film review

REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

When the Avengers and their allies learn of Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his plan to bring balance to the universe by destroying half of it, they must attempt to put a stop to his plan.

Avengers: Infinity War is the culmination of ten years of planning and films and it really does pay off. The way the various characters are introduced feels organic, as do the various team ups that happen during the film. Seeing these characters interact is a joy and there’s a lot of moments on humour as they either clash or find common ground.

Infinity War is Thanos’s is film. He is the biggest and baddest villain featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. He is a formidable foe and from the very start of the film you can see how powerful and destructive he is, and from then on you know the heroes are in grave danger. Between Josh Brolin’s performance and the computer wizardry that brought Thanos alive, Thanos was an imposing presence, even when he wasn’t on the screen. Also, you understood his motivation as the film spent time showing the reasoning behind his actions and making him more than just the bogeyman we’ve caught glimpses of in previous films.

The Russo brothers do a great job bring all the characters together and balancing the action, drama and humour. Because that’s the thing with Infinity War, it still has a lot of laugh out loud moments, most of which are from the character interactions, but it also has a real sense of threat as none of these characters are safe from Thanos. How they juggled the action has to be commended and there’s a lot going on at once, with different characters in different places, but no plotline felt dull compared to another. The story flowed really well and while there is a lot of action sequences and fights, there’s still small character moments that make this epic team up special.

Avengers: Infinity War is thrilling, shocking and just all out incredible. It’s runtime of over two and a half hours goes by before you realise as there’s so much happening and there’s never a dull moment. There’s surprises throughout the film and the climatic showdown is brilliant. Avengers: Infinity War is an epic and a more than satisfying viewing experience – there’s a good chance it will leave you speechless. 5/5.

I’ve done my best to keep this review as vague as possible as Infinity War is definitely the kind of film you should go into knowing as little as possible – it’s truly an experience. My spoiler-filled review will be up later this week.

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REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

My original review of Thor: Ragnarok from October 2017 is here.

Imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is reunited with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) but he must find a way to escape and return to Asgard, where Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, is set to takeover.

Thor: Ragnarok is a weird and wonderful comedy superhero film. It’s bright and colourful, with wacky characters, costumes and settings. It’s very different to the previous Thor films which can be a little jarring but once you accept that it’s showing a different side to these characters, it’s a fun ride.

It’s the characters and their interactions that makes Thor: Ragnarok. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back and once again you’re not entirely sure if he can be trusted, but through his conversations with Thor you see a different side to their relationship. There’s so many moments in this film where you can see their history and how they really are brothers who have grown up together. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is a hard-drinking scavenger and a really interesting new character. Her banter with Thor, and playfulness with the Hulk are unexpected but great. When Thor, Loki, Valkyrie and Hulk (and also Bruce Banner when he makes an appearance) are together, or any combinations of thereof, their chemistry is clear to see.

The action sequences are a lot of fun and exciting. Seeing Thor and Hulk battle is a real joy to watch while the battle for Asgard between Thor, his companions and Hela is one of the best third acts in a Marvel movie. It’s funny, compelling and has a fair few unexpected moments.

There are some uneven moments in Thor: Ragnarok when it comes to balancing the comedy with the drama. Mostly it works, but a couple of times a joke undercuts the emotion of a scene when is a shame.

Thor: Ragnarok is a lot of fun. It’s bizarre but still manages to have some of the best character development we’ve seen for Thor for ages. It also has more serious themes like colonialism and refugees, while still being very funny. 4/5.

REVIEW: Talvar (2015)

When a teenage girl and her family’s servant are found dead, the police investigation is incompetent from the outset, contaminating evidence and accusing a controversial suspect. When experienced investigator Ashwin Kumar (Irrfan Khan) joins the case, he must make sense of the little evidence available and several conflicting theories about what really happened.

Talvar is a fictionalised and dramatized version of the 2008 Noida double murder case, a case I personally hadn’t heard of before but one that got the media into a frenzy and all people connected to the case were put on trial by the media before the police or courts could do much else.

You see the night of the murders retold multiple times from different perspectives. Each one using various witness testimonies but also disregarding some other piece of evidence that doesn’t fit the prevailing theory. As the scenes are so different each time, it never feels like you’re retracing old ground, and each flashback serves a purpose.

There’s no getting around the fact that the police originally at the crime scene, did a terrible job, not calling in forensic teams and letting family member, neighbours and journalists walk into the crime scenes with no bother. It’s quite incredible how bad these men were at their jobs. From then on, the film does a good job at presenting all the evidence and suspects in a largely unbiased way, leaving you to decide who you believe.

With so many members of the police force being either unlikable on incompetent (or both) Ashwin is a beacon of sanity in this circus that is an investigation. He’s smart and sympathetic and you can feel his exasperation with this almost impossible case and the bureaucracy surrounding it.

Talvar is a gripping mystery albeit it a frustrating one due to the inept police work that could lead to such a heart-breaking and horrible situation for this family who has lost their daughter. 4/5.

REVIEW: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

My original review of Spider-Man: Homecoming from July 2017 is here.

After battling with (and against) the Avengers in Berlin, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) struggles to return to his everyday high school life as he continues to be a superhero. When Peter stumbles across a group of thieves with high-tech weaponry, he finds himself on the trail of the Vulture (Michael Keaton).

Spider-Man: Homecoming is an origin story without rehashing old ground we’ve seen before in the previous Spider-Man films featuring Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. We know about Uncle Ben and the radioactive spider and don’t need to see that again, so instead this is an origin story in terms of Peter growing, learning and becoming the hero he can be.

