Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Defenders (Season 1) (2017) - TV Review

Review:

*Originally written August 20th, 2017*

"Defenders Assemble"

Marvel and Netflix's The Defenders has been a show a long time in the making. We've had 2 seasons of Daredevil and a season each of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist to set this up. For the most part, The Defenders is a success, it's a hell of a lot better than the painful Iron Fist and I liked it a bit more than Luke Cage and Daredevil season 2, but it never reaches the insane heights of Daredevil and Jessica Jones debut seasons.

Things are a bit muddled at the beginning. 2 of the Defenders are obviously needed back in New York for the inevitable team-up, but it makes the finales of Luke Cage and Iron Fist kinda pointless. They made a big deal of Cage going to prison in his show, but he's quickly released by Foggy Nelson in the opening moments of the premier, while Iron Fist is called back from China once he realises the real threat is in New York. There seemed to be a bit of a disconnect and lack of communication from show runners in setting up this series.


Things really shine when the team are finally put together. A whole episode takes place in a Chinese restaurant, and The Defenders get to interact and riff off each other. This is when the show is at its strongest. The cast have really chemistry together. Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock in particular have some of the best scenes.  Iron Fist is also at his best when he's with Luke Cage, but he's still a whiny bitch when he's on his own.

This show clearly didn't learn from the mistakes of Iron Fist (The panned final stage before The Defenders). In all fairness, this was already filmed and they clearly didn't have time to learn from the reception of Iron Fist. Still, Danny Rand is still the most annoying part of the show. He's so annoying and whiny. Which is a great shame when the rest of the team are so great.

Things also fail in the hands of the villains. Sigourney Weaver is completely wasted in a muddled villain that guess what? Listens to classical music! It's wildly unoriginal and she had the potential to be a villain on the same level as Wilson Fisk or Kilgrave. All the stuff with The Hand doesn't help. They sucked in Daredevil season 2 and Iron Fist, and they suck here. They at the very least are finally given some weight as a credible threat here to a point. Elektra is also back as essentially a rip-off of The Winter Soldier, back from the dead with an erased memory but can get flashbacks at the mere mention of her name.

There is some exceptional action spread throughout where each character gets their chance to shine. The boardroom fight in the fifth episode in particular has some real kinetic energy to it and I wish we got just a bit more of that. It's a shame that the finale lacked much of a real punch. There's a big action scene towards the end involving all The Defenders, but it lacked any real threat or fun. Hip-hop music also starts playing and stops out of nowhere for no discernable reason, it was really strange and felt like it was trying to tap into Luke Cage's unique style, but failed miserable and just came off as weird.

The consequences of the finale is also outrageous. I know Daredevil is a lawyer by day, but there is no way The Defenders would get away with the borderline terrorist act they committed.  The finale at least puts all The Defenders in an interesting place at the end (Except Iron Fist. Fuck Iron Fist).


I did appreciate the colour schemes. It was very faithful to the individual TV shows. Daredevil's scenes are mostly red, Jessica's are drenched in muted blues and Luke's scenes are primarily yellow. Bringing these shows together really worked stylistically without losing what made each member unique.

The Defenders wasn't amazing, but it's a step in the right direction for Netflix's Marvel Universe after a couple of missteps. There is real room for improvement (Especially in fucking Iron Fist), but for the most part, it was all good fun with some great character moments and everyone got to a chance to shine. 

7/10 Dans

All episodes of The Defenders are now streaming on Netflix worldwide
Watch the trailer below:


Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews@DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews 
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron

Facebook

The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written August 20th, 2017*

"Wind beneath my wings"

The Hitman's Bodyguard is more or less exactly what I expected from the trailers, no better or worse. It's a merely passable and watchable action comedy that thrives on Samuel L Jackson and Ryan Reynolds chemistry.

The biggest problem is easily the film's tone. It goes a little too serious and sometimes quite horrific (Seeing a man's family get gunned down by a very out of place Gary Oldman doesn't make for good material in a stupid action comedy). Gary Oldman does seem like he's in a completely different film, a genocidal dictator who takes things far too seriously. It was just bizarre and not in place with the rest of the film at all.


Everything is just fine for the most part. Things shine most when it's just spending time with Jackson and Reynolds. These guys work insanely well together. Jackson has the time in full "Motherfucker" mode. Honestly, he says "Motherfucker" more times than I think he ever has in his entire career. While Reynolds does his sarcastic thing. The balance between the two works well. Jackson's character never takes anything seriously, mocking any kind of moment close too seriousness. Him undercutting Oldman towards the end was one of the highlights.

The film stretches its two run-time to breaking point. This easily could have been a 90 minute film, but instead they pad it out with a lot of unnecessary detours than easily could have been trimmed for a leaner and tighter film.


Patrick Hughes at least directs some solid and violent action scenes. He's not hampered by that PG-13/12A rating he was forced to work with on Expendables 3, so there is some at least very violent and dark gallows humour thrown into here. It feels very much like a homage to the films of the '80s and '90s. Midnight Run and 48 Hours being the most obvious that come to mind. I have yet to see The Bodyguard, so I'm not entirely sure if this is a straight up spoof of that, which the trailers and posters made it out to be.


The Hitman's Bodyguard really is what it is. A fun, passable summer action comedy that suffers from a tonal identity crisis and it's a bit too long, but Reynolds and Jackson really shine together.

6/10 Dans

The Hitman's Bodyguard is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews@DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews 
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron

Facebook

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Dark Tower (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written August 18th, 2017*

"Shit Tower"

I'll start by saying I've never read any of the Dark Tower books (Or a Stephen King book to be honest), but from what I've heard from everyone, it is a far from faithful adaption from the books. Books that sound far more interesting than this bland film offered too.

The Dark Tower is a weird film, it has some good ideas, but is never allowed to breathe thanks to its measly 90 minute run-time. Things are always moving, but it never stops once to make me care about the characters. I was also a little iffy on motivations, especially Matthew McConaughey's bad guy. Every character is very thin and barely explored.


We're force feed flashbacks and "visions" to get to know these people, but it's never enough. It starts with a kid called Jake who is some chosen one who sees "The Dark Tower" in his dreams, a tower in another universe that will unleash darkness upon the world if it is destroyed. We quickly learn he is the chosen one that has the only mind strong enough to destroy this tower. Matthew McConaughey's "Man in Black" tries to hunt down Jake and use his powers to destroy The Dark Tower while Idris Elba's "Gunslinger" Roland protects Jake so he can get close and kill The Man in Black as revenge for the death of his father.

There is a clearly a rich world at work here with some cool lore, but this brisk film is far too plot focused. It all feels rushed and messy. We get to point A to B without much interesting happening in the middle. There is potential for scenes between Jake and Roland to bond, but they never really do, making the finale lack any real heart, although the film plays it like it does.

I will admit I did enjoy some of the scenes with Roland's culture shock as he travels from our world from a post-apocalyptic universe. It reminded me of the best moments from the two Thor films. I would have liked to see more of Roland just failing to adapt to the real world and trying stuff out here. Tom Taylor and Idris Elba both do fine jobs. Elba is always effortlessly cool and carries that cowboy charisma extremely well, while Taylor carries a tiny bit of weight with his performance that deserved a much stronger script.

Matthew McConaughey on the other hand is atrocious. A laughably camp panto villain that I couldn't decide was brilliant or just shit. He feels insanely out of place in a film that takes itself so seriously. I had no idea why he was evil and wanted the end of the world either, he just seemed evil for the sake of the plot needing a bad guy.


While there is some visual flourish in the visuals, I'd say the direction for the most part is pretty pedestrian and flavorless, Nikolaj Arcel is a complete jobber and I wish they chose someone more interesting for this project, but I guess the studio needed someone not well established that they could control because this film clearly does not have a singular vision in mind at all. That said, there was some cool stuff here and there. Roland's reloading was pretty awesome and there are a couple of sweet action beats towards the end.


