AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR REVIEW

10 years, 18 films, was Infinity War worth all the hype?

I loved how the Russos made this surprisingly accessible for fans who may not have obsessively watched the entire Marvel backlog beforehand or ever (Sacrilege, I know).

Crucial plot points were covered BUT you would be missing out on a lot of character depth, back stories and little references if you haven’t dipped into the other Marvel movies.

It felt like all the other films had been gearing up for this moment.

As much as I griped about some of the earlier Marvel efforts (Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers Assemble, the Hulk reboots, Iron Man 2), I never faulted the characters; what they stood for, their journeys and their progression over the years.

I have to say that I was actually excited to finally see all these incredible characters unite against a common foe (and what a foe!).

Josh Brolin, take a bow. I couldn’t think of anybody better to take on the Purple Mountain. His vocal gravitas lifting the amazing visual effects. The detail on his expressions were impeccable. For me, one of the most memorable Marvel villains to date.

For a moment, I almost felt empathy for the tormented maniac. An engaging presence that chewed up every scene. You could almost understand his motives. The flashbacks providing a much needed depth with his relationship to Gamora (Zoe Saldana).

Even his minions delivered; Tom Vaughan-Lawlor was brilliant as Ebony Maw and a worthy adversary (most notably for Strange) and it took me half of the film with all that make up to realise that it was The Leftovers’ Carrie Coon playing the bloodthirsty Proxima Midnight (What a name!)

Surprisingly the opening sequence didn’t grab me. As much as it set the tone with Thanos claiming lives from the get go. It didn’t pack the emotional punch I hoped. Maybe because the lives involved were hardly a shocker.

However once Stark, Strange and Spidey united; my doubts were instantly extinguished.

I loved how IW had the perfect balance of humour, drama and action.

The fast paced set pieces, the stunning visuals, the quick witted one liners, the fun exchanges. 2 1/2 hours breezed over in a heart beat.

Mixing up all the characters made for so many brilliant encounters. The biggest highlight involving the unexpected teaming up of Thor, Rocket and Groot.

The Guardians gang almost stole the show from everybody. Drax and Mantis were fantastic: delivering some of the most quotable dialogues.

I think everybody had their moment to shine (The Cap’s Third Man entrance, Strange’s sorcery, any scene involving Thor). An impressive feat in itself considering how many characters were thrown into the mix.

The battle of Wakanda sequences were incredible! It almost (almost) rivalled the epic Helm’s Deep battle of LOTR (Nerd!). The animation, the intensity, riding every high and low.

Now don’t get me wrong, the film wasn’t perfect (Scandalous!). Ruffalo had already won me over as Banner/Hulk BUT he got on my nerves. More so because Hulk failed to turn up when the chips were down?!

I loved how the trailers lied. Manipulating the order of scenes and showing moments that weren’t necessarily in the movie. Some for the better, some for the worst.

After watching Banner embrace Hulk and appearing to resolve his inner turmoil in Thor: Ragnarok, I was a little annoyed that he was still very much unstable and out of control. Watching Ruffalo pull constipated expressions, groan and go a little green after a bad vindaloo was a little infuriating. Tut tut tut.

I’m sure you have heard whispers of characters being bumped off. I wouldn’t be commending a bold finale if risks weren’t taken but the removal of one particular character was abrupt and handled a little poorly for my liking *cough* Soul Stone *cough*

I had to laugh that Gwyneth Paltrow made a seemingly unnecessary cameo and yet both Ant Man and Hawkeye were out of the mix with just a passing comment to explain their absence. Really?

Even the special clip (that all Marvel fans endure endless credits for) was disappointing. Setting up the introduction of another Marvel character that we all knew was coming.

However, the gripping finale delivered a surprisingly dark turn and a very bold move from the Marvel team.

I can honestly say I didn’t see it coming. It’s hardly a spoiler to know that this is only Part One but I’m already pondering theories on how they can work Part Two and any other projects between the release dates.

