Blog

The Fate of The Furious – Review

TICK OF APPROVAL MOVIE REVIEW

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

Hello one and all, if you’ve made it this far then welcome; finally, to the very first Tick of Approval Movie Review!

Today I’m going to the running through The Fate of the Furious (why they didn’t go with ’The F8 of the Furious’ is beyond me but that’s another mystery for another time!); the eighth film in the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, and the first to be directed by F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton, Law Abiding Citizen). The movie stars Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Charlize Theron; and a cavalcade of other new and returning faces.

Now you are in either one of two camps when it comes to this franchise. Whether you strap yourself in for 2 hours of thrill rides and non-stop entertainment; or think that these movies are all that is wrong with modern cinema, you cannot deny that these movies know how to draw a crowd and put bums-on-seats.

Personally I have to be in the former category. I’ve really enjoyed every movie from Fast Five onwards, and think even the first four films have their moments to shine.

However, having said that; I came into this movie wary of the potential for franchise fatigue, and the possibility that this movie could finally be too silly for its own good. Nevertheless, I was still keen to see what this movie could throw at me!

(From this point on, I will try my best to keep to what I call ‘trailer-level spoilers’. If it was in the trailers, then it’s fair game!)

 

Story

Before you cynics out there can roll your eyes and stamp your feet. Yes, I consider this movie to have a story.

The movie opens with Dom (Diesel) and Letty (Rodriguez) rejoicing in peace following the events of Furious Seven. As always with this franchise; it doesn’t take long for the old crew to get brought back into the fray. And If you have seen the trailers then you know exactly what they’re facing this time around….Dom! (Admittedly with some puppet-mastering- [Hang on, ‘puppet-mastering’? Is that even a word?] Yes it is today so deal with it! Anyway where was I? Oh yes…) -puppet-mastering from Cipher (Theron), a world-class hacker and ‘cyber-terrorist’.

The team or family, if you prefer (y’know, seems appropriate and all), once again employ their borderline superhuman abilities and to a lesser extent; their driving skills to put a stop to Cipher’s plan and find out exactly what has Dom’s loyalties not just tested but seemingly broken.

The film follows a more or less standard action movie plot without too many drastic deviations from the norm. As per the previous films in the franchises, the test of the film is the flow in between the various set-pieces that intercut the movie. One positive throughout the story is that the emotional beats that the movie aims to hit generally hit the mark and managed to keep me invested.

Yes, this movie does have several gaps in logic and plot holes; but in my experience, I found them to be blended into the film more smoothly than past entries in the franchise. The only major exception to this loosely-applied rule involves Deckard Shaw (Statham) and how his character is utilised throughout the film. You  definitely know what I mean if you’ve seen it.

Overall; despite the predictable nature of certain character arcs, the decisions made by the writers and director make for a more than adequate action movie story that certainly made me intrigued as to what was coming next.

SCORE – 7/10

fast-and-furious-8-cast-image.png

Characters

By now if you have seen the past entries in the Fast & Furious franchise; you have the general idea of the role each character plays in the movie. E.g. Hobbs (Johnson) is the tough yet charismatic hero, Letty the tough as nails yet loyal heroine, Roman (Gibson) the chronic shit-talker, etc, etc. So I’ll confine this section to the new and noteworthy aspects of the characters that struck me.

Charlize Theron as Cipher was great for this movie as a Bond Villain-esque cold-hearted bitch who puppet-mastered (Shut-up, we covered this earlier) our heroes throughout the story. Her ice-cold demeanour was palpable through the screen and raised her hand for the award of ‘Best-Bad-Guy/Girl-in-a-Fast-and-Furious-Movie’. Alongside her for much of the movie is Diesel who admittedly is unlikely to win any acting awards in the near future. But for several key emotional scenes; actually lent some subtle yet distinct gravity in skill rarely seen from Diesel.

Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody and Scott Eastwood as the aptly named ‘Little Nobody’ play a greater and new role respectively; with a greater emphasis placed on Eastwood’s character. Making me wonder if he was potentially being earmarked as a replacement for the late Paul Walker’s character in films down the line.

Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw was one of, if not the highlight of the movie. In particular his aggressive yet hilarious chemistry with Hobbs and one Toretto in particular. Forgetting the aforementioned issues that are raised with his inclusion in the film. Statham reinforced his status as the peak of modern-day action stars, but more surprisingly showed off his underlying comedic ‘chops’ that made him the highlight of Spy.

Having said that; with the inclusion of several newer characters, it understandably led to a few of the old favourites losing out on both screen-time and development. Tej Parker (Bridges) and Ramsey (Emmanuel) in particular play quite a similar role to each other and both don’t quite get the opportunity to shine. Tyrese Gibson as always still manages to generate laughs all throughout the movie; but for whatever reason just doesn’t quite have the impact seen in the past.

The performances and character development gain paces with some new faces and motivations despite losing paces in others. This makes for a reasonably consistent display continuing on from where it left off from Furious Seven.

SCORE 6.5/10

Production

One of the aspects of a Fast & Furious film you can generally count on is absolutely thrilling (if not slightly ridiculous) action. And boy does this film deliver in spades. F. Gary Gray and co. once again found new ways to raise the bar with car-based stunts and action set pieces. This may be just me; but in contrast to the previous film, I didn’t find any of them too ridiculous either. I’m not saying that any of the outlandish things attempted in the films weren’t flat out impossible in the real world; but I didn’t find myself looking at the screen and saying “Oh get f***ed!”. (Yes, yes, I know there is a scene where The Rock manhandles a torpedo, but what can I say? I bought into it!)

A majority of other technical aspects of the movie were much of a muchness as the films in the past. You know when you go into these movies that you’re going to get a whole bunch of money-shots of the rear end of both cars & girls, and a loud up-tempo soundtrack. In that regard I didn’t feel that F. Gary Gray put his own defining touch on the movie, but rather carried on what was laid out before him. Not to say that is a particularly negative thing. As the box office is showing: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

SCORE 7/10

 

Genre

I’ll cut right to the chase. This movie is exactly what you expect it to be. It forgoes the gritty visceral action of your John Wicks and Raid movies for loud, over the top, bombastic thrills. And by no means is any less satisfying. As a straight out action movie, this succeeds. And in my opinion, just cements that the deviation that this franchise took in the fifth instalment was the correct course to sail.

As touched on earlier, the raised stakes and influx of newer characters do take away from more comedic elements normally present in a Fast & Furious film. However this is compensated for by the touching emotional aspects that are brought in. By no means is it a gritty hard hitting drama; but one of the positives I found in the movie is that it achieves its goal of pure entertainment, whilst still knowing how and when to take a breath and shift things into a lower gear (Haha car puns).

We have seen already this year the two different routes that an action movie can take with the juxtaposition of this movie, and Logan. I view them as two different but still delicious flavours of ice cream. Appreciating and marvelling at one, by no means says that the other has any less of a place.

Put simply; this movies mission is to entertain and thrill. Does it do this? Yes, with tremendous ease.

SCORE 8.5/10

 

Enjoyment

As always, I like to include a section of pure self-indulgence where I can go on about how I felt and how much I enjoyed the movie.

I had a blast with this movie. I have no idea if it is because I went in with lower expectations and bracing myself for a sloppy mess of a movie; or if it truly is the action extravaganza I saw it to be. But hey, I don’t care how or why I like a movie. All that matters is that I walk out of the cinema feeling good about what I just sat through!

This may just be the recency factor coming into play. But this movie stood out to me as one of the high points of an already entertaining franchise! To be perfectly honest, it’s jostling with Fast Five as my favourite film of the whole series!

So yes, if you couldn’t already tell from my over the top gushing. I really liked this movie.

SCORE 8.5/10

 

Overall Rating

This movie was a great time for me but, you know just by looking at the trailer or watching the past films whether or not this movie is for you.

The tough thing when it comes to looking at a movie like this; is being able to review it in the context of just this movie, without referring back or comparing it to past films in the franchise. But on that level alone; I can say that this movie was a success! The defining factor when it comes to separating this movie from other ‘trashier’ action films; is the sense of fun and awareness that comes with it. This movie is under no illusions as to what it is, which for me makes it all the more appealing.

So, go out and see the movie! It’s fun, over-the-top, silly, and loud, and I think that if you know what you are getting yourself in for, you will see the fun side of it too! This movie most definitely gets: the Tick of Approval.

75% Approval Rating

 

 

 

Advertisements

Atomic Blonde – Tick of Approval Movie Review

Well after July being a pretty incredible for movies, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we will see this great form carried on into August too! For the first cab off the rank; Atomic Blonde.

Now I was sold on this movie as soon as I heard the synopsis: “The female John Wick”. Seriously that’s all I needed to hear! Especially when you combine that with the always badarse Charlize Theron, a stacked supporting cast, and up-and-coming action director David Leitch. (Who was funnily enough one of the co-directors of John Wick!)

Atomic Blonde is directed by David Leitch and stars: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, & Sofia Boutella.

(LAST WARNING FOR POTENTIAL SPOILERS!!!)

Plot

Atomic Blonde explores MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton’s (Theron) latest mission to recover a list that has the potential to compromise every single intelligence agent working in field; all the while operating amidst a turbulent period in history just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now this is far from the most original idea for a spy film. Skyfall is a recent film of note which focused on this area. However for me I didn’t go into this movie wanting or expecting a super complex and intricate story. I just wanted to be entertained and I was!

The story is told primarily in flashback with Lorraine recounting the events of her latest mission to Gray (Jones) and Kurzfeld (Goodman). This plot choice runs the risk of completely sapping the tension from the film due to the fact that you already know that the hero is going to survive through the end of this story. Fortunately I was wrapped up enough in the investigation and thrilling fights placed into the story that it didn’t really bother me! The biggest problem I had was once the Lorraine finishes telling her story.

This is a movie that fits into a category of films which feature a fourth act tacked on to the ending. Some people will say that in this instance it works, however personally I didn’t like the way that this film resolved. The movie has an extra scene which shows that not only is Lorraine the double agent SATCHEL, but then states that she is an American and that the whole movie was an overly elaborate plan orchestrated by the CIA. I felt that none of this was really necessary to resolve the film; and that the point where The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ starts to blare through the speakers would have been a perfect spot to end the film because all this did was have me leaving the cinema confused.

The story of this movie isn’t particularly ground-breaking in any way, but I thought that it did exactly what it needed to do; which was keep us all entertained!

SCORE – 7/10

Characters

We’ve seen more than enough times over the years that Charlize Theron knows just how to be an awesomely tough bad-arse, so it’s no real surprise that from the moment she appears on screen she brings the perfect blend of coolness, intelligence and sex appeal. Her character is shown as extremely capable in an era when women were often underrated and disregarded which is certainly fun to watch.

Fresh off his star-turn in Split; James McAvoy delivers another enthralling performance as wayward MI6 agent David Percival; and is cementing himself as one of the most bankable stars going around. Everybody knows somebody like his character. Charming and affable when he wants to be, leering and creepy when he needs to be. McAvoy floats between the two in what is probably my favourite performance in the film

Sofia Boutella is an actress that has really grabbed my attention over the past two years. From Kingsman: The Secret Service onwards she has always been an excellent presence in all of her films; and this is no exception. Whilst much of her backstory and development is given through exposition, I thought that the way she was able to sell a broad range of emotions throughout her limited screen time was really impressive!

Toby Jones, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan and John Goodman all bring the gravitas to the film that you would expect from such talented and experienced actors. None of their characters are given the opportunity to receive much in the way of development, however their roles are all small enough that you are just happy to see them on screen showcasing their talent.

Now as I mentioned earlier, the film takes place in the final stages of Soviet occupation in Berlin just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. So with that you have the expected presence of Russian gangsters and ne’er do wells who all do their best to lend a slightly sinister feeling to the film. However despite their presence, there isn’t any one particular character who acts as the film’s villain. Now I certainly wouldn’t say that this ruins the film at all. But just felt that without a clear and menacing presence looming over the film, it just made it hard to feel the stakes that our hero was up against.

But in all honesty that is really the only major flaw that I found when it came to the characterisations in the film. The movie gets you to invest yourself in these characters with little to no problem! Whether it is cheering on Lorraine while she’s laying one of her many beat-downs, buying in to the serious dialogue being spouted by Jones or Goodman, or enjoying every time Percival arrives on screen; there is more than enough for you to appreciate here!

SCORE 8/10

Production

My biggest thing that I was able to take away from this film was that I am thrilled that David Leitch is directing Deadpool 2. He is able to take the goodwill he earned with John Wick and deservedly run with it in this film in a spectacular fashion.

