Films

Ramblings about Films – whether it’s new, reviews or something else.

U is for Unstoppable (2010)

Unstoppable is one of my favourite films. It is a perfect example of a simple plot, done very well – and it’s based on a true story. The premise is, there’s a runaway train, it’s cargo is full of chemicals and people have to figure out how to stop it before it travels into and derails in a built up, residential area.

The two guys who are on the tracks and closest to the train are experienced driver Frank (Denzel Washington) and the rookie Will (Chris Pine) and they decide to go after the runaway train. They have brilliant chemistry and feel like two normal guys, who might have their problems but they’re still good guys.

The thing I love most about this film is Connie (Rosario Dawson). She works for the train company and she’s the only “suit” that talks sense, doesn’t care about profit margins and just cares about keeping people safe. She’s smart, capable and keeps her head in a crisis. She’s the one to trust Frank and Will and to keep them in the loop with what the police and everyone else are doing to try and stop the train. She’s one of my favourite characters in recent films – I hope to keep that cool if I’m ever presented with a crisis even half as huge as the one she has to deal with.

Unstoppable is one of those films where I get really excited and am almost bouncing in my seat as I watch even though I know what’s going to happen. It’s a great story about ordinary people trying to do the right thing, to help protect others even if it might not turn out so well for them. If you haven’t seen it, I definitely recommend it.

REVIEW: Fast & Furious 8 (2017)

When Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is seduced into the world of terrorism by the mysterious Cipher (Charlize Theron), his family and crew must join with old foes in order to stop him.

Fast & Furious 8 really steps it up a gear in terms of stunts and spectacle. There’s car chases on the streets of New York, a giant wrecking ball taking out cars and, of course, a submarine vs cars on ice sequence. They shouldn’t work and sometimes it’s a little chaotic to follow where everyone is but it’s best to let the adrenalin start pumping and go along for the ride.

Cipher is a very different kind of villain to what the crew has faced before. She’s almost all seeing and all-knowing thanks to her hacking skills and is powerful enough to get Dom to turn on his family for her. Most of her scenes are with Dom so it would’ve been nice to see her interact with more of the characters and see how characters like loud-mouth Roman (Tyrese Gibson) would react her.

It’s weird going into a Fast and Furious film without Paul Walker being there and they do have a reason why he and Jordana Brewster are not in the film, but the film generally still holds up with the old crew and a few new additions. There’s Eric (Scott Eastwood) Mr. Nobody’s (Kurt Russell) new protégée, who takes a while to gel and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is roped in to join the team. The conflict between him and the team is a bit hit and miss, the film quickly brushes off his history with the team (they almost killed his brother and he in turn killed one of their own and tried to kill the rest of them in the last film) and it would’ve been nice to see some more of that conflict. The one place you do feel that tension is between Shaw and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), their chemistry is great and there’s a lot of humour from them two trash talking each other.

Each member of the team has their moment to shine but in many ways, this is Dom’s film. He has the emotional beats of the film, along with (to a lesser extent) Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). She, as his wife, is the most visibly torn up about his betrayal and while she does have some cringey lines, she gives a good performance.

What can I say, if you’ve seen any of the recent Fast and Furious films then you know what you’ll be getting into – a world where the laws of physics don’t apply and the main crew of street racers are more like spies or superheroes nowadays. Fast & Furious 8 continues to be a lot of fun with a thrilling finale and a lot of laughs all the way through the film – it’s mad but it works. 4/5.

TRAILER REACTION: Thor: Ragnarok

It has been literally years since I’ve done a trailer reaction post on my blog – probably that’s because I’ve been busy or because there’s not been much more I wanted to say about a trailer that wouldn’t fit in a couple of tweets.

Then today the first Thor: Ragnarok trailer was released and it is the single best trailer I’ve seen in ages.

I love the music choice (I’m not a huge Led Zeppelin fan but I do love Immigrant Song) and while some might say it’s trying to be like Guardians of the Galaxy, I don’t feel that way. Yeah, the trailer has got a great song and some jokes in it but it’s got a different sort of feel to it compare to Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok is still its own thing. Or at least that’s what I took from it.

I love how colourful everything is in this and the character designs – just wow! Cate Blanchett as Hela looks amazing and a suitably scary and formidable villain while Tessa Thompson looks like a badass and I can’t wait to learn more about her character.

Then there’s Heimdall who always looks cool and Loki makes an appearance as well. I’m intrigued to see whose side he’s on and if he’s really been pretending to be Odin for however long. One of my favourite things about Loki is that he can be a bit of a wild card, those are my favourite type of characters and I do love his relationship with Thor.

Of course, I can’t forget to mention the main man himself – I’m loving Thor and he’s short hair! Ever since I saw the new Ghostbusters film, I’ve been waiting for Chris Hemsworth to do more comedy but I never thought it’s be in a Thor film. Yes, he’s had funny lines as Thor in previous MCU films but this whole film feels like another level. Thor’s reaction to seeing the Hulk and the “We know each other, he’s a friend from work!” line is brilliant and Hemsworth’s delivery is just perfection.

I know I shouldn’t really be surprised by the colours, costume design and style of humour Thor: Ragnarok seems to be going for when Taika Waititi is directing it. He’s the man behind films like What We Do in the Shadows, which I liked, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople which I absolutely adored. I can’t wait to see what Thor: Ragnarok ends up being like and after that trailer it’s now my most anticipated MCU film of the year.

C is for Cinema

I love cinema and all meaning of the word. Whether that means the theatre where films are shown or the actual films themselves, I love it all.

But this post is going to be more focussed on what I love about going to the actual cinema. I love watching films at the cinema because that’s the best place to watch them. Sitting in the dark with the big screen and the surround sound – it’s the perfect place to escape from the real world for a few hours. It’s great to go to the cinema with friends or family and then you can discuss what the film afterwards, but I don’t mind going to the cinema on my own. In fact, going solo to the cinema is often the only way I get to see what I want to see.

I have a lot of good memories of films seen at the cinema. I vividly remember watching The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in the cinema with my mum and gran. I was only ten years old and I remember clinging to my mum’s arm whenever the black riders appeared and when the Cave Troll came along during the Mines of Moria scene. Lord of the Rings has been a love of mine ever since and seeing the films in the cinema was a big part of that.

Yeah, I don’t always get to see everything I want to at the cinema, it might be because I’m busy or that my local cinemas don’t show everything but then that’s what’s so great about online services like Netflix. Still, you can’t beat sitting in the dark, in front of a big screen with a load of other film fans.

REVIEW: Free Fire (2016)

In Boston in 1978 a gun deal in an abandoned warehouse between two gangs goes wrong and turns into a shootout as everyone tries to survive the night.

Free Fire is hilarious. Its humour might not be for everyone because it’s kind of stupid and ridiculous but it works really well. The script is razor sharp and witty, every line is brilliant and the cast just look like they’re having a great time.

Sharlto Copley does slightly mad and/or weird very well. Every line out of his mouth was perfection and had me laughing every time. He plays Vernon, the gun dealer, and Vernon has a bit of a screw loose even before the shooting starts. The rest of the cast is great but Sam Riley’s Stevo was my favourite because he was completely off the wall but kind of innocent at the same time.

This isn’t a film that delves into character backstories or anything, there’s the odd line to help flesh out a character but you don’t really need to know anything about them as it’s just focused on one night in a warehouse and how they all react to this shootout they’re in. They’re personalities and values shine through the mad situation they’re in and that’s all you need.

I don’t usually talk about sound design in my film reviews (mainly because I don’t usually notice anything especially interesting sound-related in what I watch) but I’ve got to talk about it in regards to Free Fire. There’s really clever things done in Free Fire with the dialogue. You can hear voices shouting out and you can tell where the characters are in regards to what’s on screen because it comes from all angles. There’s often a lot going on onscreen so to have the sound like that helps ground you and it’s definitely the sort of thing you get the full effect of when sitting in a cinema.

Free Fire is completely mad, absurd and hilarious. It’s a lot of fun and is well worth the price of a cinema ticket. 5/5.

REVIEW: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

A team of scientists led by Bill Randa (John Goodman) aided by a unit of soldiers led by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) set out to explore an uncharted island in the Pacific but they soon find themselves outgunned as they venture into the domain of the mighty Kong.

Kong: Skull Island is a lot of fun. It’s an action/war/monster movie hybrid that manages to work most the time. It’s an action movie with colour! Not to the same extent of films like Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Pacific Rim (2013) but enough to make it noticeable in a good way. The stuff it does with smoke, fire and shadow is also brilliant, the scale of Kong and the other creatures living on the island comes across great and the film knows how to amp up the suspense.

Kong is brilliant. The scenes with him smashing helicopters or creatures are thrilling and then there’s the quieter moments when you see Kong just going about his life and being a good King. It’s brilliant animation work and every moment he’s on screen you can’t take your eyes off him.

The cast is a proper star-studded cast. Some have more to do than others, for instance Tom Hiddleston’s James Conrad is a tracker and is ex-SAS who does seem to be pretty amazing at everything he turns his hand to, while the majority of the soldiers are expendable and don’t always have decent character beats. Brie Larson was great, she played Mason Weaver a war photographer who thinks there’s something up with the expedition and she has good chemistry with pretty much everyone on screen. That being said, a lot of the characters are archetypes. That might not work for some people but it worked for me, most still have a moment where it makes you care about them and you only need

There are jokes in Kong: Skull Island, some fall flat especially at the beginning when it seems as if the film is finding its feet, but the rest of the time they work for the most part – or if they miss the mark, there’s so many monsters and fighting going on then you don’t really notice. The jokes do become more frequent when we meet Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) and his lines tend to work more often than not.

The soundtrack is also worth mentioning. It’s great, full of popular songs from the 1970’s but they don’t always fit what’s happening on screen – there’s only so many shots of someone switching on a record player to show why there’s suddenly some David Bowie or Creedence Clearwater Revival playing before it comes a little tedious.

Kong: Skull Island is great fun. The CGI is ace, the action scenes are fun and exciting and it’s pure, fun entertainment for less than two hours. Oh and there is a post-credits scene and it’s worth sticking around for. 4/5.

REVIEW: Logan (2017)

logan-movie-posterIn the near future, an older and weary Logan (Hugh Jackman) is caring for and hiding an ailing Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) on the Mexican border. But their isolation is disturbed when a young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen) arrives, bring dangerous forces with her.

Logan is a magnificent film quite unlike anything in the superhero movie genre we’ve seen before. It’s set in a near dystopian future, most mutants are gone and those who are left are in hiding, and the imagery and setting often feel more like a Western than a superhero film. This almost change of genre makes Logan a much smaller, character driven film. While there are other characters, both good and bad, throughout the film it really is all about Logan, Charles and Laura, their relationships and their journeys.

Also with Logan being a more personal film, there appears to be less CGI. While it’s naïve to think there’s not a lot (every time Logan unsheathes his claws there’s computer work there) it feels more real and there’s not the usual explosions and over the top superhero fight scenes. That being said, there is definitely a lot of violence in Logan (it is a 15 after all) but while it is brutal it isn’t gratuitous. There is also more swearing which, like the violence and both Logan’s and Laura’s rage, fits the characters and film perfectly. Logan never goes over the top with what it’s “allowed” to do with a 15 certificate, every choice is true to the characters and to the story.

In Logan you get to see a different side to the titular character. He’s older, a drinker, his body doesn’t heal like it used to, he’s not a happy man but he’s trying to make a living and keep those he cares about safe. It’s incredible to think that Hugh Jackman has been playing this character for 17 years and in Logan he gives his best performance, mainly because we get to see Logan a completely different man compared to the previous films. Life has gotten Logan down and it takes a lot for him to care for anyone or anything and he definitely doesn’t care about himself. Patrick Stewart also gives a great and very different performance as Professor X – he’s forgetful, he’s cranky and is very much an old man in need of help. Then there’s Dafne Keen as Laura. She is a captivating presence, feral but also has this innocence making Laura someone you’re wary of but also someone you want to protect. She holds her own against Stewart and Jackman and when it comes to the fight scenes she manages to be both awe-inspiring and terrifying. Dafne Keen is an actress to watch.

Logan is the perfect swansong for Stewart and Jackman as well as being a brilliant and unique addition to the X-Men franchise. Though Logan is a part of the X-Men universe (a universe where the continuity is pretty wonky to say the least) you don’t need to have seen every single X-Men film to understand and enjoy it.

Logan is tense, exciting and thrilling. It has moments of humour that never lessens the stakes and it has moments of heartbreak as you watch these characters’ struggle to achieve what the set out to do. Not to speak too soon but I feel Logan is (hopefully) a game-changer in the superhero genre, showing not everything has to be connected to a wider universe and character driven stories work just as well – in fact good stories full stop are what the superhero genre needs. Simple, character focused stories with a good plot automatically make a good film, while I enjoy pretty much all superhero fare it would be nice for the studios and filmmakers to remember that. Hopefully Logan will join the likes of Spider-Man 2 (2004) and The Dark Knight (2008) as one of The Best Superhero Movies ever made. 5/5.