I Saw The Light Review

Another year, another musical biopic. Last year we had Love and Mercy (The Beach Boys) and the rather well made Straight Outta Compton (N.W.A.). Now for something more classic, folk and country singer Hank Williams in I Saw The Light. 

I Saw The Light stars Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen and Cherry Jones and is written and directed by Marc Abraham. The film follows the real-life story of Hank Williams, a folk and country singer from Alabama, his sudden rise to fame and his death at the age of 29.

Tom Hiddleston was the reason I was interested in seeing I Saw The Light. After his phenomenal performance in High-Rise and rumours that he may be the next James Bond, I’m intent on watching any film knowing he’s in it. Sadly though, I Saw The Light is one of the films I should have probably skipped. Hiddleston mostly shines (even with a ridiculous Southern accent) but everyone around him is either boring or forgettable. Elizabeth Olsen comes on screen now and again to be passive-aggressive towards Hiddleston, skipping between showering her love over him and then arguing with him.

I can attribute most of the problems to the story. It’s too unfocused. We start with Williams first touring around small clubs, playing on radio before finding his big break. It jumps all over the place and despite getting time stamps counting the years I was mostly lost as to where it was in William’s life. It feels more like a highlight reel of his defining moments rather than a full story, only for people who know his life and want to see Hiddleston try and find his way through it.

The film tries to hit all of William’s major points in his life, but even at two hours it feels rushed. Hiddelston downs one beer at breakfast and suddenly he’s a alcoholic. He takes a couple of pills on the road and snorts a couple of lines in a single scene and now he’s a drug addict. We see one woman leaving his hotel room in the entire films and he’s a compulsive cheater. If like me, you didn’t know Hank Williams’ story before you watched I Saw The Light, then you’d probably be completely lost as to what was going on.

I Saw The Light tries to fit in Amy style “talking head” interviews, filled with actors as the real life people who knew Williams. It’s an interesting mechanic for telling the story, but once again it’s under-used. We get a couple in the beginning, before a long dry spell and then another two near the end. If it had dispersed them throughout, it would have been an interesting feature, and if it had used more people, Williams’ wife, his children, his mother rather than just a couple of music record executives, we would have been able to get a nice side-view into his life. The newsreel footage of his tours and his funeral back in Alabama is used well and ends the film fittingly.

The saving grace is the music. Hiddleston sings and plays guitar in all of the concert sections and even though these are the best moments of the film, looking back they just feel wasted. You could have the exact same experience as watching I Saw The Light as listening to a Hank Williams best-of CD at home. You would get the best part of the film minus all of the things that don’t make the film work or bring it down to a much lower level.

In summary, I Saw The Light was just plain boring. You might get some enjoyment if you’re a Hank Williams fan or you know a lot about his personal life as you can fill in the blanks, but for everyone else, you can miss this one.

Score: 3/10 Hiddleston and the songs keep it from getting any lower.

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

I have an odd history with superhero films. I’ve caused outrage with some diehards fans of the genre by saying that I quite enjoy Batman and Robin, or X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I’m not really that impressed with The Dark Knight and I do believe that there might possibly be a superhero overload with the eighteen confirmed Marvel films coming between now and 2020. However, I do own the Marvel Encyclopaedia, so I guess I’m a sort-of fan. Either way, let’s get on with Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Quick heads up before I get going though. Some details will be on the vague side, due to my views on spoilers (mainly not giving any away). I do hope I give nothing away, but this is just a small note to say that certain details on characters, their arcs and plot points will be missing from the review.

Avengers: Age of Ultron stars Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth and Jeremy Renner as our usual caped, cowled and suited superheroes, with Elizabeth Olson and an almost unrecognisable Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver respectively.  When a new threat emerges to destroy the world, our old Avengers must assemble once again, this time with the help of the two new recruits, to save the day.

First off, before you watch AAOU, you might need to watch the last couple of Marvel films. With returning plot points and returning characters from the last few films, you might want a small refresher watch just to make sure you can just jump straight into the new one. Luckily, through exposition, those who may have missed on some of the earlier films are brought up to speed fairly quickly.

The acting from all involved, be it the frontrunners or the background characters from earlier films is of the highest quality (did we really expect anything less from Marvel?) Highest kudos goes to Elizabeth Olson and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who look like their having the time of the lives in the film, and also managing to pull off the Eastern European accent very well, unlike some other big budget release recently (Child 44 anyone?) Credit also needs to be given to James Spader, who voices the villain Ultron, giving a CGI robot some fun character traits.

Danny Elfman’s music throughout the film fits very well, giving some scenes a dark sense of danger, a route that many fans had speculated the film was going to take. Despite these darker tones the film is still a great laugh, with the jokes coming thick and fast at the beginning, but petering out relatively quickly so that our attention is focussed solely on the bombastic action scenes that are punctuated throughout. These action scenes are grand affairs, with explosions and destruction being main highlights of a fair few of them. At times they threaten to slip into a vat of sameness (seen one ruined building seen them all) yet each one is spiced with a flair of its own, with enjoyment coming from the times where members of our Avengers team up to see what happens when you cross things like Thor’s lightning and Captain America’s shield.

Now on to what could be considered the “bad stuff” of the film. First of all, the length. At 142 minutes the film feels extraordinarily long, which wouldn’t be a problem, if the film did not skimp on details. Some characters go missing or look to be grievously injured for a while during the film, and when they return we are not given any indication of where they were or how they survived. Second, those bombastic fights scenes that I talked about can be sometimes a handful to take in, and with the pace they are set at, it can feel as if the action has gone right by you and you haven’t a clue who is who and whether any of them have been injured.

Third, The CGI has remarkable dips in quality, with certain scenes looking downright awful. It’s shame because most of the CGI throughout the film is spectacular, with characters like Ultron having great attention to detail. It just pulls you right out of the film when the CGI takes a plummet in quality. Fourth, a blossoming romance between two of the Avengers, to me anyway, felt a bit forced and contrived, mainly because I couldn’t feel any chemistry between the two actors.

Finally, with the setting up of several other films, with older characters coming in to fill roles, absent characters joining the Marvel roster and plot devices being implemented for sequels, the film does set up many plot threads which we will have to wait a while before we get a satisfying end. And while it is fun to see all these characters and objects being slowly added to the Marvel Universe, some of it does seem unnecessary given the already astronomical length of the film. Okay, now I’m probably just being nitpicky.

In conclusion though, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a worthy sequel to one of the most refreshing superhero films in a long while.

Score: 7/10 A second blazingly fun romp with Earth’s mightiest heroes.