Sunday, 14 August 2016

Film Review: Suicide Squad

It never ceases to amaze, that in this time of having so many trailers, tv spots, previews and the like, that when we finally do seem the film in all its glory, we are still able to enjoy it and rewatch it and its still a good film to watch.

And this is especially true with Suicide Squad, the first big trailer came at last year's Comic Con and since then, the anticipation and amount of trailers has been building to bulk the almost dizzying amounts of hype out there.

The critics may have given it the definitive thumbs down, but that didn't stop nearly everybody else from seeing it and giving it the opposite response. The film seems to unravel like a poorly made ball, stuffed with one liners, explosive action scenes and thrilling backstories that seem to come at you from every which way. (Not to say that the film is poorly made - this is just the analogy).

Which seems to suit the story and the characters' style and manner, and with this film, you very much can't have one without the other.

Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, David Harbour, Jai Courtney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jay Hernandez, Cara Delevingne and Joel Kinnaman very definitely breath new and three dimensional life into their characters. Something necessary and important to do, even at the minimum level, because it quickly becomes obvious when you're not. Characters like the ones James Marsden, Susan Sarandon and Amy Adams portrayed in Enchanted, giving it a little will make it more painful and cheesy. Obviously the minimum is quickly surpassed in this one.

Which just makes the storyline and the one liners that much more enjoyable and and fun to watch. That said, it is a comic book movie, and it does revel in that status and has so much fun with it.
 Under the helm of David Ayer, he who made films like End of watch, Fury and Sabotage, and also been known to insist on realism, this film holds itself a cut above the others.

The score, composed by Steven Price is accompanied by some classic and well placed songs, some known to be used before in the aforementioned trailers.

A good film and when you can enjoy it for what it is, a great one. All the more fun when you see it with friends, and dissect it afterwards.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Film Review: The Legend of Tarzan

Given the vast majority of remakes, sequels, prequels and re-imagining of various stories, its easy to just pin it on the movie makers and claim they are losing the ability to make original stories, and ignore all the many original stories that are being released in various formats.

But I've noticed an interesting trend.

Film started early, the first ever feature length film was released in 1906. It was about the Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly.

Since then, the films that have been remade and retold so many times since, Sherlock, Superman, hero films in general (Marvel very much continuing this trend especially) and yes, Tarzan, - topping the list - are stories about characters, who, among other things, are people with amazing and unique gifts, that, more often than not, are used to help others.

Worlds of peoples, a town, states, lands, the victims of crime, etc. A nice, glass half full way to look at it.

So, with that in mind, on with this newest interpretation of the "jungle man" who can talk to animals and whatnot.

I've said in reviews before, that the current trend is for films to have a "gritty reality" feel to them, whether it warrants that feel or not. The "realism" pendulum in Hollywood and to a lesser extent, other centres of film- making, London, does tend to swing violently from one extreme to the other, for various lengths of time - with minor swings within some films itself.

Thankfully, for this film, the "gritty realism" is warranted, and wanted. Director David Yates, most well known for piloting the last four Harry Potter films to a most satisfying conclusion, does his usual magic, pardon the pun, with this film. The trailers showed a lot more than they should, but this still managed to be a great thriller that keeps you on the edge of the seat for the full 105 minutes, but with the essential moments of romance and humour, to keep the story moving.

Story tellers on this one are Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer and to a lesser extent, the editors involved - a large part of keeping the pacing of a great adventure/thriller film at a cracking speed. The film is based on the stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first of which published in 1912.

For the iconic character of Tarzan, the role has been rightly given to Alexander Skarsgård, who brings a lot of character and emotion to someone who every word is carefully crafted and every expression says so much more.

He is not the only one, Margot Robbie who portrays Jane, is just as gifted.

Christoph Waltz, Sidney Ralitsoele, Djimon Hounsou, Casper Crump (some may recognise him as Vandal Savage from the recent series Legends of Tomorrow) Samuel L Jackson, Simon Russell Beale and Jim Broadbent make up the rest of the main and supporting cast of this film, all of them bring their A game to it. The mark of someone in a smaller role is making that character memorable, despite the limited scenes. Everyone here puts in their all.

The beautiful score is handled by Rupert Gregson-Williams, brother of Harry. Production design by Stuart Craig and overall look of the film, cinematography by Henry Braham make the worlds that these characters inhabit seem all the more magical. Part of the reason why these stories had such great appeal to audiences since first publication, a little over a hundred years ago now, was that they took us to a mysterious world not many had dared travel to.
A reason that keeps us still going to the cinemas and other outlets to see these stories made about worlds that we have yet to discover for ourselves.

A brilliant film overall and worth watching many times, for the thrills, the excitement and if nothing else, to see Mr Skarsgård topless.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Film Review: The BFG

"Yes, two adult tickets for The BFG, please."

Interesting sentence, both in of itself and one to start a film review with. But there is a point, I promise.

Little while ago I reviewed a recent Disney film and marvelled (kind of) at Pixar and Disney's skills in combining kid and adult friendly gags into the one plot coherent film.

But there is another way of this, making a simple film wonderful for all ages, without all the drama of balancing out the jokes for two different age groups and simply putting an one size fits all.

