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

Assassins Creed review

Assassin’s Creed is a fantasy action film directed by Justin Kurzel, based on the video game series that started in 2007 of the same, following convicted felon Callum Lynch, who is sentenced to death but seemingly brought back by the mysterious organization calle Abstergo, who use a machine called the Animus to access the memories of his ancestor Aguilar for their own means, meanwhile Callum discovers he’s a descendant of an order of assassins. The film stars Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson.

So belie it or not, this was one of my most anticipated films of 2016/17 depending on where you live and when it came out but I was really looking forward to it, the Assassin’s Creed games (or the main central idea behind them) are something I’ve thought would make good films for a few years now, due to their inherently interesting premise and action elements, sci-fi, time travel, secret conspiracy…. it’s far fetched but there’s definitely an audience for this genre.

And make a film of it, they have, based on the general idea of the games of a person in the present day being used as a conduit to essentially relive their long dead ancestors memories and if you’re still with the idea to this point, you may be inclined to like the film and that’s fair enough, visually it’s a striking, great looking film with nice vistas and an interesting, albeit shortly lived representation of the Spanish inquisition, the setting for the life of Aguilar, Callums’ ancestor. The cast is decent also, Fassbender makes a pretty good main character and I believe him in the assassin role and Jeremy Irons makes an imposing, antagonist presence however, Irons isn’t given too much to do, with Cotillard and Fassbender taking the reins. The main flaw of the film is that it ironically stays a bit too faithful to the series in my opinion, not expanding on its own story in any meaningful way and giving next to no back story or context for certain events and characters.

A big problem with trying to fit a games story into a film is the difference in the mediums, a games story is sprawling, often told over dozens, if not hundreds of hours of main story and trying to fit that into 90 – 100 minutes of runtime, not so easy, I feel that some of the ideas in the plot may have just been a bit too jarring for audiences e.g. the Apple of Eden, something fans of the series like myself are familiar with but with no explanation, will have people new to the series scratching their heads. Ironically, we actually needed more exposition, both for Abstergo, the Templars and the assassins, more set up and world building is essential for a first foray into a world like this, to really give people an idea of what the story is and disappointingly, we didn’t get quite enough time in the actual past, with action being inter cut between past and present day.

Which was a different take on the games ideas of experiencing pat memories but ultimately this made the action choppy and un-necessarily so, that being said, the action in the past is quite well done, with some well choreographed sequences which emphasize the assassins fighting prowess and ability, though 100 minutes of nice action doesn’t make a great story. The plot itself is also surprisingly dull, something pretty much none of the games are (bar the slog of Assassin’s Creed III), without any of the dynamic characters, moral decisions and exciting incidents that happen in the games, we get a stripped film version that scrapes the barrel, not quite delving into the intriguing mythos of the story at all, which is a shame.

6/10

. Not enough context or world building for the story

. Present day story feels rushed, poorly developed

. Cast is decent, Fassbender puts in decent effort

Logan review

James Mangold directs Hugh Jackmans last foray as Logan aka Wolverine in this sort of addition to the X-Men franchise, the film stars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook

There’s much to be said about Wolverine, his enduring popularity and importance in helping to kick off the modern super hero phenomenon with the X-Men franchise but all things must come to an end and end they certainly do, in a decidedly violent and sombre tone, more akin to Deadpool but without its comedic nature, though that being said, there are a fair amount of humorous moments.

Said moments make for some good, needed light relief in what is a pretty dark and heavy film, which is intriguing in a number of ways, to see a debilitated and jaded Charles Xavier and to see an even more jaded and defeated Logan, who needs to be practically begged to go out of his way to help others, which may come as a surprise to long term fans of the X-Men films, as will seeing him in general as ‘Old man Logan’. What’s great about Logan is that it shows characters we’ve known and loved for years in a different light, giving more shades and dimensions to them, Logan’s always been a fairly complex, disturbed character as we know but seeing him at the end of his tether so to speak, is quite striking and an almost a logical path for him to follow, especially in the context of the world that the film takes in. Logan wants to just drink and be at peace, (so not much has changed huh) but he’s clearly different now, damaged and unwilling to help though he knows deep down that he probably should, we see a sort of extreme version of Xavier and Logans relationship from the mainline X-Men stories though one thing remains, Logans fierce will to protect Charles, the last connection he has to his days in the X-Men.

The tone is dark of course, in a world almost devoid of mutants, Logan cares for Charles as they survive day to day and mentally comparing them now to their heyday in the X-Men films is quite something, though some things never really change with the X-Men and fitting with the gritty tone is quite a lot of violence and action, though it’s not hugely focused on to the point of being gratuitous in my opinion, it’s used as a way to emphasise Wolverines sheer power and fury, when he does ostensibly ‘hulk out’ for one reason or another and it is brutal.

I’d be remiss to not mention X-23 though, a pivotal and huge piece of the story, great comic relief and a reminder to Logan of his humanity and of himself, played really well by Dafne Keen, embodying the rage, impatience of a younger, inexperienced Logan. And it’s great to see him scolding her and telling her to take it easy, something you’d probably never expect to see from Logan, acting like a father figure and reluctant mentor, X-23 and Logans’ relationship is great to watch, a mismatched pairing to the point of it feeling almost too real, with a reluctant and neglectful father and his child who almost has to parent and look after him. And without going into spoilery territory, it’s a deep story that you have to really see for yourself but to see a beloved character like Logan and Xavier the way they are in the plot is pretty devastating in my opinion and there it is, the film got an emotional reaction from me and deservedly so. And with great drama, high stakes and loss, this is the Wolverine film we probably all wanted (or not as it’s Hughs’ last one) but it’s a damn good one all things considered, a good send off from an iconic character in film and comic book history.

7.5/10

. Great performances from Jackman, Stewart and most of the cast with palpable chemistry

. Has some strong, hard hitting emotional moments

. Engaging plot, has some slow points but moves along at a generally good pace

. The villains are a bit generic (though Logan is the real focus)

Live by Night review

Live by Night is a period crime drama set in Boston in the 1920s and 30s following Joe Coughlin who finds himself thrust into organized crime and gang life with his peers as he fights off competition from other gangs vying for money and power, the film stars Ben Affleck, Siena Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Miguel.

Period gangster films are a bit of a novelty these days, a time period that seems to be glorified in film but films we get about the prohibition era/20s/30s tend to all be fairly formulaic and similar and Live by Night is no real exception, a film following gangsters going about their ways, somewhat unrepentantly, which can make for awkward viewing when the film wants you to empathise with the characters despite their immoral actions. That being said, you do sort of warm to Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) who does do bad things, but has an inkling of good in him, making for a fairly three dimensional character rather than a generic one note gangster, who his good friend Dion (Chris Messina) comes across as, though Chris brings a pretty spirited and enthusiastic performance in the film.

The performances in the film on the whole are fairly good, Affleck doesn’t shine but doesn’t quite phone it in either, being pretty passable, while Sienna Miller pulls off a pretty fantastic Irish accent in her role as Emma, former lover of Joe, though it’s a shame she doesn’t get to do a whole lot in the film.

There’s also some well done production design in capturing the feeling of the time period for the film in terms of costumes, locales and even down to the guns used, everything looks convincing for the 20s’, whether or not you may be that engaged in the story – and to further expand on that, the story is a bit… lacklustre and didn’t quite grab me, with a fairly rushed introduction to Joe Coughlins’ life and little to nothing on his background, I couldn’t empathise too much with him, especially because of his actions through the plot. The characters seem to just go through the motions in the plot without much consequence and while the action may be fun to watch for some, there wasn’t much depth to be had, which is what Affleck seemed to be trying to go for. Though to be fair, some of the set pieces are fairly well done and the violence isn’t gratuitous or over done to the to the point of it being comical.

The plot sort of meanders on a few different areas, being set in the prohibition era and referencing it but not really being about it (a pretty fascinating period in American history mind you), things get more focused on Joe and Dion as they go about their business and it just doesn’t quite make for interesting or compelling viewing, with the characters not being that likeable or interesting, despite the era itself the plot is set in being interesting.

6/10

. Fairly dull plot

. Unlikeable characters, hard to empathise with

. Has some nice shots, set pieces