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C'era una volta il West (1968)
The Greatest Western Ever Made?
The Sky Arts team of Ian Nathan, Derek Malcolm and Stephen Armstrong proudly proclaimed ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST as the "Number One Greatest Western Ever Made", with John Ford's THE SEARCHERS coming second... So I went into it with high expectations, determined to find out why it had been placed above Ford's 1956 masterpiece of tension and beauty... I came out of it, glad that I had finally seen it but puzzled why so many people loved it and why the Sky critics had rated it so highly. Alas, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST proves to be one of those great cinematic letdowns...
I find it difficult to believe that the genius behind the Dollars Trilogy could come up with a movie this dull. I'm all for character development, but do I really need to stare at the fly on Jack Elam's cheek for what feels like half an hour? THE WILD BUNCH was about growing old and losing your touch with reality; SHANE was about the unspoilt innocence of youth and the eternal difference between right and wrong; THE ALAMO was about the price of freedom and the cost of war; and THE SEARCHERS was about redemption and love conquering hate... but after sitting through the 2:45 runtime of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (that, by the movie's end, felt more like 5:45), I still can't tell you what it was really all about. Leone tries to be all things to all people and ends up completely losing the message of his film. There are moments of genuine movie magic, but they are broken up by long periods of the most unimaginable boredom. At the end of the day, I had to ask myself if it really was about anything at all?
A loveably roguish Jason Robards and a truly reptilian Henry Fonda shine in their roles along with the rest of this all-star cast, but there's not a grain of charisma to be found amongst any of them. Their monotonous speeches end up blending together, polarising their both their characters and the pace of the movie. And all the heavenly choirs and the breathtaking shots of Monument Valley can't save it from feeling bloated and more than a little pointless...
It was the best of films, it was the worst of films... Personally, I'm inclined to the latter rather than the former.
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
"A Hard Night's Viewing"
As someone who grew up with the Beatles (let's be honest, we ALL did), I was interested to see what a feature film about them would be like. After sitting through it, my opinion is a little mixed. It's a cinematic fashion statement, created to showcase these four lads from Liverpool in all their glory. Therefore, it's rather jarring to see characters like Wilfrid Brambell (the nightmarishly wide-eyed "Grandpa") and Victor Spinetti (the embarrassingly overzealous TV Director) taking up such a large percentage of screen time. It gets to the point where you wonder, "Is this a film about John, Paul, George and Ringo, or Wilfrid, Victor, Lionel and Norman?" This was not helped by the film's clumsy script that somehow bafflingly earned itself an Oscar nomination. There are some genuinely funny moments but overall, the film unapologetically plays for laughs, with John making quips at a potted plant or confirming to a stuffy passerby (Anna Quayle) that he really is John Lennon for what must have been five minutes but what felt like five hours.
However, I must say that I found it an unequivocally sad watch. This was back when they were just starting out- young lads, young friends who just wanted to have fun, get drunk and chase women. This was before the drugs, before the breakups and before the bust ups. This was at a time when their lives were virtually painless and when the entire world was their musical oyster. History has not been kind to The Beatles or its members but their music still endures and that's a fact that this film unintentionally confirms.
A Hard Day's Night will probably go down in history as a right of passage for all true Beatles fans. It's amateurish, embarrassing and (at the points involving Brambell) woefully ill-conceived but charming, enlightening and poignant at the same time.
So, I finally watched The Rise of Skywalker last night...
I LOVED it!
I NEVER thought I would, but I did. This was a really gripping, decent Star Wars movie and it gets about as close to recapturing the magic of the originals as Disney is ever going to get. The pace of the film is perfect and the new characters were all really compelling. The tales of redemption and belonging blend together beautifully and aside from the odd plot-hole and unnecessary kiss, things fitted together perfectly. Unlike the abominable Last Jedi, things didn't feel convoluted and I was never really bored. I was skeptical about the prospect of Luke returning as a force ghost but the X-Wing lift scene was magical! Overall, a really decent movie that gripped and thrilled me. As to the global criticism, all I can say is that Jeremy Jahns and the Honest Trailer group must have been watching a different movie.
The Mandalorian With No Name
Jon Favreau's "The Mandalorian" combines two of my favourite things: Star Wars and spaghetti westerns. Result? I enjoyed every minute of this first instalment!
Apart from Rogue One and the Clone Wars Series, I don't like modern Star Wars adaptations. For me, they've always tried (and failed) to capture the magic of the original trilogy. However, The Mandalorian succeeds on all counts and I was gripped from start to finish. The dialogue was crisp and exciting, the subject matter was treated with maturity and respect, the characters were well-drawn and mysterious, and the action somewhat resembled the ending carnage of 1969's "The Wild Bunch".
This was genuinely more like a western than a Star Wars movie; Pedro Pascal's broodingly silent "Mando" replaces Clint Eastwood's broodingly silent "Manco" (direct reference by Favreau?). His character resembles that of Silence (from 1968's "The Great Silence") or Bill Meceita (from 1967's "Death Rides a Horse"): a silent man with a dark past.
This first episode did not disappoint on any level and I can't wait to watch the next. Thank you Mr. Favreau, for reigniting my love of Star Wars!
"We Happy? We Happy!"
For me, this film was another La La Land; the first time I saw it, I didn't like it. However, after going away and thinking about it and eventually returning to it, I thought (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) was really quite good.
I wouldn't say that it's Tarantino's best film but I would say that it's possibly 2019's best. The dialogue is simple but hits all the right notes. The stellar cast is, well... "stellar". Brad Pitt was the definition of "cool" while Margot Robbie managed to capture all of the silent tragedy of the life of Sharon Tate. Even the dog (Brandy) was on top, hippy-chewing form!
Personally, I think you've just got to know what you're going in for. This isn't some complex movie trying to tell some spiritual message. This is a story about two fellas going from A to B. It becomes more complicated when you wonder why Tarantino decided to add the Manson element, and I can only conclude that (like my father, who was 18 at the time) he was very affected by them when they happened. Apart from that, this film is very, very simple. Is that a bad thing? In the end, no. Films are often so convoluted these days, so it was nice to see a film that knew what it wanted to achieve and achieved it.
Should it have one Best Picture? Yes. No other film this year has entertained me like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I was very disappointed with The Irishman and thought Joker was both grim and unoriginal. I know there are others but for me, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood really stood out for its creativity and its visual poetry. After watching it, you sit back and think: "why couldn't history have been like that?"
In short, it's a movie made by someone who loves movies and if you want a nostalgic, heartfelt look at the bygone days of 1960s Hollywood, this film is for you!
The Irishman (2019)
"Three And A Half Hours Of My Life I'll Never Get Back!"
I can probably sum this film up in about three words: overlong, grim and boring.
My family will tell you I'm a big Scorsese fan (Goodfellas is one of my absolute favourites!) but I was really disappointed by his latest directive outing. The genius behind Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The King Of Comedy (to name a few) has presented us with a monotonous slug of a film: The Irishman.
I got a big kick out of seeing my acting heroes (DeNiro, Pesci, Pacino, Keitel...) doing what they're best at doing and the attention to set detail was spot on (as always with Scorsese) but apart from that, I found little to like about The Irishman.