BUT one thing has been established. It may have spanned 10 years but the Marvel movie-verse still has plenty in the tank (Especially right now) and I for one cannot wait for the next instalment.

3.5/5 (with room for a 4)*

*If some of the little niggles are addressed and rewarded in Part 2!

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*NEW* SICARIO REVIEW *NEW*

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Two stand out performances redeem an overhyped and underwhelming thriller.

An idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

After a gripping and brutal opening sequence involving a botched raid, the film seemed to meander along. Thankfully, Blunt was superb and really carried the film as she delved into the murky underbelly of Juarez.

The first hour was far too slow for my liking. BUT I was still intrigued to see where it was going. The cryptic conversations and stone walled pallor of Josh Brolin created an air of mystery and suspense. BUT I needed more. It didn’t help that a good portion of what was happening was very disjointed and confusing.

Luckily the introduction of Del Toro’s Alejandro spiced things up. He was brilliant. BUT after a while, Johann Johannson’s brooding soundtrack and Del Toro’s blank staring soon got on my nerves. I constantly questioned his motives and general relevance, to be honest.

Blunt’s frustration personified mine perfectly. Del Toro’s warning to her was a nice little indication of things to come. “Nothing will make sense to your American ears and you will doubt everything we do”. So I kept my griping to a minimum. Waiting for answers or a big twist to redeem this surprisingly patchy affair.

The sweeping shots of a downtrodden Juarez were a sight to see. Captured perfectly with Roger Deakins’ cinematography. A gritty underworld. The rifle fire riddling across the night sky like fireworks was a nice touch.

It was great to see Daniel Kaluuya from Psychoville in this. He delivered an impeccable accent and a sterling supporting turn. An impressive transition for the BBC Three star. I was also happy to see Jeffrey Donovan from Burn Notice finally getting a movie role. Shame, it was such a weak one.

Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) was completely wasted in his role. His character felt unnecessary and nothing more than a catalyst to spark some much needed action.

After all the slow burning build up, cryptic mumbling and waiting, I expected this to go out with a bang. It delivered a finale of sorts. The closing act was tense, atmospheric and nail biting. The answers finally revealed as we unearthed Alejandro’s true agenda.

The only problem was that after all the mystery, I really hoped it wasn’t going to be so predictable. The twist. Well, if you could it call it that. I saw it coming a mile away. Maybe I’ve seen too many thrillers of this genre to be surprised. For all the confusion, I was hoping that there would be more to unveil. BUT alas, it was not to be.

What didn’t help was that as Del Toro took the centre stage, it was at the expense of Blunt’s character who was pushed into the background. She was far too passive and really didn’t know what was going. It was disappointing that someone we had followed for two hours wasn’t really in the final moments.

If not for a tense stand off with Del Toro, her character would have gone out with a whimper. Which sums up my impression of the film.

At its best, tense, nail-biting and suspenseful. At its worst, patchy, overlong and dull. From the director of Prisoners? Thriller of the year? I expected so much more.

3/5

*NEW* EVEREST REVIEW *NEW*

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This movie made me feel like I was climbing Everest. Exhausting, tough and an instant regret.

If NOT for its impressive ensemble, I don’t think this would have made the big screen.

A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.

The opening certainly showed promise. It may have been slow burning but it was watchable as the gang ascended upon the monstrous mountain. I couldn’t believe the stars that popped up in this. The only problem is that you soon forgot them by the next frame.

Jason Clarke managed to make a memorable impression as the ultra sincere mountaineer Rob Hall. He had good chemistry with Keira Knightley. Shame that Knightley took the back seat in this arduous affair. She did her best with the minute role of the pregnant spouse and delivered a convincing accent.

Salvatore Totino’s cinematography was fantastic to look at as the crew passed through each base. Ascending further and further. The trivia and facts about the side effects upon reaching certain altitudes made for crazy but interesting stuff. BUT it also made me question why people do it in the first place.

