Set in the distant future, a family dynasty are awarded the responsibility of reining over the planet of Arakis, a world who’s deserts contain a valuable resource called ‘spice’, sort after throughout the galaxy. As the only air to his family’s empire Paul Atreides stands on the brink of a greater destiny only hinted at in his dreams.
Under the direction of Denis Villeneuve, who gave us Blade Runner 2049 as well as sci-if gem Arrival… it’s clear that Frank Herbert’s epic tome couldn’t be in better hands. Bathed in a haunting, majestic beauty, this ‘part one’ of a proposed saga is arguably the year’s most visually captivating movie. Brought to the big-screen previously by David Lynch, this carries over the same structure and plot details whilst creating a feel all it’s own, managing to weave a Shakespearean-like tale of warring houses that also made me think of Game of Thrones. Casting is solid, with decent performances including a sensual Rebecca Ferguson, suitably supported by Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa. However the story sits on the shoulders of young newcomer Timothee Chalomet, who thankfully manages such a task in an understated yet capable turn.
The first half did take its time building characters and plot, and I found some elements easy to get lost by such as the various races / houses. So this may not be the easily digestible space opera of Star Wars, yet was still full of imagination and had some decent action … and as the credits rolled, with the promise of a story just beginning – I was left thirsty for more.
This year’s most hyped movie begins with a rather gentle ‘where the world is now’ first act that sets a melancholy tone for this sequel and eases the viewer into a complicated turn of events to ‘put right what once went wrong’. As anyone could predict after that ending for Infinity War … this is all about time travel as Ant Man gets a disbanded team of the surviving Avengers back together to attempt a risky mission to reclaim the infinity stones before Thanos originally did.
So what we get are several very entertaining sequences taking place in earlier time periods (but mostly the first Avengers movie) that prove funny, exciting and rather clever … if it wasn’t for the fact that this movie turns time-travel conventions as we’ve come to understand like ‘the butterfly effect’ on their head. This leads to a few moments of ‘hang on, how can they do that? Won’t that change such and such…’ which proved problematic for me.
That aside, banter between the various characters is at the forefront and brilliantly comical and well written. also throwing in a few emotionally poignant scenes between the characters we have grown attached to over the years. Add to this some very slick action (Captain America v Captain America?), epic battles and feel-good moments this still delivered a satisfying, at times awe-inspiring piece of cinematic grandeur. Shame then, that towards the end it had to hit a few of those pc-culture tick boxes that came across as obvious and totally unnecessary. So not quite the masterpiece I hoped for, but regardless I still had a great time.
I think most of us knew that the sequel to the unexpected hit that was Deadpool, would be bigger and better, A movie that was basically a one trick pony first time around, that of Ryan Reynolds’ wise-cracking, self-aware ‘merc with the mouth’ didn’t have a great deal more going for it as far as plot or an interesting villain. So coming into this I was hoping for more. Step up to the task Josh Brolin, fresh off his movie-stealing turn in the latest Avengers, he plays Terminator-like bad-guy ‘Cable’, sent from the future to kill some acting-out mutant kid who wants to blow up an orphanage and those that govern over him. Deadpool see’s some injustice in the kids plight and offers to help, along with his band of reluctant friends he awkwardly names ‘X-Force’.
Reynolds is on brilliant form and his wealth of one liners, observations and fourth-wall breaking piss-takes are often hilarious. Thankfully this time around he’s not the only pull this movie has, because Brolin is again brilliant and there’s also a few other colourful characters to keep things interesting (personal fave: Domino). Yet the child actor at the centre of the plot is somewhat lacking, has poor line-delivery and stands out compared to his more seasoned and entertaining co-stars. Yet we do get a wealth of at times very violent, bloody action that is utterly unrestrained but skilfully executed, showing director David Leitch is an assured replacement for the original’s Tim Miller.
Some rather cheap-looking CGI doesn’t look all that much better than the first movie (especially Colossus) and not all the gags hit home runs. However, this matters little when what’s presented is just so infectious. I haven’t had as much at the cinema in a long time as I had watching this funny, exciting and crazy ride … which may play to the juvenile kid in all of us, but sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed. Just go see it already.
Do I suffer from comic-book movie fatigue? To a degree yes. I still enjoy some super-hero smack down action but have felt underwhelmed by recent fare both through over-familiarity with the concept and the desire for something different and a little deeper. So we come to this epic instalment where it seems Marvel is throwing everything at the viewer for the ultimate battle against what appears to be the ultimate foe – Thanos. Hinted at and foreshadowed in previous movies, the intergalactic megalomaniac, played by Josh Brolin is finally out to claim the fabled Infinity Stones, of which if he claims all six will give him ultimate power over life and death in the universe.
So the stakes are immensely high and it’s up to a disbanded Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow etc) and any friends they can pull into their ranks (including Spider Man) to stop this powerhouse of a villain. In a movie like this it would be easy to go lazy and just fill the run time with fight after fight, which we get in spectacular fashion … but what takes this to another level is the depth to the characterisation I wasn’t expecting and even though it’s crowded with ego’s butting heads, somehow many of the characters get time to have their moment and stand out individually. Despite such a serious situation it also throws in moments of decent humour, especially with the inclusion of the Guardians of the Galaxy, with the scenes between Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Pratt’s Star Lord proving particularly funny.
So we come to the central figure here, the long awaited and somewhat hyped appearance of Thanos, and Josh Brolin brings a surprising amount of pathos and grit to the character that makes him the closest Marvel has got to the level of Heath Ledger’s Joker. He really is that good, and in a movie with many surprises and bold plot developments, he elevates the movie into the realm of classic status. The fact the movie takes risks with a very familiar formula, especially in it’s closing moments just has to be applauded also. This is the best Avengers movie yet and could possibly be the best Marvel movie. So simply put, you have to see this one.
I have been an admirer of the work of sibling directors Joel & Ethan Coen for many years now and count movies like The Big Lebowski and Fargo amongst some of the best movies I’ve seen. However sometimes these talented guys seem to stumble upon an idea that for one reason or another just doesn’t work – and I’m surprised to say, this is one such movie.
The plot follows a day in the life of a movie studio exec (Josh Brolin), sometime in the early 1950s, where musicals and swords & sandals epics were all the rage. It’s certainly a fascinating setting and one I was hoping would be a great backdrop to an intriguing kidnap storyline, at least that’s the idea the trailer gave me. However following the mysterious abduction of their biggest star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), Brolin finds himself being forced to come up with a ransom whilst at the same time juggling a myriad of other issues at the studio.
Now you see here lies the problem … there’s a lot of things going on here; Scarlett Johansson appears as a tough-talking pregnant starlet whose lack of a husband puts her image (and that of the studio) in question. Also twin reporters turn up trying to dish the dirt on Baird Whitlock’s past and a dim-witted western star get’s the opportunity to do his first speaking part in a new movie. Oh and there’s some dancing sailors too, headed by Channing Tatum. Yet despite these admittedly colourful characters, along with Clooney they’re written so one dimensional that it was really hard to care about any them. Johansson, considering she’s one of the most bankable actresses around at the moment gets two redundant scenes, and Clooney’s plot is more perplexing and confusing than gripping.
The movie isn’t without it’s moments though. It looks fantastic (thanks to regular collaborator Roger Deakins) and behind the scenes segments of movies being made will always pull me in. The dialogue at times is also pretty comical (a meeting with various representatives of different religious faiths to discuss a biblical epic is a stand out). Yet the comedy isn’t strong enough to hide the fact the movie fails to go anywhere even remotely interesting and no attention to set design, costumes or musical numbers can make up for such a glaring flaw.
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