May film preview

So May is just around the corner, (where has the year gone?) and with it, a slew of hotly anticipated films as summer film season kicks into gear, here are a few to look out for – US release dates by default.

Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 2 – released on the 5th of May

Directed by James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone

The hotly anticipated sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy and the latest entry into the MCU is a continuation of the Guardians story, now an expanded team and mercenaries for hire and a force for good, we go along with the crews new adventures as Starlord comes to know his father.

 

King Arthur: Legend of The Sword – released on the 12th of May

Directed by Guy Ritchie

Starring: Charlie Hunam, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Djimon Honsou, Aiden Gillen, Jude Law, Eric Bana.

New adaptation of the legend of King Arthur, set in the middle ages as we follow street wise and gruff Arthur, unaware of his royal lineage, he discovers the sword in the stone and ventures to combat evil and defeat Vortigern who murdered his parents.

 

The Wall – released on the 12th of May

Directed by

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena.

Drama set during the Iraq war as two American soldiers are pinned down by an Iraqi sniper, unable to move without getting shot and their ordeal in trying to survive with both limited resources and help.

 

Alien: Covenant – released on the 19th of May

Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring: Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, Démian Bichir.

Latest entry in the Alien franchise and direct sequel to Prometheus, we follow the crew of the covenant, an expedition to an uncharted alien world in attempts of colonising it and finding a paradise, though things may not be as safe as they seem and dangerous alien creatures emerge.

 

Baywatch – released on the 25th of May

Directed by Seth Gordon

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach.

Updated adaptation of the Baywatch series, following two mis-matched bodyguards who must work together to stop a drug trafficking scheme in their area.

 

Pirates of The Carribean: Dead Man Tell No Tales – released on the 26th of May

Directed by Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg.

Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Kevin McNally.

This new instalment in the Pirates franchise sees old favourite Captain Jack Sparrow pursued by Armando Salazar who commands a Spanish Ghost crew and plans to kill every pirate, Jack endeavours to team up with allies to find an artefact to face and stop him.

 

 

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The Fate of the Furious – review

F Gary Gray directs the latest and 8th film in the Fast and Furious franchise, The Fate of The Furious, as Dom goes rogue turns his back on his crew, working with the hacker and cyber terrorist Cypher, Doms crew gets together and teams up with convict Deckard Shaw in order to stop him and Cypher. The film stars Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris Bridges, Kurt Russell, Chris Eastwood.

The family is back and more family than ever.. well not exactly, with Dom going rogue and turning on his team for seemingly nefarious reasons, though we do get to know those reasons through the plot, in comes Cypher (Charlize Theron) and her dubious plotting and the team gets together to take her on. Cypher seems to be another in the line of megalomaniac central antagonists straight out of a Bond film to grace the Fast franchise but to Therons’ credit, she’s great at playing sneaky and maniacal characters with no empathy with noticeable cold delivery which plays up interestingly against the ever full of life and emotional Dom (Vin Diesel). I also like the new aspect that Cypher brings to the table in cyber terrorism, being able to hack into  and remote control cars, CCTV etc, the last few films seem to be based on technology based villains for some reason and this is no change to that trend, anyway this time around, the crew is going up against less of an army and more of one man army in Dom with Cyphers resources.

And this makes for an interesting dynamic, we’ve never seen the crew go against Dom or vice versa so it is a little strange and disconcerting but still thrilling, will Dom hurt his crew, will they have to hurt him to bring him in? Also central to the conflict is Letty and Doms’ relationship, she of course tries to bring him in as well but they clearly still feel for each other, complicating things. In terms of overall scope, Fate of the Furious doesn’t necessarily up the ante I feel, just changing the status quo with a new setting – New York, Dom going rogue and technology being a sort of villain. This change in theme of sorts is interesting, with there being more of a sense of permanent loss in the last 3 films and definitely in this one in a particularly shocking scene, people are getting straight up shot now (as they were in previous films) but this felt like more of a bonafied action film, with some emotional moments, namely involving Dom. Said moments aren’t exactly touched on however and sort of sail along in the pretty fast paced plot, though we do get that iconic Family table eating scene, of course the most important part of any Fast film.

