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Hotel Mumbai (2018)
An intense, unrelenting look at this cowardly act of pure evil and the selfless heroism of those who tried to help
Hotel Mumbai is a crime thriller film based on the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008. Starring Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, and Jason Isaacs, it is an intense, unrelenting look at this cowardly act of pure evil and the selfless heroism of those who tried to help.
In late November 2008, a group of ten terrorists arrive in Mumbai, India by a small boat. Upon splitting up, the terrorists travel to various locations around the populated city to massacre as many innocent people as they can. After taking out several civilians in smaller locations, the surviving members of the group meet up at the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel to finish their act of terror. While they shoot their way through the hallways, the hotel's staff put their lives in the line of fire in an attempt to save as many guests as possible.
As unflinching as it is jarring, Hotel Mumbai is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that successfully showcases the heroism of the titular hotel's brave staff members in an earnest, collected manner. Despite the film's two hour runtime, not once is it ever boring thanks to the creative direction of Anthony Maras, who puts his audience right at the forefront of the conflict. The film's violence, while not too graphic, is extremely intense as no one is spared from the terrorist's gunfire, not even small children or the elderly. If one can stomach enough of the bloodshed to appreciate this otherwise well-made movie, then it is certainly worth at least one viewing. However, being that this is not for the faint of heart, viewer discretion is strongly advised
I rate it 8.5/10
Captain Marvel (2019)
An enjoyable origin story and a well-suited lead in to Avengers: Endgame
Captain Marvel is the twenty-first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the ninth film in Phase 3. Starring Brie Larson in the title role, it is an enjoyable origin story and a well-suited lead in to Avengers: Endgame.
In 1995, Vers (Brie Larson), a powerful warrior for the Kree Empire, is suffering from nightmarish visions while training to take down the shapeshifting alien species known as the Skrulls, for which the Kree are at war with. During a later conflict, Vers is taken prisoner by the Skrulls but manages to escape to Earth with them in hot pursuit. Upon crashing into a Blockbuster Video, Vers attracts the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who question her about the reason why she has come to Earth in the first place.
With solid action and special effects, Captain Marvel is up to the usual standard of Marvel origin stories and once again continues to run with this winning formula. The fun 90s aesthetic is often played for laughs, such as the fashion, music, and technology of the time, and depending on the generation watching this film, it will either make you laugh or cringe. What stood out the most to me though was the impressive de-ageing of Samuel L. Jackson as the younger Nick Fury. One would swear that the filmmakers used a time machine to bring the young Jackson back with them just for this movie alone. In addition to this, Jackson has great on-screen chemistry with Brie Larson, who does a fine job playing the titular new addition to the MCU cast, even if her character's traits feel somewhat like a retread of the previous cocky-turned-humble heroes (e.g. Tony Stark, Thor). Thankfully, the film does show her in moments of weakness to prove she is not too overpowered and has noticeable flaws like the rest. In spite of all this, I am still not entirely sold on her being the new face of the MCU, as I feel that she still needs time to properly prove herself alongside the other Avengers. As is always the case, be sure to stay after the credits for two bonus scenes, one of which is heavily related to Avengers: Endgame.
I rate it 7.5/10
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
A poignant, melancholic portrait of young love and the challenges that need to be overcome
If Beale Street Could Talk is a drama film written and directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight). Based on the novel of the same name by James Baldwin, it is another fine entry in the director's filmography that firmly establishes him as one of modern cinema's most creative storytellers.
In Harlem, New York, Fonny (Stephan James) and Tish (KiKi Layne), a young African-American couple who have been close friends since they were small children, are searching for a place to live. However, their efforts prove difficult due to most New York landlords not wishing to let African-Americans rent out their apartments. One day, Fonny is accused of raping a woman named Victoria and despite no strong evidence for this, he ends up being sent to prison with the help of a racist white cop. Hoping to prove Fonny's innocence, Tish's mother Sharon (Regina King) sets out to track down Victoria to attempt to coax her into changing the testimony against him. Eventually, things become more complicated when Tish reveals she is currently pregnant with Fonny's child.
With its solid direction and great acting, If Beale Street Could Talk is a poignant, melancholic portrait of young love and the challenges that need to be overcome. Director Barry Jenkins' clever use of silhouettes during the couple's expressions of intimacy shows that love is truly a universal thing that transcends race and skin colour. In addition to this, his unique command of colour feels almost as though each frame is part of a painting. The cast does a superb job as well. Stephan James and KiKi Layne have excellent chemistry with each other and the audience can genuinely feel that there is romance between their characters. However, it is Regina King who stands out as the supportive mother, always going that extra mile to make sure her daughter is happy. As was the case with Moonlight, don't expect a happy ending to this story.
