Captain America: Civil War Review

Another month, another bloody superhero film. But after the trainwreck of a film that was Batman Vs. Superman (I know some of you like it but you are wrong) fielded by DC, it falls back to Marvel to show us how superhero films are done? Is it another classic, or was BvS a signal of the beginning of the end for comic book films?

Captain America: Civil War stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan and introduces Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland and is directed by the Russo Brothers. The film follows on after Avengers: Age of Ultron, where the team clashes over whether to be regulated and registered after the destruction they have caused.

The Civil War storyline was the story that got me into Marvel. Heroes fighting heroes was interesting idea and I didn’t think a film could manage to get the whole story onto screen. The film deviates from the comic book a lot and sets up an overarching theme of revenge with a B story, but for me it didn’t work. I understand they needed to move away from the established storyline but their replacement felt a bit flat. It would have been better to just have friend vs. friend instead of linking it to a background character whose been following the Avengers for a while.

While the film is billed as a Captain America film, it feels more like an Avengers film. We have all of the side characters, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Vision and introduce new characters as well. Black Panther (my personal favourite superhero), played by Chadwick Boseman and the new Spiderman, played by Tom Holland are superb additions and honestly the best parts of the film. Holland get’s the character’s trademark quips and chatterbox attitude down which is fun to listen to, while Boseman nails being a brooding badass and handles himself well in the fight scenes. The film isn’t interested in keeping Cap as its main character, instead jumping to several different characters all over the world.

The action scenes are done mostly well, although a few devolve into close-in combat. We get some beautiful scenes, Black Panther’s entrance/first fight, which shows some lovely fight choreography, or the Pro and Anti-Registration teams showdown is another excellent action sequence, especially when team members powers get utilised. After that though, it all feels a bit worn. We’ve seen Iron Man blast people, we’ve seen Cap throw his shield, give us something new.

The film tries to juggle several things; the main story, a B side, new villains and a romance between two Avengers, but none of them are great, just good enough. It’s the old, great at nothing, good at everything idea. The romance in particular; Marvel have never really been able to pull it off (with Age of Ultron making a half-hearted attempt at something between two teammates). It would be nice to see some improvement.

And just like all the other superhero films recently, it doesn’t have a conclusive ending. Sure, we have a fitting final showdown, but the villains comeuppance feels rather anticlimactic and most of the character development that could have changed up the direction for the series for the better get’s washed aside. The ending that doesn’t fit in with the story that Civil War was trying to tell and feels like the Russo’s were told by Marvel to not rock the boat too much just in case the fifty billion sequels to Civil War wanted to play with some of the more side superheroes.

Reading my review back, it sounds rather bitter. I’m trying not to be, I rather enjoyed Captain America: Civil War, but every time I look back at it, I keep finding more and more flaws. We’ve had thirteen of these films now and apart from The Avengers (mainly due to how it brought all the characters together) we haven’t had anything really excellent. If you like Marvel, Civil War will do you fine, but I wish there was something more.

Score: 7/10 It’s another Marvel film, make of it what you will.

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Hardcore Henry Review

I saw the first trailer for Hardcore Henry in the cinema a few weeks ago and I was shaking my head at the ridiculousness of it. It seemed like just another dumb shooters with a gimmick of that it was in first person. But trailers have advertised their films wrong before and I always try to go into a new film with an open mind. So, does Hardcore Henry actually come together as a film?

Hardcore Henry stars Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett and Tim Roth and is directed by Ilya Naishuller. The film follows Henry as he is brought back to life as a cyborg by his wife Estelle (Bennett). She is soon captured by mercenaries led by villain Akan (Kozlovsky) and Henry sets out to save her.

Hardcore Henry‘s main selling point is its first-person camera perspective. While films have dabbled in first person (the adaptation of Doom had a cringe worthy stab at it), it hasn’t been widely used by creators for films. And sure, for a good while the first person viewpoint works. And extended sequence in an abandoned hotel, which features a floor-by-floor gunfight is gloriously dumb, along with several moments of flashy parkour chases, it comes together for a few minutes. Sadly, a film can’t be an hour and a half of continual gunfights and punch-ups. You need peaks and troughs, otherwise the audience doesn’t get a break. I eventually lost interest because there was no lull in the action for me to catch my breath.

