Posts Tagged ‘Film reviews’

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Posted: August 18, 2018 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by Peyton Reed. Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly,  Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Walton Goggins and Michelle Pfeiffer.

ant-man-and-wasp1.jpg

Ok, we’re going to need a really big can of insect repellent!

After former criminal Scott Lang (Rudd) fought alongside Captain America in Civil War, he was placed under house arrest and forced to give up his super heroic alter ego as Ant-Man. Meanwhile the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Douglas) and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Lily) are now wanted fugitives and have gone on the run with their miniaturisation technology, determined to rescue Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, Janet van Dyne (Pfeiffer), who’s been trapped in the quantum realm for 30 years.

When Scott receives a message he believes comes from Janet, he contacts his former associates and they reluctantly enlist his help in trying to rescue Janet, but their work is complicated by the machinations of a black market tech dealer named Sonny (Goggins) and a mysterious masked figure known as Ghost (John-Kamen) who can phase through solid matter and who has her own reasons for wanting to locate Janet van Dyne.

Luckily Ant-Man isn’t alone, Hope has her own suit and as the Wasp she can do everything Ant-Man can (but with wings!)

Ant-Man was a film that succeeded inspite itself. The loss of Edgar Wright during production and the lacklustre trailer hadn’t inspired much confidence in me, but it turned out to be a fun ride and, in a world of ever more epic Marvel films, the smaller, more intimate scale helped it stand out.

Now in the year that’s given us Black Panther and then Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp provides a refreshingly lightweight and smaller scale antidote to city smashing, planet hopping and more superheroes than you can shake a stick at.

Ant-Man and the Wasp isn’t epic in scale, but that’s kinda the point, and part of the reason behind Marvel’s success is their ability to shuffle the pack. After Infinity War the last thing we needed was something deep and meaningful, and dark. Instead what we get is light and fun, and it may well be better than the first one.

Once again the core of its success is down to casting. Scott Rudd’s comic timing works wonders, whether he’s in the suit or out of it, and he works well with whoever he’s paired with, whether it’s Lily or Peña, but even with Randall Park’s scene stealing FBI agent. In particular he and Abby Ryder Fortson, returning as Scott’s daughter Cassie, have great chemistry, and at times this is more a father/daughter comedy than a big budget superhero film—and that’s just fine.

ant-man-and-the-wasp-ew-2

Lily again impresses as Hope. When Hank revealed the Wasp suit at the end of the first one Hope said; “It’s about damn time” and that’s a phrase that works on two levels, both for the character and in the wider Marvel universe. It did seem a trifle odd that Hope, tough resourceful, intelligent, brave, was passed over in place of Hank giving the suit to Scott. Sure, it makes sense from the perspective of Hank’s fear of losing his daughter the same way he lost his wife, but it still irked a little. Now Hope is a hero in her own right, and for the first time a female superhero gets her name in the title of a Marvel film. Ok, it’s a shame Black Widow didn’t beat her to the punch, but still, no complaints from me because Lily is awesome. She and Rudd make a good team, and an equal one. This is less Batman and Robin than Batman and Batman.

antmanandthewasp-trailerbreakdown-michaelpena-office-700x291

“Of course, I’d be more than happy to steal the film.”

Of course in many ways the standout star of the first film was Michael Peña as Scott’s old cellmate Luis, and Peña picks up where he left off. He’s a genuine joy to watch, and it doesn’t even feel that contrived to get him into the story either.

 

5b3faca370e29130008b4b6d-750-501Douglas is always good, and Fishburne adds to the gravitas as an old colleague of Hanks. It’s always good to see Pfeiffer, though its shame she isn’t given more screen time. Kamen-John does a good job as Ghost, a “villain” we can sympathise with. Goggins does his best with a fairly thin role. But hey this is a film where even Luis’s buddies and Sonny’s henchmen get their moments.

antmanbig.0

Just like playing with a toy boat in the bath

The film’s exceptionally well-paced, and the effects are great, and as with the first film, the filmmakers are again incredibly imaginative when it comes to shrinking things down or blowing them up to giant size, without ever quite hitting the heights of that child’s bedroom/Thomas the Tank Engine fight from the first one, but that’s a minor quibble.

