May film preview

Taken a bit of a break from film previews for the month ahead but I’m back!May is right around the corner and it’s leaving the dead, slow momentum of winter and its films in its wake, that’s right everyone, summer is right around the corner and summer movie season officially kicks off in May and we’re due for some big’uns. So let’s take a look at some films on the way.

 

Captain America: Civil War – released on the 6th of May (29th April in the UK)

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner, Sebastian Stan, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman,

The Marvel cinematic universe has its biggest shake up to date with Civil War as long time friends and team mates, Captain America and Iron Man fight in clash of ideals over superhero registration, battle  lines are drawn and sides are taken, splitting the Avengers down the middle as a few new characters make their debut.

 

Money Monster – released on the 13th of May

Directed by Jodie Foster

Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito.

Modern day thriller as TV Personality Lee Gates is held hostage by a seemingly crazed man during a show, who lost out on money and threatens to harm Lee and himself if his demands aren’t met.

 

The Angry Birds Movie – released on the 20th of May

Directed by Fergal Reilly, Clay Kaytis

Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Josh gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Kate McKinnon, Sean Penn, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key.

Yes, Angry Birds has a film and… this is a real thing, the film follows an idyllic community of flightless birds with some prominent personalities between them who have their lives changed when a group of pigs arrive.

 

Alice Through The Looking Glass – released on the 27th of May 2016

Directed by Tim Burton

Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Rhys Ifans, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen.

Follow up and sequel to 2010s’ fantasy drama Alice in Wonderland as Alice returns to the fantastical world of Wonderland, now needing to save her friends from the creature time.

 

X-Men Apocalypse – release on the 27th of May 2016

Directed by Bryan Singer

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Rose Byrne, Olivia Munn, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp.

Singers new X-Men trilogy reaches its culmination as the X-Men face their biggest, most powerful threat yet in the ancient mutant Apocalypse, who plans to take over the world, turning people and mutants alike to his philosophy while Mystique tries to rally a young, untrained group of X-Men to take him down.

3 reasons why Rogue One is great news for Star Wars fans

You, me, your neighbours, your grandma, probably a lot of people already know about Rogue One and the hype is really building now with its December release just 8 months away now, hot on the heels of the ridiculously successful The Force Awakens, it’s weird to be talking about a new Star Wars film just months after the old one but hey, I’m all for it.

Anyway we’ve had our first look at Rogue One and it’s intriguing, a Star Wars film without Jedi (and barely any Sith, Vader may be in it), it”s a story a way removed from the main Episodic ones and it’s a breath of fresh air, though we’re having another film based around a Death Star but yeah. Regardless, here are some reasons why the films existence in itself is great for Star Wars fans and for the SW universe at large.

 

Varied storytelling

Star Wars is awesome, an overarching story focusing on big central themes and archetypes, good vs evil, familial bonds etc and it’s great, such things make for great bases for stories to tell and they make for really great films, what Rogue One opens up is a different type of story to tell, sure it’s good vs evil as ever but there may be a lot of sourness at the end if it’s a happy ending at all. The good guys may succeed but a lot of them may die, there may be a twist, who knows, we haven’t seen this story told at all so we have no idea where it will go – which is exciting, even though we know the outcome.

And that’s just for Rogue One, we haven’t seen a Star Wars film set in a different region of the galaxy, a film focused primarily on one character and not on a travelling group of main characters, we haven’t seen a trippy, mind bending type story. As you know, sci-fi can branch into a lot of sub-genres and that’s a lot of story variants that can be told. And that’s all within the Star Wars universe which is a pretty awesome thing.

 

A chance for more creativity

You can hate George Lucas for this or that… or well for many things but I like that he tried new things, brought new characters, planets, vehicles etc to the prequels and he brought things we’d never seen before, similar to some new things we can see in Rogue One, the world that these films inhabit is so expansive and possibility – something the expanded universe touched on a lot. And we really need to see that in films going forward, we’ll let Rogue One slide for now but no more Death Stars please or similar plot points or heroes arising from Desert planets, we could be in for brand new characters, planets, types of stories and that’s pretty exciting in itself.

