After a fatal home invasion leaves a man mourning a wife and a little boy mourning the loss of his mother, the lives of the residents of the all too perfect Surburbicon community are left reeling as their idyllic lifestyles are left in tatters. There’s more to this home invasion than meets the eye and the little boy, Nicholas (Noah Jupe) learns some horrifying facts about his family and finds his own life under threat.
I thought Matt Damon pulled off his role as Gardner really well. On the outside he seemed the all round decent family man but underneath that there was a quite devious individual with unsavoury intentions and motives.
Julianne Moore played both Rose and her sister Margaret, although one of those characters did not make it very far into the film before being bumped off. Moore puts in a decent performance without any real frills. Oscar Isaac pops up briefly as the insurance investigator who fancies a piece of the pay out action but it’s a short appearance and doesn’t offer much to get your teeth into.
It’s Noah Jupe who really deserves the most credit as the young boy at the centre of the deception and foul play. Nicky is the tortured soul of the movie and Jupe moves between terror and anger will some ease.
This was an interesting avenue for George Clooney to take in his directorial career. Clearly Surburbicon is heavily influenced by the time he has spent working with the Coen Brothers. So much so that there are a lot of glaring similarities to be made with the original Fargo. In fact it’s almost the exact same story. It’s no bad thing to want to emulate the Coen Brothers or such a heavyweight classic as Fargo but you have to do it well. Unfortunately, whilst Suburbicon is a good watch it doesn’t achieve the lofty heights of the aforementioned Fargo. It’s well put together and well-played by both a decent leading and supporting cast. There’s only a few laughs for what is presented in a black comedy format and at times there was some moments of boredom but not so much as to make it disappointing. The film is very dark in tone as you would expect from the content of the plot but isn’t beyond employing some farce humour intermittently.
The Verdict: Something a little different from the norm without reinventing the wheel.
When the Russian leader, Stalin, dies unexpectedly chaos descends upon his closest subordinates as they try to maintain a dignity to the outside world whilst going to treacherous lengths to further their own ends and designs on becoming his successor at the expense of their rivals.
This is an expertly chosen cast which offers an array of talent to die for and perfect for the sort of satirical farce you would expect from Armando Iannucci. It’s very hard to separate the characters and analyse them fairly as the film moves along at quite a hectic pace. Once one exchange of unpleasantries has finished it’s straight onto the next. This plays partcularly well to the skills of the main competitors to become the new premiere such as Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale and Jeffrey Tambor backed up well by Michael Palin,Paul Whitehouse and Dermot Crowley.
The film is a very funny political farce, well written and played out by the cast. it’s no less than you would expect from the team behind The Thick Of It. It would be lazy to make comparisons to The Thick Of It but it wouldn’t make it any less accurate to point this out. It’s just a different setting, country and environment but Armando Iannucci proves that that kind of humour can be transferred to a variety of situations. I wouldn’t so far as to say it’s one of the funniest films ever made but it’s certainly a comedy that you should give your time to, particularly if you’re a fan of Iannuci’s previous offerings.
When a new foe of incredible strength, Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciarán Hinds), is awoken he sets about an evil plan to reconnect three all-powerful boxes. With these boxes he would be able to wipe out mankind and build his own world from the ashes. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), with a new-found faith in humanity attempts to recruit for a team to tackle the oncoming attack. Wayne looks to Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to form an alliance with which to fight Steppenwolf. Within his plan Bruce Wayne, still weighed down with guilt after the death of Superman, has a sub plan to bring Superman back from the dead but it’s a very risky plan as it was unclear as to what kind of Superman would return, if at all.
I’ve already made my feelings abundantly clear on Ben Affleck playing the Dark Knight. He isn’t the bat and he never will be. It would go some way to buffering this if he made a decent Bruce Wayne but he doesn’t. That said, he’s not altogether awful in Justice League but that is about as good as you can hope for.
