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Oscars 2017 Review: Arrival (2016)

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Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writers: Eric Heisserer (screenplay)

Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

 

 

Directing his first movie since 2015’s Sicario and just before he starts work on the eagerly anticipated Bladerunner sequel, Denis Villeneuve is a busy man. There is also the 2017 Oscars ceremony that I am sure he will be attending to see if his latest work, Arrival will pick up the award for Best Picture or even a Best Director gong for himself.

Villeneuve directs the Eric Heisserer penned movie in which 12 spacecraft mysteriously appear overnight in different locations all over the world. The government enlist the help of skilled linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to help find out what these beings from another world want exactly and she is instructed to decipher their code of dialogue and communication to translate for them. The movie is segmented with varying flashbacks of Banks with her daughter throughout the early stages of her life and into her teenage years where an illness takes her life. This new revelation becomes a distraction to her and one that she probably needs.

Banks works alongside a team of scientists to enter one of the many pods and attempt to communicate with these lifeforms, but with time comes panic and despite keeping in constant contact with the heads of other countries, the fear of whether the visit is a threat becomes too much and matters are taken out of their hands.

Arrival begins life as a quiet piece of work. It is slow paced to begin with as the story of Banks’ character and the visit is told. It has a tranquil beauty to it with moments of glory and visual wonder, particularly during the scene when the team first enter one of the pods. From there, the pace remains the same for the majority of the movie and what began as an encouraging way of telling the tale actually becomes its downfall. Despite the movie’s ending offering us a twist, it lacked somehow in idea or originality. Nothing can be taken away from the performances, particularly that of Amy Adams which surprisingly didn’t earn her a nomination for Best Actress. The movie begins to slow as the plot and storyline fades out. The expectation of a grand finale falls on a twist in the plotline which bears no real relevance to the ending and is almost placed there just to somehow make it different. The expectation of action or a quickening of pace is soon gone as the climax of the movie somehow leaves us disappointed and short changed.

There are positives in the direction and the acting of some of Hollywood’s leading players. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker add weight to the casting, but there is no getting away from the fact that it’s a storyline with potential that ultimately fizzles out as the film is extinguished.

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Oscars 2017 Review: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

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Director: Mel Gibson

Writers: Robert Schenkkan (screenplay), Andrew Knight (screenplay)

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving

 

During the Second World War American troops tried in vain to overcome Japanese forces in Okinawa as they battled to take control of a cliff top area known as Hacksaw Ridge. Part of that troop was young soldier, Desmond Doss. A solider that many believed should not be there as he refused to handle a weapon. His purpose instead was to help his colleagues in his role as medic and his sheer determination to fight in the war makes for a truly unbelievable story. For Desmond Dross was awarded with the Medal of Honour, the military’s highest honour, after the war was over for saving the lives of 75 wounded infantrymen, despite the fact that he didn’t fire a single shot.

American troops moved in on Hacksaw Ridge, scaling the rope netting that led up the cliff face to the top where many Japanese soldiers were waiting for them. It was a battle that the Americans struggled to overcome and were forced to retreat when casualties became too high. Desmond Doss, however, stayed. Even though he had to spend the majority of his time keeping undercover, Doss completed a miraculous mission by himself as his refusal to leave any soldier behind drove him on. He single handily lowered injured soldiers down the face of the cliff using his rope and a homemade pulley system. His hands ravaged, his life at risk, nothing deterred him from his mission.

It was a mission that may never have taken place. Doss’ refusal to partake in any weaponry combat very nearly led to him being imprisoned and kicked out of the army. His fellow soldiers turned on him and even his captains as he continued to refuse instruction. They barred him any leave in which he was due to get married and made life difficult for him, but Desmond Doss was a man of his word and with God by his side, he would go to war.

Director Mel Gibson has already carved out a very impressive name for himself in Hollywood for not only his acting, but also his direction. Not an easy piece by any stretch of the imagination, Gibson really thrusts us into the world of Desmond Doss and the rigours of war. There are scenes that have been compared to Saving Private Ryan and sequences of violence that he has not held back on, nor should he. There is no way that you can sugar coat war and Gibson hasn’t done that at all. Instead, he has produced a piece of cinematic brilliance.

