Eddie the Eagle (2016) Review

470-film-page-thumbnail

I can’t say that I was desperate to go and see Eddie the Eagle in the cinema; it’s not that the reviews have been bad (because they haven’t), but more that it’s just not the kind of film that immediately stands out to me. However, going to see Eddie the Eagle made me realise that spontaneous plans are often better: no preconceptions, no desperation for the film to live up to its hype and consequently, a really enjoyable film watching experience.

Featuring strong performances from both Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman, Eddie the Eagle tells the true story of Eddie Edwards, British ski jumper who overcomes numerous hurdles in order to achieve his childhood dream of being in the olympics. What is so satisfying about this comedy drama is the way that despite his uniqueness, the comedy doesn’t usually come from mocking Eddie, the script is clever in the way that it allows us to laugh at all the pretentious people who can’t seem to understand that winning doesn’t matter in this journey. It’s the kind of story that your mum will love (mine certainly did), but with good reason, as the feel good factor is certainly present when you step out of the cinema screen.

One of the things I loved about Eddie the Eagle is how well the film captured the colourful buzz of the late 70s and 80s. The brilliant soundtrack and costumes are the main factor in this, putting into life into an era that many of the film’s main audience (children) would never really have experienced before – the setting could so easily have felt dated but instead feels fresh and exciting. Yet Eddie the Eagle isn’t just a kids/family film, there are plenty of moments and innuendos we don’t expect from a PG rated film and if I’m honest, the themes of triumph and overcoming rejection are ones that are much more likely to resonate strongly with a more mature audience.

It would be hard to leave this film without a smile on your face and despite a few tear-jerking moments, Eddie the Eagle really is the ‘feel good’ film of the year so far. Enjoyable for all, I would highly recommend Eddie the Eagle to anyone (like me) who isn’t sure what’s worth watching at the moment!

Eddie the Eagle is out now. 

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Review

Batman V Superman is a film of two sides, there is of course two heroes battling against each other (a weird concept in itself) but also the film has one, promisingly good side and one stupidly silly side. Unfortunately it’s the latter that leaves the lasting impression.

Following the critical flop that was Man of Steel and the continued phenomenal success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe it’s safe to assume that there was a fair amount of pressure upon director Zack Synder’s shoulders going into the production process of this film. Although the addition of Ben Affleck’s Batman is a welcome one, Batman v Superman falls into the same traps as its predecessor, with the biggest flaw being the fact that it focuses too heavily on trying to set up potential plot lines and characters for DC’s attempt at a ‘cinematic universe’, Justice League. In doing so, the film seems to give up trying to do things well itself, becoming contrived and plain silly as it develops into the second half of the film.

The plot is as follows – Batman thinks Superman is using his power to his own advantage, Superman thinks that Batman is a vigilante, selfishly abandoning the rules of society. Throw in Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, your typical mad scientist, desperate to eliminate Superman and you get the jumble-sale that is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The initial introduction of Affleck as Batman is promsing – he hasn’t just copied Christian Bale’s most recent take on the character, providing us will certain potential – perhaps a solo film will put DC back on the map? It’s the chemistry between Superman (Henry Cavill) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) that starts to put doubt in the mind, it certainly comes off as a bit artificial, almost as if the film makers thought, ‘Oh hang on a sec, we need to really emphasise the whole damsel in distress thing don’t we? How about we make Superman bring her flowers while she’s in the bath!’ Everything about their relationship and interaction is handed to us on a plate, meaning that as a viewer, you never really feel any sort of connection/sympathy/emotion towards them.

However, if underdevelopment is something we’re going to discuss then the Superman/Lois Lane relationship is only the start. To put it bluntly, WHAT IS THE POINT OF WONDER WOMAN??? She could be a really interesting character, but instead is shoved in this film in order to provide a gateway for Justice League and consequently we have absolutely no idea who she is, why she has suddenly appeared (particularly in Batman’s world) and most importantly, what she can add to the story. Granted, she contributes to the final battle, but this scene could have taken place without her and perhaps might have been more convincing had she not just appeared from the middle of nowhere! It’s disappointing, because her character will always be met with some scepticism now, when instead she could have been well introduced in order to provide a strong female character able to rival the big guns.

Dawn of Justice certainly isn’t an unpleasant watch, but it’s certainly a case of what could have been rather than what was. There’s plenty of exciting visual effects and a classic superhero ending which many will enjoy. Where BvS falls short is its focus on the future, rather than the present; the film ends up with an overwhelming feeling of emptiness due to its contrived nature, which is a such a pity considering the huge potential for excitement during the first half of the film.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is out now.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spotlight (2015) Review

spotlight-poster

It’s not often that a film makes me totally speechless, but Spotlight did exactly that. The film tells the story of how the Boston Globe uncovered one of the largest abuse scandals in the catholic church, delving into the stories of both the victims and the journalists giving everything to find out the real truth. It’s hard-hitting stuff, but at the same time totally immersive – we find ourselves enraged by the scandal, yearning to know more. The complex subject matter only adds to the viewing experience, as Spotlight rapidly transitions from newsroom drama to newsroom thriller.

