FILM: Iron Man (2008, Jon Favreau)

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Superhero film Iron Man is the film that launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe…that was a decade ago!?! After escaping kidnappers in Afghanistan, weapons entrepreneur Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) builds a powered exoskeleton and becomes the technologically advanced Iron Man. After learning that his second-in-command Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) has been arms trafficking with terrorists behind his back, he uses the Iron Man technology to fight terrorism and stop illegal arms dealing.

PROS

  • This film set the standard for what Marvel films should be, as the screenplay is a clever blend of character-driven drama, superhero action and good humour, while also being good fun.
  • Robert Downey Jr. nails it as Tony Stark, bringing serious emotion, but also magnificent comic timing and delivery, making him a flawed but brilliant protagonist.
  • Good supporting turns from Gwyneth Paltrow, who has good chemistry with Robert Downey Jr. as Stark’s personal assistant and love interest Pepper Potts; and Terrence Howard, who has an enjoyable rapport with Downey Jr. as Stark’s best friend Colonel Rhodes.
  • Excellent special effects brings the Iron Man suit to brilliant life, and makes the well edited action sequences exciting, while brilliant cinematography makes the aerial sequences breathtaking to watch.

CONS

  • The first half-hour or so of the film is somewhat inconsistently paced, with some parts of it feeling quite rushed, others feeling far slower.
  • While Jeff Bridges’s performance is fine, Stane is a very cliched superhero film antagonist, whose motivations and arc prove very predictable.

VERDICT: 8/10

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FILM: WALL-E (2008, Andrew Stanton)

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WALL-E is the ninth feature length film made by Pixar Animation Studios. In the 22nd Century the Earth became uninhabitable for humanity, and they evacuated the planet on spaceship the Axiom. The titular WALL-E (Ben Burtt) is a little robot who was left behind to clean up the mess, and 700 years later he is still diligently working at it. But one day the Axiom sends a robot called EVE (Elissa Knight) to Earth to search for life, and she and WALL-E start to fall in love, and he then follows her across the galaxy.

PROS

  • It should go without saying where Pixar is concerned, but the animation is breathtaking and easily holds up to this day. It is rich in detail and texture, and brings charming quality to the robotic characters.
  • A charming screenplay which blends Biblical allegory, with environmental messages and critique of consumer culture, partly through clever postmodern homage to Modern Times and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The characters are well realised, and WALL-E and EVE’s relationship is beautifully crafted.
  • Great sound editing and sound mixing, which aids big time in bringing a great sense of reality to the robots, as well as to the Axiom, aiding in the sense of character to the former.
  • WALL-E’s and EVE’s voice is created brilliantly by the voice and technical work of Ben Burtt and Elissa Knight, while Jeff Garlin gives a charming voice performance as Captain McCrea of the Axiom, the standout of the supporting cast.
  • A magnificent score by Thomas Newman, which plays a notable part in elevating this film from a great family film to genuine art.

NITPICKS

  • AUTO (MacInTalk software) is a somewhat predictable antagonist, and his motivations never get explored in any real depth.

VERDICT: 10/10

FILM: Bronson (2008, Nicolas Winding Refn)

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Biographical drama Bronson premiered at the 2008 BFI London Film Festival, before receiving theatrical distribution from Magnet Releasing. The film tells the true story of Charles Bronson (Tom Hardy), a fighter who became a notorious London criminal, who went on to spend most of his adult life in the solitary confinement ward of a prison.

PROS

  • With this film, director and co-screenwriter Nicolas Winding Refn ultimately challenges us to decide where to draw the line between art and exploitation.
  • An energetic pace and a gritty feel to the narrative, thanks to Nicolas Winding Refn’s direction and his screenplay with Brock Norman Brock.
  • Tom Hardy gives one of the best performances of his career as Bronson – a multilayered turn, which Hardy completely throws himself into with inescapable energy and grit.
  • Larry Smith’s cinematography is perfectly crafted to give the gritty narrative a gritty visual quality, while the fight scenes are well co-ordinated.

CONS

  • Much of the supporting cast are underused, the relationships that their characters have with Bronson never really being explored in proper depth.
  • The screenplay ultimately is too short at just under an hour and a half, and as such themes and character development do not reach their full potential.
  • Its lack of depth makes it a film that is at time predictable and at times repetitive.

VERDICT: 7/10

PREVIEW: April 2018

So this last month has been busier than anticipated, and next month is set to be the busiest that I have been in a while, as I have a lot of assignments to complete for my university course. Nevertheless I have a few cinema trips, which I intend to get reviews up for. These include: Isle of DogsA Quiet PlaceLove, SimonGhost StoriesRampage, Death WishEntebbe and of course Avengers: Infinity War.

I can only apologise for the fact that I cannot promise more content for next month, but at the end of the day I have promised reviews in the past that I have failed to deliver on due to other stuff coming up, and I do not intend to be one of those who makes false promise after false promise.

Thank you as ever for reading this blog, and for the month ahead I wish you Happy Reading!

FILM: Pacific Rim Uprising (2018, Steven S. DeKnight)

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Pacific Rim Uprising is a science-fiction film that is distributed by Universal. Set in 2030, humanity once again have to pit their Jaeger pilots against Kaiju, this time led by Jake (John Boyega) and Nate (Scott Eastwood). However, the source of these new Kaiju could be closer to home than they anticipated.

PROS

  • This film delivers what you expect – huge robots fighting huge monsters, which is fun of the juvenile pleasure kind. These are all created with very good CGI.
  • John Boyega and Scott Eastwood have a great sense of banter, while Cailey Spaeny is decent support as trainee Jaeger pilot Amara.

CONS

  • The screenplay does get rather repetitive, and predictable, while the efforts for comic relief more often than not fail to deliver the laughs.
  • For the most part the supporting characters are very much expendable, and serve no real purpose.
  • A poor supporting cast, many of whom churn out wooden turns; while Burn Gorman and Charlie Day’s scenes together are quite the slog to sit through.
  • While the CGI is good, often there is just too much going on in the screen space at one time, and it becomes a bit of a headache frankly.

VERDICT: 4/10

FILM: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008, David Fincher)

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a fantasy-drama, based loosely on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, and is distributed by Warner Bros. On her death bed Daisy (Cate Blanchett) tells her daughter (Julia Ormond) of the life of her true love – Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), a man who was born with a unique condition that caused him to age in reverse.

PROS

  • On a technical level this film is excellent. The editing by Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall shines the most in scenes where Benjamin fights in World War II, making them gritty and intense; while the whole film is handsomely framed.
  • Very good costume and production design captures well the various parts of the 20th Century that the film is set in. The make-up is where the film stands out though, creating truly unique qualities to Benjamin’s condition.
  • Benjamin is a truly intriguing character, his condition creating philosophical conundrums and emotional paradoxes. Brad Pitt plays him well and has good chemistry with Cate Blanchett.

CONS

  • The narrative is ultimately too long, with many scenes feeling simply like filler, and feel like they are there simply to show extra stages of Benjamin’s life in reverse, rather than offer character development.
  • There are many supporting characters, very few of whom get any real character development or personality, meaning that their presence in Benjamin’s life offers no emotional resonance whatsoever.
  • Given how dark and complicated their relationship supposedly is, Benjamin and Daisy’s relationship feels overly romanticised and sentimental at times.

VERDICT: 6/10

FILM: Unsane (2018, Steven Soderbergh)

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Unsane is a psychological horror film, which is distributed by 20th Century Fox, following its premiere at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival. Sawyer (Claire Foy) signs up for a support group for victims of stalking. However, she unwittingly gets herself committed to a mental institution, and is horrified to find that her stalker (Joshua Leonard) has got himself a job there under an alias.

PROS

  • Excellent performances from Claire Foy and Joshua Leonard, who are supported well by Jay Pharoah and Juno Temple as two of Sawyer’s fellow patients.
  • Under the pseudonym of Peter Andrews, Steven Soderbergh (in his role of cinematographer) uses shadows and tracking shots very effectively, and coupled with the screenplay crafts a fairly chilling feel for the film.
  • Thomas Newman crafts a chilling score for this film.
  • Vivid make-up brings a shock factor to several scenes.

CONS

  • A narrative that has a poor set-up, which is also quite disjointed at times, and at times predictable.
  • The picture quality is at times inconsistent, and the fact that different types of lenses are used does not work in its favour – those fish eye shots simply do not work.
  • Amy Irving is underused as Amy’s mother, while Matt Damon has a disappointing cameo as a Police Officer.

VERDICT: 6/10