Also there are some big, notable set pieces present, especially sequence in New York with a host of remote control cars which made me laugh out loud actually and with the ice sheet set piece you’ve seen a part of from trailers. And don’t get me wrong, spectacle is all well and good and the film delivers, but it does go a little over the top, even for this franchise with some physics defying moments which may be too ridiculous for some and will leave others whooping and cheering, such are the Fast films in a nutshell…. but for what its worth, Fast 8 is generally fun to watch and very action oriented. Fate of The Furious is a fun, entertaining film, as is to be expected with the franchise as it is and Dom going rogue brought an interesting new dynamic but I couldn’t help feeling things were a bit bland and unremarkable, maybe due to the writing and especially in comparison to Fast Five and the more recent Fast Seven and while the overall result isn’t terrible, it’s nothing special either.

6.5/10

. Set pieces are fun, ridiculous but great spectacle

. Dom going rogue brings new dynamic, as does Deckard shaw

. Character interactions are still fun and funny, especially Tej-Roman

. Plot seems a bit by the numbers and same-y not as interesting as previous films

Get Out – review

Get Out is a thriller and debut for director Jordan Peele, the film stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, set around a young black man who goes to meet his girlfriends parents for the first time with his girlfriend on a weekend getaway, discovering things may not be as normal as they seem.

The core to Get Out is an intriguing one, a modern day social commentary of sorts mixed in with an old fashioned thriller, the elements are all there from the seemingly normal set up and introduction to the world of the film and normal characters, especially with Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, the nervous, skeptical boyfriend of Rose (Allison Williams) who is apprehensive over meeting her white family. At first this angle to to the story may seem a bit old fashioned and on the nose with society nowadays being a lot more diverse and mixed but it is still all too real for some people, even today.

That being said, the cast is pretty good, namely Kaluuya and Williams in the central roles as a pretty convincing couple, believability is achieved through realistic, snappy dialogue, jokes and a good sense of humour in the writing which brings nice levity to the proceedings, meanwhile we get to sit through some fairly cringe worthy and awkward conversations that again feel all to real with their undertones and pre tenses. Though a comedy this is not, nor is it an easy watch but it is pretty engaging and this is a credit to the films great pacing and good directing, the plot isn’t exactly going at 100mph throughout but when it gets going, it really gets going, with some great build up and effective use of tension with an interesting mix of shots and atmospheric music to up the ante. And while you watch and may have an idea of the nefarious goings on in the Armitage family, I like the fact that you never quite know what the answer is until a bit later in the film and you find things out as Chris does, seeing things from mainly his (and Roses’) perspective), with an element of mystery being successfully maintained through most of the film.

And with an… interesting final third, things get amped up to another level, a bit jarring in relation to the first half of the film but twice as exhilarating and a thrill to watch, ultimately Get Out is an interesting, psycho-social thriller, examining a modern aspect of society not too often thought about today, it’s also a tense and engaging thriller, based off of a pretty straightforward yet elaborate central idea that draws back on actual history. (Also did this feel like feature length episode of Black Mirror to anyone?

7/10

. Good acting, especially Kaluuya, Williams

. Good writing to evoke sense of realism

. Engaging, interesting plot

. Final third is a bit manic, might be too over the top for some

Star Wars: The Last Jedi teaser trailer

So Star Wars Celebration is in full swing and we have the long awaited first real look at the upcoming Episode VIII, The Last Jedi, leading on from The Force Awakens and where it left off with Rey finding Luke, there’s a lot of intriguing shots here, some things clearly shrouded in mystery but a central theme here seems present with Lukes narration of sorts and with him saying “the Jedi must end”.