The film proudly wears it’s inspirations on its chest. Naishuller as a director has obviously grown up with YouTube, as he swipes not only video game Let’s Play’s but also amateur parkour videos and smashes them together. But that’s actually a point against it, it doesn’t feel like it should be in the cinema, it feels like I should be watching this on my computer at home.

Most of the storyline can be swept aside by just saying “because video games.” The main character having amnesia and being mute? Because video games. Telekenisis? Because video games. Women used as catalyst for story and is trophy for completing mission? Because video games. The previously mentioned abandoned hotel is ripped straight from Call Of Duty, there is a strip club from Grand Theft Auto and the parkour is from Assassins Creed. It even tries it’s hand at a Bioshock type of twist (which even the most simple of audience member will guess). That’s where Hardcore Henry will find its audience, in video game lovers and players who want to see their favourite games on play out in real life.

The script even goes a bit video gamey. Henry get’s a phone from his friend Jimmy and he calls him with his next mission. “Go there. Kill this guy. Take his macguffin to keep the plot moving.” The script also tries it’s hand at a few jokes but most of these miss. Apart from a rip on The Magnificent Seven as well as a two second visual gag involving a doormat, most of the rest of the jokes feel aimed at the teenage audience that can’t even get into the screening (Hardcore Henry is an 18). Jokes about women and gays are throughout, with nothing more to say than “you’re not the target audience for this film so we’ll make fun of you.” The whole script feels like it was made by a twelve year old hooked on sherbet, filling it with all things he thinks are cool. The previously mentioned strip club scene, which brings in needless titillation, as well as heaps of gore throughout (that makes Deadpool look like it was made for kids) it all seems juenvenile.

In the end, Hardcore Henry is exhausting. If you can turn your brain to the male teen setting (other films in this category are 300 and Grown Ups) then you might find some enjoyment. If not, then skip it.

Score: 3/10 If you’re old enough you to see it, you’re probably not its target audience.

London Has Fallen Review

Finally, it’s March. We’re going to be having some great films this month, Hail Caesar!, Anomalisa and even though I’m not looking forward to it, many film-goers are eagerly anticipating Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. But, before we can enjoy those, I have to clean house one last time for London Has Fallen.

London Has Fallen stars Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and Alon Moni Aboutboul and is directed by Babak Najafi. The films follows secret service agent Mike Bannng (Butler) who must protect US President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart) after terrorists attack London.

I’ll start by saying that I haven’t seen Olympus Has Fallen. I’m much more of a White House Down kind of guy, but due to the former being a box office success and the latter flopping, we get an unnecessary sequel. But anyway, how does London Has Fallen stand as a film?

The answer is poorly. Very poorly.

The action scenes are passable. Most are just confusing jump-cut affairs, apart from one pretty good long take of a firefight in the London streets. Several explosions open the terrorist attack and it seems every single object in London has been doused in petrol and is a hair away from catching fire. Everything that can explode does explode, it starts to become almost comical. Director Babak Najafi seems to be giving Michael Bay a run for his money in the unnecessary explosions department, as we have around seven explosions delivered in a montage.

As the set-up for the film is the state funeral for the British Prime Minister, several heads of state are present in the film. Just in case we get confused between them, each one has a lapel pin of the flag of their nation attached to them, it’s like the film is holding your hand in case you get confused. The leaders on screen are thinly disguised versions of each the real life version, with Merkel, Berlusconi and Holland in all but name on screen. But as nearly all of them get wiped out in the opening ten minutes it falls to Gerard Butler as the world’s most Scottish American to save the day. He makes the British police and army look like bumbling fools, but that might be because Banning himself seems to be like a video game character in comparison, with the unlimited ammo and auto-aim cheats turned on.