The CGI was passable; I didn't think it was great but I didn't think it was terrible. The main problem (for me) was that DeNiro is trying to sound like 30-year old with the voice of a nearly 80-year old.
As someone who's read Charles Brandt's I Heard You Paint Houses (the book that the film is based on), I was really struck by how much story Scorsese and Zaillian left out of the script and film. Almost all of Frank Sheeran's young life is glossed-over and people who don't know who Jimmy Hoffa was will be left almost none the wiser. If you really want to know who Jimmy Hoffa was and want to see a film about him that is both gripping and moving, I'd recommend Dany DeVito's Hoffa (1992). The film is not only shorter (by a whole hour and a half) but holds a cast that actually resembles the real people they're based on. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with The Irishman's cast but Al Pacino resembles none of Hoffa's characteristics or mannerisms. Jack Nicholson on the other hand is a virtual carbon copy of Hoffa's restless, volatile nature and squat, bulldog features.
If this film were a piece of music, it would be a funeral dirge. The usual excitement of a Scorsese narrative is replaced with a prosaic confession spread-out over three and a half hours. It's not soulful or meaningful but dry and barren of any emotion. Maybe that's what Scorsese intended but when I sit down for a three hour film, I intend to be moved and gripped. The Irishman did neither. My advice? Watch Hoffa instead!
But what do I know? "I'm an average nobody, get to live the rest of my life like a schnook".
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
3/4 "Meh", 1/4 "Woah!!!"
I wasn't that keen on ENDGAME, there... I said it. I went into this film with high expectations (thanks to all the hype/money it's made/phenomenon that was INFINITY WAR) and was rather let down. There were two real problems with this movie: 1) it's WAY too long and subsequently becomes rather unfocused on reaching it's conclusion. 2) it is just plain BORING for it's opening 2 hours and a half! There's no material that grips me/makes me say "wow", unlike INFINITY WAR which blew my socks off within the first 10 minutes.
There are several plot lines that are both uninteresting and unnecessary. I'm all up for character-building, but do we need much more character-building after 15 WHOLE MOVIES, and does it really have to take up 2 AND A HALF HOURS OF SCREEN TIME?!! I don't mind a film needing a build-up but this was quite frankly RIDICULOUS, especially when (despite being 2 hours and 40 minutes) INFINITY WAR cut to the chase pretty quickly while still making us feel for the characters.
However, to say that ENDGAME was a total loss would be untrue. The final quarter/ending of the movie will leave you awestruck and sad! It's a brilliant ending that fires on all four cylinders, so it's just a shame that the rest of the movie had to be so tedious/unnecessarily stretched-out!
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Tarantino's Magnum Opus!
Genius! Pure genius, is what this film is! Though INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, DJANGO UNCHAINED and JACKIE BROWN are among my favourite QT movies, none of Tarantino's other work is quite as much fun, as inventive or as darn quotable as PULP FICTION! It's a true 'cult movie' of the highest order, and a true, movie, gem from the 90s!
Never has Tarantino's dialogue been so juicy, his story so much fun or his characters so iconic (apart from Mr. Blonde or Hans Landa, of course!). There's just so much to enjoy from this movie as Tarantino pulls together one his best casts including Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, Uma Thurman and unforgettably, Samuel L. Jackson! Tarantino also crafts one of the best soudntracks in cinematic history; using some of the greats like Al Green, Dusty Springfield, and Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" in the so-bad-that-it's-good dance sequence (which I intend to dance with my future wife at our wedding someday)!
Every scene is laced with killer, totally quotable dialogue and who here, isn't aware by now, that a Quater Pounder with Cheese in France, is called "Royale With Cheese"? It's probably (save INGLOURIOUS and DJANGO) Tarantino's best script, with the dynamite dialogue and brilliant, yet baffling use of the non-linnear storyline. Never have Tarantino's storylines ever captured the imagination in such an explosive way as we follow two hit men, a mobster's wife, a boxer and a pair of diner-robbing, adrenaline junkies!
I'm not saying it's perfect; there's stuff you'll hate, there's stuff that will shock you and there's stuff that will disgust you as the film deals with the illegal, criminal, underworld of Los Angeles. As iconic as it was, being a Christian, I was not entirely comfourtable with Tarantino's version of the Bible verse from Ezekiel but on a whole, I found myself moved by Jules Winnfield's (Samuel L. Jackson's) tale of redemption as the hitman who has a dramatic change of heart since it shows that even a hired killer, is not without soul or humanity.
Like I said, this film is about crime but the real crime is that Samuel L. Jackson didn't get an Oscar for his role! He is frankly masterful as he lyrically waxes about burgers, pigs and moral codes. He's BY FAR, the best part of the film and is able to appear comical and terrifying at the same time.
Every factor of this film fits together perfectly and to paraphrase from INGLOURIOUS: "I Think This Just Might Be Tarantino's Masterpiece!"
Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)
'Johnny English Strikes Again' And Misses Completely!
To paraphrase from the last film "JOHNN ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN couldn't hit a barn door with a banana!" Alas, JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN is a complete missed opportunity and a true letdown for all die hard ENGLISH fans like me and my Mum.
The bar was set so high by the last couple of ENGLISH films but this third instalment has lived up to none of their comic or cinematic greatness. There is true comedy to be found at some points in the film but for the most part, JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN combines silly, predictable jokes with borrowed material from the previous films. You will laugh at several moments in this film but you will soon forget the humour of it all with the clunky, half-baked script, the boring, predictable plot and castrated characters; the characters in this film have had all their heart and soul taken away and replaced with silly goo. It's nice to see Rowan Atkinson doing what he does best but all the heart, determination and daring that made English so great is gone, leaving a big, silly joke!
No one else hits the mark either; the villain offers no fun, no cackle, no suspense or true villainy, the main heroine is soon forgotten about even though so much is built around her and Bough (Ben Miller) is made to look pretty insignificant too! What this film needed was to bring back some of its previous stars like: Natalie Imbruglia or Rosamund Pike to jazz things up but sadly, things have been left dull and uncomplicated. What this film needed was also some MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-style, scale and spectacle! There was no true danger or daring to this film (unlike the previous movies) and the whole mission felt like a bad joke that anyone could have done.
Tis film was a real missed opportunity that had the potential of becoming something really fun but alas, the writers and directors have traded in both quantity as well as quality. A true disappointment, most of all to me and my Mum!
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
A Moving, Cinematic Classic!
The first thing that really struck me after watching Frank Darabondt's THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION was how much it resembled parts of the plot, but most of all the feel of John Steinbeck's OF MICE AND MEN. What is THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION really about? Yes, it's about a hellish prison, it's about how corruptible some human beings can be, it's about the good and the bad and the ugly of humanity, it's about depression, it's about yearning for belonging, it's about hope but most of all (like of MICE AND MEN), it's about one, truly glorious friendship. I do (of course) refer to the brilliant and heartwarming bromance shared by one Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and one Red (Morgan Freeman). It's their tale of friendship and sacrifice that takes place in the living hell that is Shawshank prison and their brutally honest story is brought, magnificently to the screen by Frank Darabondt.
