Review: Free Fire (2016)

Stars: Sharlto CopleyArmie HammerCillian MurphyBrie LarsonMichael Smiley.

Director: Ben Wheatley.

The plot:

The plot for Free Fire is not the most complicated. It’s the late seventies; Frank and Chris are in Boston to buy some guns to take back to Ireland. Justine has set up a meet with Vernon and Martin.  After getting past the fact the type of guns brought to the party were not what was ordered, the two groups fall out in spectacular fashion when it seems one of each group have had a previous altercation the night before and spot each other at the trade.  This leads to all sorts of exchanges both verbal and violent.

NME.com

The cast:

After High-Rise, Ben Wheatley is no stranger to what could be described as an ensemble cast.  Leading the group of arms dealers is Sharlto Copley’s Vernon.  As ever Copley is an absolute hoot, it’s never dull when he’s involved.  Overseeing proceedings, to keep both groups in check and failing miserably is Ord played by Armie Hammer .  A big guy, an authority figure full of charm and packing a punch to match it.  Despite his best endeavours to keep things civil he finds himself embroiled in the dispute.  Another great bit of casting here, placing Hammer in this role.  Heading up the Irish contingent is Cillian Murphy as Chris.  In contrast to the now very well known Tommy Shelby role in Peaky Blinders, Murphy plays a more roguish laid back character but it’s a no less accomplished performance nevertheless.

Confusions and Connections

Michael Smiley plays Chris’s partner Frank, a more paranoid and ill at ease individual than Chris.  Smiley is one of those actors I feel is really underrated.  Seen quite frequently in British productions as far back as the cult comedy Spaced, he always puts in a solid shift and I feel is worthy of more key roles than he actually gets.  Finally Brie Larson plays Justine, the sole female in amongst the havoc.  I wasn’t all that impressed with her in Kong: Skull Island but here she shows a little more of her abilities, she gives Justine that sassy edge and also a traditional female with attitude and wit who can clearly look after herself.  There’s also more than worthy support from the rest of the cast including Noah Taylor, Sam Riley, Enzo Cilenti and an appearance by Patrick Bergin.

BFI

The film:

I’ve long been a fan of Ben Wheatley and I’m glad to say this falls in with the more impressive of his offerings alongside High-Rise and Sightseers. Free Fire is not as dark as those movies but it is a very funny film.  Where Sightseers was a dark comedy, Free Fire is more a slapstick version of Reservoir Dogs in its theme (Set in a warehouse, everyone is disagreeing with each other and then shooting at each other).  There is some genuine laugh out loud moments particularly around the central period of the film.  It keeps you hooked into what’s going on in a very simple manner, if there’s no dialogue then there’s shooting or violence of one form or another to hold your focus.  It segues between these two key elements very cleverly and smoothly.  The trailer for this film doesn’t sell it very well I would have to agree with a friend’s comment about this fact but I felt the trailer is really out of context with the rest of the film and it would be difficult to make the trailer without actually spoiling the film itself.

The verdict:

4/5 Stars: Free Fire shoots and scores.

Free Fire on IMDb

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Review: Life (2017)

Stars: Ryan ReynoldsRebecca FergusonJake Gyllenhaal

Director: Daniel Espinosa

The plot:

Aboard the International Space Station, orbiting the earth, a group of scientists representing a number of countries are awaiting the return of a probe from Mars to analyse the samples it returns with.  After averting a disaster where the probe was nearly lost, the team are able to set about their work.  Their yield brings unprecedented findings and the very first proof of life on Mars.  After initial feelings of elation and success, matters take a turn for the worse when a fairly innocuous attempt to revive the initially minute creature provokes the being to attack the crew and the story takes on a more perilous tone as survival becomes the only goal.

The Verge

The cast:

The cast is an interesting mix.  Ryan Reynolds offers a kind of Deadpool in space, if Deadpool was your average astronaut wearing a designated uniform rather than his superhero’s more eye-catching fatigue.  He’s a potty mouth officer but likeable enough, a loud and crass good guy to have around.  He doesn’t share much interaction with Rebecca Ferguson and Jake Gyllenhaal, they have a more integrated relationship throughout the film. Rebecca Ferguson plays a tough ranking scientist citing her strict protocols for every move and decision she makes.  Yet she still manages to portray a caring presence around her subordinates.  Jake Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, carries a little more baggage than the rest of the crew.  In his role as a military Doctor he has witnessed some harrowing scenes on Earth and now prefers the calm and relative peacefulness that being in space brings.  Roles with baggage are meat and drink to Gyllenhaal and he gives a solid turn but as with Reynolds and Ferguson a limited script doesn’t offer much opportunity to shine.

Business Insider

The film:

My fears for this was that it would be another failed attempt to recreate Alien and also that it was really poorly titled.  To be fair to Life it isn’t the first and won’t be the last film to try to do this and there are worse films you can try to copy from than that classic.  The bad news for this film is that it doesn’t get anywhere near the claustrophobic environment that Alien set, it doesn’t have that Ripley character nor does the Martian antagonist present the same sort of terror as the Xenomorph .  The best way I can describe it is Alien meets Gravity and doesn’t match either for originality or story in any capacity.  The film does offer some moments of genuine tension and some impressive effects but beyond that there’s nothing new here at all.  What makes matters worse is that the climax is all too predictable as the sequence commences.  You can see straight away what’s coming, or really you should.  With all that said, it’s not a terrible film and if you’ve never seen Alien then it could work for you.

The verdict –  2.5/5 Stars: Been there, done that. Must try harder.  Have you seen Arrival?

Life on IMDb

Offical Website

Review: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Stars: Tom HiddlestonSamuel L. JacksonBrie LarsonJohn C. ReillyJohn GoodmanCorey HawkinsToby Kebbell.

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

The plot:

It’s 1973, a team of scientists led by Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) head into uncharted territory in the Pacific Ocean.  Nixon has just called time on the Viet Nam war and army veteran Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) isn’t in a rush to go home.  His team are ordered to accompany the scientists and aid in what they are led to believe is investigative bombing to determine the seismic levels of activity at the newly found location.  James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), a former SAS officer, is brought in as a tracker and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to record the expedition in photographs.

The intentions and motives of the scientist are soon brought under close scrutiny when their helicopters are attacked and lives are lost at the very early outset of their exploration.  Soon enough they come face to face with Kong and the trip turns into a fight for survival.  Kong, however, proves to be the least of their troubles as the island holds many more secrets than just his mighty presence.  It’s up to the remaining explorers and army officers to decide how they negotiate their escape or their demise.

Fandango

The cast:

Well, what a cast. When you look at it on paper you can see that the cast brought in is more than a match for the size of this blockbuster in terms of its special effects.  I only have a few points to make on individuals so here goes:

Tom Hiddleston still thinks he’s playing The Night Manager and really isn’t offering anything not seen before.  Maybe he figures this is his Hollywood audition for Bond so why change anything?

Samuel L. Jackson, like Hiddleston, is also not offering anything different from his usual loud and commanding performances.  That’s a good thing though, it’s always a pleasure to watch him in this kind of over the top mood.

Vulture

I have no real prior encounters with Brie Larson to speak of and she hasn’t really offered anything special here.  I did notice that throughout the film she he only seems two have to facial expressions; shocked and happy.  Not awful, just forgettable.

Now, John C. Reilly brings a real warmth and sense of humanity to the role of Hank Marlow.  He comes into the movie about half way through and is a welcome change to the wide-spread fear that the other main cast are showing.

Corey Hawkins for me is the stand out performer simply because he offers a complete change from how you would find him as Jack Bauer’s replacement in the currently running 24: Legacy.  He shows a real versatility in Kong and there looks to be more to come from him.

A quick word on Toby Kebbell, he plays Chapman a loyal army officer who really just offers solid support but it’s worth mentioning that despite another performer being used in Kong’s motion capture Kebbell also lent his facial skills to some of the more subtle nuances that Kong carried.

Unilad

The Movie:

Kong: Skull Island is another one of those films I had no real expectations of.  In fact, I thought this would actually be terrible based on the early trailers but having seen the cast my interest grew substantially.  The film really worked for me.  Some of the imagery was absolutely amazing particularly the long shots of Kong as the visitors approached.  The effects throughout are at a very high level and although this should never be used as an indicator of a good movie it’s important that any film using these effects keeps the levels consistent.  It’s an exciting and pounding film, there’s genuine excitement and a very real feeling of peril from the moment the helicopters leave the boat.  The film features a good soundtrack from the era which always helps things along.  For adventure, action and escapism long no further than Skull Island.

The verdict:

3.5/5 Stars: No monkey business here, Kong is in charge.

Kong: Skull Island in IMDb

Kong: Skull Island Official Website

Review: Logan (2017)

Stars: Hugh JackmanPatrick StewartDafne KeenBoyd HolbrookStephen MerchantRichard E. Grant

Director: James Mangold

The plot:

It’s the year 2029 and The X-Men are all but gone.  The reasons for this are unexplained within the confines of the movie.  Logan (Hugh Jackman) is currently driving a limousine for a living whilst caring for the now very elderly Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) whose powers have now become very hazardous to those around him without the correct medication to treat his condition.  Despite Charles’s optimism Logan’s life has become a mundane and almost unwanted burden.  Logan drinks excessively and despite his healing powers it seems time is also catching up with The Wolverine.  It’s at this point that Laura (Dafne Keen) comes into Logan’s life.  Despite knowing all other mutants were long gone it seemed that the quiet child was more than a chip off the old mutant block and in particular Logan’s himself.  Evil forces are on Laura’s trail and it’s up to The Wolverine to protect his new charge.

Nerdist
Nerdist

The cast:

Hugh Jackman has been playing The Wolverine for longer than I care to remember.  He has certainly made the role his own and why not?  He has something of a double role within Logan and he turns in strong performances in both roles.  In particular he plays the now more worn out and jaded Logan very nicely.  You can feel his pain and want it to end for him.

Patrick Stewart rarely disappoints, in fact I can’t remember when he actually did disappoint.  Senility has taken hold and Stewart revels in playing a more cantankerous version of Charles whilst still retaining his Fatherly motions towards Logan and mutants in general.

Screen Rant
Screen Rant

Dafne Keen plays the film’s most intriguing character, Laura.  A young child who comes into Logan’s care.  Clearly showing mutant elements, her origins are unknown and the, at first, silent little girl becomes a bigger and more important part of the mutant jigsaw.  I preferred Laura during her silent early offerings and I’m sure Logan would agree she was much more tolerable before she started speaking.  She’s a tough little character though and not as irritating as some other child actors have been over the years.

Boyd HolbrookStephen Merchant and Richard E. Grant provide some excellent support.  In particular Merchant turns in a very skittish performance as Caliban, an albino with mutant tracking abilities who serves as a friend to Logan and Charles.  Grant is also in good form as the undesirable scientist in amongst the darker side of the story.

Screen Rant
Screen Rant

The film:

With the exception of the X2 none of the X-men movies have ever really blown me away, particularly Wolverine’s solo outings.  Last year’s X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (Review here) was decent enough but not in any way fantastic.  Logan put simply is the best X-Men movie since X2 and by far away better than either the aforementioned solo movies.  The fact that the film carried a more adult tone was very pleasing and, yes, that does mean it was a whole lot more violent than the more family based X-Men episodes and it was littered with bad language.  This is neither big nor clever but it at least takes away any feelings of this being a family friendly tale.  It has a more final and a kind of point of no return to feel it which is to be expected. It’s no secret that this sees Jackman playing The Wolverine for the last time.  It’s a fitting send off for him.  The film balances the more extreme nature of the violence with emotion and a satisfying level of closure.  James Mangold has an impressive curriculum vitae, not least 3:10 to Yuma, Identity and Copland so is an ideal choice to follow up his first Wolverine film.  He brings a sense of seriousness to the comic book world more akin to Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.  I left satisfied without any real fanfare, a good two hours spent.

The verdict:  4/5 Stars:  The Wolverine was at the door, he closed it with dignity.

Logan on IMDb

Logan Official Website