Between Leitch’s direction, the work of the stunt team, and Charlize Theron’s efforts; the fight scenes are a marvel to behold on the big screen. From the one-take shots, to the dynamic camera-work, to the outstanding choreography; the film is easily successful when it comes to crafting cinematic looking fight sequences

Leitch’s past experience as a stunt-man and stunt co-ordinator makes clearly evident that he knows firstly what looks cool on screen but also what will still look real. One of the cool things we get in this film that we rarely see in action movies is the fatiguing effects that brutal hand-to-hand combat would undoubtedly have. Lorraine and her enemies often resort to throwing tired and clumsy punches whilst fighting for breath after particularly taxing fight scenes. It’s a really small and minor detail, but it is something that I really appreciated!

This film has a really cool look to it. The film is filled with a blend of deep darks and vivid white colours that really set the murky sort of feel of that Soviet dominated era. It’s something that I really enjoyed especially in combination with the bright colours used firstly to highlight Theron’s character and then also with the spray-paint title cards.

This movie isn’t going to get the massive buzz that surrounded Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or Baby Driver, but I really enjoyed the soundtrack that ran throughout this film. Filled with gritty 80’s pop and rock, I thought the song choices were excellent at fitting in with the dark yet overly stylised tone.

I really enjoyed the way the eclectic feel of the film was able to blend in with some excellently crafted fight scenes. David Leitch has done a great job here in his solo directorial debut, and I am really looking forward to what we will get from him with Deadpool 2 and beyond!

SCORE 9/10

Genre

When considering the score for this category I had to ask myself exactly what I was wanting from a movie like this; an action, spy, thriller. I wanted to be amazed by the fight scenes, invested in the story, and cheering for hero/heroes. On that marking criteria, I have to say that Atomic Blonde hits the mark.

I think the weakest aspect of the film is probably the spy section. I’ve already bemoaned the presence of the fourth act in the film, but there is an argument that the story isn’t quite as riveting as you would hope from a spy thriller. The search for the list isn’t quite as intense or intellectual as I maybe would have hoped. Which is not to say that that particular section of the film is a failure. Like I said, it is entertaining; just not quite as epic or grand as it maybe could have been!

However setting aside my gripes and nit-picks for a moment, the action portions in this film are certainly up to scratch! Anytime Lorraine finds herself needing to kick a bit of arse she does it with no problem at all. Plus David Leitch has no problem in finding ways to shoot and choreograph it as entertainingly as possible!

Atomic Blonde is one of those movies that does exactly what you would hope that it do. It has no tremendously glaring flaws so at time you are left nit-picking a tad to try and spot its drawbacks. Because it all honestly it works superbly as an action film, and pretty well as a spy thriller; which is definitely nothing to sneeze at!

SCORE 8/10

Enjoyment

This is a damn cool film. It looks cool, the performances are cool, and the fights are cool. That is really the best way I can sum up how I felt about this film.

With all of the people jokingly referring to this film as “Jane Wick”; I will briefly say that I didn’t quite like this movie as much as John Wick. But to be honest for me to consider this movie a win, I really didn’t have to. To be honest this movie probably would have scored quite a bit higher with me had it not been for the last 5 minutes of the film which really try to flip your perception of the film, only for it to ultimately land on its head.

Be that as it may; I still really enjoyed the stylistic and vivid experience I got from this movie. If I had to point to one aspect of the movie as my absolute favourite part it would be the hand-to-hand combat scenes. In particular one fight where Lorraine and several KGB henchmen attempt to kick the absolute crap out of one another in a shot edited brilliantly to look as though it was captured in one take!

So if you like dark and gritty action shown in a really excellently styled way, then hell I can safely say that this is the movie for you!

SCORE 8/10

Overall Rating

So let’s take a quick second to recap what we’ve learnt here today about Atomic Blonde.

It’s a movie by the co-director of the first John Wick film which boasts action sequences which amazingly hold up to the high bar set by that film! It has Charlize Theron doing what she does best which is kick of a lot of arse and look amazing whilst doing it. And it also has a really vivid and excellent look that somehow manages to capture a dark and murky world whilst also keeping it lively and colourful. It’s a film that tells an entertaining enough story without breaking any tremendous new ground; but on the strength of its craft and its cast gives a great start to the slate of August movies.

I’m really looking forward to what David Leitch can do from here on in because at this point in his directorial career he has shown more than enough savvy to indicate that he could be an action director to watch and enjoy for many years to come. Because it goes without saying that his directorial debut much deservedly earns the tick of approval.

80% Approval Rating

 

Spy vs. Salt – Cinematic Smackdown

One of the best things we are really starting to see come to the fore over the past few years is the influx of bad-arse female lead characters in film. From Wonder Woman to Mad Max: Fury Road, and countless others, this week we get to see that trend continue with Charlize Theron and Atomic Blonde. Already dubbed ‘Jane Wick’; the marketing and trailers appear as though we are going to get a hell of a show. So with that, I thought why not take a look at a few other recent-ish female-led spy films and see what standards Atomic Blonde has to live up to!

In the left corner we have Spy; which was released in 2015, was directed by Paul Feig, and stars: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Jason Statham and Miranda Hart.

In the right corner we have Salt; which was released in 2010, was directed by Phillip Noyce, and stars: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Daniel Olbrychski.

(This CINEMATIC SHOWDOWN will have spoilers!)

Round 1 – Plot

  • Both of these films come out punching in the first round with the fact that they both feature generally entertaining stories. Both feature fairly dynamic story-telling with no real flat spots that grind the narrative down to a halt.
  • Spy starts to slip a few jabs in at Salt once it comes to how both films deal with the twist.
  • Spy has the twist that Bradley Fine (Law) is firstly alive, then working for the enemy, then a double agent. Whilst complex it is easy for the viewer to follow
  • Salt whilst entertaining, really has the story start to collapse in on itself in the second half of the film. Twists for both Evelyn Salt’s (Jolie) and Ted Winter’s (Schreiber) loyalties really confuse the viewer as to exactly what is going on and why.
  • Salt then lets several punches through to the body due to its confusing ending. Peabody (Ejiofor) lets Evelyn go off to take care of the rest of the sleeper agents once he has proof that she wasn’t the villain of the piece. Why not just follow protocol and free her through the proper channels.
  • In other movies it may not be a major problem, however the gritty & real-world setting mean that you have to follow real world-rules.

R1 – Spy

Round 2 – Characters

  • Salt unfortunately isn’t able to land that big punch to start the comeback.
  • Jolie gives a badarse performance that we knew she could bring after Tomb Raider. Schreiber especially early on gives the best, most grounded and most relatable performance until the twist happens. Ejiofor’s character is a little one-note, based on what we have seen him do since.
  • In all the three leads give serviceable performances, there is no one outstanding role to point to.
  • Spy on the other hand is able to keep throwing punches with excellent performances from Jude Law, Alison Janney, and Rose Byrne.
  • Spy then lands a big right cross with the work done by Jason Statham. Playing against type in the funniest role in the movie.
  • However it then lets a series of body punches through with Melissa McCarthy’s work in the film. She is great when acting and giving herself to the role. However when she reverts to the more common traits seen in many of her roles. Her crassness and loud nature remind you of Melissa McCarthy’s presence in the movie and takes you out of it.
  • Spy is then able to cover itself up well. The arc and growth of confidence of the character Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is one of the most heartening traits of the film.
  • Spy then manages to slip a few extra punches through Salt’s The characters in Salt have little to no development through the movie. It is only once a twist occurs or some blatant exposition occurs that you learn more things about the characters.

R2 – Spy

Round 3 – Production

  • Both fighters come out punching again in round three and are fairly evenly matched. Both of the general dialogue scenes, flashbacks, and establishing shots are well shot enough; and the scores are able to service the movie in all the ways they are required.
  • Spy starts to get on top in the round once we start to explore the fight scenes in the movie.
  • Spy lands another strong hook on Salt on the strength of the great airplane-based action scene.
  • Salt on the other hand has a few strong chase and fight scenes scattered through the movie but nothing to the high standard of the aforementioned scene in Spy.
  • What really seals the fate of Salt in this round is the disparity of the way the fight scenes are shot.
  • Spy’s fight scenes are a tad over-edited, however it certainly makes sense as Melissa McCarthy is clearly not going to be putting on a martial-art master-class. They are still easy enough to follow and easy to enjoy.
  • Salt on the other hand also has the same excessively edited fight scenes; however in conjunction with their choice to use shaky cam it really drops your enjoyment and is a bit of a let-down.

R3 – Spy

Round 4 – Genre

  • Spy re-enters the ring confident of being able to continue to assert its dominance.
  • It hits more different genres. Being a solid action movie, a capable spy-thriller, and at times good comedy film.
  • Salt on the other hand tries to throw a few big hay-makers at Spy. Despite its overly complex plot; the concept is ambitious and Salt is still able to land a few of those punches with its ability to really capture a tense and sinister tone of the spy-based world.
  • Spy staggers slightly in contrast as it follows a more generic spy story and doesn’t quite aim as high. Spy goes for quantity of areas rather than quality.
  • Spy then really takes a few solid hits with the inconsistency of its comedy. When the show takes its time to craft a really clever joke it is brilliant. However when it falls back into being overly crass, bombastic or ‘slapsticky’; it really takes away from the enjoyment of the film.

R4 – Salt

Round 5 – Enjoyment

  • Both films again look strong and throw punches with plenty to enjoy in both.
  • Spy has great hits with its array of genres that it is able to cover, as well as Statham’s electric performance.
  • Salt on the other hand really appealed to me with the darker and grittier tone.
  • Jolie is a tough and entertaining lead that you are happy to get behind.
  • The third act of Salt is what really opens it up to an assault. The ever-destabilising plot does get extremely hard to follow and get behind.
  • However when it comes to that compared to the inconsistencies in the comedy delivered in Spy’s flaw is more detrimental to my overall enjoyment of the film. The intelligent comedy is so strong but that is what makes it so disappointing when it drops the ball with dumb and loud comedy.
  • The concept of Salt is strong and intriguing enough to allow it to land a few strong hits to end the bout.

R5 – Salt

AND YOUR WINNER…………………………

 Spy by decision (3-2)

 

War for the Planet of the Apes – Tick of Approval Movie Review

Holy hell guys! Just when I thought that July couldn’t get any more awesome, it goes and finishes off with this! The final instalment of what will hopefully go down as one of the greatest film trilogies of all time! (Can you tell yet I’m kind of looking forward to this movie?)

Rise was an extremely pleasant surprise, Dawn was brilliant step up, and now we’ve come to War. I can’t even remember what prompted me to go and see the first movie in the theatre, but I can’t remember ever being so blissfully unaware of the awesomeness I was about to see. And since that point on, I have been all in with Caesar and his journey. I mean seriously! How can you make movies about a war on humanity where you root AGAINST the humans? Somehow Rupert Wyatt and now Matt Reeves have been able to establish the world where this is possible. And now I get the feeling we are about to see that world come crashing down.

War for the Planet of the Apes is directed by Matt Reeves; and stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, & Amiah Miller

(LAST WARNING FOR POTENTIAL SPOILERS!!!)

Plot

War for the Planet of the Apes is the (maybe) conclusion of the journey that began all the way back with Rise. It follows the continuing struggle between mankind and apes for dominance after several years of warfare and destruction.

The story is truly riveting in its own right but what’s more important is that it is able to follow along the threads left dangling from Dawn and still manage to build upon them in a manner that progresses the narrative. Right from the get-go we are shown that this is truly a time of chaos with a ferociously brutal battle sequence. After which point we are clearly shown which side of the fray Matt Reeves wants the audience to stand. What little indecision we may have had in the previous films is gone; we are well and truly on Team Ape.

I loved how despite obviously fantastical the concept is; at its core this is a very grounded and very real story about revenge and survival. All of the actions taken by both sides and each character is totally believable. The obvious caveat being the fact that one side is comprised of apes, but the motivations are so pure and emotional that you have no problem setting that aside and relating to their plight.

There are a few very minor flaws with the story, but to be perfectly honest they do venture closer into ‘nit-pick’ territory more than anything that is truly detrimental to the film. Once the film starts to move into its second act with Caesar and co. making their journey to find the mysterious Colonel, the movie does slow down for just a few minutes too long. Making it take a little extra time to really kick back into gear once they finally reach the camp. Also you could make the complaint that several story beats come off as a bit predictable due to the great past films that this movie is clearly paying homage to.

However for the most part the film is a truly terrifying war movie that sends the franchise into its darkest territory yet. With grounded character motivations and a gripping story, the movie manages to round out the trilogy’s narrative in a spectacular way.