The London displayed in the film was designed by someone who used tourist books as their research. The capital of England (not the capital of Britain, something the movie keeps getting wrong) is just made up of famous landmarks and tube stations. I guess this is to cater to the American audience, who only recognise London from Buckingham Palace and Big Ben.

While the first film had rogue elements of North Korea attacking the United States, for the sequel the bad guys are rogue elements of Pakistan. The films tries to put some motive into why the bad guys are staging a terrorist attack but it never really comes together. It tries to make the audience see their side of the conflict, with drone strikes killing their families, but then the film just turns around and becomes pro-US again, instead of staying with what could have been a good theme of the context of war. What we get is another modern action film that ends up painting all people from the Middle East as terrorists. For the finale it goes overboard, with Gerard Butler torturing the second-in-command bad guy while explaining why America is the best country in the world. I was half expecting to see an eagle fly overhead with the US flag in its talons and it screeching “‘MURICA!” for the end credits.

In conclusion, London Has Fallen is just a mindless action film with not much to recommend. If you want something as dumb as this to work, get Roland Emmerich to direct it. At least he knows how to make this stuff entertaining.

Score: 3/10 I can’t remember a single scene composition from the film…and I watched it yesterday. That should tell you all you need to know.

Halo Legends Review

Preface

Halo is probably one of the most played video games series in the world. I have played several instalments but I never really was too interested in them (although I do think the “Don’t make a girl a promise” quote is great). Film is what I’m more interested in and after learning there was an anime film about the Halo universe produced I thought I would track it down and watch it.

Review

Halo Legends stars Shelley Calene-Black, David Wald and John Gremillion and is directed by Toshiyuki Kanno, Hiroshi Yamazaki, Koji Sawai, Tomoki Kyoda and Yasushi Muraki. The film follows seven different stories in the Halo universe, based on several characters over thousands of years.

Instead of a single story based on the video game (which has apparently been in development for several years, once with Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg as directors), Halo Legends decides to be an anthology series, swapping between four different anime houses. There’s Production I.G. (creator of Ghost In The Shell), Studio 4C (who created The Animatrix) BONES (Full Metal Alchemist), Casio Entertainment and probably the most well known, Toei Animation (Dragonball Z). It’s a mix of art styles and keeps the visuals changing from story to story.

The most visually striking segment is The Duel, a samurai/ronin style film, featuring the alien species, The Elites. It’s created with CGI, but then retrofitted with a watercolour feature, making it look like an in-motion painting. It looks beautiful during the sweeping shots of the battle, but looks a bit odd during dialogue sequences. There is traditional anime in Homecoming with Prototype, Origins and The Babysitter being more broad in their animation styles. Odd One Out, created by Toei, is very reminiscent of their Dragonball series and The Package is CGI, looking like an overlong cutscene.

While the stories take different characters and situations, most descend into action sequences. If you have no interest in violence then Halo Legends will not be for you. While certain stories (like Odd One Out) are over-the-top comedy violence, others like The Duel are filled with blood. Sure, the blood is green and purple, but it’s still very graphic. All the rest of the sections are filled with machine guns and rockets and is your standard action/war film.

Despite being violent, the sections do have some good storytelling. Homecoming brings up the ethics of torture and taking children to become soldiers and the opening to Prototype discusses ideas of survivor guilt, but loses a bit of sparkle during the second half. The Duel is standard samurai affair, and The Babysitter and The Package are very generic in their story, despite The Babysitter being one of my favourite segments. Origins, narrated by series female AI Cortana, is a re-cap of the entire Halo back-story. Even to someone like me who doesn’t really like Halo, it was interesting and is another favourite section. It actually makes me want to go back and play, but then I remember that there is literally no story in the video game.

Odd One Out is probably my least favourite section. This section is the only out of canon in the anthology, and the influences of Toei’s Dragonball Z don’t really mesh with the Halo Universe. There are martial art students, three orphans, a T-Rex and an gorilla who can control electricity. It feels out of place, and the comedy is very forced.

The music from the game, by Michael Salvatori and Martin O’Donnell, is reused in Halo Legends, and despite the change in the medium it fits very well into the stories. There are remixes and new scores created by Tetsuya Takahashi, Naoyuki Hiroko and Yasuharu Takanashi, mainly for The Duel, and despite radical changes it still feels thematically similar to Salvatori and O’Donnell’s work.

In conclusion, Halo Legends is a well-executed experiment. It will appeal to Halo fans, as well as general sci-fans and anime/animation fanatics. If you don’t fall into one of those categories then maybe this will be one to miss.

Score: 7/10 A fun sci-fi romp that is visually stunning.

Triple 9 Review

We’re in the dead zone of cinema at the time of writing. All the Oscar/BAFTA/Golden Globes nominations have come and gone through the theatres and now we’ve got a hard slog until the middle of March (March is when the releases start getting good again). But, as I always try and get a film reviewed once a week, here is the film that interested me the most. I give you Triple 9.

Triple 9 stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Kate Winslet and Woody Harrelson and is directed by John Hillcoat. The films follows a group of dirty cops who to pull off an impossible heist, decide to commit a Triple 9, the radio call for an “officer down” to distract the police force.

While the script is pretty poor, the cast list is pretty good. As well as the four big names mentioned above, the supporting roles are also filled with great actors and actresses. Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul, Cilfton Collins Jr. and Gal Gadot all do their best with what is a weak script. There is no lines that stick in my mind, but all the actors manage to perform well.

The film starts with a heist and it has some great tracking shots through the bank. While it might never reach the heights of Heat or Public Enemies (both directed superbly by Michael Mann) it still manages to be tense and adrenalin-fuelled. The climax of the scene is an escape on the freeway, while red clouds of smoke (from tainted bills swiped during the robbery) billow out of the escape vehicle. It’s a great opening to the film and captures the feel of the film in a few minutes.

While the film is generally a thriller, the rest of the action is of merit. A raid on a drug-dealers house that eventually spills out into a running gun battle through the streets is exciting, with gunshots coming from all around. The police officers are confused from where they are being shot from and so are we. Another more downbeat action scene, which involves Casey Affleck’s straight cop Chris trying to track Anthony Mackie’s dirty cop Gabe through a dilapidated housing project, despite there not being much action on screen is still very enjoyable to watch. It feels almost like a horror film, as we jump at shadows that could be a violent end for our protagonist.

One thing I did like about Triple 9 was that the film was set in Atlanta. Originally it was to be set in Los Angeles but I’m glad it wasn’t. We’ve seen L.A. in so many films before (it’s also the setting for Heat, just to keep the comparisons coming), it gets kind of repetitive. We see several different locations throughout the film and all of them are varied. The abandoned housing complex is really well visualised and is unlike anything I’ve seen in a similar film. It’s just a light touch to change the setting but it pays dividends.

The film has its faults. I already talked about the weak script, but in general the story is your average heist affair, with nothing really standout. The crooked cops might have been a fresh take, but the film never explains how or why they started robbing banks, which would have added some character to the rather bland protagonists. And as a final point, the film runs for a lot longer than it needs to. The film is brushing at two hours, when really it could have been fine at closer to ninety minutes. I checked my watch a few times in the final half hour and could see a good deal that could have been cut.

In summary, Triple 9 is your average thriller. It doesn’t get to heights of films such as End Of Watch or Sicario, but in a month of slow releases, it’s a fine choice.

Score: 7/10 Nothing new, but still enjoyable.

Deadpool Review

The first superhero film of a year saturated with superhero films. We’ve got Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Captain America: Civil War also coming out this year. But first, we must start with this week’s Marvel property, Deadpool.

Deadpool, stars Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein and TJ Miller and is directed by Tim Miller. The film follows mercenary Wade Wilson (Reynolds) as he acquires mutant abilities, transforming him into Deadpool. He then goes after the men who ruined his life and tries to save his ex-girlfriend.

