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REVIEW: The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

Top bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is called in to protect hit man Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) who must testify at the International Court of Justice to put away war criminal Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). With Dukhovich’s men on their tail, they have to work together to get there on time, if they don’t kill each other first.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a lot of fun. There’s fewer laughs in the first 15mins compared to the rest of the film so I was a bit uncertain to start with but once it had set up who’s who the film sped along at almost breakneck speed.

For a film that’s two hours long, it really doesn’t feel it. It goes from one action sequence to the next, and while there are moments when there’s a lull in the action, it allows for funny conversations between Bryce and Kincaid. These sometimes aim to be touching, with Kincaid talking about how much he loves his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek), but they verge on being cringey sometimes though they’re nearly always funny. The conversations and banter between the two really show how good their chemistry is between Reynolds and Jackson. Them two being an unlikely team is what really works in this film. Bryce and Kincaid push each other’s buttons and they both grow while still both being good with their fists and a gun. They’re the kind of characters that are polar opposites and who like to think they don’t need any help, but they really do and that’s where the humour comes.

My initial Twitter review of The Hitman’s Bodyguard was “it’s ridiculously fun and stupidly funny” and to be honest that’s the best way to describe it. It’s over the top and ridiculous, with a lot of laugh out loud moments and some great shootouts, fights and car chases. All this stuff mixed together and with great chemistry between the unlikely duo makes for a good time at the cinema (or in front of the TV if you wait for the DVD). 4/5.

REVIEW: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

After the human military comes to kill Caesar (Andy Serkis), he must wrestle with the fact that the ever-looming war between apes and humans is finally here.

If you are expecting an out-and-out war film here, you’ll be disappointed. Yes, there are soldiers and there’s conflict between the apes and humans but the film is more than that. It’s an intelligent, thoughtful look at humanity and at a group of creatures who just want to be left alone. The conversations between Caesar and The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) are really interesting because they are two smart, capable leaders who have their own kind to protect.

It kind of goes without saying but the motion capture and computer work in War for the Planet of the Apes is phenomenal. The actors performing as the apes do incredible work as do the digital artists – you really feel and understand the emotions that play out on these creatures faces. It’s easy to forget that they aren’t really “there”.

War for the Planet of the Apes is an incredible film. It builds on the previous two films and adds more depth to the characters we already know and interesting dynamics with new ones. Caesar feels so much older and battle-worn compared to when we last saw him but then there’s a new character like Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) who’s weird quirks brings some much needed humour to the film. Because War for the Planet of the Apes is often a bleak and tough film. The characters, and the audience, go through so much that those moments of humour are needed to break the tension.

The relationship between Caesar, fellow chimp Rocket (Terry Notary) and orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval) is delved into even more in this film. It’s fascinating to see not just Caesar’s growth across the trilogy but theirs, along with the community they’ve built in the woods.

War for the Planet of the Apes is a solid, poignant story of hope, conflict and loss. There’s a sense of tension and foreboding throughout the film and it puts your emotions through the wringer. It is an amazing end to a trilogy that just got better and better with each instalment. This trilogy is up there with the best of them. 5/5.

REVIEW: Lethal Weapon – Series One

Roger Murtagh (Damon Wayans) is a good cop, trying to keep a low stress level in his life but then he’s partnered with Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) a slightly unhinged cop who doesn’t really have anything left to lose so throws himself into dangerous situations. They’re an unlikely duo but they make it work.

The great thing about Lethal Weapon is the characters and their relationships. As the series progresses Riggs and Murtagh learn how to work together and even start to care about each other. They cause destruction almost everywhere they go but they end up getting the bad guy so it kind of works out in the end.

The supporting cast is great too. Brooks Avery (Kevin Rahm) is the police Captain and I love how the show doesn’t make him incompetent just so it can have a couple of often reckless heroes. He’s Murtagh’s former partner so they know each other really well and there’s interesting dynamics now he’s Murtagh’s boss. Other recurring characters in the police department are Scorsese (Jonathan Fernandez) the pathologist and forensic technician, Detectives Sonya Bailey (Michelle Mitchenor) and Alejandro Cruz (Richard Cabral), and police psychologist Dr Maureen Cahill (Jordana Brewster). All of them are interesting characters and Cahill gets the most development besides Avery. The other major supporting character is Trish (Keesha Sharp) Murtagh’s wife. She’s her own kind of badass as she’s an amazing lawyer and takes Riggs into her home with no reservations.

Yes, the crime that needs to be solved each week is usually a murder (and a lot of women tend to be scantily clad and/or end up dead) but there is a story arc throughout the series focusing on drug cartels and Riggs’ past. The show blends crime drama with both action and comedy almost seamlessly – it’s one of those shows that’s a fun, easy-watch but still pulls you in and gets you attached to the characters.

The show is a lot of fun. It’s entertaining in a sometimes over the top way, and the banter between Riggs and Murtagh is laugh out loud funny. To be honest, there was not one episode that didn’t either make me laugh or at least smile. Both Riggs and Murtagh are very quick witted and also smart and it’s always nice watching competent people do their job.

The Lethal Weapon TV show is inspired by the film series of the same name so that may put some people off because you know, we all hate reboots. I don’t have any attachment to the film series (I watched the first film as a part of my Uni degree but can’t remember much about it) and I feel the TV show is super fun and engaging so even if you are a film fan, you should at least give the first couple of episodes a go.

I’m happy it’s been announced there’s going to be a second season. While it is mostly a villain-of-the-week kind of show, there are some character and plot threads that have been left hanging. I’m looking forward to seeing where the show and characters go next and as long as it keeps its sense of fun in amongst the emotional drama, I’m sure I’ll continue to love it.

REVIEW: Baby Driver (2017)

Working for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) as a getaway driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the best in business, that is until he meets waitress Debora (Lily James) and wants to get out of the whole shady business altogether.

Baby Driver is a fun film. I thought it was fine but I did not love it. In part I feel that’s because I’ve come to realise I’m just not a huge Edgar Wright fan, I’ve never hated any of his films but they never really leave a lasting impression and I do not love them like so many other people seem to.

I feel Baby Driver can be summed up by two things – the car chases and the soundtrack. The car chase sequences are thrilling and exhilarating and I liked how they always showed off Baby’s skills in different ways. The soundtrack is full of catchy, recognisable songs and I did like how the film used the soundtrack (and sound in general) however having a film that constantly had a backing song was a bit grating at times.

Baby has tinnitus, meaning he constantly has a ringing in his ears, and he uses music to block it out. It was the way the film showed how Baby heard sounds, like how it got quieter when he took an earbud out so it was like you were in his shoes throughout the film, that I really liked. The whip fast editing that went with the music was cool too.

Baby Driver felt like style over substance to me. This is a film about a getaway driver so naturally there’s heists (one of my favourite things in any type of story ever) but I found myself no really being engaged with it. I think this was down to the characters. All the cast did a fine job but I didn’t get attached to or particularly like any of the characters except for Baby’s foster dad Joseph (CJ Jones).

Baby Driver is a sharp, fast-paced film. It’s full of action and thrills but it lacks that final punch of something great for me. 3/5.

REIVEW: Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Humans and Transformers are at war and Optimus Prime is missing. The key to the survival of both species is buried in the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth – inventor and friend to the autobots Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) must find the truth to save them all.

The Last Knight is not a good film. In fact, you could call it a bad film. You could also call it dull, tedious and, at times, incoherent. Now while some people may be like “oh what a surprise! Michael Bay-Transformers films suck” I went into it hoping I’d like it. I do have a soft spot for the franchise. Transformers (2007) is a fun, decent film that’s very enjoyable – the rest are all varying degrees of quality but you can generally have some fun with them. Admittedly that ended for me with Age of Extinction (2014) but I’m an optimistic kind of person.

The Last Knight is a nice looking film, all the CGI looks great and all the transformers look different and it wasn’t too difficult to follow which transformer was which in big action sequences. That’s the thing, I could follow the robot fights but when there was people running about, that was not edited well. It was often hard to tell where people are in relation to each other and whatever the danger is and also there were times where it felt like a shot or two had been forgotten as a character would pop up somewhere and you’d be like “I did not see you go from place A to place B?!”

Also, as a small pet peeve, The Last Knight has some of the worst UK geography I’ve ever seen. Whether it was driving down The Mall in London one way, then the other (without showing Buckingham Palace and no sign they turned around) or the fact when it was set in Oxford, historian Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) was giving a tour to students and it made it look like Bodleian Library was a part of the Museum of Natural History when it’s in fact a 10 minute walk down the road.

I did like how the character of Colonel William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) returned to the franchise. He’s working for the government task force that are hunting down transformers so there’s some interesting conflict there as he knew and worked with some of the autobots – unfortunately this potentially interesting character arc and conflict isn’t really explored at all.

The Last Knight generally looks great but its let down by a script that has many, many jokes that do not land and any conversation feels awkward. All the human cast gives fine performances and in the case of Sir Anthony Hopkins, a very weird performance. Sir Edmund Burton is an eccentric guy who is part of a secret society that’s known about transformers for hundreds of years and Anthony Hopkins give a strangely fascinating performance – it’s just not the sort of thing you’d expect Hopkins to do.

The main problem with The Last Knight is that while it had a lot of stuff going on, I found myself bored. I was looking at my watch during the final showdown because it was not keeping my attention and I was just waiting for it to be over. I also found myself wanting to be home watching the first Transformers film as at least that’s fun.

That’s the thing with Transformers: The Last Knight – the main emotion it brought out of me was apathy. I just didn’t care about these characters, both human and robot, and while it looked pretty good, sometimes it was too chaotic and incoherent for me. 1/5.

REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (2017)

Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) past catches up with him when undead Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) and his crew are out for revenge. Jack sets out to find the trident of Poseidon as it might be the only thing to save him.

The Jack Sparrow you meet in this film is not like the one seen in the previous films, especially the first three. Those films he acts a bit drunk and is weird but he’s still a crazy kind of smart that he can see the moves ahead and surprise people. In Salazar’s Revenge he’s a bit past his prime, is very drunk and if he does achieve something it’s more by accident than any type of skill. Unfortunately, it makes Sparrow annoying as the film focuses more on the slapstick humour of the character than his wit and it’s kind of sad to see him like that.

Joining Sparrow on his adventure is Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) and Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) who each have their own agendas for searching for the trident. Both are fun additions to the franchise and each do things to further the plot and seem to have their own character arcs. I did like Henry a lot, he’s his own person but you can see both of his parent’s attributes in him which is nice.

This film has a messy plot with a lot of characters and motivations. There’s a witch (Golshifteh Farahani) that serves no real point than delivering information to other characters in two scenes and then is never seen again, and there’s the British Navy once again but that plot thread is almost an afterthought.

One of the problems with this film is there’s a fair few times that the plot and character backstory contradicts what you’ve already learnt in the previous four films. This might not be as noticeable if you haven’t seen them in a while but watching this film less than a week after concluding my rewatch, I noticed multiple things that didn’t add up.

On the most part, the action looks good and is fun, the guillotine sequence is a bright point in the film but it gets very CGI heavy as the film progresses. Salazar is a menacing villain, though admittedly he’s a bit hard to understand sometimes, and the scenes between him and Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) are pretty tense.

Salazar’s Revenge lacks the charm of the first film and while it brings back some old characters which helps add to the emotional impact of the film, it’s not that memorable. 2/5.

REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

I wasn’t planning on rewatching and potentially reviewing all the Pirates of the Caribbean films in the run up to the fifth film’s release but I’ve seen trailers for Salazar’s Revenge every time I’ve been to the cinema recently so it gave me the craving to rewatch the series.

When governor’s daughter Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is kidnapped by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) of the Black Pearl, blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) teams up with eccentric pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to save her.

The Curse of the Black Pearl is Johnny Depp’s first outing as Captain Jack Sparrow and it’s clear to see why Sparrow and Depp’s performance has kind of become iconic over the past ten plus years. Jack Sparrow is one of those characters who’s become a favourite to so many people. He permanently appears drunk and clueless but he often surprises everyone by having a mad plan all along. He’s funny, somewhat charming and good with a sword.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is such good fun. It’s full of action, epic duels and it does that magical thing of balancing action and comedy superbly. It’s also a very quotable film and I spend most of my time mouthing the lines along with the characters. Depp, Knightley and Bloom all have great chemistry and it’s wonderful when they’re on screen together. Everyone gives it their all, Barbossa is a formidable villain and Norrington (Jack Davenport) is surprisingly sympathetic.

I can’t not mention the score. Composed by Klaus Badelt with input from Hans Zimmer, the Pirates of the Caribbean score has become one of the most recognisable scores in recent years. It perfectly captures the fun and excitement of the film and has kind of become the theme for anything pirate related.

The special effects used on Barbossa’s crew still look pretty good over a decade later and perhaps that’s because they are used sparingly. The film waits to reveal the secret of the curse and even once it has, it still makes the moments when you see the effects of the curse truly count.

I just love Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl! It is such an enjoyable film that I do not get tired of rewatching. I honestly think the word fun is the best word to describe, The Curse of the Black Pearl. It is one of those classic, action-adventure, fun for all the family kind of films and over the years it hasn’t lost its charm. 5/5.