Tag Archives: Movie Review

Free Fire

Movie Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Director: Ben Wheatley

Executive producer: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Arnie Hammer, Ben Wheatley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor, & Sharlto Copley

Free Fire is one long Mexican stand-off between gun smugglers and I.R.A. members after a deal goes south. Trapped together in the confines of a disused factory upon the dilapidated waterfront of 1970’s Boston, Free Fire is a more refined version of Reservoir Dogs. Laced with humour, especially from South African gun smuggler Vernon (Sharlto Copley), Free Fire is a refreshing romp that other action films could learn from. Ben Wheatley delivers a brilliant action film which does not attempt to be overly serious or complex.

By sporting such a large cast including well-known and recognisable actors, Free Fire risked becoming filled with half-developed characters acting as padding for the plot. Yet Free Fire’s setting of a locked room is the film’s biggest strength. It focuses our attention towards the battle to survive, leaving only a few brief pauses where we learn about the many characters through interactions and scraps of dialogue. Given the backdrop, the characters feel real as they squabble, try to outsmart their opponents, or simply survive.

Having been a fan of Ben Wheatley since A Field in England, it seems that pitting characters in a closed environment is becoming one of Wheatley’s tropes.

The action stands out in Free Fire. Instead of being a slick set of choreographed scenes, characters fire haphazardly and nervously as they scramble for cover, while bullets ricochet off the walls. No one is smoothly despatched in the film. Every character suffers injury upon injury which adds to the film’s dark humour. Nor is the film purely focused around the action. Subplots of romance, betrayal and rivalry quickly emerge between characters before and in between the shooting.

The cast all deliver great performances, but Sharlto Copley, as bumbling and arrogant South African gun runner Vernon, steals the show. Arnie Hammer (Ord) was a suprising favourite due to his rivalry with hardened IRA member Frank (Michael Smiley). Although Free Fire is an action-comedy which has no main character, there is no competition between the cast to be the comic relief, as each character has their own moment to shine.

There are a few moments near the end, where Free Fire‘s pace begins to falter, but otherwise this an enjoyable film.

Free Fire is a great film that you should go see while it is in the cinema.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

Life

Life is another addition to the sci-fi, creature feature/suspense category. The film begins with with a team aboard the International Space Station waiting to receive a probe carrying sediment samples from Mars. The team soon discovers that the samples carry a dormant, single-cell life form, the first life to be discovered outside of Earth. After introducing the cell to different environments, the team’s lead scientist, Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) awakens the cell and begins to nurture it. After accidentally frightening the alien, known as Calvin, enters survival mode and death ensues.

Movie Score: 2.5 out of 5 (Average) 

 

–Spoilers Ahead–

While Life‘s special effects were breathtaking and often horrifying, I believe the movie’s screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the duo behind the fantastic films Zombieland and Deadpool) missed an opportunity to delve deeper into the dark recesses of humanity. They touched upon certain aspects of our existence: humans feelings of hatred, procreation, love, and unquestioning duty to protect one another. They even rationalized Calvin’s quest to massacre the crew as a survival-of-the-fittest reaction. However, they failed to appropriately address the humans’ survival instinct, leaving a rich topic untouched.

The writers’ first mistake was failing to provide themselves with the right characters to correctly portray life and enter the complex waters of humans’ animalistic survival-instincts. The International Space Station’s crew consisted of a bunch of overly rational, “good people.” CDC doctor, Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), who lived and died by her adherence to the code of her employer, pilot-come-physician, David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wanted to remain on the ISS and away from Earth, Sho Muraki (Hiroyuki Sananda) who’s wife just had a baby (that’s all we learn about Sho), the scientist Hugh Darry who loved other creatures (he was a good guy with an optimistic outlook despite being a paraplegic), the Russian who was kind, Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya), and Ryan Reynolds’ character Rory Adams who mostly acted like Ryan Reynolds. The writers created no gray characters, people who were willing to put their survival before their crew-mates. I realize there might be one or two “good” people on a crew of six, but lacking at least one selfish guy/gal, who is willing to sacrifice others to escape Calvin, is not only unrealistic, but boring.

