Wind River


Viewed – 13 February 2018  online-rental

I’m easily attracted to a movie when it stars someone I’m especially appealed by.  So with this starring two actors I am increasingly impressed with, namely Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner and Avengers: Age of Ultron’s Elizabeth Olson … this was a no-brainer.

wind-river

Renner plays a hunter and expert-tracker living on a wintery Indian reservation where some years previous a teenage girl died under mysterious circumstances.  As he was married to the mother of said girl at the time, he feels personally involved when a similar death occurs when a young girl’s body is found.   With the possibility of the death being a homicide the local Sheriff call in the FBI in the form of a rookie female agent played by Olsen and soon she’s teamed up with Renner to figure out just what happened.

This realistic and gritty drama has strong turns across the board and a solid mystery that kept me gripped.  The backdrop of Native American racial issues and paranoia whilst not that unique was engrossing also.   Add to this some striking cinematography and hard-hitting revelations and action in the final act and I came away rather impressed.  If you’re after a thought-provoking, non-Hollywood-glossed evening’s entertainment this will surely satisfy and if anything further cemented the growing reputations of it’s leads.  Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

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Arrival


Viewed – 17 November 2016  Cinema

I went into this in the hope of something a bit different.  The trailer promised a more realistic version of say, Independence Day with less bombastic action and more character and believability.  Well thankfully that’s exactly what I got … and more.

Amy Adams

Amy Adams, easily one of my favourite actresses right now plays a linguistics professor who following the arrival of a series of immense objects at various locations across the globe is called in by the military to help communicate with the ‘aliens’.  The opening scenes of this movie were very well done, memories of a baby, who grows into a little girl, interspersed with the stark reality of the arrival, news footage, global panic and a incredible feeling of dread … gave this a different, more human feel than what I’d normally expect from such material.  It clearly was focusing of Amy Adam’s character and how her experiences might guide her through a very challenging and uncomfortable experience.  Jeremy Renner, another favourite plays a scientist on hand to assist Adam and help her figure out a strange language.  Now I’ll admit I was never fully on board with how they start communicating and translating what is basically a series of circular shapes, but well … Hollywood.  Yet the performances here, suitably ominous direction and some clever-ass writing made this a great deal more than I was anticipating.  The first half of the movie is a tad slow and I was thinking this was getting a bit boring … but then a twist changes all of that and made me re-think much of what I’d seen and well, brought in comparisons to Interstellar … which is all I’ll say on that.

For an intelligent, at times poetic alien invasion movie, and with strong performances across the board with only the translation thing my only nit-pic then I’d say check this one out.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Bourne Legacy


Viewed – 04 October 2016  Blu-ray

It would seem in the advent of the latest Jason Bourne movie hitting cinemas, some would like to forget this little off-shoot of the franchise that doesn’t star Matt Damson but rather has Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner as agent Aaron Kross and therefore offers up an alternative viewpoint to the events depicted in the original trilogy.  Renner finds himself on the run after fellow agents start getting bumped off as a fall out from Jason Bourne’s actions and the shady government organisation responsible trying to cover everything up.  Edward Norton is on hand as the government guy trying to sort everything out, and Renner is perfect as a tough agent in the middle of a training exercise forced to question who he works for whilst teaming up with a female scientist played by Rachel Weisz.

Jeremy-Renner

I think this would have been a hard sell to anyone not very familiar with the other movies, but as I had not that long sat through the last three movies, I found this still interesting and familiar with several nods and references to the Matt Damon escapades and for the most part it’s quite well done and compliments the franchise nicely.  The action, important in these movies is also top notch and with more assured, lesser rapidly-edited direction from Tony Gilroy it’s all a lot easier to follow too.  Helps that there is a superb bike chase towards the end that is every bit up there with the best of the series.  I also found myself wanting a smack down between Renner’s character and Matt Damon…but that’s probably a movie we’ll never see.

Rachel WeiszI can see why this was mostly ignored in the series.  There’s little here that warrants the movie really needing to exist and serves more as an entertaining spin off aimed at Bourne fans rather than the general movie going audience.  Shame then as as it stands this was thrilling, competently acted and well directed, if largely unnecessary.