The new directors attached to the Star Wars stories films going forward seem to be pretty creative, forward thinking minds as well so I have every hope we’ll see progressive storytelling and new ideas, something the franchise really needs. What was Obi-Wan doing on Tatooine for 20 years or so between Episode III and IV? What are the origins of the Sith and Jedi according to the films canon? What about mandalorians, what’s their history, could a mandalorian be a Jedi or Sith?

You get where I’m going but you can just run and run with this, a little creativity won’t hurt Disney!

A break from the main story

Now the main Star wars episodes are the bread and butter of the franchise of course, the big boys, big bucks and the driving force of the franchise that we know and love but these potential side stories, prequels, origin stories are great ideas because one – it’s more Star Wars for everyone but to link to my first point, it opens up new avenues for storytelling and gives us a break from the main story as well. It’s great to get more ways to tell stories set in this franchise and to get different types of stories as it gives audiences something new and different to look forward to every time, new films may not follow familiar story structures, they may have vastly different characters and themes but I think getting something different is the key.

Well that was my two cents and just a few ideas I have on why and how Rogue One is great news for Star Wars fans going forward, as big SW fan I personally can’t wait to see the film myself and find out what it’s really like.

Triple 9 review

John Hillcoat directs Triple 9, following a group of corrupt cops and members of the mob as they plan to pull off a daring heist by triggering a ‘Triple 9’ code, the film stars Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Norman Reedus, Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Triple 9 is very… gritty and you get that right from the get go with how things start off, giving the audience a taste of what’s to come, this isn’t your average police/crime drama and you find that how quickly enough, if you didn’t already know what the premise was before you started watching the film. And as unbelievable as the set up may seem in this day and age, it’s still something different and an alternative type of crime drama, though things proceed fairly predictably from the first act onwards as the corrupt cops try and go about getting a ‘Triple 9′ code, which is police code for an officer being down in duty and such a code will bring all available cops to the scene and draw them away from duty.

The problem with the story isn’t in it what it tries to achieve but in the way it’s told and conveyed, honestly it’s just really, surprisingly dull in fact in comparison to how good the film looked in trailers leading up to its release and with such a great cast, you’d expect some more dynamism and life in the plot but it’s not quite present. Though some action scenes and certain set pieces are well done and quite tense but are very few and far between, dotted through a lot of dialogue and exposition, the plot could definitely have benefited from some more action and tense set pieces as this is something John Hillcoat excels in directing.

That being said, there are some good performances present, Chiwetel Ejiofor is great as Michael Atwood, on both sides of the law but seemingly just wanting good things for his child, while Casey Affleck makes a really believable newbie cop trying to just do the right thing, finding himself in a not so great situation.

Anthony Mackie is also pretty solid as Marcus Belmont, partner to Afflecks’ Chris Allen but outside of these performances, none necessarily stood out, mostly because the other characters just didn’t have that much to do, Aaron Paul was pretty wasted in my opinion and Norman Reedus definitely was, which was disappointing. Also seeing more about the characters, their motivations and reasons why they ended up in the situations they were in would have helped in allowing me to empathise with or care about them, rather than just seeing a bunch of people doing things without knowing that much about them. I get the feeling that the story just wanted to go at 100 miles per hour without much explanation, thrusting the audience into the plot but without some necessary set up I feel

Triple 9 had some great ideas but ultimately it just didn’t quite go anywhere interesting with its initially intriguing premise, it has a great cast of acting talent but doesn’t really utilise them all to a satisfying degree.

6/10

. Plot doesn’t progress in an interesting direction

. Has a great but underused cast

. The ending feels rather abrupt, inconsequential

Gods of Egypt review

Alex Proyas directs this fantasy adventure film set in a fictional ancient Egypt where Gods live and walk among the living, a human – Bek teams with the God Horus in order to battle Set, God of the underworld, who has plans to rule the world and unleash darkness upon it. The film stars Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites, Elodie Young.

