Sunday, 25 June 2017

'Baby Driver' Review

Edgar Wright's departure from Marvel Studios 'Ant-Man' raised a few eyebrows as "creative differences" was cited as the reason for the split. Wright claimed on Variety podcast 'Playback' that he "wanted to make a Marvel movie but I don't think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie". Wright also felt that he didn't feel as emotionally invested in the project due to being more of a "director for hire". Wright did cite doing 'Ant-Man' to allow him to make a film in the future which he had already written. Once Wright ended his partnership, he was then able to focus entirely on his passion project and would be allowed to handle it just however he wanted. That movie was 'Baby Driver', and Wright can add it to his already impressive list of successful movies.

Baby (Ansel Ergot) is an extremely talented getaway driver who is constantly listening to music due to an accident he suffered as a child. After paying off a debt to a gang and meeting the girl of his dreams Deborah (Lily James), Baby sees a way out of his currently shady lifestyle and start a new life. Just as Baby plans to leave this lifestyle, he is dragged in once again for another job. It's now or never for Baby as the heist threatens his chances of escaping with his true love.

This summer looks as if it is going to be filled each week with big budget, high action blockbusters. Superhero films and franchises seem to be dominating cinema's, with a new picture fitting that criteria seeming to come out every week. There is such a demand to create a world within the movie as studios look to make the most off of an idea. 'Baby Driver' does not look to do that and due to this, helps this movie really stand out from the rest.

With an Edgar Wright film, you go in with several expectations, one of these being the great use of humour. In most of his other pictures, the comedy has been the main feature and has been combined with other genre elements (Shaun of the Dead - Horror, The World's End - Sci-Fi). The humour is still very much apparent, with every character having quippy lines and quick witted remarks.

However, 'Baby Driver' is a much tenser state of affairs, with it taking more of an action/crime thriller feeling. Due to this, 'Baby Driver' does feel like a different film to anything Wright has done before whilst maintaining those key qualities that makes his filmography so great. The dialogue handles more of the humour rather than some visual gags in previous ventures. Instead, as it is much more of an action movie, we are treated to many fantastic practical car effects on the streets of Atlanta. No CGI was needed as real stunt drivers create highly entertaining and pulsating car chase scenes that are a total joy to watch. The film doesn't only rely on car chases for its action as it features classic shootouts in different locations to keep things fresh. This movie proves that modern day action does not need any gimmicks via camera techniques or CGI to be enthralling to audiences, instead it lets your interest in the characters and gripping tensions between them.

The film is filled with an abundance of great, unique characters with fantastic performances all around. Ansel Ergot stars as Baby who is quietly great as his characters quirks and charms make up for a lack of vocality. Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzales and Kevin Spacey provide great support to Ergot as the more willing robbers which allows Baby to seem more innocent. The writing of the film also keeps you guessing the true motivations of the characters and whether or not they are good or bad. It isn't until late on that a main villain is established after an unexpected turn of events. Ergot works incredibly well with Lily James, Baby's potential love interest who share great chemistry with one another. The two characters are incredibly sweet and you root for the two to get all that thy could possibly want. Due to the nature of the film, this does have you biting your nails and hoping for the best when either one is threatened. One small criticism is that the relationship between the two may seem fairly rushed, with the two hitting it off and deciding to spend their lives with each other very quickly. The characters are all unique and memorable, with different traits that will have you second guessing them throughout the runtime. There are interesting conflicts due to this, with different ideologies, tempers and personalities creating interesting situations and ensuring that every scene has a bit of fire in it.

Music plays a huge role in this feature as it is a plot point - Baby plays music to combat his Tinnitus and syncs it up to whenever he is driving on the job. Due to this, the film has a killer soundtrack, putting every other soundtrack this year to shame - sorry 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2'. The music from Queen, Golden Earring and T.Rex ensure that 'Baby Driver' is not only the film of the summer but the soundtrack of it as well. The music is used throughout action scenes and is choreographed within the scenes to match the stunts happening at the same time. The music blends in to add an extra layer of enjoyment throughout the action packed scenes that will have you humming the tunes on your way out of the cinema. The use of the soundtrack is vital as it even helps with the humour, with Baby's choices of music and rocking out in certain situations drawing laughs.

There probably won't be another movie that will combine so many different genre elements and be so succesful at doing so. The action, humour, characters, story and music are all great, combining to make one of the most fun film's released in a long time. It's a basic tale of someone being dragged back into the world of crime but it feels so fresh due to Wright's magical touch. 'Baby Driver' has a special charm to it that you don't get often today. A special, original film that you most definitely should check out.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Baby Driver'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the movie or not, I highly recommend that you see this one as soon as possible. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

'The Mummy' Review

 Originally, the new branded Universal Dark Universe was to be started off with 2014's 'Dracula Untold'. Due to negative reaction, the film seems to have been removed from the slate of Dark Universe films. If the same cruel fate was to be applied to 'The Mummy', we could expect another restart to this collective universe.

Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) makes a living selling off ancient artifacts on the black market to the highest bidder. Whilst under attack in Iraq, Nick and his partner unearth Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an Egyptian princess who was mummified alive and imprisoned for thousands of years after trying to take over the Egyptian empire. With Ahmanet now free, her powers are growing stronger as she looks to bring the God of Evil to life by using a human host. It is now up to Nick to stop her before the world feels her true power.

'The Mummy' currently sits at 16% on review site Rotten Tomatoes. To put that into perspective, that's lower than 'Dracula Untold' (23%) and lower than 1999's 'The Mummy' (58%) and 2001's 'The Mummy Returns' (47%). The fact that this reboot has done worse than the previous 'Mummy' films and the disowned 'Untold' is a damning indictment on the start the 'Dark Universe' has made. What was once a great series of horror monster films, now looks set to become a series of generic action films.

The film does get off to a fairly good start, doing a good job of establishing the mythology surrounding Sofia Boutella's Ahmanet, showing the evil the princess possessed whilst making motivations clear. Unfortunately, less than 5 minutes later, Tom Cruise jumps in to turn this into another generic action film. Cruise, stunts, and explosions soon become the main focus for the film which ultimately is the downfall of the film. John Landis was quoted as saying " As soon as you announce that Tom Cruise is in 'The Mummy', you know you're not going to see a horror picture! It's not gonna be 'The Mummy', it's going to be the Tom Cruise show" and this definitely seems to be the case. In a film like this, the focus should be mainly with this character, making them be feared and truly a monster. This is the case even more so when you have someone as talented as Sofia Boutella as the titular character but she is criminally underused.

Boutella isn't given lots to do in the film as her character seems to suffer from what most Marvel villains do. The supposedly feared Ahmanet allows a large group of faceless henchmen to do most of the work, leaving her with less screentime as we hardly see her do anything. It also doesn't help that the film looks to get absolutely everything that Tom Cruise does into the final product as possible. There is a clear example of this in the film where Ahmanet approaches armed guards to get into a tomb and right before we get to see what she can do, it changes to a different scene with Tom Cruise. Boutella has shown her capabilities in films like 'Kingsman' and 'Star Trek Beyond', where both films utilized her skills to great results. Unfortunately, she was not used nearly as well in this film which is a huge missed opportunity. 

In all fairness, the film does have some exciting moments featuring good stunts and choreography. The plane scene where Cruise and co-star Annabelle Wallis are floating in zero gravity is quite marvelous to watch and is the kind of thing that Cruise excels at. Cruise's performance is what you can expect from him in any other film which does give it that feeling of being a generic action film. You could swap out Cruise for any of his other recent characters and there would be very little difference if any. When the character is facing off against supernatural presence, you'd expect a lot more fear from the character. However, Cruise never really seems fazed by this and just goes on as if it's an everyday encounter.

That is the main problem with the film as a whole. There are many moments that the film could take more serious to make it seem more dangerous or creepy but it is ruined by an out of place joke, One of the first encounters between Cruise's character Nick and Ahmanet is a sacrificial ceremony as she looks to execute Nick. For some reason, the creators felt it was a good idea to have moments where Cruise would be laughing throughout and then shortly placing a comedy moment in the same scene. The use of Jake Johnson in this film didn't help as he was this figment of Cruise's imagination and used solely for comic effect. Again, this felt so out of place especially when it is happening during the main attack from Ahmanet, who should be feared not treated as a joke.

'The Mummy' shows just how a big budget movie can be a joy to look at with great sets and well-filmed action can still be a tonal mess with a weak story and poor use of talent. The decision to make this have more laughs and jokes really doesn't help a franchise where you look to build monsters. We don't need another generic action franchise. The Dark Universe can and should be so much more different to anything else as it has such great characters to use. There is nothing from 'The Mummy' that suggests the 'Dark Universe' is heading in a different direction and due to that, I can't say I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of these films. Boutella is underused, the Mummy isn't the main attraction, there's very little horror and threats are treated like a joke. A huge missed chance and an even bigger disappointment.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'The Mummy'? If so, what did you think of the movie? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the movie. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Friday, 16 June 2017

'Wonder Woman' Review

It's safe to say that the DC Extended Universe hasn't got off to the best of starts. with 'Batman V Superman' and 'Suicide Squad' failing miserably and 'Man of Steel' being nothing more than an average film. Due to this, a lot of pressure was on the shoulders of their latest film to bring some credibility to the series. 'Wonder Woman' brings life to the DCEU by blowing its predecessors out of the water and in doing so, takes its place amongst the hierarchy of superhero films.

Before she became Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was an Amazon Princess called Diana, a warrior who was brought to life by the God Zeus. Diana grows up on an island hidden from the rest of the world until World War 1 spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on the island. After saving Trevor, he tells her of an ongoing conflict that is killing many people all over the world. Believing this to be the work of the evil God of War Ares and that she can help end this trouble, Diana decides to go with Trevor to help fight and try to end the war.