 Andrew Garfield portrays the role of Desmond Doss and earnt himself an Oscar nomination in the process. It is not surprising why when you see his performance as it is magnificent. Garfield nailed every key aspect of Doss’ personality and character and the highest accolade he received was from Desmond Doss’ own son who praised Garfield on the performance.

Strong support came from Vince Vaughn as Sergeant Howell in an unusually serious role for the comedy actor, but one that was believable and showed the versatility of his talent. Sam Worthington played the often warming character of Captain Glover. Desmond Doss’ future wife, Dorothy, was played with such conviction and sincerity by  Teresa Palmer, but it was another standout role of Desmond’s father, Tom Doss, played by the charismatic Hugo Weaving that played a key part of the story and also Desmond’s life decisions. Weaving is an actor of great ability and this is certainly one of his best performances.

Praise must be given to Mel Gibson and his team for not only telling this story, but in doing so, producing one of Hollywood’s great war stories that deserves to sit alongside the classics. It is hardly surprising that the movie has been nominated for Best Film and Best Director and, although competition will be tough, this has every chance of winning.

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Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)

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Director: Tim Burton

Writers: Ransom Riggs (based upon the novel written by), Jane Goldman (screenplay)

Stars: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson

 

There is one thing you can guarantee with a Tim Burton movie. Eccentricity. Actually, there are a lot more things you can guarantee, darkness, imagination, creation, interesting characters. Most importantly you are almost always guaranteed entertainment.  The debut novel from American author, Ransom Riggs, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” was right up his street. As much as the story suited the director, the director suited the story and the novel was blown open in a vivid portrayal of pure peculiarity, a perfect match for Burton.

Jake, is a young boy who for years has listened to the fantasy stories his grandfather Abe used to tell him. The stories were of a younger Abe that stayed at a children’s home in Wales during the Second World War run by a teacher called Miss Peregrine. The children who stay at the house are outcasts who all have supernatural abilities. When Jake turns 16, Abe starts suffering from dementia and the stories he keeps reciting soon become confused with the addled state of his mind. During one difficult phone call, Jake heads over to his Grandfather’s house. When he gets there he is nowhere to be seen and the house has been ransacked. Jake later finds his Grandfather in the trees surrounding his house with his eyes missing. He also sees figures in the shadows of those his Grandfather spoke of and then, with the last of his breath, he utters a warning to Jake.

Jake struggles to come to terms with the loss of his Grandfather and the relationship between his parents and him do not help the situation. Fuelled by the revelations, Jake is determined to head to Cairnholm in Wales to track down the whereabouts of the children’s home. Joined by his father, the pair travel to the remote part of the country and stay in the only hotel on the island. Jake tracks down the home, but discovers it was destroyed by German bombs during the war. His persistence gets the better of him and he meets some of the “peculiars” sent by Miss Peregrine who saw the pair travelling on a boat whilst in her bird form. They take him through a cave which is one of many “loops” situated in various situations. “Loops” are like holes where time can be manipulated. They are transported back to 1943, a time when the house was at its fullest, most radiant glory.

Jake meets the residents of the home. A girl who can create fire, a boy with bees in his mouth, a girl lighter than air who has to wear special lead shoes, a boy who is invisible and a girl with the strength of ten men, to name but a few. He also learns that their fates are not safe as they are hunted down by Mr. Barron, leader of a group called the “Wights”. Only a handful of them survived an experiment that turned them into huge monsters known as “Hollows” who feed of the eyes of children. These monsters can be seen by nobody, except Jake. Still, the Wights hunt the children down and vow to destroy the world.

The plot is very bulky and full of enticing information. It can also be tricky to understand, but the enjoyment of the movie will hold your attention, thus aiding you in understanding the story. The attraction of the movie from a British point of view was the revelation that some of the scenes would be filmed at Blackpool Tower (as they do in the book), soon social media was awash with images, particularly those of actor Samuel L. Jackson who often photographed himself in Blackpool and its surrounding locations.