Although not director Tom McCarthy’s first feature, its certainly the first that wider audiences will have heard of and if Spotlight is anything to go by, we can expect some fantastic films in the future! He creates an incredible amount of drama from such fine detail, conveying the scale and scandal of what is to be uncovered – just when you think the Spotlight team have hit the jackpot another revelation comes along and ups the anti; McCarthy’s direction makes the audience become desperate for it to stop, particularly as well learn more and more about the suffering of the victims and just hope it can’t get any worse (it does). Credit must also go to cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (Warrior, Silver Linings Playbook), there’s nothing overwhelmingly special about the film visually, but the simplicity of the shots allows the greatest amount of focus on the characters.

In fact, Spotlight is a totally character-driven film and has a highly prolific ensemble cast to go with this. Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Liev Schreiber, Brian d’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci all star and all deliver fantastic performances but Mark Ruffalo really stole the show for me. It’s hard to single someone out in a fantastic ensemble performance but Ruffalo stood out as portraying the most enticing character, desperate to find some sort of redemption or relief for the victims he came across. I would absolutely love for him to win the Best Supporting Actor award at this years Oscars ceremony although, despite his nomination, its looking unlikely. Spotlight is the kind of film that had to have flawless acting performances to be taken seriously and it has exactly that. Every character is well-developed and every character brings something different to the story.

Spotlight is what I would call the ‘ultimate film’. It brings so many exciting ideas to the table and delivers them all so well that it would be my pick for Best Picture. Documents, newspapers and journalists have never been so enticing, nor have they ever been the provider of so many thrills. Admittedly, Spotlight might not be a stand out for everyone, but there is no doubt that its delivery of such harrowing subject matter and phenomenal acting performances should receive praise from all. If I were to recommend a Best Picture nominee, this would be it – and that’s saying something, because I absolutely love Mad Max: Fury Road.

Spotlight is out now.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Big Short (2015) Review

The_Big_Short_teaser_poster

‘From the outrageous mind of Adam McKay’ was the tagline used to promote financial comedy/drama The Big Short. Whoever came up with this tagline needs a pat on the back, because this film is ‘outrageous’ in all the best ways, filled to the brim with anger, top acting performances and subtle humour.

The Big Short follows the stories of the men who managed to profit out of the 2007 financial crisis, showcasing a variety of different moral situations – some of the men feel guilty for what they’re doing, others can only think about the $$$ at the end. In some respects this film could be seen as incredibly niche – there is no way that the average viewer can understand the ins and outs of all the ‘financial speak’ that takes place. Yet somehow due to the combination of slightly odd explanation scenes and really intriguing characters, the film’s subject matter is incredibly watchable and interesting. The characters come across almost as caricatures, particularly Ryan Gosling’s character – narrator Jared Vennett, and as a result it is emphasised just how ridiculous the financial world and its lingo is and how incredibly stupid it is that the crisis happened in the way that it did. It’s through this obvious ridiculousness that McKay and his team of creatives are incredibly angry about the events that they are telling the story of – those who made money out of the crisis were clever, but the people that failed to realise that their actions were causing it were incredibly selfish.

When I originally saw that Adam McKay was directing a film about the financial crisis I was incredibly apprehensive; I think Anchorman is absolutely hilarious but it’s the polar opposite of any film with serious or true subject matter. However, McKay’s comic approach is perfect for The Big Short; his erratic direction reflecting the constantly changing environment in which the film is set. Somehow he is able to make the tone of a serious subject relatively lighthearted, but yet make the viewer feel guilty for feeling any sympathy to a bunch of self-centred characters.

The Big Short could be considered an ensemble film with its cast including the likes of Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt and Marisa Tomei and from this respective it has/will be hard to pick up any acting awards in the coming weeks. Although bagging a Best Supporting Actor nomination, I would have liked to see more of Christian Bale’s character – he set up the events of the film but was then left a bit underdeveloped, yet it’s hard to criticise any of the cast because every single character in this film has an intriguing element to their personality. It is this acting prowess that makes a film about such complicated subject matter so watchable, so full credit goes to whoever had the role of casting director on this project!