I rate it 8.5/10
Stan & Ollie (2018)
An affectionate and funny tribute to these two legendary comedians
Stan & Ollie is a biopic about the lives of the classic comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. Starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly in the title roles, it is a good natured, respectful look into the lives of the famous pair and how enduring their legacy truly is.
In 1953, Stanley Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly), once the most famous comedy double act in the world, are now embarking on a lengthy stage tour of the United Kingdom. With their best years decades behind them, the two struggle to attract large crowds to their shows being held in small theatres. Eventually, thanks to their manager, the two start making public appearances at special events, which helps lead to much larger attendance numbers. However, this sudden resurgence in popularity takes its toll on the pair, with pressure on Laurel's abilities to write new material and Hardy's physical health scares causing problems along the way.
While hardly groundbreaking, Stan & Ollie is still an affectionate and funny tribute to these two legendary comedians. The absolute perfect casting of Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as Laurel and Hardy, respectively, is a sight to behold. The two of them superbly recreate the duo's most hilarious comedy routines and showcase how timeless their material is, even in today's modern world. In addition to this, both actors handle the dramatic moments with just the right amount of dignity, without dragging down the film's light-hearted tone. As a story of an enduring friendship, this film is up there with the best.
I rate it 8/10
The Old Man & the Gun (2018)
A fun, simple story carried along nicely by Redford in the lead role
The Old Man & The Gun is a crime film directed by David Lowery (Pete's Dragon, A Ghost Story) and starring Robert Redford and Casey Affleck. Based on the 2003 article of the same name by David Grann, it is a fun, simple story carried along nicely by Redford in the lead role.
In 1981, after escaping from prison for the sixteenth time, 61-year-old Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) carries out a number of bank heists across several US states. Hot on his trail is Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck) who upon interviewing witnesses and bank workers, discovers to his surprise that the robber he is searching for is a great deal older than what he had initially thought, has a polite, gentlemanly demeanour, and has never once actually used his gun while carrying out robberies.
Even though it never steps outside of its comfort zone, The Old Man & The Gun is still an enjoyable film about a man doing what makes him happy during his twilight years. Robert Redford, in what is apparently his final acting role before retirement, gives a charming performance as Forrest Tucker and is the main reason for us to keep watching. Casey Affleck was also fun to watch as the detective picking up small clues along the way while tracking down this elusive criminal. Much like director David Lowery's previous film "A Ghost Story", this one is a real slow burner, so don't expect to see much action take place until near the very end.
I rate it 7/10
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
A fun effects-driven spectacle brought down by some unfortunate creative decisions
Alita: Battle Angel is a sci-fi action film directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spy Kids) and produced and co-written by James Cameron. Based on the Japanese manga "Gunnm" by Yukito Kishiro, it is a fun effects-driven spectacle brought down by some unfortunate creative decisions.
In the year 2563, human society is on the brink of collapse after a huge war known as "The Fall" has left a huge wake of devastation. Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), a highly acclaimed scientist renowned for his work in cybernetics, discovers a deactivated female cyborg (Rosa Salazar) in a junkyard while searching for machine parts. Dr. Ido decides to rebuild the cyborg and name her "Alita", after his recently deceased daughter. Upon reactivation, Alita realises she has no memories of her past life and decides to set out into the world to discover her true identity.
While it remains one of the better western adaptations of Japanese media, Alita: Battle Angel is still heavily flawed in a number of crucial areas. We do not see enough of the post-war ravaged world to feel like there is enough emotional weight to drive forward Alita's journey of self discovery. In addition to this, and without giving away spoilers, the film ends with an obvious set up for a sequel, and considering the predicted low box office returns, this seems like a bad idea. Also, the 3D added nothing particularly interesting to the overall viewing experience and considering that James Cameron was involved in the making of this movie, this is quite surprising. However, with all that said, the film still has redeeming qualities. For instance, the action scenes were always exciting and well-choreographed, with hardly any "shaky cam" used. The CGI effects were convincing as well, especially on Alita's eyes, which seemed less anime-centric and were used more to emphasise her curious personality. Rosa Salazar gives a great performance as Alite, playing her more as a confused child rather than an emotionless robot, and this in turn made her highly likeable. Even though this film may not be the sci-fi masterpiece the filmmakers were likely hoping for, it is still perfectly fine as a popcorn movie for anyone wishing to watch a mostly enjoyable action flick.
I rate it 6.5/10
A solid, fast-paced, and above-all fun continuation of the original film
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is the sequel to the 2014 animated film The LEGO Movie. Directed by Mike Mitchell (Trolls, Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo) and featuring the voice talents of Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks, it is a solid, fast-paced, and above-all fun continuation of the original film.