Eva Green portrays the role of Miss Peregrine perfectly, with a mysterious air surrounding her and majestic prowess. Asa Butterfield (he of “The Boy in the Stripe Pajamas” fame) played Jake and played it well in a commanding lead role. Terence Stamp played Jake’s Grandfather, Abe and gave the role much mystery in his performance. The strength of the performance captivated in Stamp’s eyes that evoke such vivid beauty in his performance. You can still hear the echoes of his infamous “Come and kneel before Zod!” line as delivered in Superman 2. Samuel L. Jackson was the Mr. Barron complete with sharp teeth, white hair and eyes. An eerie, often terrifying role that often bordered on being a bit too “hammy” as much as I dislike casting any detriment toward him as I believe he is a fine actor.

The intrigue of the characters and the often dark spells of the movie add to the overall appeal. The imagination of Ransom Riggs combined with the imagination and creation of Tim Burton make this movie work. There are no end to the possibilities that have been dreamt up and that made every scene refreshing. It also added elements of suspense and uncertainty which gives the horror aspect of the fantasy story.

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Review: Life On The Road (2016)

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Director: Ricky Gervais

Writer: Ricky Gervais

Stars: Ricky Gervais, Rob Jarvis, Abbie Murphy

 

 Ricky Gervais is nothing short of genius. He is a writer, director, comedian, actor, musician, songwriter, the list goes on. But he is also humble with his stature, although he himself would lead you to believe otherwise, but that is part of who he is.

In 2001 the world was not only properly introduced to Ricky Gervais, but also to a man called David Brent, a manager at a paper merchants in Slough called “Wernham Hogg”. It was a comedy series filmed as a mock style documentary expertly highlighting the traditional ways of office life. Originally starting life on BBC2, the series struggled to hit the ratings, but before long word began to spread, the show moved to BBC1 and the popularity soared.

Gervais knows how to write and he also knows how not to overdo it. He likes to keep things simple. The standard of his shows being a minimum of two series and often some Christmas specials. The Office spawned its own Christmas specials back in 2003 and that’s the last we heard of David Brent…until now.

Life on the Road is the film version of David Brent, an hour and thirty six minutes of the manager that everyone hates to love. The film shows Brent’s true passion which is music and sees him team up with a group of musicians to embark on a tour under the band name, Foregone Conclusion, which Brent funds himself. The tour, if you can describe it as that considering the majority of it takes place only a matter of miles from Slough, really shows Brent in his natural style and the relationship he has with the band is nothing short of hysterical.

Life on the Road is definitely in keeping with the cringe worthy themes that The Office became famous for and there were plenty of moments in which the tradition was kept up. It did miss the allure of the TV series, mostly with the other characters, but this once again proves Gervais’s success, not just as a writer, but as an actor and I have to say he is up there with the best. Gervais does awkward well and the range of his emotions in his performance is so natural, it is beautiful to watch and adds to the gawkiness of the situation.

With the same old Brent comes a new “office” and new characters. Strong support came in many comedic guises from Jo Hartley, Andrew Brooke and Tom Bennett as well as cameos from Kevin Bishop and Roisin Conaty. It is the performance of comedian and rapper, Doc Brown that really makes this work. He adds the “Gareth” element to the movie and is the source of much of those moments where you just want to shove your fist into your mouth for Brent.

Despite bringing the majority of it on himself, you cannot help but feel sorry for David Brent which again is credit to the writing. Leaving you laughing one minute and then wanting to go for a beer and putting your arm around him the next.

It will never be as strong as “The Office”, but it holds the appeal. Having watched it once, you will find yourself drawn back to it, wanting to watch it again and again. And again.