The Blu-ray is very pleasing with above average image quality and punchy sound that really rocks a 5.1. system.  Extras-wise we get several featurettes and behind the scenes footage and also a commentary from the director.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)   4 /5

Avengers: Age of Ultron


Viewed – 29 September 2015 Online rental

With the never ending juggernaut that is Marvel Studios, it would be easy to say this cash-cow is getting milked dry. However with a plethora of comic book stories to mine from, those udders aren’t drying up any time soon. So we come to this sequel to the highly entertaining Marvel Avengers Assemble.

avengers

We are thrown straight into the action as our heroes attack a Russian Hydra base to steal back Loki’s sceptre (which you’ll recall him wielding during the last movie).  However little is explained as to what is going on or why, and so despite having seen all the other Marvel movies up to this, I still felt a bit in the dark. Now here’s the first issue – this is again a sequel that relies on you having a very good recollection of not just the last Avengers movie but also Thor: The Dark World and especially Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  So Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is missing from the line up, the Avengers are holed up in Stark Tower with seemingly Robert Downey Jnr as their boss (?), and there’s two rogue super-powered teens wanting revenge for something Tony Stark did with a bomb.  Then Downey’s Stark goes and complicates it even more by creating an artificial intelligence (Ultron) that turns evil and goes all megalomaniac.

elizabeth olsenSo we come to this globe-trotting and overly complicated sequel’s saving grace … James Spader’s Ultron; a charismatic, darkly humorous villain, with seemingly unstoppable power and a somewhat clichéd kill the entire human race and start again evil plan.  Yet Spader livens up what would otherwise be just another, albeit action-packed super hero movie.  Director Josh Wedon’s skill at snappy dialogue seemed watered down in place of more realism, with downbeat and heartfelt exchanges instead of the humour I’d expected (although there are still some great gags).  The first half an hour or so also drags with a couple of redundant scenes (the tiresome lifting Thor’s hammer bit).  Yet a romance sub-plot between Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner / Hulk is handled well, and each character again gets their moment in the spotlight, most welcomely Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

Overall a solid sequel slightly let down by the usual sequel trappings such as too many characters and storylines going on at once.  Yet with slickly directed action, several stunning sequences (especially the Iron-Man vs Hulk fight…) I still have to recommend this one.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

American Hustle


Viewed – 02 May 2014  Blu-ray

Kind of a blind purchase this one.  I won’t automatically leap to watch a movie based on it’s awards or nominations or general buzz … been there before and came away disappointed (The Life Of Pie, anyone?).  Yet with a cast consisting of Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner – it seemed an invitation very hard to turn down.

AmericanHustle

Bale is professional con man Irving Rosenfeld, who along with girlfriend Sydney Prosser (Adams) go about scamming art dealers, accountants and pretty much anyone else to make a lot of money.  Business is good until FBI agent Richi DiMaso (Cooper) busts them and offers them a deal – whether go to jail, or have them use their expertise at conning people to help him nail a group of corrupt politicians.

The late 70s setting, the costumes and the atmosphere, all set the tone for an energetic, detailed and very absorbing tale of cons, relationships and who is back stabbing who.  Bale, an actor I’ve felt was starting to get a bit old news these days, is superb in the lead role, sporting what appears to be a very good Robert DeNiro impression (hopefully intended), which is fitting considering this has the pace, the feel (and the narration) of a Martin Scorsese picture.  The cast all get a chance to shine, especially Cooper’s over-eager, charismatic FBI agent … and Adams’ dangerously-sexy Sydney really marks her out as one of the best (and hottest) actresses’ around.  For a hustle movie, despite initial fears I was never left confused as to what was going on, loved every bit of the plan and every comical development … it just all sucked me in like a perfect hustle might, but at least didn’t leave me feeling conned by the end.  No, this was quality filmmaking, with a great cast, a superb soundtrack (Donna Summers’ I Feel Love, Wings’ Live & Let Die…) and genuine name-making direction from the mostly underrated David O Russell.

Essential.

Verdict:  5 /5