Monthly Archives: May 2016

Review – Captain America III: Civil War (12a) [2016]

Captain America 3 - title banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Directors:

  • Anthony Russo – LuckyYou, Me & DupreeCommunityCaptain America II, The Avengers III: Infinity War: Part I
  • Joe Russo – Welcome To CollinwoodArrested DevelopmentYou, Me & Dupree, Captain America II, The Avengers III: Infinity War: Part I

Cast:

Music Composer:

Six weeks ago, Batman v Superman (BvS) finally arrived in cinemas. It was essentially about 100 minutes of a jumbled nothingness in order to get two superheroes to take opposing sides and smash each other black and blue. It was a tremendously disappointing film. So upon entering Captain America III: Civil War, with the prospect of a dozen superheroes taking sides and smashing each other up, was one right to be apprehensive? Hell no!

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) have a sensible discussion about the pros and cons of signing up the Sokovia Accords.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) have a sensible discussion about the pros and cons of signing up the Sokovia Accords.

Put simply, Captain America III begins shortly after the events in Sokovia (the final battle in The Avengers II: Age of Ultron). The world is furious with the Avengers due to the amount of death and destruction they caused. As a result, the UN have issued the Sokovia Accords and want to ratify them, to ensure that the Avengers will be unable to act without UN approval in future conflicts. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) agrees with the need for the accords and general oversight since he feels guilty for the carnage the Avengers caused; particularly as he created Ultron.

However, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) disagrees. He believes in his own judgement and claims to know when it is best for the Avengers to act, not the UN. This splits within the Avengers down the middle as some take Stark’s side while others take Rodger’s side. Complicating matters further is the return of Roger’s friend, Bucky, aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Stark believes he is a great danger, but Rogers does not. And so the civil war begins.

Captain America III is a lot of fun. It is 147-minutes of continuous smash ups involving our favourite Avengers characters (minus Thor and the Hulk), with some aspects of a storyline (or three) in between all the fighting. Unsurprisingly, the plot makes little sense. But to give directors Anthony and Joe Russo credit, the plot for Captain America III makes considerably more sense than BvS (despite having three times as many characters). In addition, the tone is consistent and enjoyable due to its carefree comic nature, in stark contrast to BvS’s imbalance of ultra-seriousness and unrealistic, over-the-top fight sequences.

Captain America (centre) and his side of the civil war, consisting of Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Anti-Man (Paul Rudd) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie).

Captain America (centre) and his side of the civil war, consisting of Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Anti-Man (Paul Rudd) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie).

Another element of Captain America III that the directors get right is the lack of background for all the characters upon their introductions, including the new Peter Parker/Spiderman (Tom Holland). That is not to say that the introductions aren’t done well. On the contrary, they are apt and very amusing too, but more in a welcome back way (with the exception of Spiderman) rather than in the form of long-winded origins stories. (Take note Zack Snyder: when something has been done well already, i.e. Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s background in 2005’s Batman Begins; or has been overdone badly, i.e. how Peter Parker got his Spidy-powers in 2002’s Spiderman and 2012’s The Amazing Spiderman, there is no need to put in the same tale again that cinema-goers are tired of, and especially not in slow-motion.)

Captain America III gets a lot right. Nevertheless, it is too long and the constant bashing that the superheroes do to each other does become repetitive. One can have a snooze in the movie, wake up and still be watching the same fight scene or a different one. It really makes no difference. Nothing of lasting consequence ever happens.

Team Iron Man, consisting of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle). Spiderman (Tom Holland) is also on Team Iron Man, but he is not in the picture.

Team Iron Man, consisting of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle). Spiderman (Tom Holland) is also on Team Iron Man, but he is not in the picture.

Also, like in Captain America II, Civil War’s storylines run out of puff long before the film’s climactic battle(s). Viewers can be forgiven for forgetting (or even for failing to understand) why Captain America and Iron Man are fighting one another by the end. Then again, one could say that about pretty much all the Marvel comic-book films really. And, strangely enough, that is the point: it doesn’t matter. That is why viewers like Marvel comic-book films and why the studios keep churning out more of them.

Over-all, Captain America III: Civil War is an entertaining, light-hearted film. It is funny and action-packed. Yes, those who have seen other Avengers-related films have probably seen it all before, but who cares? Audiences go into comic-book films, like Captain America III, wanting to enjoy themselves, to watch an ensemble of superheroes beat each other up, and to laugh. The movie delivers, which is more than what can be said for another film about an ensemble of superheroes that fought one another recently.

PG’s Tips

Advertisements

Review – Eye In The Sky (15) [2016]

Eye In The Sky - title banner

Star Rating: 4.5/5

Director:

  • Gavin Hood – A Reasonable Man, Rendition, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ender’s Game

Cast:

  • Alan Rickman – Die Hard, Harry Potter I-VII(i) & VII(ii), Sweeney Todd, Alice In Wonderland I & II
  • Helen Mirren – The Queen, The Debt, Brighton Rock, Woman In Gold, Collateral Beauty
  • Aaron Paul – The Last House On The Left, Breaking Bad, Exodus: Gods And Kings, Central Intelligence
  • Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips, Grimsby, Extortion
  • Aisha Takow
  • Iain Glen – Kingdom of Heaven, The Iron Lady, Game of Thrones, Resident Evil: The Final ChapterMy Cousin Rachel
  • Lex King
  • Phoebe Fox – The Woman In Black II: Angel of Death, Life In Squares, The Hollow Crown
  • Monica Dolan – Sightseers, Kick-Ass II, Pride, The Falling

Music Composer:

  • Paul Hepker – Tsotsi, Rendition, Deadliest Catch, Shepherds And Butchers
  • Mark Kilian – Rendition, Trust Me, Lady Bloodfight, Beyond Paradise

In January this year, Alan Rickman lost his battle with pancreatic cancer and passed away. He was a wonderfully talented actor and his presence will be greatly missed on screen. Nevertheless, cinema-goers are privileged to have one last posthumous performance from him, and boy is it special.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) on the phone, desperately trying to get permission to launch a drone strike to capture, and then kill, certain high-profile terrorists.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) on the phone, desperately trying to get permission to launch a drone strike to capture, and then kill, certain high-profile terrorists.

Eye In The Sky centres round the British military wanting to capture Al-Shabaab terrorists meeting in a safe house in Nairobi, Kenya. Through intelligence, Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) has learned that Susan Danford (Lex King), an Islamic convert who is high up on the UK’s and US’ terrorist list, has been seen. Moreover, through Farah (Barkhad Abdi), a Kenyan undercover operator, Col Powell learns that Danford and two other Islamist terrorists are getting ready to commit suicide attacks in the Kenyan capital. Thus, Danford and her friends need to be killed and quickly.

Yet, for Col. Powell to give Steve Watts (Aaron Paul), a Nevada-based US pilot, the order to fire the drone to kill Danford and her friends, she needs to get permission from her superiors, notably the London-based Attorney, Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman). And in order for him to give Col. Powell his consent, he needs to evaluate the legality of the drone attack; the extent of the collateral damage that is likely to occur if he orders a strike; and how many people could die if he does not order the strike and lets Susan Danford and her friends go through with their suicide attacks in a densely-populated area. And provided Lt Gen Benson can prove that ordering the strike is the correct course of action, he then has to get authorisation from his political masters.

In the meantime, while Col. Powell waits and Lt Gen Benson talks, the time is ticking. For every moment they don’t act, the more chance Susan Danford and her friends have to get away. And to make matters more complicated still, a little girl called Alia (Aisha Takow) decides to sell bread within a yard of where they plan to strike.

Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) listening to the arguments for and against launching a drone strike, while waiting for permission to launch it.

Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) listening to the arguments for and against launching a drone strike, while waiting for permission to launch it.

Eye In The Sky is an intense film. It is completely realistic and has some real-world comparisons; for instance, Susan Danford is an alias for Samantha Lewthwaite, an Islamic convert and widow of Lyndsey Germaine, one of the 7/7 suicide bombers, who has now disappeared and is believed to be assisting Al-Shabaab somewhere in the Horn of Africa. Of equal comparison to the real-world are the moral and ethical questions that the film puts forward. This gives the film great complexity as there are no straight-forward answers to the questions; for example, once Alia places herself next to the target, is it right to kill one innocent little girl to save (speculatively-speaking) eighty-plus people? Or is it right to do nothing and let the suicide bombers get away and kill those eighty-plus people when they could have been stopped? And whatever course of action one decides to take, how will the British government explain it to the media (and to the Kenyans)? And how will that make Britain/the West look with regards to the propaganda war that the West so desperately needs to win in order to win the War on Terror?

Cleverly, Eye In The Sky does not force one view or another on its audience. Instead, it illustrates how many hoops Western politicians and military personnel must jump through before they can give the go-ahead for a drone strike, as well as the painstaking lengths they will go to minimise collateral damage, even at the expense of missing out on their targets. Indeed, under the circumstances (they are trying to exterminate terrorists and have a very short time-period to do so, after-all), one would expect Western leaders to be more sociopathic in their inclinations and be willing to launch a drone strike virtually on a whim. However, from this film, one can see that the opposite is true and that even the most hawkish of military figures, Col. Powell/Helen Mirren, do their utmost to save innocent (and not so innocent) lives.

Col Powell looking at an aerial view of the house she wishes to strike (right) and the people she wants to take out inside the house (left). Meanwhile, on the perimeter of the house, Alia sits and sells bread.

Col Powell looking at an aerial view of the house she wishes to strike (right) and the people she wants to take out inside the house (left). Meanwhile, on the perimeter of the house, Alia sits and sells bread.

Suffice to say the acting is superb throughout the film. Alan Rickman, Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul are apt for their parts and give the right amount of emotional depth to their roles. Also, Rickman’s last line to the (aggravating but necessary) British advisor, played by Monica Dolan, is powerful and poignant. It is such a shame Rickman will no longer be gracing our screens; yet, if there is a way to bow out in a distinguished manner cinematically, his last line is it.

Over-all, Eye In The Sky is a brilliant film. It is an authentic, tense and thought-provoking piece of work that does not aim to push its audience one way or another. Consequently, the movie will have viewers pondering whether they would have acted as our protagonists did long after the film has ended. Furthermore, Eye In The Sky will make audiences appreciate just how conscientious Western leaders are when it comes to giving the green light for a drone strike in a civilian area in the War On Terror. Alan Rickman ensures it.

PG’s Tips

Review – 10 Cloverfield Lane (15) [2016]

10 Cloverfield Lane - title banner

Star Rating: 4/5

Director:

  • Dan Trachtenberg

Cast:

  • John Goodman – The Big Labowski, Red State, The Artist, Argo, Going Under
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead – Black Christmas, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Die Hard 5, So It Goes
  • John Gallagher Jr. – Jonah Hex, Margaret, The Newsroom, Hush

Music Composer:

  • Bear McCreary – Knights of Badassdom, The Forest, The Boy, The Walking Dead, Mayhem

2008’s Cloverfield was a torturous watch. It was an alleged horror film in the found footage genre. It centred round some vain and irritating young adults, running around and screaming through New York City, trying to avoid being killed by a Godzilla-like monster and his small killer minions.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) looking for reception upon waking up to find herself locked in a bunker with her leg in a brace.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) looking for reception upon waking up to find herself locked in a bunker with her leg in a brace.

Well, fast forward eight years and we have a (sort of) sequel in the form of 10 Cloverfield Lane (even though it has little to do with the original movie other than in title). The film begins with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leaving her fiancée. She is driving at night when her car is smashed into and sent tumbling. She wakes up to find herself in a bunker with her leg in a brace.

