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

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

The Princess Bride review

Robb Reiner directs this fantasy anthology story, told by a grandfather who tells his sick grandson a story called The Princes Bride, the film stars Cary Elwes, Mandy Pantikin, Robin Wright, André The Giant.

One of the funniest fantasy films of all time, The Princess Bride is a fantastical and fun affair, a tale told by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his grandson (Fred Savage), following a story of love as noble swordsman Westley (Cary Elwes) searches for the love of his life the princess bride (Robin Wright), he’s accompanied by Fezzik (André the Giant) and they run across Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin). A very family friendly, fun adventure with an unapologetic comedic tone and feeling of absurdity to things, things play out like a kids fairytale with the stories, characters and animals featured.

And the film is genuinely pretty funny as well, jokes hit well and the characters themselves are memorable, funny and have some great dialogue, a credit to the films solid writing, the characters are most of what makes the film so fun with characters like Westley, the fair, noble and wise swordsman, winning with wit and confidence, funnily as opposed to strength, in contrast to Fezzik – played by André the Giant. And opposed to impetuous and drive, embodied in Inigo Monyota, out on a one man mission to avenge his murdered family members, the characters intentions and differing motivations make for interesting interactions and a fun crossing together of personalities.

Also the situations the characters get themselves into add quite a lot of laughs, especially in the first half with Westley and the Princess, things don’t exactly run as you’d expect them to between them and that playing on expectations is another feature that makes things pretty enjoyable, if you think this is a traditional story of a noble prince rescuing a princess and riding off into the sunset, it’s not, well not exactly. Subverting tropes and expectations is key here, playing on well established fantasy story stereotypes and expectations, the prince for example is a bit of a buffoon and far from perfect, beating obstacles in humorous, rather sill ways but still going along a heroes journey in a sense.

The style of the film is quite a fun one, a light tone underlines everything even when things feel to get a bit dark, even with extended action scenes with the dialogue present, the comedy is definitely an ever present feature and that’s because no one is really that serious and you can tell the actors are quite enjoying themselves, especially in the more absurd scenarios and scenes, which definitely translates to the viewer I feel, with this being a film that’s very easy to sit back and enjoy. The bad guys present also make for a fun aspect to the story, borderline mustache twirling in their plans and the way their talk, obviously amped up to play to the films over the top style, characters like Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) make for a fun contrast to the stories good guys. The result is a memorable, tongue very firmly in cheek fantasy comedy and a highlight of the 80s for sure with some great writing, well done humour and good casting, one of the better comedy films in recent decades.

7/10

. Genuinely funny dialogue and situations characters find themselves in

. Great character interaction, good writing

. Nice feeling of fun to the plot, brought out in great characters

Kong: Skull Island review

All hail the king

Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs the action thriller Kong Skull Island, set in 1973, post Vietnam war as an expeditionary group sets off to the uncharted skull island with the aim of charting and surveying the island, though they unintentionally come across huge mysteries the island has to hold, including the enormous Kong, the film stars Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, John C Reilly, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Tobey Kebbell, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell.

I’ve recently heard Skull Island being described as Apocalypse Now meets The Land That Time Forgot and as humorous as that description is, it’s actually fairly apt and to think that no one (probably) came up with the idea of post Vietnam 70s, uncharted islands and giant monsters almost seems crazy now, especially after watching the film, everything just sort of falls in place and it makes sense for the context of the film – with some needed suspension of disbelief of course. The film is absolutely what you’ve seen in trailers and also pretty much what you will expect of it but I’ll acknowledge it for its merits – it’s fun, a decent amount of fun for a monster/action film, even with its predictable elements and clichés that are obviously played up to for humorous effect – the crazy westerner marooned on the mystery island away from civilization, the various types of meat head marines and so on, tropes you’ve seen several times before but this time around, the final product is actually pretty good.

Vogt-Roberts achieves this through a few ways, with a pretty great cast I might add with the likes of Samuel L Jackson as Colonel Preston Packard, a pretty Sam Jackson-esque role in every sense of the word but a role well fit for him, whereas actors like John Goodman bring some gravitas to proceedings, along with the ‘new kids on the lock’ like Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and Brie Larson – this effectively being her first big blockbuster role, the cast is all solid which is a bit of a surprise. Though unfortunately not all of the characters get maybe as much time as you may want them to, with not enough on most of their back stories apart from a few snippets of dialogue here and there, this didn’t bother me too much as I didn’t really care about the human characters as much say Kong, ironically, I was all in for the action and spectacle and it was there in plenty. Though if you want a bit more depth from the humans in this flick you may feel a bit disappointed and I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to know a bit more about former SAS tracker James Conrad and his story – played by the ever suave Tom Hiddleston or the anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson),

And talking about spectacle, the film really does live on it, with brilliant aesthetic style evoking the feeling of Vietnam in the 70s’ from popularised images in history and from Apocalypse Now with some pretty spectacular shots, especially involving Kong and a memorable set piece with some helicopters, the monsters also look great generally – including Kong and you really get a sense of the scale and ferocity of them – especially Kong when you see him to scale, a creature of truly monstrous size. The action sequences in general are quite brutal, chaotic and clearly reference the weapons of war use at the time period while not necessarily making any point about them, presenting them for what they are, meanwhile the monster on monster action is also brutal, shot well enough to show you all that’s going on and pretty epic in scale.  The overall result is a fun, albeit shallow action thriller but a fun one nonetheless, that doesn’t take itself too seriously, I’m looking at you Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, action films these days overdo things and just forget to have fun with themselves and thankfully, Skull Island isn’t one of them, a fairly creative idea that for  sure it has its faults but on the whole is a pretty good ride.

7/10

. Great action sequences, creatively executed with creatures/humans

. Fantastic visuals, evoking the feeling of South-east Asia/Vietnam in the early 70s

. Characters are bit cliché, plot is predictable