Every, single, vital element of this film is done to cinematic perfection: the writing, the directing, the cinematography, the scoring and of course the acting. All these elements are executed perfectly and the story is told with poignant, brutal, raw honesty. It makes you immediately stop and think about the days when "prison" meant prison and how if you went down, you were as a good as dead. We see this by the horrendous cruelty that Andy experiences at the hands of the brutal Captain Hadley (Clancy Brown), the vile, rapist inmate Bogs (Mark Rolston) and finally, by the black hearted and truly evil, Warden Norton (Bob Gunton). We see men, in short, treated and brutalised like animals. We see men suffering from utter hopelessness and depression but still trying to build a life around their grieving situation. However, we also see the lighter side of things and this is where the film is most moving; we see people making a working environment in prison and how they carry hope with them (some, more than others) and try their best to live a productive life in a harsh environment.
Darabondt brings this to life epically; he directs perfectly, getting the uttermost from his cast and pulling everything together marvellously, he writes powerfully, breathing real life to each character and clearly marking out the heroes and villains. He makes you feel about each and every character and you end up truly caring about their hopes and dreams for the future. Like I said, this film (I believe) owes much to OF MICE AND MEN and as we focus on Andy and Red, (I think) you can appreciate how much they both resemble George and Lenny. They care and love each other almost like brothers and share a wonderful dream of someday escaping their current hell and living the dream. Sound familiar? He is a truly talented writer and with the script, as well as being able to make you shocked, horrified and sad, he can also make you laugh, make you happy and make you charmed as you behold the lighter side to the life in Shawshank. In short, Darabondt pulls together a truly marvellous piece of cinema that captures the inner turmoil and quest for hope and peace of the human spirit.
However, Darabondt's brilliant directing is not the only great thing about the film. The cinematography in this film was simply breathtaking, courtesy of the great Roger Deakins. I always love the poetic way in which Deakins tells a story with the camera. It feels poetic and mystical: the way in which the camera flies over the prison inmates, Andy in the sewage pipe, Andy in the rain and the beaches around the Atlantic Ocean. Wether it's BLADE RUNNER 2049 or SICARIO, Deakins captures the spirit of every story he films perfectly and is a true artist with the film camera.
Another great thing about the film is the score, courtesy of Thomas Newman. It builds throughout the film with a combination of soft piano and strings. His composing is filled with such poignant emotion and poetry and it really struck me how much this score resembled his work for Sam Mendes's 2002 thriller ROAD TO PERDITION. In both films, the score lifts each scene and makes the film powerful and poignant. Finally, the true brilliance of the film (or, when you think about it, any film) lies with its cast. The cast for this film was truly magnificent with some of the 20th centuries finest actors giving it their 110%! The main standouts are (without a doubt) Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Robbins is powerfully poignant and moving as the movie's wronged hero. He steals every scene as his face paints pictures of sorrow, regret, depression and gentle optimism. He makes you feel so much for the character and you almost feel as if you're going through life in Shawshank with him. Put it this way: his performance in this film couldn't be further from his performance in something like THE HUDSUCKER PROXY! Morgan Freeman was also frankly masterful in this film as he shows what a truly talented actor he is. His portrayal of a worn-out but kindhearted individual is heartwarming and sincere but also his methodical, poetic, poignant, and now famous narration is truly marvellous. The story is really lifted with his virtual fairytale narration and to quote from TED 2 (as said to Freeman) "I could go to sleep on a bed made of your voice!" Everyone else in the film is marvellous so its hard to pick who else deserves a mention, but I think you definitely have to mention Shawshank's vile Warden Norton, played by Bob Gunton. At first, he pretends to be a firm but fair teacher with good, pure values, but as the film progresses, you see that his heart is as black as the some of the prisoners he keeps. He's ruthlessly ambitious and hides behind the facade of protector. He's truly as "boo and hiss" sort of villain and Gunton plays the character perfectly!
All these wonderful factors carried the film along to its shocking but wonderful conclusion. I won't spoil if you haven't seen it but I will say that the film truly ends, perfectly!
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION captures what many films have tried to and failed: the human nature! I've seen very few films that capture the human nature in such a raw and uncompromising way. It's a truly masterful piece of cinema and probably the best 'prison movie' since COOL HAND LUKE...
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
A Complete Blast For MARVEL Fans!
Even though it's not perfect, I must say that AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR totally delivers all you want from a MARVEL movie. It gives you: the characters you love, the villain you've been waiting for and, of course the action sequences you've been craving like a fist-shaped bar of MARVEL-brand chocolate! We ALL should know by now that Joel and Anthony Russo+ MARVEL MCU= greatness and INFINITY WAR proves that fact yet again! Overall it's a pretty cool and fun ride, but you certainly have to prepare yourself for typical superhero silliness. However, the silly superhero stuff is told in a mature, non-patronising way and it wasn't like the rest of the of the frankly "daft" superhero films of the past year. Yes, I'm talking about you, THOR: RAGNAROK, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, BLACK PANTHER and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2. Though INFINITY WAR is certainly NOT realistic at all, it grips and has a serious tone that keeps you watching. The script is dynamic but also very funny in some parts and we get a good look at MOST of the characters. The plot is simple and nothing THAT new or fresh but it still grips and provides real closure on the already rather over-bloated MARVEL cinematic universe. There were a couple of elements I wasn't QUITE sure on but more about them later. Firstly, the good things: the plot, the characters and action.
The plot for the most part was really exciting and really had me gripped; it was serious and tense. However, it WAS a little dull in some parts. There were a few times when things lagged for a while but on a whole I was never really bored during this film. The main thing I was concerned about in this film was the amount of additional characters and how the film could easily become convoluted. Here's the thing: it didn't feel convoluted BUT, some of the characters do get sidelined. Some of your favourites like Captain America, Black Widow and Black Panther were kind of pushed out into the background and though they featured, they didn't feature as much as some (and me) would have liked. The story really focuses on three sectors: Thanos, Team Iron Man and Team Guardians. Everything else is really not that major. Now, on to the action. The action in this film was quite frankly AWESOME! After all, these are the directors behind the elevator and airport fight scenes in the Captain America films 2 and 3. The battle for Wakanda plays out like a completely OTT version of the battle of the Pelennor Fields from LOTR 3 and once the infamous AVENGERS score kicks in, you know you've got a good thing going!
Now, on to the acting! Almost ALL the members of the cast are great and give it their all! Some of these characters may not get all that much to say but they're all well-acted. However, I REALLY wasn't sure about the movie's main villain Thanos (Josh Brolin). I must admit I found Thanos (as a character) rather bland. You certainly realise what a threat he poses to the Avengers but really, he's a purple Darth Vader who's not THAT interesting. Brolin's performance is strong as the genocidal maniac but there were times when Brolin simply read the script. Though the villain is something new, I don't see him as a cinematic villain that will stand out!
On a whole, the film was fun, action-packed and gripping but it's nothing REALLY new and as my Dad so rightly said: "once you've seen one; you've seen them all!" The conclusion was devastating and raised many, many questions and the after-credits scene was certainly interesting even though it wasn't really worth waiting for. Definitely a fun ride but I couldn't really say that "this... Does bring a smile to my face"...