I'd probably have more to say if I was familiar with the source material, but I'm not, so as a standalone summer film, it's just pretty bland, mediocre and very forgettable. I'm pretty sure this series isn't made to be another "Chosen child on a fantasy adventure" thing, but hey, they managed to make into that. What a waste of Idris Elba.

4/10 Dans

The Dark Tower is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews@DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews 
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron

Facebook

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Point Break (2015) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written March 13th, 2016*

"Point.... Shit"

I know I'm not the biggest fan of the original. I'm aware of what it is, pure '90s action cheese, and for that it's fine, I get why it got its cult status and why people love it, it just didn't do a lot for me, but it was still head and shoulders over this abysmal remake.

The production of this film has was an utter mess, it first started out as a sequel that probably would have been straight-to-DVD, but then it become a remake that was stuck in development hell over the years. I think Gerard Butler was attached at some point too? 

Eventually in 2015 (or 2016 for us in the UK), this remake hit the big screen. I just wish it stayed in its development Hell and eventually got cancelled. It tells the same story the first did, a rookie FBI agent goes undercover with a gang of thieves to bring them down. The two changes here are the fact that surfing is swapped for "extreme sports" and the rating has been watered down for a PG-13/12A audience.


It's a train wreck all around, despite the high-budget, it reeks of a cheap cash-in and has that really dull and ugly look that all these straight-to-DVD films, it's just so grey and drab. So boring and ugly to sit through.

While the original had this tongue in cheek charm of its absurd content, this plays it so dead serious. There's not a single ounce of even a sense of fun. It tells a lot when the scene it Hot Fuzz spoofing a scene from the original Point Break carries more of an emotional impact than the remake. There's no irony to any of the insane stuff on display. 

Utah lets Bodhi get away so many times that it becomes laughable. Both the leads are utterly cardboard and uncharismatic it's ridiculous. Luke Bracey's performance as Johnny Utah makes Reeve's acting looking Oscar worthy, there's not an ounce of charm to him, he's just so boring. I usually like Edgar Ramirez too, but here he suffers the same problem, he's just a pale comparison to the original. Ray Winstone also carries none levels of madness and entertainment Gary Busey managed to exhale with his performance.


Where I thought this remake might redeem itself was in the action department, being partly about extreme sports, I thought maybe there could be some inspired set-pieces, but no everything is fairly dull and boring. It doesn't help that the watered down rating took away from any of the impact, despite police being gunned down during a bank robbery, none of it felt violent at all. The fact they couldn't make any decent heist scenes too is disappointing. 


Point Break is a cheap looking, boring and uninspired watered down version of a film that didn't need a remake, and it shows. Thank god this flopped, hopefully Hollywood will realize nobody wants family friendly versions of '80s and '90s action films.

2/10 Dans

Point Break is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews@DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews 
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron

Facebook

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Revenant (2015) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written January 15th, 2016*

"Back from the Dead"

Alejandro G. Iñárritu (That's a name I won't be typing again) won the Oscar for last years wonderful Birdman. So expectations were high for the next vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio allusive Oscar. I'm pretty pleased to say that The Revenant is a brutal, bleak and unflinching masterpiece.

DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a frontiersman on a expedition who is left for dead by his crew after a bear attack leaves him in a near death state, his son is also killed by Tom Hardy's Fitzgerald so he goes on a quest for revenge through the hard wilderness once he gets his strength back. 


It was a remarkable film. You feel every moment of DiCaprio's pain from the get go. His performance is truly committed, I don't know what the hell else he needs to do to win an Oscar after this. Honestly, he might need to die on camera for a posthumous award if he doesn't get it this year. I like to think of DiCaprio's journey of revenge in this as a metaphor for his ambitions of that Oscar, just going through so much, only to get knocked down, again and again. 

Even with his Oscar nomination for this, I don't feel a lot is being said about Tom Hardy's performance as the villain of the piece. He was fantastic. Even though he's the bad guy, his motivations still make sense, so it made for a complex villain that there is not a lot of today. 

