Fighting With My Family Review

The world of wrestling was a source of much entertainment for me as a child during the early 2000s. I had the likes of the Rock, Stone Cold, Shawn Michaels and Triple H in their prime and I was absorbed by the stories they were telling. Towards the end of my time following the WWE, I enjoyed the rise of John Cena, Kurt Angle was a big star and Batista was an absolute animal. What’s missing from this troop of names? The females of the WWE. I do not follow it much now except for an annual WrestleMania viewing, but I have heard over the last few years that the Women’s division is the new hot thing in the industry, and not just because of Scantily clad women.

Fighting With My Family tells the true story of WWE Star Paige, delving into the trials she endured on her journey from her English wrestling family to the top of the WWE world. Starring a few unknown actors alongside a couple of familiar faces, this is a film focused very much on Paige’s journey, with the subplot of her families various struggles along the way. Writer and first time Director Stephen Merchant is behind the camera, and as a fan of his work, particularly The Office, so I was looking forward to a witty, cleverly funny script and intrigued by the storytelling ability of Merchant as a director.

Merchant’s first effort behind the camera is excellent, directing the actors brilliant and getting some great performances out of the main cast. Florence Pugh stars as Paige, real name Saraya Knight, giving a performance full of heart and embodies the character well. She’s likable enough to get us on side at the same time as being clearly a bit of a social outcast. You feel like part of her journey and that goes down to both the actress and the direction of Stephen Merchant to get the audience invested in the film.

The other stand out for me is Jack Lowden as Saraya’s brother Zak. His journey is arguably even tougher for him to deal with than his sister’s, and again I felt invested and connected with the struggles he was going through. These two characters act as the heart and soul of the movie, both sharing the first act equally before the movie focuses on Saraya’s journey. Lowden shows a wide range in this performance, with highs and lows being engaging moments.

The side characters of the film include the parents and the WWE coach. First off Nick Frost is funny in his role as the father of the siblings, but I felt he struggled a little to live up to the performances around him in the more emotional scenes. Lena Headey is transformed in the role, with her unrecognisable when compared with the sinister Cercei she plays in Game of Thrones. She is almost the opposite of Frost, thriving in the dramatic scenes and none of her funnier lines really hit me how they should have. Vince Vaughan is the best of the three for me, displaying a blend of the serious acting with his comedic timing that I felt matched the tone of the film just right.

The rise to stardom of Paige is an interesting story to have picked, as even in the film its established as being a reasonably common path. Dwayne Johnson, the biggest star the WWE has produced when it comes to branching outside of the ring, hints at having a similar story himself in this very movie. Whilst it’s easy to appreciate the look at the journey, I don’t necessarily think there is anything shocking or unusual about this story, making it a little bit predictable even if you didn’t know the details beforehand. This wrestlers life after the end of this movie has more drama and twists than the story this film tells, both in the ring and outside of it.

Fighting With My Family delivers a thoroughly entertaining insight into the world of professional wrestling and the hard work required to make it to the top of the chain. The comedic touches of Stephen Merchant really bring the film together. Without those it would have been a solid film, but with them it’s a really good one. Boasting some top performances and a healthy side dish of Dwayne Johnson being himself, Fighting With My Family is a great time.

Good: Excellent performances, well-directed, and some good laughs make this an all rounder of a film.

Bad: Has a predictable and not particularly remarkable story for the wrestling world.

8/10 – Fun for the whole family.

Velvet Buzzsaw Review

Last week I watched Nightcrawler, the first time director Dan Gilroy and star Jake Gyllenhaal combined, and I really enjoyed it. It gave me a lot of hope for Velvet Buzzsaw which is their second time teaming up. Could it live up to the excellent Nightcrawler?

I went into Velvet Buzzsaw knowing very little about the film. I knew it was a satire of the art world, and that something odd goes on, but beyond that I had no idea. The film starts out towards being a satire on the art world and the pretentious nature of some of the people the world contains. I have met some people in the art world who I could see in parts of the characters in this film.

Those characters are all played by some really talented actors, led by the enigmatic Gyllenhaal. Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton (from Fresh Meat), Toni Collette and Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things) are all really solid. I am happy for Ashton and Dyer as they both have shown some talent before, and this feels like a good next step for them. John Malkovich is John Malkovich, and he’s always entertaining but does seem a bit underused in a film I think he was perfect for.

These solid performers inhabiting quite interest characters sets up a thoroughly intriguing film. For the first half I was very in, and was interested in seeing where the plot went. What happens from around halfway into the movie I have to say really did not work for me. The attempt at satirising the culture of the art world is nearly brilliant, but the script largely disregards this and steadily falls into an odd, nonsensical slasher film. It’s not a spoiler, but the final third of this film is basically a horror movie with no real explanation to what is happening. Things just go wrong, people die, and the way everyone dies is just put down to “It’s a curse”.

I did think the film was going to reveal something in the third act that would have really been an interesting twist and I think this needed that kind of momentum shift towards the end. Things ramp up in a way, but for me it’s all just gore porn and the characters introduced in the first act melt away and become generic victims. This really detracted from the movie for me.

I was a big fan of director/writer Dan Gilroy’s work in Nightcrawler, and whilst the direction in this film is really good, the script starts so high, and deteriorates into a generic horror film. Fans of that genre may find it works well, but as excellently shot and executed as the death scenes are, they just aren’t what I look for in a film. They aren’t predictable deaths, as in the way people go out is very different. One in particular, the “Paint” death is probably the best way to describe it, is very artistic and really beautiful to look at from a cinematic standpoint.

The way the films shot is truly great, and the cinematography, particularly a couple of the landscape shots at night, are up there with the hyperspace crash scene from Star Wars in that they are like pieces of art on their own. However, the fact that my favourite part of the 2nd and 3rd acts is a couple of landscape shots really shows my level of enjoyment for this film.

Velvet Buzzsaw flirts with being a really engaging, intelligent film, then wastes its solid start on an unexplained phenomenon that takes over. I really hope slasher fans find this film entertaining, as I really struggled to past about the 60 minute mark.

Good: Excellent cinematography,  solid performances and next steps for some young actresses, Gyllenhaal does his best.

Bad: Satire morphing into slasher could be done very well, it isn’t here, and it ruined the film for me.

4/10 – Promising start wasted.

 

Nightcrawler (2014) Review

Nightcrawler was a film I missed back in 2014, despite it looking like a film I would really enjoy. Jake Gyllenhaal received heaps of praise for his role as Lou Bloom, but no Oscar nomination which many saw as a snub. Would his performance live up to my expectations?

The short answer to that question is Yes. What’s more, he was definitely snubbed an Oscar nomination. In a year when Christian Bale received one for American Hustle, I think Gyllenhaal more than deserved a place on the list of five for that year. He disappears into the character of Lou Bloom and the intensity he brings draws you into the film.

The character himself is unneringly creepy and yet somehow you’re complete with him on the journey. You don’t quite route for him on the level of Joe from Netflix series You, but it’s a similar feeling of cheering for a bad guy at times. Lou is very clearly, from the first moments of the film, a bad guy. He’s out for personal gain, and that’s it. He’s close to being comic booky in his motivation being so self-centred and his lack of empathy towards others is shocking. Gyllenhaal plays him so well, that what seems like vulnerable moments you realise are calculated moves to manipulate people.

His employee for the duration of the film is played by Riz Ahmed, who shows more talent in this performance than I have seen from him on any other film. He’s not given a very well.developed character, but he is entertaining and makes the most of playing off Gyllenhaal’s performance. I think the sidekick role suits his mannerisms and he’s much more at home here than he was in Venom.

First time director Dan Gilroy begins his directorial career with a brilliant effort. He gets the best out of Jake Gyllenhaal, and one of the main parts of a directors job is pulling the best from his cast. His direction combined with some good editing make this feel like a well put together film made by a seasoned pro, not a first time effort. He also directs Gyllenhaal in Netflix’s Velvet Buzzsaw, which is next on my queue to watch so I hope he’s continued his solid start.

The films story is kind of paper-thin in a way, it’s all about Lou Bloom, and that’s the crux of the entire film. As such there’s no real story to be engaged with, just the question of what the manical character is going to do next. This kind of took away from the film for me, as there is no plot to keep you engaged. It’s as good a film could be without a decent plot though, with the performances really coming through to make this a very enjoyable film.

Nightcrawler is a film I think a lot of people will enjoy. It’s got one of the best acting shows of the decade for me, and that alone makes it worth 2 hours of your time. We often see Director/Actor partnerships develop in the industry, most famously Scorsese and Dicaprio. It’s given me a lot of hope for Velvet Buzzsaw, as the duo of Director Dan Gilroy and Gyllenhaal clearly enjoy working together. Hopefully there is a bit more to chew on in the story department, but Nightcrawler is a great start to the duo’s creative relationship.