Five years after the events of the first film, the LEGO city of Bricksburg has become a barren wasteland as a result of the invading DUPLO army. Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), Lucy (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), and the rest of the LEGO population have since turned the ruins of the city into the settlement of "Apocalypseburg", fending off the frequent DUPLO invaders however they can. While the rest of the settlement's citizens have since become battle-hardened, Emmet remains as optimistic as ever, although he is plagued by visions of the end of the world.
Despite not deviating too much from the original, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part still provides just as much enjoyment and once again showcases a great outlet for creativity. The film is filled to the brim with meta humour and while the jokes don't always hit, there are so many of them that for every one that doesn't work there are several others that do. Also worth noting is the high quality of new songs. Of course, the classic "Everything Is Awesome" is still there with a number of variations, but there are also some newer tracks that are sure to be stuck in your head long after leaving the cinema. As previously stated about the original, this film has something for just about everyone, whether you played with LEGO as a child or you're an adult who still nostalgically builds things with it even to this day.
I rate it 8/10
Cold Pursuit (2019)
An entertaining vigilante film with most of the usual enjoyment that can be had with Neeson in the lead
Cold Pursuit is an action thriller film starring Liam Neeson. Based on the Norwegian movie "In Order of Disappearance", it is an entertaining vigilante film with most of the usual enjoyment that can be had with Neeson in the lead.
In the snowy Colorado town of Kehoe, Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) works as a snowplow driver clearing the roads for passing motorists. One day, Nels' son Kyle suddenly dies from an apparent heroin overdose, despite him not having any history with drugs. Suspecting foul play, Nels decides to take matters into his own hands to find out what was really responsible for killing his son, and inadvertently becomes involved in a bloody feud between two violent gangs.
With Liam Neeson as his typical one-man-army self, Cold Pursuit is a fast paced action fare with an interesting enough story to move things along nicely. Although Neeson is the film's lead actor, it is Tom Bateman as the film's main antagonist who steals the show in every scene he is in. His sleazy, unhinged performance was so unpredictable that it was always intriguing to see what he would do next. The one main problem with the film is that it does not balance its comedy and drama that well. Normally with black comedies like Fargo or In Bruges, there would always be solid comic relief to counteract any scenes of brutal violence or emotional severity. Unfortunately, this film is only sporadically funny, and this lack of humour makes the serious moments feel harsh and unpleasant. This may come down to the way the story has been adapted from its Norwegian source material to suit American audiences, as some of the film's Scandinavian quirkiness would have likely been lost in translation. With that said, Cold Pursuit is still worth seeing for fans of Liam Neeson effortlessly plowing through his enemies by himself (pun intended).
I rate it 7/10
The Favourite (2018)
An odd take on one particular British monarch's legacy and the ones who served her
The Favourite is a period drama directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer). Starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz, it is an odd take on one particular British monarch's legacy and the ones who served her.
In the early 1700s, Britain is at war with France and the British Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) sits upon her throne taking advice on ruling from her loyal adviser Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz). However, one day Sarah's broke cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) shows up looking for work and catches the attention of the Queen. Over time, Abigail gains the Queen's favour and is promoted as her personal attendant, much to the envy of Sarah, who feels she is being pushed aside for someone better.
Well-acted and shot, The Favourite is an interesting yet strange film about an intense rivalry in 18th century England. Both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are appropriately catty and spiteful towards one another, and it is fun to watch how each one tries to outdo the other. Olivia Colman also shines as Queen Anne, clearly having fun playing up her character's eccentricities. The film has wonderful set pieces, much in the vein of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon and Milos Forman's Amadeus, and one can certainly appreciate the effort that has been made to make the film look as authentic as possible. Unfortunately, though, the film does suffer from some pacing issues and a questionable ending. In terms of plot, there is not much shown other than the two servants vying for the Queen's attention and considering the film's two hour running time, this almost feels like a wasted opportunity for some showcase of the war between Britain and France. In addition to this, the film is a slow burner, not becoming particularly engaging until about twenty minutes in. It is understandable why this has little mainstream appeal and most audiences will be put off by its slow start, but overall, the film is still worth seeing for the solid performances of the three lead actresses and the eye catching set design.
I rate it 7/10
The Mule (2018)
An enjoyable crime film mainly due to Clint Eastwood's engaging performance
The Mule is a crime thriller directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. Based on The New York Times article "The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule" by Sam Dolnick, it is an entertaining entry in Eastwood's filmography, despite some minor issues.
Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood), a 90-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran, is facing financial difficulties after becoming estranged from his family. One day, Earl manages to find work as a "mule" for a Mexican drug cartel, transporting bags of cocaine across the state of Illinois. Due to his clean criminal record and old age, Earl is able to effectively carry out this job to avoid detection from local DEA agents, making large sums of money in the process.
Despite its predictable plot, The Mule is an enjoyable crime film mainly due to Clint Eastwood's engaging performance in the lead role. Eastwood can still act reasonably well, in spite of his advanced age and 10 year hiatus from acting, and he does a fine job of keeping the audience invested in the story, although I still believe he is best suited being behind the camera. In terms of tone, this feels like Gran Torino, Eastwood's previous on-screen role, but it does lack that film's emotional punch. There are some awkward scenes of comic relief sprinkled throughout which unfortunately undermine what could have been some great dramatic payoff between him and the rest of the supporting cast. Overall, this film proves that Clint Eastwood has still got it, even after all these years, and that surely must count for something.
I rate it 7/10
Green Book (2018)
A delightful road movie with terrific performances from both of its actors
Green Book is a comedy-drama film directed and co-written by Peter Farrelly (Dumb & Dumber, There's Something About Mary). Starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, it is a delightful road movie with terrific performances from both of its actors.
In 1962, New York bouncer Frank "Tony Lip" Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) is looking for extra money after the nightclub he works at closes for renovations. Thanks to one of his friends, Tony lands a job as a chauffeur for "Doc" Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a talented African-American pianist embarking on a concert tour of the American Deep South. Due to the strong animosity against African-Americans in the Deep South, Tony is required to take on extra work along the way as he is also required to use his skills as a bouncer to protect Doc and ensure he has a safe journey with his band.
Heartfelt and funny, Green Book takes what could have been another generic road trip movie and turns it into one of the most interesting depictions of an otherwise unlikely friendship. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali have superb chemistry with each other and the film's witty screenplay frequently had me looking forward to every moment of dialogue between both of them, especially during the driving scenes. The film also does a fantastic job of establishing the prejudiced atmosphere of the American Deep South in the 1960s without making its citizens seem too much like caricatures of typical white supremacists. Director Peter Farrelly near-flawlessly balances the film's comedy and drama, which is surprising as he is primarily known for his work only in the former genre. He has certainly shown he is more than capable of handling films like this and I am hopeful he can keep this up in any future projects he may end up involved in.
I rate it a solid 9/10
Storm Boy (2019)
A mostly well made modern adaptation of the classic Australian story
Storm Boy is a drama film based on the 1964 novel of the same name by Colin Thiele. Starring Geoffrey Rush and Jai Courtney, it is a mostly well made modern adaptation of the classic Australian story that marginally improves upon the original 1976 film.
In South Australia, retired businessman Michael Kingley (Geoffrey Rush) recounts a story of his childhood to his grand-daughter Madeline (Morgana Davies). When he was young, Michael (Finn Little) lived with his father Tom (Jai Courtney) on the isolated coastline of Coorong, and was good friends with a local Aboriginal man named Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson). One day, Fingerbone Bill and the young Michael discover three orphaned baby pelicans which Michael rescues and cares for until they grow to full size. Forming a close bond with the pelicans, Michael names them Mr. Proud, Mr. Ponder, and Mr. Percival, the latter of which he becomes the closest with.
Perhaps the best told version of Colin Thiele's classic novel, Storm Boy is an entertaining update that is respectful to its source material, even if it does take the occasional unnecessary liberty. The flashbacks to the modern day scenes didn't always work and did end up feeling out of place at times. Thankfully, the ever-reliable Geoffrey Rush playing the older Michael helped make them much more tolerable. However, the moments that occurred in the original story were handled quite well. I particularly liked the scenes where the young Michael was feeding the baby pelicans and teaching them how to fly. This is made even better by the great performance from relative newcomer Finn Little, whose natural playful banter with the pelicans was nice to watch. Overall, this is a fine retelling of the classic novel, if one were to ignore some of the contemporary modern changes.
I rate it 7.5/10
An intriguing culmination of two films involving three interconnected characters... for the first two thirds at least
Glass is the sequel to both Unbreakable and Split, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, and James McAvoy, it is an intriguing culmination of two films involving three interconnected characters... for the first two thirds at least.
Nineteen years after the events of Unbreakable, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) works as a vigilante to track down criminals and bring them to justice. One day, David happens upon Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a man with multiple different personalities who he learns has a group of cheerleaders captive. After attempting to take matters into his own hands, David and Kevin are arrested by police and brought to mental institution, where David discovers an old acquaintance - Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson).
