Month: February 2016

Foxcatcher (2015)

I actually ruined the story of Foxcatcher for myself, due to me reading into the story of John Du Pont during one late evening. However, as I watched the trailers that thoroughly had me gripped, I realised after my first viewing that if there was a case for a film to be completely different to the trailer, Foxcatcher is that example.

As the cast featured Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum, I thought it was intriguing as they essentially playing roles they’re not initially known for. Especially as Steve Carrell is in a rather make-up heavy serious role and Channing Tatum is also cast in a more serious role than his previous ones of late.

Primarily Foxcatcher is about the recruitment of Olympic medallist Mark Schultz to Team Foxcatcher, set up by John Du Pont, an amateur wrestling enthusiast who also happens to be a millionaire which his own luxurious estate.

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Mark (Channing Tatum) is the younger brother of Dave Schultz, (Mark Ruffalo) who is also an Olympic medal-winning wrestler. However, Dave is not so easily swayed by John’s fancy estate and father-figure mentality, as Mark begins his training for the World Championships at the Foxcatcher estate.

Truthfully, I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit let down by Foxcatcher in general. Admittedly, I did expect a big character fuelled film, but back upped by either action, or increasingly tense scenes. In truth, what I saw unfold was a big character fuelled film, but with gaping amounts of filler before the big tense scenes.

The relationship between John and Mark is interesting, as Mark champions for his affections and attentions. Eventually they do bond in the sense of companionship but also Mark seeing John as the father figure he lacked growing up.

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As I mentioned with regards to the trailer and the film being on two different levels tonally, I believed the film to be that John Do Pont had wronged the Schultz and it would be a story of revenge/redemption with the choice shots used throughout the trailer. However, the story as I mentioned has the companionship element and the only sense of vengeance comes from the shutout that Mark experiences when Dave joins Team Foxcatcher.

My reaction to this film is just that it severely lacked the tense element that could’ve been incredible to watch unfold. With how the story plays out the film should’ve been this tense dark unfolding of the characters, but instead the process is drab, pretty much lifeless and over within a matter of seconds.

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That being said, the characters drive the very-slow paced plot as the rivalry between Dave and Mark heats up, that springs from Mark seeming to be in Dave’s shadow. Not only this, but Du Pont’s mood swings as he seems to be fine, but then becomes violent and distressed when he wants more effort from Mark and the team.

I thought Channing Tatum’s depiction of Mark was excellent and engrossing as he is a mysterious character. We see him go through many different trails and tribulations, from him living in his brothers shadow, to be then be successful at the Worlds and then smashing up a hotel room, as it comes crashing down around him. There is a incredibly range in motions that Mark goes through and it’s entertaining to watch unfold.

Unfortunately, the way the story played out and the pacing of the film was it’s downfall for me, as the film eventually seems to go on for too long for the big climatic point. Bennett Miller, off the back of Moneyball and Capote did create an interesting look into the true story of Dave and Mark Schultz and their relationship with Du Pont, but I finished the film feeling underwhelmed in a large sense thinking the film could’ve and should’ve been better with the great cast and interesting story.

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Deadpool (2016)

Marvel’s slow takeover of the cinematic universe is continually expanding. This time is has expanded further into the X-Men universe (kind of) with Deadpool. Deadpool first appeared, played again by Ryan Reynolds during X-Men Origins: Wolverine as a re-imagined version of Wade Wilson.

Tim Miller (director) went back to the drawing board for Deadpool and found himself with the comic books. Now, I have no interest in the comics of any of the Marvel universe and just enjoy the releases in general. I’m told Ryan Reynolds and Tim Miller re-imagined Deadpool is lifted directly out of the comic book, which was extraordinary after watching this film.

Make no mistake though, this is not a superhero film, it’s more of an anti-hero film that makes you laugh. Not only does Deadpool as a character hit back with quick comedic-quips, the film pokes fun at the rest of the superhero films currently being churned out of Hollywood. Instead of stating who is directing the film, or who is starring in the film, it has “A Hot Chick”, “A Gratuitous Cameo” and even “The Comic Relief” which has been true for the recent efforts by Marvel.

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Whether the story of Wade Wilson becoming Deadpool is true to the comic, I could not tell you, but I can tell you it’s pretty interesting with the throwabout nature of the story continually skipping backwards and forwards with the past and present. Deadpool (played again by Ryan Reynolds) is counting as he picks off mercenaries with twelve bullets, but then tosses us back to how he went from Wade Wilson to Deadpool (in comical fashion of course) as he turns the last mercenary into a kebab.