Generally helps when the source material is written by Roald Dahl or Dr Seuss (Theodore Geisel), as their storytelling has been entertaining the world over since it was published.

Roald Dahl, who wrote the book The BFG, had given the beautiful story a touch of the whimsy and the magical. A sense of anything might happen.
So it makes sense for the director and the screenwriter of this film adaptation to be the same team up who brought the film ET to life, Steven Spielberg and Melissa Mathison, respectively.

Taken from someone who has heard the original story many times, they have done a brilliant job, all round, on every aspect. The level of detail is breathtaking and definitely rewarding, in not just the story itself, but in the design in production, sets and the giants themselves. The special effects are beautifully done, and help in making the story what it is.

The casting is perfect too, Mark Rylance especially, could not have picked anyone better. Ruby Barnhill as Sophie is a delight. Also part of this wonder, Jermaine Clement, Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader and Rafe Spall.

And naturally, to complete the magic, John Williams brings his considerable talent to the score.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

TV series review: Lucifer

Joseph Morgan, Matt Ryan and now to complete this trifecta of Welsh actors portraying a highly entertaining combination of wise ass, smart arse, shit stirrer characters - Tom Ellis as the baddest of the bad - Lucifer Morningstar, the devil himself.

The episodes' only opening credits, brings everyone up to speed, Lucifer is having a vacation in LA. Not everyone is pleased with this, and this becomes the baseline plot, once it appears that the constant to the episodes is a procedural.

The foil to Lucifer (and vice versa) is a detective, Chloe Decker (portrayed by Lauren German), single mum and can hold her own against Lucifer, much to his constant chagrin and amusement.
Hence all the banter and cheeky one liners.

The rest of the main cast, DB Woodside, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Kevin Alejandro and Rachel Harris are all excellent too, and I found out that this has been renewed for a second series, after seeing the pilot.

A lot of fun, all round.

Friday, 6 May 2016

TV Mini-series Review: Jericho

Steve Thompson, best known for helping to write three episodes of BBC's Sherlock, has created something new and special in Jericho.

What really makes the eponymous shanty town unique, is the history interwoven into the stories. 1870s in the Yorkshire Dales, definitely had its rich culture, as base and blunt as it may seem, there are songs and camaraderie among the drinking and fighting.

Charles Blackwood (Daniel Rigby) has plans to build a viaduct, he just needs the ongoing capital to make this venture work. He is one of the gentleman characters, yes the good old class system is very much in play here and helps to provide much of the conflict.

The town is built of the people to work on the viaduct and those who come with, it is very much a temporary structure.

The story begins with Annie Quaintain, recently widowed with two children, who is forced to move when the combination of her late husband's debts and her inability to find work in town, she is given a helping hand to begin a new life in the shanty town.
She is portrayed by Jessica Raine, and the character reminds me a lot of the character of Margaret Schroeder in Boardwalk Empire, in the first season - tough, capable and when pushed into a corner, shows her true colours.

Her encounters, first with a "navvy" man, John, (here portrayed by Hans Matheson) and Ralph Coates (Clarke Peters) help her and her family settle into the town. There are others.

Unlike ITV, I have enjoyed what I have seen so far. The writing is entertaining, and the characters each have their own hidden depths to make it a mystery.
So far have watched half of the episodes so far, it seems that the series has been cancelled. Which is unfortunate, but predictable.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Film Review: Captain America - Civil War

The opening scene of this film sets the emotional tone for the film and incidentally is pretty much the only breather you get before the setting is stuck for the next two hours on full on thriller mode.

So, edge of seat, hands on mouth, all of the above, except for some moments of levity and humour, usually from the character lines of Tony Stark - typical, and from the supporting actors.

Which takes true skill.

For most, the focus is on the main characters, fair enough, as that is who the film is centred on and who the plot lines depend on, their choices and actions. But the supporting actors generally provide the conflict, whether it is the main conflict, or the little annoyances that are the fly in the ointment.

And if they all stick in your mind, make you think about their choices and their actions that bring the main characters to the fore and start doing what they do best - that is something special. They often only have a few scenes on their lonesome, the majority with the mains and that means they have to be memorable, without taking all the attention.

So, bravo to Daniel Bruhl and Martin Freeman and William Hurt. They have helped make this film what it is (along with the usual director, screenwriter, editor et al). Truly excellent quality.

Film Review: Zootopia

One thing about animated films, yes, before even The Lion King, Shrek and The Incredibles, they appeal to little and big kids.

There is a reason films like Lady and the Tramp and Alice in Wonderland are still classics.

Dreamworks, Pixar and Disney all have this gift and it is what has made their films stand the test of time.

Zootopia is no different, plenty of sight gags and lines to amuse the kids and then "sneaky" one liners and cheeky references to make the adults giggle.

Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin voice the two leads, a fox and a rabbit respectively in this world - Zootopia - where all mammals live in relative peace.

Like all films focussed (kind of) on the under twelve sect, it has a underlying message, but it doesn't throw it in your face like the fables that Aesop was so fond of. You enjoy the film, but it has quality to it, which means that it will stand the test of time and in time, become a classic too.