Yes, the word quantum is overused, and it overdoes the technobabble at times, and you can’t help but feel this is going to feed into the sequel to Infinity War (especially given the mid credits scene at the end) but if you can set this to one side what you’re left with is a fun, exciting film with an engaging cast and more laughs than most so called comedies.

It might be smaller in scale than most Marvel films, but just like Ant-Man himself, this is a film quite capable of scaling itself up when it needs to.

More Ant-Man please, and definitely more Wasp!

https _hypebeast.com_image_2018_05_ant-man-and-the-wasp-trailer-2-00.jpg

“Be honest, does my bum look big in this?”

Advertisements

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Posted: August 7, 2018 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by Ol Parker.  Starring. Christine Baranski, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Andy García, Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Cher and Meryl Streep.

3f77667c-6c61-44e2-b2fd-85ef26625305-large16x9_2495_D037_00109_0124R_COMP.JPG_cmyk

“Join us, join us, JOIN US!”

Many years have passed since Sophie Sheridan (Seyfried) discovered that her father was one of three men and invited them to the Greek island where she lived with her mother Donna (Streep). Now Sophie wants to reopen the hotel in honour of her mother, but she’s unhappy that two of her dads, Harry (Firth) and Bill (Skarsgård) can’t attend, and nor can her partner Sky (Cooper) who’s in New York. Her third father, Sam (Brosnan) will be there, but when a storm hits the island the whole reopening looks like it could fail.

Back in 1979 we follow the young Donna (James) as she leaves University and heads out to see the world, beginning in Paris where she meets a young Harry, before moving onto Greece where her path crosses that of both Bill and Sam.

As past and future increasingly mirror one another the stage is set for heartbreak and joy in equal measure. As the song says, here we go again.

hbz-lily-james-mamma-mia-index-1525981884.jpg

I unashamedly love Mama Mia. I can see all its faults, it’s cheesy and yes some of the cast aren’t the world’s greatest singers (I’m looking at you 007) but its joyful exuberance, married to Abba’s fantastic songs, and a first rate cast papered over any cracks there may have been.

Given its phenomenal success a sequel was always on the cards, but credit to the producers for waiting until they felt they had a story to tell, and kudos for deciding to go all Godfather 2 with a sequel that’s also a prequel, and the result is all kinds of wonderful, just not necessarily for the reasons the first one succeeded. For all that they’re cut from the same cloth these are two very different films, and again credit has to go to everyone involved in the production for not just giving us more of the same.

The film opens with characters dealing with a tragedy that happened a year before, and a sense of melancholia hangs over the whole film, and whilst it’s clearly a feel-good story, it’s also sad at times. Very sad.

Lily-James-Movies.jpg

Hey I recognize those dungarees!

If the film relies on the return of familiar characters and situations, at its heart is something new, namely Lily James as the young Donna, and it’s no exaggeration to suggest that it’s James’ performance that makes the film. While everyone else always seems to have someone to bounce off, often its Donna who’s left alone, foreshadowing what we know will happen, that she’ll raise Sophie alone as a single mother, and its credit to James that she never allows Donna to be a character we pity, only one we empathise with and root for. Plus she’s a great song and dance woman which helps enormously.

In the present it’s Seyfried who holds the film together, albeit with able support of some wonderful actors. I’d happily watch an entire trilogy based around the adventures of Christine Baranski and Julie Walters, who once again threaten to steal the show, and Firth, Brosnan and Skarsgård imbue Harry, Sam and Bill with so much warmth you kinda wish they were your dads too.

https _blueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com_uploads_card_image_812615_0f333a3e-9260-459d-bb12-38cc78a304c0.jpg

The actors playing the other younger characters all do a good job, some more than others, but special mention to Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies essaying the young Baranski and Walters.

In the scene stealing category there’s Omid Djalili with an amusing recurring cameo of a customs officer (and please, please, please stay till the end of the credits.) and of course the iconic introduction of Cher as Donna mum, not the greatest actor but damn that woman can still belt out a tune.