Wade is introduced as an ex-special forces man, who have been all around to world, even to Jacksonville and eventually meets the love of his life Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). This all comes crashing down when Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer, this becoming the cause and effect of Wade becoming Deadpool. He becomes the superhero (or anti-hero depending which way you look at it) at the hands of Francis, head of a seedy operation mutating humans into having superpowers.

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And so Deadpool is born.

However, Deadpool isn’t a direct cause and effect of the comedy that is associated with his character, the film is comedic from start to finish, even as Wade Wilson. Even his relationship with Vanessa is comedic as they continually try to ‘outdo’ each other in regards of upbringing. They’re first encounter is a joke as Wade remarks about putting ‘balls in holes’ but then takes her to play Skeeball. Deadpool as a character only accentuates this comedy, with his extraordinary fighting style and obliviousness to the fight in hand, exemplified by him commenting on the leather in a car fight and his comical relationship with Dopinder, the Asian taxi driver that accepts the currency of a ‘crisp high-five’.

It is impossible to not laugh at this film as I believe the comedy is so simplistic but hits all the notes and tones coupled with this movie. Ranging from fart jokes to slap stick and even situational comedy. My only issue is the story isn’t the strongest. Personally, I think the best storyline in the Marvel world thus far is Captain America: The Winter Soldier but with the rate that film hits the comedy notes, the story isn’t as important.

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Understandable without a strong story, the characters aren’t going to be as strong, as everyone but Deadpool take a backseat in this story. Admittedly the origin part of Wade becoming Deadpool was interesting, but after that point the rest of the story falls flat and can be largely guessed what will happen.

Admittedly, this has been my favourite Marvel outing so far as the film is just excellently funny and I personally haven’t heard a bad word about it yet. The comedy is fantastic and just downright hilarious. Since Marvel films have pretty much copied the framework of the Phase One films (from what I’ve seen anyway) Deadpool was a refreshing change of pace, especially the continual breaking the fourth wall and poking fun at The Green Lantern and other Marvel franchises.

 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2014)

I was unbelievably gutted to not catch this film in the cinema’s because I’m a big fan of Ben Stiller and him directing this made me want to see this more. I managed to get a viewing since on DVD and this is a direct cause and effect of me being gutted about it.

Ben Stiller’s past previous directed works are anything to go off, it would expected that this film involves comedy with the likes of Zoolander and Tropic Thunder. However, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty includes comedy, but personally, I would say that comedy isn’t the basis of the film. After an initial screening, I couldn’t wait to re-watch the film many times over, the enjoyment factor from me was that huge.

  
Walter Mitty (Stiller) is the most sympathetic character of Ben Stiller’s repertoire as the essence of the story is epitomised by his constant battle of thoughts with himself, illustrated by his sprint to the helicopter. Mitty carries the socially inept persona as the negative asset manager for LIFE magazine. Opening scenes feature the LIFE employee being very neat, organised but alone looking for love using eHarmony.com. (He tries to leave a ‘wink’ for his coworker, Cheryl Melhoff, but alas cannot).

Walter then eventually nurtures his sense of wanderlust when negative 25 goes missing leaving Walter to track down the photographer, the famous Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn). The negative in question causes a stir because O’Connell believes it captures the “quintessence of life”.

This all occurs amidst the downsizing of LIFE and the company making adjustments so the company can leap into the digital age. Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott), the transition manager, goads Walter into going on the adventure of a lifetime, as he continually intimidates Walter to the delight of his colleagues.

  
The big surprise was the use of special effects that previously does not occur in Ben Stiller’s previous films (Discounting Night at the Museum series and The Watch of course). This is experienced from the get go, as Walter Mitty saves a dog from a building blowing up and designing a prosthetic leg for the dog, whilst following his ABC’s (Adventurous, Brave and Creative –  A snippet on Cheryl’s eHarmony site). Of course this is a daydream and far from the reality that Walter Mitty actually lives in.

After featuring these excellent special effects, Stiller even rounds it off with beautiful backdrops of New York, Greenland and Afghanistan Himalayas. Over the course of around 114 minutes, time just melts away, giving the pacing of the film a fantastic feel making The Secret Life of Walter Mitty an incredibly easy watch.

  
This film hit all the right notes in that sense, with the right amount of comedy coupled with the right amount of action and adventure and to my delight the soundtrack features some incredibly easy-listening modern music like Of Monsters and Men a Kristen Wiig rendition of Space Oddity and Arcade Fire. That being said, sometimes this overpowers the motion picture, but the soundtrack is played in the right moments and fits perfectly in the film.

My enjoyment factor just kept soaring when watching this film, which only left me more and more devastated about not managing to watch this on the silver screen. Of course, the story is naturally foreseeable, but the character change from Walter is great and really interesting to watch develop on screen.

I would throughly recommend this film for, as I mentioned, it hit all the right notes for me and thought it to be a fantastically easy watching film with beautiful backdrops, placed with an excellent soundtrack as the cherry on top.

 

Westworld (1973)

Welcome to Westworld, one of three getaway resorts invented for our pleasure by Delos Company. Westworld, Romanworld and Medievalworld are three vacation spots available for $1000 per day, to live out your indulgent fantasies.

Westworld is a wonderfully bizarre trip undertaken by Peter (Richard Benjamin) and John (James Brolin) who venture to Delos’ much famed vacation paradise. Peter becomes swept up in this bizarre world solely inhabited by androids and the only other humans are vacationers. These androids are indistinguishable to other humans, which allows vacationers to indulge in their greatest fantasies, even to the extremes.

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From the mind of Michael Crichton, whom is known for writing Jurassic Park and Twister, indulges not only the vacationers but the viewer with great sets of a old American styled Western town, Pompeii and the medieval castle.

Not only the great sets used, but Crichton creates throughly entertaining scenes, most notably, the bar fight scene in which everyone runs amok as bottles are smashed, chairs are thrown and people are put through tables.

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Naturally when a film involves science-fiction and the idea of artificial intelligence that can thrive in a world with us, there is always, always, always something bound to go wrong. This is broken down as the back-room staff in the Delos Company state that there seems to be virus strain that is infecting the robots and interrupting the circuitry.

The androids in question are so lifelike at points I was questioning who could be an android or who could simply be a vacationer at Westworld. This even goes down to the animals in a ‘turning-point’ scene where John is bitten by a Rattlesnake which I thought would’ve been a real snake, but turned out to be an android gone haywire.

It has the be said though, there are some flaws from the 1973 directorial feature film debut of Crichton as there is a clear to the eye ‘three-act’ structure maintained with Peter, our protagonist. It shows Peter being unsure of Westworld and not understanding it, then Peter succumbing to the charm of the vacation and then of course being hunted by Gunslinger in the finale.

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That being said, Westworld does make for a rather enjoyable watch all things considering. The effects for the 1970s are simply outstanding, mainly embodied by Brynner’s Gunslinger character, but the outstanding sets that were built for the film are also excellent.

The ‘three-act’ structure does slow the pace of the film down as it is quite recognisable between the acts, but the ‘thrilling’ part of the film is showcased in the final act in the showdown. Checking in with a run-time of 88 minutes though the film is fine for what it does and is rather entertaining.

I recently have learned that the film is set to be adapted into a mini-series. Now this could be tempting to watch as the film’s effects for the seventies are outstanding and with modern day effects at their disposal, the mini-series could look even more sublime.

Zoolander No. 2 (2016)

Where news first broke of a sequel to the never-aging Zoolander, I simply couldn’t wait. I loved Zoolander and I mean loved it. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson announced news of the sequel officially in an excellent way, by making an appearance at the Paris Fashion Week reprising their roles of Derek Zoolander and Hansel.

As the success of Zoolander rocketed, the excitement when the sequel was announced naturally had me wondering. Naturally the question was how were they going to follow Zoolander. Mugatu being reprimanded by the police and Derek with a child, the only natural way was to destroy the happy ending. Derek’s Centre for Kids Who Can’t Read Good (I’m not typing all of it, that’s insanity) collapsing, killing his wife and disfiguring Hansel in the process, was the approach they took.

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Both Derek and Hansel retreat into hiding and let the years pass them by. Forward to 2016 and Billy Zane seeks out Derek and Hansel to become the male models they once were. Instead of Mugatu, whom is locked in a fashion prison with MC Hammer for his parachute pants, the ‘it’ person in fashion is Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) coupled with Don Atari.

The biggest laughs in Zoolander came from the quotability of the film and the many, many cameos that featured in the film. Zoolander No. 2 (or 2oolander) keeps the history of cameos, which range from Skrillex to Lewis Hamilton to big names of the fashion world including Alexander Wang and Anna Wintour.

Naturally, the story wasn’t the strongest at all but that was expected with the main purpose of the film being for the laughs it provides and with the cast consisting of Penelope Cruz, Sting, Kristen Wiig and the reprisal of roles from Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell. The majority of the comedy comes from the idiotic behaviours of Derek and Hansel and their mispronunciation of words.

The biggest comedy factor in Zoolander was the cause and effect actions of the idiotic duo from Derek and Hansel including hilarious mind-boggling scene in Fashion Prison between Mugatu and Derek.. This is heaped on with Penelope Cruz’s Valentino being a member of Interpol’s Fashion Police and Derek’s interactions with his son, Derek Jr.

(Potential Plot Spoilers)

Strangely though, I felt Zoolander 2 hit some serious notes in the film, including the character All (Benedict Cumberbatch) being of no gender. In a strange scene, Don Atari (Kyle Mooney) is accepting of All whereas Derek seems to struggle to come to terms with it. Also with the storyline of Derek getting his child back, he also struggles to come to terms with his child being fat. He eventually accepts him for being ‘plus size’ and he is acknowledged as a plus size model later on in the film.

(End of potential plot spoilers)

The film opens in a fantastic comical fashion, as an exciting fast-paced scene unfolds with a mystery person being chased down by two people on motorbikes. It turns out to be Justin Bieber, who is subsequently killed but before biting the dust, he manages to strike the famous Blue Steel pose. I throughly enjoyed this scene and only set the bar for cameos throughout the film, in which Zoolander 2 hit every single time.

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Zoolander 2 was more than I thought it would be and more. With original comedy films with cult followings, it’s always difficult to follow up the original, but Zoolander 2 hit all the right notes, kept me laughing and was in general a really fun and entertaining watch. Of course, it does has it flaws with the story not being the most exciting or riveting and a big twist being foreseeable.

However, that’s not the point with comedies, the film doesn’t have to rely on being the greatest story, just one to carry it through certain parts. The sequel carries out at a nice pace, with the story unfolding. The comedy does reign supreme in this film with the ever-rising count of cameo appearances and homages to the original film.

7/10

Creed (2016)

Sylvestre Stallone has finally stepped aside and let a fresh pair of eyes take a swing at the tiring Rocky franchise. Stallone still reprises his role of Rocky Balboa (and water is wet, the grass is green) but off the back of two less-than-entertaining Rocky films (Rocky V & Rocky Balboa) this fresh approach was due.

Ryan Coogler, who directed the very impressive Fruitvale Station which also starred Michael B. Jordan, are these fresh pair of eyes. The usual framework to the Rocky franchise is adopted to Creed but with Stallone taking a side step as a director and character, allows for freedom with Coogler at the helm.

The inclusion of a new central character, allowed for this freedom to happen and take a different approach to the framework applied. Coogler still adopts this, but at the same times breaks the pattern as Adonis has to work his way into ring for a shot at the big time instead of simply granted a shot.

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Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis (the son of Apollo Creed), who bounces around foster homes until he is taken in by Mary Anne, Apollo’s wife. It’s clear Adonis has a chip on his shoulder as he heads to the gym in Apollo’s memory to challenge everyone there, trying to prove his worth in the ring. He promptly quits his newly promoted job and flies across the country to Philadelphia, the home of the great Rocky Balboa.

The direction from Coogler was fantastic. The story became gripping as Michael B. Jordan shows an impressive performance as the leading man, but the big triumph was the immersive and action-packed boxing scenes. Of course, when it boils down to it, the Rocky franchise hinges on the action sequences throughout the film. The later films became slow and tired looking, whereas Creed shows a fresh approach into the matches as you become involved and invested in the match.

The makeup was excellent, and really shone through in the boxing scenes. Especially with Michael B. Jordan’s eye, the makeup was that excellent I found myself wincing in pain as he was hit in the right side of his face numerous times. But this carried on throughout the film, giving Stallone an aged looked which was just as impressive.

Adonis’ maturity was handled superbly, as he develops a love interest in Bianca, (Tessa Thompson) who has intentions of her own instead of just being a love interest for the screen. His maturity shines as he goes back to basics at the North Street Gym, which became enjoyable scenes as he trains with his new corner-team.

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Much like Star Wars and Jurassic World that teased and used the original theme, Ludwig Goransson does the same, teasing it every now and then throughout Adonis’ training regime. However, the score also included apt music, like Meek Mill (Relevant to Philadelphia) during his training in Philadelphia and Krept & Konan (Relevant to United Kingdom) when he fights “Pretty Boy” Ricky Conlon.

Shots and cinematography-wise, there isn’t much presented, but the camera work throughout the film was excellent and made a boxing match exciting again, something that I found Warrior and The Fighter in recent memory failed to do. The entrances during the big fight were entertaining, especially with “Pretty Boy” Ricky’s entrance adding to the grand spectacle that surrounded the fight.

With the added twinge of comedy, Coogler has certainly upped the enjoyment of the Rocky films especially when comparing them to at least Rocky V and Rocky Balboa. This is the best Rocky film recently by a long stretch but for a tired and weary franchise, there is some life yet, before it’s knocked to the canvas for the last time.

I throughly enjoyed Creed and it’s an enjoyable watch regardless of if you have an allegiance to the Rocky franchise or not. Michael B. Jordan and Stallone were superb in their roles and really helped the film move at a good pace and leaves it to be open for another sequel with Adonis as the star.

Strong 7/10.