July film preview

The summer film season continues as we inch ourselves further into 2016, with some of the biggest films of the year already having been released but fear not… July has a few big hitters in line so let’s have a look at some of them.

The BFG – released on the 1st of July 2016

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader.

Adaptation of the famous novel of the same name as an orphan is taken away to giant country by a… friendly giant whom she befriends as they get to know each others worlds and as he protects her from more unfriendly giants.

 

The Legend of Tarzan – released on the 1st of July

Directed by David Yates

Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, Samuel L Jackson, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Honsou, Jim Broadbent.

Modern live action adaptation of the character Tarzan, set years after he’s left Africa and gone to England, having settled down with Jane, now living an aristocratic life in London. He’s tasked to go back to his routes on a false ploy, unaware that he’s part of an overall larger, nefarious scheme.

 

The Purge: Election Year – released on the 1st of July

Directed by James DeMonaco

Starring: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson.

Sequel to The Purge Anarchy, set in 2025, Sgt Leo Barnes (Grillo), now head of security for a US senator Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) who’s also a presidential hopeful is tasked with defending her as she plans to get rid of the purge for good. Meanwhile pro-purge and anti-purge groups will clash in a match of ideals, while people also gun for the senators head.

 

Ghostbusters – released on the 15th of July

Directed by Paul Feig

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mckinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Andy Garcia, Charles Dance.

The hotly controversial sequel… uh.. reboot? Gets its debut with an all female cast of ghostbusters, much following in the vein of the original films with a group of mismatched people who come together to fight the ethereal ghouls that invade New York, alongside their male secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth).

 

Star Trek Beyond – released on the 22nd of July

Directed by Justin Lin

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella.

The third instalment in the new Star Trek trilogy sees the crew of the enterprise, halfway into their five years mission now divided and marooned on an alien planet after the enterprise gets attacked and destroyed, now threatened by a new ruthless threat they have to face.

 

Jason Bourne – released on the 29th of July

Directed by Paul Greengrass

Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Tommy Lee Jones.

A little known guy called Jason Bourne makes his long awaited return to the big screen with the new instalment in the franchise simply titled Jason Bourne, as Bourne returns in a new, different looking world and is hunted down because of his skills and with him being potentially dangerous.

Black Swan review

Darren Arronofsky directs Black Swan, following a lead ballet dancer in the production Swan Lake perfectly playing the role of the white Swan, things take a turn for the strange as she slowly changes and experiences new things, the film stars Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder.

Arronofsky brings a visceral, psychological thrill ride in Black Swan, a character study and plot with a few twists up its sleeves as we follow the morally good, wholesome Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) who feels the need to be perfect in her ballet and impress others, she comes across troublemaker Lily (Mila Kunis) who represents the taboo and the wild side that Nina is reluctant to indulge in. First off the performances in the film are great, Portman and Kunis shine and Portman especially gives one of her best performances in my opinion, encapsulating the good girl image that Nina had and progressively changing as things went on and Kunis opposite her was excellent with the two having some electric chemistry.

The clashing of opposing personalities and moralities is always great for drama but in the case of this film, it makes for further intrigue in the context of the play and what Nina and Lily represent in the white and Black swan, two very different people who sort of need each other and feel like two sides of the same coin, in a way. While being a drama/thriller, things take… interesting turns and get amped up in a few scenes to the point where you could almost class this a psychological horror with some fairly off putting and ambiguous scenes which make you question what’s happening, just like Nina herself probably is at several points. Black Swan is very much a psychological thriller that unravels, getting more elaborate as it goes on despite seemingly being a straight up drama at first.

The trippy strange aspects of the plot work well with some good cinematography which uses some effective close ups to highlight subtle changes or features in scenes and the way quite a lot of the film is shot, is quite expressive with a distinct indie vibe to things, to capture characters emotions, reactions and interactions well, with a mix of lingering single shots in scenes to capture a feel of naturalism and fast cut scenes as well. The supporting cast is quite good also, in Vincent Cassel and Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers, Ninas mom who provides a source of conflict and drama alongside Lily and seeing Nina progress and change into something else makes for compelling psychological drama.