Despite a solid first and second act, Glass unfortunately fizzles out near the end due to its underwhelming conclusion. There's so much squandered potential here that could have made this one of the most memorable, unconventional superhero films alongside the original Unbreakable, but very little of it has a chance to shine through. With that said, the best performance in the film is clearly that of James McAvoy, whose fantastic ability to play 24 different personalities showcases his talent as an actor. Unfortunately, both Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson were woefully underused, the latter of which is a big surprise considering he is supposed to be the film's main focus. As previously stated about Split, M. Night Shyamalan still has a long way to go before he is fully redeemed of some of his most awful films, but he is certainly showing glimmers of promise.
I rate it 6/10
A wholesome and appropriate conclusion to the popular film series
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the third and final film in DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon trilogy. Based on the set of books of the same name by Cressida Cowell, it is a wholesome and appropriate conclusion to the popular film series.
One year after the events of the second film, the young Viking Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) has become chief of the village of Berk and has successfully helped humans and dragons live in harmony with each other. In his time as chief, Hiccup has been leading missions to rescue dragons from dragon hunters and on one particular mission, he discovers that Toothless is not the last Night Fury when he encounters a white female Night Fury (dubbed "Light Fury" by his girlfriend Astrid) being held captive. A short time later, Berk is attacked by an evil dragon hunter named Grimmel (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) and Hiccup decides to move the entire village to "The Hidden World", a mysterious place his father told him about as a child where all dragons call home.
Touching and sweet, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is just the right way to end this series of films - on a high note. There's so much to enjoy in seeing not only the continuing friendship between Hiccup and Toothless, but also in Toothless and his love interest Light Fury. Each tender moment between the two of them was so adorable to watch and one cannot help but cheer Toothless on as he attempts to court one of the last of his kind. On the technical side, the animation has improved significantly over the past 9 years, with its gorgeous visuals shown off within the titular Hidden World. In addition to this, the voice cast is still solid, with the likeable Jay Baruchel once again reprising his role as Hiccup. Despite no longer being the scrawny weakling he was in the original film, Hiccup is still relatable to the audience as he still has realistic problems to face. As a concluding chapter, this film ties up just about every loose end so I am hopeful that there are not any future cash-grab sequels made that will compromise the overall enjoyment of these three fantastic animated features.
I rate it 8.5/10
Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
A charming and enjoyable follow-up to one of Disney's best live-action films
Mary Poppins Returns is the sequel to the classic 1964 Disney film "Mary Poppins". Starring Emily Blunt in the lead role, it is a charming and enjoyable follow-up to one of Disney's best live-action films.
In 1930s London, Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) has grown up and is busy raising his three children with the help of his older sister Jane (Emily Mortimer). One day, the bank informs Michael that his house will be repossessed in five days as a result of him being unable to pay back a hefty loan he had made sometime prior. With time running out, help appears in the form of Michael and Jane's childhood nanny Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), who suddenly returns after more than two decades.
Successfully recapturing most of what made the original a classic in the first place, Mary Poppins Returns is a magical and respectful sequel that should hopefully satisfy fans of its predecessor and entertain newer, younger viewers as well. While the film's main target audience is obviously young children who likely have not seen the original, there are still some clever inside references that older viewers are sure to smile at. Some purists may be bothered by how the film does not try anything new in terms of story, but that's how I like to remember and enjoy the original so this was not too much of a concern for me personally. The musical numbers were toe-tappingly catchy and helped move the film along at a brisk pace, and the dance choreography looked expertly planned out. Emily Blunt is simply delightful as the title character, easily on the same level as Julie Andrews more than 50 years on. Never once does it feel like she is doing a pale imitation of the character. The three child actors were superb as well, lending that child-like innocence to older viewers who may end up reminiscing over seeing the original so many years ago. This is one sequel I'm certain Walt Disney himself would be proud of, just like he was with the 1964 film.
I rate it 8/10
An unconventional look into the behind the scenes role of a man considered to be one of the most powerful politicians in recent history
Vice is a biopic based on the life of former US Vice President Dick Cheney directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Big Short). Starring Christian Bale in the lead role, it is an unconventional look into the behind the scenes role of a man considered to be one of the most powerful politicians in recent history.
After joining the Republican Party in 1969, Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) quickly gains a reputation for his crafty political tactics and steadily climbs his way up the ranks to become a respected figure among his fellow politicians. Despite several health issues involving his heart, Cheney is eventually elected to Congress in 1978 thanks in part to his supportive wife Lynne (Amy Adams) running on his behalf. At the beginning of the new millennium, the Republican Presidential candidate George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) selects Cheney as his running mate, due to his decades of political experience and two end up winning the 2000 election. One year later, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Cheney, along with Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), oversee plans for the US to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.
While its unorthodox approach to the source material may prove off-putting to some viewers, Vice still has plenty of memorable and clever moments to hold one's attention, thanks mainly to Christian Bale's mesmerising performance as the titular Vice President. The way in which Bale chooses to play Cheney almost echoes his portrayal of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, in that he is shown to be a cold and calculating psychopath manipulating others to get what he wants. Unfortunately, the rest of the film does not always juggle its comedic and dramatic tone that well, often becoming hit-and-miss with its comic relief. This can get distracting at times and does end up weighing the movie down and prevent it from being classically satirical. At the same time though, Vice remains an interesting look into the pursuit of not necessarily "absolute power", but instead as an assistant to "absolute power", which is still power nonetheless.
I rate it 7/10
Gives the DC Extended Universe the much needed push it has needed for some time
Aquaman is the sixth installment in the DC Extended Universe. Starring Jason Momoa in the title role, it proves that DC films are experiencing a resurgence and will likely prove to be healthy competition with Marvel.
One year after the events of Justice League, Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) learns he is heir to the throne of Atlantis, an underwater kingdom populated by sea life and humanoid lifeforms known as the Atlanteans. However, Arthur's place as king is challenged by his half brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who intends to invade the surface world and reclaim it back for the ocean. Being half-human and half-Atlantean, Arthur must try to stop Orm from succeeding in his genocidal plan and give Atlantis the ruler it deserves.
High spirited and likeable, Aquaman thankfully gives the DC Extended Universe the much needed push it has needed for some time, similar to how Wonder Woman did in 2017. There is a comfortable balance between comic relief and serious drama, but never so much that it feels like it is ripping off or downright plagiarising its style from Marvel. In terms of plot, the film feels like a hybrid of Thor and Black Panther, and its only major issue is that the story occasionally becomes muddled in its exposition scenes which does affect the pacing at times. Jason Momoa is without a doubt the perfect actor to play the titular hero, as he effectively elevates the character beyond being the laughing stock he has been among comic book fans for many decades. His scenes with Mera (Amber Heard) were great fun to watch and were the source of some of the film's more lighthearted moments. Willem Dafoe was also used well and wasn't merely reduced to being a cameo, and in addition to this, it was quite unusual to see him play a good guy in a comic book film. Be sure to stay back for an important mid-credits bonus scene.
I rate it 7.5/10
A touching personal story from the acclaimed director
Roma is a drama film written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Children of Men). Told primarily from the perspective of a single housemaid, it is a touching personal story from the acclaimed director.
In 1970, Cleodegaria "Cleo" Gutiérrez (Yalitza Aparicio) works as a live-in housemaid for a middle class family in the Mexican suburb of Roma. Despite the family's ups and downs as well as her own personal problems, Cleo is always there to help out and put other's needs above her own.
Poignant and down-to-earth, Roma's realistic approach to story telling leaves a lasting impression on the viewer thanks to director Alfonso Cuarón's own personal take on the source material. If there's one thing we can learn from Cuarón's filmmaking, it is that he is master of cinematography. The beautiful lingering shots of the 1970s Mexican streets and beaches firmly establish the atmosphere of that particular era and they help give the film a unique artistic integrity not often seen nowadays. In addition to this, the film is shot in black and white, which gives it a somewhat documentary-like feeling. Overall, this may not be for everyone but anyone interested in films about Mexican life from decades past will surely be entertained.
I rate it 8/10
An amusing farce anchored by the five likeable and funny lead actors
Tag is a comedy film starring Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, and Jeremy Renner. Based on the true story "It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being It" published by The Wall Street Journal, it is an amusing farce anchored by the five likeable and funny lead actors.
Since they were nine years old, friends Hoagie (Ed Helms), Bob (Jon Hamm), Chilli (Jake Johnson), Kevin (Hannibal Buress), and Jerry (Jeremy Renner) have been playing an intense game of tag throughout the month of May. Despite now being fully grown men, the friends still continue their game no matter what obstacles are in their way. However, in the decades they have been playing, the only one of them who has never been "It" is Jerry, whose cunning and clever ways to avoid being tagged put him at odds with his four friends. Determined to tag Jerry once and for all, Hoagie, Bob, Chilli, and Kevin decide to unite and come up with a plan to get him back after all these years.
High spirited and good natured, Tag thankfully extends beyond its one joke concept to become an entertaining comedy film that never bores its audience. Even if it were not based on a true story, the film still works just as well as a standard comedy film, even if it does get somewhat silly and non-sensical at times. All of the five leads had solid chemistry with each another and it is clear that they all had a blast filming this movie, in particular Jeremy Renner, who was incredibly fun to watch avoiding being tagged.
