Kevin Costner

REVIEW: Waterworld (1995)

In a future where the polar ice-caps have melted, and the Earth appears to be entirely submerged underwater, a mariner (Kevin Costner) struggles to survive and fight off outlaws as he reluctantly agrees to help a woman (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and girl (Tina Majorino) try and find dry land.

The world of Waterworld is fascinating and that is mainly because of the amazing sets and practical effects. This is a film that was clearly filmed on the open ocean, and the boats various characters have all feel lived in and an extension of the characters themselves. Especially the mariners boat, it’s an interesting ship and is clearly something he has adapted and maintained over many years. It’s made up from a motely assortment of materials and the stuff inside it is a mixture of stuff from the old world and equipment he’s made.

Because of how the ships and characters clothes are all patched up, Waterworld almost feels timeless. The action set pieces still look good and that’s due to the practical effects, there’s fire and explosions everywhere and you believe the characters are right in the thick of it. The action is entertaining and it’s easy to follow, with there being so many wide shots so you can see jet skis jumping over walls, or the mariner dashing around his boat, to take out the bad guys.

While the sets, costumes and the production design are all very good and help set this dystopian scene, the story and characters aren’t so great. The acting isn’t particularly good, Costner says so many of his lines in a monotone, that while the mariner is supposed to be a reclusive character, there’s not much to him that makes him compelling. Dennis Hopper plays Deacon, the villain of the piece and he spends most of his time shouting and is more like a pantomime villain than a real threat.

The story itself is predictable but the scope of Waterworld has to be admired. 3/5.

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REVIEW: Hidden Figures (2016)

hidden-figures-posterThe true story of a team of African-American women mathematicians including Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) who played a vital part in NASA during the early years of the American space programme.

Each of the three leads are brilliant in their roles. They feel like friends who laugh together and support each other but they are also so incredibly smart. Their chemistry is palpable. Katherine is a human computer and can figure out maths that hasn’t even been invented yet, Dorothy is wise enough to get ahead of the game, learn things like IBM computing and make her and her colleagues invaluable to NASA, and Mary wants to be an engineer and while her boss, a Polish Jew, can see her potential, she fights when every door seems to be shut in her face.

The supporting cast is great too. Jim Parsons’ Paul Stafford is one of the mathematicians who doesn’t like Katherine is smarter than him and just about every other man in the room, Kirsten Dunst’s Vivian Mitchell is Dorothy’s boss and Kevin Costner’s Al Harrison is in charge of the division that works out how to put a man in space and bring him down again.

Hidden Figures isn’t a particularly surprising film as it has the same standard formula just about any true story film has – but that doesn’t diminish how brilliant it is. Hidden Figures knows exactly what it is and it doesn’t need huge twists because the history and these women’s lives are interesting enough.

On a purely aesthetic level Hidden Figures is a beautiful-looking movie. The costumes, hair and makeup are brilliant and the soundtrack is full of catchy songs from Pharrell Williams and Mary J. Blige. The score reunites Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer and they produce music that’s exciting and heartfelt and fits the time period and the film itself wonderfully.

Hidden Figures celebrates those who history, and society, tends to overlook and shows the power of perseverance and friendship. It is amazing to see a film with three African-American leads who are masters in their field. It’s an inspiring yet also frustrating when you see what these women had to put up with, yet they still wanted to be a part of something amazing and contributed to NASA’s success. Hidden Figures will leave you with a huge smile on your face but along the way you may shed some tears, both happy and sad, and it’s really a great, crowd-pleasing movie. 5/5.