SCORE – 9/10

Characters

I said it in my Cinematic Smackdown piece last week; but I think it’s now official. Caesar is one of the greatest movie characters of the 21st century! Andy Serkis brings his A-game again and to be honest I think this might be best he’s ever been. The way the character is written allows him to take Caesar beyond just being good at all costs. After the murder of his family, we see Caesar with a darkness and rage not seen in the two prior films. Serkis shows this brilliantly both motivating and haunting Caesar as he slowly starts to give into madness, despite the fear that he is set to follow the path taken by Koba.

Where we truly see this madness is in Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of The Colonel. The ruthless leader of a renegade human army. The Colonel is a man who kills anybody who poses a threat to humanity’s survival, is relentlessly driven and tyrannical in an evil way that even eclipses Koba. Yet when the audience is forced to put themselves in his shoes; you really do get why he does what he does. Yeah it’s despicable and cruel, but to be honest; there are people out there in our world who would do the same.

Apart from the two leads; I really have to give praise to the other actors portraying the apes. Karin Konoval and Terry Notary in particular as Maurice and Rocket; Caesar’s two closest allies and friends. It is no longer just Serkis who has the ability to bring these ape-characters to life and there is no greater example than these two actors.

Steve Zahn also makes his first appearance in the franchise as another ape in Caesar’s band of merry-men, in a performance that will probably be the most divisive aspect of this category. For the first time we have a genuine comedic presence which is interesting considering this easily the darkest entry in the series. I spent the early part of the film determined to dislike this character but much like in the film, I have to say he won me over, and is a refreshing touch of light-heartedness in the movie. Even if he does get a bit ‘slapsticky’ at times.

Lastly we have the one human character worth cheering for; Nova (Amiah Miller). A young girl with the new strain of Simian Flu orphaned due to Caesar’s actions. Now I thought that Miller gave a great performance and she was certainly an adorable character. I personally wasn’t 100% sure on why she was in the movie. The best I came up with was that she was a representation of the last essence of purity and kindness left in humanity. Whatever the case, I enjoyed what she brought to the film.

Great performances and fascinating writing is what built the brilliant foundation of this series, and it is safe to say that War finds no problems in continuing this excellent trend here again.

SCORE 9.5/10

Production

Matt Reeves and co. proved with Dawn that they had all of the skills required to craft a great film. But here they have once again succeeded in creating a different yet equally as magnificent film this time around.

At this point it goes without saying here; the look, movement and feel of each of the apes is once again exceptional. They nailed it back in 2011 so it’s no surprise to see that the technology with motion capture performance gets more and more impressive with each film. Both the actors and technicians clearly have a great amount of skill that deserves to be commended.

The scenery and cinematography for each of the landscapes blend between being stark & horrifying and lush and beautiful. You really get the feel of each of the environments in such a real and visceral sense. This is only cemented once we get to the various battle sequences. With the opening forest battle and then snowy warfare towards the end that would really not be out of place in a Vietnam War movie or even a Star Wars film.

I was not surprised to look at who the composer was and find that it was Michael Giacchino. He is one of the best in the business and with this score again he is able to brilliantly capture the mood and tone at all times. In particular the scene where The Colonel and his troops invade the Ape sanctuary and slaughter Caesar’s family you get a really eerie sounding backdrop to a very tense scene.

Overall I’m so pleased that the crew behind the film didn’t stop and rest after what they had achieved with Dawn. They’ve clearly done everything possible to raise the bar once again and craft a magnificent looking film that is technically stunning to experience. And to be totally honest, I really can’t find any faults that I had with this facet of the movie.

SCORE 10/10

Genre

Whilst all of the three films have been science fiction at their core; they’ve still also been able to delve into a wide number of genres with great expertise. This film certainly does this again that’s for sure; but make no mistake, this is a war movie through and through.

As I mentioned before, this movie is able to really get the battle scenes right. They’re unflinchingly brutal and raw as the destruction rages with devastating consequences. But what I found to be even more impressive is just like some of the greatest war films; this movie is both extremely tense, but takes a lot of time to explore the effects war can have on the psyche of a soldier. I found myself thinking of Apocalypse Now at many points throughout the film; both with the Vietnam esque scenery early, but more-so due to the cascade of madness beginning to envelop both Caesar and The Colonel.

What I loved most about the movie was that it wasn’t watered down in any way to try and open itself up to a broader audience. The world in which these movies exist would devolve to become the destructive hell-scape we get to see at this point in time; and the film really isn’t afraid get down and dirty.

The only thing that stops the movie from achieving a perfect score here is there are a few of the all-time greats that hit just a little harder than this film. But the way that it is able to still be a fascinatingly made sci-fi movie that is able to explore some incredibly dark and serious themes with the backdrop of a stunning war film; hell you just can’t help but be impressed.

SCORE 9.5/10

Enjoyment

I loved the first two movies in the series so to be honest I was a little bit afraid that I may be getting my hopes up a little too high this time around. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I did not have to worry about that! I had a really great time watching this movie. It’s a movie that has really no major flaws. The story gets a little slow in the middle and Steve Zahn’s character gets a little silly sometimes, but really this movie just does everything well!

I do concede it may not be for everyone due to its darker and more serious nature compared to the first two. So if you preferred the lighter, more heartfelt approach to Rise then this might be a bit too much for you. But for me, I really appreciated the natural progression that this story has taken across the trilogy. It felt like the logical next step for the series and I’m so glad that they were able to pull it off in such a tremendously entertaining way!

SCORE 9/10

Overall Rating

Um, I guess it’s pretty much official now. This is one of the rare movie trilogies that not only set up a brilliant foundation, but then followed through and stuck the landing. War for the Planet of the Apes is a visually stunning, well-acted, brilliantly told story that manages to round out Caesar’s journey that began six long years ago.

I thought that Rise was a great movie. Then Dawn came along and somehow managed to blow that out of the water. Give me a few weeks’ time to reflect on this movie, but I think that there is a very real chance that this could not only be my favourite movie in the trilogy, but also the best. Although truth be told I kind of hope that this series doesn’t stay as a trilogy. The story is now set up perfectly to link in with the original Planet of the Apes film; and I think with the form that these guys have on the board, a reimagining of that story in this day and age could be brilliant!

Anyway, that’s an argument for another day. For now let’s all rejoice at the brilliance that is this movie. And be stoked that it has no problems whatsoever earning and deserving; the tick of approval

94% Approval Rating

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes vs. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Cinematic Smackdown

Who would have thought that back in 2011 that a mere six years later, we would be facing the prospect of a Planet of the Apes trilogy becoming one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time? If any of you out there have raised your hand then I call you a liar! But I digress, because here we all are; eagerly anticipating the release of War for the Planet of the Apes. I thought that this was the perfect time to see which of the first two films we could definitively (ha ha) point to as ‘the slightly more amazing one’. Completely different casts and completely different tones be damned, I’m here to give the final word!

In the left corner we have Rise of the Planet of the Apes; which was released in 2011, was directed by Rupert Wyatt, and stars: Andy Serkis, James Franco, John Lithgow, Freida Pinto, & Brian Cox.

In the right corner we have Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; which was released in 2014, was directed by Matt Reeves, and stars: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell & Toby Kebbell.

(This CINEMATIC SHOWDOWN will have spoilers)

Round 1 – Plot

Rise of the Planet of the Apes tells the beginning story of Caesar (Serkis), a chimpanzee exposed to a chemical causing him increased intelligence. Caesar is cared for by scientist Will Rodman (Franco) throughout his early years before he begins to experience life and contemplate his place in the world. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place ten years later in a world seeing man and ape-kind attempting to co-exist represented by Malcolm (Clarke) and Caesar respectively. It is only when human leader Dreyfus (Oldman) and ape lieutenant Koba (Kebbell) decide to act when the volatile situation threatens to become war.

A strength of both of these films is the pacing and the way the story is always moving forward. You don’t get any long drawn out periods of the film where nothing seems to happen because in the rare moments the film does pause for breath, you are either taking time to build up Caesar or establish the fantastic relationships in the film.

Each of the films show very different worlds with very different hierarchies in control of the status quo. Rise has a greater focus on the behaviour and actions of the humans with Caesar being the major catalyst for the eventual transition into apes becoming the primary focus in Dawn. It is because of this we are given a far more emotionally resonant human factor in Rise. The entire series hinges on Will’s desperation to find a cure for his father’s Alzheimer’s disease. And whilst Dawn features humanity’s increasing struggle to survive this ape-dominated landscape, it lacks the more personal touch.

However despite the number of intriguing human-based plotlines across the films, it has been set up all along that we will eventually find ourselves aligning with the apes. From very early on in Rise where we see Caesar’s mother killed, which is followed by persistent neglect and mistreatment of the apes; we have a very sympathetic mood to their plight. Dawn is able to capitalise on those feelings by taking the time to hold a majority of the early focus on the apes. It is only due to the behaviour of Koba through the film that we don’t find ourselves 100% on Team Ape, and even then the strength in character development allows us to comprehend his motivation. So whilst the human factor may be slightly lacking in Dawn; it is more than made up for by exploring the politics of the ape society.

This is a seriously hard decision to make because for me it feels like both films have equal merit in building the overall story arc for the trilogy. But based on the fact that I think that Rise is ever so slightly delve into the human side of the storyline that I have to pull the trigger and award the round one points to Rise.

R1 – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Round 2 – Characters

I am of the opinion that the reason that this series has become so beloved is due to the strength of the performances and character development over the course of the two films. In particular the relationships between many various characters are spectacularly engaging. In Rise we get great chemistry between Caesar, Will and Charles (Lithgow); whereas in Dawn we get Caesar with Koba, his son (Nick Thurston) and Malcolm (Clarke), as well as Malcolm with his son Alexander (McPhee), Ellie (Russell) and Dreyfus (Oldman). Any point through the movie with any of those characters sharing screen time you are totally hooked into the story and their journey.

Andy Serkis had already revolutionised what could be achieved with motion capture performances with his previous work as Gollum and King Kong. However it is his work here as Caesar that has stood head and shoulders above not just the rest of his work; but a lot of performances over the past decade. The emotional he has been able to bring out of the character whilst not making him become too anthropomorphised has been incredible to watch in both films and I can’t wait to see what he brings in War.

One of the great things about Dawn was the discovery of Serkis’ heir apparent to the mo-cap throne; Toby Kebbell as Koba. He was able to easily go toe to toe with Serkis as the truly venomous villain. However it wasn’t just down to his great performance which made the character so riveting. Along with Gary Oldman’s Dreyfus, Dawn boasted two extremely relatable villains with clearly defined and understandable motivations for their sometimes despicable actions. They brought a depth that was a cut above what was seen with the more antagonistic characters in Rise.

I have to say that the primary human characters in both of the films have also been exceptional. Which has been good for the audience as it has allowed us to be able to see the stories through a more relatable viewpoint. Both James Franco and Jason Clarke were successfully able to characterise the ideal yet relatable human character in less than ideal circumstances. Examples of the person we all would hope to have the fortitude to be if we were placed in their shoes.

But in the end whilst all of the lead performances in both films are equally as riveting; the fact that the supporting characters and villains are both given more to develop them and properly flesh them out in Dawn, then that is where the points are going in Round 2.

R2 – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Round 3 – Production

I’m not going to bury the lead here. Four out of the five categories here today are nearly impossible for me to decide between with one exception, and this is that exception.

Across the course of both of the films one thing that has been consistently excellent have been the way the apes have been displayed on screen. I’ve already touched briefly upon the magnificent work done with motion capture technology, but the entirely realistic way they apes look, move and behave has just been awesome. Yes, you can see the three years difference in technology between films, but that is in no way a detriment to Rise.

Rise has some really cool shots throughout the film. From the adolescent development of Caesar to shots of the apes rampaging through all of San Francisco’s most famous landmarks; the film is not short of technical brilliance. It’s just that Dawn sees that and goes ‘heh, you ain’t seen nothing yet’.

Dawn is a completely different film, and yes it is one that gives itself more chance to really show off in a technical sense. But at the end of the day, it is still down to execution. Long story short, you don’t have to worry about that.

The cinematography of the world we find ourselves in is breathtaking from the world go. A grass-laden natural wonder befitting of any utopian daydream at times, to stark cold environments that would be more fitting in the post-apocalypse. The films shows off both sides of that particular coin and does so with aplomb.

And that’s all just before we get to the battle sequences in the film. Once the tensions between humanity and apes reach breaking point, the destructive potential of the apes are shown in all of their beautifully disastrous glory. Raw and brutal scenes that would be in place in the most celebrated war films take place in such an enthralling way. Chaotic scenes are shot in such an exemplary manner, none more so than the 360 degree tank based tracking shots that unveils the culmination of both sides giving in to their most primal nature.

Rise is a perfectly satisfactory film that pushes certain boundaries in its own right. But Dawn was able to take that through the roof of the next level in such a glorious manner. Round 3 goes to Dawn.