I rate it 7/10
Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
An enjoyable follow-up with just as much charm and likeability as the original
Ralph Breaks the Internet is the sequel to 2012's Walt Disney Animation Studios film Wreck-It Ralph. Featuring the voices of John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, it is an enjoyable follow-up with just as much charm and likeability as the original.
Six years after the events of the first film, Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman) have become best friends, often hopping from game to game together at the arcade. One day, the steering wheel for Vanellope's game Sugar Rush breaks and the arcade owner decides to unplug the system for good, leaving her homeless and with no other place to go. However, Ralph comes up with an idea to enter the newly installed Wi-Fi router to search the internet for a replacement steering wheel. With time running out before the Sugar Rush machine is taken away, Ralph and Vanellope set off on an adventure into the mysterious world wide web.
While it still retains the same amount of fun and quirkiness as its predecessor, Ralph Breaks the Internet unfortunately does get bogged down with some annoyingly obvious plotholes. There are a number of unresolved and unexplained elements to the story that seemed to be brushed under the carpet at the film's conclusion. This is a shame because there are several great moments in this sequel that certainly make it worth watching if you enjoyed the original. I particularly enjoyed seeing how the film explored the friendship between Ralph and Vanellope and the ways that it fleshed out their characters in more detail. Both John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman were once again great in their respective roles and it was great fun seeing the back and forth dynamic with each other. Just like the first film, this one is heavy on fanservice and references to pop culture. Instead of just video games, there are several allusions to internet phenomena and memes, done in a much better way than a certain film about emojis. Overall, this is definitely worth seeing if you loved the first film, which I fortunately did.
I rate it 7.5/10
The best Spider-Man related film Sony Pictures have made in years without Disney's help
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an animated superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, The LEGO Movie, 21 Jump Street), it is quite easily the best Spider-Man related film Sony Pictures have made in years without Disney's help.
In New York City, teenager Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) is bitten by a radioactive spider and reluctantly becomes the new Spider-Man after Peter Parker's incarnation suffers a terrible fate at the hands of Kingpin/Wilson Fisk (voiced by Liev Schreiber). However, one day, Miles meets several other variants of Spider-Man and soon discovers that he isn't the only version of the iconic hero to exist within the bounds of reality. With Kingpin's new plan about to be set into motion, the group of alternate reality Spider-Man-type heroes must work together to stop the evil mastermind before it's too late.
Fast-paced, action-packed, and fun, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is just the type of Spider-Man film Sony Pictures has needed to have made for some time. The film superbly emphasises that anyone can be a superhero, no matter your age, race, size, gender, or even species for that matter. Unlike previous films, which often became cluttered with conflicting plot elements and an overabundance of villains, this one actually manages to find balance in its narrative and thankfully kept things consistent with just one main villain. In addition to this, it was great fun seeing the different versions of Spider-Man interact with each other, especially during the final stand-off with Kingpin. I just wish there were more scenes like this throughout the film as unfortunately most of this was saved until the very end. The animation style perfectly suited the comic book style storytelling the film was going for, right down to the on-screen onomatopoeia and inner monologues. The voice acting was great too, including a humorous performance from Nicolas Cage as a 1930s noir Spider-Man, as well as a posthumous cameo from Stan Lee. Being a Marvel film, be sure to stay after the credits for an amusing bonus scene.
I rate it 8/10
An unconventional edge-of-your-seat thriller that never disappoints
Searching is a mystery film co-written and directed by Aneesh Chaganty. Starring John Cho and Debra Messing, it is an unconventional edge-of-your-seat thriller that never disappoints.
In San Jose, California, David Kim (John Cho) has a strained relationship with his teenage daughter Margot (Michelle La) ever since her mother Pam passed away from leukaemia two years prior. One day, Margot goes missing and David desperately searches through her laptop for clues as to what could have caused her disappearance. After finding nothing helpful for over 36 hours, David files a missing persons report and Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) is assigned to assist him in tracking down Margot's last whereabouts.
Suspenseful and well-made, Searching near-perfectly makes the most of its simple, low-budget (US$1 Million) premise to become one of the best mystery thriller films in years. It is just so rare for a film of this type to elicit such an amount of tension in the viewer and not be seen as nothing more than a cheap marketing stunt, which is often what happens nowadays. Each time it feels like the mystery has been solved, the film will often throw in a red herring to keep the case going until the real answers become clear. There's no cheating either, all of the clues are there. In a rather unorthodox move, the film is told entirely from the perspective of computer screens, iPhones, and YouTube clips, but this never once feels gimmicky or awkward thanks to the creative direction of newcomer Aneesh Chaganty. Instead, we are given a clever commentary of how modern technology has changed the way society view news stories and the way in which social media spreads it. John Cho does a brilliant job holding the film with his convincing performance as a desperate father wanting to reunite with his daughter, and Debra Messing is also worth mentioning as the detective doing everything she can to solve the case.