Which brings us to the music, which is of course ever present. This is perhaps a harder soundtrack to get into, certainly for me because there were more unfamiliar songs this time around, but there’s still plenty of familiar music, and the script is peppered with witty one liners, one of Baranski’s lines is practically worth the price of admission alone.

Beyond the cast, the music and the script, I’d like to talk about the direction, because this was almost the element that impressed me most. Part of Mama Mia’s charm was its slightly DIY construction much like Brosnan’s singing (sorry Pierce) it didn’t matter if the film looked a little creaky at times. By contrast Here we go Again is on another level technically, and I was amazed at just how well put together this was, the transitions between past and present are breathtakingly well constructed, I mean we’re talking Oscar worthy here, and quite frankly if it’d come out later in the year, and could have avoided the near certain snobbery, I see no reason this couldn’t have garnered an Oscar nod or two. Yes, it’s that good.

Mamma-Mia-2-Poster-.pngGorgeous to look at, wonderful to listen to, and with a life affirming central message around motherhood this is, as I stressed, not always an easy watch, and in the end this isn’t a film that tugs on your heartstrings so much as one that rips them from your chest and shows them to you, and I can’t deny that I may have shed a tear or two at one climatic moment that just manages to stay the right side of overly sentimental.

It’s hard to say if this is better or worse then the first film, because they are so different. On the downside as I’ve said the soundtrack isn’t quite as familiar, and the duel nature of the plot does mean we only get extended cameos from certain actors, and maybe it isn’t quite the surprise the first one was. Plus knowing it wasn’t filmed in Greece is a trifle annoying…

But overall this is a far, far better film than it has any right to be, and I for one can’t wait to see it again. Will we ever get Mama Mia 3? Hard to tell, but frankly the bar’s set so high now it can surely only disappoint.

Highly recommended.

mamma-mia-2-cher-e1531850356184

Cherly you can’t be serious, Paul? I am serious, and don’t call me Cherly!

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson and Sean Harris.

landscape-1499702328-mission-impossible-6

 

It’s two years since Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his IMF team captured terrorist Solomon Lane (Harris), and the remains of Lane’s organisation, The syndicate, has mutated into a group known as The Apostles.  The Apostles latest job is buying three plutonium cores for an environmental fundamentalist known only as John Lark, who plans to build three nuclear bombs to usher in a new world order. In Berlin Hunt and his comrades Benji (Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Rhames) attempt to recover the plutonium but fail, leading the new CIA Director Erica Slone (Angela Bassett) to pull rank on the IMF Secretary Alan Huntley (Alec Baldwin) to place her own man onto Hunt’s team as they move to Paris to intercept John Lark as he deals with an arms dealer named The White Widow (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby). Sloane’s agent is August Walker (Cavill), a single minded CIA assassin who has little time for the IMF’s tactics of deception and rubber masks.

A spanner is thrown into the works when MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Ferguson) returns with a secret agenda. As double crosses abound, and nuclear bombs are set, can Hunt and his team save the day, or is this one mission that really will prove totally impossible?

mission-impossible-fallout

It’s kinda sobering to realise Tom Cruise first played Ethan Hunt 22 years ago. It’s also worth mentioning that he’s made more Mission Impossible films than any actor has been Bond other than Connery and Moore!

It is a curious franchise however, with odd tonal shifts and big gaps between some of the films, although they’ve been more frequent recently. For me the quality has been variable, and as a fan of the original TV series some of them have skewed too much towards high octane action at the expense of the clever sting operations that were the show’s stock in trade.

What you can’t deny is Cruise’s star power, and his athleticism, he’s 56 for God’s sake! And here we are imagining Daniel Craig might be getting too old to play 007. It’s still amazing that Cruise does so many of his own stunts, although this time he did manage to break his ankle so he’s nowhere near as invincible as he once was.

But you’re not here for an appraisal of Tom Cruise’s physical condition, you want to know if the film is any good, and yes it is, really good. It might even be my second favourite (after the original).

Christopher McQuarrie returns as writer and director, which was a slight worry given that Rogue Nation was such an uneven affair, a film that frontloaded its best scenes and ended up with a damp squib of a finale set in London (which eerily mirrored Spectre which came out a few months later and suffered from the same problem.)