R3 – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Round 4 – Genre

It was initially a little bit hard for me to know exactly what sort of category both of these films could be slot into. At the surface they both pose as science fiction. But beyond that there is so much emotional turmoil and brilliant action scenes that you could also go with: drama, action, thriller, and even war to a certain point. This has been one of the things that have been able to make these films so appealing to so many people.

Rise is such a truly heartfelt and emotional story in so many different ways. There are several key moments between Will and Caesar, Will and Charles, Caesar and Charles, and even Caesar and his fellow apes that do their absolute utmost to try and wring tears from your eyes. You really come to care for the protagonists by the end of the film.

If you then compare that with Dawn, Dawn is then able to capture the emotionally riveting aspect seen in Rise and then build upon that by throwing in the drama between Caesar and Koba and the savage violence seen at certain points; all the while still keeping the film as tight and captivating as the first film. It is a real strength of the film how it is able to dip its toes into so many different pools without compromising the strength of the rest of the film.

There are moments in Dawn which really manage to ratchet up the tension to almost unbearable levels before an explosion of a release with scenes that really would not feel out of place in a truly great action-war film.

For the reasons above and despite how emotionally rich the first film is; once again the points in round 4 have to be given to Dawn.

R4 – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Round 5 – Enjoyment

This has seriously been the hardest cinematic smackdown I’ve done yet, especially when it comes to deciding which of the two films my personal favourite is.

Going back and watching both of these movies I was thrilled to see that I was just as thrilled and amazed by them as I was the first time around. However on the other hand, maybe it would have helped my decision here if I’d found one of them a bit disappointing.

Rise was such a surprise packet in that it seemed to come out of nowhere and deliver a really strong film, but then again Dawn was equally as surprising in the high quality sequel that it was. Especially since the two are totally different feeling films that still manage to feel extremely connected.

I love the way Rise establishes the character of Caesar and is able to lay the foundation for a truly magnificent character arc that was continued through to the second film. I also really enjoyed the work of the human protagonists in the film. James Franco has never been so likable and his connection with Caesar is some of the most emotionally pure work in the franchise.

The only way that I can kind of split the two is the fact that that through no fault of Rise, it just doesn’t quite seem to aim as high as Dawn. Dawn hits a far more epic scale through the new concepts, new technology and grander story. Matt Reeves was able to bring something new to the franchise in such an impressive manner.

So in the end whilst I still really love the first film; I feel like only because Dawn was able to raise the stakes and really pull off a more epic feeling story that delved into so many different genres, I have to lean ever so slightly in that direction.

Hell guys one thing’s for sure, with a foundation this strong, I have very high hopes for War when I finally get the chance to see that!

R5 – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

AND YOUR WINNER…………………………

 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes by TKO (4-1)

Dunkirk – Tick of Approval Movie Review

It’s time to brace ourselves ladies and gentlemen. When Christopher Nolan makes a film, he doesn’t half-arse it. So when you tell me that he is going to make a world war two film, I am there as soon as I possibly can be! The great thing about Nolan is that despite the fact that he has made some of the most creative and ambitious films of the 21st century, I guarantee anybody could pan through his back catalogue and find a film that they love. Me, I love so many of his films but was a little disappointed with the end result of Interstellar. So all that has done is build up my anticipation for his next big hit!

I think that with the advances in modern effects, war movies are more beautiful yet visceral than ever, and can now do a worthy job at attempting to capture the sense of terror you may feel on the battlefield. So with that in mind, a visionary director at the helm, and some of the most talented actors working today on screen. I go in well and truly optimistic for this film.

Dunkirk is directed by Christopher Nolan; and stars Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, and Harry Styles.

(LAST WARNING FOR POTENTIAL SPOILERS!!!)

Plot

I have to say, I got completely sucked in. We should have known that Christopher Nolan wouldn’t just come out and make a by-the-numbers formulaic war film like we’ve seen a thousand times before.

For the first half of the film I have to say, I was pretty thrown off with the structure of the film. Near the very start of the film we see the texts saying “The Mole – One Week”, “The Sea – One Day”, and “The Air – One Hour”. I had no idea what any of that meant, and my confusion was only exacerbated upon seeing fighter pilots engaged in a dogfight in bright sunshine; and ground soldiers bathed in complete darkness mere kilometres away. But then there was a total ‘lightbulb’ moment! It finally clicked with me how the different timelines were being put up on screen and how each of the three perspectives were beginning to intertwine and form the greater overall narrative. And it was all laid out in plain sight. Nolan could easily have told a great story about how a group of fishermen crossed the English Channel and saved thousands of Allied soldiers in World War II. And I’m sure it would have been spectacular. But this is Christopher Nolan we are talking about. Not a man lacking in ambition that’s for sure

I think that this is something that is going to prove to be very divisive. If you go into the film expecting and hoping for a stock-standard war film that follows the fundamental structure we’ve all seen before then I think this may disorient and disappoint you. However if you’re here for a twist on the norm and open to something new, then you will see this story for what it is; a masterpiece.

The way that Nolan is able to make each of the three sections of the film so sparse in dialogue yet so gripping without compromising the other two is a feat on itself. Not to mention how they each work so efficiently to complement the overall story. Which at the end of the day is so far from a fundamental war story. There’s no major battle to win, no inspirational single act of strength that defines the whole war. At the end of the day it is a group of young men doing whatever they can to survive.

The only problem I have with the story is a few “Hollywood” moments in the third act where the story seems to resort to “Ex-Machinas” to tie off a few loose ends. For the whole film we are given the idea that Dawson (Rylance) and his crew are the only ship set for Dunkirk yet at the last minute there are dozens of fishing vessels at the ready. Then we focus on Farrier (Hardy), who we have flown alongside chewing our fingernails at his slowly depleting fuel reserves. Once the plane seemingly runs out, and a German bomber appears set to wipe out many of the remaining soldiers set to leave the beach; Farrier still manages to swing the plane around to shoot it out of the air in an eleventh hour save.

But at the end of the day, they are examples of how far I have to reach to find flaws in the story of the film. I always say that a film can earn a few plot holes and ex-machina moments through sheer brilliance; and that is exactly what Nolan has managed to craft this time around.

SCORE – 9.5/10

Characters

Despite there being so many huge-name actors spread throughout the film; I still believe that there is not one single performance that you could point to as ‘the lead’. The screen time is spread evenly between the different characters of the different segments of the film just enough for you to become invested in their struggle. I feel that for this reason there is not quite opportunity for any of the actors to truly flourish and show off. But the film isn’t about that. It’s not a group of people showing superhuman strength and courage; it’s just normal, everyday people trapped in hell-on-earth trying desperately to survive out the day. With this as the goal, I have to say that the performances of each and every actor meet that goal with no issues at all.

Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, and Harry Styles lead “The Mole” as three young British soldiers trapped at Dunkirk. Truth be told that makes up the bulk of their backstory (in a theme seen throughout the film) and they could be considered as very interchangeable. However as individuals and a unit they all convey the required desperation and emotion needed to sympathise to their plight.

Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy bring experience and acting skill to “The Sea” along with young actors Tom Glynn-Carney and Barry Keoghan. Rylance leads the charge of sailors crossing the English Channel to Dunkirk; an ordinary man desperate to play his part and help whoever he can. Murphy as an unnamed soldier truly exemplifies a man mentally torn to shreds by the horrors of war. Together the two are able to share the strongest acting moments in the film; with their opposing motivations and experiences

Lastly Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden have the primary roles in “The Air”, however they are hidden away in cockpits and behind masks for nearly the whole film. They’re not particularly given any opportunity to stretch their acting legs, but are still able to make the roles their own and do exactly what is required of them.

The criticism I have in this aspect of the film is something I briefly touched upon earlier. Most of the characters are defined very early on, and have little to no development or arc by the conclusion of the film. This is not a major flaw as the focus of the film is the story and the circumstances the characters find themselves in. However at times it does give the characters a bit of an expendable sort of feel. There are deaths that occur which you have already forgotten by the time the next scene rolls around.

Ultimately every actor brings their all to their respective roles and does as much as they can with the opportunities they are given. However I find it hard to imagine that any acting awards will be sent towards this film come awards season.

SCORE 7/10

Production

I was not at all surprised to find that a vast majority of the effects seen in this film were practical. In combination with breathtaking cinematography and choice of location; this is a movie that really puts you ‘in the shit’. It is a movie that will make you cold and afraid just by seeing where the characters are, it is such a truly visceral experience to sit through. From the wide landscape shots of the beach at Dunkirk, to the engaging way the air based dogfights are filmed; you are placed right in the middle of all of the craziness that is going on.

Unsurprisingly, Christopher Nolan brought back his old pal Hans Zimmer to score the film with tremendous aplomb. I often don’t take much notice of the score of a film but this is one that makes you sit forward and really take in the amazing work being done. It is seriously eerie music that if you listened to it alone with your eyes closed you would break out into a sweat through the atmosphere alone. In combination with the brilliant sound editing of all of the typical sounds of war; Nolan could not have crafted a more perfect sounding film. Or could he?

Unfortunately the audio aspects of the film aren’t all positive though as one of the big problems in Nolan’s last film (Interstellar) reared its ugly head again. The mixing of the score and diegetic sound became overwhelming to the point where I had a lot of trouble hearing the lines being delivered by the actors. Again, this is not a pivotal transgression as the film is not nearly so dialogue heavy; but the fact that you are straining to try and hear what is being said is definitely a negative mark against the film.

At the end of the day this a movie that is able to find beauty in the absolute horror of the scenario through the glorious way it has been filmed and then projected onto the screen. No it doesn’t quite hit the perfect mark due to the same old flaws we’ve seen in Nolan’s work before. But at the end of the day he has been able to give all of us a truly visceral experience when we sit down in the cinema; that film lovers don’t often get the chance to have. And for that we should sit back and marvel at the genius.

SCORE 9/10

Genre

Have you ever held your breath for 106 minutes before? Because if you’re going to go ahead and see this film; you’re about to.

The tension in this movie is absolutely relentless. From the opening chase through the streets of Dunkirk, to the moment Farrier lands his plane on the beach; your knuckles will be white and your teeth clenched. At no point in the movie are you given a chance to relax and exhale because any time our protagonists over-come any adversity, another problem presents itself. Which itself is a credit to the film because it never becomes predictable or rests on its laurels. It really is able to capture the feeling that you are always scared, never able to relax, and never totally safe.

The fact that the movie is able to first do this and then able to tell it’s story in such a unique and innovative manner without once compromising its quality is really pretty incredible. Like I said earlier we have seen most variations of the typical war-film formula and stupidly I was expecting the same again.  I think one of the things I appreciate the most about this film is how truly original it was. There was no major battle to be won and at the end of the day the film is really about nothing more than a lucky escape for the Allied forces. But the way that their survival came about and the manner in which Nolan was able to tell the story was so impressive for me; especially with such a realistic and intuitive style.

I remember a fairly vocal number of people up in arms that the fact that this film was to be rated PG-13 (or M here in Australia), and that no true war epic could be any less than R (or MA). I think that very similarly to The Dark Knight, Nolan was expertly able to showcase the violence and brutality in less obvious and more subtle ways. Don’t get me wrong though, there are scenes in this film that still send shivers down your spine at the horrifying fate that threatens to befall many soldiers throughout the movie.

I think this is a real sign that we need Christopher Nolan tackling as many genres as possible over the coming years because he just has a way of raising the bar and really taking things to the next level. Which is exactly what he has done with this movie

SCORE 10/10

Enjoyment

I was going along enjoying this movie just fine but not quite able to understand exactly what was going on and what old crazy Chris Nolan had cooked up for us here. But then the aforementioned lightbulb moment occurred, it all clicked into place, and I was 100% hooked. I can’t really explain why but it just tickled me in all of the right places each time the three plot threads would connect and weave with in such a graceful manner. It made something that was undoubtedly incredibly difficult, seem like the easiest thing in the world.

I’m a bit of a sucker for a well-made war film so I was always fairly confident that I would be a happy with whatever Nolan put out. But as I said earlier, the fact that it was such a brilliantly made movie that intentionally did not conform to the normal clichés and narrative devices was such a thrill for me.

This already seems like a movie that begs to be seen over and over again; through both sheer enjoyment, and also to be able to appreciate it in all of its glory.

SCORE 9/10

Overall Rating

Geez I tell you what, this makes the conversation of what is Christopher Nolan’s best film a hell of a lot more difficult. The Dark Knight, Inception, The Prestige, and even Memento all have their dedicated fans; but I tell you what, I think there is going to be an ever growing chorus singing the praises of Dunkirk.

