War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes (Mat Reeves, 2017) 5/5

Matt Reeves conclusion to the extremely successful rebooted Planet of the Apes cannon WAR-FOR-THE-PLANET-OF-THE-APES-_-Poster.jpgis a triumph. Crossing the boundary between Science Fiction and the War genre, this concluding film is spectacular.

Continuing where we left of with Dawn, Ceasar (Andy Serkis) is leading his band of merry primates in the forest within a hidden retreat. However, danger is upon them in the form of The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), a tyrannical leader of a sect of the American Army.

As the film progresses, there are stellar fight sequences, breath taking cinematography (thank you, Michael Seresin) and hard hitting themes that are handled with great sensitivity through Reeves’ and Mark Bomback’s screenplay.

When it was announced that there was a reboot of this franchise in the works in 2011, I was sceptical based on the amount of failed projects with the same agenda. However, what have made these films different is that there was a measured and assured narrative that understood how to make parralels with real life conflicts. Not only war, but genocide and the plight of animal rights. Within this final instalment, communication becomes an integral part of the story whereby the virus has regressed the human population of their ability to speak. This is relayed through the introduction of the character Nova, a little girl who has lost her speech.

In essence this trilogy has been clever, on the button and bends the expectations of genre and special effects. The strength of War lies not only in the aforementioned, but it’s unwavering attempt to portray any type of aggresion as wrong and that compassion still plays a vital role in our current society.

Transformers: The Last Knight

Transformers: The Last Knight (Michael Bay, 2017) 2.5/5

Michael Bay has two specialties. Blowing up stuff and, well, blowing up stuff bigger. In the last four Transformer movies the story has taken a back seat for amazing special effects and extravagnt fight sequences. Is the latest instalment any different? Absolutely not.

However, I refuse to grill this film compNieuwe-poster-Transformers-The-Last-Knightletely, simply because, Anthony Hopkins is present (Hello, it’s friggin’ Hannibal Lecter!). Indeed, it is quite clear that he is having a whal of a time here, providing some great comic moments.

Following on from the last film, Optimus Prime is now floating through space to go home and meet his creator. However, when he reaches his home planet, he encounters Quintessa, a sorceress who wants to destroy Earth to rebuild their own planet. Upon meeting her, Optimus is brainwashed and forced to do her bidding. Back on Earth, Mark Wahlberg is forced to contend with new Government agencies who are hating on all Autobots.

In essence, this addition to the franchise has everything an 8 year old would love. Loud noises, flashy cars, explosions and naughty robots saying silly things. As it progresses, it becomes clear that Bay and his crew are making it up as they go along. So far, as to entrench the mythology of the films with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (sigh).

In sum, this latest installment will deplete your braincells, but it’s quite flashy and fun in parts. Although be prepared for a eye watering time length as it stands at 149 minutes.

The Mummy

The Mummy (Alex Kurtzman, 2017) 2.5/5

Tom Cruise. Love him or hate him, he knows how to market himself and the films that heThe_Mummy_(2017) is in. Usually however, they are fresher adventures with a much greater need to rexamination. With the last film in this franchise The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor receiving a rather damning response, Kurtzman’s reboot can’t quite improve on this either.

As the introduction to the Dark Universe, where Universal are resurrecting all of their favourite monsters of the past, it isn’t an altogether smooth ride of quality. The intentions seem to distance itself from the previous Brendan Fraser-Rachel Weisz starrers, however, by stripping away the camp self-awareness of these, you are left with a bit of a damp squib.

The screenplay by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman feels like they all had very different visions and in the end is a tad muddled. There is no consistency in tone, characters seems to be flailing around the desert and London is destroyed in a sand storm for no apparent reason (where did the sand even come from?).

Sofia Boutella throws herself admirably into the role of Princess Ahmanet, but there is very little to flesh out of a character that is half dead to begin with.

In sum, this first installment of the Dark Universe is a little bit fumbling. Tom Cruise is simply Ethan Hunt in the desert and in order for this particular franchise to succeed, please can we have a more coherent plot?

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017) 4/5

Never send a man to do a woman’s job. This should be DC Comics new mantrWonder_Woman_(2017_film)a when it comes to their own cinematic universe. I have to admit, I was sceptical after viewing the previous instalments of Batman V Superman (a little bit silly) and Suicide Squad (all over the place central). However, this is the most coherent addition to their canon yet and it deserves all of the praise.

Let’s start with the backstory. For a starters, what makes this more interesting is that we haven’t seen this character before (not recently, anyway). Gal Gadot inserts herself into the lead role and is so perfect in the role that is hurts.

Alan Heinberg’s script has something that other DC films have been lacking and that is humour. The whole tone is a lot lighter at times and this makes it an even more enjoyable experience. Lucy Davis is a treat as Etta Candy, the lovable secretary of Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor.

In sum, this is not only a film about female empowerment, but it is also a darn good superhero film that makes up for it’s lackluster predecessors. I hope and pray that this will be the beginning of something great for upcoming DC films and that there will be an increase in the number of blockbuster films with a female protagonist.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (James Gunn, 2017) 4/5

Marvel just has it in the bag when it comes to tongue in cheek adventures. Unlike the GotG_Vol2_postermore stoic DC (although, they are showing signs of improvement), there is an effortlessness to all of these films.

James Gunn’s new franchise was a little bit off kilter when it was first announced. Like the black sheep to the main films of The Avengers stars. However, with this sequel, it has really come into it’s own. With the addition of Kurt Russell in a pivotal role as well as Pom Klementieff as Mantis. These aid in the continual humour that actually surpasses the original as volume 2 is a lot more sure of itself.

Gunn’s script also delivers more insight into the core crew’s backstory and makes everyone gel a bit more throughout the narrative. As opposed to the underwhelming Alien: Covenant, this did exactly everything and more than it needed to.

In sum, this Marvel black sheep is now a well and truly a part of the main family, but still has the edginess to stand on it’s own.

Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant (Ridley Scott, 2017) 3/5

In Hollywood, nothing is original anymore. The three R’s stand true and are testiment to Alien_Covenant_Teaser_Posterthe current sitch in Tinsel Town. Yep, Remakes, Reboots and Reimaginings are all top of the list to satisfy the studio bosses. Ridley Scott started an iconic franchise with the first Alien and launched Sigourney Weaver’s fabulous career. Unfortunately, this latest addition, a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus is largely a confused and plodding addition to this canon.

Everything about this film is polished to perfection. Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography, Pietro Scalia’s editing and Chris Seager’s production design all make the trip into space a beautiful journey. However, the actual narrative just isn’t there. It all seems to be a re-hash of Prometheus, where Michael Fassbender’s ‘David’ is still a sociopath, causing havoc on a supposed empty planet. The new addition of Katherine Waterston is good, however she does weirdly resemble Noomi Rapace, which begs the question why did they not just want the actress to return?

Considering the 5 year gap in proceedings, the entire package just doesn’t move anything forwards. Instead, we’ve got a new planet, new crew, new protagonist. We are no further advanced to discovering how these aliens were created in the first place and why we should really care.

In sum, Alien: Covenant is a half-baked addition to the Alien franchise. The story just doesn’t further anything and as a view you are left feeling a tad empty. As such, in a town where originality is a dying breed, Alien: Covenant is an example of just how important it truly is.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast (Bill Condon, 2017) 4/5

Ok, let’s just all acknowledge the elephant in the room. No, i’m not talking about a certain batbgay moment (I mean really, what is all of the fuss?). No, let’s talk about a certain animated film released in 1991 of the same name. It was enchanting, beautiful and had everything. Now, I loved it, you loved it, the entire world loved it. But, let’s all take a breath, this is not the shrine of Turin. Things get adapted, rebooted and re-imagined all the time. Why? Because Hollywood does not like to take risks and this live action version was always going to make a lot of mulah.

If i’m not being too out there, comparisons can be made of this and the film version of ‘Les Miserables’ (stay with me, I do have a point) – Basically, like that dreary french musical, when the opening credits begin of BATB you have to either board the train or get bulldozed down in the process.

Director Bill – Dreamgirls- Condon knows how to do a musical and the musical numbers here are so full of energy you thought the air was saturated with Red Bull. ‘Belle’, ‘Be Our Guest’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ are belted out with great aplomb.

All of the acting is great and Emma Watson is a great leading lady here, holding her own and harnessing and formulating her own star power in the process. The CGI beast is a little off putting a times, yes, but Dan Stevens has got some good pipes on him, which also helps!

In sum, this is a proper old school musical complete with high kicks, adrenaline and a sense of purpose. It also respects the original source material and should be commended for that. Is it as good as the original, well you’ll have to decide that yourself.

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016) 3.5/5

Theodore Melfi’s follow-up to the well received ‘St Vincent’ is a solid and heartwarming hidden figuresbiopic of three black women working for NASA during the 1960’s. Played by Taraji. P Henson (Katherine Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan) and Janelle Monae (Mary Jackson), they light up the screen as their real life counterparts. What’s more, it is their chemistry that really elevate the course material and keep this film over the hedge of ‘just another history movie’.

Everything works well here, from the original score, cinematography and editing, it all creates a seamless character study of these three extraordinary women. Indeed, Henson really steps up as the lead as the story begins and ends with her personal development. However, even though it is set within the ever increasing racial tension of segregation, it slightly glosses over this in favour of a seamless and classic storytelling device. In fact, most of the historical events are played either through suppoirting characters or within montage sequences.

There is no denying that this is a timely film to be released, but as we have already discussed, there is little poking at real life issues here. In fact, the narrative is heavily focussed on what made these women so influential, and that is their work within NASA itself.

Nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture, Hidden Figures deserves its plaudits for its technological prowess. Indeed, this would make a great companion piece to the 2011 hit ‘The Help’.

In sum, if you are searching for something heartwarming and incredibly relevant then this realy is something worthwhile (If the slightest bit sanitised).

Arrival

Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016) 4/5

Villeneuve’s follow-up to the astounding drugs war thriller Sicario comes a similar tale of arrival_movie_posterfemale empowerment, this time under the guise of an alien invasion. Now, before you think this is going to be Independence Day 4 (heaven forbid), it isn’t. Instead what you have here is a masterclass in suspense, intellect and an amazing lead performance by Amy – Gimme an Oscar already – Adams.

Now the plot is fairly simple in structure, a University lecturer in Linguistics called Louise is tasked to join Forrest Whittaker’s team to decipher the reason why alien pods have sprouted around the globe. In order to communicate with them, they have to understand their language and in their very own version of extragalactic pictionary they do this.

As the film progresses it becomes clear that this isn’t your usual science fiction film, for one, it is beautiful to look at and Bradford Young’s (Selma) cinematography is so simple in it’s effectiveness. As well as this, the music by Johann Johannsson’s transports you to an alternate atmosphere when coming into contact with the ‘Heptapods’, which are our lovely foreign visitors.

I couldn’t also help but notice the timely arrival (sorry, couldn’t help myself) of this film. With a Brexit UK and a Trump USA, the whole narrative is yearning for cross-border communication, most notably between China and Russia, which makes for even more intriguing viewing.

In sum, Amy Adams towers in this film with another fantastic performance. Villenueve has shown once again that subtletly can create great power in this thinking mans science fiction wonder.

The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book (Jon Favreau, 2016) 4/5

The cleverness of Disney is it’s ability to continually create films with mass appeal. In this

THE JUNGLE BOOK

case, by using the 1967 animation version of Rudyard Kipling’s eponymous works and transforming it into a modern creation, it draws in audiences of old and young. By having Jon Favreau at the helm, there was always going to be a slight reticence to the project, would he go in guns blazing a la Iron Man? Suprisingly Not. What we have here is a tender, dramatic and above all magical journey seen entirely through the eyes of protagonist mancub Mowgli.

All of our favourite characters from the original film are here; Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), Baloo (Bill Murray), Akela (Giancarlo Esposito), Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o), Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), King Louis (Christopher Walken) and Shere Khan (Idris Elba). Such is the star quality on offer here, all of these fine actors are on top form; although Johansson’s hypnotic reptile does sound like a cut away from Her, which can be a little disconcerting within this context.

The whole design of this film, steers well away from it being overly cutesy and suffocatingly sentimental. This has largely to do with it’s spellbinding special effects, Bill Pope’s cinematography and Christopher Glass’ production design. If there is one thing that this remake could have done without, it is actually the inclusion of the music numbers. With such grandiose surroundings, the songs seem to detract than add anything.

In sum, this next addition to the live action arsenal of Disney’s classic tale is an astounding visual experience that will have you engrossed throughout. It is a shame then that Universal feels the need to do another one in 2018, this time headed by Benedict Cumberbatch.