Deadpool as a comic book character is known for being very post-modernist. He regularly breaks the forth wall, or referencing the comic book writers or other characters, he even uses the comic book panel layout to fight his enemies. It’s his signature style, and thankfully, the script writers, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have got it down perfectly.

The jokes start from the very start, where instead of a credit sequence, vaguely insulting descriptions pop up e.g. “A Shameless Cameo” (Stan Lee) or “An Overpaid Idiot”, (the director, Tim Miller). It’s the first time a Marvel film has gone into full-blown comedy mode, and nearly every joke hits it’s mark. Near the middle of the film, once the spark of the opening has worn off, a fair few of the jokes become very hit-and-miss, sometimes just being profane for the sake of it. It does turn just far enough back around for the ending, but it never really recaptures the excellent comedy of the first half an hour. There are even a few “jokes” to try and win over fanboys (involving the last two superhero characters Reynolds infamously played) that repeat so often it feels a bit tiring.

While many people were angry about Ryan Reynolds being Deadpool (my Twitter feed was full of comic fans spitting in 140 characters), he brings a huge amount of energy to the role. TJ Miller (who was in Disney’s kids Marvel film, Big Hero 6) as his friend Weasel is good in the nerdy sidekick role, with some great lines. There is a small role for famous singer Leslie Uggams as Deadpool’s elderly blind roommate, whose arguments with Deadpool over furniture are hilariously absurd. My favourite character though is Colossus, played by both Stefan Kapičić and Andre Tricoteux. He should be a massive bruiser, but Kapičić’s (excellent Russian) voice, mixed with Tricoteux’s motion-capture create a character who does everything to not hurt his enemies. There is even a bit during a fight where he helps an enemy back to their feet before engaging them again.

The licensed soundtrack is magnificently overdone and entertaining. Keeping with the post-modernist flourishes, the soundtrack is all 80s to early 90s, featuring Juice Newton’s “Angel In The Morning” (which accompanies the opening credit sequence), Salt-n-Pepa, several instances of George Michael and Wham! and DMX’s “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” (which is the background to a brilliantly over-the-top slow-motion walk). They’re all toe-tapping songs, and fit perfectly into the messed-up mind of Deadpool’s character.

The story flips back and forth through time, which personally got rather annoying for me. We start the film with Deadpool on the tail of the man who ruined his life, before jumping back to before he acquired his superpowers, and then back to the present. The film does this several times and by the third or fourth time it became tiresome. The starting story was the most interesting and it took a long time to come back to this plot thread, instead just adding baggage to his earlier life. Once he gets his powers though, the story picks back up again and we get some gory and blood-soaked fights.

In the end, Deadpool is a better than anything that came out under the Marvel banner last year. I don’t know if it stands up with the best of them (which I think everyone collectively agrees is the first Iron Man) but it will find an audience who want their superheroes to be more foul-mouthed and puerile. Watch at your own discretion, but you’ll definitely laugh with and at Deadpool.

Score: 7/10 Funny, gory and gloriously dumb.

Point Break Review

One of my favourite quotes on filmmaking is from director Jim Jarmusch; “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels with your imagination.” While people might be quick to dismiss it, those who know their film history can argue the difference. We see this idea in thousands of celebrated films; Star Wars, Daniel Craig’s James Bond films and nearly all of Tarantino’s filmography. Sadly, it’s the same reason why shoddy remakes are made as well. What a coincidence then, that a remake of Point Break is out this week. How does it stack up against the original?

Point Break stars Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone and Teresa Palmer and is directed by Ericson Core. Based on the 1991 film of the same name, the film follows FBI Agent Johnny Utah (Bracey) as he goes undercover to stop a gang of extreme sports athletes from disrupting the world economy.