Despite eventually realizing they needed to kill Calvin to survive, the crew always seemed to do so without any ethical conundrums. The closest the astronauts came to a dilemma occurred when Calvin first turned hostile in the lab. Despite some self-sacrifices by members of the crew to save the others, I never believed their acts of “love.” Their uniform kindness made them unbelievable as characters because humans are not so pure. We are sinful creatures at heart.

The writers should have created a greedy, evil, sinful character to match Calvin’s ferocity, to overturn all the “goodness” and “humanity” on the International Space Station. For a moment, I thought Sho was going to be that character, but the script never clarified if his attempt to reach the lifeboat was an act of selfishness or stupidity.

In sum,  Life failed to showcase humanity’s darkside, the side that executed the Holocaust, the side that commits terrorism on a daily basis, the side that massacred Native Americans at Wounded Knee. Instead, every crew member lived by their code, played nice, and died nice.

This is not to say the movie didn’t have its moments. In actuality, I enjoyed many parts of the film. I truly relished how Reese and Wernick overturned many of the monster genre’s conventions. For example, they didn’t allow the crew’s minority members to die first. Though the movie’s finish wasn’t unexpected, they managed to add a pleasant twist and resist the happy ending trope. Also, some of the crew’s deaths were quite imaginative, and I dug seeing Calvin’s motivation for murder (survival) grow .

By Hagood Grantham

For the trailer, see below:

Atomic Blonde (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Most promising trailer of 2017 (so far)

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, & Eddie Marsan

Atomic Blonde‘s opening fight scene harkens back to the early Bourne movies mixed with the bloody violence of John Wick. Its cinematography blends Zach Snyder’s pre-D.C. movies (Watchmen300Sucker Punch) with the stark quality of Bourne. I’m quite excited for this film because it appears to have a sense-of-self unlike many run of the mill spy/action movies.

The most negative aspect of the trailers is its plot, which appears to be a product of the trite lovers-revenge formula, which would normally be a bummer. However, its intense action and sex, coupled with the possibility of some good, dry British humor make me hopeful. I also enjoyed the neon signage that is reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and Neon Demon. Leitch put together a stellar cast that, by itself, does not guarantee success, but it does increase my desire to see it.

The largest unknown for Atomic Blonde is its director. Leitch only has an “uncredited” direction credit for John Wick. His career has  so far largely centered in stunt work where he has been a stunt-man, stunt-coordinator, and action choreographer for 82 titles in movies, TV shows, and video games. His only upcoming title is Deadpool 2, which means Fox has a ton of faith in him to put him at the helm of such a large cash-cow.

I’m choosing to side with Fox & Universal and believe that Leitch’s prodigious stunt experience will produce a quality action flick.

For trailer, see below.

By Hagood Grantham

Geostorm (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Utter garbage

Director: Dean Devlin

Cast: Gerard Butler, Abbie Cornish, Ed Harris, & Andy Garcia

Hollywood must need a payday. Geostorm delivers our yearly disaster-movie that copies, almost frame for frame, the 2004 disaster film, Day After Tomorrow. The only alteration to its story is its storms’ origin. Day After Tomorrow‘s storms were a result of climate change, whereas Geostorm‘s occur due to a malfunctioning weather machine. Everything else appears unchanged.

Dean Devlin wrote and directs the movie. Devlin is a disaster film veteran, but this trailer reveals that he has learned little from his long career. His writing and production credits include Independence Day, Godzilla (’98)and 2016’s pitiful Independence Day: Resurgence. His filmography has been on a downward trajectory and I would wager Geostorm will continue this trend.

I reckon with Warner Bros. struggles with the subpar results from its D.C. properites, they’re looking for a sure payoff, but this movie will not be it. Its only solid star is Ed Harris and I doubt his name will connect with Geostorm‘s target audience: teenagers.

The movie’s CGI is beautiful, a prerequisite for a disaster film, so the movie might breakeven. The trailer does its job showing the correct amount of stern expressions, massive storms, and impending death, but I just can’t get past its hackneyed story elements that line up with Day After Tomorrow‘s plot: The tornadoes are identical to the ones that ravage LA and the tidal wave that appears at the end of the trailer is indistinguishable from the one that floods NYC.

The movie is due out in October 20, 2017. I will be seeing something else that day.

Kong: Skull Island (2017) – Teaser/IMAX Poster

kong-imax

Outlook: Skeptical

I’m not gonna lie. The images for this film are stunning. Google “Kong: Skull Island Posters” and you’ll find a trove of majestic photos that exude a distinctly retro/comic-book vibe. By the way, I’m a huge fan of Legendary Pictures, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, and John C. Reilly and most of them are coming off successful projects: Larson (RoomTrainwreck), Hiddleston (The Night Manager), Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane), and Reilly (The Lobster). On the surface, this film appears ready to knock critics’ socks off and rule the box-office.

However, the movie’s director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, is largely untested. He has only one movie under his belt, the indie-coming-of-age comedy Kings of Summer. I have yet to see this movie, but the plot looked promising and it’s currently rocking a solid 76% on RottenTomatoes.com. Nevertheless, it’s an indie-film with a budget of probably no more than $15 million. Kong, on the other hand, enjoys a budget that RottenTomatoes estimates to be about $190 million. It also boasts a studded cast that I’m sure had big and possibly unwieldy personalities, not to mention monumental special effects that such a monster-blockbuster requires. That’s many balls to juggle for a rookie director.

Also, the plot looks horrendous. After watching this trailer, all I thought was so what? Ok, there is a giant gorilla named Kong and he’s pissed that American soldiers are attacking his “kingdom.” Beyond this simple plot, the trailer provides no hints that the movie will attempt to rise above it. That worries me. At least Peter Jackson’s King Kong (2005) maintained some mystery surrounding the King instead of flying straight into him as soon as the explorers enter Skull Island’s airspace.

I’m incredibly skeptical of this film. I assume that Warner Brothers, the studio distributing the film, signed on to Skull Island in hopes of capitalizing on the monster craze that it reawakened in 2014 with Gareth Edward’s blockbuster Godzilla, which Legendary Pictures also produced and Warner Bros. distributed. That movie was beautifully shot and filled with wondrous CGI, but the entire story dragged and by the end, I was bored with the omnipotent, nuclear beast. I worry that the same fate awaits me in Kong: Skull Island.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Remember those secret Death Star plans R2 carried throughout the original Star WarsRogue One: A Star Wars Story is about the Rebels who stole them from the Empire during the darkest of times when the Empire was at its mightiest. The plot sets off with the Rebel Alliance rescuing  Jyn Erso, portrayed by the beautiful and talented Felicity Jones, from an Empire work prison to help contact her father, Galen Erso, played by veteran actor Mads Mikkelsen. Galen is one of the architects who designed the Death Star. The plot rockets away from this moment merrily easing to lightspeed as the movie progresses. Rogue One is directed by Gareth Edwards and was written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.

Film Score: 4.5 out of 5 (nigh perfect)

Hagood’s Review (Spoilers ahead)

Thanks to Rogue One I now (happily) have a new order to my favorite Star Wars movies: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars, Rogue OneThe Force AwakensReturn of the JediRevenge of the SithClones, Phantom. I found few things wrong with it and a galaxy and a half that I like about it.

I’ll start with my criticisms: not enough character development, especially with Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus. I loved them and hurt when they died, but a few minutes more about their backstory would’ve been welcome so the audience could learn why they were kyber crystal guardians and how they came to know one another. Same goes for Cassian and his wonderful sidekick, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). Also, more screen time for the Imperial defector, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed). Why did he defect? How close was he with Galen? How did he escape his post? I realize Mr. Edwards, Mr. Weitz, and Mr. Gilroy had to efficiently tell this story and they did a fantastic job of pacing Rogue‘s plot. I’m just being greedy here and wanting another layer to this rich movie.

To discuss my the parts I enjoyed, I’d like to begin by responding to Joe Morgenstern’s review of the movie in The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Morgenstern harshly criticized Rogue One stating that the movie’s connections to A New Hope and Revenge of the Sith and its “epic echoes are just about all this production has going for it.” He also called the movie’s action “chaotic” and believed the plot and its characters are all too dour. His critiques are all unfounded. The references to the other movies and Rogue‘s cameos were fun Easter eggs, not its basis. The movie’s character’s, plot, and action all stood on their own. If the Rebels were stealing plans to the design of Darth Vader’s Bacta tank in his Mustafar lair instead of the plans to the Death Star, I would’ve been just as intrigued and entertained. The build up to the movie’s climax and its climax were all well written and executed. Also, Mr. Edwards purposefully harried its action. The Rebels designed their attack to distract the Empire’s security and buy Cassian & Jyn time, not to make a sensical, thought-out attack, and their stern expressions and attitudes were a reflection of their lives under the cruel rule of the galactic Empire. As Cassian told Jyn, he’d been fighting for the Alliance since he was six and he’d done terrible things for the Cause. Jyn had been fending for herself with the crazed Saw since roughly the same age. What does Mr. Morgernstern expect of Jyn and Cassian? A god awful scene of frolicking shenanigans like Anakin and Padme on that field on Naboo? Mr. Edward’s tone for the film was right. It’s a war movie with intense sacrifices. Rogue‘s grimness was a welcome change, especially after Finn’s stupid, way-too-modern humor in The Force Awakens. In fact, the no-man-left-alive was one of my favorite facets about the movie. It revealed Disney is still open to taking risks and not making the family-friendly movie people have come to expect of the company with their live-action remakes and comedic and upbeat Marvel characters. I hope Rian Johnson takes Episode VIII in the same direction.

Please, go see this movie. It’s well worth your time if you are above the age of 10.

Recommended Audience: anyone above the age of ten (if you didn’t read the review, its a darker movie than most Star Wars movies).

Saul’s Review (Spoilers too)

I am glad to add Rogue One to Green Room and Paterson as the few exceptions to a disappointing year for Cinema.

Rogue One is the ideal movie for Star Wars fans who loathed the prequels, but found The Force Awakens to be a little underwhelming.

My expectations for Rogue One were fairly low when I bought my ticket. Following the rushed job that Disney had done slotting Doctor Strange into the Marvel Universe. I was worried that Rogue One would simply be a cash-in to tide audiences over until Episode VIII. Felicity Jones, who portrays Rogue One protagonist Jyn Erso, also starred last year in Inferno where Jones’s character and acting stood out as poor. Despite all this, Rogue One is the only major blockbuster I have seen this year that did not disappoint.

Whether by design or coincidence, Rogue One is reminiscent of La Bataille D’Alger, the 1966 film about the Algerian War of Independence from France. The rebels, just like the Algerian freedom fighters, are fighting a superior enemy and take extreme measures to survive. Edwards depicts the Rebellion as a clandestine organisation, willing to kill civilians and its own members if they stray too far. The Empire equalled the rebels with its own infighting, operating like an old European royal court with high ranking officers clambering over one another to seek the Emperor’s ear. During the immediate viewing of the film, I was swept away by Rogue One’s plot. Since then, what has impressed me the most was how the Empire and the Rebellion both internally mirrored and differed from each other.

The rebels constantly felt at a disadvantage throughout Rogue One due to the excellent battle sequences. In every skirmish, the Empire had a clear superiority, with the Rebels clutching at guerrilla tactics and improvisation to stave the Empire off.

Rogue One’s enthusiasm to present the Rebellion in a darker light through Captain Cassian quickly peters out once he is alongside Jyn, with no real explanation why. This is Rogue One‘s sole failing but with such a great plot and cast, it is quickly forgotten.

Finally I remember being terrified of Darth Vader as a child, fast forwarding my VHS tape of A New Hope whenever he appeared. The final scene where Vader storms through the Rebel ship, massacring all within the gloomy corridor, gave me the same sense of dread. I hope Disney makes a Vader spin-off too.

Recommended audience: Die-hard Star Wars fans and anyone who wants to watch a decent blockbuster.

For the trailer see below: