Kingsman: Secret Service 15

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There’s something about a well cut suit. There’s definitely something about charming Brits running around having a lot of fun in them.

In an age where our spy movies are gritty and edged with realism, Kingsman rises to be our cure. With the creators from Kick Ass firmly behind the camera, this two hour ‘Jack Bauer goes to Hogwarts’ is able to poke fun at the genre while being fresh and … Ok, so I can’t say it’s the most original story, but you’re too busy laughing at Sam L Jackson to actually care.

Colin Firth and Mark Strong give excellent performances as veteran Kingsmen, providing a nice balance of wit and charm. Michael Cain is a delight as always.

Special mention must be given to the ‘Bond/Bourne/Bower’ of the film; Taron Edgerton as Eggsy. How this man has not made a name for himself before now if beyond me, his timing is perfect and you really find yourself rooting for him.

The budget of the effects have clearly gone on Sofia Boutella’s CGI prosthetics as some of the other set pieces feel a little lacking, but the overt farce of it all makes it permissible.

It follows the conventions of an action movie and never allows the pace to lull. The film isn’t for everyone and the violence does really call for this film being an 18 (seriously, I don’t know what the point of the BBFC is right now), but I am certainly looking forward to seeing it again.

Cast- 9
Cinematography- 7
Plot- 8
Pace- 7
Music- 9
Enjoyability- 10

Whiplash- 15

whiplash-bloodThere was no doubt that I was seeing this movie. I didn’t want to, but it had an Oscar nomination and I like to have the full set. At the time of writing this, I only have Selma left to see out of the best picture catagory and 12 others (outside of shorts and foreign language. That is not to say I’m avoiding them, it’s just difficult and I have priorities)

I digress. This is a hipster anti Dead Poet’s Society film. It’s cruel, it’s unrelenting. You see the *twist* coming a mile away and wonder why Miles Teller’s Andrew is gutten for more in that final act. That said, It’s hilarious, J. K Simmons is a genius as sadistic Terrence Fletcher, hell bent in the belief that everyone needs to be pushed to breaking point to reach greatness.

The romantic storyline between Teller’s Andrew and Mellisa Benoist’s Nicole is a little underdeveloped to the point of pointlessness (Ok yes, Andrew puts music/drumming first. Sleeping next to his drum kit and playing to the point he’s bleeding do that just fine), but I guess it says it all when the only character name I don’t need to look up is her’s.

I’m happy to see Paul Reiser of ‘My Two Dads’ and ‘Aliens’ play the role of Andrew’s father. While he plays a vital role toward the end of the film, he is still underused. It comes across as two different films. I would have like to have either seen Andrew completely cut off from everyone, or a little bit more of a development of those close characters; after all, I don’t believe a father as caring as Reisser’s Jim would ever let the problems get so far.
The biggest let down for me was that I’d convinced myself from the trailer that Sam Caflin was playing a part in this movie. Alas, no Finnick to cheer me on my way.

The music was good. However, shouldn’t I be saying the music was great, fantasic, superb. I love my jazz, but the story took it away from me. Jazz, to me, is about expression and soul. Neither of which I saw represented in this film.

Now, I did what I NEVER do with this movie. I read a number of reviews first. I was trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to see this movie. They all raved about it, stellar performances (I’ll give you J.K, but check out 21 and Over for a better performance from Teller.), great story, worthy of repeat viewing. I think I’m missing something (more that Caflin). I did not leave feeling like I’d learnt a lesson (Other than I need to curb my OCD of completing collections. Which reminds me, I need to buy a kinder egg on my way home), I think it’s ruined jazz for me and it certainly didn’t put the arts in a good light.

Cast- 6
Cinematography- 7
Plot- 6
Pace- 7
Music- 5
Enjoyability- 6

Ex Machina 15

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*Insert witty, yet totally cliched, Blade Runner pun here*. Yet I haven’t. To do that will undersell this chilling mind-f of a film.

Part suspense, part out-right horror, Ex Machina is actually a film for everyone. It’s doesn’t have quite the feel or the pace of a mainstream blockbuster, but it certainly has enough elements to keep people entertain. It is quite possibly scarier than some run of the mill, connect the dots, horrors out on the market these days. Mainly because it’s premise is rooted in Science Near Future rather than fiction.

Invited to spend the weekend at Nathan’s retreat, programmer Caleb (Domnhal Gleeson) signs a non-disclosure document before being introduced to beautiful and flirty A.I, Ava. Nothing is what it seems, even until the closing scenes, you do not know who to trust. Caleb and Ava appear to be playing a part in Nathan’s rat maze, but only because no one is ever truly showing a full hand.

Caleb, for the most part, is the protagonist and proxy for viewers. Only on very rare occasions are the audience privy to information he doesn’t know. Domnhall once again, proving that he is a versatile actor, takes center stage. There’s a haunting scene where he has convinced himself that even he is an A.I and it is believable that he has fallen for the breathtaking Ava. He can do comedy, romance and now sci-fi. Here’s to Star Wars giving us the action man I know he’d be perfect as (I’d love to see him play the villain).

Oscar Issac provides a psychopathic charm to his performance; you never fully trust him, but you always think that you’re being conditioned that way and you will look for redeeming features. Alicia Vikander’s Ava is a work of art and her performance is exceptional. Coming to the closing scenes, it is hard to believe she is anything but human.

The set design and visuals are flawless, claustrophobic and downright beautiful. Just like Nathan, they lull you into a false sense of security before sending your heart into overdrive.

Cast- 10
Cinematography- 9
Plot- 8
Pace- 6
Sound/Music- 7
Enjoyability- 7

Wild- 15 (potential spoilers)

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An allegory for the grief process, this film will hit home to anyone who has lost someone close to them.
The narrative is edited like a jigsaw to allow the audience feel as lost as Reese Witherspoon’s Cheryl. What inspired her to go on this crazy journey that so many abandon? Typical biopic feels are here; loss, betrayal and most importantly overcoming challenges on the way.

A movie about walking?! I’ll admit, I wasn’t 100% sold from the trailer and multiple visits to Middle Earth have taught me not to trust a film that has walking central to the narrative. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It had enough humour in the opening scene to throw me off guard.

I found the flashbacks to Laura Dern’s demise a little too close to the knuckle for me. Having lost my own mother almost 9 years ago, I found a little too much of myself in the character. Ok, so I certainly didn’t go down the path of heroin and sex, but we all become a little self destructive and in need of self discovery when you loose a parent so young. Dern was so perfectly flawed that I did want a little more screen time with her. However, isn’t that the point; Don’t we all want a little more time with our mothers?

Witherspoon pulls this character off brilliantly, shaking off all the preppy happy people of the past. She fully deserves the Oscar nomination. However, with such contenders as Julianne Moore and Rosamund Pike at the 2015 proceedings, I simply don’t think it’s her year. If she keeps picking these roles though, one could be in her sights very soon.

The film ends with you feeling satisfied that all wounds are healed. A little too much of a Hollywood ending, but at least it conveys that most important message; there is hope.

Cast- 9
Cinematography- 8
Plot- 8
Pace- 8
Music/Sound- 7
Enjoyability- 8

Annie- PG

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Annie in the 21st century actually works. I was expecting to hate it. I was only seeing it to bulk up the numbers of my 100 films a year target and Whiplash was going to be too heavy after two other Oscar nominated pictures under my belt that day.
I didn’t think Cameron Diaz was going to be right- she was too young. I’ve never warmed to Rose Byrne despite her popping up in… everything. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

It does what it needs to. It’s a light bit of fluff that’s aimed at younger viewers, but has enough winks and sly lines to keep the adults amused. The plot moves fairly quickly and there is chemistry between all the actors.
I could have done with fewer songs. Well, if I’m being honest, I could have done without all of the songs. I’m aware it’s a musical, but I just don’t think they added anything to it.

Cast- 8
Cinematography- 7
Plot- 7
Pace- 5
Music- 5
Enjoyability- 8

Big Hero 6

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Marvel have failed to put their name on what is quite possibly ‘their’ best Disney film to date. Having now been to a Q&A with Producer John Lasseter and director Don Hall I have a little more insight into this. It is very much a Disney movie with Marvel DNA.
Big Hero 6 is a typical origin story, but with a big heart and many more laughs. The plot has everything it needs and even the short lived character, Tadashi (explained in the trailer), is well developed. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting him to have as much screen time as he did (due to the reveal in the trailer), but I truly left wanting more of him. He played off so well against his bother.
The big bad is dispatched before the film is out and this can sometimes be a fault of Marvel/hero movies, it can be forgiven as there is currently not plans set in stone for a sequel. This said, it is one of the strongest Marvel villains seen on screen and a sequel would be welcome.
What I do hope is that Disney/Marvel seize this opportunity to create a comic that will engage younger people and inspire the next generation of readers.

Cast/Voice talent- 9
Cinematography- 10
Plot- 8
Music/Sound- 8
Pace- 9
Enjoyability- 9

Into the Woods- 12a

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Disney taking on music theatre, what’s not to love? I’ll admit, I was hooked for the first half; it was a witty and clever satire on many interwoven fairy tales. The songs were catchy and I even bought into James Corden and Emily Blunt as loved up Mr and Mrs Baker.

It was coming off as a live action, prettier cousin of Shrek with all the right players in all the right places. In fact, I would go so far to say it was this decades The Princess Bride. Then, just as if it was in the theatre, you could feel the plot winding to a halt for that 20 minute interval. For me, it was too much of a jerk and it lost all it’s pace. The songs seemed to repeat and everyone lost their happy endings.
While there were some amazing set pieces, on a whole it came across rather static and contained; as if they had filmed on a stage. This nags at me so much more than it should, only because Disney are capable of so much more.
The cast, on the most part, were faultless, but a special mention must go to Chris Pine who was doing a better Shatner impression than he does in Star Trek. His song with onscreen brother, Agony, is delightful unadulterated panto. My only hope is that a sensible theatre throws enough money at him to convince him to spend some time on West End during panto season soon.
While I did enjoy the Red Riding Hood story, I felt Johnny Depp’s cameo pointless, jarring and disturbing. In Depp’s defense, he’s not an actor I enjoy watching at the moment. I’m sure fans of his will relish his hip thrusting howls to the moon.

While I’ve not been kind to this film- I know of three people who haven’t got a bad word to say about it. My best friend also text me to recommend it because she thought I’d love it. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh and hard to please after being spoilt by superb theatre. One thing is for certain; you couldn’t get this many quality actors on one stage!

Cast- 8
Cinematography- 7
Plot- 6
Music- 7
Pace- 6
Enjoyability- 8

Birdman- 15

Michael Keaton plays a washed-up superhero actor in this breathtakingly original showbiz satire.

I left the film not knowing if this was the best piece of film ever created or the worst drivel I have yet to inflict upon myself. I still don’t know.
Keaton is good and Norton steals the show, but in a film about actors it’s hard to tell if they are simply playing themselves or not.
While I enjoyed seeing such an ensemble on the screen, I am still finding it hard to see the point of the movie other than it being a mainstream artsy hipster conceit created simply to be an Oscar nomination.
I don’t feel like my time has been wasted, but I still feel like I’ve been left out of a joke or missing one vital piece of information that will make the whole thing make sense.The irony of seeing a play about producing a film noir movie (City of Angels, review to follow) made it hard not to see the flaws in Birdman.
The music in this film is obtrusive and unrelenting to the point of distraction. While it is later revealed to diegetic (or not, if it is indeed all in Keaton’s head), it detracts from the overall enjoyability.

It’s worth a high brow watch, particularly if you are in the midst of an Oscar buzz, but it is not a film for your DVD collection.

Cast- 9
cinematography- 8
plot- 7
music/sound- 3
pace- 7
enjoyability- 6

Foxcatcher- 15

Foxcatcher

Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo star in a gripping psychological drama based on the shocking true story of an Olympic champion.

Steve Carell in haunting brilliant, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are beautifully ugly to the point that it’s hypnotic. All three are able to suggest the emotional scars without having to dwell upon them.
The hard part I have always found about ‘psychological dramas’ is that it is a term thrown about to excuse the feeling that audiences don’t quite know what’s going on. It also seems to be a little confused about what it is trying to achieve; the first bulk of the movie plays like a Sports film. It was only the last third of the film that revealed itself as anything but a quirky, arty look at the world of wrestling.
I found the film a little overindulgent and lacking any energy or motivation to keep an audience captivated. That said, those who are interested in biopic and sports movies will find some redeeming features.

It is very much an Oscar bait movie: high brow, arty and primarily about the acting while not caring about the comfort of the audience.

cast 10
cinematography 7
plot- 8
pace- 5
music/sound- 5
enjoyability- 4

American Sniper – 15

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Clint Eastwood directs Bradley Cooper in the visceral true story of the U.S. Military’s most lethal sniper.

An all too real look into the Iraqi battlefield, Bradley Cooper is perfect in the role of Chris Kyle; Navy SEAL and sniper legend. His portrayal is uncompromising and powerful.
Sienna Miller is excellent as Chris’ suffering wife, left at home while he completes four volatile tours. However, the supporting cast feel a little underused and too interchangeable.
The film initially plays with the narrative; flitting back and forth smoothly until Chris’ timeline crashes back to the opening scene. It appears to be a common trick with a number of films recently and it really works here.
Apart from one action laden scene that takes place in a sand storm, this is one of the most engaging and emotive war movies for many years.

Cast- 9/10
Cinematography- 7/10
Plot- 9/10
Pace- 9/10
Music/sound- 7/10
Enjoyability- 8/10

Total-48/60

Theory of Everything- 12a

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“The life-affirming, superbly acted true story of Stephen Hawking’s first marriage’

No fault can be found with the acting, but you will be forgiven for making a comparison between Eddie Redmayne and the BBC forerunner of the role, Benedict Cumberbatch. Two high profile Brits playing the greatest mind- it’s hard not to. Devastatingly, I have to admit that Eddie appears the more committed of the two. Thankfully the film diverts from the same narrative early on, so that distraction is left back in the opening third of the film.

Charlie Cox and David Thewlis are amazing support. I will always welcome the appearance of either in any film, but here they both bring charm and heart to a heartbreaking biopic. However, it is Felicity Jones who really shines. Her personal battle of loyalty, frustration and abandonment is well developed.

There is a good pace to the film that makes its central character the relationship between Hawking and his first wife; Jane Wilde. Time passes for them fluidly and it finds a perfect balance between Hawking’s professional progression and their family life.
However inevitable, the ending is a little too bittersweet to be the film I was expecting it to be. I felt I was intruding on something a little too personal for it to be a comfortable watch.

Cast- 9
Cinematography- 9
Plot- 8
Music- 6
Pace- 9
Enjoyability- 6