Avengers: Age Of Ultron: A (Not So) Quick Capsule Review

Avengers: Age Of Ultron: A (Not So) Quick Capsule Review

Quick Review

With Avengers: Infinity War opening this week, Phil’s Quick Capsule Review will be rerunning the reviews of some of our favourite Marvel Films! 

So the bigger, louder, more action packed sequel arrives in cinemas with a weight of expectation on it’s shoulders, a weight sadly even it’s great cast & solid director just can’t live up to. Even if it’s still likely to smash box office records globally…

Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a bad film BUT even I’m getting a bit bored of this formula now and in an age when Guardians and Winter Solider did it differently enough to stand out from the crowd, Ultron just seems a bit of a backward step delivering us action, humour and character beats we’ve seen countless times before.

Starting with some of the worst CGI I’ve seen in a long time, the film rattles along at a pace with action scene after action scene, adding more and more characters along the way. Problem is, like I noted above, we’ve seen it all before and, except for the Hulk vs Iron man bit, there was little that really got me excited – especially as the film ends in pretty much a repeat of Avengers Assembles impressive last 40 minutes (hordes of faceless bad guy getting pummelled by CGI Avengers). Yes the humour’s here once again, as is the stand out character interactions, but this time it feels more forced and whilst Ultron, the titular foe for this Avengers outing, is solid good creation voiced expertly by Spader, he lacks the charisma of say a Loki, as is always the way when it’s a purely CGI creation.

So for me this is one of the weaker Marvel films, not because it’s badly made, but because familiarity surely now is starting to breed contempt and with another 5 years of Superhero films in the works I just wonder what they can do different now to stop the inevitable decline of this genre of films.

 

Rating:

 

Author: Phil Hobden

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download the Filmsploitation podcast, part of the All Things Film network. 

Blog: All Things Film – The Lobster (2015)   Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – The Lobster (2015) Reviewed

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This reasonably low-budget indie flick boasts quite an extraordinary cast. There’s Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux, Ashley Jensen, Olivia Coleman… I mean, the list goes on. They’re attracted to co-writer/director Yorgos Lanthimoss script, evidently. Colin Farrell’s meek character David checks himself into a strange hotel where – if you’re single, and remain so after 45 days – you’ll be turned into an animal of your choosing.

It’s a glorious stupid concept for a movie. With a Greek gentleman at the helm, we expect this to be an outright allegory for the state of relationships as we know them today. However, the film inhabits an altogether staid and robotic world where the people act like the Stepford Wives, and nothing of any great consequence seems to play too much on their minds.

Nevertheless, you can see why all these wonderful players wanted a bite. They must have read the first 60 pages and speed-dialled their agents, saying “Yes, Quick! Before that mad bugger offers it to someone else!” Yorgos Lanthimos possesses some Wes Anderson stylings in The Lobster. It’s a concept that drew me to the film.

How much of a letdown is it, then, that The Lobster completely nosedives at the midpoint and finds anything other than its ridiculous concept more interesting; such as themes that love is blind, and that when you’re finally convinced you’ll be forever alone is the precise moment that you’re found to be wrong?

In many ways, despite its quirky, no doubt cult-status tugging grandeur it most definitely can claim to, The Lobster falls into the trap of many great concepts films before it; it defies the concept and becomes interested in something altogether less satisfying. I wanted more of the rather excellent build up of the hotel and its workings; Coleman’s headmistress-esque hotel owener and her husband are wonderful characters. Whishaw and Reilly are David’s “friends”, and Ashley Jensen nearly walks away with the movie as a modern-day spinster.

There are chiefly wonderful comic moments throughout the first half of the movie because it’s all played so straight. Even Weisz’s narration until we meet her physically is marvelously sardonic and dry. I was really, really hoping that we’d end up in Spike Jonze-esque territory. At the very least, with balls this large, surely Lanthimos can stick to the courage of his convictions.

Sadly, with an idea as strong and bat-shit crazy such as this, what you don’t do is go out into the woods and play… leaving the far superior idea to burn into obscurity. No-one wants that. What a big, big shame.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – Carol (2015) Reviewed

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Tedious. Simply cannot be bothered to review this one, other than it’s a slow, drudging affair with some sumptuous set design. The film may as well have been titled “Oscar”, as it’s the only reason any of us have to suffer through it.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – Steve Jobs (2015) Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – Steve Jobs (2015) Reviewed

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Because this movie has been written by AAron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle, there’s little denying that Steve Jobs has a frenetic pace, udnercut by a low hum of a score. This is essentially a talky character piece, whereby Michael Fassbender as Jobs can bounce of his aide Kate Winslet and former/current employer Jeff Daniels, and co-conspoirator Steve Wozniak, played by Seth Rogen. All the players are very strong, and the direction is a formidable opponent to someone like Oliver Stone and how he managed to ramp up the tension in his best film,. the talky-talk-talk Talk Radio.

That said, you’d have to be something of a fan – or at least a fantasist – of Jobs himself. The film really gets down and dirty on his personal life, and makes more than a fair share of its remarks on how he handled people. I never saw 2013’s Jobs, where Ashton Kutcher played the role, but I have a sneaky suspicion this movie deals the late, great auteur a far meaner hand in his lasting legacy.

It would have been nice to see more than just the preemptive tirades before the launches, and even more satisfying to see Fassbender recreate the magic of the stage presence. As it is, we make do with this behind-the-scenes recount and – due to the talent involved in all directions – it does it’s *job* just fine…

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – Point Break (2016) Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – Point Break (2016) Reviewed

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I suppose when your first foot concerns itself with being a remake of a much-loved, pant-wetting hard R rated action film, you’re never off to a good start.

Whilst sitting through this endlessly tedious remake of the 1991 smash hit, I was reminded of just how far we’ve come. In 1991, there were no CGI effects, and certainly the budget didn’t allow for roving, giant sweeping mountainous shots of people falling off the sides of them. Here, director Ericson Core – who’s mainly a cinematographer, and it shows – is more concerned with showing our handsome cops and robbers posing at the tops of mountains, boats and other things one could conceivably throw themselves off of, for just long enough before the jump.

And then the jump; minutes drudge past as we film them from every fathomable angle on their descent. Mix this with sumptuous cinematography and an ADHD score flattened by emotion from Junkie XL, and you have it is essentially a gorgeous-looking YouTube clip of extreme sports that has absolutely no idea that its outstayed its welcome.

Consider, also, the fact that this decade’s screenwriting toxin, Kurt Wimmer, is the scribe behind whatever drama remains. It’s all just so very naff; you have Johnny Utah (formerly Keanu Reeves, now played by something called Luke Bracey) trying to worm his way into the gang of Bodhi (formerly the late Patrick Swazye, and now played by Edgar Ramirez) who’s team dress up in rubber masks and act like Robin Hood in their carefully planned robberies.

Ramirez, bless him, feels as if he’s won the role out of the Token Cereal box because, in this day and age, no bad guy is ever white with an American accent anymore. Bracey seems to me to be a long lost Hemsworth prototype that no-one has the gall to return to the store for a refund. And the women in the film? There’s a character named Samsara who embodies a particular twist after a lengthy chase. It’s not big nor clever. it’s a dumb move, also, to remind me of a far greater film who shares the same name as the lead female character while suffering this gluttonous and overindulgent mess. The less said about Ray Winstone as the London-accented FBI operative <?> the better. I mean, what the… ??

What exactly is the point of a remake that the original didn’t do so very well? Not least the fact that Kathryn Bigelow managed to single-handedly pull off an action hit on behalf of female directors everywhere – that was 1991, and now twenty-four years later we think we can do better and tarnish the solid work done 24 times better back then. Idiots. I hope you’re as proud of yourselves as I was bored blinking through it…

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – The Bad Education Movie (2015) Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – The Bad Education Movie (2015) Reviewed

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The Bad Education Movie (2015) – can suck my dick.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – Spotlight (2016) Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – Spotlight (2016) Reviewed

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Here’s hoping that the year 2016 starts as it means to go on, in terms of drama at the very least. Spotlight boasts a formidable cast in Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Stanley Tucci – among others – as The Boston Globe’s Spotlight editorial becomes the first major media outlet to uncover an inordinate amount of evidence of abusive priests in the area.

Of course with hindsight – and one cannot shake off the whole Jimmy Saville revelations – we remember that there was a time when all this hideous calamity of hush-hush was the norm. Latterly, it pays dividends to an audience for a film as smart and stoic as Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight to remind us of how ignorance and apathy got us into the mess in the first place.

Tonally, this is more akin to All the Presidents Men than it is to, say, Ron Howard’s The Paper, which also starred Michael Keaton in the lead role. This is an investigative, once-only affair – and is played basically to perfection by the cast. Ruffalo in particular affecting a Boston accent, and an even more reclusive character than the one we saw in The Avengers movies; his back seems permanently arched, and his manner is socially defunct to a point we may think he’s just putting it on so as to put his inerviewees at ease. If it worked for the vast majority of Michael Moriarty’s characters, then why not here?

