Viewed – 21 November 2013 Cinema
Big special effects blockbusters are an easy type of movie to like – they have plenty of action, larger than life characters and are usually a great deal of fun. The onslaught of the comic book super hero has quickly become a genre of it’s own with such big hitters as the Iron Man series and Avengers Assemble being personal favourites. Here we have the follow up to the highly entertaining Thor with beefcake Chris Hemsworth (Snow White and the Huntsman) reprising his role as the mighty Norse God, who comes to the aid of earth-bound scientist Natalie Portman when she becomes infected by a deadly virus known as the aether – an ancient weapon created by the Dark Elves centuries ago in an attempt to turn the various realms into permanent darkness.
Of course this rather convoluted and throw-away plot is merely an excuse to watch Thor bash and hammer his foes and see buildings get demolished. I liked how we get a lot more of Asgard this time around, even if Thor’s siblings are mostly forgotten about but for the boo-hiss of Loki, everyone’s favourite grinning villain (or is he?) from the first film and Avengers. Yes he’s getting a bit over-used but Tom Hiddleston does a fine job, paring with Thor so well he pretty much stole the show for me. Add to this a tired looking Anthony Hopkins returning as Odin, Thor’s dad, as well as appearances from Rene Russo (remember her?) and Idris Elba – making this easy to watch and get caught up in.
Less can be said for the mostly clichéd villain (with an unrecognisable Christopher Eccleston as lead baddie Malekith under the sort of makeup these kind of characters ALWAYS have). Yet a large portion of the story being set in London was welcome, and the action and general banter between the characters decent – with some fun jokes and cameos along the way (was that Captain America?). Ultimately though Thor 2 is a rather by-the-numbers sequel and lacks some of the heart of the original, bringing nothing new to what is already becoming very familiar territory. But you’ll still find me in line for Thor 3. Weird huh?
Verdict: 3 /5
Viewed – 22 October 2013 Cinema
At one time, Tom Hanks was probably the finest actor in Hollywood. Who can forget his two years in a row Oscar win for Philadelphia and Forest Gump? Not to mention his stellar turn in Saving Private Ryan, among others. Yet in recent years, and following luke-warm reactions to his Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons roles, he seemed to almost disappear … but now he’s back, ready to show everyone else how it’s meant to be done.
Hanks plays Richard Phillips, a Captain of a huge cargo ship heading into Somalia waters, when they get attacked by a group of pirates. Based on a shocking true story, this is immediately gripping and very well acted by all involved. Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum) has delivered an utterly intense, nail-biting experience that barely lets up through its 2hrs + running time. I did go into this a little bit cautious … just how interesting can a movie about an attack on a boat be? Simple answer: very very interesting. Greengrass drags out every moment for full nerve-shredding potential, from the gradual approach of the pirates heading to the ship aboard speed boats, to a tense search in the engine room where the rest of the crew are hiding. It’s not exactly Die Hard on a boat, going for a more wholly realistic approach … but I was probably more gripped and excited than during the entire Die Hard franchise. Surprisingly the movie also managed to show the pirates, as ruthless as they are, with some degree of sympathy and the actors playing them, all real-life Somalian’s did a very commendable job.
Yet this remains Hanks’ movie and his performance here is not big Hollywood star (he’s never been that sort of actor) but very human and heart-breaking. I’ll even admit to feeling quite emotional at times watching such a layered, believable performance. Hanks is back at the top of his game here, and I foresee another Oscar on the horizon.
A movie that questions your beliefs, makes you think and gives you plenty to talk about in the ride home afterwards. A contender for movie of the year.
Verdict: 5 /5
Viewed – 27 August 2013 Cinema
This was kind of a last minute decision. I was after something with a bit more depth and a different flavor than what this summer has presented for the most part, and on seeing the trailer, it seemed this Matt Damon vehicle was exactly the ticket. It’s 2154 and the wealthy live on a space station paradise while the rest of the population resides on a ruined, diseased Earth, until a man dreaming of escaping to the world above takes on a mission that could change everything.
Director Neil Blomkamp’s last movie the rightly acclaimed District 9 was one of the most refreshing and interesting science fiction movies I had seen in a long time, and that same approach and almost documentary style realism (give or take the odd futuristic idea) is carried over to this .., bigger in scale and concept but equal in emotion and intimacy. Like Hollywood had taken on board what he had achieved originally and said, OK son – here’s a few extra million – wow us. And wow us he does. The setting although not exactly new (the idea of the wealthy separated from the impoverished has been played out since back in Blade Runner days) … does justice to an old idea with an above average turn from Damon as well as good support from Alice Braga and also a boo-hiss Jodie Foster (a first?) – weird (even for her) accent aside. Stealing the show however is Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley (well, he was the star of District 9) who makes for one of the most relentless and brutal villains in movie history – I kid you not. Influences from the world of video games can not go unnoticed either, with a clear borrow for Elysium from Mass Effect’s citadel. Add to this a plot that is spilling over with immediacy and pace, and this was a breathless, gripping and fascinating experience.
Nit-picking would be to complain at the over-use of very strong South African accents considering the setting is Los Angeles, possibly echoing the director’s routes – but it’s a puzzling inclusion. However Blomkamp still manages to prove himself a science fiction auteur, and with slick action and a dramatic, intense pace but with the intelligence to really make you care – I came away highly impressed,
Verdict: 5 /5
Viewed – 01 August 2013 Cinema
In recent years I have grown tired of the never ending X-Men franchise, and have only seen a small portion of X-Men 3 and not seen at all the last Wolverine movie. So you could say I am playing catch up with this, but from the trailer, that looked all sorts of kick-ass, I felt this deserved my attention.
Hugh Jackman, perfectly cast as the mutant Logan, who never ages, can heal automatically and yes, has unbreakable metal fused throughout his body, resulting in those iconic talons that sprout from his knuckles, Starting in World War II where he saves the life of a Japanese soldier, we quickly jump to modern day where a Japanese girl with some bad-ass samurai skills, contacts Logan with a message that his old friend, yes that Japanese soldier is now on his death bed in Tokyo and wishes for Logan to come and see him one last time.
Switching the action to Tokyo and throwing in sword fighting, samurais, ninjas and a love interest with a Japanese heiress, this is an immediately interesting approach for a character that for me at least, was starting to get a bit tired. Expertly directed by James Mangold marking his first summer blockbuster (previously known for biopic Walk The Line and Stallone thriller Copland), this is full of style, thrilling encounters, great CGI and a lead character so unashamedly gruff and chiseled, that not enjoying this is near impossible. For the ladies Hugh is shirtless and ripped for the most part and has the charisma to make for a likable moody hero. For us guys we get a sexy but deadly Viper woman who can melt your face when she blows you a kiss and has a forked tongue (hissss), and looks simply mouth watering in her skin tight green Lycra. Add to this a re-occurring cameo from Famke jansen’s Jean Gray (from the X-Men movies) and Rila Fukushima as the toughest schoolgirl since Hitgirl … and what’s not to like?
Events kind of get a bit silly towards the end, and the pace sags in the middle, but with a ton of action (including a stunning bullet train fight) and some good characters and a great setting, I came away suitably impressed.
Verdict: 4 /5
Viewed – 13 July 2013 Cinema
I had been looking forward to this ever since I read director Guillermo Del Toro’s next project wasn’t going to be The Hobbit, but instead a movie about huge mechanized robots vs huge sea creatures. Del Toro can do no wrong in my eyes, and his popular Hellboy movies not to mention Pan’s Labyrinth are proof of his talent and skill. However what to expect from this latest offering, was less easy to anticipate.
Charlie Hunnam (Sons Of Anarchy) plays Raleigh, a soldier who pilots one of these enormous robots alongside his brother to prevent the enormous Kaiju from destroying the world with their warpath of destruction. From the off it seems like an impossible task, the power and sheer size of these creatures meaning the world must surely be doomed? Yet after one confrontation claims the life of Raleigh’s brother the ‘Jaeger project’ is shut down, causing the soldiers to form a resistance in anticipation of another attack. Lead by Idris Elba’s Commander Stacker, its not long before Raleigh is called back to the front line, where he befriends Japanese rookie Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) who is fighting her own demons resulting from the attacks.
This is a movie predominantly about big things laying the smack-down against big things, and its a (very) noisy, brash, intense and epic experience. Del Toro paints the landscape with his expected style and exuberance, with fantastically shot encounters (no shaky cam here) and superb creature and robot designs. Clearly one big homage to Japanese mech anime like Mobile Suit Gundam and Patlabor, as well as the many Godzilla movies the country has churned out over the years. Casting is decent with the always effective Elba and a cameo from Ron (Hellboy) Perlman is always welcome. However, leading man Hunnam has always been one of those pretty-boy actors whose overly sincere way of delivering lines comes off as wooden – he does look the part, there are just actors out there with more charisma.
Sadly this all masks what is essentially a very basic premise (something about an underwater rift that is glossed over in the movie’s opening minutes) and well, with sea creatures as the bad guys – we don’t have a villain of any real interest beyond their ability to knock over buildings. Add to this two scientist who come across as particularly irritating (and no, are not funny), and for everything this movie does right (the look, the superb effects, the battles) it always seemed to do something wrong at the same time. Del Toro has still delivered an event picture to really blow the blockbuster season out of the water, and I think at home I might be able to settle into its overwhelming bombast better – but as a cinema outing, I actually found it a bit much.
Verdict: 3 /5