This time the pacing is spot on, well, mostly. The film is still too long, and a trifle baggy in the middle. One car chase through Paris is immediately followed by another car chase through Paris, plus the finale, whilst very good, runs way longer than the 15 minutes we’re supposed to believe it is.

636679576547803713-mcj-04602rBut I’m quibbling. I enjoyed it a lot. Cruise owns the screen (as usual) and is ably supported by a top notch cast. Rhames and Pegg have such a natural rapport that you almost wish they had their own spin off series, and Ferguson proves, yet again, that she might be one of the best Bond girls we never had. As Walker Cavill brings a sneering physicality to the role, imbued with a lot of charm (and yes I’ll say it, he’d make a great Bond). Returning villain Sean Harris is something of a weak link, if only because he’s so understated, because this isn’t really a film for understatement. Baldwin and  Bassett bring the necessary gravitas, and special mention to Kirby playing the daughter of Max (Vanessa Redgrave’s character in the very first Mission Impossible film though this is quite subtle) and there’s even a place for Michelle Monaghan to return as Ethan’s long hidden wife (hard to believe she was in Mission Impossible III).

35774The stunts and set pieces are impressive, although often they seemed a trifle familiar because they’re riffs on things you’ve seen in another Mission Impossible, or a Bond, or a Bourne, but maybe it’s impossible to be truly innovative these days.

Aside from some clunky—but probably necessary—exposition on occasion, Christopher McQuarrie’s script is clever and funny, even if everyone’s motivations seem a trifle vague. It’s also nice to see McQuarrie not treating his cast like idiots, but as smart professionals, and there’s some wonderful bluffs and double bluffs going on here, and it’s nice to see some old school Mission Impossible schemes, even if things end up needing helicopter gunships rather than rubber masks to resolve matters in the end.

A tad too long, and I can’t rule out it ending up essentially being just A N Other big budget action film to get lost in the forest of such films, but I enjoyed it a huge amount while I was watching it and really, what more do you want?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch this film. Go on, don’t make me disavow you!

mi6-c-353e-532.jpg

Ocean’s 8

Posted: July 11, 2018 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by Gary Ross. Starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter.

oceans-8-cast-women.jpg

Eventually the team would get down to planning the heist, after they watch Magic Mike one more time…

When Debbie Ocean (Bullock playing George Clooney’s character’s sister) is released from prison she wastes no time in putting into action a plan to steal a $150 million dollar Cartier necklace, a plan she’s been working on for five years to a point where she believes she’s worked out all of the kinks.

She ropes in her former partner Lou (Blanchett) and together they begin assembling a team, including a fashion designer with money troubles (Bonham Carter) a fence (Paulson) a computer hacker (Rihanna) a pickpocket (Awkwafina) and a jeweller (Mindy Kaling). Also integral to the plan as an unwitting dupe is ditzy actress Daphne Kluger (Hathaway).

The plan should go off without a hitch, but the involvement of insurance investigator John Frazier (James Corden) could pose trouble, and Lou worries that Debbie might be using the heist to get revenge on the man responsible for her incarceration, namely shady art dealer Claude Becker (Richard Armitage).

Will the gang get away with it, or will Debbie wind up back behind bars, along with her new accomplices?

 

When Steven Soderbergh made a modern version of the 60’s Rat Pack film Ocean’s 11, it’s debatable whether anyone thought it would lead to multiple sequels, but here we are with the fourth film in the franchise, albeit one with a completely new cast. The idea of an all gal heist flick might have put some backs up (for some reason) but I had no issue with it, in fact given I was always a bit lukewarm towards Ocean’s 11 anyway (If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know Soderbergh films often leave me cold) I was quite looking forward to it, and whilst Ocean’s 8 is far from perfect it’s a heck of a fun ride while it lasts.

12-oceans-8.w600.h315.2x

She’s a mistress of disguise!

The film’s main strength is in its casting. Bullock is a good lead, able to convince as a dowdy convict and as a glamourous jewel thief, and her role in pulling the team together is well handled. She sparks well with Blanchett (who’s one of those actors rarely less than brilliant) and together they make for a good partnership.