Patty Jenkins makes her long-awaited return as a director in a feature film with only her second film and the first big budget movie that she has helmed. Due to her lack of involvement in feature films, it was questioned whether it was a good idea for Jenkins to direct such a big budget and socially important film. Once the credits start rolling, all of those doubts have been put to bed as 'Wonder Women' succeeds on many levels.

It's been made clear that DC should look to Marvel as inspiration for how to handle their cinematic universe, with it looking like DC have been rushing their projects to catch up with their competition. 'Wonder Woman' does what no DCEU film has done before. It is handled with care and precision as every detail is used to help progress the character and the story. A bit more time could have been spent on looking at exactly what Diana's powers are - as someone fairly new to the character, there were some surprises that seemed to come out of the blue. In comparison, 'Wonder Woman' unsurprisingly does a better job than the DCEU's previous origin stories, creating an instantly likable, entertaining and charismatic lead character from the beginning.

When it was announced that Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman, I was very skeptical. I was yet to see her in anything as a lead character and thought of her has someone who would only be capable of providing a supporting role. I never thought that she would be considered to be one of the first female leading roles for a modern superhero movie, especially with all the pressure that would come with that responsibility. Thankfully, I was proved wrong. Any queries I had surrounding the Israeli actress were removed after watching her fantastic performance as the Amazon princess. Gadot shines throughout the film, whether she is adapting to 1910's Europe or showing great humour and wit and of course, in the action scenes. Fans of the character can relax knowing that their beloved heroine is not only in good hands but is the shining star of the franchise so far.

Of course, Gadot is not alone in her quest to bring credibility back to the DCEU. The only Chris not in the MCU Chris Pine plays off Gadot as Steve Trevor, an American Spy who crash lands on Diana's island and brings her to the war effort. Pine and Gadot share excellent chemistry as Trevor is tasked with explaining and guiding Diana through 1910's war-ridden Europe. Due to the chemistry from the pair, the moments where the two are just traveling and getting to know each other are just as enjoyable as the superhero action that you are expecting. The likes of Robin Wright, Ewen Bremner and Connie Nielsen provide good support but don't have a patch on Gadot and Pine who really steal the show.

With superhero films, the downfall is usually that the villain is not that strong and this, unfortunately, is the case for Wonder Woman. The film actually has three villains, General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) and later on in the film Ares (David Thewlis) but there isn't enough focus on any of them, especially the latter. Ludendorff and Dr. Posion are the main targets for Steve Trevor and the war effort but there isn't much from them that is memorable. We aren't given any reason to really fear these characters or feel that they can be a threat to Wonder Woman which makes it obvious how the eventual encounter will end up. There is some intrigue behind the Dr. Poison character which I look forward to seeing more of in the future. There is a twist surrounding Ares and that he has been masquerading as someone else all along. For me, this twist didn't work too well and took me out of the film as I couldn't imagine a God just sitting in day to day life as some sort of politician. I guess it does make sense that the God of War would surround himself with people sending others to war whilst they stay and twiddle their thumbs.

What 'Wonder Woman' does so well is create so many morally complex situations. Steve Trevor is constantly faced with difficult decisions, made harder due to Diana's rash decision making and lack of knowledge. The actions of the characters really affect what happens in the next scene to drastic effect. These moments really take a toll on Diana which makes her seem human and that she truly feels the effects of what she has indirectly caused. This is something that isn't often developed too well in this genre but 'Wonder Woman' really succeeds with this element.

With such a high-budget superhero film like this, you expect the action to be very good and that is true for the most part. Jenkins does well with the action although does seem a bit obsessed with the slow motion effect during scenes. These are a bit overplayed and do make it feel quite video game like at times but the most important part is that it is all easily visible and won't give you a headache. A problem that I do feel with the DCEU's action, in general, is that the final battle is just punches and people being sent for miles rather than something that seems choreographed. That is just a personal preference but it did disappoint me that the climatic battle did end up like that. Other than that, there aren't many complaints. The over the top action scene is absolutely incredible which is made even better due to Rupert Gregson-Williams score that had inspiration from the Wonder Woman theme in 'Batman V Superman'. Those who enjoy the typical superhero action films will enjoy Wonder Woman as the standards are met for the general audiences.

I'm surprised by how good 'Wonder Woman' actually was as I certainly had doubts surrounding the film and its lead actress. Thankfully, they've proved me wrong big time and even more impressively, restored my faith in the DCEU. In a time where a superhero film is released every other month, 'Wonder Woman' does a great job at feeling fresh and maintaining a high quality. An important film that hopefully opens more doors for female filmmakers and inspires many more

Final Verdict =

So have you seen 'Wonder Woman'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film or not, which I encourage that you do. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor