Tag Archives: MovieReview

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:

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.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Cautiously optimistic

“Tale as old as time,” Ariana Grande sings in Beauty and the Beast‘s final trailer. Yes, it is a tale as old as 1991. Beauty and the Beast has been around my whole life, so, to me, that famous lyric rings true as I’m sure it will for most of Beauty and the Beast‘s target audience.

With its series of live-action remakes that include Alice in Wonderland (2010)Maleficent (2014)Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016), and Pete’s Dragon (2016), some might think Disney has struck upon a golden formula. However, such people might be looking back upon these movies with rose-colored glasses thanks to the astounding success of The Jungle Book because it wasn’t until that movie that Disney got things right.

In 2010, Disney started strong at the box-office with its first two remakes Alice and Maleficent. They both grossed $320M and $190M, respectively. However, critics shunned the films, assigning them the mediocre scores of 52% and 50%. In Disney’s more recent live-action attempts, Cinderella and Pete’s Dragon, the studio finally won over critics, enjoying scores of 83% and 86% on RottenTomatoes.com, respectively, but neither came close to the $360+ million box office success of Jungle Book nor the lesser successes of Alice and Maleficent. Jungle remedied these imbalances by both winning over critics (95% on RottenTomatoes.com) and bringing in its largest box-office performance in the live-action remake sector, which set up the studio for a record breaking year.

Now all eyes are on this movie, Beauty and the Beast. Can it continue Disney’s hot streak and recreate Jungle‘s balancing-act of critical/box-office success? Can it lead Disney on to another record breaking year with a pipeline full of possible hits that include: Guardians of the Galaxy 2Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesCars 3Thor: Ragnarok, Coco, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Like The Jungle Book, this movie’s source material is incredibly well-known by audiences. Something I didn’t know till just now, Beauty was more than just a critical darling, it snagged an Oscar nomination for Best Picture in 1992. Laughably, Beauty‘s final trailer openly reveals the first half of the movie’s plot, in chronological order. Disney’s lack of effort to conceal the plot signals that it also realizes how familiar its target audience is with the original film. I believe this familiarity along with its star-studded cast (I’m eager to see Ewan McGregor as Lumiere) will generate large opening weekend number’s even if critics deride the movie.

However, I firmly believe that in today’s age of RottenTomatoes dominance, a movie cannot become a blockbuster without winning over critics. On this point, I’m a little nervous. Bill Condon is directing it and his biggest films up to this point have been Dreamgirls and Mr. Holmes. While I enjoyed the latter, it wasn’t a knock-your-socks-off type of good. It was just a good flick. Also, I must mention that in 2014 Condon  directed the Benedict Cumberbatch bomb, The Fifth Estate. While Condon is a veteran director, he lacks the pedigree and success of past live-action directors (e. g. Cinderella‘s Kenneth Branagh or The Jungle Book‘s Jon Favreau) and the fact that he directed that garbage, The Fifth Estate, makes me uneasy.

With all this on my mind, I rewatched this final trailer for the third time and hearing “Tale as old as time” still pulled at my heartstrings. Let’s hope this movie is more than just a waltz down memory lane to revisit Disney’s golden-era.

By Hagood Grantham

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: