review

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Review

Following his brief cameo in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man gets his own outing in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s the latest rebranding of the web-slinger following Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s 21st century efforts but given it’s affiliation with the Avengers franchise, it’s difficult to compare this modernised vision of the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

After his bout with Captain America, a 15-year-old Peter Parker (Holland) must come back down to reality and tackle his everyday teenage life of school and girls as well as his relationship with his aunt May (Melissa Tomei). This all proves tricky once he considers himself an official Avenger, pestering Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) for more involvement in the initiative.

After crossing paths with supernatural arms dealer, The Vulture (Michael Keaton), Peter can’t help but put everything else in his life on hold and find a way to prove that he is worthy of Avenger status.

Director Jon Watts brings a melancholic and indie tone to the superhero, in particular during the scenes where we see Peter step away from his Spider-Man duties. There’s plenty of charm and humour with Holland an important catalyst in that as well as the teenage based pop soundtrack playing behind it all.

Ultimately, the movie is a small component of something much bigger, with Avengers: Infinity War to come next year and that certainly modernises the Spider-Man brand, but there is still a sense of independence the movie that is refreshing to see.

There’s plenty to admire in Spider-Man: Homecoming as it does a good job of balancing it’s own world with the broader Avengers universe. With that in mind, it’s hard to compare it with Sam Raimi’s noughties trilogy and the two rather forgotten rebrandings in 2012 with Andrew Garfield. It’s a completely new reimagining of the character, which won’t blow audiences away by any means, but will charm viewers nevertheless.

Baywatch – Review

Plenty of incredible looking people, some cheap action thrills and a decent amount of comedy is exactly what you can expect from the new movie adaptation of Baywatch. It’s a movie one will go into with low expectations and leave having had a couple of chuckles, but without being left with any lasting impressions. But ultimately that is what a movie like Baywatch is specifically there for.

Dwayne Johnson plays the updated version of David Hasselhoff’s Mitch Buchanen, a dedicated and much-loved head lifeguard of Baywatch beach in Miami. When recruiting for new talent to join the team patrolling the bay, Mitch clashes with Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a disgraced former Olympic champion swimmer whose cocky attitude leads him to believe he can stroll into the role.

After being awarded the job, Brody soon discovers there’s a lot more to the part than just being a lifeguard as he and the rest of the team look to bring down the dangerous drug-lord, Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra), who jeopardises the future of the Bay.

Director Seth Gordon is probably best known for 2011’s Horrible Bosses, so immediately you know what kind of crass humour is going to be involved. And fortunately for Baywatch, there are a number of chuckles to be had which partially makes up for the terrible storyline and budget action sequences. Johnson and Efron have a fun on-screen relationship and along with Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach, there’s plenty to visually admire.

The movie as a whole is poor, but it certainly surpasses the lowest of expectations that audiences will be going in with. Baywatch is incredibly forgettable but a few laughs and some cheap action scenes mean it’s not the worst watch ever.

Patriots Day – Review

patriots-day

Director Peter Berg for a while has been on the brink of producing something special. He may have had a number of blips with the likes of Hancock and Battleship, but he has also produced some impressive docudramas including The Kingdom, Lone Survivor and last year’s Deepwater Horizon. His latest venture, Patriots Day, sees him take on the story of the 2013 Boston bombings – and it is the movie that takes Berg’s directing prowess to next level.

The film follows the true events of the bombings as well as the incredible subsequent events when two brothers, Damerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, target the finish line of the Boston marathon with a pair of homemade bombs, killing three people and injuring hundreds more. Detective Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg, who is also the only fictional character in the movie) was on duty at the time of the explosions and is seemingly our main protagonist throughout the movie.

All other characters in the film (barring Michelle Monaghan’s role as Tommy’s despairing wife) are real life accounts from victims Jessica Kensky (Rachel Brosnahan) and her partner Patrick Downes (Christopher O’Shea) to all police officials including Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) and Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K Simmons). Along with FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), they play huge roles in the aftermath of the bombings, searching tirelessly for the two brothers in quite an amazing few days in Boston. The movie ends with touching interviews and images from the day which you can’t help but feel moved by.

Berg has a knack of mixing together devastation and sentimentality. We are introduced to Boston on the morning of the bombings as a quirky, lazy place with a number of wise cracks from all the characters – an easy going opening to the movie. But as a result, we are immediately invested in the characters, including the two brothers with whom we ascertain their motives and background of throughout – discovering more about the antagonists is another admirable trait of Berg’s.

The scene of the explosions isn’t over-egged by Berg, but from this moment on the audience is gripped by the pure tension the subsequent events exploit. And these said events are quite incredible – it’s almost best to go into the movie without knowing too much of what happened in the days that followed.

Berg doesn’t struggle with the high number of character profiles – in fact Wahlberg’s role isn’t necessarily outdoing anyone else, he is just one of the many heroes that Berg is patriotically portraying. As a result, Patriots Day is some of his best work. It’s a captivating watch, incredibly moving and a true homage to all the victims and heroes of the tragic events of those few days.

Gold – Review

matthew-mcconaughey-bryce-dallas-howard-gold-film-social

The story behind Gold is quite a remarkable one but the telling of it by director Stephen Gaghan fails to sparkle. All the ingredients suggest that this could have been a classic, money based caper but the end product is merely a lacklustre wannabe Wolf of Wall Street.

Matthew McConaughey (who possibly was casted following his brief appearance in Wolf of Wall Street) plays Kenny Wells, a man who is on the brink of driving his family’s business into bankruptcy in the late 80’s. Following a literal dream he has one night, Kenny goes all out into the prospecting game, venturing to Indonesia to meet Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), a fellow prospector who believes he knows where to get digging deep in the jungle territory.

