August movie preview

Summer movie season is a-swinging and drawing to its tail end already with August fast approaching, here are some movies to look out for. (Release dates are US dates by default)

Fantastic Four – released on the 7th of August

A re-boot of the widely disliked previous Fantastic Four films, this reboot helmed by Josh Trank gives the famous characters a new look and style to them, also giving them a new origin. As we see the story of how a group of friends take on a risky mission to another dimension, inadvertently giving them powers and unintentionally creating a threat to the earth, the film stars Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell.

The Gift – released on the 7th of August

A psychological thriller, written, produced, directed by and also starring Joel Edgerton about married couple – Simon and Robyn, whose lives gets abruptly interrupted by Simons strange high school friend, Gordo, things escalate and Robyn questions how well she really knows her own husband, the film stars Joel Edgerton, Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E – released on the 14th of August

Guy Ritchies latest film is a spy action comedy about West meeting east in the cold war as two highly trained spies, from the CIA and the KBG need to work together to take on a bigger global threat, the film stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Wikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris.

Straight Outta Compton – released on the 14th of August

A biographical drama from F Gary Gray about the history and founding of the widely popular and famous hip hop group the NWA in the 80s, the film stars Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown Jr.

American Ultra – released on the 21st of August

American Ultra is an action comedy film about sleeper agents in America who exist, though completely unaware of their skills and abilities, one of them gets activated and is considered a threat by the US government who feel they need to take him out, though he proves to be quite a handful for them, the film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman.

Hitman: Agent 47 – released on the 21st of August

The latest Hitman live action film about the titular Hitman, agent 47, based on the games of the same name, agent 47 is an expertly trained assassin who takes on contracts or hits for an organization of high profile targets around the world, the film stars Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto, Thomas Kretschmann.

Sinister 2 – released on the 21st of August

Bughul returns in this spooky sequel, following the events of Sinister as a new family moves into a rural house, as Bughul tempts the children into committing heinous acts, a police officer attempts to investigate past murders and put a stop them completely, directed by Ciaron Foy, the film stars Shannyn Sossamon, James Ransone.

Z For Zachariah – released on the 28th of August

A sci-fi drama directed by Craig Zobel about a world desolated by a mysterious virus, three individuals try to survive but get intertwined in a potentially dangerous love triangle, starring Chris Prine, Margot Robbie, Chietel Ejiofor.

Thor: The Dark World review

We return to the story of the lord of thunder, Thor in Thor The Dark World, directed by Alan Taylor, set after the events of Thor and The Avengers, Thor returns to earth to find that Jane has been affected by a mystical force which Thor must protect and keep safe from an invading army and an evil leader who plan to take over Earth and other realms with it. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddlestone, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Ecclestone, Kat Dennings, Jaimie Alexander, Idris Elba, Adewale Ikinnouye-Agbaje.

Thor returns in his 2nd outing, a much more lighter feeling affair, though Thor also had a lighter, comedic tone, this time around the realm of the magical is in the forefront and explored with the existence of the reality altering ether that Jane comes across, drawing the attention of Malekith (Christoher Ecclestone) and his dark elves. Seeing this more mystical side to Thors world was a great touch and the effects of the Ether itself and it properties made for some cool looking scenes, also seeing more of Asgard was one of the better parts of the film as a fair amount of action takes place there.

And once again Thor rocks the visuals with the film looking great, Asgard in particular looks fantastic in its glimmering glory and the set pieces in the film involving the dark elves are great, as are the design of the dark elves ships and how they fly, though in the long run they aren’t the best thing about of the film. That would be Loki actually, well Loki and Thor, with some great performances from Tom Hiddlestone and Chris Hemsworth, bantering and playing off each other really well, The Dark World explores more or Lokis psyche and really plays on the mythos of Loki being a trickster, using that side of his personality to good effect in the plot.

Meanwhile other great performances are brought to the table by Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Idris Elba as Heimdall and Sif/The warriors three, though the warriors disappointingly play a smaller role this time around.

Thor and Lokis relationship is complex to say the least but it does make for some great viewing, the villains however don’t, though they look quite menacing, Kurse (Adewale Ikinnouye-Agbaje) seemed unstoppable but was quite stoppable as things turned out and Malekith (Christopher Ecclestone) had little to no development and while Marvels’ thing is to develop their heroes over their villains, some more compelling villains can be a good thing. A good thing about the film was its tone though, a nice balance between it being light hearted, peppered with jokes delivered well enough by Darcy (Kat Dennings) and the intern, the humour does work though it may take you out of the action a bit each time. And even with the humour, the film does have dark undertones to it all, with Lokis clearly broken psyche, some deaths and the faceless, cold looking dark Elves.

Thor The Dark World isn’t a bad Marvel movie per se but it’s not great either, showcasing the other worldly realms and creatures from Thors catalogue was fun but a weak villain and lackluster showdown ultimately made for the film not being as good as it could have been.

6.5/10

. Great visuals

. Some creative, fun action sequences

. Rather weak, one note villain in Malekith

Iron Man 3 review

Iron Man 3 is the culmination of the Iron Man trilogy, directed by Shane Black, it follows on from the events of The Avengers with references to the action that took place in New York and presents Tony in a new light, he’s still a genius, billionaire, philanthropist playboy, but he’s also insecure now and is having recurring nightmares of falling from the Chitauri portal in New York.

The main core of the Iron Man cast returns – Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany, with some notable additions in Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin, a long time enemy of Iron Man and Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian, an ignored, vengeful scientist with hatred for Tony, Rebecca Hall also stars as Maya Hansen. The cast does well in the film and again, Robert Downey Jr is the star, more or less playing Robert Downey Jr/Tony Stark but Guy Pearce is also fantastic in the film as Killian, playing an insecure man out of his luck, turned arrogant with rather questionable intentions as he wants to utilise a serum called extremis to create an army of superpowered soldiers.

It’s great to see Tony in the film in his element, with his plethora of suits, though he never really clocks solid time as Iron Man in the film, no more a few minutes at a time, he also gives out his address publicly so the Mandarin can attack him, probably not the best idea Tony, despite having a tonne of armoured suits.

And while still being a well made film, it looks great, the cast is great and the plot is interesting, Iron Man 3 has its problems, Tony barely being in an Iron Man suit is one of them and even if he gets in one, it’s comically destroyed or falls apart which was a shame and tonally odd, for Iron Mans’ supposedly darkest film. Therein lies the problem with Iron Man 3, a Marvel film wanting to be bit darker while still keeping its light tone, it didn’t quite work and I certainly just wanted to see Tony as Iron Man. Exploring Tony more as a person was a good idea and showing his insecure, self doubting side was interesting but it never really went anywhere. Tony met a kid who reminded him of the joy of invention and having hope and he sort of fixed himself, a pretty simple solution to Tonys’ post traumatic stress and nightmares, though in saying that it was good to have Tony get back into heroic ways sooner rather than later and eventually get into the Iron Man suit again.

Tony and Peppers’ relationship is explored a bit more in the film and Maya presents a potential problem for them both, as she’s a former lover of Tony but that never really materialized, though Rebecca Hall is a great actress and is also good in the film, she’s left with not much to do. Ben Kingsley also disappointingly gets to just be a plot device, a ruse to distract Tony but he’s also quite funny as ‘The Mandarin’, though that twist probably didn’t need to be there at all. The film just really didn’t know what tone to go with ultimately and it stretched itself a bit too thin, not portraying Tonys more vulnerable side convincingly enough, not being a great drama or a great action film.

That being said, Killian is a decent villain and has equally and there are some good action set pieces to be had, though far from the best in the Iron Man trilogy, the final fight is also decent and it was awesome seeing all of Tonys’ armoured suits in action but again it would have been great to see Tony clocking more time as Iron Man overall.

6/10

. The performances in the film are good

. The Mandarin twist was a bit lame

. Not enough Tony as Iron Man

The Avengers review

The Avengers assemble in Marvels culmination of 4 years of universe building and their first film to showcase their movies’ big hitters, The Avengers come together to fight off earths’ biggest threats, threats they couldn’t beat individually and the threat that causes them to join forces is Loki, an Asgardian trickster and the brother of Thor. Joss Whedon directs the critically acclaimed and very successful film and has his Whedon-isms all over it with a great brilliant cast of heroes playing well off each other, bantering and seamlessly interacting in a believable way for the context of their world.

Whedon is great at ensemble work having done years in a few different TV shows, (Firefly, Buffy) and you can really tell that he’s at home with directing Marvels premiere fighting team. You also have a strong inclusion of humor in the film with some great, witty writing and characters riffing on each other throughout the film, making for an entertaining, enjoyable film that is an easy re-watch.

The action is also great, seeing some of Marvels’ heroes fighting together is great visual spectacle and is no doubt a reason why the film has proven so successful, Marvel fans who wondered what it would be like to see Hulk smash on the big screen, alongside Iron Man, while Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Thor fighting together. The plot is great and thoroughly engaging as the mischievous Loki poses a serious threat, through all the banter and joking, he does mean serious harm, Tom Hiddlestone brings a jovial, playful and nuanced performance as Loki and captures the character perfectly. While we get the return of fan favourites Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Blackwidow (Scarlett Johansson).

Another great aspect of the film is the dialogue, snappy, funny and witty, Whedons style shines through and brings a lot of humour to the table as you watch some of your favourite Marvel characters interact and bounce off each other.

Personally, Chris Hemsworth as Thor is one of my favourite Marvel perofrmances, while Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark is always fun and a memorable. The Avengers does sort of falter in the final third however with throwaway villains and Loki being defeated all too easily but in the context of the story it was a fun conclusion (puny God!). But back to things it does well, the action of course, especially in the latter parts of the film, action scenes are near seamless as you get that iconic panning shot of The Avengers fighting the alien Chitauri in downtown New York, going from one Avenger to another as they use their unique abilities to fight, that one sequence is alone is great to watch but overall the action is very on point. Either being purposeful for the plot with Thor and Hulk having a showdown, which logically follows from Bruces’ state of mind up that point or Thor and Iron Man fighting when they first meet, not yet knowing they’re on the same side, it’s a credit to the films plot that the action was meaningful and felt well placed, pointing to character development or plot advancement.

The Avengers works really well as a tight knit blockbuster which knows exactly what to do and when to do it, scenes are all important in referencing previous Marvel films, setting up events to come in the film and progressing the story, the writing is great and the plot is very functional, it’s as engaging as it needs to be and Marvel fans get the entertaining ensemble movie that they had always wanted. The film is a great success and non comic book fans can also enjoy it with each character being well written – distinct and entertaining, alongside a villain that is both menacing and a bit of an entertainer, everything comes together in an enjoyable, effective way.

8/10

. Engaging plot with great pacing

. Brilliant cast who deliver some equally brilliant performances

. Action sequences in the film are great to watch, well put together

Captain America: The First Avenger review

Captain America is Captain Americas’ first outing in the MCU, directed by Joe Johnstone, it chronicles his life as a soldier in WWII and meteoric rise to folkloric hero, Captain America, a science experiment utilising super soldier serum to enhance human beings to superior physicality and fighting ability which goes well. The film has an A-list cast, including Chris Evans as Cap, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Richard Armitage, Stanley Stucci, Toby Jones and Samuel L Jackson.

The majority of the film takes place in WWII an the film has a distinct grainy, almost sepia tone to it which was a nice touch, though the film still looks great and the dialogue/writing likewise reflects the time period quite well, as we see Cap fighting in the war alongside American soldiers, saving lives and earning his iconic mantle as Captain America. It’s great spectacle to see Cap fighting at his best and showing off his impressive physical prowess and abilities. The costumes in the film are also great as period films go and the story was an interesting departure for Marvel, their first and only MCU film set mostly in the distant past for one, the plot still manages to be engaging without a modern setting or any other modern marvel characters.

Captain America manages that because it’s well constructed Marvel movie, maybe not the most flashy or the most memorable but it’s still good, Cap himself is an interesting character, being the everyman and wanting to help everyone but knowing he can’t always do that, his relationship with Peggy Carter is also a great touch for the film, Evans and Atwell really sell the relationship and make it believable. And also being set in the past, the film has nice easter eggs in loose reference to the Avengers through Howard Stark, Tony Starks’ father, who was also a pretty great character. Bucky is also a big part of the story, being Caps’ best friend, the apparent loss of Bucky is tragic to watch and relates to themes that Cap goes through, those themes being loss, feeling out of place – with him literally being out his time period at the end and fitting in. Though in WWII, Cap, Bucky Barnes and the US go against Hydra, the organization during the war that experimented in weird science, mysticism and extreme experimentation and Hydra presents a formidable threat, led by the ruthless Red Skull, whose origin we also get to see in the film.

Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) is the main antagonist of the story and is a great villain, Captain Americas’ arch nemesis, he’s the leader of Hydra and a menacing presence, willing to sacrifice people and play dirty to get a win for the bad guys and he represents the polar opposite to Cap personified. Hugo Weaving plays the role really well and brings enthusiastic performance, though Marvel hasn’t done much with the character since and it’s a shame because Red Skull is a pretty good comic book villain. The emotional beats in the film really hit home, with Cap taking the ultimate sacrifice to save others, thinking Bucky is gone forever and that he’ll never see Peggy again as well and it’s great to see the story progress, decades later to now, plonking Cap in our time and forcing him to deal with the situation.

Captain America is a great origin story and an engaging, interesting drama as well, suffering from not being the most memorable Marvel film even in comparison to its own sequel, it’s still a good watch and a solid film.

7/10

. Very well written film, good character interaction

. Visuals, costumes capture the mood and feel of the time period

. Red Skull wasn’t used to his full extent