Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written August 7th, 2015*

"Cruising"


Ditching the cartoony fun that Brad Bird bought to the franchise with Ghost Protocol for a more darker and sinister take, Rogue Nation is another excellent edition to the long running series. It's amazing that the Mission Impossible films have gone on since 1996 and have only had one dud (M.I.2) out the lot.

Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt once again with outstanding charisma and dedication to the role. While the stunts don't come to the height that Ghost Protocol brought, there are still an amazing array of scenes to be in awe at. People were worried that they spoiled the plane set-piece with the trailer, and in all honesty, they didn't. The scene is still spectacular and jaw-dropping, especially when you know that it is actually Tom Cruise hanging on the side of a plane for real. There seems to be some strong prejudice against Cruise because of his behaviour and personal beliefs, but I say do what you want when you constantly deliver such incredibly fun films with 100% effort put in.


The story is much darker this time around. It's a pretty personal story for the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) team as they try and take down a society of agents who do what they do, but evil. While it lacks the end of the world stakes of the previous film, I personally preferred this darker story and it found it to be the most compelling film of the whole franchise.

This is also the first time in the series that the members of the team are all returning members from previous films. The comic relief Simon Pegg returns as Benji in a much more expanded role and steals all the scenes he is in, there was a strange but funny scene of product placement where he is playing Halo 5 on Xbox One at the CIA rather than working. Jeremy Renner came back with a much smaller role and didn't really do much. Ving Rhames was excellent as series veteran Luther. 

The only two new cast members are Rebecca Ferguson and Alec Baldwin. Ferguson was awesome, where has this women been? She handled action fantastically and had great chemistry with Cruise, her character was even interesting on top of this. Baldwin was forgettable as the new head of IMF, although he did have the strangest and most wonderful line in the whole film "Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny", I don't know what it meant, but it was just a beautiful moment.


On the villain side of things, Sean Harris was very sinister and chilling as Solomon, this series isn't very well known for its villains, but they did a pretty good job here. I just felt they could have developed him a bit more and gave us better motivation for his actions.


Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is another slice of insanely entertaining spy action with great set-pieces, a game performance from Cruise and the best story the series has had yet.

8/10 Dans

Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Monday, 16 October 2017

Cars 3 (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written October 16th, 2017*

"Kachow! Kill me." 

I remember being kind of excited for Cars 3 when that initial teaser trailer was released, then they released the full trailer and it was more or less exactly what I was expecting the film to be. I'm just really not a fan of the Cars franchise (2 is one of the worst animated films I've ever seen), that said, Cars 3 is by far the best in the franchise, while still being aggressively mediocre.

I appreciate what they tried to do. An older Lightning McQueen finally accepting he's just not that good a racer anymore. It's a plot more suited to an adult existential drama. What does a Car do when he can't race anymore? It's not really a question that's explored any further or done that well. This is no animated Rocky Balboa that's for sure.

My criticism of this is a hard one to explain. This is first and foremost a kids film made to sell toys to young and impressionable children. So any expectation of something more would be ludicrous, but then I remember the rest of Pixar's excellent output and realise, actually, year, these kids films can be meaningful and sweet while being a piece of the Disney machine of consumerism. 

I'd be fine with these films if I felt something towards these characters or even found them funny. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I just found this a chore to sit through. So much so that not even the insanely good animation could make these entertaining. Honestly, Pixar's animators are topping themselves every year. I just wish this series would have had better writers. 


It's hard to say if we'll ever get a Cars 4. I know Cars 3 really under performed, but I imagine it made more than enough in merchandise sales to continue the series. I'll watch it, but it needs a serious overhaul. Lightning McQueen can't be the focus of the next film. His story is done now. He'll need to be reduced to a minor character while it makes way for a new racer. 

I don't even want to begin to talk about the bizarre and insane world Cars exists even and the questions that's raised. It's been talked about to death. It''s just.... fucked.


Whatever, that's Car 3, it.. it was what it was. The best film in Pixar's worst franchise. It's got stellar animation and effects, but it's extremely rusty on plot and character. This really feels like nothing but an obligation rather than a film made to entertain children and adults alike.

5/10 Dans

Cars 3 does not currently have a release date in the UK for its 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD
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Doctor Strange (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written October 27th, 2016*

"Life is Strange"

While it suffers from the usual strains of a superhero origin story, Doctor Strange somehow manages to be unique, original and the weirdest thing to come from the MCU yet. 

While the story was fairly formulaic for the first act, I was sort of lost for most of the film. A lot of dialogue is characters spouting exposition that meant nothing to me. They talk about magic, spells, evil spirits and lots of mentions of mirror dimensions or something. It also lacks the weight of Civil War, which isn't Strange's fault, seeing as that was the build up of 8 years worth of films before it, but it just made Civil War have more of an impact.

While this lack of knowing what was happening should have diminished my entertainment, I was blown away by the visuals happening on screen. I never in a million years would have expected this to be as visually stunning as it was. It has some the weirdest and most unique visual style of any comic-book I've ever seen. While Guardians of the Galaxy was a zany risk for Marvel, Doctor Strange blows it out of the water.