Yes that was Luke talking, Luke seems regretful and wants the Jedi to end for some reason.. that’s a bit surprising but starting things off, Luke is seemingly talking to and teaching Rey about the ways of the force, as a Jedi master does, she can now see shades of good and evil and seems to be honing her powers, with a cool shot of her moving some rocks and a long shot of her training with a lightsaber.

but to unpack a few other things, we see Poe Dameron back in action with the resistance, alongside the late Carrie Fisher (General Leia) and the resistance seems to be under attack, presumably by the first order retaliating? Finn (John Boyega) is seen recovering from his injury in The Force Awakens and he’ll obviously get better at some point but we don’t see that in this trailer. Captain Phasma is back, Kylo Ren is back and in action, probably a bit more weary and I’m guessing more motivated after his run with and defeat to Rey and Kylo looks to be on the warpath, are they hunting down Luke still? Or Rey? You have to wonder.

Big omissions here are General Hux and supreme emperor Snoke of course, I’m thinking at least Snoke will make an appearance but in what capacity? I imagine to tempt Rey as she learns about the force and both sides of it, from a jaded Luke. Overall for just a teaser, I think we get a pretty interesting and intriguing look into The Last Jedi and the central idea behind it, the Force Awakens brought nuance and morality to characters and their actions – Finn being a regretful storm trooper, Kylo Ren being conflicted, Rogue One brought realism and shades of grey to war in Star Wars with the lengths characters go to, to help their side. The Last Jedi seems to be bringing a sense of scepticism to the Jedi (and Sith?) and established ideas, being a bit anti-establishment from Lukes viewpoint and that’s quite an interesting angle, not really touched on in any main film just yet.

Anyway The Last Jedi hits cinemas in December and I for one, can’t wait to find out more about it.

Split – review

Split is a mystery thriller and the latest film from director M Night Shyamalan, centred around 3 girls who are seemingly randomly kidnapped by a mentally ill man with split personality disorder, the film stars James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Hayley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula.

Ah Mr Shyamalan, after all these years, he still manages to hook audiences with intriguing premises, this time around based around a an unpredictable and antagonistic main character, the split personality man (let’s call him Dennis for simplicity) played pretty frighteningly by James McAvoy, embodying the multitude of personalities that he conveys, Split is very… different. We uncover things about the man just like the three kidnapped girls, finding out new facets of his personalities and his characteristics, with McAvoy playing wholly different people with different accents, behaviour and mannerisms, which in itself is no mean feat for an actor and he puts in a pretty good effort all things considered. This aspect of the film may seem like a bit of a gimmick to some and just a bit too ridiculous to watch for others but in terms of Shyamalans’ outlandish premises for films, this probably isn’t his craziest.

There is some palpable tension in the film of course, with the man being so unpredictable, you don’t know what he’ll do or which personality he’ll manifest next, so that element of the story keeps you on your toes as a viewer and while you may ‘predict’ certain things to come or see them go a certain way, I definitely didn’t really see any sort of ending and was curious to see how things would pan out. Some thriller tropes are played into a bit but Shyamalan avoids the cheaper tricks as it were, like jump scares. Split is probably defined as a bit of a slow burn, with some pretty measured pacing, not to the point of it being boring but certain sub plots do break up the action, which can be a bit of an annoyance as you probably want to get back to the main plot, though in saying that, the sub plot of teenager Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) one of the kidnapped girls and her eventful past, is one of the more interesting parts of the story.

One thing you can say about the film is that it has some… well two interesting, complex characters, with Casey and of course, ‘Dennis’, people who are both evidently changing and coping with past traumatic stress. Meanwhile other sub plots explore ideas on the human brain and identity, which feels a bit left field in relation to the main story but I really tried to go along with it, as ridiculous as some plot points got. And then came… the final third, the plot sort of lost me with the way things went and I feel things could have ended on a stronger note, Shyamalan just quite can’t nail the landing with his film endings these days which a shame and it definitely detracted from the whole film.

Ultimately Split is just a really peculiar film, with some fairly strong performances from McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy, I feel like it could have played out better as a straight thriller and while there are some tense and gripping moments for sure, Shyamalan syndrome strikes in overdoing some things in favour of some odd and unnecessary theatricality which does lessen from the final product in my opinion, which is a decent, if strangely constructed thriller.

6.5/10

. Has some great performances, McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy are great

. The more intimate moments are well done

. Weak, silly final third

. Plot takes a while to get going