Good: Acting, Cinematography and all round good film-making techniques on show. Character driven film.

Bad: Story is thin, and no real lessons learned by the characters by the end of the film.

8/10 – Worth it for Jake on his own. 

Green Book Review

I remember seeing the first Green Book trailer and being surprised by how enjoyable it looked. It’s got two of my favourite actors in Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen, and that alone set my expectations quite high going into the film. I did see some reviewers criticising its handling of sensitive issues, which gave me reason to be a little worried. 

We are introduced to Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) and immediately you can see what kind of world this guy is from. He is a tough Italian American working class man, just trying to provide for his family however he can. The 60s setting is absolutely nailed, and you can straight away believe the world and the characters in it. Mortensen is great in his role, coming off to me as a genuine well-meaning guy, who doesn’t take life too seriously. Being a white Italian American family in the 1960’s there is a sense of unease around black characters which is uncomfortable to watch at times, but the film doesn’t let that dominate the film.

Tony’s job search leads him to Doctor Shirley (Mahershala Ali) who employs him to be his driver for his tour around the deep south of the United States. At the time, black musicians were scarcely seen doing this kind of tour, and the title “Green Book” comes from the actual book of the same name, that gave a list of all the safe places a black person could stay in the deep south. The fact that such a preposterous and stupid thing was being done just 60 years ago is sickening in itself, the fact that there are likely some places that are still like that is just beyond comprehension.

The racist actions some characters take in this film are shocking and I do see why some people feel these topics should be dealt with and commentated on in a more in-depth way, but to me these events are presented as an attitude that Doctor Shirley was driven to change. The story here is not one about Racism in the Deep South, as much as that is a part of the film. The real heart of this film is in the relationship that develops between two people from completely different backgrounds, coming together and learning from one another.

The two lead actors are absolutely brilliant in their roles, and I completely agree with the nominations they have both received. As I mentioned previously, Mortensen becomes Tony Lip and is unrecognisable. That’s something for me as I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings film, and he plays my favourite character, so to see Tony Lip and not Viggo Mortensen performing is something. Mahershala Ali is never anything less that good, and unlike Alita Battle Angel, this film gives him plenty to work with. The intensity in his performance is perfectly undercut by the nuance in some of the glances and moments when he gives away the vulnerability beneath his confident and classy demeanor.

The dynamic between these two is brilliant and their chemistry carries the film. The journey the two go on and the influence they have upon each other grows throughout the film, and by the end I felt uplifted and happy for them both. Each of them have a couple of real stand out moments, and I think it’s those moments that might put the Golden statues in their hands.

I was surprised to see Peter Farrelly directed this film. He is a comedy director, and whilst this film is funny in its own right, it’s a massive departure from something like Dumb and Dumber. The subtlety this film uses to tell its story is not something I’d have thought was in his toolbox, but it’s a welcome surprise. I am now looking forward to his next more dramatic film, whatever that may be.

Green Book is not a film about race, it’s a film about friendship, and how it can spawn between even the most unlikely of people. That is the message here, and yes it does touch on some very important issues, they were not the aim of this film. There is a story there to be told, but for me the story we got was beautiful in its own right.

I watched this film the same day I watched Fate of the Furious. I love movies.

Good: Two brilliant performances and an uplifting story and some great piano playing.

Bad: Handles the race issues a little lightly, and never threatens to delve too deeply into them, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment though. Supporting cast are all decent at best, but they’re not in it very much.

8/10 – Thoroughly enjoyable film, to reach that top-tier it needed to dive into those sensitive issues and handle them well.

The Fate of the Furious (2017) Review

By now everyone knows what to expect with a Fast and Furious film. Mad stunts and car chases, a nonsensical story, a few touching moments and a title that throws doubt over what the franchise should actually be called.  

Here is the run down of the names:

The Fast and The Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and The Furious Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7, The Fate of the Furious, Furious and Fast, Fasten and the Furious, Faster and Furiosa, Infinity Fast, and of course Fast and Furious Pod Racing – A Star Wars Story.