While Benedict Cumberbatch was great in the lead (Once I put his American accent aside), his character is fairly similar to a lot of things we've seen before it. An arrogant, smug and somewhat obnoxious doctor who is brilliant at his job. He's sort of a mix of Tony Stark and Doctor House. He was great, and I look forward to seeing more of him in the MCU.


Where Marvel failed once again was in its villain. This is the biggest insult to me from Doctor Strange. Wasting Mads Mikkelsen. I have just finished watching all 3 seasons of Hannibal, and the man is a god. He's sadly wasted here in another throwaway and forgettable villain. Mads does the best he can with the little material he's given, but he deserves so much more than this.


So yeah, Doctor Strange is a lot better than I expected. I never really had any expectations for this, and while it fails on the villain front and its muddled storytelling, I was captivated by its creative, psychedelic and downright beautiful visuals.

7/10 Dans

Doctor Strange is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Saturday, 14 October 2017

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written October 14th, 2017*

"Prison fight"

Not what I expected at all. I was a big fan of S. Craig Zahler's previous film Bone Tomahawk, but there's just something about prison films that really put me off. While I tend to almost always enjoy them. The thought about spending two hours within the confined space of a prison just bores me. Then there's the issue of Vince Vaughn, an actor I tend to usually hate. Except in Dodgeball, Dodgeball is a masterpiece. If you haven't seen Dodgeball, see Dodgeball.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 finds Vince Vaughn playing against type as an ex-alcoholic, ex-boxer who is fired from his job and begins working as a drug runner. A job goes wrong and he finds himself in prison, but is forced to kill someone in the prison after his ex boss kidnaps his pregnant wife and will have a Korean abortionist mutilate his baby in the womb. I did not make that up. I expect no less from the man who made Bone Tomahawk. 


I'd heard Brawl was a violent film, but this is some of the most grizzly and disgusting stuff I've seen all year. For a two hour film, there is not actually that much violence, but when it finally happens, my god it is effective. Lots of use of really graphic and practical effects which look disgusting. I never thought I'd see a mans face look like that after being dragged across concrete. Zahler directs the action with weight and precision in a way that sort of reminded me of the Raid films. Everything was in camera and brutal, it was pure exploitation film making from another era. I could easily see this as a film from the '90s. 

I've mentioned I don't like Vince Vaughn, but this is by far the best I've ever seen him. The first time his character isn't just a complete douche-bag. He completely loses himself in the role as Bradley Thomas, a man who is a walking tank of destruction, and while he has his moments of explosive violence and rage, he still manages to give a subdued performance that was far from one note. There's even some genuinely effective moments of emotion towards the end as Bradley seems to accept his fate and the consequences of what he has to do.

It was kind of impossible not to root for Bradley, despite being a violent drug runner, he's got a moral compass and is actually quite likeable. His plight through the increasingly horrible prison system is relentless too, that poor guy never gets a break. There's a magnificent scene at the beginning where he tears apart a car with his bare hands. It was a wonder to behold and it was around that point I think I knew I was going to love this. 

My biggest complaint with Bone Tomahawk was that it was a bit too long and dragged at times, but I never had that problem with Brawl. It's a fairly slow-paced film, but I was into it for near enough every second. We spend enough time with Bradley and his wife in the first act to invest you in the stakes of all the stuff in prison. And while being a prison film, it never spends to long in one place as Bradley has to work his way up to the maximum security wing of the prison in Cell Block 99 run by a really fun Don Johnson.


I don't really have that many problems with Brawl in all honesty. I won't spoil it, but the final shot of the film is ruined by one of the fakest looking prosthetic heads I've ever seen, which kinda left the film on a tiny sour note, but that was a 1 second shot in an over 2 hour film, so I can't hold that against it too much.


Brawl in Cell Block 99 is one of my biggest surprises of the year. A brutally violent, extremely entertaining and just plain demented films of the year that also features the best performance of Vince Vaughn's career. I cannot wait to see S. Craig Zahler's next film.

9/10 Dans

Brawl in Cell Block 99 hits cinemas on the UK from October 20th
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Friday, 13 October 2017

The Babysitter (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written October 13th, 2017*

"A good Netflix Original Film?!"

This was not a film I had any interest in seeing. Netflix films are usually garbage and McG is a director even worse than his name, so this turned out to be an unspectacular, albeit fun horror-comedy for the most part. Which is far more than expected.

It plays on the sexy babysitter trope by having the sitter as the villain. And Samara Weaving does a great job as the insanely hot title character and is quite possibly the most likeable murderous cult head I've seen on screen. Judah Lewis also does a solid job as the kid forced to go head to head with his babysitter after staying awake and witnessing her cult ritual with her friends.

Being only 85 minutes really worked in the films favour. It's sort of structured like a video game. The kid works his way about the teenagers one by one, killing them in surprisingly grizzly, funny and creative ways. It felt a bit like a Tucker and Dale vs Evil. It was a nice reverse to see the victim rack up a higher body count than the villains, but it's weird to see this 12 year old kid not be phased by any of the deaths he caused. I know it's not that sound of film, but it was still a little off.