Helena Bonham Carter seems to be having a blast as the kooky, Irish accented fashion designer—although with Bonham Carter in some roles you can’t help feeling she may just be playing herself—and having seen her in several seasons of America Horror Story I know Paulson’s always good value, and she is again here as the fence turned suburban housewife (albeit with a suspiciously large eBay presence). Everyone gets their moment to shine, and this extends to the least famous members of the crew in Kaling and Awkwafina. In particular I really enjoyed Awkwafina’s dry wit. Really the weak link is probably Rihanna, although maybe that’s just down to a role that essentially requires her to just type a lot and on occasion smoke a huge blunt.

tumblr_p72znptlf71s1oat1o2_1280.jpg

You jammy bugger, Armitage!

Of course, I’m not forgetting the 8th, and unaware, member of the team, and much like Bonham Carter Hathaway seems to be having a huge amount of fun hamming it up as airhead Kluger, and on occasion she pretty much steals the movie.

There are the token guys as well. Armitage is solidly sleazy as Becker, and whilst never the greatest actor in the world, Corden isn’t remotely as terrible in an underwritten role as some have suggested.

The direction is slick and the soundtrack oozes cool. The sets and clothes add to the sense of style and glamour, but if the film falls down it’s in the script, or rather the plot. It’s not that it makes no sense, and there are some nice twists, but everything seems a bit effortless. There are obstacles that spring up in the team’s way, but none of them are remotely insurmountable and each one is resolved with ease. In many respects the film reminded me of the original TV show of Mission Impossible, where most weeks the elaborate scheme would go off without a hitch. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just wish Debbie and co had had to fight a little harder for their win because there’s never any real sense of jeopardy.

You can argue it’s style over substance, but when a film is this much fun who cares, not everything has to be deep and meaningful, and I for one would relish seeing Ocean’s 8 become Ocean’s 9, so long as they keep the cool, keep the humour and keep the cast: they just need to up the drama a bit.

9845240-3x2-700x467

Please take care on the subway, it’s crawling with criminals.

 

Hereditary

Posted: June 17, 2018 in Film reviews, horror
Tags:

Directed by Ari Aster. Starring Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne.

hereditary_GROUP_TABLE_029_3_rgb.0

Just one big happy family.

At the funeral of her mother Ellen, Annie Graham (Collette) gives a eulogy detailing the difficult relationship she had with her mother due to Ellen’s secretive ways. She also mentions the loss of her father when she was a baby, and the fact that her brother committed suicide.

In the aftermath of the funeral, and unbeknownst to her husband Peter (Byrne), Annie visits a grief support group. She’s an artist specialising in miniature dioramas and an upcoming show has put her under added pressure, this stress isn’t helped by her uncommunicative daughter Charlie (Shapiro) and her slacker son Peter (Wolff).

As time passes and bizarre events begin to occur to the family, Annie becomes more and more convinced that the family is in some way cursed, and that a supernatural presence is stalking them, but are her fears genuine or is it a symptom of the mental illness that runs through the family?

 

Hereditary arrives on a wave of “Horror movie of the year/decade/century” level hype and expectation, and that’s always difficult to manage, but if you can get past the hysteria what lies behind it is an exceptionally well-crafted horror movie, albeit one that at times might be too well-crafted for its own good, but I’ll come onto that.

The first thing to say is that if your notion of a horror film is something like Insidious, a funfair ghost train of a film with a jump scare every five minutes, then Hereditary might disappoint. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t have frights, but this is a slow burn of a film that prioritises atmosphere over action for most of its running time, and what an atmosphere! In tune with films like Rosemary’s Baby, The Wicker Man, or more recently films like The Blair Witch Project and Get Out, Hereditary is a film that aims to unsettle. There’s a palpable sense of dread that hangs over the film like a mouldy sheet. Even before much in the way of the supernatural occurs this world feels off kilter, from the odd way Charlie acts, to Annie’s work creating miniaturist art (and kudos to the design team because these miniature sets are wonderful) that is at once intriguing but also disquieting.