Gal Gadot reprises her Diana Prince role again and whilst she’s well choreographed for the action sequences, where she acquits herself well, interaction with other characters is wooden at best but I think that’s just down to a more general, underlying issue with the movie.
Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller and Ray Fisher make up the numbers as Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg respectively. Aquaman is the rough and tumble egotistical warrior type you would expect Momoa to be playing but The Flash and Cyborg really are the weak links here. Their characters lack depth and in particular Cyborg just looks so low-budget visually it’s comical. There’s not much you can say about Henry Cavill that hasn’t been said already. He looks the part but can’t play the part.
Justice league has been taking a lot of criticism in the mainstream media much the same as Dawn Of Justice did. Dawn of Justice warranted the criticism but can the same be said of Justice League? The simple answer is yes and no. It’s nowhere near as bad as some viewers are suggesting but at the same time it’s very much a below average film. In a nutshell, it was OK. Whereas with The Avengers movies there is an excellent chemistry between the allied super heroes this is non-existent within Justice League. They’re just like a fantasy football team of heroes put together by the manager Bruce Wayne with an unlimited budget. Speaking of budgets, the film must have had a huge budget but it does not come through in the final product. At times it looks cheap and nasty and the film is incredibly cheesy throughout. It’s hard to say exactly what Zack Snyder is trying to do with the DC franchise. My personal feeling is the Batman should be a kept as a dark lone character as with Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and rebooting Batman so soon after that was just an exercise in milking the cash cow. Batman is a character which demands deep analysis. He isn’t a superhero and should be treated for what he is. A rich man, who dresses up as a bat and plays vigilante. The other characters your couldn’t really care less about except maybe where it goes next for Superman and Wonder Woman.
Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) tries to put aside his drink and relationship problems by replacing them with a missing persons case in Oslo. He hijacks Katrine Brat’s (Rebecca Ferguson) investigation and the two set about the case to locate the missing Birte Becker (Genevieve O’Reilly). All the usual players are in the frame as being involved, husbands, politicians to name a few, so it’s up to our leads to crack the case.
Michael Fassbender is a safe pull for a film such as this but he deserves a whole lot better in terms of direction. He spends large parts of this film going in circles and looking terminally without purpose. I think perhaps it was playing on his mind that his character’s name was Hole. I know this was based on a successful book but come on! Hole has to be the most unfortunate name a character can have been given.
Rebecca Ferguson, unfortunately, suffers the same fate as Fassbender. Most things I’ve seen her in she’s acquitted herself very well but she needs to be given better to work with. The film’s overall lack of structure and direction means as a result her work is made to look below standard.
J.K. Simmons really just makes up the numbers in his role as the administrator trying to bring in a large sporting event to Oslo. Of course, there’s a dark, seedy side to his character but it’s not really investigated to any real sort of depth.
Val Kilmer deserves a special mention as the only shining in light in The Snowman. It’s only a small part but that makes the pleasure of seeing him back on-screen and playing a troubled and eccentric character no less worthy of analysis. His few moments would bring a wry smile if only they weren’t in such dark circumstances.
We’ve already established that this based on a best-selling book. With that in mind the book must be so much better than the film by some distance and as such the film does not pay it any respect with its output. In my cast round-up I’ve already mentioned that poor direction is rife throughout this movie. The plot has its only real red herring crow barred in the most unsubtle manner and it leaves you thinking they’ve accidentally taped over part of the movie with another one like you used to do back in the days of VHS! I left the cinema after it’s hugely anti-climatic finish thinking to myself that the film was just a complete nonsensical and muddled mess of a thriller, if you can call it a thriller. I experienced no tension or suspense throughout and it felt like a really weak TV movie.
The Verdict: 2/5 Stars – The Snowman is not walking in the air, rather more in meltdown.
I wanted to open this review with some notes on the first Blade Runner movie and it’s importance to me growing up in the earlier stages of science fiction on the big screen. It’s now almost thirty-five years since I was transfixed by the first film on VHS and now some twenty-six or so years since I finally caught a showing of the directors cut at the cinema. Blade Runner is a film with equally important status as the original Star Wars trilogy in my eyes and after much speculation and rumour over the years we finally have a sequel. At first I was apprehensive especially after Ridley Scott bowing to public demand in what he gave us in Alien Covenant. Then, Denis Villeneuve was announced as directing. A brave decision by Scott to relinquish artistic control of his baby, so to speak, but also a very wise choice after the incredible Arrival last year. My interest was now spiking and I could not wait for the film’s release.
*Although there won’t be any actual spoilers here, I would advise anyone intending to see the film who wants to go in totally blind not to read this section*
The events take place some thirty years after those of the first film. Ryan Gosling is an up and coming Blade Runner and despite advances in the creation of synthetics issues of compliance and obedience were still common place and units were still required to “retire” any replicants who presented any problems.
Whilst on a case Gosling’s “K” makes a discovery that will completely change the perception of replicants, one which could present a real danger to humans. With strict orders to contain the discovery the case leads K to seek out Rick Deckard who has been missing for the thirty years since the closing of the last movie.
Ryan Gosling plays K perfectly. From movies like Drive, Gosling has shown he has just the right talents to pull off a role such as K. A wry and ever so dry individual, K has to deal with questions of his own existence and that of both humans and replicants alike and Gosling displays that this is something of a battle for him exceptionally well.
Harrison Ford reprises his role of Rick Deckard with something of a swagger about him. Having spent three decades in isolation with as much alcohol as he can consume he has become even more cynical than he was to begin with. Much like his return as Han Solo, it’s like Deckard has never been away and it’s a joy to see him back again.
Dave Bautista, Robin Wright & Jared Leto don’t really have the sort of screen time that really warrants a full analysis but to be fair they all offer competent input to the overall story. I was grateful that Leto wasn’t given much to do as I’m not a big fan but, fair is fair, he does give a cold, detached and undesirable element to Niandaer Wallace, the man who had taken the work of the now collapsed empire of the Tyrell corporation to the next level.
Ana de Armas brings a certain charm to Joi, a sort of love interest for K. Despite her limitations she has a genuine affection and love for K and she’s prepared to risk all to stand by him.
It’s Sylvia Hoeks, however, that really shines as the replicant Luv. As a kind of enforcer for Wallace, she shows every bit of ruthlessness and brutality that Rutger Hauer showed as Roy Batty in the original film. She really is a joy to watch as she attempts to complete her mission with extreme prejudice.
Well, what can I say. I was utterly blown away at how good Blade Runner 2049 was. At two hours forty minutes long I expected some moments where those uncomfortable cinema seats would remind you of their presence but that just didn’t happen. It was captivating from the very first minute to the very last. As with the first the imagery was breathtaking as the perception of Los Angeles at the time that the movie is set was presented. Bright and glittery whilst dark and bleak simultaneously, I was just sucked back into a world I thought I would only ever see in yet another Blu-Ray cut of the original film. My first words after seeing that aren’t really fit for publication but my remark that it was simply amazing will help get the point across. Ridley Scott, along with Villeneuve, have managed to create a movie that stays impeccably faithful to the previous film and take the story to the next stage with great interest. It’s like the equivalent of Aliens following Alien, although perhaps not better overall just a hugely worthy following installment. I’m comfortable saying that this will sit very nicely in my small but building collection of Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray. It’s a film I will likely catch again on its current run, hopefully in Imax.
The verdict: 4.5/5 Stars: Absolutely amazing cinema.
Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) had already lost his parents in a car accident as a teenager when tragedy struck again upon a holiday beach when, shortly after proposing, he sees his girlfriend murdered by terrorists during an attack along with several other tourists. Understandably Rapp is changed by the events and he resolves to become a vigilante and seeking out those responsible for the attack looking for some kind of payback. Unbeknownst to Rapp, the C.I.A. are monitoring him and are impressed with his work and he is soon assigned to train with Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) by Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan). The film details his change from an everyday young man to his training with Hurley and his early trips into the field.
Dylan O’Brien was something of an unknown quantity for me before this film. I’ve not seen any of the Maze Runner films and at first glance I thought he may be a little too clean-cut for the role he was playing. In fairness, that is part of the set up of his character. That he has gone from the guy on the street to revenge crazed vigilante as a result of the events on that beach. He does this well and is very enjoyable in the role.
Michael Keaton is a seasoned performer, that’s not in dispute. He has over the years appeared in some of the less well received blockbusters over the years but for the former dark knight this is one of his much more creditable appearances as mentor to Rapp. Naturally they clash and as Rapp tests Hurley’s strict disciplines both in training and in the field. Despite his marshalled approach Hurley also manages to display some equally crazed traits in the latter stages of the movie.
Sanaa Lathan was a little bit of a disappointment in my eyes. I expected a tougher, more strong-minded stance from the character of Irene Kennedy playing superior to both Rapp and Hurley. Maybe it’s the way the role was written that suffocated the output Lathan delivered, if so she can’t be held responsible for doing what was asked and for that to lack some punch.
Finally, Taylor Kitsch appears as “Ghost” who was a former trainee of Hurley’s now gone rogue. Kitsch is one of those actors I sometimes can’t actually tell if they deserve any merit but he does well here. Clearly a tortured soul with a desire to exact havoc upon his former superiors, it’s a gritty and determined performance from the True Detective star.
I was particularly pleased to find American Assassin was an 18 certificate in the UK. Firstly this means no kids in the cinema but more importantly it means the film won’t be holding back and it doesn’t. The opening scene is a quite horrific account of a terrorist attach upon a busy holiday beach. After this the film switches to being a very slow burning tale. So slow burning you did begin to wonder if it was going to come to and notable climax. This is where the film is quite clever, it builds the story well and introduces the characters methodically but without any tension as such. Then you get to the final twenty-five minutes and the film just roars into a breathless climax ending with some spectacular scenes at sea.
The verdict: 4/5 Stars: A more than competent thriller that slow burns and then comes to a roaring conclusion.
A commercial airline pilot, Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), lands a job with the C.I.A. taking aerial photography and running guns in South America whilst doubling up as a drug smuggler for Pablo Escobar. American Made charts the rise and fall of this hapless chancer and how it changed his life and details some of the escapades he endured during the Ronald Reagan administration of the nineteen eighties.
The cast list is not huge and is hardly filled with household names and Tom Cruise has not been having the best of years. The correctly scourned update on The Mummy did not perform well and he’s also suffered injury whilst filming the latest Mission Impossible instalment. How do things go here? Well, not great in all honesty. It’s a typical Cruise role and whilst he makes a good fist of it he’s left wanting when it comes to doing much with the story here. Domhnall Gleeson does little better as ‘Schafer”, Seal’s agency handler. He has limited screen time and you’d have to wonder what the director would have given him to do had their been more available. Sarah Wright is the only one who provides any kind of spark as Seal’s wife, Lucy, but again only short spells on-screen for Wright mean that the spark only glimmers very briefly.
There’s very little to say about American Made, which is why this article isn’t going to get anywhere near my usual sort of word count. The film is, in a word, DULL. It completely fails to spike the imagination and the character of Barry Seal fails to evoke any kind of empathy. I really didn’t care what happened to him. The story is told in a very humdrum fashion and it’s just a repetitive sequence of plane rides and deliveries. The film was based on true events and, that said, they are usually overly glorified versions of what really happened to add that dramatic effect. I can only imagine how mundane and uninteresting the actual event must have been at the time if that’s the level of entertainment the film manages to drum up. More imaginative writing and direction are what this story so sorely missed out on.