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Review: Sully (2016)

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Director: Clint Eastwood

Writers: Todd Komarnicki (screenplay), Chesley Sullenberger (book) (as Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger)

Stars: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney

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In January 2009 the headlines were dominated by the footage of a US Airways plane on the Hudson River in New York. The airline had suffered from engine damage not long after taking off when a flock of birds flew into the engines forcing the landing. There wasn’t enough time to turn the plane around and land on one of the available runways, so pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger had no choice but to crash land the plane on the famous river saving the lives of all 155 passengers on board.

                Clint Eastwood’s film focuses on the story surrounding the aftermath of the incident as an inquest is held with the firm belief that the plane could have turned and landed at a nearby airport avoiding the need to crash and destroy the airline. Sully discovers that he doesn’t just have to deal with the nightmares of the incident that begin to dominate his life, but the accusations made against him which question his 42 year career as a pilot.

                The film is based on the autobiography “Highest Duty” written by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow and is cleverly patterned with the integration of sequences which highlight the effects that the incident had on Sully, despite his hero status. Tom Hanks takes the lead role of Sully complete with white hair and moustache and it is extremely difficult to tell the real Sully from the actor. Hanks, as always, gives a performance of such magnitude that it is no surprise that he is ranked as one of the world’s best actors, but he does so in a manner which seems so easy for him to portray. The subtle nature of his mannerisms are magnetised to an Oscar worthy performance once again, but, as the story suggests, he isn’t the only hero. Aaron Eckhart plays the role of First Officer Jeff Skiles who, alongside Hanks, really brings out a performance of true talent offering some of the movies more comedic moments, but also displaying the support and friendship he had with Sully. Laura Linney plays the role of Sully’s wife and despite the two sharing no screen time, she plays the fact that she has to try and struggle to support her husband from a distance encouragingly well.

                The scene of the plane crash landing and the subsequent panic that follows is up there with some of Hollywood’s finest moments and Eastwood really encapsulates on the tension, despite us all knowing the outcome. Away from the action, it really is the story of what happens next that draws the interest in the movie and the experience and knowledge that Sully had which he uses to defend himself. The fact that he could be even questioned on his actions was ludicrous enough and he earns his stature as a hero with great modesty and shares the wealth with those alongside him.

                With the announcement of the 2017 Oscar nominations just weeks away, there is no doubt that this will be up there among the contenders and, even possibly, earn the famous golden statue in the process.

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Review: Creed (2015)

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Director: Ryan Coogler

Writers: Ryan Coogler (screenplay), Aaron Covington (screenplay)

Stars: Michael B. JordanSylvester StalloneTessa Thompson

 

 

It’s been an incredible forty years since Rocky Balboa first appeared onto our screens and into our hearts as it became one of the biggest boxing movie franchises in the world. It was a movie that made Sylvester Stallone one of Hollywood’s biggest names, but it might never have happened at all.

As a young actor, Sylvester Stallone came up with the idea, characters and even the script for the first Rocky movie. He showcased the script around Hollywood trying to entice Production Companies to make his movie and it received a lot of interest. There was one snag though. Stallone himself wanted to star in it. His determination to cast himself deterred a lot of Hollywood’s bigwigs as he was an unknown and they wanted an A-list star. Perseverance is one of Stallone’s many strengths though and eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, United Artists agreed and the film became a huge success producing five sequels which have made over $1 billion worldwide.

Stallone’s last outing as Rocky Balboa came ten years ago in the movie of the same name which saw Stallone don the gloves once again at 60 years old.  Approaching his seventieth year, this was definitely one that he would not be getting back in the ring for. But for writer/director Ryan Coogler, that was all about to change.

“Creed” is not a Sylvester Stallone film. He had nothing to do with the story or the direction. Infact, he didn’t want to be part of it at all. If not for the persistence of Ryan Coogler, similar to Stallone’s own persistence in 1976, he may not have even been in it.

Adonis Johnson is a young man always getting into trouble. The opening scenes of the movie shows him getting into a fight in a juvenile prison. The fight is broken up and Adonis, who goes by the name “Donnie” throughout the movie receives a visit from a woman who knows a lot about his past. He learns that his father was former heavyweight boxing champion, Apollo Creed and that he had died before he was born. Adonis himself wants to become a boxer, but does not want to bear the weight of the Creed name. Despite living with his father’s wife and wanting for nothing, it’s still not enough for him. Donnie quits his job and moves into an old run down apartment while he attempts to forge a career for himself. And then he meets Rocky Balboa. Rocky is fighting his own battles now and the former world champion looks a shadow of his former self. Still running his restaurant, it is all Balboa has to keep himself busy until he meets Adonis and discovers his true identity. Donnie tries to convince Rocky to train him, but his actions are rebuffed. Donnie, keeping up the theme of the background of the movie shows great persistence and eventually Rocky agrees to coach him as Adonis Johnson aims to make it big.

Many would have had reservations about another Rocky film, but this isn’t another Rocky film. It is the start of a new franchise, a new journey and it’s good. Michael B Jordan had a difficult task filling Rocky’s boots, but these are Adonis Creed’s boots. It would never come close to being like the first Rocky film, but it weighs in well in its own category for want of shoe horning a boxing pun into the context of the review. The ups and downs of Creed’s life are expertly weaved, ducked and dodged by Jordan in a role that is full of expectation. Sylvester Stallone knows Rocky like no other. His role is superb. He is Rocky. It feels almost like Rocky Balboa was cast in this film to play himself and not Sylvester cast as the boxer. You feel sorry for Rocky. He has come so far and lost so much. His dialogue, his character, his persona was almost as if he didn’t have a script. It’s of no surprise that Stallone was awarded a Golden Globe for best supporting actor recently followed up by an Oscar nomination in the same category, he is a remarkable talent. British boxer Tony Bellew, a mad Everton Football Club fan played the opposition in Creed’s first big fight, ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan and for a sportsman who has never acted before, he did very well. Parts of the latter part of the film where filmed in England and in particular in Bellew’s beloved Goodison Park where Everton play their home games.

Ryan Coogler has taken a brave step to not only add another dimension onto a legacy, but to have the fight and persistence to get what he wants. The script plays tribute to the original with some nods of appreciation to the original story and some moments of melancholy as Coogler depicts just how far Rocky has come. The climatic ending befits the original Rocky movie itself as blood races and the heart pumps and then you hear the opening chords of possible one of the most inspiring pieces of music, Gonna Fly Now, the theme synonymous to Rocky playing in the background and even though Rocky’s not exactly back, Adonis Creed is here and with weight to continue this franchise and continue the legacy.

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Review: Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

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Director: J.J. Abrams

Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams

Stars: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac

 

 

There is something about watching a movie at the cinema that brings out the excitement in me. I have loved movies since my earliest memory. I love watching the trailers, eating popcorn and waiting for it to start. It is a truly magical experience. Now imagine all of that excitement, happiness and joy when the screen goes black and those immortal words in blue appear…

 

A Long Time Ago In a Galaxy Far, Far Away

 

Then the Star Wars logo appears on screen and the first bars of one of John Williams’ most iconic pieces of music blast out at you making the entire room shake and the realisation that you are about to watch a brand new Star Wars movie hits.

Following on from the “disastrous” prequels, according to some, the expectancy of the continuation from “Return of the Jedi” was big. News hit that Disney was to take over the franchise from George Lucas and that they wanted to make episodes VII, VIII and IX. Before too long it was confirmed that J.J. Abrams was to take over writing and directorial duties. Following on from his success in rebooting the Star Trek movies, we knew this was in safe hands.

The internet was soon awash with cast news, photographs and that infamous shot of the first read through. It was still unconfirmed who was playing who, but the important news was that the original cast were coming back to reprise their roles.

Teaser trailers then came followed by the first main trailers and as much as I wanted to avoid it, I couldn’t. From the snippets we saw low flying X-Wings, Stormtroopers and the new lightsabre the prospects were good. But would it live up to expectations? Would it please the diehard fans of the Star Wars universe? The scrolling text had just disappeared into the dark depths of space and we were just about to find out.