Once bad things start happening it’s a downward spiral for the family, but you have to give Aster credit, because he doesn’t let the story follow the path you imagine, in fact there’s one moment early on that left me awestruck at its audacity. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a certain level of predictability at work here, but there has to be, the best twists are ones that arise out of logical actions, and the film is littered with little clues which will likely make a repeat viewing even more interesting.

Hereditary.jpg

The cast are excellent. Few actors can do frazzled and on the edge of nervous breakdown as well as Collette, and this is her film. Annie is a character seemingly out of step with the world even before the supernatural intrudes on her life. You get the feeling she’s hovered on the edge of a breakdown for a while, yet Collette never quite lets the character tip over the edge. Byrne has less to get his teeth into, because he’s tasked with being the grounded member of the family, but he does it well and between them they convince as a couple who clearly love one another, yet are somehow distant strangers.

1238244As Peter, Wolff does a great job essaying a young man who goes from someone whose only concerns are weed and girls, to someone who has to deal with incredible tragedy and then the fact that his family may be being haunted by an evil force, and much as with Collette you really fear for him. Then there’s newcomer Shapiro as Charlie and what a performance. Charlie is, to put it mildly, an odd bird, but despite her inexperience Shapiro never overdoes things. She’s an unsettling presence in every scene, the sort of loner you imagine would be bullied, yet somehow isn’t because everyone is, if not afraid of her, then unnerved by her.

Rounding out the small cast is Ann Dowd (yes Aunt Lydia from The Handmaid’s Tale!) as another member of the grief support group.

Aster directs his own script, and whilst he has written and directed short films before, this is his feature debut and he does an excellent job, knowing when to close in on the family to emphasise the claustrophobia, but also willing to pull back to emphasise the isolation of the characters. He makes full use of the camera, from skewed angles to making wonderful use of shadow and reflection to highlight some very eerie moments, and he makes great use of the landscape, both the geographic and the more personal landscapes, focusing on every anguished line on Collette’s face as if her visage were itself were the surface of the moon. As with the best horror sometimes the worst parts of the film are the bits you don’t see, and Aster judiciously cuts away from several gorier elements that a lesser director would have focused on. Not that Hereditary isn’t gory, Aster just knows when to show and when to tell.

The one downside is that, with the tension wound so tight, and with the film walking such a razor’s edge between ludicrous and terrifying, occasionally the more melodramatic moments can teeter on the side of funny rather than frightening. For me it never quite fell into that trap, but I can see with the wrong kind of audience there may be more laughs than screams.

Assuredly directed, wonderful acted, this is an unsettling, yet utterly mesmerising film that will likely only get better with repeat viewings.

HEREDITARY-trailer

Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo and Paul Bettany.

24-solo-han-chewbacca-1.w710.h473

Chewie had an awful feeling Han’s coat might have once been a relative.

On the planet Corellia Han (Ehrenreich) is part of a gang of youths forced into crime by an evil alien. He dreams of being a pilot however, and of escaping Corellia with his lover Qi’ra (Clarke) He manages to escape, but has to leave Qi’ra behind. Determined to make enough money that he can buy a ship and come back to rescue Qi’ra, Han enlists in the Imperial navy, imagining they’ll train him to be a pilot. Instead he winds up in the infantry where his path crosses that of a veteran criminal named Tobias Beckett (Harrelson), a somewhat disgruntled Wookie and a debonair gambler named Lando Calrissian who owns an incredibly fast ship…

In order to get vicious gangster Dryden Voss (Bettany) off their backs, Han and his newfound cohorts must pull off a daring robbery, and if successful Han might get enough money to buy his own ship, and finally be able to rescue Qi’ra from a life of crime, but in this Universe can things ever go to plan?

Do you remember that bit at the start of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where young Indy (played by River Phoenix) has his first adventure and every aspect of his adult personality is acquired in ten minutes (hat, whip, snakes, scar)? Well imagine that sequence stretched out for two hours and you have a pretty good idea what Solo: A Star Wars Story is like, and your enjoyment may, in many respects, depend on how you feel about this. Me, I found it interesting in places, dull in others, but for the most part downright painful. This is a film that’s so on the nose at times as to be wince inducing.

