The Raid review

Gareth Evans directs this visceral action thriller as a SWAT team gets trapped in an apartment building with thugs, killers and mercenaries and must fight their way through it, the film stars Iko Uwais, Ananda Geroge, Ray Sahetapy. The Raid has a few elements in it that add to its gritty, visceral style and with its single location set up, it’s sort of like the first Die Hard but I’d say The Raid has better and more gripping action, they’re vastly different films anyway but I think they do have the set up in common.

Anyway The Raid is some thrilling stuff and works well because of its simplicity, not throwing an overly complicated plot or characters at the audience, you know what’s going on and what the characters are trying to do and you want to watch people punch each other lot and stuff and that’s exactly what you get, the film delivers what audiences want out of a film like this and it doesn’t disappoint. Because the plot is so breakneck in its pacing and flow with unexpected twists and turns and some thrilling, often extended action sequences, Iko Uwais really shines as Rama, one of the main characters and someone you really get behind as he’s a good guy and has some stellar fighting skills, taking on several baddies at times in ridiculously lop-sided face offs. With Yayan Ruhian playing Mad Dog, Ramas his opposite as the antagonist fighter (though not the big bad of the story), he’s small but deadly and his fight with Raman and Andi is one of the best fights I’ve seen in recent years.

The way the fights are choreographed and play out is some great entertainment, importantly we get a good look at the action and shaky cam isn’t employed like it often is in a lot of action films these days and we see the brutal bone breaking moves/manoeuvres, emphasized with close ups and excruciating sound effects, the fights are really brutal and each hit on characters feels impactful, something a lot of action films don’t quite capture. And although the great action scenes are nine tenths of what makes the film a great watch, it also has some good dramatic moments and character motivations as well, we see extra reasons for why some SWAT members are in the apartment in the first place and we get to see the bad guys plans as well, there definitely is a story here and it serves the action well.

The Raid is simple, thrilling action at its best with some fantastic fights, great pacing and a good sense of tension and immediacy when it comes to the characters, their motivations and actions with a plot that’s easy to follow, a great film overall.

8/10

. Excellent action sequences, hits look very painful

. Great pacing, film flies by and is a great watch

. Characters have believable motivations and actions, aren’t fighting for no reason

Suicide Squad official trailer #1

 

David Ayers upcoming Suicide Squad has a brand new trailer out, encompassing it’s nutty, loose cannon characters and what they’ll essentially be getting up to, building on from the intrigue and darker tone of the first teaser, the trailer’s clearly more upbeat and wacky as the quirks of the members of the Suicide Squad get emphasised.

They truly are a group of misfits and we see that in the character descriptions, which is what should make the film a lot of fun to watch – not to watch superheroes per se but to watch a band of rogues try to get along and somehow complete a mission, which will probably go horribly wrong. I like that we’ve now seen Jared Leto as The Joker, I like his look and I think he’ll be a good Joker, a very different one at that to one that we’ve seen on film before but something nuanced hopefully. We also seem to be in for a significant role from Enchantress who may have a bigger part to play in the story than you may have thought as we see certain mystical and magical entities/things in the trailer, (Enchantress loses it and attacks everyone?) so that angle in addition to the Joker may be an interesting one.

Harley Quinn again takes a lot of the spotlight and I can’t wait to see Margot Robbies’ performance, alongside Will Smith as Deadshot of course and even Jai Courtney, who I’m quite looking forward to seeing as Captain Boomerang, he totally has the grimy waster image down and I think this could be a rarity – a good performance from Mr Courtney (just saying).

Overall I think the trailer’s pretty good, Bohemian Rhapsody is pretty much always a good choice of song for a trailer and it goes pretty well with Suicide Squad funnily enough, the trailer’s emphasised the wacky, crazy nature of the films story and I’m curious to see how everything plays out, any past doubts I’ve had over how certain characters look ha sort of faded to be honest and I’m anticipating see the finished product.

The Revenant review

Steadily growing fan favourite director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu makes his latest cinematic outing with The Revenant, a gritty, dirty tale of survival, resolve and revenge as a frontiersmen vows to avenge his sons death after an encounter with members of his hunting team. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson.

