaps in a way they have not quite been able to do since when they got more money to spend and won Academy Awards and having to answer to studios and producers.

And so that was Blood Simple a fantastic 80s noir that is well worth watching, 4 and a half out of 5.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Film Review - Deepwater Horizon (2016)

Deepwater Horizon is based off of a true story of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and stars Marl Wahlberg and Kurt Russell as two of the oil workers who head out to the Rig only to find out that the BP owners (one played by John Malkovich) have sent some of the test workers home without doing a Cement Test, later on the Rig catches fire after an Oil Leak and the race is on to survive.

Deepwater Horizon comes across as a great story and tribute to the real guys who went through this disaster (the worst in US History) but as a film I merely thought it was okay and the reason for that I feel is that it plays out a lot like a typical disaster movie:

- Something goes BOOM!
- How bad did it go BOOM!
- Very bad
- Run, Go, Get to Da Choppa
- Get to the Lifeboars she's going down
- Oh this can't go wrong, YES IT FUCKING DID!!!

Some of the order of that is not the same as in the film but it has the same feeling to it and yeah the disaster effects are pretty cool but I wasn't all that interested in it as a story, Wahlberg and Russell are their reliable old selves but Malkovich was the show winner here with his slightly slimy accent and perfect corporate asshole ness.

And so that was Deepwater Horizon, an okay disaster flick that is worth a rental, 2 out of 5.

Film Review - The Girl on the Train (2016)

The Girl on the Train is based off of the novel by Paula Hawkins and stars Emily Blunt as Rachel an alcoholic woman who takes the train every day and sees a young couple in love in a house by the sea but when a woman named Megan (Haley Bennett) goes missing she becomes a part of the puzzle.

This was an okay thriller that at times becomes a little too twisty turny for its own good combined with some pretty edgy scenes of violence and though many have compared it to Gone Girl the main comparison for me was 1992's Shattered which starred Tom Berenger and was made by Wolfgang Petersen in that you have an unreliable narrator with memory problems but whereas that film had an interesting mystery this one becomes much more predictable by the end.

What did redeem it a little bit for me was the performances Blunt is fantastic here and every scene she has you can't take your eyes off her and its sure nice to see her in a good role so quickly after her horrible work in the Huntsman spinoff from earlier this year, I also loved seeing Rebecca Ferguson again from Mission Impossible Rogue Nation last year and Bennett was fine though she really does look a lot like Jennifer Lawrence.

And so that was the Girl on the Train an okay thriller redeemed by a great performance by Blunt, 2 out of 5.

Film Review - Inferno (2016)

Inferno is directed by Ron Howard and also based off of the novel by Dan Brown and once more Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is on the chase for the Inferno Virus said to be inspired by Dante's Inferno and this time he has a young doctor named Sienna (Felicity Jones) to help him and various Health officials after him as well.

This movie stinks, it stinks to its very core and it has to be one of the 3 worst films I have sat through all year in a cinema in that I physically hated sitting there in my seat and there is but one simple answer as to why that its.

And that is David Koepp's script which is all over the place in terms of its storytelling structure, plot twists and central mystery none of these elements feel like they come together in an exciting and mysterious way and while some of the visions of the end of the world were fun to watch at first (mainly because they reminded me of X-Men Apocalypse) after a while they and the film began to bore me and I just wanted it to be over.

This movie also makes the capital crime of being a waste of great talent and top of the list is Howard who had only just made a wonderful documentary about the Touring Years of the Beatles this just serves to be further proof that there is only so much a director can do with a rotten screenplay and Hanks is right up there beside him and he was so good in Sully what a shame to see him here looking bored with it all.

Felicity Jones a lovely young actress comes across as flat and boring in her role while Ben Foster and Omar Sy don't make much of an impression in their roles while Iffran Khan was probably the only person I enjoyed in this whole damned thing and even then it was only because I kept thinking of the Imran Khan parody from the Late Show and when that happens you know this movie isn't doing anything for you at all.

And so that was Inferno a film that stinks frankly and you shouldn't bother seeing it, 1 out of 5.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Film Review - The Beatles 8 Days a Week the Touring Years (2016)

The Beatles 8 Days a Week the Touring Years is a new documentary directed by Ron Howard and tells the tale of the touring years of the Beatles from their beginnings in 1962 to the end of those years in 1966 which can only be one part of the large Beatles story.

This Beatles doco is simply terrific for these reasons:

- Firstly the archive footage presented here is just remarkable, the many concert shows the band did look great for their age and they feel totally in sync with the mayhem of the crowds going on around them not to mention the songs making you want to tap your toe along to them whenever they play on screen.

- Secondly the interviews presented here are a nice mix of the talking heads and the voices over the archival footage and some of the people present here were a very nice surprise one of those being Howard Goodall who did the music for Red Dwarf which did come to mind for me when I saw him in this doco and very nicely interviews with George Harrison and John Lennon are present as well which I had been skeptical about prior to seeing this film.

- And lastly the film also manages to portray the changing world that was going on during the 1960s when the young began to crave real change to the world around them and through this enormous rebirth of the Arts particularly in England (this was also when the first batch of James Bond films were released and that also came to mind for me when watching this.) the conservative order if you like began to slowly break down and a new way of thinking began to emerge and perhaps in some way we have come back around to this now in our modern times.

I also wanted to watch the Simpsons spoof after seeing this documentary which was about the Be Sharps which is very very funny.

And so that was the Beatles 8 Days a Week the Touring Years which is a very strong contender for my movie of the year though there is another very strong contender for that title as well but this year is still not over, 4 and a half out of 5.