However after 60 minutes of more statistics, more cliched banter and weak back stories (Doug’s postman on Everest story line being a particular highlight), my eyes began to wonder.

The main problem for me was that despite the cast’s best efforts, they were having to deal with such unmemorable characters. I understand that it’s hard to stray from the source material and I can respect Kormakur’s attempt to implore more realism BUT for a two hour feature you need more depth and interest.

The only other character I could remember after Rob was Beck. The Texan businessman played to perfection by Josh Brolin. BUT that was also down to the miraculous events that unfolded with him.

When the storm finally hit, a gigantic black cloud spewing hail and arctic winds, I was hooked. It was tense and nail biting. I wouldn’t know what to do in that situation. Nature being the true killer. BUT I am glad I didn’t invest in 3D. It wouldn’t have added anything to the experience.

After that cloud sequence, it became incredibly difficult to see anything. It was grainy and dark which certainly heightened the tension in some scenes. Especially as Beck battled to see through the blistering arctic conditions with his failing eyes BUT generally it was disorienting.

However, in between the volatile storm episodes, there wasn’t much else. You also started to pick out the errors. I was a little unsure about Kormakur’s intentions. What was he actually trying to say? This wasn’t a proper survival story. A lot of lives were lost.

The commentary on the competitive nature of guide tours impacting on deadlines was expertly personified in Jake Gyllenhaal’s hippie climbing instructor. It was a shame that the character was nothingy and soon got on my nerves.

BUT it didn’t excuse the fact that Hall ignored protocols that he had enforced. He delayed the climb down when he was told by his team about the storm. If anything, Everest showed how incompetent these guide tours really are and that the only people who climb it are idiots with death wishes and too much money.

There were some touching scenes BUT they were soon bogged down by monotonous talking that was tragically repetitive and hammy scenes that just came off unintentionally comical. I had to laugh at the fact that each character had to remove their masks just so the audience knew who they were. Even when they shouted each other’s name repetitively, I still struggled to remember which actor was playing who.

The helicopter sequence was tense and offered a little more in the vein of Vertical Limit. Suspense, tension, shame there wasn’t more of it. Martin Henderson, Sam Worthington and Emily Watson were wasted in their stocky roles. Disappointing.

The end credits were so downbeat and nihilistic that I actually wondered why they even bothered to make this movie in the first place.

A shambolic affair. For those familiar with the story and those who aren’t, stick with the book. I wasn’t expecting a big dumb blockbuster. I was prepared for a challenging drama of survival. Challenging was certainly right. Tragically, it offered little for me.

2/5

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR REVIEW

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I loved Sin City. It’s visceral hard boiled pulp story lines. The noir characters. The beautifully animated graphic underworld that literally lifts off the pages of Miller’s comic books. It was always going to be tough for a sequel. This time round, it’s a mixed bag. A violent, sexy one but mixed.

The animation is fantastic. The 3D? Well what 3D? Not an investment. (Yet again). The film launches you straight into the madness with an incredibly unhinged Marv going on yet another killing spree in the dark underbelly of Basin City. Rourke is brilliant but I couldn’t help but feel Marv’s irrational behaviour was ridiculous, bordering on overkill. His revenge spree in the first film had some warped justification. This time, not so much. I mean Marv is in a much more volatile state with blackouts and confusion galore. The littlest glance or grunt throwing him into a merciless rage.

Now I must advise you to watch the first movie. I hadn’t seen it in ages. And remember it has been NINE years. That’s right. Nine years since its release. This is very much a prequel/sequel of sorts. This will be made clear with Marv when a certain character appears. I was baffled and confused until I went back to the original. Scratching my head as to how he survived the electric . . . Oh wait. The same can be said for Dwight. Brolin takes over the helm from Clive Owen. Brolin’s drawl voice and grimacing face pulling are spot on. His delivery of Miller’s lines are sublime. A true noir actor. His storyline involving the dame to kill for (and I would kill for her) Eva Green reeked of the stories of old. The ultimate femme fatale. It may come off a little pastiche and predictable but it’s great to see a re-visiting of the classics.

Eva Green was born for the role. Conniving but attractive on the eye. Her beauty a trap for any foolish man. The reason why Dwight had to change his face. Miller seemed to cut the amount and reduce the length of story lines. There was two main stories with two little subplots (new stories for the movie) running along aside them. The new story lines involve Nancy (Alba) and Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt). JGL was to be expected charismatic and perfect for the part. He has proven that he can do the noir protagonist after Brick. He rolls off Miller’s lines like he was born in that world. He boosts the film and to be honest I wanted to see more of his story line.

However, for all it’s potential, it ends all rather abruptly. His speech at the poker table would be something that QT would love. A lesson in power if ever there was one but disappointing after such a suspenseful build up. But it is a typical noir ending as his cocky ambition gets the best of him as he takes on Rourke (Powers Boothe) in a game of poker.

Powers Boothe was deliciously sinister with his shark toothed grin, lapping up every moment of it. A perfectly cast villain, composing all his past bad guys role into one nasty piece of work. The one aspect of Sin City that I felt pushed this glossy colourful seedy crime saga over its ridiculously violent edge was the inhabitants of Old Town. Too much time spent on it in the first film. Miller must have realised this and only brings in Gail (Rosario Dawson) and samurai wielding assassin Miho (The alluring Jamie Chung now replacing Devon Aoki) to assist Dwight. And they are actually taken out of Old Town.

Dawson was less irritating this time round for me and Chung did as well as she could playing a silent killer. Of course, there was ridiculous sword play and white blood spread across the screen, along with various body parts. Dennis Haysbert was relentless as Manute (taking over the reins from the late Michael Clarke Duncan). He will always be David Palmer but it made a change to see him play the thug. It also made some of the references in the first film make so much more sense.

I never felt so dirty watching a film. Jessica Alba manages to outdo her infamous strip tease dance number. In fact, she delivers one every time one of the characters enters Kadie’s Club Pecos. To be honest, I wondered whether Nancy was only brought in to be the eye candy. Beautiful Miss Alba may be; I wanted to see some resolution following her story line after Hartigan’s sacrifice. Bruce Willis does make a return as Hartigan. It’s pretty clear from the trailers. But to what capacity? Well . . .  “POSSIBLE SPOILER” Don’t panic! He is very much dead. Even in death, you can’t escape Sin City.

The idea of Hartigan watching Nancy, seeing her deteriorate into a pool of grief and misery was a good angle. But at the same time, Willis does nothing else. He is merely a cameo that appears to say two little speeches and then bugger off. Might as well have not bothered turning up at all. It doesn’t help that for some reason in all it’s ridiculousness, he cannot talk to Nancy. But yet Benicio Del Toro’s Jackie could talk to Clive Owen’s Dwight? Strange. The switching back and forth from past to present did cause some confusion.

The cast were perfect, the animation always impressed me and the story lines were good but much more predictable. I felt that the film lacked something. I mean the characters were good but I wanted more of the memorable cult characters. The Yellow Bastard, Elijah Wood’s crazy cannibal Kevin, Rutger Hauer’s messed up priest. We only really got that in Stacey Keach’s Jabba-esque mob boss Wallenquist and Christopher Lloyd’s demented street doc Kroenig (Believe me, Doc Brown would be screaming more than Great Scott!). The pace lulled in parts for me. Story lines seemed to build up and end abruptly. However, I still want more and it was still very watchable.

Not as good as the first but still worth a go for fans and anyone with a little blood lust. 3.5/5 for me

OLDBOY REVIEW

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Oh Boy!

Now firstly, I am a huge fan of Park Chan-wook’s 2004 original cult classic, and was devastated to hear a remake was in the pipeline. However, I felt somewhat assured knowing that Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing and Inside Man) was at the helm, with Josh Brolin and Samuel L (The L stands for Motherfucker) Jackson in the cast.