The opening scene shows a dark shadow of a ship appear on screen and before long we are thrust right into the action. The original Stormtroopers are back and they are working for a new terror, Kylo Ren, a Darth Vader wannabe lured to the Dark Side in order to complete the mission that his predecessor failed to. Finn is part of the First Order, the group created to take on the Republic, but he was taken from his family to become a Stormtrooper and he doesn’t want to be part of it. Pilot Poe Dameron is captured as he is rumoured to hold vital information of the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, but the information he holds was installed into a small droid unit called BB-8. In a similar vain to “A New Hope” the mission is to then get this information back to the Republic before it falls into the wrong hands. Finn helps Poe escape and they steal a Tie Fighter, but get shot down and subsequently separated on the planet of Jakku where Finn meets Rey, a scavenger scraping bits from the remains of Imperial Starships in order to sell for food, hoping one day the family that left her will return. Hunted down by the First Order, Finn, Rey and BB-8 go on the run in order to fulfil the mission and bump into some familiar faces in the process.

What follows is a riot of action sequences, jaw dropping visuals, perfect dialogue and astonishing cinematography as J.J. Abrams grabs the reins and steers us through a truly breath-taking, but exceptionally mesmerising movie that belongs right up there alongside the others.

The sight of seeing Han Solo and Chewbacca back on screen is enough to fill the eyes of anyone. It was a moment of cinematical magic that could never be captured again. It means so much to the movie and it means so much to the fans. Abrams has crafted and sculptured a script that some say is too reminiscent of the original, but it has been produced in admiration of “A New Hope” with a plethora of new characters and storylines to explore.

John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are both British actors. They are relatively unknown (as were the original cast back in 1977) but they handled the pressure and the hype of starring in what could be the biggest selling movie of all time with such assurance and calmness and they completely nailed their roles bringing them deservedly into the Star Wars universe along with the greats. BB-8 was a refreshing character instantly adored by millions and is what George Lucas could have done with in the prequels rather than Jar Jar Binks. Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew as Han and Chewie get a lot of screen time as we see the friends thrown back into the action with glimpses of the beautiful Carrie Fisher as General Leia. Anthony Daniels as C3-PO jumps onto the screen with warm relief and Kenny Baker as R2-D2 shares a percentage of screen time, but it is the mystery surrounding Luke Skywalker that leaves us wanting more. Adam Driver was menacing as Kylo Ren and there was yet more mystery around the character of Supreme Leader Snoke portrayed in one of the movie’s few CGI scenes by Andy Serkis. It is the limited use of CGI which gives The Force Awakens that original feel.

There are many unanswered questions, particularly surrounding certain characters, but there is a lot more to come and it could be bigger and better than this movie. Once the credits start to roll you want to rewind it and watch it all over again. There are very few movies that can have that impact and in a strange sort of way, as much as The Force Awakens isn’t perfect, it is.

 

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Review: Sabotage (2014)

 

Director: David Ayer Sabotage-Poster

Writers: Skip WoodsDavid Ayer

Stars: Arnold SchwarzeneggerSam WorthingtonTerrence Howard

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With any movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger you can always guarantee assurance. We, as the audience, are assured of an all-round, entertaining movie with fights, guns and explosions. After all, it’s an Arnie film, isn’t it? Such is that with Sabotage that it plays to the many strengths of Mr. Schwarzenegger. There are no signs of any Oscar winning performances at all, but there are guns and lots of them.

Arnold plays John “Breacher” Wharton, a maverick who heads up the DEA special tasks force given the job of taking out drug cartels and getting something back in return. During one particular raid, they uncover a pile of money and put aside €10million of that for themselves which they stash in plastic bags and quite unceremoniously plunge down the pipe from the toilet into the sewers. After the last of the bad guys are wiped out, the team head into the pipes to retrieve the money only to find out that it’s no longer there. To add to their woes, it seems the drugs cartel whom they thought they wiped out are aware they stole the money and slowly start picking off each member of the team one by one.