Howard (John Goodman) claims to have saved her. Yet, when Michelle asks to leave, Howard states that she can’t. He says that aliens have invaded the planet and that if she goes outside, she will die. Michelle does not believe him. She wants to get out and suspects that Howard has ulterior motives for keeping her down in the bunker…

10 Cloverfield Lane is a terrifying and tense film. Like with Room, the premise for 10 Cloverfield Lane is entirely realistic. Anyone could be involved in a horrific car crash and wake up to find themselves having been abducted by someone claiming to be their saviour. One can empathise with the claustrophobic predicament that befalls our main protagonist, Michelle, and we understand her motives and her fears implicitly.

Howard (John Goodman) staring at Michelle, warning her not to go into his room or to push her luck.

Howard (John Goodman) staring at Michelle, warning her not to go into his room or to push her luck.

It helps that Michelle is a fully round, three-dimensional character. She is deeply flawed and has behaved in illogical ways (as she elucidates upon during the film), but uses her intelligence to deal with the horrifying situation she finds herself in. It is entirely believable and one must praise Mary Elizabeth Winstead for playing the role so well.

Equally, one must praise John Goodman. Normally, he plays funny roles akin to Baloo, the big cuddly bear from The Jungle Book. But here he is frightening, more akin to the grizzly bear that attacked Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. Part of the reason Goodman is so scary is because he is usually so funny. Laughter and fear are not emotionally far apart and one feels just how close they are throughout 10 Cloverfield Lane. But, during the film, one wonders (along with our protagonist) if Goodman/Howard is right: have aliens taken over Earth, as he claims? Or is Howard just a mad psychopath who enjoys abducting people, with a penchant for young-looking girls? The latter question adds a chilling quality to the film.

For all of this, director Dan Trachtenberg must be commended. This is his debut feature film and he has put together a really good piece of work. His directing is really decent (note: he does not adopt the shaky camera of the first film) and it will be interesting to see what he does next.

Howard believes that there is a traitor among them, so brings out some highly corrosive substance to tacitly threaten Michelle and another captive, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr).

Howard believes that there is a traitor among them, so brings out some highly corrosive substance to tacitly threaten Michelle and another captive, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr).

In saying that, 10 Cloverfield Lane is not without faults. One, Michelle has a chance to escape (as is shown in the trailer) but chooses to stay in the bunker (presumably, otherwise the film’s 103-minute run time would have been halved). And, two, the ending is problematical. It makes complete sense in the context of the Cloverfield series, but it poses some very awkward and dangerous questions. (Alas, I cannot go into detail about this as it would spoil the last scenes.)

All-in-all, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an unnerving and truly terrifying film. Its premise is utterly plausible and the claustrophobic nature of the setting ramps up the tension. The acting is also really good, not least from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and the unusually frightening John Goodman. Yes, 10 Cloverfield Lane has its issues, particularly the ending. But as far as debut features go, Dan Trachtenberg has made a really impressive introduction to directing. In the main, his film is the epitome of what a horror movie should be like to experience.

PG’s Tips

Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (12a) [2016]

BvS - title banner

Star Rating: 2/5

Director:

  • Zack Snyder – 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, Man of Steel, Justice League: Part I

Executive Producer:

Cast:

Music Composers:

Batman v Superman…? The title alone draws a sigh. How can a mortal defeat an immortal? How can a man defeat a god? These questions already hint at problems with the film and that is before its 151-minute running time begins. And then there is the problem of Director Zack Snyder, and the sigh lengthens. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was doomed from the start, wasn’t it?

The villainous Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), getting in away of a first and tense encounter between Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

The villainous Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), getting in away of a first and tense encounter between Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

  Batman v Superman (BvS) is about… well, that is another of the film’s many problems. The first 90-100 minutes are a convoluted, chaotic and inconsistent muddle just to pit Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) in a fist fight against one another. And this fist fight, which comes to include Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Doomsday (aka the Cave Troll from Lord of the Rings I: The Fellowship of the Ring) goes on for an Earth’s turn.