Fast 8, as I shall refer to it for the remainder of this review, picks up with a Dominic Toretto who has finally settled into a normal life, coffee with his partner, crosswords by the pool, settling feuds with street races in a car that is exploding, getting into a good book before bed, you know the normal lives we all lead. The opening scenes are incredible to watch, the way it’s done so seriously despite the clearly mental things happening on-screen I found to be hilarious, although I am not sure that was the intention.

An encounter with Charlize Theron’s Cipher leads him to have to go against everything he stands for, and from there we have the events of Fast 8. This films plot is predictable, ridiculous, and absolutely pitch perfect for what this franchise has become. Cipher could actually develop into a rather interesting character judging by the glimpses we get into her psyche and motivations behind what she wants to do. Rather than delve into this, she is given a little hint of that flavour and then left to be a generic villain.

The rest of the team from Fast 7 return, minus franchise legend Paul Walker after his unfortunate passing a few years ago, and the film uses The Rock to step into the void that Walkers character leaves. Dwayne Johnson could make pouring a glass of water entertaining, and he drives the movie well. My favourite parts of the movie are his interactions with Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw, which bodes well for the next film in the franchise, this years (Deep breath) The Fast and the Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw. Their chemistry is fantastic, and you can see why the two have been paired up for their own movie. The rest of the team has always been there, but never really stepped up to be leading characters, so it’s good for the franchise to branch out from just Vin Diesel leading the way.

This being a Fast and Furious film, there is an abundance of action and chase scenes. How everyone know where to go is explained in quick, absolute word salad car crashes of dialogue that sound like they’re making up words. “If we dooble the soodle and double down on the shaba we can stogey it and then we will find exactly where we need to go” is an actual, legit quote from the film*. A lot of the film is there just to fill in gaps between action sequences, and I was conscious of that watching the film. I found myself staring into space waiting for the next round of explosions and crumpled bumpers to arrive.

The action we do get is over the top, crazy good fun. The laws of physics are applied sparingly, with the rock climbing out of a car, hanging on with one arm, skidding along the ice on his shoes, travelling at 100s of miles per hour, then of course he reaches down and redirects a torpedo that is propelling itself along the ice. That’s just one, 15 seconds example, from a film that’s over 2 hours and 15 minutes long. You don’t ever feel that length, because the film has very few slow moments, but it shows the point that fast and furious has reached.

Overall Fast 8 delivers exactly what I expected, a batshit crazy two hours where you have to suspend your disbelief just as much as an Avengers film. These are super hero movies, just with no powers. Well no powers yet, I would not put it past them for that to happen at some point. Oh no wait, check out the trailer for Hobbs and Shaw, Idris Elba is bulletproof. The time is now. If you can shut down your brain for a few hours and just enjoy the craziness for what it is, there isn’t much better than the Fast franchise for this type of stuff. If you want an action film on a similar scale but less ridiculous, find yourself a recent Mission Impossible film.

Good: Mad action, Great one liners, and if you’re a big fan of the word “Family” it is said an incredible 44 times.

Bad: Plot is an afterthought, Everyone has forgotten Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) murdered one of their tight-knit “Family”, and he’s welcomed in. Dom Toretto is more capable than Superman.

6/10 – Epic, Dumb, Crazy and Dumb, but still kind of fun. 

*It’s not, but it might as well be.

 

A Quiet Place (2018) Review

The Office US star John Krasinki teams up with his supremely talented wife Emily Blunt (i.e the Krunts) in this horror/thriller from last year. I missed the cinematic release but once I saw it on Netflix I immediately put it on the list as I had heard plenty of good things.

From the start of the film you are given everything you need to know about A Quiet Place. This film is intense, the stakes are high and the characters we are following are rarely, if ever, safe. This tension is created with that shocking opening and held perfectly throughout what’s an incredibly well-directed debut for John Krasinki.

He gives his best on-screen performance at the same time as his first directorial showing and does a great job of both. Considering how much I love the office and the countless hours I’ve spent watching Krasinki in that show, to be able to say he disappeared into this role is quite something, although partial credit has to go to the beard.

Emily Blunt plays his wife, who is trying her best to keep the family together and functioning in the hopeless world they inhabit. She brings vulnerability to the film but still has that determination to carry on. There is one particularly horrific situation she ends up in that you will know if you have seen the film, that she is superb in and I was hooked through the entire sequence.

Horror/thriller movies often lose my attention when they are filled with obvious jump scares and grotesque images just there for the sake of grossing the audience out a bit. A Quiet Place uses its clever premise of a world where sound is the enemy to create tension. I found myself not wanting to move or make any noise myself throughout the film because I was so engrossed in the film and that’s one of the biggest compliments you can pay to any film.

If there is a weakness in the film, it’s probably the children. I don’t think the reasons they make some of the decisions they do is fully explained and this led to some eye rolling for me at times. The actors themselves are solid as far as child actors go, just the motivations weren’t there for me.

A Quiet Place is the best horror/thriller I’ve watched in recent years. The excellent premise is intriguing and the small focused lens on a few characters is compelling throughout. It’s a relentless experience, and the use of silence is excellent. I was thoroughly impressed by Krasinki’s directorial debut. He continues the trend of a comedic actor turning into a Horror thriller director, started by Jordan Peele with Get Out, both of them getting me into this genre a lot more than any other films have managed.

Good: The Krunts are both great, the premise is brilliantly utilised and you’ll find yourself sneaking around the house afterwards.

Bad: I personally could have gone for more explanation of what happened in the world, and the children make some dumb movie decisions.

9/10 – A Quiet Place is a film to shout about, but you won’t want to.

The Breakfast Club (1985) Review In Time

It’s shameful, but I had never watched The Breakfast Club before. I know it’s a classic film, and one I would almost certainly enjoy. It was always on the list, but never at the top. Well I finally got round to it, and I was intrigued how it would hold up being viewed in 2019.

The answer is simple, brilliantly. I recently watched the Netflix series Sex Education, and I loved it for its brilliant written, well acted and enticing real characters. The Breakfast Club and Sex Education are, at their core, about the same thing; Growing up and dealing with prejudice. They may be separated by 34 years, but people are still people, and that is what the two are both about.

The Breakfast Club is about a group of teenagers, all attending detention on a saturday because of one reason or another. Each character, at a glance, fits into one of your preconceived stereotypes that you have growing up, and even as adults we have them. Director/writer John Hughes then proceeds to tear down those stereotypes and shows how everyone has their own struggles, regardless of how different the projections we put out into the world are.

I can only imagine what this film and Sixteen Candles/Ferris Bueller did for teenagers and young adults in the 80s and early 90s. The way the characters relationships to each other develop over the course of the ninety minute run time is in itself relatable. I remember being at school, lumped in groups with people I didn’t think I fitted in with, and end up being friends with them, some of them I count as my closest friends. This intense character focused film still allows itself to have a lot of fun, with some good laughs and even if the popular culture references were lost on me, I appreciated that is purely down to my age.

It’s rare for there to be all round good performances in such a young cast, but John Hughes manages to get a good tune out of every member of his band. Films like this often focus on one or two characters, but here everyone has their moment. In the same way I praise Avengers Infinity War for giving so many characters a great hero moment, The Breakfast Club gives all of the characters a real moment. There is a moment with each one where something is shown that makes them intimately relatable, and I can’t explain why that is entertaining, but it really is. Perhaps it’s a satisfaction derived from seeing yourself in the characters on-screen, perhaps it’s just the comfort of being told everyone is just as fucked up as you are.

This is a shorter review, but it’s only because I don’t want to over hype the film to the point where people find it disappointing when they watch it for the first time. I think its important to understand this films relevance in cinematic history and the impacts it has had on so many of our favourite shows, even right up to last month’s Sex Education. The style and references may have changed (although the 80s are slowly creeping back), but this film has a timeless quality that I don’t think it will ever lose.

Good: All of it.

Bad: None of it.

10/10 – Don’t worry, We won’t forget about this.

Alita: Battle Angel Review

Alita Battle Angel is the latest manga adaptation brought to western cinema. With a talent packed cast and James Cameron attached as a producer overseeing Sin City director Robert Rodriguez, I had every reason to be excited for this film. The trailers hadn’t intrigued me much into the premise, but I was keen to see what this impressive talent pool could produce.

First things first, huge shout out to Weta Digital, who have outdone themselves with the special effects work on this film. Alita herself is incredibly detailed, fully animated and absolutely flawless from start to finish. There is a hefty load on the special effects team in this film, with so many cyborg/mech suited people in close proximity and fighting together it could easily begin to look like a well polished video game cut scene. It never does, and the work they’ve done here is simply magical stuff. Each action scene is shot well, and director Robert Rodriguez deserves credit for combining the effects and action so well.