It falls into the trap of too many prequel/origin stories of feeling it has to explain every aspect of Han’s personality, even things that didn’t really need explaining (did you ever sit and ponder “I wonder why he’s called Han Solo?” No? Me neither!)

So be prepared for a list to be checked off. Meet Chewie, check. Meet Lando, check. Get iconic blaster, check. Get Falcon, check. Shoot first, check? And so on and so forth…

105232888-Alden-Ehrenreich-Solo-A-Star-Wars-Story-1200x520.530x298.jpg

Han and Chewie having way more fun than I was…

It could have worked, with a better script and, it has to be said, with a better Han. By all accounts they saw over 3000 people, which makes the decision to cast Ehrenreich all the stranger, because whilst he tries, he never comes anywhere near the natural cocky cool of Harrison Ford. Sure, this Han is younger, less sure of himself, more of a nice guy, but really the only link between the two men is the grin. There’s a difference between cocky and smug however, and the young man slips too often into the latter while Ford was effortlessly the former. It’s not that I think anyone is irreplaceable (Chris Pine proves this with his top draw Kirk performance), but I think they could have done better, perhaps with someone who looked less physically similar, but could play the role better. It’s also painfully obviously that Ehrenreich is a fair bit shorter than Ford.

solo2

“Aren’t you a little short for a Han?”

I hope his height wasn’t the reason they cast the diminutive Emilia Clarke, just to make him look taller? Clarke is a strange one. As Daenerys on Game of Thrones she’s phenomenal, yet in other thing I’ve seen her in she’s struggled, and this is no exception. She never convinces as a young woman who’s had to do terrible things to survive. I didn’t detect much chemistry between her and Ehrenreich either.

Surrounding a weaker or inexperienced actor with better performers can work to a film’s advantage (take On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) but it can also backfire, which it does here really, because many of the supporting characters are, it pains me to say, way cooler than Han.

fpcztz5shdvxlzthxzhzAs Beckett Harrelson is effortlessly more interesting than Han, with his world-weary attitude and fancy blaster work, and more than once I wish I was watching a film centred on him and his partner Val (Thandie Newton, excellent in a minor role).

Donald Glover isn’t a perfect fit for Lando, and perhaps plays it a trifle too broad at times, but he makes up for any shortcomings with the kind of charisma I wish Ehrenreich had, and you really have to admire the man’s cape work.

Bettany is superb as the villain of the piece, and his performance is even better once you realise he was parachuted in at the last minute to replace the original actor who couldn’t commit to the reshoots. As Chewie Suotamo does a good job, and Waller-Bridge threatens to steal the film at times with her pithy one liners as droid L-3, but even this feel forced, and feels too much like they were trying to emulate K3 from Rogue One.

We’ll never know what Lord and Miller’s original version would have been like, maybe it would have been too comedic, maybe it would have been terrible, but I can’t help wondering if it wouldn’t have at least had more verve to it, because in the end part of Solo’s problem is that it plays it too safe. Howard does a solid, if uninspiring job directing, and it would be wrong to suggest some of the set pieces aren’t decent, and late on there’s some neat double and triple crosses but, to paraphrase Princess Leia, while Solo does have it’s moments, it doesn’t have nearly enough of them.

Not so much Solo as So-So.

landscape-1526054501-hs-ff-000079

“Can I interest you in an honest game of chance?”

Deadpool 2

Posted: May 24, 2018 in Film reviews
Tags:

Directed by David Leitch. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin and Morena Baccarin.

deadpool-2-trailer-image-21

“What the hell are you looking at?”

It’s two years since Wade Wilson (Reynolds) became super(anti)hero Deadpool, and life is good, he’s an unstoppable force for, well if not good then not really bad, and he has a loving relationship with his girlfriend Vanessa (Baccarin).

Soon the rug is pulled out from under him though, and tragedy pushes him to attempt suicide, which is easier said that done when your super power is accelerated healing, and when the X-Man Colossus (voiced again by Stefan Kapičić) is determined to save not only Deadpool’s body, but also his soul.