But what I just watched was a travesty, everything I feared in a Hollywood remake by the bucket load. The opening half hour did pay homage and pretty much covered the same set up as the original, which did not bother me in the slightest, with Brolin with his Southern drawl playing the part to perfection and establishing early on that the character is asking for trouble. For those unaware of the original plot, I will try not to spoil too much but I’m so riled up after watching this, I cannot promise anything.

Basically, the main gist is that Joe Doucett (Brolin) is kidnapped and held prisoner in a hotel room for 20 years, until one day he is released thus putting him on a murderous vengeance-seeking path with a hammer in tow. (That’s right. A hammer). Original fans – I’ll get to that. What I liked was the little touches. The fact that Lee included the mystery umbrella woman. However, he focuses, if a little too much, more on Doucett’s entrapment. Although it allowed the scenes to provide more depth and encapsulate (Word of the day!) his vulnerability and ever-growing psychosis, it could have been condensed a lot quicker.

(Plus was I the only one thinking, Jesus Brolin, put on some pants son?). The Cast Away-inspired pillow companion was a nice touch.

Oldboy was always a strange and violent film but what I loved about Chan-wook’s original was that it was suspenseful, intriguing and hypnotic, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen (and no! Not because it was in subtitles!). But once Doucett is freed from his motel confines, Lee seems to throw away everything that made the original a classic for me, leaving a big, bloody mess. This is settled in one ridiculously unnecessary violent scene, in which Brolin pretty much kills a high school football team for getting in his way. And with that very moment, went all logic and interest.

The cast do their utmost to provide a dimension to their wafer thin characters. A notable exception being the beautiful Elizabeth Olsen (I didn’t realise the Olsen twins had another sister, my goodness, steady now). You know you’re onto a losing streak when even Samuel L Jackson can’t save the day (he was the Spirit bad. Bad). Jackson just come across as a whiny, cross dressing weirdo with a stupid blonde Mohican, not even his motherfuckery was funny. Just plain irritating.

The lines fall flat, Brolin the powerhouse actor that he is, can only grumble and pull stupid faces. The dumpling scene, my God! At one point, in an attempt to find his captors, he knows that the food he was given was from a Chinese restaurant. So what does he do? Go to every restaurant and literally fill his face with dumplings until he recognizes the taste.

The whole thing borders on self-parody. At one point, Josh Brolin is riding a tiny Chinese bicycle while chasing after a Jeep frantically waving a hammer and Sharlto Copley (District 9) as the villain. Oh my word! What was the deal with his accent? Now, the villain was always an eccentric and a flamboyant dresser. But Copley’s portrayal comes off as a really naff Bond villain from the 70s Moore era. It was laughable. There was genuine suspense when the two protagonists finally meet but with Brolin and Copley, it was comical.

The hammer scene, the infamous hammer scene. Terrible. Lee films it all in one take, like the original, but instead of leaving the camera static and the action unfolding around it, the camera pans around, following Brolin. He only uses the hammer for thirty seconds, then swaps to every possible weapon. The violence is OTT, ridiculous and stupid. He’s running around with a knife in his back while being slapped about with 2×4’s! One big Saturday Night Live piss take.

No squid eating, just a passing reference. And the umbrella woman, just disappears. My friend who has not seen the original did not get the point to her at all and frankly there wasn’t one in this rehash. Oh and the twist. Well, there is a twist for those unfamiliar but for those familiar, it’s different, they stay true but go a little bit more messed up.

It is difficult not to draw comparisons, especially to a film that was, and still is good. It did not need to be remade.

On it’s own merit, it’s a stupidly gory and OTT watchable mess that is so-so at best, and I mean best. Worth a gander if you’re a gore nut but the tone is all over the place, just like everything else with this movie. A real mess, a beautifully shot mess but oh boy 1.5/5

Currently ranked 176 out of 178!