The script is atrocious. While the original had some moments of “surfer dude” talk about fighting against “the man” and “the system”, the remake just goes overboard, with every two seconds being filled with conversations about being “one with the earth” and “fear is the master, you are the slave”. It’s less of a script and more a collection of inspirational bumper stickers. The times when it isn’t the surfer dude mantra, is expository, leading to some hilariously bad lines. It feels like so much of an afterthought, I wouldn’t be surprised if the action scenes weren’t even shot for the film, instead a script and additional scenes were created after to get it into cinemas.

The action scenes were promising at first, but most are rather boring. The remake tries to one-up the original by staging several extreme sports; snowboarding, wing-suit gliding, base-jumping, free climbing, motocross and of course, surfing. They are linked together by something called the Osaki 8, a mythical set of eight ordeals to honour the forces of nature. This is obviously the films major selling point, and sure, it’s nice to see some breathtaking scenery, but even in what are supposed to be the high-octane scenes of the film, it falls flat. I’ve linked it back to the characters, we don’t care about them. We haven’t warmed to them so we aren’t bothered that they are coming so close to death. In fact they don’t care either. One of them dies half way through and literally after a ten second scene of mourning him, they are back to partying, drinking and having sex. It’s feels so absurd that I was shaking my head in disbelief.

It gets worse when the film tries to be Point Break though. There is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to the Ex-Presidents scene in the original, this time with Barack Obama, Vladamir Putin and George W. Bush instead of Reagan, Nixon, Johnson and Carter, and obviously the film ends with the 50-Year Storm wave. But the worst moment in the film is the re-enactment of, in the words of Nick Frost, “firing your gun up into the air while screaming argh” scene. Once I saw Utah pick up a gun, all I could think was, “Don’t do it, please don’t do it.” It’s ridiculous and out-of-place and really doesn’t make sense in the film. There is none of the bromance of Reeves and Swayze from the original, so it makes no sense for Utah to not just shoot Bodhi where he stands. I would actually be more lenient on the film if it wasn’t a Point Break remake. If it had changed a few of its characters and it’s story aspects then it could have been passably enjoyable. That’s how The Fast And The Furious started out and look how well that’s done.

The French director Jean-Luc Goddard once said: ‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.” Director Ericson Core has taken Point Break to the depths of cinema hell. Don’t waste your money, I’ve haven’t even seen Deadpool yet and I bet it’s more enjoyable.

Score: 2/10 Take the film out of the cinema and shove it down the toilet.

(I did go and see Deadpool and it was more entertaining. Read the review here).

13 Hours Review

I’ve always been a defendant of Michael Bay. I seem to be the only person in the medium of film reviews who can say that, but he does take some interesting film topics under his wing and adapts them onto the big screen for our enjoyment. I was a fan of his last non-Transformers film, Pain And Gain, so does his new film, 13 Hours, stand up with that?

13 Hours stars John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, Max Martini, Dominic Furmusa and David Denman and is directed by Michael Bay. Based on the true story of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, the film follows at team of US security personnel, as they try to keep both themselves and the diplomats they work for alive from advancing militia forces.

First off, I want to establish that Michael Bay is a formalist. For those unsure of what that means, Formalism is creating something (cinema, music, arts) by sticking to the set rules of the genre. For example, we all can think of how a rom-com will pan out, they all follow the same plot points. 13 Hours is no different, it fits the mould of an action film to the beat, but in a world of Marvel and reboots, sometimes you need to get back to basics, and 13 Hours is a good enough place to start.

The chemistry between the men is a really good point of the film. While they don’t have to act much, the downtime between the sprawling gunfights is actually quite entertaining. The jokes they make to each other, even in the darkest moments of the film, are fun and it’s almost endearing watching them trying to make each other laugh and smile while faced with overwhelming odds.

The gunfights are the meat of the film and they don’t disappoint. The film obviously has it’s Michael Bay moments (explosions and slow-motion are littered throughout) but it fits the setting and the story. The gunfights happen for several minutes at a time and for the entirety you are on the edge of your seat. It feels similar to films such as Black Hawk Down or something like the opening to Saving Private Ryan. Gunfire is going off, bombs are dropping all around and the camerawork conveys it very well. It’s not obnoxious shaky-cam for the sake of shaky-cam, it feels more like a documentary with several moments of steady shot in between the explosions going off.

