Connect with us

Movie Reviews

Incredibles 2 ★★★★

Published

on

Released: 13th July 2018

Directed By: Brad Bird

Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter

Reviewed By: Sinead Beverland

The Incredibles have returned. The superhero family first introduced back in 2004, are still doing their best to save humanity and lead a (relatively) normal life.

In Brad Bird’s sequel, the Parr family; Bob, Helen, (aka Mr Incredible and Elastigirl) and their kids, Violet, Dash and baby Jack Jack, must hang up their super suits after an opening epic battle with the villainous Underminer. After causing huge damage to the city and failing to capture the criminal, all superhero activity is banned and the family must cease their life of crime fighting. In a bid to turn around public opinion and allow all Superheroes to do their job, Winston Deaver and his sister Evelyn (owners of telecoms giant Devtech) reach out to Mr Incredible, Elastigirl and Frozone. Winston’s idea is that by adding cameras to their super suits, the public will see all the good work they do and not just what the media want to portray; thus turning around the Superhero ban. Elastigirl is chosen as the figurehead of the mission and is sent out to fight a new foe, Screenslaver, a villain who brainwashes people through the hypnotic use of television screens. This means that Bob (aka Mr Incredible) must stay at home and look after the house and kids, envious of his wife’s crime fighting adventures.

The quality of Pixar movies is undeniable and the attention to detail and ability to speak to both children and adults simultaneously is something few would disagree on. Incredibles 2 ticks most of those boxes, but perhaps lacks the iconic characters that Toy Story (for instance) delivers on. The villain here is actually not necessarily that memorable and the underlying subtext, a little odd. The Screenslaver seeks to control the minds of the population, who have become impassive slaves to television and consumerism. It’s a completely valid point, yet it comes directly from the villain and off the back of a movie that will undoubtedly be aiming to shift a lot of merchandise. Without meaning to sound churlish, it may provoke a little cynicism in the adult viewer.

These issues aside, Incredibles 2 does deliver fantastic, energetic and funny set pieces. The opening sequence of the family battling the Underminer is pure action / superhero movie gold and Elastigirl’s subsequent battles with Screenslaver deliver the excitement desired. You certainly can’t accuse Bird of not knowing his genres and he adds some nice comedy touches, such as Violet being recognised by a potential boyfriend only when she removes her mask. However, the most cherished parts of the film probably won’t be the fight against Screenslaver or even the character itself (who is not the most memorable of bad guys). It will be the family dynamic, which is actually the beating heart of the story. Ultimately this is a film about a family trying to do the best they can and there is huge fun to be had with Mr Incredible as the stay at home dad. The humour of watching him trying to help Dash with ‘new’ math and then failing miserably to help his love struck daughter Violet, is pitch perfect. It also serves to highlight some great points about parenthood and the defined roles we lead, not to mention the challenges that arise in all relationships.

I am happy to report that two other characters make a welcome return to the Incredible universe; Edna (the Incredibles costume designer) and Frozone (their superhero family friend), both reliably delivering more of what made them great in the first film. And let’s not forget baby Jack-Jack, who finally starts to display his (numerous) super powers. Morphing from fireball to demon baby, to racoon tormentor, to shooting lasers out of his eyes, this kid has it all. What he really needs is his own full length movie. He did get a five minute short in 2005, but we want more. People at Pixar, take note!

As the film heads towards the finale, there are not many surprises in store and even before Screenslaver is revealed, it does starts to feel a little predictable. Then again, perhaps that’s not terribly important. Whilst Incredibles 2 might not go down as a classic, it is a solid, fun offering. Treading similar ground to the original film, kids will undoubtedly enjoy the action and the visual gags. It may not satisfy parents quite as much, but is an enjoyable, quality piece of work and it’s nice to see Elastagirl (fabulous work by Holly Hunter) take centre stage in fighting crime. 

Movie Reviews

Skyscraper ★★★★

Published

on

Released: 12th July 2018

Directed By: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell

Reviewed By: Van Connor

Be honest. Sooner or later, you knew The Rock was going to make Die Hard. It was inevitable. As he ascends higher and higher thought the upper echelons of the – increasingly spartan – Hollywood star system, this was always going to be coming. The only question really, was going to be whether or not it was going to be either any good, or even welcome in a world in which even a bonafide Die Hardsequel now typically ranks among the worst of whichever year it’s released in.

Alas, Dwayne Johnson is no Bruce Willis, and that quality control barrier could not be any clearer as Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno – with a dash of The Fugitive – for Skyscraper. Rawson Marshall Thurber’s adrenaline-fuelled ride takes DJ to China as amputee and former FBI tactical agent Will Sawyer, an American tasked with signing off on the security of The Pearl – the tallest building in the world. When terrorists seize The Pearl, however, Sawyer finds himself the subject of a Chinese manhunt and forced to find a way back into the building in order to save his wife and children from not only the terrorists seeking to fulfil their own agenda, but also to the out-of-control blaze that threatens to consume them all.

Johnson’s played in the sort of arena on more than a few occasions now, with Skyscraper arguably skewing closest to San Andreas as regards the sort of tone and polished spectacle you’re in for. There are some offhand nods to more classical genre archetypes – hell, it makes more Die Hard references than Jake Peralta – and there’s the requisite degree of fistbumping and utilisation of the term “brother”, but those still unsure of what to expect can rest easy on the promise of what’s essentially an Irwin Allen movie with a Neal Moritz sensibility. It ain’t clever, it doesn’t want to be, it just wants you to sit on the edge of your seat and then cheer afterwards. Which you will. A lot.

Neve Campbell brings an impressive amount to what’s an already impressively sketched out female supporting character in Sawyer’s wife (take notes, Bedelia – that’s how you handle hostage takers), and Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black) continues to make for an engaging added value element. Roland Møller, meanwhile, makes for a decent enough villain, but lacks the charisma needed to really sell the ludicrously named Kores Botha as much of an evil mastermind. Sure, he was never going to rival Hans Gruber on the scale of action movie villains, but Botha’s so thinly devised as a villain that he’s not up to the grade of Tommy Lee Jones’ Under Siege villain either. And that’s a real detriment when your action hero lead is someone as genuinely charismatic as Dwayne Johnson. Both Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Joe Manganiello took the wrong Rock movie, would be a decent takeaway.

In lieu of a captivating villain, Thurber nonetheless ensures value for money is had with a barrage of spectacle-fuelled set-pieces the likes of which will have you squirming in your seat biting your fist for dear life – IMAX could well inspire a sense of vertigo with this one. It’s a glossy-looking actioner – thanks to some smooth production design and slick visuals from cinematographer and Mission: Impossible alum Robert Elswit – and fight choreographer Allan Poppleton goes above and beyond to stage Johnson’s antics not as the all-powerful action commando, but a credible fighter dwarfed by the spectacle of what’s up against him.

It’s a good time for all. Sure, it’s in no way destined to become an enduring classic of the action genre – though, the spoilerific marketing campaign does well and truly show off what will become one of this summer’s more memorable movie moments – but it’s Die Hard on fire. With The Rock. In 2018. And if there’s an easier sell for a good time at the movies than that, it just means Dwayne Johnson has another movie out. In which case, still see Skyscraper first.

 

Continue Reading

Featured Review

Mission Impossible: Fallout ★★★★★

Published

on

Released: 25th July 2018

Directed By: Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Henry Cavill, Michelle Monaghan, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

‘What the hell is he doing!? I find it best not to look.’

Rebecca Ferguson. You’re certainly not alone in questioning the thought process of a man seemingly gunning to be ‘The Greatest Stuntman’. Another one Mr Cruise? I imagine his reply is Never Enough. Never. Never.

22 years and six instalments in. Facing stiff competition from Bond, Bourne and a plethora of comicbook darlings along the way. This particular Tom has continued to be a marvel, risking life and limb to give us the adrenaline-pumping thrills we crave, admirably relying on old-school practicality instead of the obligatory CGI bombast we modern cinemagoers have grown accustomed to.

Previous instalment ‘Rogue Nation’ boasted an elegant operatic set-piece in Vienna, with returning (a first for the series) director Christopher McQuarrie masterfully pulling the strings in the background. Well imagine ‘Mission Impossible: Fallout’ as a grandiose death-defying symphony, that could easily leave you breathless in the front row, never mind the upper tiers of this cinematic arena.

Whilst consistent in its entertainment value. It could be argued these films haven’t dug deep enough into the psyche of IMF’s main man. McQuarrie is quick to remedy this right from the outset as a pulsating plutonium power struggle ensues, with Ethan Hunt (Cruise) still reeling from his encounters with Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the latter a mere pawn now in the eyes of a terrorist organisation called the Apostles.

Trust in Ethan’s methods diminishing with the addition of CIA superior Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) who compares him to a scalpel, she introduces a ‘hammer’ to the situation in the form of August Walker (Henry Cavill), who is tasked with assisting Hunt and his usual suspects Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) in preventing further global atrocities. Interrogation? Not for this Man Of Steel.

Intertwining plot threads left dangling by its predecessors to layer its absorbing narrative, with Michelle Monaghan’s love interest Julia a notable inclusion. McQuarrie truly allows the audience to become emotionally attached to these characters this time around beyond the wisecracks and gadgetry, which only serves to fuel the tension and raise the stakes of its balletic action choreography. Playing a lead protagonist who can easily be perceived to be indestructible up to now. The moral angst that engulfs Cruise’s Hunt is refreshing, as his unwavering loyalty to his fellow field agents is deemed a weakness in achieving their intended objective.

Only for this aspect to be amplified by the compelling complexity of Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust who returns with her own agenda, remaining appreciative of Hunt’s relentless nature to complete a mission by any means necessary, with one particular Paris stand-off utterly engrossing. Whilst Sean Harris’ Solomon Lane continues to favour chilling prose, it’s a joy to finally see Henry Cavill utilised in a blockbuster effectively as August Walker, a bruising no-nonsense adversary whose reloading arms prove a worthy match for Hunt.

Yet for all its superior characterisation. Mission Impossible would amount to little without its enthralling stunts, with the film gleefully  looking to out-do the previous set-piece throughout its running time, only to succeed in jaw-dropping style. From heart-stopping halo jumps at 25,000 feet to a heady helicopter chase that made me audibly gasp at its sheer audacity, McQuarrie’s dizzying camerawork and respectful capture of its sleek locations as we witness Cruise’s crazy antics close-up, is as pure as popcorn cinema gets.

‘Fallout? With this franchise? I suspect that thought will self-destruct in five seconds once you clap eyes on this outing. An astonishing genre offering in its own right, in a series that continues to evolve in exhilarating fashion.

Continue Reading

Movie Reviews

First Reformed ★★★★★

Consider the bar raised…

Published

on

Director: Paul Schrader

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer

Released: 13th July 2018 (UK)

First Reformed has been dubbed as Paul Schrader’s triumphant return to cinema. Widely praised by critics and audiences, it finally hits UK cinemas. What is First Reformed all about you ask? Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is a solitary parish priest at a small church in upstate New York. Now more of a tourist attraction catering to a dwindling congregation, it has long been eclipsed by its nearby parent church. When a pregnant parishioner (Amanda Seyfried) asks Reverend Toller to counsel her husband, Toller is plunged into his own tormented past and finds himself questioning his own future and where redemption might lie. With the pressure on him beginning to grow, he must do everything he can to stop events spiralling out of control.

Alienation, social decay makes First Reformed one of the most powerful self portraits in cinema. First Reformed tackles current event topics like the environment, organised religion, politics, and alcoholism as a backdrop for Reverend Toller’s  journey through despair. Hawke’s Toller establishes the key theme early in the film: we’re told that we must hold onto both despair and hope simultaneously. Toller’s efforts to live this self-contradicting life, leads him down a path of madness.We discover that existential crises and sincere Christianity make quite the self destructive couple. Toller finds he must reject the shiny glossy presentation of modern contemporary Christianity, and discover his own self belief and re-build his faith within himself. The careful logic of it draws us in; it’s difficult to see where Toller and society goes wrong.

Paul Scharder’s visuals are utterly striking, each shot is rich with balance, depth and artful symmetry; despite the fact that the film is presented in an unusual aspect ratio of 1.37: 1, it pulls its viewers in with nonstop beautiful photography, mostly high-contrast shots with a muted colour palette.The story is spiritual as you would expect but it’s surprisingly political. The pace of the film is steady and switches seamlessly between snapshots and long takes. The scoring slowly builds its ominous tone, every element of First Reformed is built with intention that serves its sobering themes.

Ethan Hawke has delivered the performance of his career as Toller. This performance is truly next-level from him, and I cannot describe enough to you about how captivating it is to watch Hawke. He is spectacular in this, and an early front runner for award season. First Reformed is quietly intense, disturbingly real with a memorable ending. Paul Schrader carefully tackles controversial topics, especially with handling the concept of Christianity. The movie is neither preachy or anti-Christian in its delivery, but rather shows religion for what it is: a reasonable release for sadness and guilt, but also a burden. First Reformed is without a doubt one of 2018’s finest films.

Continue Reading

Trending