The pair forms a business partnership and soon enough begin hiring local Indonesian villagers to start digging for the buried riches. Back home in Nevada, Kenny has a group of salesman set up in order to gain investors in the new business venture, along with his partner Kay (Bryce Dallas-Howard), who enjoys the sudden income increase when Kenny and Michael seemingly strike lucky. Consequently, a number of New York firms as well as various other parties become interested in Kenny’s project.

Unsurprisingly, McConaughey is the most notable and watchable component of the movie. He has clearly prepared himself and then some for the role with the receding hair line and incredibly rotund belly – that said, how challenging can it be to prepare for a role by piling on the pounds? The performance itself is typically engrossing, making the mundane conversations and confrontations that bit more intriguing.

Unfortunately not much can be said for the rest of the movie. Gaghan uses musical montages with pop tunes from the 80s in an attempt to create a fast paced, Wolf of Wall Street or The Big Short type movie. It’s all in vain as the film never really takes off at any stage, nor takes any risks unlike its main protagonist leaving a blunt and lacklustre end product. That’s hard to believe with a storyline such as this (though if one was to dig further, you’d find that the movie only barely matches the true story that it claims to be inspired by).

With McConaughey being the sole sparkle to gleam from the movie, Gold is one that promised a lot but doesn’t dig deep enough shine as brightly as its subject matter.

Manchester By The Sea – Review

manchesterbythesea

Manchester by the Sea is possibly the film that brings Casey Affleck out of the shadow of older brother, Ben, in terms of acting prowess. The heart-breaking and bleak storyline brings out the absolute best in Affleck, and with a Golden Globe already under his belt, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him grab an Oscar at the end of this month either.

He plays Lee Chandler, a janitor in Boston, leading a mundane and exiled life following a dark tragedy in his life. After learning that his older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler) has died, he finds himself back in his hometown of Manchester, where he discovers that he will have to look after Joe’s 16-year-old son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges).

Lee now finds himself in a difficult position, fighting demons in his past and now struggling to come to terms with having to take on the huge task of his selfish and reluctant nephew. As the film progresses, we learn more about Lee’s past, discovering that he was a social, happy go lucky kind of guy as well as a loving husband, father and uncle to a younger Patrick. That is until the incident that turns him into this cold, deadpan character as the film continues to evolve with Lee’s past and present beginning to converge.

It’s hard to see the Oscar for best actor heading anywhere other than Affleck’s direction. The piece of casting for Lee is an absolute masterstroke as Affleck nails this fractured, empty soul yet with something so dark brooding deep inside which is so difficult for an actor to portray. There are certain aspects of Affleck that display this perfectly whether it is his slumped shoulders or his motionless facial features. They don’t give away much, but you know for sure that there is a rage and ache deep inside of Lee, showing no real emotion despite the occasional angry outburst at a customer and the odd scrap in a bar.

Writer and director Kenneth Lonergan also does a cracking job of setting the tone of the movie. The snow and frostiness of the scenery captures the cold nature of the movie, and there are certain dull and uneventful moments throughout the film that will bypass without any consideration but will gradually build the feeling of pain and difficulty amongst the characters. This can be something as basic as being unable to find a parked car. Simple and mundane, but more effective than one might originally think.

There’s no doubt Manchester by the Sea will leave its audience in a dark place and guarantees the odd tear, and credit has to go to Lonergan as well as Affleck for his gloomy performance – he will be seeing gold come the end of the month for sure. The movie in general will leave a sour taste in your mouth, but in a good way.

 

Live By Night – Review

screen_shot_2016-09-08_at_4-54-03_pm

Ben Affleck has had a positive go of it throughout his short directing career. Obvious successes include Gone Baby Gone in which he directed younger brother, Casey, and Argo which was crowned Best Picture at the Academy Awards back in 2012. By now it’s clear to see that Affleck is a very capable director, yet his latest venture, Live By Night, based on Dennis Lehane’s 1920’s gangster novel, is an unremarkable dud on his otherwise prolific career behind the camera.

Starring in as well as directing, Affleck plays Joe Coughlin, a petty criminal in Boston during the Prohibition Era, evading the gangster life but instead carrying out robberies and holdups with the assistance of girlfriend Emma Gould (Sienna Miller). However, due to certain circumstances, he finds himself in Florida, gradually shifting into the gangster world, building his own empire based around the rum business, working with everyone from every race and background. As a result, he forms a list of enemies, including the Klu Klux Klan and converted daughter of Chris Cooper’s under-the-radar cop with whom to struggles to overcome due to the high pressures of the people above him.

Since its release, Live By Night hasn’t had the strongest of responses. This perhaps is more or less down to expectations following previous successes with its director. That said, there’s plenty of talent on show in the movie – Affleck of course behind the camera, with Miller and Cooper in front of him alongside the likes of Brendan Gleeson, Elle Fanning and Matthew Maher. All give strong cameo performances, when in fact Affleck is the least enterprising of them all. The movie looks stylish and carries a particular swagger, and it’s clear that much of the budget contributed towards the costume and set design. In fact this is Affleck’s most expensive film to date by far and it is a shame therefore that it could only produce this dull, flat adaptation which is disappointing when you consider all the ingredients that Affleck had to conjure with.

The movie continually hints at breaking through into something special but it lacks that certain grit to make it any different to previous gangster flicks. It’s not a terrible movie, but Live By Night is a movie that will go under the radar and pass by quickly which is a unfortunate given Affleck’s track record behind the camera.