I rate it 8.5/10
Creed II (2018)
A solid follow-up to its predecessor and a great boxing film in general
Creed II (a.k.a. Rocky VIII) is the sequel to 2015's Creed and the eighth installment in the Rocky film franchise. Starring Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, and Dolph Lundgren, it is a solid follow-up to its predecessor and a great boxing film in general.
Three years after the events of the previous film, Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan) has won several boxing matches to become the World Heavyweight Champion. However, Adonis' celebration is short lived as Viktor Drago (Florian "Big Nasty" Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), steps forward to challenge him. Despite the refusal of support from his trainer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), Adonis decides to accept the challenge as a means to get revenge against Viktor's father Ivan for killing his father 33 years prior.
Still as feel-good as the Rocky films as can get, Creed II matches its predecessor in just about every way possible. Michael B Jordan is once again fantastic in the title role and he does a superb job holding the viewer's attention throughout the story. His scenes with Tessa Thompson were so touching and added a necessary degree of sweetness to the film that was often needed. Sylvester Stallone is also great as the elderly Rocky Balboa, and despite being limited to a supporting role, he still manages to have a memorable role in the story, especially when seeing him go eye-to-eye with his old nemesis Ivan Drago. In terms of plot, the film is an amalgamation of Rocky III and Rocky IV and while some outcomes were fairly predictable, there are still the occasional surprises to keep the audience on their toes. The only major complaint is that Viktor Drago's character wasn't developed as well as he should have been. There was only really one important scene of dialogue with him and his father but for the most part it just seemed like the only reason he was in the film was to be used as vessel for his father to channel his grudge against Rocky in the boxing ring. Overall, this is a solid sequel and a worthy eighth film featuring the character of Rocky Balboa and it would certainly be interesting to see where the franchise goes from here.
I rate it 8.5/10
Leave No Trace (2018)
A touching father-daughter story about finding one's place in the world
Leave No Trace is a drama film starring Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie based on the novel "My Abandonment" by Peter Rock. Directed and co-written by Debra Granik (Winter's Bone), it is a touching father-daughter story about finding one's place in the world.
In a public forest on the outskirts of Portland, Oregan, Iraq War veteran Will (Ben Foster) lives with his young teenage daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) in a small isolated camp. One day, the two are discovered and are forced to move into a social services home. While Tom enjoys interacting with the local kids, Will, who suffers from PTSD, struggles to integrate with the other people and decides that it is best for the two of them to continue on looking for a more idyllic place to live.
Well acted and well shot, Leave No Trace successfully explores the theme of belonging and the importance of family in a clever and nuanced fashion. Both Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie were perfectly cast as Will and Tom, respectively. Each of their scenes felt like we were watching a real father and daughter trying to survive what life was throwing at them and the steps they each took to overcome it. Director Debra Granik uses creative cinematography to emphasise the parallels of the natural forest with the artificial suburban neighbourhood. In a way, these two settings almost become characters of their own. The film leaves an impression on the audience not with heavy dialogue or action scenes, but instead with a non-sensationalistic and respectable journey into the minds of two completely different people and the ways that they see life.
I rate it 8/10
The Meg (2018)
A satisfactory B-movie that never bores its audience
The Meg is an action thriller movie based on the book "Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror" by Steve Alten. Starring Jason Statham and directed by Jon Turteltaub (Cool Runnings, National Treasure), it is a satisfactory B-movie that never bores its audience.
Five years after surviving an attack from what he claimed to be a giant prehistoric shark, Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is recruited by a group of scientists to help rescue some of their trapped members from a sunken submarine. Upon discovering them at the bottom of the ocean, Jonas realises his claims were correct, as a 75 foot Megalodon shark, previously thought to be extinct, was responsible for the unfortunate fate of the scientists in their submersible.
Fast paced and self aware, The Meg is fun popcorn entertainment that rarely wanes in its enjoyment factor. The plot is of course incredibly farfetched and silly but it does manage to elevate itself above the usual killer shark shlock like the Sharknado films and Deep Blue Sea. Thankfully, the film's main characters are given some decent development so that they are not simply chum for the shark to eat. Jason Statham once again plays himself - the tough British action hero, and naturally that's where most of the film's fun comes from. One noticeable gripe I had with this film was that it seems to have been tailored to meet the demands of Chinese audiences, likely to bring in a bigger box office draw. There were times where the film was emphasising Chinese settings that had little to no bearing on the plot. This became distracting at times and could have been edited out without changing too much of the film's narrative flow. Overall, The Meg is still a reasonable time passer if killer shark movies are one's guilty pleasure.
I rate it 6/10