David Ayer, of Harsh Times and Street Kings fame, has handled and controlled a script that he co-wrote and directed it much in a similar vain to his previous work and you cannot criticise him for that as it works. The script, at times, can be up and down with dialogue often written for the sheer hell of it as each knuckle-headed member of Arnie’s task force has to have their say and get as many “muthafuckers” in as possible. Ayer’s co-written script has that roller coaster effect of starting well and then dipping somewhat as the story begins to struggle for pace, but then, unexpectedly, the final third rockets us upwards and we’re fired at speed through twists and turns as the story starts to pan out and what we are left with can be described as enjoyable and worth the wait.

One of the highlights of Sabotage is the appearance of an almost unrecognisable Sam Worthington, of Avatar fame, who sports shaven head (complete with tattoos) and a tiny goatee beard (complete with plait). Worthington looked to somewhat enjoy his portrayal of his character “Monster”, but there was clear evidence of his acting abilities as well as his rugged action feature to go with it. His wife, the drug riddled Lizzy, played by World War Z’s Mireille Enos showed signs of potential, but occasionally consisted of some over-the top acting that just needed reeling in slightly. Terence Howard supports with extra muscle from Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway and Kevin Vance. Olivia Williams (Hyde Park on Hudson & The Sixth Sense) is the detective assigned to work the case who ends up working alongside “Breacher”

When Arnold Schwarzenegger opted to take a break from movies to concentrate on his political career there was a void left in all of our action-loving hearts and since returning, despite the difficulties in succeeding the popularity of his 1980’s hits, we all agree that he has been missed.

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Review: Jurassic World (2015)

Director: Colin Trevorrowjworld-banner-44

Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins

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It has been 22 years since the original Jurassic Park movie was released, a franchise that spawned two sequels, yet a fourth movie had always been in discussion for many years. Rumours linked the previous film’s stars to having roles in the new movie. Both Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum’s names were mentioned. There was even the potential of a group of dinosaurs escaping from the island and running amok on the streets, a vision of pterodactyl’s swooping and attacking a group of school children in a playground had the internet awash with potential plot spoilers. In fact, the original draft of the script, simply entitled Jurassic Park 4 included, believe it or not, human dinosaurs. In a sort of mad professor style, a load of human guinea pigs were injected with a special formula to make them part human, part dinosaur and was an idea apparently green lit by the man himself, Steven Speilberg. Fortunately, like many other idea, it was quickly shelved and the rumours faded away. Fast forward a few years and the rumours came back again, only this time the cast would be entirely new (with one exception) and there would be a fully functioning park, the movie would be called “Jurassic Park: Extinction and it would include tame Raptors who would act as security guards – which is not that far from the truth.

 

Despite previous efforts and deleterious results, Ingen have still pushed forward with their goal to have a fully functioning Jurassic Park. This time, the “Park” has been replaced with “World” and John Hammond’s legacy lives on. Now owned by a multi-millionaire businessman, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) and with Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) left in charge, Jurassic World is performing at an even level. As quoted by Claire, the public are no longer impressed by seeing a dinosaur. Seeing a stegosaurus is just like seeing an elephant at the zoo. A statement which holds truth during one scene of a teenage boy looking on his mobile phone while behind him a T-Rex devours a goat left for him to eat. The only solution is to take it to the next level and create a new dinosaur. To play God. The brief was to create a dinosaur that would be bigger, louder and have more teeth and Jurassic World’s latest creation is about to do more than that. Genetically engineered from the DNA of other animals and dinosaurs, the Indominus Rex has been created ready for the public to see, but a monster, not just a dinosaur has been created who has heightened intelligence and soon, like all previous attempts, the worse happens.