Tom Holland is a great Peter Parker and a great Spider-Man. He’s nerdy and funny while still being somewhat naïve when it comes to how unfair the world can be. Peter’s still learning how to be a hero, and he makes some pretty big mistakes along the way, but he’s so earnest in wanting to help people and do the right thing.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) does make a couple of appearances in Spider-Man: Homecoming but it’s in a mentor-role to Peter. Peter desperately wants to impress Tony and to be a part of the Avengers, while Tony wants Peter to be a better person than he is and not get caught up in anything too dangerous.

Michael Keaton’s the Vulture is a compelling and imitating villain. From his first scene, you get where this guy is coming from. He’s a working-class guy who wants to take care of his family but is knocked down by bureaucracy and people like Tony Stark. Michael Keaton is brilliant as Vulture, I’m pretty sure he never shouts, but that makes him all the more intimidating. Vulture’s goal isn’t to end or take over the world, it’s a much more personal goal which makes the conflict between him and Spider-Man compelling.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a coming of age story, with high school comedy moments, while still being a superhero movie. It blends these elements together really well and it’s a fun film with great characters. The relationship between Peter and his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) is the best and all the kids and teachers in Peter’s high school feel like the sort of people you’d meet in high school without being cliché.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is as charming and fun as it’s titular character and that makes it a great film, with a lot of heart. 4/5.

REVIEW: Beyond Skyline (2017)

When LA detective Mark Corley (Frank Grillo) and his son Trent (Jonny Weston) get caught up in an alien invasion, they must fight to survive.

Beyond Skyline is a kind of sequel to 2010’s Skyline which featured different characters but the same alien invasion. You don’t need to have seen Skyline as Beyond Skyline it is its own thing (a thing that’s a lot better than the original), but it does tie to some of the events of the previous film surprisingly well.

Where Beyond Skyline really succeeds compared to its predecessor is that it has a core group of characters you actually care about. Mark and his son have a fraught relationship, but Mark will do anything to keep Trent safe – Frank Grillo is as great and as charismatic as always. There’s subway conductor Audrey (Bojana Novakovic), and freedom fighter Sua (Iko Uwais) and his sister Kanya (Pamelyn Chee), all of whom getting the lightest of backstory but due to their chemistry with each other, and the actors talents, make them characters you want to survive.

The action-sequences are top notch, especially the ones featuring Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, both of whom star in martial art, action film The Raid. The fights are interesting, well-shot and thrilling. The fact that it’s often physical beings these characters are fighting rather than CG-creations, makes it a more authentic encounter, and one that feels like it has more consequences to it.

There’s a good mix of digital and practical affects in Beyond Skyline. The CGI is generally quite good, and the practical effects are very creative. Together they bring to life these alien creatures and their ships, making them a menacing adversary to the people on earth.

Beyond Skyline is fun, exciting and pure bonkers sci-fi. Yes, the actual plot might not hold up under close scrutiny, but it’s a fast-paced adventure that’s thrilling and has a surprising number of emotional beats. 5/5.

REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (2017)

You can read my original review of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 from May 2017 here.

The Guardians are using their fame to make money, when Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father Ego (Kurt Russell) arrives in their lives. The Guardians struggle to keep their newfound family together as they attempt to unravel the mystery of Peter’s father.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a bright, fast-paced adventure. The planets, characters and costumes are all vibrant and unique to where they are in the galaxy. This film really does show the scope of the universe these characters are travelling around in as you get a sense of distance between planets, and what it means to jump from one to another.

While there’s still a lot of jokes in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, though not all of them hit the mark, the actual story and insights into these characters is quite sad. This team of unlikely heroes are slowly becoming attached to one another, and so many of them are unsure of how to deal with that. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) pushes people away, constantly having to compete with Peter and antagonising everyone in order to get a reaction. While you knew that Drax’s (Dave Bautista) family had been killed from the first film, through Mantis (Pom Klementieff) you get to see past his stoic appearance and see the pain and sadness he’s constantly carrying around inside him.

There’s so many moments between various characters where as they’re shouting at one another, they reveal how they’re really feeling, and how they in fact care about or understand the other person. These moments give Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 layers as beneath all the colours, jokes and space battles, there’s these broken characters who are slowly becoming a family.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a lot of fun with great action sequences, but perhaps because the first film was such an unexpected delight the sequel doesn’t quite hit the same levels of greatness. 3/5.

REVIEW: A Quiet Place (2018)

A family must live in silence to avoid detection from deadly creatures who hunt by sound.

A Quiet Place is incredible. It’s a film that draws you in and your eyes are glued to the screen throughout. It’s tense, scary and thrilling. This family can never let their guard down and as the film progresses, neither can you.

The way sound is used in A Quiet Place is inventive and effective. The daughter (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf and when the camera pans between her and her brother (Noah Jupe) you can hear the difference between the silence she hears, and the ambient noise he can hear. It makes it clear that there’s a difference between silence and quiet and no matter what these people do, if they’re moving around or even breathing heavily, they will be making some noise. And thus, the tension is always there.

The cast is superb – Emily Blunt has a few standout scenes – and it’s noticeable how great they all are because as humans our main form of communication is speech and in this post-apocalyptic world it cannot happen, or these people will die. This cast must show emotion and thought through body language and you can tell exactly how they are all feeling. The family’s main form of communication is sign language, so they do talk to each other, but not in the way the vast majority of us are used to.

That’s the thing about A Quiet Place. It’s a stressful watch but it’s also surprisingly moving. This film is about a family, about parents who will do anything to keep their children safe and the love they have for one another.

A Quiet Place is a fantastic film. It’s terrifying yet emotional and you’ll be on the edge of your seat throughout, but it’s well worth all that. 5/5.