Gangs of New York (2002)
Not Great, But Good For The Most Part!
One thing I can definitely say for Scorsese in this film, is that he knows how to START! GANGS OF NEW YORK has one of the best opening scenes of a movie that I've seen. It's up there with the likes of THE DARK KNIGHT and THE GREATEST SHOWMAN in terms of a best opening scene. It both grips and sets the tone of the entire movie: muscular, stoic and violent with the epic 'Priest' Vallon (Liam Neeson) marching to war with his Irish gang of street warriors "The Dead Rabbits" and his young son Amsterdam (Cian McCormack) to do battle with the vicious Bill "The Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his racist army of American "Natives". I must say I found this film really quotable as well and now, every time I cut myself shaving (accidentally), I find myself repeating the line "No Son! Never! The Blood Stays On The Blade!" The film REALLY gets off to a great start with this opening scene that leads up to a brutally bloody battle for the Five Points. It's in this first part, that the movie is at its strongest, but as the film progresses with Amsterdam as a grown man (Leonardo DiCaprio) returning to the Five Points for revenge on "The Butcher" who slew his father, that the film's structure and pace begins to weaken.
The violent, epic events of the beginning, are replaced with duller, less-gripping ones and a truly disappointing and underwhelming finale, that leaves you a little cross that you wasted all that time waiting for the clash of the titans that never came! It does thrill at some points with the odd "Butcher" assassination attempt and the hero (DiCaprio) coming about as close to death as a hero has ever come in movie history.
Scorsese also (in my opinion) delivers a really authentic and thorough look into 19th century life in the Five Points. Everything from the props, to the buildings, to the clothes is spot-on for detail and highly authentic. The period drama side of things is faultless with the film capturing all the attitudes and feelings of the period and introducing us to a fairly unknown side of American history (Gangs in the Five Points and the Draft Riots). This is all fine but it's safe to say that the film is carried by its cast and I have chosen the 3 standouts and the 1 absolutely awful performance: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz and Jim Broadbent.
DiCaprio is (as usual) convincing, as Amsterdam despite the muddled accent and brings real emotion and passion to the role, unfortunately the character (on a whole) is rather bland and very dull. There's nothing exciting about him as a character, even though DiCaprio does his best in the role. Now, on to Daniel Day-Lewis as "The Butcher" Bill. This film (like THE DARK KNIGHT) is a good example of a supporting actor TOTALLY stealing the show. Day-Lewis delivers (in my opinion) one of the best performances of his career as Bill. Like Heath Ledger's Joker there are two, brilliantly-acted sides to his antagonist. On one hand he's a vicious, psychotic, racist, cowardly, backstabbing brute, but, on the other hand, he's a true patriot and a fairly "honourable man". Both sides to Bill's personality are played brilliantly and Lewis's sudden changes in character (see the "Poor Little Rabbit" scene) are frankly awesome! Cameron Diaz was also very convincing as the film's main heroine Jenny Everdeane. Diaz adds dome real spice to this role and (in my opinion) saves the character from being lost among so many forgettable screen damsels. She's feisty and fun but also caring and soft-spoken. Diaz certainly proves what a versatile and strong actress she is. Then, there is the one performance that both annoys and puzzles me: Jim Broadbent as Boss Tweed. I simply don't know what Scorsese was thinking in casting Broadbent in the role. Broadbent is awful, totally wooden and unrealistic. He READS the part, and it baffles me how he got this part among such a stellar cast in the first place. However, along with the likes of Brendan Gleeson and John C. Reilly the cast, for the most part, uplifted the rather dull 3/4s of the film and made it a slightly more enjoyable ride.
However, the final quarter of the film was what REALLY disappointed me. The problem is: Scorsese spends far too much on time on Amsterdam's saga of "do I"-"don't I" and the complete inessentials of the plot so that, as he crams in 'Monk' McGinn (Gleeson) running for sheriff, the Draft Riots and another Battle for the Five Points, the film becomes convoluted and terribly rushed. Things certainly needed to be trimmed down here, (I think) Scorsese just needed to synchronise the conclusion better. The conclusion itself was (as I've said) a true disappointment and doesn't deliver the outcome you hoped for (or watched the rest of the movie for).
Certainly mixed goods. The acting, beginning and script= goods. Bad= plot, pace and finale. Scorsese can do better and I was left thinking the film could have been better. Much better...
A Disappointing Next Step For The Franchise!
"This is not going to go the way you think", too right! A lot of people including Youtube's SCREEN JUNKIES have claimed that this is the worst STAR WARS movie to date. I don't think it's the worst, but I certainly don't think it's the best. In the first half I was quite frankly bored, and by the beginning of the second half I had already diagnosed several, big problems: 1) The clunky script had abandoned the emotional weight and grit of the previous movies. 2) There are FAR too many sub-plots and additional characters. 3) It's just too predictable and 4) the whole plot is quite frankly just a rehash of both THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI. Don't believe me? Here we go: a young Jedi abandons the cause of the Rebellion to travel to a desolate homestead to learn how to become a Jedi from a cranky but father-like teacher, "it's a trap" as bad guys close in on the rebels once again, half the gang is betrayed by a conman who they thought was their friend, the young Jedi has a dream where they see a shady figure that turns out to have the same face, the rebels prepare for battle with AT-ATs while sitting in a trench in a primarily white landscape, the 50% bad guy kills his evil overlord, the old Jedi master passes away and finally, a Yoda ghost appears. Sound familiar?
Let's break down the problems: first of all, the script in this film was frankly robotic and really let down the characters. It was basic, boring and rather childish. Such a shame when you've got such a talented cast of both old and newcomers. For example, Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux. Gleeson in my opinion is a fine actor but he was quite frankly awful in this film, completely stiff. Unfortunately, Gleeson wasn't the only poor performance in this movie. I was, however, touched to see Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher reprising their iconic roles in this film, even though I couldn't help feeling sad at seeing Carrie Fisher's swan song. However, apart from these two, because of the script, the cast was a big let-down. Now, secondly, there were just too many sub-plots and additional characters. THE FORCE AWAKENS had many characters but was more focused and balanced in showcasing all of them. THE LAST JEDI on the other hand didn't manage to pull it off and the film felt both convoluted, and over-complicated. It tried to tell so many individual stories when it should have just focused on a maximum of 3 and left it at that. Thirdly, the film was predictable to the extent where I could actually see what was coming up next. The twists are sometimes fun, but you can still see them coming a long way off. Finally, as I've already said, the plot just ripped off EPISODE V and I actually found myself yelling at the TV because of how obvious and unoriginal it was. However, there was another problem, there were several twists that both didn't make sense and were completely unestablished: Leia surviving both an explosion and being able to fly through space to get to a Rebel ship AND, the way telepathic communication was used in this film. This film meant to sell us the idea that you can both see and experience the surroundings of the person (or Jedi) you're communicating with. This was NEVER established in any of the films. Also, it was never ever established that Leia had any supernatural or Jedi abilities ever, in the whole of the franchise, ever! Period.
However, I must admit that the film got slightly better in the second half. The throne room fight was absolutely brilliant and delivered exactly what you want from a STAR WARS movie. I would definitely say that the second half was better than the first but overall the film felt unbalanced and didn't fit together well. The film also provided absolutely NO CLOSURE. Yes, they kill off a major franchise character and the evil overlord but since that overlord featured for about 5 minutes in the last movie, his end (and even his presence) felt pointless. This is pointlessly prolonging a story on ARROW (the series) proportions and just frustrated me further.
There were enjoyable elements to this film but overall it was a disappointing affair that did neither the franchise nor the characters any real justice. Such a shame, let's hope SOLO will do one of the franchises' most beloved characters more justice than this film did it's source material...
The Greatest Showman (2017)
"This IS The Greatest Show!!!" Period.
When I came out of this wonderful movie, part of a poem came to mind. The poem is IF by Rudyard Kipling and the quote goes: "If you can make one heap of all your winnings and risk it on a turn of pitch and toss and lose, and start again at your beginnings". This (in my opinion) describes the spirit and feel of this movie perfectly. THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is about following your dreams with the ones you love, it's about being proud of who you are and where you come from and it's about how when you fail and your dreams come toppling down, you CAN build them 10 times back up again! One of the REALLY great things about this movie was just how different it was to what we're used to in today's film industry! It was a wonderful change in the sea of psychological thrillers and police dramas that today's cinema is SO overcrowded with! It's uplifting, inspiring, charming, moving, romantic but most of all has an absolutely killer soundtrack! I can truly say that director Michael Gracey has done an exceptional job in bringing this inspiring and uplifting story to the screen, whatever the critics may say!
Obviously, when you look at musicals, the soundtrack must be good and the songs in this film were absolutely BRILLIANT! John Debney and several others have written funky, uplifting, moving songs that really push the film along. The style of the songs are combinations of the old classics like WEST SIDE STORY, modern funk and modern musicals like LA LA LAND. The combination TOTALLY works and I have listened to "The Greatest Show" several times already. It's fair to say that the songs carry the story. The film gets off to a terrific start with "the greatest show" and is propelled onwards with several brilliant others. This, of course was due to the awesome vocal talent and this, obviously, was the brilliant cast that Gracey has pulled together. Hugh Jackman leads the show and it feels almost like he was born to play this role. He puts in such enthusiasm and charisma and really becomes a hero that you can root for. Both his acting and his vocal skills were faultless and he really carried this film. The rest of the cast was on top form as well with Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya and Keala Settle. Every single member is on top-form in this film and convey such emotion with their acting and singing! It's a real joy to watch all of the cast and you really grow to care about all of them and their struggles.
Now, I know there have been many critics saying that this film is a flop but to quote one critic (Mark Kermode): "they're wrong!' Critics complain about the pace of the story, the characters, the clichés but I reason that they simply don't get what the film is about. It's not perfect but that's not what you watch it for, you watch it for a charming, funky, uplifting and romantic escape from all the same-old, same-old films of today! It's colourful and vibrant. Yes, it goes over the top with some of the CGI but it somehow doesn't matter because it's such a fun and fantastic ride and yes, some of the messages feel a bit over-used but they're told in such a kind and sincere way that you end up not caring! This film, overall, was a brilliant ride, charming, uplifting and totally fresh! It may sound silly but after coming out of this film, for a few seconds, I wanted to grab a top hat and join the circus- just to let you know: I HAVEN'T!
I really enjoyed and loved this film, it was uplifting and a real feel-good movie but it was also a wonderful and refreshing change for today's cinema! All I can say is: there's a reason it's called the "GREATEST" SHOMAN!
Peaky Blinders: The Company (2017)
A Brilliant Finale!
Wow! I must say, though I haven't exactly been blown away by the rest of the episodes in this season, this finale was brilliant! It was action-packed, suspenseful and thrilling. Knight TOTALLY delivered with this finale and packed SO much into it. I don't want to give anything THAT major away but this episode has several brilliant twists and turns. It's been quite a fun season really with the war against Changretta, the Communist party coming to surface in Birmingham, the arrival of the Gypsies and the return of Alfie Solomons. This episode ties it all up really well in typical, brutal, PEAKEY BLINDERS fashion.
The plot for this episode was BRILLIANT and delivered a thrilling slice of gangster action with double-crossings and Mafia-esque shootouts. However, this finale was also really well put together in the family side of things, with the family coming together through hard times, and you really think that if they weren't a bunch of violent gangsters, they'd be a normal family! There have been several acting standouts throughout the whole season. I haven't mentioned all (because there are just so many) but I have chosen 1 standout: the great Helen McCrory as Aunt Polly! McCrory really delivers in this role! She's a strong, independent woman, making her way in a male-dominated world but she's tough and doesn't suffer fools, and McCrory plays her with strong, stoic, conviction!
This episode really was a brilliant farewell to the season and tied up things brilliantly and brutally but it also gave us an exciting incite into season 5. A name was mentioned once in this finale: Alfonse Capone! Let me say that again AL CAPONE! Yes, season 5 has promised that we will be seeing one of America's most infamous crime lords meeting the Shelby's. Well, I certainly have some advice for them (as quoted) if they're dealing with Mr. Capone: "he pulls a knife; you pull a gun; he sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue! That's the Chicago way and that's how you get Capone!"
An Incredibly Powerful Movie!
I REALLY have to say how this film just hit the ball straight out of the park! THREE BILLBOARDS is one of the most powerful and thought-provoking films I've seen in a long time. Director Martin McDonagh has delivered an incredibly raw and real movie. His directing and writing are both frankly awesome! He directs an absolutely brilliant cast but also writes an amazing script. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a masterpiece in dramatic writing. It's a very talky script, almost like something from the Cohen Brothers but carries real emotional weight and grit. There is room and backstory for every single character and the film becomes perfectly fleshed-out. Obviously, this was a film about a mother's search for justice but it was more about grief and how people deal with loss, it's also a powerful reminder that there are thousands of stories just like this and (I think) urges that we take care of eachother. The film was about as raw and real as you can get, in a disturbing and quite depressive way. It's no walk in the park, but the way in which the story is told is just SO powerful and moving. The plot is simple, but keeps an even pace and DOES grip. You get a perfect look at each character and how they feel and think. This however, is totally in debt to the jewel of a cast and I have chosen the three main standouts: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson.
Frances McDormand gives an absolutely titanic performance as the film's tortured heroine Mildred. She is beyond convincing and is totally authentic. McDormand plays a woman TOTALLY consumed by grief, and who (quite understandably) cannot see past her quest for justice that has taken over her entire life. It's a very emotional performance with McDormand TOTALLY giving it her all. It's the way she delivers her lines but also her facial expressions that make the performance SO alive and vivid. Without a doubt, she has earned both her Bafta and her Oscar. Sam Rockwell delivers a truly epic performance as well as the racist Officer Dixon. He begins as a moronic bully, who you actually grow to really loathe. Someone, who totally abuses their position in society and becomes more of an armed thug than a officer of the law. However, after several events he undergoes a drastic character change and becomes soft-spoken, more caring and you actually grow to really like him. Rockwell is extremely convincing as he portrays all of these emotions and gives a really strong performance. Woody Harrelson is another strong, but frankly heartbreaking performance in this film as Chief Willoughby, a man suffering with terminal cancer. Harrelson definitely gives one of his best performances as Willoughby. He says it all with looks, showing real pain and sadness and becomes a character that we really care about.