This movie nearly has it all. It’s a brilliantly shot film with all of the great war effects and cinematography that you could hope for from any great film. It has a frighteningly visceral score working in great conjunction with a truly eerie tone. And lastly, Chris Nolan has once again found a great way to defy conventional storytelling in a way that is both raw and captivating for each one of its 106 minutes.

It’s a film that begs to be experienced on the big screen, and a film that truly cements Christopher Nolan as one of the all-time great filmmakers. Dunkirk easily and deservedly earns the tick of approval.

89% Approval Rating

Fury v Hacksaw Ridge – Cinematic Smackdown

Goddamn! I dunno about you all but am nearly wetting my pants with excitement about Dunkirk. Some of the best movies ever made are war films and in the hands of iconic director Christopher Nolan; I have high hopes that we could be in for something special. But before I get to go out and check out Dunkirk I thought it was fitting that I have a look back at some of the most brilliant films set in WWII that were released in the past decade.

In the left corner we have Fury; which was released in 2014, was directed by David Ayer, and stars Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal, Michael Pena, and Shia LeBeouf.

In the right corner we have Hacksaw Ridge; which was released in 2016, was directed by Mel Gibson, and stars: Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey, Vince Vaughn, and Hugo Weaving.

(This CINEMATIC SHOWDOWN will have spoilers!)

Round 1 – Plot

Fury explores a period of time in the dying days of WWII by focussing on one particular American tank crew. Whereas Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of Desmond Doss (Garfield). A conscientious objector who still volunteers to serve his country despite ridicule and vitriol from his fellow soldiers.

The pacing of the two films differs right from the outset. Hacksaw Ridge takes the first act to build the backstory of our protagonist and really allow the audience to understand him. We then see him join the army and really establish himself through the adversity he faces; before finally the film reaches the crescendo of the war and all-out brutality. The film is remains as relentlessly intense until the conclusion, not once stopping for breath.

Fury on the other hand takes a different approach. In Fury we as an audience are thrust into the war from the outset; leaving us just as disoriented as the crew’s newest rookie Norman (Logan Lerman). At which point the film allows itself to experience various ebbs and flows, with the movie focusing on several smaller-scale skirmishes scattered throughout slower scenes which build the relationship between the five primary characters.

It is one such scene in the middle of the film where the characters encounter two woman in a German village which perhaps provides the only true lull period in either film. However it does allow the film to impart some important lessons to the characters and themes on the audience. The unforgiving nature of the war is truly cemented in the moment the women are killed just after Norman forms an attachment to one of them. An important moment it certainly is, however the section stretches out just slightly too long.

I thought there was a truly fascinating juxtaposition between the two young protagonists of each film and their morality. Hacksaw Ridge has such a focus on the strength of one’s convictions despite all odds, which places far more emphasis on the fact that Desmond (Garfield) will not pick up a weapon in Hacksaw Ridge. Because of the way the film is framed, we as an audience are on his side for the entire film. This is in comparison to in Fury, where I found it interesting upon my latest re-watch that when Norman faces a similar dilemma; I found him to be a liability and a threat to the lives of his team. Perhaps this is because we are shown a scene where fatal consequences occur as a direct result of Norman’s pacifism; whereas Desmond receives no such scene.

Both films have extremely tense and enthralling stories; however I found that the only flaw I could see was in the way the narrative of Fury runs. At times it runs the risk of taking too long of a breath in between action set-pieces, and ultimately there are times where it does exactly that. It is no way a major detriment to the film as the focus is more on the characters. But in comparing these two films it was really the only way that I could split the two. Some may argue that the opening act of Hacksaw Ridge faces the same problem, but I personally found that it was pivotal in establishing the character and setting the stakes for the film.

One final note I have is the way Fury comes to its conclusion. We see Norman inexplicably have his life spared by a German SS soldier minutes after he and his crew have been conquered. If this was based on true events where this actually occurred then we could all probably go along with it. However watching the film this time, it was jarring and felt too much like a ‘Hollywood’ ending. Ultimately for those final reasons, I have to give Hacksaw Ridge the edge.

R1 – Hacksaw Ridge

Round 2 – Characters

Andrew Garfield by far has the most prominent and flamboyant role out of any performance across the two films. However it is certainly no accident, as he easily gives the best performance. The way he is able to remain so endearing whilst displaying so much grit and determination is outstanding. He so earnestly embraces the character in a way that allows you to attach to him from beginning to end.

Fury holds a majority of its focus on the five members of the tank ‘Fury’. Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman would be considered the ‘lead’ members of the cast and probably both give the strongest performances of the film; but LeBeouf, Bernthal and Pena all also get their moments to shine as they truly become the characters they were cast to play.

Because Fury has no real over-arching story or particular battle to win, the success of the movie rests on the five main crew members. And it is because of this that the films is ultimately such a triumph. The chemistry between the four and eventually five heroes is realistic yet both heartening and tragic. You 100% buy the fact that the four senior members have been through so much together; and then when they are eventually able to accept Norman they are a brilliantly effective team. It is truly the highlight of the film getting to see five such talent actors share the screen. What’s even more impressive is that they each have clearly discernible and varying characteristics. Some are likable, some not so much. But at the end of the day they are all very real and very relatable which serve to properly sell their story.

It’s not to say that Hacksaw Ridge doesn’t have some very strong performances besides Garfield. Hugo Weaving has a minor yet exceptional role as Desmond’s father Thomas. A true example of a man mentally destroyed by war, fearful that the same fate will become of his sons. Teresa Palmer is excellent as Desmond’s girlfriend-then-wife and most of the actors playing the soldiers also give their all to the film. Even if at times Vince Vaughn appears to be doing his best homage of R. Lee Earmy in Full Metal Jacket.

If I had any complaint to make, it would be that Desmond’s fellow company members are a touch under-developed. Many of them are called out on their defining characteristics by Vaughn in one particular (hilarious) scene, and other than that the only trait they have is: ‘hating Desmond, then tolerating Desmond, then embracing Desmond’ over the course of the film.

So in the end the decision comes down to either 5 very good performances with a hell of a lot of chemistry, or 1 absolutely outstanding performance. With that in mind, round two goes to Fury.

R2 – Fury

Round 3 – Production

Both films have a different way of displaying a world consumed by war, however both variations are tremendously effective.

On scale alone; the second half of Hacksaw Ridge is one of the greatest examples of war on film. It’s safe to say that the comparisons to Saving Private Ryan were completely justified. The way Mel Gibson is able to craft absolute mayhem in such a gloriously brutal fashion is something to behold. From the choreography to the technical aspects to just the explosions and debris, it is an absolute masterclass.

Fury is smaller in its scale, as it chooses to showcase shorter more contained tank battles as opposed to the unrelenting chaos seen in Hacksaw Ridge. The shorter skirmishes and fewer numbers allow for a more detailed and sculpted feel to the battles.  I feel that this is a bit of a double-edged sword. This is a different way to showcase the action and allows for maximum tension over a short period of time; however at times it does make the film feel a bit like a video game with how finely choreographed and intricate the moves have to be for our heroes to succeed. This is certainly not the worst thing in the world as it makes for great viewing, however in the overall scheme the absolute chaos of Hacksaw Ridge is what seems (at least from my very limited perspective) to be the best representation of war on film.

Apart from that both films are exceedingly hard to split. The sound design of both are exceptional; both being movies that demand viewing on a huge screen with the volume cranked up high! From the shells hitting the ground to the major explosions, all of it comes together to really establish the tone and put the viewer right in the middle of the carnage.

The last note I will make is Fury’s excellent score. Able to set the tone and really ratchet up the tension when required, composer Steven Price really hit the mark with his efforts. And whilst that is one area where Fury reigns supreme, on the whole Gibson’s direction is enough to set Hacksaw Ridge apart from the pack and more importantly elevate it above Fury.

R3 – Hacksaw Ridge

Round 4 – Genre

As I touched on earlier, Saving Private Ryan has long been considered been the truest representation of war ever put to screen. The only film that I have heard mentioned in the same breath since that time has been Hacksaw Ridge. A film that doesn’t even get to the battlefield until just after the half-way point! To some people it may be an inverse example of Full Metal Jacket-syndrome but that all depends on how well the opening half of the film sells itself to you. Personally I thought that it was a great way to structure the film. Especially as the war scenes in the latter half of the film are so unabating in their intensity that you really require some time to build up to that point.

Where the battle sequences in Fury triumph are in the way they are able to capture maximum tension at various points throughout the film. One of the other commonplace phrases heard about war is that you can wait 10 days doing nothing for 10 minutes of hell. I feel that this is more the route that Fury took in structuring the film. We get some more sedate periods of character building before a short-sharp burst of fury (pardon the pun), after which the film retreats back to recharge for another assault.

Something that Hacksaw Ridge offers that Fury does not, is fleeting moments of comedy which are surprisingly funny. The scene in question is in extremely safe hands with Vince Vaughn’s character leading the charge; but it’s not done in a way that’s overly distracting or takes you out of the film. Plus it also actually serves a purpose. When Desmond is seen breaking or laughing along with the audience, it just gives the viewer that little sense that you are experiencing the journey along with Desmond; which lets you empathise at certain moments later on in the film.

In the end if you want two high quality modern war films that showcase themselves in different yet equally brilliant ways; you need go no further than Hacksaw Ridge and Fury. This may be the hardest category yet to try and split these two; however based on gut-feel and the way that the film is both enthralling and inspirational, I have to hand the category to Hacksaw Ridge.

R4 – Hacksaw Ridge

Round 5 – Enjoyment

I love both of these films and was more than happy to go and re-watch both of them for the purpose of this ‘review’. First I watched Fury because it had been a while since I’d seen it. I’d forgotten just how much I really loved that film. With its great action scenes and so many entertaining yet different characters, I spent 2 hours glued to the screen. Once that was done, it was time for Hacksaw Ridge. And truth be told I got about a third of the way through that movie when I had made by choice. As excellent as Fury was, Hacksaw Ridge is just at another level.

Hacksaw Ridge was my favourite movie of 2016 and I was thrilled to find that I was not disappointed with what I experienced this time around. The war scenes are among the most visceral and breathtaking of any movie in the last 20 years; and the story is one you can get behind and cheer for throughout its entire run-time.

Both are exceptional examples of war films with 21st century filmmaking abilities. Overall, I feel that whilst Fury in particular is spectacularly underrated; the brilliant filmmaking, out-of-this-world battle sequences, and inspirational story of Hacksaw Ridge is what seals the deal for me.

R5 – Hacksaw Ridge

AND YOUR WINNER…………………………

Hacksaw Ridge by TKO (4-1)

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Tick of Approval Movie Review

Well, here we are again. Third time’s a charm hopefully?! Spider-man is back in a brand new way with Marvel finally taking the reins over this much beloved character. People have been yearning for many years to see Spidey come into this world full of Avengers and we now might be about to fully realise those dreams. Yes, I definitely understand the common thoughts of derision regarding the fact that this is our third Spider-Man in 15 years. But with the character finally arriving in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I believe we have great cause for optimism this time around! We got a brief taste of it in Captain America: Civil War, but Homecoming is the first big chance to see if the knee-jerk reactions praising Tom Holland as the ‘best Spider-Man ever’ have any truth to them.

Having said that, I kind of don’t really know what to expect with this movie. I have never been the world’s biggest Spider-Man fan in the world but have enjoyed most of the past films just fine; and being such a big fan of superhero movies, I was always going to go and check this movie out and hope for the best!

Spider-Man: Homecoming is directed by Jon Watts, and stars Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Jon Favreau, and Jacob Batalon.

(LAST WARNING FOR POTENTIAL SPOILERS!!!)

Story

Spider-Man: Homecoming takes place in a post-Civil War world where 15 year old Peter Parker (Holland) struggles to find his true identity upon his return home. Desperate to help and make a difference in the world; Parker has to realise exactly what the world needs from Spider-Man, and what he needs from Spider-Man.

Right from the very early scenes we know we are going to have a lot of fun with this Spider-Man. The home-made video footage that Peter films of his trip to Berlin in Civil War is one of the films true highlights. It just lends a total sense of innocence and for someone who not long ago went through high school, an excellent feel of relatability.

I also liked how the main threat for the film wasn’t a potentially world-ending threat. I often prefer films when they have a tighter focus on a small scale conflict, such was the case with this film. For a lot of the film Vulture is relegated to the background as the priority is placed on watching Peter come into himself as Spider-Man. And even when Michael Keaton is given the chance to snarl and intimidate; his character isn’t trying to bring cataclysmic destruction. I always feel that this makes the story all the more personal.