Alita, being the title character, is very much the driving force in the film, and huge credit goes to Rosa Salazar for her performance. It is fully motion capture, and she gives a performance the legendary Andy Serkis would be very proud of. Her performance may be brought to life by the magicians at Weta, but she still has to bring her A game to make this work and she does just that. Backing her up, and the next best in the movie for me, is Christoph Waltz, who has a voice that is so distinctive I think I’d enjoy him reading a dictionary. His characters relationship with Alita was the most endearing part of the film to me, with their dynamic playing out like a typical Father/Teenager at times.

The rest of the cast is certainly not bad, but nobody is remarkable. Keean Johnson is a newcomer to me, and plays love interest Hugo. He is fine, but the connection between them felt a little rushed and even if it did at times surprise me with where it went, I think this could have been handled better and would have added more emotion to the final act of the film. This films biggest crime for me is the use of talents Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali. The former is very much a side character, who does have an air of intrigue and a decent arc, but not one I felt any connection or investment in. It happened, but I didn’t care either what the outcome of her arc was.

As for Mahershala Ali, he is one of my favourite actors right now, and he is criminally under utilised as the antagonist of the film. We saw in the first season of Luke Cage how intense a performance he can bring to a villainous character, but here he isn’t given the licence to own the screen like he can. He is good in the film, but he isn’t given enough. There are several minutes of the 2 hour run time that we spend with Alita going from place to place, developing the love story element of the film that didn’t really work for me. I would have much rather spent this time understanding Ali’s motivations and what he sees as his role in this enticing world.

That brings me onto my favourite part of Alita, the world building and lore we are given. I often find this type of setting, with one city raised (both literally and socially in this case) above the doldrums, to be a bit cliché and boring. Think Hunger Games, but with more intrigue around the upper class world. The fact this is set 500 hundred years into the future allows for as much creative licence as you could want with regards to production design, and I found the restraint when it comes to the humans costume designs contrasted really well with the cyberpunk designs of the cyborgs and mech suits we see. The technology of the world is futuristic but lived in, and it works really well in my opinion. All this on top of the intrigue around Alita’s past makes me very keen to see more from the world this franchise has introduced.

Alita is a really entertaining film to watch, and if you get your head round the lore and find yourself hooked in by the world you will really enjoy the film. The antagonist is under developed, and the sequel baiting is obvious from about half hour into the film, but I think there is a lot to enjoy about Alita Battle Angel.

Good: Amazing special effects, brilliant world building, great main character, even if she has a superman like problem by the end.

Bad: Love interest didn’t work for me (may well for you) and an underused special weapon in Mahershala Ali.

7/10 – Solid start for the franchise, I hope we get to see more.

Polar Review

Polar is the latest movie Netflix have put out on their service. Starring Mads Mikkelsen and Vanessa Hudgens, it certainly has enough talent in the cast to deliver a good film. Directed by Jonas Akerlund I wasn’t sure what to expect, but a quick glance at his IMDB page shows a career made directing several different music videos and documentaries until last years Lords of Chaos, which i didn’t see, so this is the first time i have seen anything from the swedish director. 

The premise of Polar is relatively simple, Mads Mikkelsen plays Duncan, the best assassin in the world, and he is on the verge of retirement. To get out of paying his pension fund, his employer wants him dead before his 50th birthday. That’s the core of it, and it does function well to give everyone motivations to do what they’re doing. In addition to this, the dynamic between Mikkelsen and Vanessa Hudgens’ Camille is by far the best dynamic between any 2 characters in the film, and those actors are the best thing in this movie.

Mikkelsen is a man tired of the life he has led and glad to retire. This can seem at times like he is sleep walking through the film with no expression, but in small moments you do get the hint that it’s all part of the character of Duncan. Hudgens’ plays a character with a past that I didn’t see coming, and I found her the most compelling character in the film.

On the antagonist side of things, unfortunately things aren’t so stellar. I love Matt Lucas’ comedy, but for me his portrayal of the main villain Blut was way too over the top and at times silly. The character would fit in perfectly in a little britain sketch version of this premise, but the rest of the film just doesn’t fit with his odd behaviour. The other antagonists are okay at best, with the only real notable character being Vivian, played by Katheryn Winnick. She isn’t as over the top as the rest of the people on her side, and her character seems to have more depth to her than the rest of the cast aside from Duncan and Camille.