Tom McCarthy’s script (co-written by Josh Signer) and direction is steady and assured. The film seems to have been lit without any lights at all; it has a natural look, and the slow-burn of the magnitude of what they will uncover will astonish them, and us in retrospect. There are shades of Amy berg’s Deliver Us From Evil – in one scene particularly, when McAdams’ character visits an unsuspecting priest at home, who launches right away into a smile, and operates as if his admittance is meant to be taken in jest. It rings frustrating true with Tom O’Grady – the ‘star’ of Deliver Us From Evil – he of that persuasion and with no willingness to repent on the pure basis that he believes he’s not at fault.

Spotlight is an important historical movie that should be viewed – and, if one care look deeper – perhaps on a double-bill with Deliver Us From Evil. A depressing double bill, I grant you, but a compelling, insightful and rewarding one I’d have never forgiven myself for not suggesting when I had the chance.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – Room (2015)  Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – Room (2015) Reviewed

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In the hands of anyone else, Room would have fallen into quite bizarre territory. Not that this humble, gritty story of a young lady holed up in a “room” with her five year-old son isn’t bizarre territory in and of itself, anyway.

It won’t be too much of a stretch to suggest why she’s in this “room” in the first place, and with her son. They’ve never left this place and their two interactions with the world are through the TV and the occasional visit from a man who seems to bed the mother, and occasionally drop off some food. It is probably what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not as dark and dank as the set up suggests.

Most films that tackle solitary confinement of some description usually end up being pretty solid stuff. Take 2004’s Oldboy, for example – and I guess the daft remake to some extent – less of the theme of recalibration of the outside world, and more than expose into the sensationalist and macabre underworld of the twist. Then there’s most definitely 1999’s Blast From the Past; a comedy about such a situation, whereby Brendan Fraser – for the second time in his career after Encino Man – adjusts to life outside the fallout shelter.

Room’s most comparable companion, however, is Bad Boy Bubby, starring Nicholas Hope. The reasoning for keeping him contained is different, but both Room and Bad Boy Bubby share remarkably similar plot beats. Tonally, there’s a chasm of a difference; Room is played compeltely straight and contains very likely the performance of the year in he five year-old Jack, played perfectly by Jacob Tremblay. it’s a faultless performance, and one of real magnitude. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s nominated come Oscar-time for Best Supporting Actor.

Brie Larson plays the mother equally as well. Joan Allen and William H. Macy turn up as the grandparents – it’s an absolutely solid cast. Director Lenny Abrahamson’s vision is bleak but bittersweet, and very carefully handles the proceedings. As I said, in the hands of anyone else, it would have skirted some of the finer, dramatic moments in favour of sensation or, dare i say it, forced melodrama. Not here.

If this all sounds a bit too Martha Marcy May Marlene, then fear not – Room is a station and a half above that turgid bore fest, and is a milestone carved out of good performances and taught writing and editing. Room is one of the strongest films of the year.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – The Hunting Ground (2015) Reviewed

Blog: All Things Film – The Hunting Ground (2015) Reviewed

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Director Kirby Dick is responsible for the best documentary of all time (in my view, anyway) and if this all sounds familiar because you’ve read my reviews and heard my thoughts on this topic, then you’ll forgive me for mentioning his 1997 documentary masterpiece “Dick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist”. No film – not even 2014’s Life Itself, although it was close – has come so tantalisingly close to capturing the human spirit and death as Sick did.

Every time Kirby Dick releases a new picture, it gets me giddy with excitement. He’s an in-depth, more considered Michael Moore; when he wants to be. He delves right under the skin and, usually, he has a final trick up his sleeve. Tricks work best when they are unexpected; take 1994’s Hoop Dreams, for example – following two young lads and their quest to become basketball superstars, until a strange turn of events changes the film’s trajectory till the end. You may also remember Dick’s arguably most famous work “This Film is Not Yet Rated” where, in the final act, he submits the very documentary you’re watching for classification. A clandestine, money-grubbing MPAA refuse to do so and so “Rate” ends on a deeply ironic and pessimistic note, proving its own point.

And now, to The Hunting Ground. Kirby Dick and co-director Amy Ziering dig up the hushed tones of life at university. Specifically, the life of the young, naive girls who enrol and end up in the wrong frat house at the wrong time and are on the receiving end of sexual abuse. It’s undoubtedly a prevalent and scorching issue that ahs beena round for years, and still continues to this day. There’s a helluva lot opf cash tied up in these abusive Jock’s future, what with all the connections to real superstardom and donations coming their way. It’s not gone unnoticed that the UK could follow suit (after all, we are becoming more Americanised month to month).

So – the point of the film – if you’re the dean of a college, and you’re presented with a victim, and her assailant, and the assailant is a jock with rich connections and you’ve a reputation at stake, what would you do? The Hunting Ground suggests that you’d hush the girl up and send her away. You’d explore every conceivable angle with painstaking levels of insurance to ensure none of it gets out. You see, there’s money at stake.

