Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Allegiant

Clearly, it was a mistake to split the final Divergent book into two films, but that is apparently the easy money-making tactic for popular young adult stories these days. Based on how poorly Allegiant did at the US box office, it seems that plan has backfired in this case, which is a shame because this series is actually better than the more successful Hunger Games franchise. Allegiant picks up where Insurgent left off with Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) going beyond the wall around Chicago to finally discover the truth about the world. Unfortunately, there is not enough plot to warrant the two-hour running time, again because they split the book in half, but the film is visually stunning. Woodley and James continue to build on their chemistry and their character development is both complex and interesting. Miles Teller also continues to provide the all-important laughs in such a serious post-apocalyptic story. Ultimately, Allegiant is a solid film and deserves more love than it is getting.  


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

A showdown between arguably the two most iconic comic book characters comes with so much promise and director Zack Snyder, along with writers Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer, have delivered on a pledge to stay relatively true to the essence of the comics. It certainly was not a perfect film and there were some lame moments, but overall, superhero fans should be happy. The film gives a brief introduction to Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) and his tragic background before showing what he was up to when Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill) was destroying cities while battling the bad guys in Man of Steel. Convinced Superman is too dangerous to be left to his own devices, Batman decides to go to war with him.

DC comics have generally been darker than Marvel, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice definitely lays the drama on heavily. However, there are still some laughs, mostly thanks to the villainous Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and Batman's loyal friend Alfred (Jeremy Irons). Anyone who baulked at the announcement Affleck would be playing Batman will surely be silenced after watching his performance and Cavill is equally impressive as the down-stricken hero who just wants humanity to accept him. But the real winner is the sexy and badass Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot. WE NEED MORE FEMALE SUPERHEROES IN FILM! The two-and-a-half-hour running time breezed along, while the visual spectacle of the CGI was enhanced by the 3D. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice also sets up what is to come in the franchise and it will leave die-hard fans giddy with anticipation.  


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Everyone is back for the sequel that no one really asked for and unfortunately there is very little to like about My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. The original film was a lot of fun and embarrassingly relatable for many families (like mine) but the sequel merely rehashes old jokes. There are also too many sub-plots going on that are hardly fulfilling. The film, written by its star Nia Vardalos and directed by Kirk Jones, explores married life for Toula and Ian, played by John Corbett, as they continue to navigate being part of a massive and invasive family while trying to deal with their moody teenage daughter, Paris, played by Elena Kampouris. There are some good laughs but there are equally plenty of eye-rolling moments. I would recommend re-watching the original instead of wasting money seeing the sequel at the cinema.



Monday, 21 March 2016

A Bigger Splash

This is an engrossing tale with beautiful cinematography depicting the European coastline and totally random music to accompany some bizarre, sinister and dramatic moments. The story centres around famous rock star Marianne (Tilda Swinton) and her filmmaker partner Paul (Matthier Schoenaerts), who are holidaying together when they are surprised by a visit from their friend Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). All the performances are solid and the characters are so layered. It is also great to see that, in a film with quite a bit of sex and nudity, it is shared equally between the women and men. It is a shame that this is still so rare. The only real downside was that the film ran about 20 minutes too long. Perhaps most interestingly though, A Bigger Splash leaves a lot unanswered and the conclusion is open-ended enough to encourage the audience to interpret it in their own way.


Thursday, 17 March 2016

Eddie The Eagle

It is rare these days for Hollywood to produce an unashamedly sweet, uplifting film like Eddie The Eagle, but it is probably exactly what the world needs right now. Inspired by true events, Eddie the Eagle is about British ski-jumper Michael “Eddie” Edwards, played amazingly well by Taron Egerton, who embodies all of Eddie's quirks. While everyone tries to count Eddie out or stand in his way, he continues to fight for his dream of competing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics with the help of his rebellious coach, an entirely fictional character played by the suave Hugh Jackman. The film is surprisingly hilarious and the cinematography is glorious. Eddie The Eagle is almost as endearing as Cool Runnings and is a compelling family film.



Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Witch

It is always a shame when an excellent concept is poorly executed. Written and directed by Robert Eggers, The Witch is set in New England in the 1630s and centres around a religious couple and their five children. When their baby vanishes and their crops fail, the family is torn apart and they begin accusing each other of witchcraft. Eggers has obviously been inspired by old tales and it is definitely interesting to watch a group of people who should love one another most turn against each other out of fear. But the film is so ambiguous and relies too much on sound to spook audiences that it loses some of its sheen. The film is only about 90 minutes, but it feels painfully longer.  


Friday, 11 March 2016

Zootopia

There is so much to love about this creative and insightful film. Zootopia has endearing characters, stunning animation and is layered with important messages about equality and racial issues. There are also several nods to other Disney films throughout, so keep an eye on what is happening in the background. More obvious references that are equally funny include The Godfather and Breaking Bad. The story is set in a city of anthropomorphic animals where rookie bunny cop Judy Hopps, played by Ginnifer Goodwin, and con artist fox Nick Wilde, played by Jason Bateman, are forced to work together to uncover a conspiracy. Zootopia is perhaps slightly long for young people with short attention spans, but it is a cute and fun adventure that children and adults will enjoy.  


Thursday, 10 March 2016

Miles Ahead

This film is not a typical biopic. If you know nothing about Miles Davis you may be disappointed to come away with very little insight, although the film is still fascinating and entertaining. If you are a fan of the jazz musician, you may already know about his life and career, so you will not be too bothered that this film does not hit all the milestone moments. Miles Ahead, which explores the artist's cocaine-addicted hermit years in the 70s, is actually more about Davis' personality, rather than what he did. The arrogant, gun-wielding Davis is played convincingly by Don Cheadle, who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay for his long-term passion project. Ewan McGregor is also excellent as the shady journalist, who goes along for the anarchic ride to retrieve some music Davis is not ready for the world to hear. There are also some flashbacks depicting Davis with his first wife, Frances Taylor, which provides some hint into his background. Nonetheless, while the film was good, I wanted more.


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Grimsby

Ridiculous does not even begin to describe Grimsby, but audiences certainly know by now what to expect from a Sacha Baron Cohen film. I was surprised at how much I laughed during the film, which only runs for about 80 minutes. Perhaps most shocking though is the sweet sentiment about family at the heart of the tale. Grimsby is about a spy, played by Mark Strong, who is forced to work with his idiot brother, played of course by Cohen. While the duo have great chemistry and are very funny, the three leading actress, played by Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson and Penelope Cruz, are only mildly entertaining. There are some outrageous moments in the film and one memorable scene that is both hilarious and gross. All I can say is it involves elephants and you will definitely know what I am referring to when you see it. If you are a Cohen fan, Grimsby is exactly what you want.


Friday, 4 March 2016

The Finest Hours

This disaster film has not done very well at the US box office but it deserves more admiration. It is a thrilling true story with a good cast and a bonus sweet romance at its core. The Finest Hours depicts how the US Coast Guard undertook a dangerous rescue mission off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers were destroyed during a blizzard in 1952. It centres around Bernie Webber, played by the always dashing Chris Pine, and also explores Bernie's romance with his future headstrong wife, Miriam, played by Holliday Grainger. Casey Affleck leads the cast on the oil tanker and does a solid job as the smart leader of the crew. But the CGI is most impressive and will leave you feeling like you are on the boat surfing the massive and daunting 70-foot waves with the heroes. Make sure you stay for the end credits to see photographs of the real life people involved in the remarkable rescue effort.  


Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Triple 9

This action film is suspenseful, violent and graphic in parts. It is only afterwards when you think back on it that you realise how many plot holes there are. The tale centres around a group of criminals and corrupt police officers who plan the murder of a colleague to help them pull off a heist. The stellar cast helps distract audiences from the vague plot only because it is always a joy to watch actors including Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul and Norman Reedus. Kate Winslet is a surprising choice as the antagonist, looking like an 80s pop star with a thick Russian accent. Perhaps writer Matt Cook and director John Hillcoat were trying to make Triple 9 a film about police corruption with substance in the style of The Departed, but it is more like a low level Liam Neeson action film – entertaining at the time but barely memorable.