On the face of it Gods of Egypt is kinda cool, it’s got some decent actors, it’s set around something interesting (to me at least) in Ancient Egytpian mythology which is a hardly touched area for films let alone big budget films but predictably, the film is also a bit underwhelming in every way you probably expect it to be. You get thrown into the story rather abruptly as things get set up for the main players/characters, their motivations and the basis of the story but it all feels a bit jarring, maybe because Egyptian Gods just aren’t as recognizable or familiar to films or because the characters didn’t really get set up properly but things feel a bit rushed from the get go.

And that’s a main criticism of the story as a whole, things just feel very rushed and the plot moves at a breakneck speed, the action isn’t necessarily non-stop but it could use a few moments here and there to slow down and take a breath. I don’t fault the ambition in making a film like this though, it may feel very familiar in plot structure, character and tropes of fantasy adventure films in the vein of the 2010 Clash of the Titans but the Ancient Egyptian setting is a welcome change of scenery in my eyes.

A few positives here include the visuals with some cool looking set pieces and the epic scale of Egyptian Gods doing their thing being godly and all, including a fun sequence with the sun God Ra, also Coster-Waldau is great in the film as Horus and effortlessly fits into the cocky, quippy character type. The acting apart from that is… a tad theatrical and not in a good way, Gerard Butler as Set is larger than life as you’d expect, sort of like an evil version of Leonidas from 300 and Brenton Thwaites is adequate but I feel the guy keeps getting cast in roles like this that just under use his acting ability.

It’s not that the roles were miscast per-se, but they just didn’t really bring out the best in the actors that they were using. And as far as the plot itself goes, it’s just a bit dull and lifeless, things happen and progress as you’d expect but it’s just not really that fun, not as fun as it could have been at least. And well… that’s about it really, there isn’t much more to really say about the film as it’s more or less completely average in just about every way, it’s very by the numbers, predictable and you know what you’re going to get going into it, no surprises here but Nikolaj Coster Waldau really does have some lush hair, just saying.

5/10

. Has some nice visuals

. By the numbers plot

. Under uses its actors, has cliched characters

Elysium review

Elysium is a sci-fi action thriller directed by Neil Blomkamp, starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna and is set in 2154, with Earth further divided social inequality to an extreme with the wealthy and privileged living on a space station called Elysium with better facilities, better technology and better living conditions. While the rest of the humanity lives on earth in mostly squalid conditions. Elysium has highly advanced medical technology, able to cure any disease, slow aging and re-generate body parts and Max (Matt Damon) strives to bring equality into the mix and restore social balance.

The story of Elysium is a predictable one, playing out in ways you’d expect it to go but with that being said it’s still an enjoyable and fun watch, Matt Damon is great as Max and embodies the role of the moral action hero quite well, while Sharlto Copley delivers another intense and great performance in a Blomkamp movie as Kruger, reaching Disney levels of villainy at times. And on the whole the acting is good but not everyone gets enough screentime or that much to do, Delacourt (Jodie Fosters) for example is important to the story but doesn’t get that many scenes due to the story is focused on Max some other characters get a bit left out.

The set pieces in the film are good and the film is shot well with some great visuals, Blomkamp lets his imagination run wild and the futuristic world of Elysium is great to see, as is the HULC – the mechanized exo-skeleton that Max uses to give him the edge, to the futuristic weaponry also used on Elysium and Earth. Blomkamp works well in helping visualize a sci-fi world and bring it to life, though it’s a shame his film plots don’t always live up to the standard that his films visuals do. The social allegory is there of course, society is unequal and poverty is rife, in the world today and in the future things could be drastically worse and watching Max go on his own personal crusade to bring about equality is a great story but it did feel a bit idealistic and possibly a bit too on the nose for some.

That being said, Damon is great in the role and presents Max as a real friend of the people, a man to cheer for and Copleys’ Kruger makes a great theatrical villain. If you were looking for an improvement on District 9, keep looking as ultimately Elysium feels like a bit of style over substance with a good looking film and an interesting concept that doesn’t quite hit the emotional high notes District 9 did. Though the film is still engaging for the most part and Matt Damon’s a great leading man, it could have been better.

6/10

. Has some great looking visuals

. Has relevant but shallow social commentary, a bit on the nose

. Isn’t quite a great drama or a compelling action film, feels a bit middle of the road