Being a film featuring an assassin, there is of course a healthy serving of action. At times the action is thrilling, a mix of John Wick and Tarantino that really pops and entertains. At other times, the action is hard to decipher, as there are way too many cuts to different angles to make sense of what is happening. The praise heaped on scenes like that hallway scene in daredevil should really be noted by action directors, as cutting 100 times just confuses and blurs the action, meaning it becomes visual noise that doesn’t really do much for the viewer. There is even a scene where Duncan is just pouring a drink, and taking a sip, before relaxing in his chair. A perfectly normal scene that sets him up for his future life that he views himself leading. I counted seven cuts to different angles, really not adding anything to the scene and just keeping your eyes moving.

This cut heavy style, along with a lot of the choices made in the wardrobe department, strike me as habits a director has picked up from making so many music videos. Music is all about the beat, cutting and making the flow of the pictures fit the music is what you are looking for. In a movie, and especially in action scenes, this style just doesn’t work for me.

Polar is an interesting film to watch, and I can really see what the film makers were   aiming for. It’s like John Wick without the action expertise, and Tarantino without the expertly written dialogue. There are some great moments, and two really solid performances. Unfortunately those grievances I have, and the 20-30 minutes of unnecessary ass and tiddies that can be cut straight out of the film, make Polar a slight let down for me.

Good: Hudgens is good, Mikkelsen with an Eye Patch doing his Solid Snake audition, and an interesting twist.

Bad: Antagonist’s are poor and some of the decisions made in the editing room/directors chair didn’t work for me.

4/10 – Decent Idea, Poor execution. 

Avatar (2009)- Review in time

Thinking about what I should review first in my “movie that came out years ago that I haven’t previously reviewed” series of posts was something I was struggling with. That is right up until this past weekend when I by chance ended up watching Avatar. The highest grossing film of all time with well over $2 billion raked in, and a film so many people struggle to remember a lot about, I’ve always been intrigued how this film made so much of an impact and then seemingly slipped out of the publics consciousness.

When was the last time you saw anyone dressed as a Na’vi person on Halloween or at a comic con. Avatar came, the world went mad for it, then it left. Watching it again with that knowledge really makes you wonder how well the next installments planned for release in the next couple of years will do.

Avatar feels like a truly epic experience. The effects, the scale, and the attention to detail of the world they have built is incredible. It really does make you long to visit Pandora, and this is probably avatars biggest strength. From the Na’vi’s culture to the flying beasts and creatures around them, you’re transported to a different world.

Sam Worthington in the lead role of Jake Sully. He’s good, but struggled to really command the film at times. Zoe Saldana is great as Neytiri and supports well alongside Sigourney Weaver. Stephen Lang plays the snarling army commander who fills the role of the main antagonist although the film is not just about the antagonist against the protagonist.

Jake Sullys journey exploring and learning the ways of this new culture is the heart of the film, as well as the blossoming relationship between him and Neytiri. It’s one of many subplots and messages the film juggles and for the most part director James Cameron does a good job of not letting things get too convoluted. Where the film does lack a little is in the motivations behind the antagonist, who I think comes across as pretty one-dimensional. He is easy to predict and despite enjoying the performance of the actor the character just felt a bit thin.

Avatar is at its best when you are focused in the incredible world built by James Cameron. It is so colourful, vibrant and full of wonder that just watching the screen is a joy in itself. The core story isn’t anything groundbreaking, with parallels to several other films, but nothing has ever, before or since, built a world so vibrant.

Weirdly the film it reminded me most of that has come out since is Warcraft. What i mean by this is that the world itself in both films is more interesting than the individual characters we meet. In both cases I can comfortably say I would enjoy seeing a return to these worlds, but I think I would actually prefer it if the next instalment doesn’t focus on the characters we have already met. Rather than that, I would like to explore more of Pandora and the Na’vi, perhaps not even having human characters at the centre of the story.

Good: The world is simply incredible to see, even after 9 years of superhero and star wars films, Avatar still looks amazing. The messages it strives to deliver re: the environment are still just as relevant today.

Bad: With more interesting main characters, or a more charismatic hero or villain, this would have been an even bigger hit, if that’s possible.

Test of time: The film holds up well, and as previously said, the messages are still just as relevant today. The upcoming sequels will be a real test on how well Avatar stuck with the general public, as big event movies are becoming a regular thing now which was not the case in 2009.

8/10 – Avatar is still stunning to watch.