And the music of course also plays an important role in the context of the play and the film and is eerily haunting in a few scenes with the play being acted out and mirroring the lives of the main characters. Black Swan is an interesting film, loaded with emotion, subtext and depth, it may urn people off with its implied ideas and themes but on the surface it’s still an engaging drama with good performances and a morose look into the psyche of a person going through significant change.

7/10

. Well shot film, good use of shot types, angles

. Portman and Kunis have great chemistry, good performances

. Plot is engaging

Kick Ass review

Matthew Vaughn directs Kick Ass, a gritty depiction of urban vigilantism based on the comic book series of the same name, insecure high schooler Dave Lizewski decides to become a superhero and invents a persona for himself in order to fight for justice without any powers or actual training. The film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Nicholas Cage, Lyndsy Fonseca, Evan Peters, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong.

There is a surprisingly large amount to dissect from Kick Ass but first of all, it’s a faithful adaptation of the source material and Matthew Vaugn really nails the comic book style with a hyper realistic feeling to the film which works with a gritty, realistic depiction of city life and crime. Kick Ass is a superhero movie with no super powers and right off the bat it makes for an interesting premise, what if people in the real world simply dressed, made their own personas and went out crime fighting?

Well a lot would happen and things would probably go wrong, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is really we cast and fantastic as Dave/Kick Ass, a character who really does feel very different at the end of the film to himself at the start, character development is an important part of the story and you do see it in a few different characters, as well in Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) who’s awesome as the foul mouthed, lethal fighter and another vigilante. Even Nicholas Cage is great in the film as Big Daddy, a sort of parody and homage to Batman with his own spin on things, while Mark Strong cuts a believably menacing crime boss as Frank D’Amico bringing a pretty spirited performance.

Tonally, the film is a bit up and down, a clearly comedic film in large parts, it’s also unrepentantly violent and graphic, due to its gritty style which makes for a quite unique viewing, the scenes you watch are brutal but coupled with the music and the way they’re shot they’re actually fun to watch in a sort of sadistic way. And I feel like Vaughn definitely had fun in directing the film like that, Kick Ass has surprising depth to it and is far from a mindless action flick in which the hero has powers and is completely morally good. Here Hit Girl kills people and Kick Ass often has poor judgement and is reckless, though ultimately a good person trying to beat overwhelming odds, two clear social misfits taking on crime and doing the ‘right’ thing but having to face the consequences of doing that in a real world with no super powers.

And speaking of the action in the film, it’s frenetic and quite well done, Vaughn knows how to portray a comic book feeling on screen with dismemberment and chaotic fight scenes but even if you don’t like the film for the action, you still have the drama there which is a strong central core to the story. The more emotional moment work with some strong performances from Mortez and Johnson which highlight the insanity and reality of the lives they live. Kick Ass is a bit of a strange film, gritty and quite dark but also very comedic, it probably shouldn’t work but it does with some great direction, good action and a fun plot.

7/10

. Has some great performances

. Well done action scenes with weight to them

. Might be a bit too up and down (tonally) for some

Skyfall review

Skyfall is Daniel Craigs’ third outing as Bond with Sam Mendes at the helm, a departure for the director, doing a big budget action film but it really pays off, Skyfall almost feels like a reboot and re-construction of Craigs’ Bond as we know him, evidenced by the films’ box office success and critical acclaim.

Skyfall starts off with Bond on a would be routine mission which goes wrong, he’s presumed dead and washes up in south east Asia, recovers and reconsiders himself as a spy and seems to go through some seemingly deep contemplation. Though he has some fun as you would being James Bond and does some traditional Bond things like seduce women and… play exotic, tense betting games involving scorpions, as Bond does. Though ultimately he makes his way back to Britain when a problem from the past shows up to haunt M and MI5 in Silva (Javier Bardem) a former agent, disavowed and out for vengeance, he has MI5 as a whole as a target but specifically has it out for M.

