ANNIHILATION REVIEW

Different . . . But worth watching?

A biologist (Natalie Portman) signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply.

An intriguing concept hammered by a meandering pace and a disappointing finale.

It was a little annoying knowing that the main story arc was being retold by Lena as it killed off the mystery that was to come. BUT the fractured time frame kept things engaging with the questions flying in thick and fast as the scenes flicked back and forth.

Portman delivered a sterling turn as the grief-stricken Lena. Struggling to move on from the loss of her partner Kane (Garland stalwart Oscar Isaac) who went MIA on his last expedition.

That was until he strolled into the house. Dishevelled, disoriented and unaware of the lost time.

The suspense set. My curiousity peaked. Alarm bells ringing. I was getting as confused and clueless as Kane.

The slow burning tempo complimented the first act as special ops intervened on Lena’s strange reunion. Whisking her away to a secret facility.

A religious event? Extra terrestrial activity? All we know is that they call it, “The Shimmer”.

Jennifer Jason Leigh’s hard ass psychologist quickly established the premise for our heroine. A meteor crashed into a lighthouse unleashing an expanding rainbow coloured mass (No, this isn’t the plot for The Blob).

The cause of Kane’s absence.

The middle act was where I was rewarded. A creepy unsettling visual feast as Lena and a team of female scientists embark on a journey for answers.

No compasses, no co-ordinates, no concept of time. 3 days had passed and the team had no recollection other than passing through the dreaded bubble.

The animation and special effects were fantastic. Despite my grumblings with the pace, I was left on tenterhooks as the team delved deeper into ‘The Shimmer’.

Just as I felt my patience was waning, there would be a new development. Be it a disturbing video message left on a memory stick. Or a new demented cross-breed.

Tessa Thompson’s encounter with a mutated gator with shark-like teeth was a particular highlight.

There was an air of unease throughout as well as a couple of jumpy moments (That got yours truly).

I loved how Garland and co. kept their cards close to their chests. Did Kane and his team go insane or was it something more? Why is this mass even here? Is it sentient? (Word of the day)

I was a little disappointed at Isaac’s minuscule role. Merely emerging in flashbacks and video clips. I also expected a little more from Tessa Thompson’s character.

However, this did allow more screen time for Jennifer Jason Leigh and gave Gina Rodriguez the opportunity to deliver a stand out performance.

The all-female dynamic worked well. My main complaint was that the characters lacked depth. I liked the tension as Lena chose not to share the fact that Kane was her husband as the team found footage of his expedition.

And before I could moan too much about the lack of character development, the team unwittingly fell prey to another mutation. Nail biting, to say the least.

A bear that wails with the cries of its fallen? Seriously, that thing will stick with me for some time. And don’t even get me started on those creepy plant scarecrow things. Yikes.

Annihilation seemed to fall apart when the team did. The paranoia and backstabbing was only a matter of time and once each member was picked off in one way or another, it all got a little predictable.

The drawn out and ambiguous ending left things on a flat note. Ex Machina was one of my favourite films of 2014 and I knew the finale was never going to be that easy.

BUT despite all the theories and existential discussions, there was only one way Annihilation could go. That final shot should have had me talking BUT I saw it coming and it just didn’t deliver after all that promise.

Despite sharing echoes of Sphere with a hint of The Edge (Great films. Cannot recommend enough), I felt the hype and lumbering pace spoiled something that could have been so much more.

By all means, if you’re still curious, this is still an unsettling and well-acted sci-fi thriller worth a watch BUT it just whether that final act will leave breathless in awe . . . or disappointment.

3/5

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*NEW* THOR: RAGNAROK REVIEW *NEW*

Just as ridiculous as the film title but bloody good fun all the same.

Imprisoned, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk (CGI’d Mark Ruffalo), his former ally. Fighting for survival and racing against time, Thor must prevent the all-powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

When I first heard the director’s name (Taika Waititi), my first thoughts were: “What a strange name” and then I actually did some research and couldn’t believe my luck.

Count Viago from What We Do in the Shadows?! (A heavy recommendation if you haven’t seen it already). I should have known what to expect.

One mad rollercoaster ride of hilarity, neon, colour and 80s fusion, of course.

Marvel have really hit their stride (*cough* DC *cough*) and seem to have a winning formula.

To be honest, I wasn’t really impressed with the first Avengers movie or Captain America (What?! Sorry) BUT I loved Kenneth Branagh’s introduction of Thor. The Shakespearean King Lear melodrama between the feuding brothers. Hiddleston, Hemsworth, Hopkins, Portman. Perfect.

Thor: The Dark World was a mixed bag. Failing to deliver the right balance of laughs and drama. I was intrigued to see what tone Thor’s third outing would take. The more comical route did have its flaws BUT I was too busy having fun.

And there were still some touching moments (as well as revelations) to be had between Thor and his father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins).

Even if it was a little sillier and the story line a tad predictable, Waititi and co made up for it with memorable characters, stellar turns, humour and heart.

It’s hard not to mention one actor, in particular when praising supporting characters. I’m sure you’ve seen the endless memes, gifs and tweets.

Jeff Goldblum.

You can’t help but smile at the guy. His larger than life bohemian approach fitted the role of the Grandmaster perfectly. My only grumble? He wasn’t in it enough.

Tessa Thompson was fantastic as the embittered Valkyrie. Disillusioned and drinking her sorrows out of a bottle. Her stubborn demeanour worked well off the confused Thor.