Whilst I think that the focus on Peter’s journey of self-discovery was an excellent decision for the narrative of this film; I also feel like that it fell at the last hurdle. When Peter attempts to beat Vulture (Keaton) on the boat and fails; he is given a stern talking to by Tony Stark (Downey Jr) about taking unnecessary risks, being too headstrong and going out on his own. By the end of the film he is praised by Tony for learning his lesson and changing his ways. However I strongly disagree with this. In my opinion, the final battle and showdown between Peter and Vulture is no different in his method; it is just that this time he was able to succeed. He still went out on his own and was just stubbornly headstrong. I have no problem with this; but if the film is trying to place emphasis on him learning lessons and becoming more responsible, he should have done that before being able to succeed.

Unfortunately I think that this is another story great in concept but struggling a tad in execution. The film ultimately feels a good 20 minutes too long, and doesn’t quite wholly commit to the storylines featuring Peter at school. Rumour was that Marvel wanted a ‘coming of age’ film while Sony wanted to focus on the action, and it feels like the movie hasn’t quite achieved the balance it was trying to between the two.

SCORE – 7/10

Characters

I can say this with complete confidence that this movie has the worst Spider-Man ever put to screen in a live-action film. (Ha ha I’m so clever). By that I mean that in this movie Peter Parker is a character that clearly has limited experience in life, let alone trying to be a superhero. I thought they did a great job at capturing the essence of what a 15 year old kid would do if he had grown up watching Iron Man and Captain America, and then suddenly developed superpowers. A kid with a tremendous amount of intellect and skill, but still a kid all the same. For that I give a lot of credit to Tom Holland’s performance, but also the performance and writing of Jacob Batalon’s character Ned; Peter’s best friend. It gave this aspect of the movie a very grounded touch despite the obvious fantastical elements.

As somebody who has little to no knowledge of the source material, it’s hard for me to say how accurately Tom Holland’s casting and performance was to the comics. All I can say is that while I really enjoyed his work in the film, it’s still too early to make a definitive call as to who is the best incarnation of Spider-Man in film.

Michael Keaton came in and did exactly what you would expect from him. He’s menacing yet charismatic, tough yet cool, and delightful to see on screen. I also enjoyed how the movie made a determined effort to show the audience his character’s point of view. They made a character with real depth as opposed to an over the top cartoonish villain.

Despite all of the mass hysteria in the lead-up to this film, rest assured, this is not the Tony Stark show. Robert Downey Jr is lightly peppered throughout the film and has an Obi-Wan Kenobi-esque role with Peter. This was something I thought was used to great effect by showcasing his tremendous development since 2008’s Iron Man, and fitting into the MCU as a whole. Tony is emphatic that Peter needs to take responsibility for his actions and not follow Tony’s former destructive ways. A character trait that has been building over the past few years and set to hit breaking point in next year’s Infinity War. Jon Favreau is probably in the film more than RDJ and while he doesn’t do a great deal. His snarky attitude always brings a much welcome comedic element.

Apart from the main stars of the film; the supporting cast all also come to play without either detracting or adding to the film in any major way. Marissa Tomei isn’t given quite enough screen time to really have an impact on the film but still gives enough to show potential for her to have a fairly powerful influence over Peter in the future.

I think that out of Peter’s fellow classmates, Zendaya as Michelle probably impressed me the most. Quirky, funny and dry as a bone, the eleventh hour reveal that she goes by ‘MJ’ has me pleased that she has a larger role ahead of her.

In all, the cast all come to play. Tom Holland can’t put himself forward in the elite category of comic book castings. But we can all be thrilled that he has the role and eagerly anticipate what will come next.

SCORE 8/10

Production

At this current time, you pretty much know what you are going to get in a technical aspect with a superhero film. They’re pretty much always going to be finely crafted and extremely thrilling! For me it’s where the stories diversify where you are going to see anything dip below or soar above that modern baseline quality.

I thought that the editing of the first act in particular felt a little bit choppy for my liking. Given that the film didn’t follow the typical origin story formula, it kind of seemed like the movie was trying to do too much at once. It had to build up Adrian Toomes’ backstory and motivation, show us Peter’s everyday world, and establish where exactly in the chronology of the universe Homecoming sits. Not an easy feat mind you.

The look and the feel of Spidey’s various suits and abilities was as excellent as you could have hoped for. With the involvement of Tony Stark we get to see a wider range of toys for Peter to play with, and the CGI is able to deliver in a great way. Despite the high-tech quality of the gear, it still had a relatively raw feel to it which was just something a bit different than we have seen in the past. That goes without saying though. You know the level of excellence you are going to see in any of the MCU films so there was never any real doubt that the look of Spider-Man flinging himself around Queens was going to be thrilling. Besides it gets very easy to take special effects for granted in movies nowadays. From the design of the costumes of the characters to the spectacularly choreographed Washington Monument rescue, the creative minds behind these films never rest on their laurels and we certainly get our fair share of thrilling stunts and set pieces in the film.

Michael Giacchino also adds to his extensive catalogue of excellent scores with this film. He hits both touching and thrilling high notes with tremendous ease. An I have to also say as a final little footnote, that the way that the film opens with Michael Giacchino’s rendition of the classic Spider-Man theme put a massive smile on my face. Anybody who has hummed the Spider-Man tune at some point in their life will be hooked from that point on.

SCORE 8/10

Genre

I thought one of the major strengths of the film was how it was able to realistically tell a story about a superhero who is extremely relatable and flawed; without making the film overly dark and brooding. Yes the MCU has a fairly basic formula that most of its films follow for the most part. But I think in the past few films we have seen enough deviation from the norm too keep them fresh and exciting; and I certainly think this movie certainly continues that quite adeptly. A lot of the light-hearted fun comes from the earnestness of Tom Holland’s performance. The sheer joy that his and Jacob Batalon’s characters share whilst exploring super-hero life is a unique touch, and one that blends excellently with the thrilling action scenes to form an intriguing entry to this universe.

Unsurprisingly; the part that I think will be most contentious in the film is the humour. The MCU films have had a golden touch for witty dialogue and clever sight gags. I personally think that this movie falters a touch in that regard. Sure the movie was funny enough but it didn’t feel as slick and smooth as others have done. The jokes seemed a bit stilted to the point where it felt like the movie had to grind to a halt for a character to get a joke in before proceedings continued.

Overall this is a superhero movie that will appeal to a lot of fans, and make die-hard comic book aficionados very happy with this brand new iteration of one of their favourite characters.

SCORE 7.5/10

Enjoyment

It’s pretty safe to say that whilst there have been some pretty superb Spider-Man films over the past few years, I’ve never really ‘loved’ any of them to this point. Unfortunately, I have to say that this streak is set to continue for a little while longer. I can’t even really put my finger on what exactly didn’t get me over the line with this movie. Perhaps at this point I have to say that Spider-Man doesn’t really do it for me

Now it’s not like that I thought that this movie was particularly bad or anything, there are plenty of positives to take away! Tom Holland makes for an excellent Spider-Man in a world where the titular hero is a far different character from what we have seen before. The supporting cast performs excellently with the blend of fresh and veteran actors; and as is the norm with super-hero films nowadays. I just felt that the story wasn’t quite able to thrill and excite me the way that I was hoping it would. There wasn’t really anything in the story that gave me chills or took my breath away. Sure I had a decent enough time and enjoyed the film; but I guess I was hoping for just a little bit more.

As for where this film sits in my personal list of Spider-Man films? Well it’s a movie that I feel that I need to re-watch first before making any concrete calls, but unfortunately it’s far from my favourite. Unfortunately if I were to also rank the Marvel Cinematic Universe films it also sits in the lower third of those too.

Look, at the end of the day, I had a perfectly fine time watching this movie and I don’t want to lead you astray at all. I think this is a movie that a lot of people will really love because there is plenty of good in film! Just for me, nothing that quite reaches the mark of great.

SCORE 7/10

Overall Rating

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the sixteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and certainly one of the most anticipated. Leading up to this, many fans wanted to see the Peter Parker they all loved from the comics growing up; and I don’t think many will come away from this movie disappointed.

For a movie that can at times seem to follow the basic super-hero film formula; at its core I think Jon Watts and co. succeeded in crafting a movie diverse enough to stand out from the ever growing crowd of comic book films. Led excellently by Tom Holland, we get to see a Spider-Man who is vulnerable and flawed; yet extremely innocent and relatable. Which to be able to pull off all of that in a movie that still feels so upbeat and light is a super impressive feat.

It’s not the perfect movie that many wish for, and it even might not be as strong as I was hoping for in the end; but it’s a sign that the character of Spider-Man is in good hands with this new Marvel/Sony partnership. And with a sequel and Infinity War to come next for the character, I think we can all be excited about ol’ Spidey’s future. Because his first step film, gets the tick of approval.

75% Approval Rating

Baby Driver – Tick of Approval Movie Review

This movie has me befuddled like no other. I mean, yeah it looks well-made and all, yeah Edgar Wright is directing, and yeah there is an unreal cast; you’ve got no arguments there. But for whatever reason I just could not bring myself to have a single ounce of excitement through any part of my body. You may have noticed that I spoke in the past tense there for a moment. Well that’s because it’s hard to stay such a pessimistic dip-shit when every single word about this movie is overwhelmingly positive. For someone so cynical like myself; the relentless positivity is almost sickening. But you know what? It’s working.

Instead of Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man; we get Baby Driver. For all of the hyperbole and outrage surrounding Wright’s less than amicable split with the head-honchos at MARVEL; it’s probably not such a bad thing. We will always get cool and creative super-hero films. Innovative and exciting action thrillers on the other hand are a little harder to come by. So, with somebody as talented as Wright behind the camera, and the ever-growing tidal-wave of excitement; I go into the film cautious yet eagerly anticipating what we may get to see.

Baby Driver is directed by Edgar Wright, and stars: Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey and Lily James.

(LAST WARNING FOR POTENTIAL SPOILERS!!!)

Story

Baby Driver tells the story of Baby (Elgort), a young talented driver with tinnitus who acts as the getaway driver for local crime-lord Doc’s (Kevin Spacey) various heists and robberies. Over the course of the film Baby yearns for an escape from the seedy world he finds himself enveloped in, all the while attempting to woo Debora (Lily James); local waitress and fellow music enthusiast.

From there we experience an excellent blend of action, comedy and heart that we could hope for in a movie like this. The pacing of the film is of the highest quality. For a movie that features the upbeat tempo set by the thrilling action scenes, snappy dialogue, and the bombastic soundtrack; it isn’t let down by any major lulls or jarring periods where the movie feels aimless. The action scenes are exciting and never feel repetitive at all. Not to mention the periods in between the big set pieces are filled with mostly excellent performances so you are left in your seat, constantly riveted.

When it comes to establishing backstory and certain character traits; this movie is an excellent example in that old cliché: ‘show don’t tell’. Short scenes either in flashback or brief scenes of dialogue between characters is all that it takes to tell you all that you need to know without spending a whole lot of time talking or blatantly telling the audience what is going on. There is one fairly major exposition dump where Doc gives backstory about the relationship between him and Baby; but the dialogue is so sharply written, plus it is bookended by a pretty brilliant gag, it doesn’t feel as in your face as it otherwise could have been.

Like several other Edgar Wright films we again get to see the unique way that the film does not just settle for being a standard narrative. Through Easter eggs, visual cues and certain quotes; Wright finds a way to pepper through brilliant foreshadowing and hints as to what lies ahead in the film. It certainly feels like a movie that you are going to have to see multiple times before you are able to pick up on all of the little tid-bits scattered throughout.

Overall, this is an exceedingly smart and emotionally resonating story that has no problem getting the audience to buy in and stay in throughout its whole 113 minute run-time.

SCORE – 8.5/10

Characters

Watching through some of his back catalogue, Wright has a tendency to load up his films with a wide range of despicable people. From top of the line asshole to just a bit of a bit of a shifty prick; this movie has the whole range.

Ansel Elgort carries the film so impressively for a guy so young (Well I say young, but in all honesty he’s the same age as me). Right from the very first scene; we get to see him rocking out in his car and then put on an absolute clinic with his driving. All we need is the slight bit of back-story telling us why he’s involved with such seedy characters and we are on his side from then on. This is only reinforced with the scenes he shares with CJ Jones (Joe). The chemistry the two share is the most heartwarming aspect of the film, and really helps dissuade you from any thoughts that Baby is anything less than somebody making the best of a shitty situation. Elgort displays everything including likability, venom and frustration; but the fact that he does all of it so genuinely is what sold him for me. And I think we will see a lot more of him in years to come.

Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey all bring their A-game as individuals displaying various levels of villainy. Exactly what you would expect from actors of such high calibre. Jamie Foxx as Bats in particular gets the most flamboyant role, and as you would expect he relishes the opportunity to go nuts for a few hours.