Both the acting and script move the film along to it's ending. The ending is curious and rather inconclusive but when I left the cinema, I thought that it HAD actually ended where it should have. Obviously, people will compare the main Oscar movies and say which is better, in this case: THE SHAPE OF WATER VS THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. Here's my opinion, the superior film is without a doubt THREE BILLBOARDS. The performances and plot is just on another level, but I HAVE to say that in terms of enjoyment, SHAPE OF WATER wins for me, primarily because, though I REALLY admired this film, it did leave me a little depressed and with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth due to the brutally tragic plot. However, this film is incredibly powerful and has really earned it's nominations and wins.
I don't watch or like horror but this is the film that should have been called MOTHER!
Peaky Blinders: The Duel (2017)
Exciting, But A Little Disappointing!
Without a doubt, I can CERTAINLY say that the beginning of this penultimate episode of PEAKY BLINDERS season 4 was really great! The episode really hit the ground running with the Mafia closing in on Tommy, him whipping out a Lewis gun and letting them have it! After the gun jamming, a tense game of chase ensued that ended with Changretta (Brody) escaping and the 'Coppers" arriving on the scene to ruff Tommy up a bit. This was a really exciting beginning and finally gave us a proper shootout (better than in episode 4) that definitely thrilled.
However, the rest of the episode was decidedly tedious. I don't mind there just being talk in an episode as long as it's going somewhere. The dialogue in MAD MEN for example IS going somewhere but the dialogue for the rest of this episode was both foul-mouthed and a little pointless. Things DID happen otherwise: Lizzie's secret, Michael leaving Birmingham, a gangster partnership with potentially devastating consequences, Tommy wining and dining Jesse Eden and finally, preparation for the Bonnie Gold VS Goliath boxing match! However, the dialogue was just plain dull, and with the thick Brummie accents that I could barely understand at times, it made some of the scenes more than a little boring! Such a shame, since episode 4 had such interesting dialogue that really kept it going.
There were good performances from the usual suspects of Murphy, Hardy and Brody but also Charlie Murphy as Jesse Eden who gave a performance with real conviction as the Communist Suffragette. However, her one main scene with Murphy was made dull by the dialogue.
I shall endeavour to review and watch the finale next Saturday but I was certainly rather disappointed with this episode after the beginning.
The Shape of Water (2017)
One Of The Best Of 2018!
To paraphrase one of this film's quotes: "If I told you about THE FILM what would I say?' It's beautiful, enchanting, moving, gripping but it's also strange and quite odd, like some brilliantly bizarre poem. However, the really great thing about THE SHAPE OF WATER, as well as the acting and script is how fresh and new it is. It REALLY IS something you don't see everyday. The concept, story and delivery really dazzle. The scope is awe-inspiring and this film has certainly earned it's Oscar in my opinion.
Director Guillermo Del Toro has TOTALLY delivered with this movie in both his writing and directing. The script is genius frankly, smart, sharp and very original (whatever some say). We get a deep and emotional look at each character and each story. Though the film is obviously about Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and her romance with the Amphibian Man (Doug Jones), this film has many backstories and additional plot lines, and the film becomes brilliantly and complexly multi-layered. Del Toro directs brilliantly too, getting the uttermost from his stellar cast, but also grafting a brilliant and authentic 60s world. GREEN is something that features almost everywhere: the walls, the floor, the water, the food, and of course the Amphibian Man himself. The visual effects in this film are pretty much second-to-none (except BLADE RUNNER 2049) and the animated Amphibian Man is beautiful and vibrant, like a great painting.
Now, onto the story. The plot is simple and uncomplicated but still grips and makes you feel for the characters. It is also authentic to the attitudes and paranoia of the times with racism, homophobia, sexism and the "Red Scare", all portrayed unapologetically. However, the main event of course is Elisa and her peculiarly amorous relationship with the Amphibian Man. Many people have said that the film's concept is rather creepy and weird and I must admit I was a little skeptical about the spectacle of a woman falling in (and making) love to a fish man, but the romance is told in such a beautiful and graceful way that you end up not minding at all. I WAS, however, rather glad that their love life was not explored too graphically. Almost as soon the two met I was rooting for them. I felt pity for Amphibian Man and the brutal way in which he was treated but I also fell in love with Elisa "the princess without voice". The only problem was, (and call me a cynic) I didn't get the emotional connection from their romance that I would get from that of a man and a woman. I DID care about their romance but it wasn't the same as the romance between human people.
I should warn that this film is bloodily violent at times and may shock, it's certainly not some kid's fairy tale...
However, the whole story was of course carried by the cast and I have (as usual) chosen a few standouts (4 to be precise): Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins. Hawkins was BRILLIANT! Totally different to what we know her for (PADDINGTON anyone?) as Elisa, the mute heroine. Hawkins gives such a convincing and strong performance and though her character can't speak, we still know exactly what she's thinking. Hawkins facial expressions are portraits of pain, sorrow, joy and raw emotion and Elisa becomes a heroine you can TOTALLY fall in love with. Richard Jenkins is also brilliant as Giles, a repressed homosexual and a real father figure to Elisa. He's emotional, a little vain but charming and Jenkins character is one you can really grow fond of. Octavia Spencer certainly earns her Bafta as Elisa's friend and confidant Zelda. She's a strong, independent woman, putting on a brave face for all the racism she suffers, but she has a very emotional centre and Spencer really does the character justice. Michael Shannon is monstrously magnificent as Mr. Strickland. Unfeeling and uncaring, he's a brutal villain you grow to hate as he brutalises the creature and terrifies other characters, driven with a powerhouse performance by Shannon.
The charming vintage soundtrack and gorgeous dream sequences along with all of the above, REALLY moved the film along to it's tense ending. Del Toro ties it up beautifully, like a classic fairytale romance with a twist.
As always, I ask myself, did I enjoy it? Yes! I really did enjoy THE SHAPE OF WATER. The cast was outstanding, the story was brilliantly strange and fresh, but most of all the film delivered and really deserves it's Oscar (and even my Dad enjoyed it)...
Peaky Blinders: Dangerous (2017)
I know it's only episode 4 but I have to say this is probably the best episode so far! Action-packed, brilliantly multi-layered and with great performances, this episode has really delivered! The episode begins almost immediately with a tense game of cat and mouse (like something out of a Tarantino movie) that really thrills. Then, we finally get a shootout with Gypsies VS Mafia on a bridge in the woods (I'm still waiting for the Lewis gun shootout!). However, this episode was also very entertaining with the other events it showed: Arthur coming VERY close to breaking some of his religious vows, the arrival and romantic game played between Charlotte Riley's Mary Carleton and Tommy, the strike of the workers and rise of the Communist party, the BRILLIANT return of Alfie Solomons and of course the tables being dangerously turned on Tommy in a tense finale to the episode.