Cate Blanchett lapped up the role of Hela with aplomb. Despite being pushed into the background far too much; she still managed to make a stern adversary to the Viking god.

Karl Urban (An underrated actor) was hilarious as Skurge. Just wait until he introduces his accomplices Des and Troy. Brilliant.

I was getting a little fed up of Loki and Thor’s fractious fraternal relationship. But this latest foray forced the pair into an uneasy alliance and somebody must have heard me because there was even a gag in which Thor tells Loki that he’s waiting for the next betrayal. A running gag that delivered in buckets.

It helped that Hiddleston and Hemsworth worked well together yet again.

BUT the main duo I was interested in was . . .

Only kidding. Well, not entirely. Waititi even managed to give himself a little cameo as the bumbling bouldered bad ass that was Korg. He had me in stitches. Stealing every scene he featured in.

Anyway, the real duo that made it for me was Thor and Hulk. I loved the dynamic between them. I haven’t really rated Hulk’s multiple reincarnations (Sorry, Team Bana all day) and was unimpressed with Ruffalo. THAT WAS UNTIL Ragnarok.

He nailed Banner and brought a little character and humanity to the green giant.

The only problem with bringing new characters into the mix was that somebody had to take the hit. The absence of Portman and Dennings was missed and Idris Elba was reduced to measly filler sequences. Don’t get me wrong, he still bossed it BUT a waste of a character and an actor.

I will commend how all the silly little clips, that hardcore Marvel fans have endured begrudgingly through endless credits (thanking everyone from the make up assistant’s make up assistant to the chap who brings the coffee), have finally come into play. Most notably with a caped dimension bender (Probably not the best description).

This installment has certainly kept things fresh and fun and spiced things up for the upcoming projects.

Despite my nitpicking, I wasn’t bored. It was entertaining, if a little silly in places BUT had everything you could expect from a big superhero movie. Mad action, fantastic effects, great characters with the right injection of fun.

3.5/5

*How could I forget to commend the soundtack?! I will amend that error by leaving this classic track that welcomed our favourite Norse God to the mix. Enjoy!

 

*NEW* CREED REVIEW *NEW*

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We may have seen it all before BUT Jordan’s performance packs a punch and does enough to hold its own.

The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).

From the opening sequence, I knew Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) was the perfect choice. Prepping for a underground boxing fight in the deep Mexican underbelly. Built like a machine and punching walls to psych himself up.

Presence, charisma and charm. I knew he had the potential and Creed was the perfect platform. His back story had enough to hold its own. The boy desperate to forge his own legacy. The illegitimate son of a boxing legend. A hot head creating his own destruction.

The slow burning pace had the tendency to drag in places BUT I was still engaged as Don tried to make his own way from his tough upbringing. In and out of foster care. I felt his relationship with Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad – The Cosby Show) wasn’t explored enough. More could have made. Especially after rescuing the poor boy from a detention facility. She was only really brought back in the closing minutes after a harsh warning about following in his father’s footsteps.

The sparring sequences were done well. The little stats and figures flashing up over each boxer that Creed challenged was a good touch. Desperate NOT to use his father’s name, Don struggles to get any one to train him. That is until he gets in touch with an old friend.

Welcome back Rock. As soon as the Italian Stallion made his intro, I was hooked. Jordan and Stallone made a great duo. The usual training montages were funny and still entertained. The punching bag, the skipping rope BUT alas! NO meat punching in the freezers (Steady now) this time. Ol’ Sly’s running commentary kept things light. I was gutted after all the little nods to Rocky that he didn’t make Don drink raw eggs.

The problem was that being a Rocky fan, he was always going to steal the show. You really felt for the old boy as he sat alone at the cemetery reading the paper to Adrian’s grave. And when the Champ received some bad news, it got me a little bit. It was a fitting swansong for the iconic and ageing boxer. One of Stallone’s best performances from arguably one of his best characters. He was funny, charming and there were some genuinely touching scenes.

I liked the blossoming romance between Don and Bianca. Jordan and Tessa Thompson (Selma) had great chemistry. It was a shame that her character got pushed into the background as the film carried on.

Tony Bellew played the cocky light heavyweight champ Conlan to perfection. The perfect villain for the piece. Making money out of fighting a Creed. Despite Don only having one official fight under his belt. The fight sequences were brilliantly captured. You could hear and feel every punch. A bit of a contrast from the dated Apollo/Rocky boxing scraps. The camera angles were a little disorienting at times. You just wanted them to stay static and film the match.

Coogler did indulge in the schmaltz a little too much for the closing act. Johnson’s Rocky homage came off a little hammy. Running up a battered street with a bunch of kids on mopeds just didn’t quite have the same buzz as the famous step run. 

Some might argue that Creed is just a continuation. BUT is there any other way to tell an underdog story in boxing? If the characters are interesting enough, I’m happy to roll with the punches. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. As finales go, it was a little too corny. BUT you still couldn’t help but get caught up in it. Rooting for the underdog. Yet after all that build up, the big fight was a little too quick cut and rushed for me.

Creed tied into the Rocky anthology well and was even able to make its own mark. Very much like the protagonist. BUT that wasn’t going to be hard. Come on. Rocky III, IV and V were guilty pleasures.

A little predictable and corny in parts BUT a fitting swansong from Sly and a fresh blood performance from Jordan makes this worth a watch.

3.5/5