The girls in this talking head documentary are all victims of abuse. We are shown facts and figures beyond all comprehension. No viewer would doubt their sincerity, and for all the evidence on display, there’s an unnerving amount of men who are clearly guilty. What’s more, they are let off and absolutely exonerated for what is blatantly the result of nepotism and self preservation on behalf of the college. They leave behind a great many victims of abuse, who now stand up to fight back. Toward the end of the film we see the result of this, and escape into the credits (en route through the inevitable website/donation pleas) on a more positive note.

Documentary-wise is just how one-sided Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering actually are. What might have had more weight is a somewhat balanced argument. it’s very easy to point the finger, slow down the footage and try to do the utmost damage to the reputation by way of reactionary film making. Yet, sitting through the doc, I felt an unflinching regret that there was no counter-point. As much as universities are, apparently, rape-dens of outstanding blatancy – surely it stands to reason that there are some people out there who align themselves to false accusations? It’s a thought.

One “jock” in particular (and yes, he’s black) cops a fairly hefty wallop in the documentary. In the film’s only semblance of counterbalance, some of his supporters cheer and whoops when no charges are filed. I’m on the side of the victim in *every single instance* – but the film cannot shake that off, and is far too preoccupied acting as a cheerleader (if you’ll forgive the expression) for its own cause.

And so, what we’re left with is a one-sided call to arms. It’s a worthy one-sided call to arms that I’d scarcely summarise as entertainment; some of these stories and cases are absolutely horrendous. But, this is a film review – it’s a film, and it has an agenda. And it’s very adept at reaching its agenda. I don’t want my favourite documentarians to become flag-carrying apostles for good causes anymore than I want my favourite directors or writers to do the same. Don’t cross that dangerous line. I want the old Kirby Dick back, because he was more fun and had a sense of perspective and was – and still could be, once again – breaking new ground in his field.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast! 

Blog: All Things Film – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) Reviewed

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There’s an outstandingly good film in director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, and this is not it. He helmed 2014’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown – a horror pastiche that trod on some naff ground, but was definitely a cut above its predecessor insofar as it manages to work the original into the narrative.

Here, we’re in “Sundance” overdrive. You know what I mean by “Sundance”, i hope; one of a crop of modestly-budgeted films whereby teenagers act way beyond their years, and whom grew up on the films of Werner Herzog, Schlesenger, Fassbinder and any number of other movies 17 year-olds never actually watch. Their dialogue and generally clean outlook on white, middle-class life no doubt plays well to the Sundance audience for, after all, they are of the same ilk.

I can tell you now that no teenager I know consumes any of this stuff. They have no frame of reference. I doubt Americans are any different – in fact, one may argue that their tastes are somewhat less sophisticated. It poses a problem when Greg, played affably enough by Thomas Mann, is forced to befriend a high school classmate who’s been diagnosed with leukemia. Greg’s friend, Earl, tags along for the ride at arms length. They make pastiches of films for fun, and celebrate their outsider status within the school climate.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is ostensibly a sour, solemn rip off of Be Kind Rewind – and in that film, Jack Black played ‘Greg’ and Mos Def played ‘Earl’. If you remember, they “Sweded” films such as RoboCop and Ghostbusters. The film stank to high heaven as its director Michel Gondry slowly disappeared up his own asshole, en route via Fats Waller.

In this film, they don’t so much “Swede” classics such as Midnight Cowboy and A Clockwork Orange, as utterly tear them apart for no reason, I suspect, other than they’re at the mercy of a writer who’s desperate to sell his movie at Sundance to Fox Searchlight. None of anything that happens in the film rings true. These are people I deal with in my everyday life (in my day job) and I recognise absolutely no-one, right down to the pot-infused soup-drinking tattooed history teacher.

It’s a shame, because there are a bevvy of really wonderful performances in the film. Olivia Cooke is the standout as the dying girl of the piece. She does rings true, but is coerced into dancing with these ugly, misaligned and utterly fictional stereotypes of wild Americana urbanity. Earl, played by RJ Cyler, is a black youth and mostly believable. But if any film this year has Sundance written all over it, then it’s this one – toying as it does between glossy, over-directed camerawork, and Wes Anderson-esque title cards. And I really dislike Wes Anderson in general.

There’s not much else left to say. Is this film enjoyable? Not especially. Its pathetic whimsy is trounced by its over earnestness, and I don’t buy a single line of any of it. Sorry. This is the review where the bullshit is cast aside.

 

Author: Andrew Mackay

 

To hear more on this review (and others like it) make sure you download our very own show, The Film Podcast!