Lone Survivor (2013) review

Lone Survivor (2013) is a film I had avoided for some time. I am a fan of war films, always have been ever since my dad would get me to watch war and westerns with him as a kid. I steered away from this film for so long through not wanting to sit through another lone-survivor-52d92e2921f55American propaganda film aimed at showing how valiantly they fight the good fight. But I decided to suck it up and watch it and I have to say, it was not what I was expecting.

The film follows the true story of four Navy SEALS on a recon mission in Afghanistan. They are locating their target and assessing the strength of enemy troops before the main contingent of American lads arrive. After running into some Afgans they have a decision to make, kill them and carry on or let them live but run the risk that they will alert the Taliban. I think we all know which option they chose.

This is a film about, as the title suggests, survival. We see these four soldiers get shot, punched, cut, hurt by explosions but the thing which will always stand out for me is the cliffs. These men want to survive so badly that they throw themselves off cliffs numerous times when they find their backs up against it. We see them bouncing down the cliff face, smacking their heads on rocks, crashing through trees and being thrown around like ragdolls. These scenes were truly tense; gripping the side of my sofa I watched and hoped that these men would still be alive when they reach the bottom. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they are getting shot regularly from the first encounter, and throughout the film we see them get progressively injured.

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Every time we see one of the soldiers take a bullet we are reminded that this is a true story, actual soldiers went through what we are seeing on the screen. The realism in this film is something not often seen in an American war film. These are elite soldiers, yet even they have weaknesses, they are not bulletproof and are human just the same as you and I.

Mark Wahlberg plays Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor. He pays this character very well in my opinion; he brings none of his cocky acting style to this role. Instead he swaps it for someone who never says they’re dying, but doesn’t say they will live either. You could say he is a positive realist.

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What sets this film apart from most American war films is the stance it takes on the morality on how Afgans should be seen. Many war films will show them all as evil, unable to aim and wanting to kill every white man they meet. This film however shows us a side to these people not often explored; the loyal, compassionate and honour-bound side. We see that not all Afgans are Taliban, not everyone in the country wants to kill the west, but in fact some want to help, some hate the Taliban as much as the west and want nothing more than to see them fail. This is something any logical person knows before watching this film, but it is great to actually see this portrayed on the big screen.

So, all in all I was impressed with the films realism and different view on the natives. All of the actors did a good job, nobody stuck out as being bad, but similarly nobody shone for me. But if you like your war films then I would say give this a try, you might like it.

Monuments Men (2014) review

Monuments Men (2014) was a film I had been looking forward to since I saw the trailer earlier this year. I had high hopes for it and, as a whole, I think it delivered.

The film is based on the true story of a group of art historians, museum directors and curators who, during World War 2, were tasked to locate, preserve and recover the countless pieces of art stolen by the Nazis. It leads to the most extravagant and dangerous 11178056_800treasure hunt in history as we follow these unlikely heroes as they travel all over the continent retrieving and preserving the culture of war-torn Europe.

The first thing that drew me to this film was the cast, and the great array of talent they managed to get in this picture. My favourite comical actor, Bill Murray, gave a ‘classic Murray’ performance riddled with dry wit and humorous jabs aimed at his comrades. Another favourite comedy actor of mine, John Goodman, played a great role too, delivering some quality lines which had me laughing out loud (literally lol).

Everyone else did a great job, especially Cate Blanchett who played her character to perfection, keeping that convincing French accent up throughout is no mean feat and she did it wonderfully. George Clooney and Matt Damon brought their usual talent to the film delivering the high quality performance that we have come to expect from these two.

George Clooney;Matt Damon;John Goodman;Bob Balaban

What a lot of critics have picked up on was the direction of the film, they didn’t know what it was trying to be. Is it a war film? Drama? Caper? Well I saw it as a film tackling a serious subject in a sometimes comical, sometimes serious way. Whereas this has been a drawback for a lot of critics, I found this to be one of the things I liked about the film.

Why must we set out the genre of film in black and white? Why must we say ‘this is a war film so it cannot contain any moments of joy, any laughs?’ I think what director George Clooney did was brave and I think he pulled it off. It was serious when it needed to be, emotional in parts and funny in others. Solider trying to make light of their situation is something we have seen in films, but with the talents of Murray and Goodman, they managed to pull it off wonderfully.

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I think what Clooney cleverly did was, knowing he wanted to create some funny moments in a serious story and retain the respect owed to the soldiers who did this, choose his cast carefully. He needed some funny actors, ones that could genuinely make the audience laugh, but he needed it to be subtle, so choosing Murray and Goodman was a stroke of genius. If he would have gone the other route and recruited mainstream comical actors such as Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler or anyone of the like then we would have had another film completely and one which would have failed miserably.

So all in all, I think this was a great film. It told a story I had not heard before and showed us World War 2 from a different point of view while raising some very interesting points. You can destroy a population, kill everyone and they will live on in their culture, their art. Allow that to be destroyed and you lose the people.

Rob the Mob (2014) review

Trolling through iTunes I came across Rob the Mob (2014) and decided to give it a go. Directed by Raymond De Felitta, Rob the Mob is a film about doing just that, robbing the mob. Starring Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda as Tommy and Rosie, a couple who make their living by holding up shops, florists and basically anywhere that has cash in the register. Then one day, after a stint in imagejail, Tommy comes up with an idea, why not rob the mob. In his eyes they are just a bunch of old men sitting around with no guns and lots of money. Plus who are they going to call, the cops? Not likely, it’s the perfect crime.

The tone of the film was something which attracted me from the trailer, dark humour taking the form of the bickering between the couple about trivial matters while Tommy is holding an Uzi and about to hold up the mafia. The obvious comparison would be to Bonnie and Clyde, as they are the nicknames given to them by the press. But I related it more to True Romance (1993), a love-struck couple doing what they need to in order to make a life for themselves and getting in deeper than they intended with some bad people.

The film’s charm was an unexpected pleasure, not only did I care about Tommy and Rosie and rooting for their success but we are treated to an inside look at the leader of that mafia family, his past and what he is going through. I found myself actually caring for his story and what would happen to his family when the inevitable happens and what his grandson would think of him when he grows up.

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The humour played a huge part in the film, making light of the mafia, this age old organisation feared by many and believed by some to not even exist. It is clear that the director of the film has no love for the mob, making them look foolish, being undone by two kids with a gun while their family members are ratting on each other to save their own skin. This is something not often done in filmmaking, mocking such a serious crime syndicate, but Raymond did it and I was glad he did, it was hilarious.

Ray Romano played the part of Jerry Cardozo, a journalist covering the mob case in the court and the unlikely friend of Tommy and Rosie. Ray played the part well, the underpaid and cynical journalist who became an unlikely friend to the kids, helping them gain nationwide recognition. I haven’t seen Ray in while and it was good to see him back on the screen. He is a likeable actor and I hope to see him more in the future.

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The standout performance was of course courtesy of Michael Pitt who you might know better as Jimmy from Boardwalk Empire. Michael, admittedly playing a similar role to his television series character, played an erratic and driven man fuelled by his passion for his girlfriend and his intent on reaping revenge for his father who was a constant victim of the mob.

Overall this film was thoroughly enjoyable for a random find. I had not heard anything about this film before stumbling across it but I am certainly glad I did. It provided some great laughs, likeable characters and lovely direction techniques, particularly the end sequence. To top it off it was based on a true story which always helps bring that sense of realism to the film and makes the story even more impressive.

Check out the trailer below:

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) review

This is a film I greatly anticipated having thoroughly enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and with the addition of one of my favourite actors, Gary Oldman, I was almost bursting with anticipation once again. Well ok, maybe not bursting otherwise I’d have seen it at the cinema, but close.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) picks up 10 years after its dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_a_ppredecessor in a world ravaged by the disease. Humans are few in numbers and the apes have all but forgotten about them. That is until they stumble upon each other and exchange blows. The film then follows the apes and humans’ attempted accommodation of each other. Needless to say, this doesn’t last and a battle for survival ensues which threatens to wipe out both sides.

RotPotA (Im just going to abbreviate now because, lets face it, I can keep typing the titles) was a film that set new heights for the franchise as it was the first one not to use men in ape costumes. DotPotA took the already frightening reality of the apes to a whole new level. The special effects used to create the apes is astonishing, there is no part of their being, their movement or actions that looks false.

The opening shot is a close-up of Caesar’s (Andy Serkis) eyes which was chilling to say the least. Although my favourite scene is when Caesar, after a long pause, shout GO! at the humans. Now that was utterly chilling, I mean I genuinely had goose bumps and actually rewound it to watch it again. Everything about that scene was immense.

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The effects are not solely to credit for the realism of Caesar, a huge amount of respect must be paid to Andy Serkis aka the real Caesar, who really brought this ape to life. His movements and mannerisms encapsulated an ape and really helped transform this CGI ape into a real character.

One of the things I liked about the film was the empathy I felt for both side, the humans and the apes. Both caught in a war not of their choosing but having to fight it none the less. We saw more of the apes’ side of the story but that is to be expected, yet it did not paint the humans in a bad light so finding myself rooting for both sides was something I don’t often find myself doing.

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Overall I enjoyed the film, it did what it could with the story it had. We all know what happens in the end (refer to the title Planet of the Apes) and that the humans will eventually lose. That being said, director Matt Reeves gave us an enjoyable ride with some great characters, great action scenes and even greater effects. So all in all, good film.

Maleficent (2014) review

So I’ve heard a lot about this film as its been around for a while, always sounded a tad immature to me, so I stayed clear of it until now. I succummed when looking through the iTunes film library and after a while of not being able to decide what to watch, as often happens, I settled for Maleficent (2014) out of sheer frustration.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a fairy charged with protecting her Maleficent-(2014)-219homeland populated by various mythical creatures. She, since childhood, has been in love with a human and they became best friends. When the human king leads his army against the mythical folk he comes into contact with  Maleficent and places a bounty on her head. The film follows her decent into evil and revenge, showing us a side to an age old story we haven’t seen before, the story of Sleeping Beauty and the woman who cursed her.

As you can imagine, the story of Sleeping Beauty isn’t something that grabbed me being that everyone knows this story, it has been told over and over again. However I did liked the idea of it being told from another perspective with an adult and slightly darker character as the lead.

Angelina Jolie plays the fairy Maleficent and I have to say, did a great job. She has the great ability of being able to play a variety of different characters with conviction. She played the happy love-struck fairy very well, but even better was her portrayal of a woman’s decent into evil and revenge due to the betrayal of a man. Now this is one woman I wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of!

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Everything was very picturesque and ‘Disney’ just without the animation, but that worked in this film’s favour. The battle scenes were excellent, seeing trees that look slightly like Sauron from Lord of the Rings, completely destroy armies of men. Seeing colossal worms made out of vines tearing through enemy lines was truly enjoyable as we all love to see a good fight. But even with all of those special effects I have to say the most enjoyable aspect of the film, for me, was watching the relationship grow between Maleficent and Aurora (Elle Fanning) aka Sleeping Beauty. This was an unexpected pleasure and I really found myself caring about what happened to them.

The only problem I had with the film was Sharlto Copley who played Stefan who’s performance I thought was awful. He seemed wooden, sounded like he was reading from a script and didn’t believe or connect with a single word he said. This is a problem for me as every time he spoke it took me out of the film and reminded me that it was, in fact, a film. With the talent of Angelina and the rest of the cast, who I have to say were great, especially Sam Riley who was an unexpected delight, and the massive budget this film must have had that they could have found someone better to play the deranged king.

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But that case of bad acting aside, I really rather enjoyed the film. I am a fan of the fantasy genre anyway as that is the genre of books I almost exclusively read, so found all the creatures in Maleficent’s kingdom great fun. Overall I thought it was an enjoyable film, one I probably wouldn’t watch again but that is not to say I wouldn’t recommend it to someone for an easy Sunday afternoon film.   

Ive popped the trailer below in case you want to have a look:

The Double (2013) review

I have been looking forward to this film since I saw the trailer way back when. Also having enjoyed his first film Submarine (2010) I had high hopes for Richard Ayoade’s second film, The Double (2013).

The Double follows government agency clerk Simon James (Jesse the double Eisenberg) as his dull and dreary life takes an unexpected turn upon the arrival of his double, James Simon. We follow Simon’s struggle to be identified in his work, life and in himself as James does everything he can to sabotage him at every turn.

I went into this film having read no reviews and knowing very little about it. It is safe to say it is not what I expected in the least. I mean yeah I expected it to be kooky with a slight Wes Anderson feel to it, like Submarine but what we got was that and so much more.

The Double, instead of the good natured fun of Ayoades first film, is noir in its style and story and art-house in its direction. The direction was very jolty, jumping from one image to the next as it portrayed this disjointed world and character. The noir aspect came from the style of the film, the dark colour pallet used alongside it looking dark and dreary throughout most of the film. The story was dark, exploring the sense of identity and what it means to be a person in love with someone who ignores you in a world with no meaning. But none of what I have said should be misconstrued as being negatives, quite the opposite in fact; these were all aspects that I thought made for a compelling film.

The Double jesse Jesse Esienberg to play both Simon and James was the perfect choice in my opinion. We all know the range in which Jesse can act and he showed it in this film. From the quiet character of Simon who is a hard worker but seems to be scared of life and terrified of being alone and not knowing who he is. James on the other hand shows Jesse’s more confident acting skills, as he is the man to get the ladies, he isn’t afraid of a fight and taking credit for other people’s work. So Jesse did a great job here with a demanding role of playing two very different people often in the same scene.

One of the things which I wasn’t sure about in the film was the use of the same actors. I think I counted the entire cast of Submarine pop up in one place or another in this film which got on my nerves a little. Now I’m not against the reuse of some of the same actors in different films, in fact my favourite director, Wes Anderson, is well known for this. But using the entire cast, for me, was too much and came across as slightly lazy.

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But all in all I did enjoy the film and found it very interesting. The noir style was something I enjoyed and is something we don’t see too often in modern cinema. This is a film I would not recommend to everyone but if you are a fan of noir or Richard Ayoade then it is certainly worth a watch.

Check out the trailer below:

Snowpiercer (2013) review

So I’ve been looking at this for a while now, debating whether or not to spend two hours of my time on something that looked like a slightly different take of Elysium (2013), but I recently took the plunge and watched Snowpiercer (2013).

The film follows the premise that the world grew too warm due to Snowpiercerglobal warming. The answer to this was a drastic climate control experiment which was aimed at cooling the world. It did this, but a little too much and entered the world into a very sudden ice age. The only survivors of all of humanity now reside on a train, a modern Noah’s Ark. The train is ripe with inequality and injustice with the class war being the main focus. The poor people want to get to first class and take over the train.

I was hesitant to watch this because, as I mentioned before, the premise sounded rather similar to Elysium. Yes there were similarities but where Elysium dealt more with the superficial issues surrounding class war mixing in some impressive CGI, Snowpiercer got down to the gritty realism of such a divide. Showing us that what separates the two classes is something as small as the ticket they bought when boarding the train. It showed us the self-righteousness of the upper-class and the extent they went to in order to preserve their paradise and the disgusting things they were willing to do.

We see the lead character Curtis (Chris Evans) become the leader of the tail end of the train and orchestrate a rebellion. It’s refreshing to see Chris in a role which doesn’t require him to take his top off, much to the distress of female audiences I’m sure. He still plays a character who knows how to kick ass but there is more to him than that. He has a story we care about, dropping little clues throughout the film which all tie together nicely later on. He was a character I liked, I rooted for him, even after some truths come out.

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The supporting roles were filled nicely, none more so than by John Hurt, Jamie Bell and Octavia Spencer, all giving some great performances that we have come to expect from these three.

One of the things I absolutely loved about this film, and one of the areas in which it differs to Elysium, was the action scenes. It was primarily hand-to-hand combat as the underclass makes their way through the train. I’m talking axes, daggers, spears and of course the good old fashioned fist. But what makes it go from good to great is the direction of these scenes, it was outstanding. The camera angles made you feel like you were there, then the next minute take you right back out of the action, looking in, horrifying you with the fighting before you.

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This was a film that takes place in the future where everyone has regressed to the past. The pure savagery of the film, the hate that slowly builds in you towards the upper-class and the way that can turn within seconds is something I haven’t seen in a while. Some fight scenes were reminiscent of Oldboy (2003) with the sheer violence mixed with the compact nature of the environment giving both side the savagery that comes when you have nowhere to go apart from forward.

So if you, like me, have been pondering over whether to spend two hours watching something that, on the surface, sounds unoriginal then I implore you to give it a go. The two hours fly by and you will not be disappointed.

Below is the trailer so if you’re curious then take a look:

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