Upon closer inspection, The Revenant is probably many things but one of the most accurate ways to describe it is – visceral, Inarritus style of direction works perfectly for this type of story, with the camera itself being so close to the action and characters, bringing you into the story and engrossing you as events unfold. Inarritus style of filming is become a staple and it makes for some really great scenes, with some beautiful landscape shots and great panning, tracking shots that work great in action sequences, giving the impression of real time events unfolding and mimicking the chaos and panic that you can imagine would take place during a raid. Immersion, that’s something that film does an exceptional job of doing and it’s absolutely necessary for this story as it’s key that you are interested in the main characters – namely DiCapro as the ever determined Hugh Glass. A story like this needs you to follow its characters and be engaged for it to work and have an emotional impact and I have to say, it works, in part because of the films great performances, notably from DiCaprio who puts it in some great, gruelling work and definitely underwent some punishment.

And I can only speak for myself but I was so engaged that I was practically cheering for DiCaprio/Glass to get his revenge and finally do what he was planning to do. Though Admittedly, there are some lulls in the action and this is far from an endless thrill ride of action and drama, though it has its fair share and notably there is a moment late in the story when not much at all happens but this thankfully doesn’t last for too long.

There isn’t much Hugh Glass doesn’t go through in the story to be frank and it’s certainly an Oscar worthy performance in my book, meanwhile the supporting cast does a great job in regards to the roles that they play and Domnhall Gleeson in particular was great as the likeable, moral Captain Andrew Harry, while Tom Hardy makes for the effortlessly brutal and amoral John Fitzgerald, enveloping the role much like DiCaprio did, with some great casting overall.

Things get gritty and bloody but never quite to the point of being gratuitous which is an excellent feature of the story, the action is often brutal, punches, cuts look like they hurt and this is important as you do sort of feel for certain characters when they’re being in bad situations and with some great filming, you see the action as it unfolds in every painful injury, stab and so son and it makes for some tense, thrilling set pieces. Namely one involving a massive Grizzly Bear in one of the most brutal, if not the most brutal bear attacks I’ve seen in a film.

The Revenant is a great cinematic experience and a fantastic story, with some lulls in the action points and moments that may seem a bit superfluous to the plot, on the whole it’s a very well made and engaging drama with a great motivational main character in Hugh Glass, who you really get sympathise with and get behind because of his ordeal and because of DiCaprios great performance, alongside some great supporting performances.

8/10

. Has some fantastic performances, DiCaprio is great as ever

. Engaging characters, you’ll either love or hate them but you will care about them

. Brilliant cinematography, draws you into the story, makes for some thrilling set pieces

. Engrossing, simple premise with a good story

Zombieland review

Zombieland is a action comedy film set in a zombie apocalypse, directed by Ruben Fleischer and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin, Amber Heard, Bill Murray, the film follows individual survivors each with their own separate girls meeting and coming to a mutual agreement to travel together to try and reach what they want.

The film has a small main cast but everyone is great and distinct in their respective roles with this film arguably being Emma Stone and Eisenbergs’ breakout roles as Wichita and Columbus, the characters also chose to use states as their names rather than real names, another quirky thing about the movie. Zombieland has a distinct comedic undertone to it and it has no qualms in being more of a silly movie, the tone is understandably light and the characters all fit in well with the world. Highlighted by things like the zombie rules for survival that Columbus brings to the film, ‘Dont forget to double tap’, showing how people improvise in the post apocalypse and go about their own separate ways to do things. The writing for the film is great and the comedy works with effective character idiosyncrasies and traits brought to life by Eisenberg and Stone especially, their awkward dialogue and interaction is funny to watch as they grow closer and Eisenberg nails the bumbling, insecure teen role, which he’s come to be known for now.

The zombies do sort of take a back seat to the story as a whole in the film though, being obstacles in the way to get past but interestingly for a zombie film, surviving in the world isn’t exactly the problem for the characters and they mostly get on just fine, though Columbus can get a bit panicky around zombies close up.

Not everyone is that moral or good in general, Tallahasse (Woody Harrelson) being the closest thing to ‘bad’ in the film, he doesn’t want to be held up or slowed down by others but won’t exactly abandon vulnerable people either. Seeing different people react to each other in different ways is interesting as you don’t know how people will act, whether hostile, friendly or nonchalant.

Tallahasses’ relationship with the others is quite interesting, with Columbus especially who he treats like a younger brother and they practically have a faux sibling rivalry, while Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are like sisters to each other, the group grows closer over time and end up practically becoming family. Zombielands‘ story is great with an engaging, interesting plot with twists you don’t necessarily see coming including a funny Bill Murray cameo, it’s a different kind of zombie film but a solid and quite engaging one.

