Month: February 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Review

Kingsman

Matthew Vaughn is no stranger to throwing out the moral compass following outings with Kick-Ass and Layer Cake as well as assisting Guy Ritchie on Snatch and Lock Stock. It’s no surprise therefore that his latest instalment, Kingsman: The Secret Service, is just as captivatingly violent and shocking.

Kingsman follows the story of a secret spy organisation (if the title hadn’t given that away). Harry Hart (Colin Firth) plays the Roger Moore Bond-esque Kingsman agent and, much like the traditional 007 franchise, oozes class and swagger. He takes Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), a troubled council homed youngster, under his wing in order to teach him how to become a gentleman and a secret agent.

Meanwhile, Harry is investigating the intentions of Richmond Valentine (Samuel Jackson’s lisping villain) who has his own concept of “saving” the world.

Even the biggest 007 enthusiasts will admit that the modern Bournification of James Bond is missing the charm and cheek, as well as a host of gadgets that once upon a time it was famous for. Well Kingsman more than makes up for that, with the added ingredients of foul language and entertaining violence thanks to Vaughn’s twist.

Kingsman is also backed with a strong, mainly British based cast. Watching Firth, you can’t help but think he’s been itching for this type of role for years and he seems to thrive immensely. His right hand man, Egerton, holds his own alongside some big names and fits perfectly into the Hit-Girl type role with a grace of cheek and charm. Michael Caine plays the head of the spy organisation, while Mark Strong also features.

Kingsman is no world-beater but it’s a seriously fun, typically explosive Vaughn movie. It’s a refreshing and unique take on the spy genre and one that is well worth being shocked by.

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Birdman – Review

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You always know you’re in for an interesting watch when the opening scene of a film depicts a man meditating, floating four feet in the air. This sets the tone for Alejandro González Iñárrit Birdman, which from minute one you can’t help but watch with uninterrupted intrigue and astonishment.

Riggan Thomson (Michel Keaton) is an actor looking to make his name great once more following his role as the mega superhero, Birdman. Directing and starring in his own Raymond Carver adaptation on Broadway, which could ultimately make or break him, Riggan has to juggle with a number of obstacles as opening night approaches.

These struggles include his cast, his family but most importantly to the film, his alter ego – the superhero that once he played.

Slipping from dressing rooms down tight corridors and onto the stage of the St James Theatre, Birdman’s most notable feature is it’s one-take trick – almost documentary style how it is shot. The entire movie is one beautifully filmed, intimate cut-free scene with only subtle editing tricks included. Aided by the genius cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, Iñárrit portrays Birdman almost like its own live act – the camera following around its characters as if with them gazing at their every action.

Performances are also faultless. Starting with Keaton, whom the main character shares a glaringly similar past, has quite simply revived his stuttering career. Riggan is a character on the edge of a nervous breakdown due the pressures put upon him from various corners. Keaton’s performance is full of charm, comedy, stress and sadness – all rolled up together to portray this psychologically damaged being.

Keaton is also well supported by a strong cast interpreting a variety of personalities. Ed Norton plays his hilarious egotistical co-star and one of the main culprits behind Riggan’s struggles.

Emma Stone is also effortlessly brilliant as Riggan’s daughter, Sam, fresh out of rehab yet still visibly destroyed inside but very much the voice of reason, most notably in her defiant lecture to her father.

Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough both play Riggan’s insecure female co-stars with Zach Galifianakis as Riggan’s hectic producer.

Birdman is the definition of an incredibly daring venture, which seriously pays off for Iñárrit who fully deserves his Oscar acclaim for his direction as well as the Best Picture award. Birdman is an incredible and unique piece of film, a grand spectacle fitted together with a multi-talented cast and crew.

Nightcrawler – Review

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Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is an incredibly intimate and dark insight into the demands of an LA television network and one man’s ruthless methods of journalism. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers without doubt his best and most intriguing performance to date in this unique and astonishing piece of film.

Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a petty criminal earning what he can by selling stolen scrap metal. Driving home one night, he passes an enflamed car on the freeway and exits his vehicle to discover more when a camera crew (headed by Bill Paxton) arrive to film the wreckage and the police and paramedics at work. After viewing that very footage on the news the following morning, Lou becomes excited by the prospect of capturing a life-and-death situation on film with him behind the camera.

Throughout the early stages of the film, we see Lou grow into a grossly intimate cameraman – getting as close as possible to a bleeding body without any intention of helping the person in need. Professional or slightly twisted, Lou develops into an incredibly skilled cameraman and is soon selling his footage regularly to one of LA’s leading television network as well as hiring an assistant (Riz Ahmed) to help prowl the streets at night looking for blood.

Lou is so intent on capturing the goods; he won’t stop at anything to grab the perfect shot even if it means withholding evidence from the police or moving a deceased body for a more effective angle.

Gyllenhaal deserves all the acclaim he has received for his astounding performance in Nightcrawler. Lou is a complex and an incredibly unique character: a creepy loser, but smart and ruthless – an insomniac but with confidence and cheek.

Rene Russo plays Nina, the television station’s producer who decides what footage will be aired. Again, Nina is a merciless character, determined to find the most intimate and gory footage possible if it means high ratings. “If it bleeds it leads” is one cameraman’s chilling mantra and it perfectly suits Nina’s character.

Nightcrawler is disturbing and thrilling at the same time. It’s beautifully shot thanks to cinematographer Robert Elswit who takes the audience down the dark streets of LA’s underbelly – similar to Drive.

Gyllenhaal has had a stuttering career, but playing Lou in Nightcrawler has taken him to new heights. Such an original character is graced with such confidence from Gyllenhaal, aided by Gilroy’s ability to combine genuine shock and tension with a dark satirical edge.