The comparison to other films is abundant throughout. There is even a moment when the film uses the same point-of-view shot of the bomb from Pearl Harbor, but the film does carve out some of its own unique shots. There are some lovely moments of camerawork, ranging from helicopter sweeps of the city to intense close-ups of the men, or of white bedsheets stained red from the night’s fighting, each one reminding the audience that Michael Bay isn’t just here to create mindless action.

Some people have been quick to politicise the film, but even Bay himself said it’s not a political film. The story sticks very close to the members of the security detail, staying with them instead of exploring the outside context. I think this actually helps the film, we see the situation from their eyes, they don’t know why things are happening and neither do we. We just have to sit tight and let the film play out. It’s almost like a horror film, there is a great sense of claustrophobia within the compound that the men hole up in, with militia closing in on all sides and no-one in the outside world is coming to help.

In the end, I think 13 Hours might be Michael Bay’s best film. While some might think that’s not a long list, that shouldn’t dismiss 13 Hours action credentials. If you like war films, or even things like the Call of Duty or Medal of Honor series, 13 Hours will suit you fine.

Score: 7/10 Good for a couple of hours of fun.

The Revenant Review

The Revenant has been on my list of to-watch films since January of 2015. It was promised in December, but we’ve had to wait a couple extra weeks for it. And amid several Oscar nominations (and a possible Best Actor win for its main star), let see if the hype is lived up to.

The Revenant stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter and Forrest Goodluck and is directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu. The film follows Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) in the early 19th Century, who after a bear attack is left for dead. He comes back to get his revenge on those who left him behind.

Iñárritu as a director has a very odd camera style. Instead of the usual editing, cutting between multiple cameras, Iñárritu usually has long tracking shots of his actors. We saw a hyper version of it in his last film, Birdman and here it is exactly the same. The beautiful long shots of the Native American attack that opens the film, or the bear attack that puts the films story in motion are incredible, and change the old question of “How did they film that?” to “How did they film that and have nobody get hurt?” The attacks are blood soaked, with gunfire going off, people being brought down by a flurry of arrows or being thrown from their horse. And the camera keeps going…and going…and going, not cutting for sometimes ten to fifteen minutes at a time.

While DiCaprio has been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for The Revenant (with many saying that this will be his winning year), I can’t agree. Sure, if Best Actor was changed to the award for Mouth Breathing and Exertion Noises then Leo would win hands down, but he doesn’t really perform in the film. He just gets the crap beaten out of him over and over again. Towards the end of the film I thought Iñárritu just hates his protagonist, the amount of pain and danger he puts him through is astronomical. Tom Hardy fairs better as Fitzgerald, but the signature Hardy Mumble (seen in The Dark Knight Rises and Lawless) does appear, meaning you have to strain your ears to understand him. The best of the cast is Domhnall Gleeson as Captain Henry, the leader of Glass and Fitzgerald’s group, who in the final third get’s to show some menace and anger, showing what a broad actor Gleeson is.

The film’s story (based on true events, like nearly every single film in the cinema is that isn’t a Marvel property) is pretty simple; man gets revenge on those who wronged him. Iñárritu has a writing credit on the film, and he’s managed to stretch the story to 156 minutes and across three countries (Canada, USA and Argentina were all used for filming) which is way too long for a film like this. While it’s nice to see the snowy plains (The Revenant is definitely going for the “Travel Cinema” crowd), once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. But Iñárritu keeps coming back to them, adding nothing to the story and making the audience bored.

The soundtrack, created by Ryuichi Sakamoto, is very atmospheric and brooding, but it only gets used for mere seconds at a time. There are hardly any moments in the film where the soundtrack plays for a substantial amount, which is rather annoying given how good it is. Instead, we are usually left with the sounds of nature and it’s in some of these moments that the films sound design shines. The wind howls, the trees groan under the pressure and the leaves rustle, it all adding up to create a sense of isolation. Like I said in my Alois Nebel review, films like this create the sense of being truly alone, with nature all around you.

