Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Hateful Eight (2015)
An admirable addition to the canon.
Nobody makes movies like Quentin Tarantino and I'm a huge fan of his work. This is the eighth film that he has both written and directed (one of the reasons for the title) and I've seen them all - I think "Kill Bill" (really two works) is my favourite - except "Death Proof" which I decided to miss out. Like his seventh film "Django Unchained", this is a western of sorts but, whereas the previous story was set just before the Civil War, this one is located in the period just after the war. In both cases, race is a major theme.
In some senses, "The Hateful Eight" is like a Shakespearean tragedy: it is largely set in one location (a snow-bound cabin in the depths of Wyoming), there is lots of glorious dialogue delivered is slow, measured tones, the tension is relieved by a running joke (a door that needs nailing shut against the biting wind), and at the end the stage is littered with bodies. Tarantino is always ready to take his time and the narrative is built up and the characters introduced in a slow, even leisurely, style but, when the action comes, there is plenty of duplicity and revelation in a veritable blood-fest.
In a fine cast with some of the director's favourite players, the eight of the title are portrayed by Kurt Russell and Samuel L Jackson as bounty hunters, Bruce Dern as a former civil war general, Walton Goggins as the sheriff of Red Rock, Tim Roth as the one Englishman, Michael Madden and Demián Bichir as mysterious strangers, and the hapless prisoner Jennifer Jason Leigh who gets it in the face in more ways than one. If not Tarantino's finest work, this is an admirable addition to his canon.
A splendid work
Gay Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar loves working with beautiful women and offers them some powerful roles.
Here two wonderful actresses play the same eponymous character: Adriana Ugarte as the younger, more care-free woman and Emma Suárez as the older, grief-ridden mother trying to come to terms with the sudden disappearance of a loved one (the transition between the two is cleverly executed).
Based on three short stories by the Canadian writer Alice Munro (which I have read), the narrative is transposed to Spain and this gives the viewer some wonderful colours and landscapes, but ultimately the emotions explored are universal.
The Age of Adaline (2015)
Slow and sentimentally but quietly satisfying
There's a whole sub-genre of movies which 'play' with time and this film falls firmly in that category. Most of such movies are science fiction (such as "Twelve Monkeys" or "Edge Of Tomorrow") or thrillers (such as "Source Code" or "Looper") or romances (such as "Groundhog Day" or "The Time Traveler's Wife").
"The Age Of Adaline" is a romance between the eponymous young woman who, thanks to some mysterious science, is 'fixed' at just 29 for almost eight decades (played by Blake Lively) and San Francisco philanthropist Ellis (Dutch actor Michiel Huisman). Like all stories that mess about with time, one has to suspend belief and, in this case, the narrative is rather slow and sentimental but its main attraction is Lively who performs the central role in an understated but charming manner.
Do Adaline and Ellis manage to break the time barrier and forge a life together? Let's just say that this is a love story with a time-honoured ending.
The Shallows (2016)
This is a classic example of what might be called minimalist cinema - a minimum of locations, characters, dialogue and plot - but it works really well. Virtually all of the film takes place in the shallow waters off an idyllic but isolated beach in Mexico (actualy shot in Australia) as a female American surfer (played by Blake Lively) finds herself terrorised by a huge shark with only a small rock for refuge.
Think "All Is Lost" meets "Jaws" with a flavour of "127 Hours" and you'll have the idea. Lively does really well to hold the movie almost single-handedly, while Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra does an excellent job maintaining the tension and serving up the action for an economical 86 minutes.
Quirky but moving
This unusually revealing title makes it clear that we are in the territory of "The Fault In Our Stars". Indeed both films - as well as featuring a young person with a terminal illness - are based on young adult novels and in this case the author of the novel Jesse Andrews is responsible for the screenplay.
Me is Greg (Thomas Mann) and Earl is his best (OK, only) friend RJ Cyler, a couple of Pittsburg high school social misfits who spend an inordinate amount of time making very short, irreverent versions of famous films. But then Greg is urged by his mother to befriend the dying girl, Rachel (Olivia Cooke, the only British actor in this American production) who has an acute form of leukaemia.
This is the first big screen work from Mexican-American director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and it is an odd piece which in the end proves not just quirky but moving.
Son of a Gun (2014)
Unoriginal but entertaining enough
This crime thriller is only original in that it is Australian rather than American (or British) and presents a much darker side of the nation than we usually see in the movies. Written and directed by Julius Avery as his first full-length feature, this is an accomplished work centred on the relationship between hardened criminal Brendan Lynch (Scottish Ewan McGregor as the 'Gun') and minor felon 19 year old JR (Australian newcomer Brenton Thwaites as the 'Son').
It seems very unlikely that these two would be incarcerated in the same high security prison but I guess that, if they hadn't been, we'd have had no plot. I confess that I rented the film to see Swedish actress Alicia Vikander but she has a fairly small role as a gangster's moll from Eastern Europe. Even if unoriginal and sporting too many references to monkeys, there is plenty of violence, action and double-crossing in this entertaining rampage with a hot soundtrack.
Suicide Squad (2016)
Frenetic and fun
In the never-ending battle to bring to the big screen characters from the DC and Marvel comic books by Time Warner and Disney respectively, the latest shot is this super villain version of "The Dirty Dozen" which launches upon us a whole slew of oddballs from the DC stable. If you're not familiar with the comics (like me), you won't know these characters and DC superheroes Batman (brief appearances) and Superman (brief references) are barely present.
The movie is a mixed success with a flashy style, a rocking soundtrack, a few sharp lines and plenty of crashing action from writer and director David Ayer who carried out the same responsibilities for "End Of Watch' and "Fury". Major weaknesses though are that the number in the squad is too large for all the characters to be developed properly and most of them are more sympathetic than evil (notably Will Smith who is just too nice as Deadshot), while the forces that they battle - model Cara Delevingne as Enchantress, her giant brother and a bunch of faceless zombies - look as if they've wandered in from a "Ghostbusters" movie.
For me, the best thing about "Suicide Squad" is Margot Robbie who plays Harley Quinn, formerly prison psychiatrist Dr Harleen Quinzel who fell in love with a patient the Joker (another underdeveloped role). She is sassy and sexy while brilliantly balletic and devastating with a baseball bat and she delivers most of the best lines with charming cheek. You can understand why the Joker wants her out of her maximum security prison and why the squad will be back.
Jason Bourne (2016)
Bourne is back in vintage style
The three original Bourne movies - "Identity" (2002), "Supremacy" (2004) and "Ultimatum" (2007) - became bigger and better with the charismatic Matt Damon in the title role and, for the last two segments, the accomplished British director Paul Greengrass creating a brilliantly frenetic style of shooting. It looked as if the franchise had neatly run its course and those of us who loved the combination of Damon and Greengrass had the pleasure of "Green Zone" (2010).
However, Universal studios needed to produce another Bourne movie if they were to retain the rights and offered up "Legacy" (2012) which, despite not having Damon on board, was surprisingly good.
Menwhile Damon and Greengrass, who repeatedly said that they would never return to the series, found real-world events involving the likes of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden so compelling that irresistibly they have been drawn back together to give us a fifth film in the franchise (Greengrass also co-wrote the script). And it is vintage Bourne with the same winning ingredients: a variety of urban locations, insistent score, frenzied cutting, visceral action, long chases and a story-line that - while incredible - is disturbingly contemporary.
The only reason it does not rate more highly is that essentially we have seen it all before.
But there are fewer words from Bourne and there are some new characters who are well-played: CIA Director Robert Dewey (craggy Tommy Lee Jones), Agency specialist Heather Lee (the Swedish actress du jour Alicia Vikander), and "the asset" (French actor Vincent Cassel). And there are some new locations: riot-fuelled Athens (actually shot in Tenerife) and car-smashed Las Vegas.
Matt Damon was just 30 when he first took on the role and he is now 45 but I wouldn't be surprised if he (and hopefully Vikander) are back.
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Unoriginal but workmanlike
This is the 13th "Star Trek" movie and the third in the rebooted version of the franchise, so you'd be wrong to expect much originality but this is a very workmanlike and entertaining addition to the canon. J J Abrams, who directed the first two segments of the reboot, has moved on to the "Star Wars" saga so, although he remains as one of the nine producers, the directorial responsibilities are taken over by the Taiwanese American Justin Lin who has helmed three of the films in the "Fast And Furious" franchise.
The cast of the crew are the same (and Simon Pegg is now a co-writer), but original actors come in the form of Idris Elba as the villain Krall and Sofia Boutella as heroine Jaylah, both of whom look great and bring some charisma to their roles.
Some of the special effects are spectacular, notably the realisation of the world of Yorktown, but some of the sets - especially parts of the alien world - look little better than the original TV series. As so often with "Star Trek" movies though, the major weakness is plotting which is unoriginal and, in this case, hardly credible.
I mean: what's the most unlikely thing that could happen to the USS Enterprise? That it is actually destroyed, right? And what could be more unlikely than that? That the crew manage to find another functioning starship, right? So, I don't want to spoil the story for you, but let's just say that the narrative is unlikely in the extreme. But then, who cares? This is "Star Trek" - enjoy the warp speed ride.
A classic that has to be seen by any serious film fan
This is not a film that would ever attract a mainstream Western audience: it is in Japanese with sub-titles, it runs to 2 hours 42 minutes, and it is a variation of the storyline of Shakespeare's "King Lear". Yet, for serious fans of cinema, this is truly a classic. It was directed by the acclaimed Akira Kurosawa who made such outstanding films as "Seven Samurai" and was in his mid 70s when he shot this work. The title "Ran" is Japanese for "chaos", but can also be translated as "confused" or "disturbed". and the characters show all these attributes in a multi-layered narrative.
The king-like character in 16th century Japan is Lord Hidetora (played by Tatsuya Nakadai) and, instead of Shakespeare's three daughters achieving catharsis, we have three sons seeking power and revenge with - in one case - the support of a daughter- in-law of the Lord who rivals Lady Macbeth for her cruelty (Mikeo Harada is the striking actress). The film begins with some long, brooding sequences but later we have some wonderfully choreographed battle scenes with horses and arrows aplenty. The cinematography is breathtaking but the suffering is acute - as one character puts it: "Man is born crying. When he has cried enough, he dies."