Much like Birdman, I was left a little cold by the some of the more symbolic aspects of The Revenant. There was quite a few trippy dream sequences that come out of nowhere and honestly did not feel needed. They just come off as a bit pretentious. I'm sure there was a deep meaning behind a lot of it, but I didn't get it.

I did appreciate how straight forward the story was, despite the odd abstract moment. I did feel the 160 minute run-time a couple times throughout, this could of easily been trimmed a bit. This film is draining, you feel every minute of DiCaprio's journey. That said, every minute of the film absolutely gorgeous and there was so much craft and excellent film making was put into this. The opening shot was stunning and looked like one long shot. Every moment of cinematography was beautiful, even after just seeing a film set in the same time in the snowy frontier with The Hateful Eight, every shot looked fresh and unique here. Props to the sound and production design too, they may as well filmed this in the 1820's. Everything looked and sounded perfect.


The bear scene was something of a technical achievement to say the least. It had to be done with CGI for obvious reasons, but that took nothing away from such a thrilling and amazing sequence. Seriously, probably the most intense scene we're gonna get from a film all year. Every action scene struck and left me in awe, from the opening battle to the brutal and vicious showdown between DiCaprio and Hardy, it was all top notch. There was no compromise with the violence on display here either, everything felt real and raw, nothing felt fake or Hollywood. 

Loved the man vs man/man vs nature aspect of the film too. There was a lot of pure survival stuff which I adored during the journey and then it all wraps up powerfully with a touching and emotional end. There was a bit of ambiguity of the ending, but that didn't bother me at all. I will urge you not to look up anything about Hugh Glass before seeing The Revenant though. Oh, yeah, this was all based on a true story and this was surprisingly true to the actual events, which only made me love it more.


The Revenant might be a little long, but it's a bleak, intense, perfectly shot, uncompromisingly brutal and beautiful film that packs an emotional punch and features a truly powerhouse performance from DiCaprio that more than deserves his fabled Oscar.

9/10 Dans

The Revenant is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews@DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews 
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron

Facebook

Monday, 14 August 2017

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 18th, 2016*

"Apocalyptic"

I am baffled by the mixed reviews X-Men: Apocalypse has been getting. Honestly, I am so confused. I've always found the X-Men franchise to be the most consistent of the superhero franchises at the moment, sure it's had its lows (The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine), but in terms of cinematic film-making and meaningful storytelling, I've always felt this series has rose above the rest.

The ninth installment in the X-Men franchise takes us to 1983, set 10 years after the events of Days of Future Past. The oldest known mutant 'Apocalypse' awakens in the current day and vows to cleanse the Earth of life with the help of 4 mutants, so it's up to Professor Xavier, Mystique and new group of teenage X-Men to stop them.

I was a bit suspect with this, considering the reviews, some even said it was worst than The Last Stand, so I didn't know what I was in for, but to be honest, I thought it was great. Hell, it might even be my favourite film in the series so far.



I loved the new cast. It's the same characters we know from the original trilogy, but young and still getting to know their powers. Although the events from this film has made the timeline with these films an utter train wreck. I know Days of Future Past had the time travel stuff, but it's all so confusing, and that doesn't even include where Deadpool fits into this universe.

The strongest part of these new X-Men films has always been Michael Fassbender's Magneto, which was once again, amazing. His earlier scenes were extremely strong, emotionally resonant and oddly powerful when they needed to be. It's just shame he spends the second half of the film as a background sidekick to the inferior and less compelling Apocalypse.

The rest of the returning cast are great too, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence are reliable as ever, but Evan Peters completely tops himself as Quicksilver once again by having one of the best and funniest scenes from any comic-book movie which managed to top his scene from the last one and make a mockery of the MCU version of Quicksilver, which is just laughable in comparison.

I was a bit disappointed by the setting. First Class captured the swinging '60s pretty well and Days of Future Past made use of its '70s setting, Apocalypse on the other hand does nothing with the '80s. Aside from a couple of music choices, this felt like it could have been set in any era. It was fun to see the younger mutants come out of a screening of Return of the Jedi, even taking the oppurtinity of taking a meta jab at The Last Stand by adressing "The third one is always the worst".