I've already said this in previous PEAKY BLINDERS reviews but the whole cast is on TOP form and there WERE several standouts, but I've chosen these two. Real-life husband and wife acting team: Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy (as Solomons). Riley's return as Carleton was very fun to watch with her giving a sexily charismatic performance that was both strong and convincing. However, the real highlight (for me since I am a HUGE fan!) was the great Tom Hardy as the Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons! He frankly STOLE the one scene he was in, mumbling crazily, pointing his gun at some sparrows, but seaming quite "dangerous" at the same time. Solomons was a VERY fun character to watch and Hardy played him faultlessly, showing us, just how talented and versatile he is!
This was a BRILLIANT episode that totally delivered and promised more "fun" to come! The ending left me hooked and looking forward to the next instalment to see what will happen next, but one thing's for sure: Tommy's got a hard fight ahead of him...
Peaky Blinders: Blackbird (2017)
Things Need To Hot Up!
Now don't get me wrong, this WAS an entertaining episode. Brutal and rather raunchy but apart from an assassination attempt on Arthur and a devastating betrayal, not an awful lot happened in this episode. This episode was more about the business and the ongoing strike and though it's very well-written, episode 2 had promised a more action-packed 3rd instalment.
This episode's drama lay mostly in it's emotional family side, with Linda trying in all ways (including the biblical) to get Arthur to abandon his quest for vengeance, Michael seeing his REAL mother again, reacting to Polly and an interesting and dramatic look into the character and past of Tommy. By the end of the episode I was convinced that Tommy was my favourite blinder as he pledges two new hostels for poor children, showing more of a humane side to the character. However, the character would be nothing without Cillian's brilliant performance.
This was certainly an eventful episode for Arthur Shelby, but a both brutal and raunchy one. Let's just say one of his first scenes will really make you blush! Then, there was the nightmarish assassination attempt on him and Arthur once again proved that he's not a man to mess with, literally going at it hammer and tongs with a couple of gangsters and drowning one in a red oil tank. It's not for the faint-hearted.
The ending to the episode was definitely gripping and posed a lot of questions, and has definitely kept me looking forward to the next instalment. However, since seeing the trailer I AM counting down the episodes to the Lewis gun shootout and proper gangster warfare!
Darkest Hour (2017)
A Fascinating And Gripping Look At One Of Britain's Greatest Heroes!
It was definitely Britain's DARKEST HOUR but it was most certainly Winston Churchill's finest hour. He led the country at a dangerous and most uncertain time against the monster that was Hitler. He encountered opposition and political backstabbing at almost every turn from the likes of Neville Chamberlain and Viscount Halifax, but most of all he refused to give in and resolved to fight on to the bitter end. This rousing story is brilliantly brought to modern life by director Joe Wright with DARKEST HOUR! Wright's film is a tore du force of character acting (since this film is carried by the cast) and offers an informative and inspiring look at the great man and his struggle to lead Britain through the war.
I must admit, before this film I knew very little about this titan of a man. I knew him as the Prime Minister who led us through the war. I knew him for his gruff voice, cigars, whiskey and infamous speeches, but after this film I realised he was so much more than that. I realised he was an incredible patriot who cared deeply about this country and it's people but I also saw that he was really the only one (in government) with enough guts to stand up to Hitler. With DARKEST HOUR, director Joe Wright and script writer Anthony McCarten have brilliantly portrayed Churchill and all his characteristics. They have brought REAL drama to his political campaign and also, even though we know the ending (we won!) they have still managed to create that sense of doom and gloom and uncertainty that surrounded the period. Wright has really delivered with this film, showcasing Churchill in all his glory and explaining the character of the man himself. However, as I said this film is carried by the cast and it's the cast that really make the film the masterpiece that it is. Let's begin with the man himself...
I can wholeheartedly say that Oldman has really earned his Bafta. As well as being virtually unrecognisable under his Mrs. Doubtfire-ish face, Oldman acts out SO many emotions of the great man. At first, he's grumpy and a little rude, but then, as we get to see deeper into the character, he becomes very emotional and tender and totally inspiring. He is also a titan in politics; while everyone is pushing for surrender he continues the hard fight for victory with little cooperation from his fellow MPs and sees Hitler for what he really is/was. Oldman plays a hard man too, but a man who needed to be tough in such an uncertain world. All of these emotions are brilliantly and authentically portrayed by Oldman. He dazzles in this role, totally different to what he's used to (with LEON or THE FIFTH ELEMENT) as the old battle-axe that was Winston S. Churchill. Oldman says so much with his facial expressions that portray such emotion and sometimes pain. The only thing that didn't fit was the voice. Oldman didn't get the voice (but then again not many can) but he still gave it his best go. However, the most important thing was that he captured all of Churchill's mannerisms and characteristics. He is a VERY powerful actor and this was definitely Oldman's "finest hour".
The rest of the cast is totally stellar as well, with the likes of Kristin Scott Thomas, Lilly James and Ben Mendeleshon. All of them perform to the uttermost of their ability and bring depth and conviction to their roles. This outstanding cast carries the film and you really enjoy watching ALL of them.
This film really delivered with it's brilliant cast and engaging pace and showed so many sides of the great man that we rarely saw. Who thinks Gary Oldman well and truly deserved the Bafta? EVERYONE!
Black Panther (2018)
The Mother Of All Bad Finales!
I went into BLACK PANTHER with high expectations and looking forward to a fresh and exciting new MCU franchise and for most of the film that was what I got. BLACK PANTHER began as a fun, new, superhero adventure romp with good acting, a fairly decent plot and brilliant visuals. Director Ryan Coogler, for the story of BLACK PANTHER has combined the old, tribal customs of Africa with fresh, new, brilliant technology and a mother load of vibraniam to create a fascinating MCU world. Wakanda is an amazingly colourful world brought to life with the great visual effects and natural scenery. It's looks almost like an African version of Coruscant from STAR WARS.
The casting for the most part in this film is brilliant and almost every member is on great form and doing their uttermost. Boseman is obviously the main highlight in this film and gives a very convincing performance as T'Challa. We only caught a small glimpse of his true talent as Black Panther in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. In this film we get a much more thorough and fascinating look at the character with Boseman playing all his characteristics and emotions brilliantly and becoming a real hero we can care about. He's brilliantly complex and multi-layered and a very fun character to spend time with. The rest of the cast is on top form with the likes of Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira and several others. They gave real life to the characters and made them fun and interesting. There was one rather silly performance: Michael B. Jordan as the movie's main villain Erik Killmonger. It's not really his fault, it's more the writing. Killmonger as a character and as a villain is completely bland and two-dimensional. Jordan tries his best to save the role and make it convincing, but turns the part into more of a shouting act. On the other hand, it's disappointing that the great Andy Serkis is only made a MINOR villain as Ulysses Klaue. His character is dynamic, fun and really pops so it's a shame that he's "offed" so early.