Co-opted into the X-Men, Deadpool’s path soon crosses that of a young mutant named Russell, who also goes by the name Firefist (played by New Zealander Julian Dennison). Russell is an angry young man, but maybe Deadpool can steer him onto the straight and narrow, if future cyborg Cable (Brolin) doesn’t kill them both first!

 

Two years ago Deadpool came out of nowhere to reinvigorate the superhero world, proving that not only could an R rated superhero film succeed, but could also do it making snide digs at the genre and breaking the fourth wall in every other scene. Now Deadpool 2 arrives with far more fanfare, double the budget and a heck of a lot more expectation. So, the question is, can DP2 live up to the hype?

And the answer is, in my opinion, yes it can…pretty much. Deadpool 2 maybe quite doesn’t live up to the shock value of the first film, but it comes damn close.

Once again Ryan Reynolds proves this was the role he was born to play, the merc with the mouth (and a pretty potty mouth it is too!) and he fires off one liners as speedily as Josh Brolin’s Cable fires off bullets. It’s a delicate balancing act to make Deadpool such a dick, only a likeable and empathetic dick, and just as he did first time around Reynolds walks that tightrope with nary a stumble and demonstrates a heck of a lot of charisma, even when he’s behind a mask.

deadpool-2-cable-josh-brolin-1920x1080

Thanos for the memories!

As Cable Brolin isn’t really given much to stretch his acting chops, and whilst Cable is pretty much just designed to be the straight man to Deadpool’s idiot, it’s somewhat ironic that Brolin gets to display less range here than he did as Thanos, but credit where it’s due, Brolin really looks the part, and he certainly makes for an imposing antagonist.

Baccarin is a good actress, but she’s somewhat side-lined here, or is she? I’m trying not to give too much away, or am I See even within this review I can break the fourth wall!

I’ve still yet to see Hunt for the Wilderpeaople, but considering this is only his fifth film, Dennison never seems overawed by the company he’s keeping, and it’s a nice touch in a film that (Baccarin aside) does well on the inclusivity front, that he’s not only of Maori descent but also, as referenced by the dialogue, not your usual svelte super hero/villain is an added bonus.

https _blogs-images.forbes.com_scottmendelson_files_2018_05_MV5BOGVjYTQyOWQtNmI1NS00MDhlLWE2MTAtNzM2YWQ0YWFiN2U3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_-1200x675As a member of Deadpool’s X-Force (isn’t that a bit derivative) Zazie Beetz has a lot of fun as Domino, and it’s nice to see Terry Crews as Beldam. Minor characters inhabiting Deadpool’s world return from the first film, such as bartender Weasal, blind old lady Al, and somewhat unhinged cab driver Dopinder, plus Negasonic Teenage Warhead is back, and she has a girlfriend. Not exactly earthshattering until you realise it’s the first obviously LGBT character in a Marvel film.

Plot wise they’ve tried to beef up the emotional core of the film, to give Deadpool more of a journey, and whilst it doesn’t always work as well as it could have, the film manages to never get too bogged down in mawkishness, and the central story around family pretty much works.

Deadpool-2-Clip-Firefist-Meets-X-Men

With the bigger budget comes much more expansive action sequences. I know some people have baulked at this, but given the action was probably the bit of the first film I found the weakest, I’m happy to roll with it. Maybe there’s a bit too much, but on the whole the set pieces are good.

Deadpool’s snide and sweary comments are still the same, and if they feel a little more polished this time, well that’s perhaps only to be expected given the increase in expectation. Yes, it all feels a little bit more corporate and a little bit less rebellious, but the character isn’t neutered, he’s still foul mouthed and he’s still disrespectful towards just about everyone else in the Marvel (and especially the X-Men) universe.

Maybe it’s a little baggy in the middle, and maybe it doesn’t quite have the punk irreverence of the first film, but it was exciting, and more importantly funny as hell, so roll on Deadpool 3 I say! Oh, and please, please, please stay for the credits. There’s an extra scene that’s practically worth the price of admission alone. Ryan Reynolds, a man not afraid to take the piss out of himself!

screen-shot-2018-03-22-at-9-03-47-am.png

I came here to praise Deadpool, not to bury him!