On the main villain side of things, Oscar Isaac, a very competent actor is wasted as Apocalypse. There were some things I liked with him. His voice was very intimidating and I the way he killed people was pretty cool at times. There's just no real motivation here for his character compared to say Magneto, who we've seen be torn down by humanity, so we can understand why he does what he does, Apocalypse is just wanting to destroy the world because well, I'm not too sure to be honest? Something about mankind having technology that can destroy them or something?

I was surprised at just how violent this was too, it really pushes boundaries at what a 12A/PG-13 can get away with. People are stabbed, decapitated and melted in pretty graphic ways and things get pretty grizzly and quite bloody when a certain X-Man makes a cameo in a brief but memorable scene. 

The action was pretty great though. I've always loved this series ability to have all these characters with different powers combine in fun and different ways. While the main action doesn't hit till the end of the film, it really worked. We've seen the massive, city-wide destruction before in superhero films, but here it feels like the actual stakes matter with characters we care about. It also helps that these films actual look and feel like real films, as opposed to the MCU's televisual look. 

I don't mean to take jabs at the MCU, but notice how they manage to tell a story without every other scene used to try and set-up other films. It's nice to have a franchise where each film can be watched as its own thing, sure they all connect, but you can pick any of these films up and they tell their own self-contained story.


Despite the mixed reviews, I found X-Men: Apocalypse to be another excellent entry in the X-Men franchise with another powerhouse performance from Michael Fassbender, great action, genuine emotional depth and characters you actually care about.

8/10 Dans

X-Men: Apocalypse is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews@DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews 
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron

Facebook

Friday, 11 August 2017

Live by Night (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written January 13th, 2017*

"Dead by Dawn"

As an actor, Ben Affleck has made a lot of shit, that's just a fact, but where he truly shines is in his directing. Gone Baby Gone is great, The Town was even better and Argo even won best picture at the Oscars, but sadly Affleck has finally not only a disappointing film, but a straight-up bad one at that.

This prohibition gangster drama feels like 3 seasons of Boardwalk Empire crammed into one 2 hour film, it just doesn't work. There's just too much going on, which results in a frustrating mess of a film. It starts of well enough, giving us a fairly simple, but involving story. The first act sets up a story that is more or less ignored until the final few scenes. This wouldn't be a problem if the story we get wasn't so meandering and boring.



I was expecting some sort of fairly simple revenge film. It's not. Instead we spend 2 thirds of the film dealing with a variety of underdeveloped subplots. It feels sorta like they made a film out the Mafia video game series, but instead focused the story on a bunch of uninteresting side missions before resolving the main plot out of nowhere.

This takes place in a very misogynist time, but there is no reason for the female characters to be this outrageously underwritten. The two love interests are nothing, a complete waste of Sienna Miller and Zoe Saldana (Who I can't even remember if she had lines or not). Then we had Elle Fanning, who gives a decent performance with what she was given, but her character really fails to leave much of an impact.

If I have positives to say. I will admit the production design is really beautiful and the film is well shot and cinematic. Some of the action scenes are great and have some fairly graphic kills and visual flare. As an actor, Affleck is at least decent in his role. It's just a shame his character is so uninteresting and uncompelling as a lead. Which is Affleck's fault as a director and not an actor.



The pacing is also very poor. Despite being crammed with about 3 different films worth of material, you would think there would be enough happening for it be somewhat fast-paced. It is instead a complete slog. This honestly felt at least 3 hours long.


Live by Night is Ben Affleck's first truly bad film as a director. A crammed mess that wastes the potential of its setting and time period.

4/10 Dans

Live by Night is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews@DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner96 and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews 
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron

Facebook

The Defenders (Season 1) (2017) - TV Review

Review: *Originally written August 20th, 2017* "Defenders Assemble" Marvel and Netflix's The Defenders has been a show...