I personally really enjoyed the way Buddy (Hamm) developed over the course of the film. He goes from sympathetic ally to Baby to murderous psychopath with such believability and what’s more; he is written in such a way that you can understand exactly why he does.

Rounding out these three veteran actors is Spacey as Doc, and I was really intrigued with the direction his character took. For two-thirds of the film he was build up as the primary antagonist that would serve as the overall menacing presence for the conclusion of the film. However in a bit of a rug-pull he shows to have developed real care for Baby, and Buddy assumes the role of chief bad-guy once Doc is dispatched. Actually on a side note, I did really appreciate how little fan-fare many of the lead characters received upon their deaths.

The only place that gives me cause for complaint is the female characters in the film. Now don’t get me wrong here, I thought that Lily James had great chemistry with Ansel Elgort and her performance was equally as impressive. But this is where I have one of my few marks against Edgar Wright’s magnificent work. Her character wasn’t exactly written as well as I would have hoped. I thought that she didn’t have enough to establish why she would side with Baby when shit started to hit the fan. Any normal person would have freaked out and run screaming in the other direction. But instead she not only went along with the craziness, but participated in some pretty violent ways.

I also have a similar complaint for Eiza Gonzalez’s Darling. I only knew her as Jon Hamm’s crazy wife and nothing more. Perhaps a more established actress may have been able to carry off the role matched against a few heavyweights of the industry. But her character didn’t quite resonate for me.

All in all there are certainly no terrible performances; only varying levels of excellence. The characters for the most part are written in a logical way that lets you understand and attach to them. And our lead sets the tone and carries the film in an extremely impressive manner. Meaning Edgar Wright has crafted a few new iconic characters to add to his library.

SCORE 8.5/10

Production

Man oh man this movie is something else. I mean yeah it has all of the usual Edgar Wright craftiness that we come to expect with the combination of quick snappy edits and long-form continuous takes, and that’s glorious; but the film’s usage of music is really quite spectacular. The music is established right from the word go as being an integral part of the movie and from that point on it is unrelenting. I kept waiting for it to becoming mind-numbing or annoying like we saw happen in last year’s Suicide Squad; but for whatever reason it was always a pleasure to be treated some great 80’s and 90’s rock and pop. I feel that it was due to both the consistency of the music        that was played, plus the fact that it was utilised as such a pivotal part of the film in both shaping the plot and providing with some extra humour; and not just included because people might recognise a song or two. Either way, we definitely have something that rivals Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 for one of the top soundtracks of the year.

This movie is called Baby Driver and we’ve already spoken about Baby, so now to touch on the driving aspect of the film. The driving and chase sequences are all truly thrilling as well. We get to open with a really clever and exciting chase scene before being treated to several others throughout the film; each of them raising the stakes and bringing a new element to them, again to keep the chase scenes from becoming monotonous and stale. Word is also starting to spread that the all of the driving scenes were practically done as well, with not an ounce of CGI involved to get them up on the big screen. That only reinforces just how impressive an achievement this movie is; with it clear that so much hard work went in to making it as real and as exciting as it could possibly be for us.

If you love what you have seen in a creative sense from Wright in the past; then you are in for a treat with this movie. It delivers all of the common tropes that we have come to expect from his work, yet in a new genre and with new thrills added in. It is a movie that you will leave wanting to jump in your car, crank up the music, and drive around as fast as possible!

SCORE 9/10

Genre

Like many of Wright’s other works; this film doesn’t fit neatly into one little box for it to be defined. Yes at its core it is an action-thriller; but to say that and that alone would be to do a disservice to the comedic, crime, and even romantic elements of the movie. The fact that the movie is able to dip its foot into each of those respective pools without compromising the quality of any of its characteristics is a truly impressive feat.

I’ve already touched on this aspect so I won’t drone on for too long on the matter. But the action scenes in this movie are not just consistently exciting but they’re always smartly done. There are no signs of Michael Bay or Fast and Furious-isms where they start to just throw as many explosions and car smashes at the screen. Not to say that there isn’t a place for scenes like that, but in this film it would not have fit the overall mandate. Instead the chases are crafted with a slickness and coolness that just smacks of a higher quality movie. This is only reinforced with the crime-thriller side of the movie. Yes there is ample of opportunity for the film to flex its muscles and really show the visceral, violent side of this world, but for the most part it has an air of fun and composure. Kevin Spacey brings a lot of this to the film (as you would expect), but it’s not like the rest of the film falls down around him. The way the film is shot and scripted also allows you to have a lot of fun watching these fairly despicable people plan out and commit armed robbery. Hey but that’s okay, we go to the movies for an escape after all! (Or at least I hope so………)

This movie is also really very clever in the way that it makes you laugh throughout the movie. At no point does it become a cavalcade of slapstick or cheap toilet humour, it is eternally intellectual jokes that will appeal to both the casual cinema-goer as well as dedicated film-buffs. There are hilarious sight gags that flash by just as quick as they appear, witty and sharp dialogue that also helps to endear these sometimes nefarious characters to you, and all of the usual homages to films of years gone by that all combine to make for a surprisingly funny movie. In no way did I anticipate this film to be as funny as it was.

You should know by now the kind of film that Edgar Wright is going to deliver, and I should know that by now as well. Nevertheless, I was still pleasantly surprised that this movie was able to deliver the goods in so many different ways. What a glorious triumph of a film.

SCORE 8.5/10

Enjoyment

Now I went into this movie a little bit afraid as to what I would be thinking once the two hours were over. I had gone through the emotional ringer with this movie. When I first started seeing promo material I just had zero desire to go anywhere near this movie. It was only in the week leading up to release that I saw the overwhelming buzz and praise it was receiving that I really started to come around on the idea of seeing it. But then I got scared that it may get overhyped and leave me feeling disappointed. Anyway, long story short (too late I know); that was never going to be a problem!

I had an absolute blast with this movie from start to finish! I was never bored, always on the edge of the seat, and smiling at all of the awesome music blaring out at me. I was really impressed with Ansel Elgort and can’t wait to see what he is given to do in the future because it seemed like he has the potential to be a pretty big star in the years to come!

Like I said earlier I had a bit of a problem with the way the female characters were written in that their motivations were a little underdeveloped. However the performances in the film were all on point and certainly very fitting for each of their characters.

Overall, I cheered, I laughed, and at one point I almost cried. This movie gave me the full experience I could hope for going into the cinema. And for that I endlessly applaud it.

SCORE 9/10

Overall Rating

Well, well, well. It’s starting to look like that summer movies may not be dead after all! With a few massive films set to follow this one, I think we could be set for a pretty amazing July. And this movie has set the tone in the most glorious fashion possible.

There is something to appeal to absolutely everybody in this movie. Everyone loves to go to the movies to be dazzled, amazed and more than anything have a smile put on your face; and this film does exactly that. Whether it is the exceedingly clever dialogue and jokes, or the next big violent yet classy chase sequence, at point or another you will be on the edge of your seat in glee!

I think it can now be officially said that Edgar Wright is one of the 21st century’s premier filmmakers. The man is creative, original, and so very, very clever. He had such a high bar set with many of his previous movies but I can safely say that this film nestles itself comfortably among those in his growing catalogue of quality films.

Get out and see this movie if you haven’t already. Or hell, even if you have, see it again! It is a hell of a lot of fun, smacks of endless re-watchability; and is another excellent example of some of the brilliant original material that is out there if you want to go looking in the right places. I can happily and gladly say that Baby Driver gets: the tick of approval.

87% Approval Rating

 

Shaun of the Dead v Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – Cinematic Smackdown

In honour of the release of Baby Driver, I thought what better time to unveil a new series by showcasing the skills and diversity of Edgar Wright; by comparing two of the brilliant films among his resume.

In the left corner; 2004’s horror-comedy entry from the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy: Shaun of the Dead. In the right corner we have 2010’s action-romantic-comedy and cinematic incarnation of a graphic novel: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

(This CINEMATIC SHOWDOWN will be spoiler free!)

Round 1 – Plot

Shaun of the Dead tells the story of Shaun. A twenty-nine year old Brit lacking in both purpose and motivation with his life. What better impetus for him than a zombie apocalypse?

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World shows young unemployed bass guitarist Scott Pilgrim’s troubles to win the affection of mysterious Ramona Flowers. With nothing more than fate, and her ‘seven evil exes’ standing in his way.

Both of the films are excellently paced, with Scott Pilgrim utilising its unique visuals to set the tone and quickly establish back-story before being thrust into the bombastic world of Toronto. The film expertly manages to pause for breath at various points before seamlessly transitioning back into another brilliant fight scene. The film is able to balance its ebbs and flows between the thrilling fight scenes whilst attempting to build the chemistry between Scott, Ramona, and Knives. For me the slower portions of the film are probably the weakest. Partially because the action scenes when they come are so entertaining, but also because you aren’t quite given enough to invest in the characters.

Shaun of the Dead on the other hand takes a more slow-paced approach, in fitting with the location and tone. The narrative building and building with the increased stakes as the character’s situation becomes more dire. Even from the very start of the movie there are signs of what is to come in the movie; with hints and foreshadowing peppered throughout the first act. The film never breaks out into top gear, but the movie benefits because of it. There are no jarring tonal changes when the movie attempts to hit an emotional button. But due to the frenetic that the film is cut together, it certainly doesn’t feel like a drag at all.

The film also has a strength in that it doesn’t always feel like a film. Aside from the obvious fantastical element of the zombies showing up out of nowhere, the movie for the most part feels extremely grounded. The way the plot unfolds doesn’t feel like a typical progression of a film because the characters for the most part make decisions which align with what the audience would do in the exact same situation. Which in my opinion gives the movie a more relatable feel to it. This goes a long way to cementing a place in the heart of the viewer, and certainly goes a long way to awarding the bouts first points to Shaun of the Dead.

R1 – Shaun of the Dead

Round 2 – Characters

In my opinion where you go in round 2 depends on which group of characters you either like or relate to more than the other. One thing I noticed was that the main group of each film to me was just different variations of shitty, sullen or miserable people. Personally I feel that this helps endear them to you. I mean we all know people like that and if you’re anything like me, then you are someone like that!

However this didn’t mean that every single character spoke to me in the way I would have liked. Now I have absolutely no idea about the source material for Scott Pilgrim, so I don’t know if they were just staying true to the graphic novel. But Scott Pilgrim for a major portion of the film just came off as a dick, with very little about him being likeable. Certainly nothing that makes you want to cheer him on to success. I actually found it quite blatant as much of the supporting cast were still endearing despite their flaws. Each of them having their moment in the sun to give the audience a chuckle. I particularly appreciated the dry nature of Kieran Culkin’s character Wallace. Perhaps this is why I find myself leaning towards the Shaun of the Dead roster. I mean none of Shaun, Ed, Liz, Dianne or David were exactly saint-like. But for the most part they were good at heart. (Well maybe except for David, he was a wanker). But they made you want them to make it through the ordeal unscathed.

But as I said; these films live and die with the lead characters, and I thought that Shaun’s overall arc was the more rounded and engaging in comparison with Scott’s. Shaun starts the film as a lazy, listless man scraping his way through life; yet in the face of a deadly and horrifying fate; he becomes a leader and a good man. Scott on the other hand is the stereotypical young-adult. Sullen, petulant, and wanting things to go his way irrespective of the impact on those around him. It is only at the very end where he has a sudden change in outlook and becomes the hero. Oh and besides; there is nobody in Scott’s corner quite like Nick Frost’s Ed, and the film is lesser for it.

Besides the lead characters; both films boast a vast and impressive list of talented and hilarious supporting characters. Scott Pilgrim in particular is a who’s who of some of the biggest young actors and actresses throughout the 2010’s. All of which come to play and add varying levels of quirkiness and fun to the film. Shaun of the Dead has an all-English cast who also thrive under Edgar Wright’s direction. With both films really giving the impression that he is a director that many actors would enjoy working with.

In all, based on the likability and way you can truly relate to the characters in Shaun of the Dead, it comes away with the points in round 2.

R2 – Shaun of the Dead

Round 3 – Production

Whatever you feel about this category, I’m sure that we can all agree that it proves to all of us that Edgar Wright is one of the great modern directors of our time. Or at least one of the most fun!

Shaun of the Dead was where we first got to see all of the classic “Wright-isms” with the rapid sharp dialogue, quick cuts and off-kilter tone throughout the film. Now, don’t get me wrong I love all of that, and we see it back with a vengeance in Scott Pilgrim. But as much as I hate to say it, I think that Scott Pilgrim takes the zany nature to the next level.