Now, onto one of the good things but also the problem of this film: the plot. To start, it's fun, action-packed and very entertaining. Coogler choreographs really brilliant action scenes that feel almost like something out of THE MATRIX at some points. It's a great ride with fairly fun characters and that's all great until we get into the 3rd ACT. The finale is possibly one of the worst endings to a movie I've ever seen and takes a real dump on the whole movie! It's so lazy and stupid and goes WAY beyond the far-fetched antics of the beginning with laser ships, giant rhinos and a VERY disappointing sci-fi battle on the planes. I'm not just saying this because it's set in Africa and involves big cats but the ending is THE LION KING on acid and not in a good way. The whole final battle revolves around Killmonger's plan and it's just SO silly and pointless and frankly something one would expect from the Red Skull. Danai Gurira as Okoye leads her warriors against the villains on the plains and it quickly turns into pure spear porn. The sins of this ending were just SO terrible and it was impossible to overlook them, and this sadly dragged the film down terribly and made it a convoluted, silly, sci-fi mishmash that ruined a perfectly good movie premise. This was a real disappointment when I had such hopes for this movie and had enjoyed it so far.
Here's what I say: enjoy Black Panther's role in CIVIL WAR and leave it at that!
Peaky Blinders: Heathens (2017)
A Brilliant 2nd Instalment!
This... Means... WAR! After the devastating conclusion to episode 1, this episode deals in the aftermath of the tragedy with Tommy binging the family together for vengeance battle lines being firmly drawn. War is certainly coming and that is dramatically shown with revolvers handed out by the dozen and peaky haircuts on many head. Alliances are made and raw emotions are brought straight to the surface.
I've already said how the series is half about family and this episode was about a family coping with grief and loss. Paul Anderson was very good as the ever-stoic Arthur, but in this episode he portrayed bitter grief and was very convincing. Then there was the enjoyable return of Aiden Gillen as Aberama Gold, a vicious gypsy. He was brilliantly authentic and his first exchange with Tommy left me quoting: "what's the most you've ever lost on a coin toss?"
The plot and performances were all engrossing but the cherry, on top of this bullet-riddled cake was the first PROPER appearance of Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody). With more to say and do, Brody was terrifyingly good as Changretta. His appearance is a little cliché: tattooed all-over and chewing a toothpick but Brody's performance is just so raw and convincing is just so raw and convincing that you end up being fascinated by the arrival of this new villain. Brody is rather like Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone only more sinister and dangerous and is certainly a formidable foe for Tommy to mess with!
To quote Andy Serkis as Caesar: "war... Has begun" and I cannot wait to see as this battle for Birmingham unfolds...
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Better than the Original!
30 years ago, a certain rain-drenched replicant said the immortal words: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe". With director Dennis Villeneuve we can finally see just some of those "things". That's the really brilliant thing about BLADE RUNNER 2049: the design and the vision.
Villeneuve has created a beautiful, fascinating and vivid dystopian world. We see such poignant, beautiful things: a room bathed in golden water reflections, giant holographic ballerinas, a stunning version of Las Vegas in orange dust, a futuristic hover car immersed in rainwater and finally, a man passing away amidst a snowfall. The scope and vision of the world is really breathtaking, the colours are beautiful and vibrant and really transform the film. This obviously is in-debt to the cinematography captured brilliantly by Roger Deakins. He showcases the world to the uttermost of his and the camera's abilities in the same way the original.
However the really great thing about the film was how it took a theme and expanded so much on it. The film is very philosophical in the same way as the original as it explores what it means and how it feels to be human. Emotions like love and real memories are all explored in the film in great depth. For example, a man is so in love with a hologram that the hologram projects herself over a real woman so they can finally make love. Scenarios like this are just some of the poignant, philosophical parts to this film. It's powerful storytelling and science fiction at its best. Hapton Fescher has written a story that grips with it's running plot and multi-layered characters. However, it's nothing THAT new and it's not much of a mystery since you can simply figure out what's what but it's still engaging and action-packed.
The action in the movie is very well-done. It hinges on the original movie but still does it's own thing. It's brutal and sometimes bloody but goes bigger and better than the first movie. This was part of the problem for one scene where Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), a replicant creator who's a replicant himself, murders a female replicant he's just awakened. It's a perverted scene and ruined part of the film for me but I still managed to enjoy this neo-noir piece overall.
Of course, the movie is really carried by it's brilliant cast and I must say almost all of the cast is on top form. There were 4 standout performances and 1 decidedly poor performance in the film. To begin with, Ryan Gosling as Officer K. Gosling gives an absolutely brilliant performance as K and acts out real anger and sadness but also loneliness. It's a very raw performance and a very emotional one too. Next, there is of course, Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard. It's wonderful to see him pick up his role after 30 years and carry on the same. He plays a grump, old, cynic but also quite a vulnerable man who's lost a lot in life and Ford plays all of that very strongly. There were then the 2 female standouts with Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks. Armas gives a touchingly emotional performance as the holographic Joi. She plays a character almost like Oz's tin man and you really care about her and k's romance. Sylvia Hoeks is brilliant as the monstrous Luv. She plays a murderous brute of a replicant, uncaring and unfeeling. She's like a female version of Roy Batty. Only, he knew when to spare life, she doesn't! She's really a villainess you can loath but the acting is just so powerhouse from Hoeks. However, the 1 bad performance in the movie was Jared Leto as Niander Wallace. Let's acting is bland and two dimensional and he basically reads the script out loud. Disappointing among such a stellar cast.
However, this was a film that delivered an engaging and stunningly beautiful sequel to a classic. It gives us a proper adventure (unlike the original) that's almost like a STAR WARS movie, that really moves the story onwards. It's not an enjoyable movie but it's certainly a fine movie that grips and dazzles, and breaths new life into an old classic...
Peaky Blinders: The Noose (2017)
Hard-Edged, Realistic and a Brilliant Return!
-THERE WILL BE 6 REVIEWS FOR ALL 6 EPISODES OF SEASON 4 OF PEAKY BLINDERS. PEAKY BLINDERS is back with a new series and this first episode has both delivered a great start and promises several more terrific episodes to come.
This obviously goes for the rest of the series but what I admired about this episode was the different tones it balanced. It's a tough, foul-mouthed gangster epic in the style of may be THE GODFATHER but it's also a finely-crafted period drama in the style of may be MAD MEN. Obviously it's not the 60s but in the same way that MAD MEN portrays all the attitudes and agendas of that period, PEAKY BLINDERS does the same here. It's masterfully written by Steven Knight who encompasses so much in just one episode: a trip to a hanging, family ties, business troubles, gangster business and of course the brilliant arrival of a new villain. The dialogue is hard and sharp and really creates tension, the scenes are well-written but also PEAKY BLINDERS has two brilliant sides: the crime and the family. The brilliantly multi-layered characters all have this, they can be soft and warm family people but there's always a gun and bottle of scotch hidden somewhere. They're not good people but their anti-heroes you can enjoy watching. This obviously is in-debt to the acting.
All the actors in this series are brilliant and strong. Cillian Murphy reaches brutal and bold heights as Tommy Shelby. He's a hard, tough man but also has his soft and caring side which he reserves for family. Murphy delivers a powerhouse performance with flashes of intense fury and really carries part of this series. Intense and strong performances from the likes of Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, Sophie Rundle and Finn Cole. Then there is the sudden, sinister arrival of Luca Changretta, played with simmering drama by Adrien Brody. His performance is swift and he only says about 7 words but this DOES promise a brilliant bad guy to come.
This was a very entertaining start to a hopefully brilliant new series and as it reached the ending, things got even more dramatic and engrossing. Can't wait for the next episode which I shall endeavour to review in a week.