7.5/10

. Story is great, well written

. Nice balance of drama and comedy

. Well written, interesting characters

2016 Oscar nominations reaction/predictions

Awards season is well under way and the daddy to them all – the Oscars, now has its nominations list out so I thought I’d give my thoughts on the noms and any notable omissions or strange inclusions.

Best Picture:

Carol, The Martian, Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, Room, The Revenant, The Big Short, Spotlight.

No huge surprises here as these have been the front runners for a while, it’s great to see Fury Road on there, though The Force Awakens should also have gotten a look in imo, Bridge of Spies is understandably here but I thought Steve Jobs would also have been nominated. As for which film win this… well it will probably be The Revenant or Room but I’d personally want to see The Martian win.

Actor in a leading role:

Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Matt Damon (The Martian), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs).

Again no shocking inclusions here in an ever contested category which is really good this year, DiCaprio and Fassbender will be duking it out I imagine, though if there’s any time to ever give DiCaprio that Oscar, it’s now surely, though I’d like to see Fassbender win as well. I’ll be optimistic and say DiCaprio wins the Oscar.

Actor in a supporting role:

Christian Bale (The Big Short), Mark Ruffalo (The Big Short), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Sylvester Stallone (Creed), Tom Hardy (The Revenant).

Another strong category here, I think it’s out of Rylance and Stallone for this one really as both seems to have critics abuzz with their performances, Rylance will probably win it.

Actress in a leading role:

Brie Larson (Room), Cate Blanchett (Carol), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn).

I think it’s safe to say that Jennifer Lawrence won’t be winning this year with some tough competition with Cate Blanchett and Brie Larson who’s probably the frontrunner at this point, though Saoirse Ronan is also a critics favourite, Brie Larson wins this for me.

Actress in a supporting role:

Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Rooney Mara (Carol).

Tough one, Jennifer Jason Leigh was pretty good in The Hateful Eight but Kate Winslet was brilliant in Steve Jobs and off the back off some awards hype, I think she may just be in the running for this one, though it will be out of her and Jason Leigh.

Animated Feature film:

Anomalisa, Menino Mundo, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep movie, When Marnie Was There.

Yeah there are no surprises here and also Inside Out’s winning this for sure with critical praise and it being a box office success, 2015 was’t the strongest year for animated films.

Cinematography:

Ed Lachman (Carol), John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road), Roger Deakins (Sicario), Robert Richardson (The Hateful Eight), Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant).

All great choices, though I’d have loved to have seen The Martian nominated as it had some great cinematography, this is also genuinely hard to call but I’ll hazard a guess that The Revenant may just be front runner at the moment, Inarritu is well known for his visuals in his films and his latest is no exception, though there has been the emphasis on 70mm and an authentic feel to The Hateful Eight, though I didn’t like it, it does look good. So this may be a fairly contested category.

Costume Design:

Sandy Powell, (Carol), Sandy Powell (Cinderella), Jenny Beavan (Mad Max: Fury Road), Paco Delgado (The Danish Girl), Jacqueline West (The Revenant). 

Well Sandy Powell has a good chance with 2 nominations for 2 films but it’s a bit of a toss up here but I think Cinderella and or The Danish Girl are the most likely to pick up this Oscar.

Directing:

George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), Adam McKay (The Big Short), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant).

The critics love Inarritu so he’s always a hot favourite to win, especially because The Revenant looks set to a bunch of awards home by the time the Oscars come around, though George Miller did a fantastic job with Fury Road, making one great comeback, critics also love Room so that may be a top choice for a lot of people. To to go out on a limb, I’m going to say that Lenny Abrahamson wins for Room.

Documentary Feature:

Amy – Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees, Cartel Land – Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin, The Look of Silence – Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen, What Happened, Miss Simone? – Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes, Winter on Fire: Ukraines’ Fight For Freedom – Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor.

I think Amy and Cartel Land both have awards traction so either could win but I’m going with Amy.

Documentary Short:

A Girl In the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Body Team 12, Chau, Beyond the Lines, Claude Lanzmann: Spectres Of the Shoah, Last Day of Freedom.

I’ll be honest, haven’t seen any of the films so I’m going to hazard a guess and say Body Team 12 wins this.

Film Editing:

Mad Max: Fury RoadSpotlight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Big Short, The Revenant.

What’s Spotlight even doing in this category ahead of say, Ex Machina, Sicario, The Martian… but anyway this could well go to Fury RoadThe Revenant is also a good shout but I’ll say Fury Road wins this category.

Makeup and Hairstyling:

Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin (Mad Max: Fury Road), Love Larson and Eva Von Bahr (The 100 Year-Old Man Who Jumped Out of The Window and Disappeared),  Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini (The Revenant)

Interesting choices but I think Fury Road may just win this category.

Music – Original Score:

Bridge of Spies – Thomas Newman, Carol – Carter Burwell, Sicario – Johann Johannson, Star Wars: The Force Awakens – John Williams, The Hateful Eight – Enio Morricone.

Enio Morricone has a great chance of winning here for a great score for The Hateful Eight but it’s gotta be Star Wars that wins surely? Even though the film didn’t have the best score for a Star Wars film, it was still pretty great.

Production Design:

Bridge of Spies – Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich (Set Decoration), Mad Max: Fury Road – Colin Gibson (Production Design); Lisa Thompson (Set Decoration), The Danish Girl – Eve Stewart (Production Design); Michael Standish (Set Decoration), The Martian – Arthur Max (Production Design); Celia Bobak (Set Decoration), The Revenant – Jack Fisk (Production Design); Hamish Purdy (Set Decoration).

Interesting category here, I’m immediately leaning to The Martian and The Revenant, more so to the latter just because of the effort and time taken to produce and put together The Revenant, shooting the wilderness and going through a gruelling shooting process, I think that may just edge it for the win.

Sound Editing: 

Mad Max: Fury Road – Max Mangini and David White, Sicario – Alan Robert Murray, Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Matthew Wood and David Accord, The Martian – Oliver Tarney, The Revenant – Martin Hernandez and Lon Bender.

I think The Revenant may do really well in the technical categories so I’m pulling for it here, though Fury Road would also be a great choice.

Sound Mixing: 

Bridge of Spies (Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin), Mad Max: Fury Road (Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff and Ben Osmo), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson), The Martian (Paul Massey, Mark Taylor and Mac Ruth), The Revenant (Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom and Chris Duesterdiek).

Some good choices all around here but I’d go with it being out of Star Wars and The Revenant and The Revenant may just win this.

Visual Effects: 

Ex Machina (Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Ardington and Sara Bennett), Mad Max Fury: Road (Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver and Andy Williams), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould), The Martian (Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence and Steven Warner), The Revenant (Rich McBride, Matthew Shumway, Jason Smith and Cameron Waldbauer).

What a category, Fury Road again nominated and I mean how do you even choose out of The Force Awakens, The Revenant and The Martian? All worthy and deserving winners, this is genuinely hard to call but screw it, I’ll go with The Martian, the effects were spectacular, Mars looked incredible and so did a lot of the set pieces/sequences in the story.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): 

Brooklyn – screenplay by Nick Hornby, Carol screenplay by Phyllis Nagy, Room screenplay by Emma Donaghue, The Big Short – screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Martian – screenplay by Andrew Goddard.

I have a favourite of these choices straight away with Andrew Goddard for The Martian but in terms of the academies’ voting, Room and Carol are probably the big frontrunners unsurprisingly, this is a pretty strong category overall though so there could be a surprise in store.

Writing – Original Screenplay:

Bridge of Spies – written by Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, Ex Machina – written by Alex Garland, Inside Out – Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original story by Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen, Spotlight – Written by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy, Straight Outta Compton – Screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff; Story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff.

Here we are with the last and another strong category, the Coen brothers have a great chance to win with Bridge of Spies, though if I’m picking purely on best original screenplay, Ex Machina wins hands down for me, though it’s great to see Straight Outta Compton also included.

So yeah, that was long… surprisingly long – I’ve also left out a few categories for the nominees that I haven’t seen, so can’t really make an informed opinion on.

But these are my thoughts on the 2016 Oscar nominations with some predictions thrown in, The Hateful Eight and Steve Jobs almost completely snubbed from the major categories, that’s surprising, more so for Steve Jobs though. Also will DiCaprio finally win that coveted Oscar? I sure hope so, now there’s just a month and a half to find out, I hope we’re in for a good show.