Right from the opening frames and the 8-bit Universal logo and theme, we are treated to a wholly original way to go about crafting a film. Wright’s usage of labelling, video-game esque features and retro sound effects are a brilliant way to immerse the viewer into the film. Not to mention that they are such a clever way of getting in exposition in a very timely manner without bogging down such a brisk moving film.

The fight scenes as well in Scott Pilgrim are another way of outlining the skills of the creative team behind the film. They show enough of the trademark Wright editing style to maintain the frantic nature of the scene; whilst still showing the restraint to allow the fight to be shown in all of the necessary glory. The fights are something straight out of a great video game, from the effects, to the moves, to point-scoring and even the costumes and look of the characters. They are so excellently done that you are hooked into the film from the word go; irrespective of how unrealistic the film may seem at first.

One area in which the films break-even is in their respective score and soundtracks. Scott Pilgrim has what would seem like the advantage with the original music of Sex Bob-Omb (and excellent original music at that!), as well as the retro themes which take inspiration from 80’s and 90’s gaming. But Shaun is equal to the task with an eerie and atypical score that is both parts whimsical and creepy. Let’s also not forget the iconic usage of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now as the gang combines to take out one particular zombie.

Shaun of the Dead was a brilliantly crafted film and remains one of the most original creations of the 21st century. But Scott Pilgrim was an extravagant and thrilling example of where we could see Edgar Wright take his films in the years to come.

R3 – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Round 4 – Genre

Both of these films do comedy and satire better than many of their peers. So we will kick off this segment looking into that a bit.

Shaun of the Dead is the perfect blend of homage and spoof as it reimagines the horror genre by both following and breaking many common stereotypes along the way. The fact that it is able to do so whilst being so funny is a testament to its brilliance. Of course the humour certainly isn’t for everybody. It is a classic example of British humour; dry, sarcastic, and extremely clever.

We see a trend developing in the films that follow Shaun, and Scott Pilgrim is no exception to the rule. The way that Wright is able to both praise and parody certain aspects of society is unique yet excellent. In Scott Pilgrim we see the film look at the behaviour and attitude of young-adults, as well as the way the world looks at them. This is done with many current trends in society, among them veganism and hipster culture.

Both films also have more than one string to their bow. As mentioned Shaun of the Dead functions as a perfectly unsettling horror film in its own right. It has a great blend of scares, creep factor, and gore that will disturb most viewers without going over the top; and even blending comedy into many scary scenes to help relieve the tension at times. Scott Pilgrim on the other hand doubles as a highly thrilling action/fantasy film, with the movie holding several key action set-pieces that are up there with the best of them in terms of entertainment value.

This category veers into the subjective depending on the viewer because it really is all about the type of comedy you appreciate and the type of film that speaks to you more. However it is my belief that Shaun of the Dead is the type of horror film that will appeal to those averse to normally watching horror movies. And that in combination with the fact that its humour hits harder and on a more consistent basis; Shaun of the Dead seals Scott Pilgrim’s fate in this category.

R4 – Shaun of the Dead

Round 5 – Enjoyment

I feel like this is a little unfair because up until recently I hated Scott Pilgrim vs. the World with a passion. But having re-watched it with a fully open mind, I was able to fully appreciate its brilliance and really have a fun time! Its effects, fight-scenes and tone unsure that you are entertained; and with an excellent mix of original and retro songs, you get a nice mix of nostalgia combined with the fact that the film is so new and innovative. My only major complaint was that it took until very late in the movie before I was able to find Scott Pilgrim likable. I spent the rest of the film frustrated at what a total dickhead he was. I’m not saying that Shaun is any less of a dickhead. But I’ve always found him lovable and endearing; despite his dickheaded-ness.

Shaun of the Dead on the other hand is a movie that I’ve enjoyed for many years and only grows on me with each viewing. It’s so funny in such a purely original way that remains just as fresh as the years go by. Not to mention that it was such a gateway film in that it opened the door for me dipping my feet in the horror-movie waters.

Yes this is more than a little bit biased; but hey that’s what this category is about! I really like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. But I love Shaun of the Dead, and it comfortably takes the final round.

R5 – Shaun of the Dead

AND YOUR WINNER…………………………

Shaun of the Dead by TKO (4-1)

The House – Tick of Approval Movie Review

I’ve got to be honest with you guys. I’m really starting to wonder if I’m turning into a jaded, grumpy prick. I mean I know that’s definitely the case in some areas of life; but I’m really starting to consider it to be true in regards to comedy films. Off the top of my head the last new release films that I have found funny are Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Other than that I’ve found a real lack of gut-bustingly funny movies; or at least comedy films that can live up to their expectations. Therefore, I’m really hoping that this film can turn the tide!

I consider some of Will Ferrell’s mid-to-late 2000’s work to be among the funniest films ever released. He is just somebody that speaks to me and more often than not has me in tears. Combine that with Amy Poehler who I loved to death after watching Parks & Recreation, hell I’m actually getting a little excited for this movie. Now having said that, I am going in with subdued expectations. Pretty much for all the reasons I’ve stated above. But despite that, I’m hoping to go into the theatre, and have my funny bone caressed, tickled, and lovingly seduced. (Sorry things just got a tad creepy there).

The House is directed by Andrew Jay Cohen, and stars Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas and Nick Kroll.

(LAST WARNING FOR POTENTIAL SPOILERS!!!)

Story

So, The House is about Scott (Ferrell) and Kate (Poehler) Johansen; two parents desperately trying to raise the money for their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) to attend the college of her dreams, after her scholarship money is taken away by the local council led by Bob (Kroll). Together with their best friend Frank (Mantzoukas), Scott and Kate set about creating a casino in Frank’s house in order to raise the money they need.

On the premise alone, this seems like a pretty damn good pitch to me. There is more than enough merit behind it, and I get that for a comedy involving these individuals; the plot is going to be far from the most important aspect of the film. However the thin narrative and plot holes are more apparent than ever because the humour doesn’t hit on the levels it intends (but more on that later).

Again, this movie lands just under 90 minutes long which is a pretty perfect run time for a film like this. But because of the lack of laughs, the failure to properly set up certain aspects of the film leave a poor taste in your mouth. Like how everybody in the town just decides to take part immediately without any scepticism or caution, or how Frank manages to have the funds and resources to set up this casino with no problem at all.

The pacing of the film is also a bit of a problem. The initial set-up somehow feels rushed yet empty all at once before the film gets into a bit of a groove in the second act. Then within an instant the film gets completely bat-shit crazy as it enters its final act before a resolution completely lacking in logic brings the movie to an abrupt halt.

Like I said, these issues aren’t a problem if the movie can make you laugh. But because for a large majority of the time you aren’t doing that, you get to spend more time picking apart the story. Which for me; ended up being a potentially funny and interesting concept, and nothing more.

SCORE – 4/10

Characters

Ferrell and Poehler are on the poster for the film, and are the major drawcards that will bring an audience to this film. Don’t get me wrong, they’re far from terrible by any means. They just didn’t quite deliver in the way that I know that they can. For me I feel that it is more of the fault of the script than their performances; but after you see them at their peak, you notice when they’re a little off that mark. The reason I place more of the blame on the script is that when the two were allowed to riff a little with quick one-liners that you get the feeling were improvised, that’s when they get their chance to shine.

I just felt like I was watching Will Ferrell light. It’s not like he was doing anything drastically different than in the past; he still had the same idiotic disposition and over the top delivery at times, but it just didn’t feel as genuine as it has done in the past. Another problem with the characters more than the actors, was that they essentially felt like two versions of the same person. It wasn’t like they were able to bounce off one another with any real success because their behaviours were pretty much mirrored.

The funniest character in the movie for me was Frank, and I am becoming more and more impressed with Jason Mantzoukas the more that I see him in things. For me he was able to hit that excellent middle ground between absurdity that was still somewhat grounded in reality. Plus I really enjoyed his line delivery and more subtle mannerisms than can really sell a joke or scene in regards to its humour. For the same reason I really liked Rob Huebel who played the cop looking into the whole scheme. I have never known his name but I’m starting to realise that he is consistently funny in nearly all of the bit-parts that you see him play.

Lastly I’ll briefly touch upon the ‘villains’ of the film. Following on from last year’s Sausage Party, Nick Kroll again plays an over the top douche, just in a far less literal sense this time around. I find it interesting that directors and writers push him into a more over the top manner, because I’ve always found him to be most funny when he can rely on being the drier, sarcastic type.  But again here he isn’t given a great deal to do that makes the most of his talents.

There’s a cameo in this movie for all of about 3 minutes. Spoiler alert if you don’t want to know who the actor in question is, but it will hardly spoil it for you because he is hardly in the movie and is completely wasted beyond making you go: “Wait what the fuck? That’s Jeremy Renner!” But yeah he’s in it for a bit.

SCORE 5.5/10

Production

Umm, I don’t really know what to say about this part of the film. It’s not a film that requires much in the way of effects or special camera shots at all. So it really gets a pass on the fact that it isn’t totally butchered in the editing process. Not that I’m the best at spotting things like that anyway, but for me I thought that the scenes were certainly given enough time for the jokes to breathe and hit; it’s just that they weren’t that funny in the first place.

There’s a few random acts of pretty brutal violence in the movie but they’re pulled off pretty well without looking too fake, at least not to the point of taking away from the scene at all.

There’s also some establishing shots throughout the ‘casino’ that look pretty cool as well as a pretty entertainingly filmed fight scene early on in the film, but other than that, nothing really to write home about. Nor does there need to be in a movie like this. It does exactly what it needs to do, and nothing more.

SCORE 6/10

Genre

So you may have a bit of an idea where I might be heading with this section of the review. I haven’t exactly made it much of a secret that this movie did not prove to be the laugh-filled romp that I was hoping that it might have been.

I have been a little doom and gloom about this aspect of the film so I have to clarify that it’s not that I sat through this film stone-faced and miserable at what was on the screen. There is more than enough in the movie to bring a smile to your face or that was enough to give me a bit of a giggle. It’s just that isn’t enough for me in a movie being touted as a straight up comedy. Or if that is all it is offering, then it needs to bring more to the table in regards to a tight compelling story, emotional drama, or entertaining action. This movie had none of that which really brought it down in my eyes.

There are a few aggressively violent sight-gags in the movie which for the most part hit the mark in one the funnier aspects of the movie: Scott’s transition into casino enforcer/tough-guy. However they still felt a little jarring and potentially a little unnecessary. Plus the change in behaviour for Ferrell’s character felt a little too similar in premise to what he did in Old School and The Other Guys. Which was also a bit of shame.

I’ll end on a positive note though and repeat what I though worked well in the comedic aspects of the movie. As I stated, Jason Mantzoukas’ comic timing and delivery, the quicker more improvisational lines with Poehler and Ferrell, and Rob Huebel’s police officer character all do their best to service the funnier parts of the film. However in the end, it really isn’t enough to keep the film afloat.

SCORE 4/10

Enjoyment

Despite coming into this movie trying to keep my expectations low, I still came away really disappointed with what I saw. It’s pretty simple why too. There are so many talented and funny individuals involved in this film, yet it barely managed to push me further than the occasional chuckle. Try as I might to not compare this movie to projects Ferrell and Poehler have worked on in the past, it’s just hard not to feel a little let down when this effort so drastically pales in comparison.

I think that at the core of this film there is an intriguing concept rife with comedy gold, and there are many talented comic actors who you are more than happy to see sharing the screen in this (for the most part), adequately crafted film. But unfortunately the steady stream of missed opportunities when it comes to landing jokes really open the film up for criticism in pretty much every other area. So it was pretty glaring when a plot hole was opened up, or a character didn’t fit the scene, or a CAMEO smacks you in the face. Once again I’m left to lament what could have been, and cross my fingers that the next big comedy can deliver because this movie was ultimately, a letdown.

SCORE 5/10

Overall Rating

Comedy is the ultimate example of subjectivity; believe me, I get that. So for every miserable prick like myself that has absolutely no joy in seeing this movie, there will be several others who come out of the film having had a great time! So ultimately it really depends on what your tastes are as to whether or not this movie makes you laugh or not. Or whether you should bother spending your cash on getting out of the house and checking this movie out. For what little my opinion is worth, I would suggest holding onto your money, and trying to check this out when it comes out on home media.

I still hope to high hell that Will Ferrell still has a few movies that can take him close to his glory days of: Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, Anchorman, and many more classics. But the current trajectory he is on makes me worried. To be honest comedy films in general have me a bit worried. To be fair it could just be me. But so many recent films haven’t given me that great big belly laugh that I’m dying to let out. The funniest and wittiest films that I’ve seen lately have all been super-hero films.

At the end of the day this movie joins an exclusive but dreaded club. Unfortunately for one of the few times this year, The House does not get the tick of approval.

49% Approval Rating