I really wasn't a fan of some of the direction. There's some lame and stylised on screen writing that wasn't needed. It also really does look like a DTV film, which is a shame. It's clearly low-budget, but it's not hard to make a film not look like an ABC TV pilot. Especially with Netflix's funds.


It's not great, it's not bad, but The Babysitter is merely serviceable entertainment with a solid lead performance from Samara Weaving. Which is far more than you can expect from Netflix Original Films at this point. A pleasant surprise I was expecting to give one star.

6/10 Dans

The Babysitter is streaming now on Netflix UK
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Spectre (2015) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written October 31st, 2015*

"Some great Bondage"

After the insane standard that Skyfall set back in 2012, it was suspected that Spectre would never live up to its hype, but my god, Spectre was just 100% gravy, I loved every minute and I'm even torn between what I loved more, this Casino Royale or Skyfall.

Sam Mendes returns to the directors chair in a story that bring Bond head to head with a mysteries organisation called 'S.P.E.C.T.R.E.' that has links to his past and is run by mastermind Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).

In many ways it feels like Spectre is a finale to Daniel Craig's run as Bond, it ties up and brings all his films full circle, even Quantum of Solace, although the film tries its hardest no to bring that up to much. It turns out that all on Craig's previous villains were part of Spectre. I saw some reviews saying it felt cheap and unearned, but I felt it worked.


Mendes once again delivers several excellent and memorable set-pieces. Opening with a gorgeous tracking shot in Mexico for Day of the Dead that is filmed to look like one long take, it was beautiful and certainly got Spectre off to an amazing start. The rest of the action scenes are great too, we get a brutal close-quarters fight between Bond and henchman Mr. Hinx on a train that reminded me of From Russia with Love and a fantastic car chase through the streets of Rome.

What helps Spectre a lot is its return to a slightly more lighter tone, while still maintaining its dark seriousness. Since Casino relaunched the series, people have complained about its tone. Casino started dark and brutal, showing how Bond become Bond, Quantum just derailed everything, Skyfall was a step closer to the Bond we know and Spectre feels like the first fully fledged Bond film in a long time. It relies heavily on the formula that makes Bond iconic, but still feels extremely fresh.

We still have the locations, the girls and the over the top villain who is played marvellously by an always amazing Christoph Waltz, he does his usual and lovable Waltz thing, but that makes him no less great and memorable. Dave Boutista was awesome too, bring a henchman that feels like a classic with his quite demeanour and menacing size, he even gets a gorgeous kill that involves eye gouging, which was extremely brutal, even by Bond's recent standard of violence.

Craig is as good as ever as James Bond, he really seems to have the role tied down now, brimming with the charm and charisma that is needed for the role, while still doing some really audacious and bone-breaking physical work.


Lea Seydoux was really great as the Bond girl, she felt like the most human of Craig's women since Casino Royale's Vesper, she had solid chemistry with Craig and felt fairly genuine that they would fall in love by the end, even leaving an open ending for them that could hopefully be resolved tragically at the beginning of the next film. I won't even mention Monica Belluci, as her role felt like a glorified cameo that barely rounded up to five minutes of screen-time, which was weird as she was heavily featured in the advertisement and posters leading up to the release. 

Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomi Harris all return as Bond's MI6 team. They were all great and each had there own moments to shine, the finale even felt like the recent Mission Impossible films where they all had a role to play and something to do.


If Spectre is Craig's last outing as Bond, then this was a damn satisfying way to do it, with a story that brings things full circle and completes the story while leaving the door open to more instalments. Filled with everything that makes Bond great, Spectre might just be the best of Craig's films and maybe even the best of the whole series. I just hope someone can fill the huge gap Mendes will leave now that he has said he won't be returning to direct the series anymore.

9/10 Dans

Spectre is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Thursday, 12 October 2017

Defiance (2008) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written October 12th, 2017*

"Fuck Zwick"

While a solid war film, Zwick's clunky sentimentality and script gets in the way of what could have been a great war film. Daniel Craig is great as the lead, once you get past his accent. There is also some decent and visceral action, it's a shame it's ruined by some strange creative choices. There's a set-piece where the Jewish rebels have to steal medicine for their camp and it's done in this really strange slow-motion that made me think my disc might have been scratched. It was so out of place.

I did like the morality side of things. These rebels were portrayed in a very grey area, which is a risky move in a film about Jewish people fighting back in World War 2. They could have gone completely one sided, but it definitely helped the film by having these murky morals.


This script had some really cringey and bad lines too. At one point Daniel Craig's love interest tells him "You saved me", to which he responded "No. You saved me". Brutal. There's some more lines like that spread throughout, not that I remember much of it. 

Also, featured the obligatory "Lead actor is in an explosion, gets up and sees the chaos around him while the noise is droned out by ringing". Lame.  


I have a feeling revisiting Blood Diamond and The Last Samurai as an adult might be a bad idea at some point. Zwick is not a very good director. Defiance is still far from his godawful low point of a Jack Reacher sequel though.

6/10 Dans

Defiance is out now on Blu-ray and DVD
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Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) - Film Review

Review: *Originally written August 7th, 2015* "Cruising" Ditching the cartoony fun that Brad Bird bought to the franchise...