In conclusion, The Revenant is a mixed bag. While the cinematography and setting are great, the lack of characterisation, story arc and bloated run time hurt an otherwise fine film.

Score: 7/10 Sadly not as good as it I perceived it to be.

The Hateful Eight Review

Okay, I’m a few days late to this one. It’s been a hard week of university work. And seeing as everyone else is still concerned over Star Wars VII, I think I deserved a little time off. But I’m back now, with The Hateful Eight.

The Hateful Eight stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern and is written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The film follows The Hangman (Russell) who is escorting The Prisoner (Leigh) to claim a bounty reward. They are snowed in a cabin with six other characters, where one character is lying in wait to spring The Prisoner free.

As usual, the acting is great. The eight main players are good, with Walton Goggins as The Sheriff and Bruce Dern as The Confederate being my favourites. Tarantino also gets amazing work out of the smaller roles, populated by Channing Tatum and Zoe Bell. Tarantino is known for getting actors to perform at their peak level, and they’re all doing first-class work.

Tarantino writes the script and while he still includes his usual screenwriting quirks, he manages to add some new features to his already over-stuffed screenplay. Gone are the overt references to genre cinema, instead we get a really tense, really moody and really thought-out film where the silences are just as good to listen to as the ten minute long conversations and Jackson soliloquies. Tarantino even jumps in and has some dialogue himself, narrating events after the film’s interval, and in between chapters.

The set-up could easily be thought of as Reservoir Dogs in a Western, but it’s a lot more complex than that. In Reservoir Dogs, we all know who the liar is, but in The Hateful Eight, Tarantino manages to keep it quiet until the very last minutes. Lines are drawn in the snowed-in cabin that the characters have settled in, with the barriers being Union vs. Confederacy, black vs. white and in the end, whether you’re a decent human being or not. Tarantino draws the audience in on these encounters, to the point where we’re pointing fingers in our mind, trying to figure out who the culprit is. It’s a film that you’ll probably want to watch twice just to see if you find all the clues that the director leaves out for us.

Ennio Morricone, famed composer of several Spaghetti Westerns, takes music duties and gives us one of most suspenseful soundtracks of all time. Taking cues from his tracks that didn’t make it into John Carpenter’s 1982 The Thing as well as reusing a track from The Exorcist II, Morricone’s music choices seem to be horror directed, which ends up being the major factor that makes the film so tense and enjoyable to watch. The film could almost be a companion piece to The Thing, as both feature Kurt Russell, Morricone, snow and clawing sense that nobody says who they really are.

The film starts with a beautiful long shot of snow-covered Wyoming. We see a small dot in the distance, a station wagon, and as it gets closer, Morricone’s music comes in and just like Jed Kurzel did with last year’s Macbeth, the music adds a tremendous amount to the scene.

Just like all of Tarantino’s work, the film has problems in its length. While it was novel to have an interval in the middle and definitely added to the second half of the film, it’s the first half of the film that really drags it’s feet. We spend half an hour with Russell, Jackson and Leigh (two chapters out of six) before we even get to the main stage of the film. And while some of Tarantino’s dialogue is good to listen to, I have to admit, it’s stuff that we’ve all really seen before and heard it better in his other films. But apart from that, there really is no other problems with the film.

When I first saw the trailer for The Hateful Eight, I wasn’t too thrilled. I thought that Tarantino had had his time and that this one wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as his older filmography. But soon enough, all my reservations were swept aside and I was watching one of Tarantino’s best films.

Score: 8/10 The score is pretty appropriate for the film. But in all seriousness, it’s been a long time that I’ve seen a film so suspenseful.

Now that you’ve finished The Hateful Eight review, why don’t you come look at the review of the rest of Tarantino’s films?