 

The main plot of Jurassic World is very similar to the previous incarnations, especially with the inclusion of children. Zach and Gray are Claire’s nephews, with whom she rarely sees, who visit Jurassic World and become lost in the park with a rampaging Hybrid dinosaur on the loose. The writers have tried to develop character back stories in order to offer a moral, but it is inevitably the dinosaurs that once again steal the show. Chris Pratt plays Owen, a former Navy Seal who has been working hard with the Raptors in order to tame and control them, an idea that Ingen show great interest in. He is called in by Claire to offer advice on the new dinosaur enclosure, to ensure security is of the highest order. But, Owen has concerns as he quotes: “You just went and made a new dinosaur? Probably not a good idea…” Director Colin Trevorrow takes the helm of this next installment in his first major production (with Steven Spielberg returning in an Executive Producer role) and honors the franchise by producing an often dark, but terrifying movie. The same fear we have seen from the original is still there played as an homage to the first movie, but the scares are often and plenty with the action never stopping. Several references to the original movie are seen throughout, including original cast member, Henry Wu (BD Wong) who reprises his role and Trevorrow’s vision of this Jurassic Park is stunning, not just visually, but in periods of extreme intensity.

Both Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt take the lead roles in the movie to perfection. There is interesting development from Dallas Howard’s character whose persona changes throughout the course of the movie, a theme encouraged throughout by the script writers. Chris Pratt has become what Hollywood has been craving for years, an all American action hero. Reminiscent of a young Harrison Ford, Pratt provides the muscle, heroism and the sex appeal of a leading man, but delivering some of the movies funniest lines as part of the package.

 

Despite the plot having major similarities to its predecessors, Jurassic World is a piece of thoroughly entertaining cinema that brings back the thrill, excitement and the emotions of the first time we ever saw the dinosaurs back in 1993. It ticks every single box in terms of a blockbuster and the fans of the franchise will be not only satisfied with the results, they will be truly blown away.

 

Trailer:

Review: Ex Machina (2015)

Director: Alex Garlandfile_124561_0_exmachinaposterlarge

Writer: Alex Garland

Stars: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac

8

“One day the A.I.’s are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction.”

It is the strength of this quote that lays out the foundation of this movie and sets the theme up for us. “Ex Machina” is a wordplay from the known term “Deus Ex Machina” which translates from Latin to “God from the Machine”. Therefore the title means “From the Machine”

Caleb is a computer programmer who is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence. He wins the opportunity through his company and gets to spend seven days with the CEO at a secret location. The CEO of his company, Nathan, is a recluse and spends lonely hours and days by himself working with on various A.I. programmes, trying to nurture and develop them.

Caleb then meets Ava, the A.I. unit he has been selected to ‘test’. The series of tests he conducts runs over a period of seven days and he reports his findings back to Nathan. Nathan is somewhat arrogant and occasionally intimidating and through a series of power outages, Ava reveals key details of who he really is and what his intentions are to Caleb. Caleb then begins to confirm to himself that Ava’s suspicions are true and as he finds himself willing to help her, he also finds himself falling for her.

Writer/Director Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later)  has produced a piece of cinematic magic. A well produced script supports the viewer and directs them to exactly where he wants them to go. It is in the development of the script that allows us to select a side, it’s the classic good vs. evil scenario and we are forced to choose a side, but the side you select could be the wrong one.

Domhnall Gleeson portrays the role of Caleb, a calm and content individual who has interest in the sheer brilliance of the creation of Ava. Gleeson’s performance is confident and fulfilling. Oscar Isaac is superb as the arrogant CEO, an exact opposite to Gleeson’s character which helps balance out the play of the story. In the middle is Ava, played by Alicia Vikander, appearing in both full human and part CG forms, but never deflecting the believability of the character throughout the story in a natural and wonderfully graceful portrayal. The CG effects are fantastic and subtle at the same time, meaning that they are not over the top and don’t overshadow the storyline which gives Ex Machina its real strength.

Garland has taken a snapshot of a bitter and bleak possibility of a future that we all could once be living in. It asks questions and gives the answers to potential outcomes as the pace of our technology that we develop gets out of control and paints a daunting picture. The script is crafted in such a way that we are both certain and uncertain of the correct choices that are made and becoming clouded by the reality that can be expected from a wrong choice. Garland described the future presented in the movie as “ten minutes from now” meaning that “if Google or Apple announced tomorrow that they had made Ava, we would be surprised, but we wouldn’t be that surprised”.

 

His beliefs echo the statement of the movie.

 

Trailer: