Idris Elba

REVIEW: The Dark Tower (2017)

Jake (Tom Taylor) has dreams of another world, of a Dark Tower, a Gunslinger (Idris Elba) called Roland who chases the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). But when Jake discovers a portal to another world, he realises that his dreams are real and he joins Roland on his quest to save the Dark Tower and defeat the Man in Black.

The Dark Tower is a fantasy adventure based on The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I’ve only read the first book (you can find my review here) but there is a lot of stuff crammed into this film for its 90-minute runtime. This film is disjointed. It has weird editing in a single scene, cutting between conversations when there doesn’t appear to be any need to, never mind the fact that it jumps from character, to place and there’s often no real connection between them.

Idris Elba is great in this and, from reading only one book in the series, I feel he does the best with what he’s given and is actually a really good Roland. McConaughey on the other hand, just seems to be playing himself. There’s no menace in him and there’s no real tension between him and Elba, he’s just there.

There are action sequences, and for the most part they look OK but some of the CGI is bad and noticeable, especially during the fight between Roland and the Man in Black. The problem is they’re never particularly exciting, they just happen. Also, the most interesting moments are all featured in the trailer so there are very few surprises.

The main problem with The Dark Tower was that it was dull and forgettable. There’s a lot of stuff that could be interesting but is never developed so you’re left with a fantasy world that’s pretty bland. The Dark Tower drags and Idris Elba’s performance is not enough to elevate it. 2/5.

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REVIEW: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

star trek beyond movie posterWhen responding to a distress signal in the far reaches of uncharted space, the crew of the USS Enterprise a drawn into a trap by the ruthless and mysterious Krall (Idris Elba). Stranded on a barren planet, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew must work together to find a way to save the universe.

What Star Trek Beyond gets really right, is the characters. The crew of the Starship Enterprise are supposed to be like a family and that really comes through here. It helps that unlike the previous two Star Trek films where they were primarily focused on the relationship between Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto), this time they and the rest of the crew are split up into teams that you don’t normally see. It’s a clever move by script writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung as it allows the film to explore different character dynamics and still gives each character time to shine.

When Scotty (Simon Pegg) ends up stranded, he meets Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), someone who has also been stranded and is fighting to survive. Jaylah is a brilliant character. She’s a badass, she’s funny and she’s also really interesting. She fits in well with the crew of the Enterprise and while she may be a new character, there is neither too much focus on her nor is she pushed into the background.

One of the best character dynamics presented in Star Trek Beyond is that of Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock. They must work together and you see how their personalities clash but they still respect each other. Both Urban and Quinto are funny and give great performances. While Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho) may have less to do than their crewmates, they all still shine and have a moment or two of awesomeness. To be honest, one of the best things about the rebooted Star Trek movies is the casting – it has been spot on and each actor brings a lot to their role even when the script doesn’t give them so much.

The script really is great as it combines action, humour and the heart of Star Trek which is hope and unity. There’s never a dull moment in Star Trek Beyond because the film starts right in the middle of a mission and from there there’s always something happening. Justin Lin does a great job directing. He has proved with his outings as director of four of the Fast & Furious films that he can handle action sequences but with Star Trek Beyond there are also quieter moments where the camera barely moves at all. Plus, like the Fast & Furious franchise Star Trek, in amongst the explosions and death-defying situations it really is all about family.

Krall is an interesting villain. He’s foreboding yet pretty mysterious throughout most of the film but when his motivations become clear it offers another layer to his character and everything he has said and done previously makes even more sense. Idris Elba is two of the most threatening and potentially scary villains this year, Krall and Shere Khan in The Jungle Book, and both times you don’t really see his face. That’s some acting.

Star Trek Beyond was truly wonderful. Full of action, humour and brilliant character moments. It is definitely one of the better Star Trek films, not just in the rebooted series but including the previous ten Star Trek films as well. 5/5.

REVIEW: Second Coming (2014)

second-coming movie poster1A drama focused on a normal family living in London. When Jax (Nadine Marshall) discovers she’s unexpectedly pregnant, it causes a strain on her family as her husband Mark (Idris Elba) doubts her faithfulness.

Second Coming is a family drama with some magical realism elements as Jax struggles to cope with her life and the situation she finds herself in. She doesn’t always trust her own mind and finds herself snapping at her young son JJ (Kai Francis Lewis).

Second Coming is a bit slow and it relies heavily on the characters so it won’t be for everyone but at least the actors all give wonderful performances. Young actor Kai Francis Lewis give a brilliant performance who is just a normal boy who daydreams in class and is fascinated by birds. You could say there’s metaphors in the scenes with JJ and a black bird if you really want to look into things.

The script is pretty great as all the conversations between various members of the family feel natural, both the arguments and the stilted conversations across the dinner table. That being said, Second Coming is moody and atmospheric and a very slow drama that has few major moments of conflict.

Second Coming is a slow, thoughtful drama that won’t be for everyone but it does have some great performances. 3/5.

REVIEW: Bastille Day (2016)

bastille day film posterIn Paris, pickpocket Michael Mason (Richard Madden) becomes involved with a terrorist plot when he steals a bag, unaware that it contains a bomb. Tough CIA agent Sean Briar (Idris Elba) must find Mason and figure out the truth before the bad guys and the French authorities close in.

Bastille Day is quite a bit of fun. It’s fast-paced and having characters like Mason and Briar who are complete opposites forced to work together gives you some great odd-couple moments. The way their scenes are shot makes the most out of their height difference and body differences which adds to the awkwardness to their interactions.

Bastille Day is a fast-paced, action-packed film. It’s not got the most solid or original plot but you get pulled along for the ride so you don’t really notice. The action sequences in Bastille Day are definitely a highlight of the film. There’s a rooftop chase early on into the film that’s exciting and a close-confined and brutal fight in the back of a van you can actually follow what is happening. When the action pauses to pull the plot along, that’s where it struggles a bit.

One thing I did appreciate about Bastille Day (and any film that does this), is that whenever there are characters whose first language isn’t English, and since the films set in Paris there’s a lot of French characters, they actually speak in their own language when not surrounded by English-speaking characters and the audience has subtitles to read. It makes sense that one French person, talking to another French person would speak in French, not in English with a dodgy French accent.

It’s kind of a cheesy movie but Elba’s presence and charisma is what helps hold the whole thing together and makes it enjoyable. 4/5.