Bond comes back with his mission to protect M and the agency and things kick off in an exciting, entertaining way, the plot itself is pretty great and feels like more traditional Bond with a central, supposedly super genius villain in Silva, who seems to make a really convenient plan that just so happens to work but Bardem does make a great villain. Silva is a bit camp but unnerving in his presence and intentions, he’s clearly a man up to no good and he acts with his own twisted sense of justice and though he’s clearly a bit crazy, his motives bring MI5 itself into question which was something different for a Bond film, the idea of the supposed good guys not being so good.

Meanwhile Craigs’ Bond is once again stoic and an artchetypal hero, though he’s more stripped back this time around. The acting all around is pretty solid, the cast is top notch from Craig himself, Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Rori Kinnear, Naomie Harris and Ben Wishaw as the new all deliver some good performances with Craig and Bardem standing out. Though the film really could have used some more Eve (Naomie Harris) whose only big parts are right at the beginning and near the end.

The plot for Skyfall is straightforward and the pacing is great, though Silvas’ convoluted plan does require further suspense of disbelief. Meanwhile the cinematography for he film is brilliant and to Sam Mendes credit, he makes a visually memorable looking Bond film, from the framing to the used to the pretty spectacular locations that feature, from the far east to the Scottish highlands. Bond once again does a fair bit of globe trotting and it’s great to see.

The set pieces in the film aren’t as big in scope as some in Casino Royale or Quantum Of Solace but they are still good in a more toned down but tense way, Bond and Silva don’t even fight until the end of the film itself, but Bonds’ scuffles here and there are still great to watch. It was also great to see more complex, detailed portrayal of Bond in the film with Bond feeling jaded and possibly wanting to leave the spy life itself, he’s almost a reluctant hero in the end and it was interesting to see him more as a human rather than in the unstoppable hero archetype. Also the build up to the conclusion and the conclusion itself are both great, with the plot being engaging from start to finish.

8/10

. Great, engaging plot, good pacing

. Fantastic performances throughout

. Silva is a great villain, though his plan seems silly in retrospect

Signs review

M Night Shyamalan directs this sci-fi thriller as a family discovers crop circles appearing on their field, seemingly out of the blue as they come to learn there may be a more sinister force behind them, the film stars Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin.

The Hess family is a nice, wholesome family who just happen to be in a spot of bother, they get on fine with each other for the most part but crop circles and mysterious goings on around their house throw things out of whack so to speak as Shyamalan does that thing he did with his older, better movie in hooking you with an interesting, mysterious premise and keeping your interest as you want to find out the why and how to what’s going on. The cast for the film is generally quite good and with two child actors in Rory Culkin as Morgan and Abigail Breslin as Bo, things are still pretty watchable, Mel Gibson as Graham is the inspirational father figure here, go figure… and he brings an element of spiritualism, also being a reverend.

The spiritual side to things does sort of feel a bit at odds with the sci-fi elements of the story though and I can understand why it may make for a jarring watch but I think it was a nice touch in seeing a father have faith and believe things can get better, living in hope despite the situation.

The drama elements do work though I found, as the family comes to terms with their situation and things get increasingly elaborate as they try to figure out what’s going on, I enjoyed being on for the ride with the characters in that regard, despite some pretty obvious links to what was causing the crop circles and occurrences outside of the world of the film itself. Still, seeing how the films plot handled the cause and brought it to the forefront was a good part of the film, relationships and family ties are also themes present here as Graham (Gibson) is adamant on keeping his family safe and together and through their ordeal, they do grow closer and bond, with some dramatic moments that work well with the good performances.

But what is an old Shyamalan film without a twist, as things take an interesting and controversial turn as far as big film twists go with a deus ex machina type plot device which has drawn a lot of criticism for the film in retrospect, but it is what it is. That being said the end didn’t really ruin Signs for me and I still think it’s a story with some interesting themes, ideas and a nice family dynamic to it, played out with a simple enough story.

7/10

. Has some good performances

. Interesting family dynamic, brings good dramatic moments

. Bit of a spin on the alien invasion focusing more on the human struggle, not technology or all out war