movie review

'WIDOWS' MOVIE REVIEW

Widows poster - imdb

Widows poster - imdb

Set in contemporary Chicago, amidst a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.
— imdb synopsis

I’ve been a fan of Steve Mc Queen’s movies since his debut feature film ‘Hunger’, a haunting vision of Irish republican hunger striker Bobby Sands. His movies are quietly powerful with assured, confident direction and emotional performances from his central leads.

With his latest movie ‘Widows’ we are drawn into the seedy world of Robbers and a political landscape that embraces this lifestyle secretly while openly admonishing it. We open onto a botched robbery where Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) a career criminal with over thirty successful years of armed robbery under his belt seemingly makes a mistake in the planning and all of the robbers are executed at the hands of a zealous swat team who decimate the group in a hail of bullets.

With a debt owed to a nefarious criminal Jamal Mannings (Brian Tyree Henry) - who also happens to be running against Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) for alderman of the 19th ward, four ‘Widows’ must conspire to forge a future on their own terms and take on a heist that will free themselves from debt and perhaps a new life free from crime.

Taken as a remake of sorts to the 1983 series by Lynda La Plant, there is a lot of story strands that have to be hit in a two hour movie. You would think that this would keep the story interesting and fresh but in reality I felt it dragged at times and we lost the central premise of four women attempting to carry off a robbery with no experience. The other scenes involving political machinations felt forced even though there are some great turns by Colin Farrell and his brow beating, overbearing father played by Robert Duval. Daniel Kaluuya’s performance felt a little off neither over the top evil or clever… just well a little generic. The same could be said for Liam Neeson’s character Harry Rawlings - we never really get to know any of them. They are stock one dimensional characters. In truth there is just too many characters to juggle and have any of them feel grounded.

The subplot of Viola Davis losing her son through a police shooting lost some of its power as it wasn’t really at the centre of the movie. It is the motivator for the plot of the movie which for obvious spoiler reasons I wont say anything more suffice to say that I felt it needed to be given more weight and not have it be a precursor to a ‘twist’ that didn’t necessarily work effectively enough.

In truth the plot by screenwriter Gillian Flynn felt muddled with too many characters vying for screen time that they lost their impact. The central premise for the movie involving the four women was less impactful and relegated to snippets where you lost their character. Truly the only real character was Veronica played by Viola Davis. Trying to touch on so many themes all at once made for a disjointed viewing. We have sleazy politics, sex work, Racism, loss, remorse, revenge, regret and hope all intertwined so that very little hits home and you lose a lot of the power in those themes even though they are very relevant in today’s society.

This is not to say the movie is bad its not. It has very assured direction and the performances are all very good. I felt perhaps that one less subplot would have made for a better viewing experience and given the central premise more weight.

Overall worth watching ***1/2 out of *****

Hereditery movie review

Hereditary movie poster - imdb

Hereditary movie poster - imdb

After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets.
— imdb

**Warning there will be spoilers**

From the very first opening minute there is a creepy atmosphere to the psychological horror 'Hereditary'. We are introduced to Annie played with great conviction by Toni Collette who is just about to bury her mother. We get the distinct feeling that Annie didn't particularly see eye to eye with her and is struggling to grieve for her loss.

Through the course of this we get introduced to her slightly strained family. With her put upon husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and her estranged son Peter (Alex Wolff) and Strange daughter Charlie (The underutilised Milly Shapiro). The creepy conotations build slowly - this movie is definitely a slow burn so if you like your horror fast paced it might not be for you - where we witness Annie creating life like miniature dioramas replete with tiny people and furniture. A production design that is used again and again in both setting and cinematography. At times it appears the characters are living in a real life doll house and we are viewing them first hand. Its a clever and weird device.

The movie is quite atmospheric and tension slowly builds. At first you aren't sure where the movie is going, building up the supernatural elements slowly. Only when Charlie is horrifically decapitated by her brother Peter by accident - a scene that's brilliantly handled - does the movie show any real momentum. From here there is some terrific scenes with Annie as her downward spiral where it is heavily implied that she had a breakdown of some sort and has never quite recovered all of her mental capacity. In one shocking revelation she admits to her son Peter that she never wanted him as a child in fact she tried to abort him on numerous occasions but failed primarily because her overbearing mother wanted him and not her herself.

As tensions rise and the family unit deteriorates old secrets rise to the surface and home truths that are pushed from the surface come back to haunt you and that trust that was once there suddenly evaporates and you can never really get it back. To say any more would spoil the movie.

I would say that Hereditory is two thirds of a great movie with the final third the least satisfying. When you learn the 'truth' of why the supernatural occurrences are happening it deteriorates ever so slightly into parody. Not to say that its bad, its not it just didn't have the same level of tension and the final reveal is a little bit on the silly side which might raise a few titters more than shock.

But still there is much to be enjoyed about Hereditary if, of course, you enjoy slow burning psychological horror. From a purely performance stand point Toni Collette is terrific and gives a powerful performance. All in all I quite enjoyed 'Hereditary' while not perfect it is worth watching.

**** out of *****  

Mission Impossible: Fallout review

mission impossible poster.jpg
Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.
— imdb

***SPOILERS AHEAD ***

Opening with a familiar setup that is now a firm part of the mission impossible structure, Ethan Hunt must try to rescue stolen plutonium from an arms dealer hell bent on selling it on to a militant splinter group which has parted ways with 'the syndicate'. The mission goes wrong and Ethan Hunt must try to recover the stolen plutonium, risking the lives of his IMF crew and his ex wife.

Filled with spectacular action from the word go it is a roller coaster ride of thrills and action. Darker in tone and cinematography than the previous instalments it relies on the central premise that Ethan Hunt would happily sacrifice the world to save a person close to him. With this firmly in place Filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie sets up obstacle after obstacle with this very purpose in mind.

Its a clever premise but ironically I found the writing to be the weakest part of the storytelling. At times the plot is sacrificed in pursuit of an action sequence. Then again why are we watching these movies if not for the action and the spectacle? When the action beats rise and are handled with such fervour the plot becomes secondary anyway so maybe its best not to complain too much. But I personally felt that there was something missing. With all the explosive bravura on display do we really care about any of the characters and is that even necessary anymore?

But I digress, having the longest run time of all of the mission movies I did feel it went on a little to long. No to say that it was boring. No it was never boring. It just lacked a little pizzazz when they slow down enough to have a conversation with each other. But this is a very minor complaint. All in all the setup is interesting enough to pull you along for the ride.

At first I found Henry Cavill's character August Walker a nice introduction, he is introduced as the 'tip of the spear' someone who will get the job done no matter the cost - but as the movie went on he became a less interesting character and ultimately villain. The finale where two helicopters hang precariously over a cliff edge does echo a movie like 'Cliffhanger' where the hero and villain battle inside as the helicopter slips further and further down to the rocky depths below. Then again you are always going to have comparisons to other movies and it is still an enjoyable action sequence nevertheless.

I will, however, urge you not to look at the trailer. I felt that it gives away the twist in the movie. But having said that the twist is pretty obvious from the get go so maybe that doesn't matter too much. The marketing is selling the movie based upon the action quota and very little about the plot as they clearly paint Henry Cavill as the villain in them. 

All in all Mission impossible: Fallout is an enjoyable movie best viewed in a cinema with the largest screen to fully appreciate the scale of the action.

**** out of **** 

Solo: A Star wars story movie review

Solo-A-Star-Wars-small.jpg
During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.
— imdb

With a short turnaround now a mere 6 months between the last Star Wars movie we get Solo: A star wars story. Having mostly enjoyed Rogue one I thought at least the spin off stories would perhaps be an entertaining diversion albeit not particularly necessary. It was true for 'Rogue one' and the same sentiment applies to a certain degree with 'Solo' as well. It's an entertaining diversion which answers certain questions that fans may or may not have had.

The movie follows the young plucky 'Han Solo' from a young age right up to just before he makes contact with the rebellion. The movie flies at a cracking pace never leaving you time to think about anything. For the first 45 minutes I would say that the movie is actually quite good, bar a few scenes that came across a little flat and lifeless. To be fair considering the alleged mess that the movie was in before Ron Howard assumed Director duties, he has managed to create a cohesive story that holds together quite well. With a reported 70% reshoot we do, at least, seem to get what Ron Howard intended. And to be fair you couldn't really see where the issues might have been. 

This is not to say that Solo: A Star Wars story is perfect. It's not. There are a number of areas that I thought were a little flat. At times the dialogue exchanges lacked polish and crackle. It also lacked a little in action and jeopardy. The finale is a prime example of this: at no point did I feel any jeopardy for Solo. Which is a big problem with these stand alone 'Star Wars' stories we already essentially know the outcome. So the only interest that remains is how the character gets there. Which, depending upon your viewpoint, could either be interesting or two hours and fifteen minutes of boredom.

The early reports from set seemed to paint a very bad picture of Alden Ehrenreich who plays Han Solo. But for the most part I think he actually plays the part quite well and I buy him in the role. Despite positive reviews of Donald Glover who plays Lando Calrissian I felt at times he veered into a slight parody rather than authenticity. That's not to say his acting is bad, it's not. I feel its down to the change in tone of the character giving him a more campy edge that wasn't present before. I believe this is also what has certain Star Wars fans up in arms. After a bombardment of questions to writer Johnathan Kasdan over twitter he intimated that Lando is now pan sexual. There is clearly a hint that Lando holds more than friendship in mind with L3-37 (Played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) indeed at one point L3-37 infers that they would be more if only she wasn't a robot.

It seems a strange turn for Star Wars. Indeed with The last Jedi movie there was sexual politics involving men and women with a slightly sexist viewpoint - to the detriment of story and quality - just to fulfil some type of agenda. Which is a strange stance that Kathleen Kennedy has taken considering she is in charge of a franchise which champions the theme of 'Hope'. Under her stewardship the star Wars story lines seemed to have deteriorated with a noticeable decline in quality of writing usually sacrificing story for a political viewpoint rather than creating quality entertainment. 

But I digress, back to Solo I think it's an entertaining diversion that has some interesting aspects. Setting aside some weaker parts it at least tells a cohesive story unlike the predessor The last Jedi. But when push comes to shove the ending is a little underwhelming with the movie coming to a close with a whimper rather than a roar. Paul Bettany's Drydon Vos falling foul of the cliched evil villain mantle by simply being underwhelming and under written.

*** out of *****

Avengers: Infinity war movie review

 

Avengers infinity war poster

The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.
— imdb synopsis

**SPOILER ALERT - THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD**

Lets get this out of the way first. I wouldn't really be a fan of the marvel universe as a whole. I know I said it but lets get past that. Even though the movies are well produced they all fall neatly into line with the tagline 'seen it all before'. As a company line I often wondered how many movies Marvel could produce with minimal jeopardy for any heroes before they felt the need to reset the franchise.

With their tenth year of producing movies - sometimes two in a year - there is definitely a case of 'can we get this over with please' syndrome. It seems every time you look at a trailer its for a new superhero movie. In fact most of the tent pole movies every year seem to be either 'Marvel' or 'Star wars'. Don't get me wrong I love a good fantasy and SCI-FI movie. I would just prefer a little variety every now and then. At this juncture I feel they have reached their saturation point. Eighteen movies in and jet-lag has definitely hit.

But I digress - is Avengers: Infinity war any good? well, yes and no. Let me explain. I'll start with the no part first. Characters. There's far too many at this point all clamouring to get their little piece of the pie that there is literally no room for anyone. Most are relegated to throwaway lines that are essentially a regurgitation of the plot or stating the obvious jeopardy that lays ahead. Its especially noticeable in Mark Ruffalo's performance whose acting is the worst I've ever seen from him. I often thought it would be a better movie if we actually got to know any of them beyond their superficial personas. But who has time when there is a special effect explosion to get to.

And that's one of the biggest problems I had: I didn't really care about any of them. With the stakes so high in this movie it should be at a point where you feel something. But perhaps Marvel has pressed that reset button too often now that cynicism has begun to set in. In truth when the finale rolls around and most hero's are fizzled to the ether it was met with a stunted 'Oh'. There's always a catch and a way out. I don't think its going to be any different with this one. But for a momentary instant it does work and at least, even temporarily, there could be an interesting ending. But therein lies the ever present potential reset

For the most part the special effects where good with the notable exception of the exposition scenes on 'Titan' which had some really quite badly handled green screen removal. The action scenes on wikanda where quite generic, however. A mishmash of chaotic CGI and quick cuts with very little in the way ingenuity or for that matter tension. You only have to look at the recent movie ' A quiet place' which oozed tension to realise how how far apart they both are in terms of this. Its chalk and cheese. But really are we going to a Marvel movie for that or just the spectacle of things being blown up? I think we should expect both. Tension and spectacle. Sadly we don't get both.

TITAN.jpg

Now to the good. Josh Brolin as Thanos is quite compelling. I felt he was a quietly threatening presence, obviously mad and intent on carrying out an Armageddon plan to wipe out half of the universe to solve the galaxies ills. While not perfect its still a good turn. The guardians of the galaxy give a much needed burst of laughter. Their scenes are easily some of the best in the movie. The movie spins at a great pace never staying still for very long, sliding across the cosmos fulfilling various sub-plots.

And finally we come to the ending. For the first time in a Marvel movie someone dies. And it appears that some may not come back again (Except perhaps in a reboot/reset) which is somewhat refreshing and at least a decade coming. While it is an interesting ending there is an inbuilt get out clause that undermines this heavily. If Marvel uses it, which they may well do, it will erode what has come before it.

With all of the hype surrounding the movie is it justified? Well yes and no. The movie is at the very least a distracting 2 hours+ but also at the same time too long. Some characters have very little to do and are only there to see a familiar face. It suffers from Harry potteritis where the ending is split into two for convenience and the money making potential that that implies.

So should you watch it? Well if you are a die hard Marvel fan then you have probably already seen it if not then don't go in expecting anything different. Some flaws have been lessened and others created. Not perfect but not bad either. You'll already know what to expect: Big explosions and lots of colourful effects with a smattering of funny lines thrown in. It definitely doesn't break the mold in fact it only very slightly modifies it. And that modification is probably only temporary.

*** out of *****