Although a tremendous film, I wouldn’t have considered The Big Short as a real awards contender until this morning when it was announced that the film won the main gong at the Producer’s Guild Awards. With these producers making up 8% of the Academy voters, the winners of the PGAs are usually indicative of which film will triumph in February’s Oscar ceremony. There is real quality in the awards race this season and adding The Big Short to the mix only makes it more exciting! It’s not a film for everyone, but it’s incredibly comical in a dark and twisted way; you’d have to be mad to come away without a strong hatred for the financial industry!

The Big Short is out now.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on 2016’s Oscar Nominations

collage

One of the most important days in the film calendar is the day of the Academy Awards nominations and today was that important day. I spent the first 15 minutes of my lunch break battling with a dodgy internet connection in order to watch the announcements unfold and I was surprisingly satisfied with the results.

One thing that has been very noticeable about this years Oscar race is how incredibly open it seems to be. Everyone assumes that DiCaprio will win Best Actor, but there’s still a twinge of doubt and whereas last year it was really a two-horse race for Best Picture (Birdman or Boyhood) it would be very hard to place a bet on which film will come out triumphant in February’s ceremony. I think if anything, this makes the whole build up to the awards a lot more exciting, because not only will the winners be honest surprises, but also because it means that there are a lot of very good films we can look forward to seeing in the coming weeks without feeling like one is miles better than the rest.

My personal highlight of this years running is the inclusion of Mad Max: Fury Road and even more so the fact that it received a whopping ten nominations – second only to the arguable front runner, The Revenant. I saw Fury Road a few days ago after missing it in the cinema and was totally blown away; the acting performances, stylish violence and stunning cinematography make it the inch perfect action film and to give some context to my rave review, I was convinced that I’d probably think it was overrated (oh how wrong I was…). What is so brilliant about the fact that Fury Road wasn’t snubbed is that it illustrates a slight shift in the dynamic of The Academy voting, you no longer have to release your film between November – February, nor do you have to fit in the typical Oscar winning drama category. This is a big deal for action films and if Mad Max were to win any of the major awards I would be overjoyed, please don’t back out now The Academy…

However, criticisms of last years awards are perhaps even more relevant this year, with a prominent talking point again being the lack of diversity in the nominees. Of course, it’s easy to say that perhaps the films that represent ethnic minorities or the LGBT community perhaps weren’t as good but this doesn’t really seem to be the case this year. Films such as The Danish Girl and Carol that deal with LGBT issues were nominated for the acting awards but not the awards in which directly represent these communities; for example, gay director Todd Haynes (Carol) was snubbed for the Best Picture and Best Director category. An even bigger talking point this year was again the lack of ethnic diversity, with Creed, Straight Outta Compton and Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation) coming away with practically no representation whatsoever – Creed got a nod for Best Supporting Actor whilst Straight Outta Compton received a nomination in the screenplay category… of course, the people directly involved in these awards are actually white. In my opinion, there is a slightly more deep-rooted issue in the repeated lack of diverse representation, having seen Creed the other day I will be the first to admit that I didn’t think it was incredible, but it certainly stands up and could definitely compete alongside the likes of Bridge of Spies and The Martian.

Despite my own, and the majority of the film community’s criticisms towards the repetitive exclusion of many from the awards I was pleasantly surprised with this years nominations and think that there is a good mix of films being nominated for awards. The attention given to Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian emphasises the changing dynamic about genre in relation to the awards, it’s just a shame that the dynamic can’t shift to include more minorities also. The wide mix of films makes me feel like I’ll be pretty satisfied whoever wins (other than in the Best Animated Feature category – if Inside Out doesn’t win I think everyone will be very disappointed), although this could of course change in the coming weeks when I get the chance to see The Revenant, The Big Short and Spotlight among others. Bring on the 28th February, it might finally be the year that Leo wins an Oscar…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Review

This review is SPOILER-FREE.

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster-2

I think it’s fair to say that despite everyone’s best efforts, there was always going to be a twinge of doubt about The Force Awakens. Having gone from such an incredible original trilogy to such disappointing Episodes I-III there was always a concern that despite following on from where Return of the Jedi left off, Episode VII would be the biggest let-down of the century. The Force Awakens could not be further from these pessimistic expectations if it tried, as JJ Abrams provides the most entertaining and enjoyable Star Wars film we could have hoped for.

Set many years after the Original Trilogy, The Force Awakens marks a time where Luke Skywalker has fled and we are introduced to a new generation of heroes who strive to locate him (even if this wasn’t their original intentions!). From the very opening scenes it feels like a Star Wars film – a love letter to the originals, but yet simultaneously there’s something about The Force Awakens that makes it very much its own movie. This stems from the blend between old and new characters and most significantly, the fact that the film isn’t overly nostalgic to the likes of Luke, Leia, Han and even the droids; instead, there is time and breathing space for the newbies to shine. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are all fantastic in their respective roles as Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron and what is so satisfying is the fact that they all exhibit the qualities of being just as loveable and prominent characters as the likes of Skywalker. When we finally see Han Solo for the first time an obvious wave of nostalgia ran through the audience, but at the same time the film could have easily worked without him and his friends. The new is just as good as the old, but it is the blend of the two that makes The Force Awakens so special.