One would have thought that Zack Snyder had learned his lessons from Man of Steel and not put in a long (pointless and boring) fist fight in which collateral damage is caused on a colossal scale. (The first two-thirds of BvS bangs on about how much of a menace Superman is because of the collateral damage he caused in his flying fight with General Zod.) But no. The fight scenes at the end of BvS go on for even longer and cause even more collateral damage than in Man of Steel. It is quite astonishing, really.

What is not astonishing, however, are the twists in BvS. Worse, they are not in the least surprising. (The trailer gives most of them away anyway.) One twist in particular, which has to do with Clark Kent’s and Bruce Wayne’s deceased mothers, is downright stupid. Who thought that was a good idea? Was it you, Snyder? Really?

A fire-eyed Doomsday, ready to destroy all of mankind. Weta are behind the design of this 'terrifying' monster. Alas, the same company have used this monster before and he was defeated then. So what chance of him surviving this time around?

A fire-eyed Doomsday, ready to destroy all of mankind. Weta are behind the design of this ‘terrifying’ monster. Alas, the same company have used this monster before and he was defeated then. So what chance of him surviving this time around?

And whose idea was it to have an origins story for Bruce Wayne? We had that in 2005 with Batman Begins. There was no need to have it in this film; especially not with that utterly clichéd, slow-motioned “Noooooooooo!”. For goodness sake, in 2005 Darth Vadar did it in Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and it was laughable back then. So again, whose idea was it to put that in BvS? Was it you, Snyder? Or are you going to blame Christopher Nolan? (Yes, that genius who gave us The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and a host of other thought-provoking films. Quite frankly, it is hard to believe that Nolan had any input into the plot for BvS as one can believe he can excrete a better film than this one.)

Whether Snyder or Nolan are to blame for the paucity of BvS, it should be noted that the actors are entirely blameless. In fact, Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons and Amy Adams should be commended for trying so damn hard to make something of this train wreck. No-one can question their efforts. Although, Clark Kent/Superman is by nature devoid of character, making him somewhat boring to watch; and Lex Luthor… well, it is hard to say what Snyder was aiming for with the character. Villains can be scary, cunning, honourable, witty, sadistic or cruel (or mixtures of all those traits). But villains cannot be annoying, and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is bloody annoying. As a result, one wants him dead the moment he introduces himself and for all the wrong reasons.

Lastly, it should be said that even this disaster of a movie has some positive points. The relationship between Bruce Wayne and Alfred is one such point. Alfred might be the commander-in-chief of Bruce’s arsenal instead of his butler (just go with it), yet whenever the two of them are together on-screen the scenes are genuinely enjoyable and wryly funny. For a film that takes itself way too seriously (but has stupidly unrealistic fight scenes), Bruce and Alfred strike the right tonal balance so as to make the jokes apt for their circumstances.

Superman and Batman on the same side (shocking!), along with Wonder Woman (centre, Gal Gadot), to take down Doomsday.

Superman and Batman on the same side (shocking!), along with Wonder Woman (centre, Gal Gadot), to take down Doomsday.

The other major positive point is the visuals. Credit where credit is due: Snyder knows how to make his products look shiny. It is just a shame that the visuals have no substance under the gloss.

Over-all, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a mess. The storylines are all over the place, the tone is off, and the fight scenes go on for too long. Bruce Wayne and Alfred provide highlights that one can enjoy, but not even Ben Affleck’s and Jeremy Irons’ best efforts can make this film worthwhile. No, they and the rest of the cast have been badly let down by director Zack Snyder. The man should not helm another movie until he learns how to write a sound and logical script. Nevertheless, guess who Hollywood has signed up to direct Justice League: Part I & II? Yes, you guessed it: Zack Snyder. To quote Homer Simpson: “D’oh!”

PG’s Tips