With Darth Vader and the Empire long gone, one of the biggest challenges faced by Abrams’ instalment in such a well-loved franchise was creating the ‘perfect’ villain. Many would argue that Darth Vader is the most prolific villain of all time; Kylo Ren had some pretty big boots to fill. Kylo Ren grows with the film, progressing into a character we should fear and certainly ripping out the hearts of every single viewer in that scene (writing without spoilers is HARD!). He’s your classic slightly confused, slightly disturbed kid that’s gone down the wrong path and as he looks down on a destroyed Vader helmet and says, ‘Nothing will stand in our way… I will finish what you started’, it’s clear that he pretty much is the best villain we could have hoped for. The First Order is going to be prolific and I can’t help but feel that Kylo Ren is just the beginning…

Many critics have claimed that they could not help but smile for the entire 135 minutes, a cliche thing to say, but it’s genuinely true. This film packs a punch whilst packing bags of humour at the same time and on top of all of this, it’s visually stunning for the critical eye. When we are first introduced to Rey, Abrams presents an utterly gorgeous picture – she slides down a gigantic hill of sand and as the shot expands it genuinely feels as if we are part of the picture – there is no doubt that this is an immersive experience.

The Force Awakens is the film Star Wars fans have been waiting for ever since 1983 (even if most, like myself, weren’t even alive then!) and credit where credit is due must go to JJ Abrams for creating what many would view as the ideal film. Although some may argue that this is too much of a tribute to the original trilogy, the development of the new characters and the talent of those playing them leaves us longing for more – this is clearly just the beginning for Daisy Ridley’s character.

Star Wars is well and truly back, with the potential to be better than ever.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out now. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bridge of Spies (2015) Review

BOS-1-Sht-v13-sml

It is hard to imagine how the character of James Donovan could have been played by anyone other than Tom Hanks. Set at a time when Cold War tensions were at their highest, Bridge of Spies follows the struggle of Donovan, a lawyer asked to act as captured Soviet Spy Rudolf Abel’s (Mark Rylance) defence. At times it actually feels as if the film is about Hanks himself, as he is the perfect fit for such a reasoned, morally in-check guy. There is one scene where Hanks is positioned in front of a prison cell window with the light surrounding him and beaming off him, he comes across as angelic – I think that sums it up.

Bridge of Spies is a film that is hard to categorise – it’s a thriller, but not in the sense that it dwells on the shooting of planes or the limited warfare that occurs – the thrill comes in the form of negotiation and fine lines between right and wrong. This type of thrill makes it feel like a Spielberg film (certainly closer to Lincoln than Jurassic Park), but at the same time feels fresh and exciting, courtroom thrills aren’t the first thing to spring to mind when I think of Steven Spielberg, but his brilliant execution in Bridge of Spies highlights the fact that we should not take his skill set for granted.

At times the film feels like it’s dragging somewhat, particularly as the plot develops to include the events of 1960 when a U2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers was shot down in Soviet territory. As we see less of Abel and more of the negotiation that Donovan is dragged into the film starts to feel as if it the talks will never end – to the film’s credit, at least that does replicate the prolonged tensions that were the Cold War!  The inclusion of student Frederic Pryor’s capture is of course true, but is underdeveloped and reduces the depth we gain from Donovan’s attempts to negotiate the swap for Abel and Powers; this is arguably the main plot line of the whole film and yet it is over in a more dramatic manner than it unfolds.

What Bridge of Spies does so well is convey the complication of the situation faced by both the Americans and the Russians at this time. The early 1960s were one of the tensest periods of the Cold War and just a few years after Bridge of Spies is set the world went as close to the brink of nuclear war as was possible. Such fine margins in Donovan’s negotiations could have technically changed the entire course of the war, but yet this is probably a true event that very few people are aware of, particularly those outside of the US, despite the fact that the Cold War had real implications on the entire world. The Coen Brothers are almost the perfect screenwriters for this type of film, emphasising the detail and intricacy of what was an incredibly complicated period for international relations.

I’ll be the first to admit that Bridge of Spies isn’t a film I’ll rush to see again in the near future, but this isn’t because its a bad film, more so that it is very heavy and very particular – you only need to see it once to appreciate it. It showcases the brilliance of Tom Hanks more than anything, but the stand out surprise is Mark Rylance – he says little but delivers a lot.

Bridge of Spies is out now.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment