Eternals – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan and Kit Harrington
Directed by Chloé Zhao
Written by Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo, Chloé Zhao and Matthew K. Firpo
Length: 157mins

Heading into the 26th installation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s a point where you begin to wonder just where these films can possibly go next. However, ‘Eternals’ seemed like the first in a little while where there was a promise of something new and exciting to be offered. From the trailers, audiences were excited to be put in the hands of one of the most exciting directors working today – Chloé Zhao, as well as seeing a diverse cast of characters and an interesting storyline that seemed to focus more on the way in which superheroes interact with the culture and history of their world, rather than the usual action sequences that comprise a large amount of these films.

Whilst there were some moments of stunning cinematography, where the framing and stylistic choices greatly benefitted the emotions of a character or scene, it can’t be said that there’s any sort of consistency when it comes to these moments. Though it’s recently been revealed that a large amount of the film was shot on location rather than using the usual green screen approach, it’s hard to truly appreciate these moments of naturalism when most of the screen is being overwhelmed by large CGI creatures. For this instalment, they’re known as ‘Deviants’, and as usual, put up a fight good enough to show off the Eternals powers, without there being any sort of moral conflict surrounding the physical altercation taking place.

With seven-thousand years of humanity’s history to work with, the writers do well to pick out some interesting and pivotal moments to place the Eternals within, testing their willingness to remain obedient and maintain impartiality over human conflict. Through these flashbacks, we’re able to better understand what makes each of the Eternals unique, exploring what drives and motivates them. There’s some interesting moments of both humour and conflict between the group, but many of these conversations are fairly exposition-heavy, simply serving as a cutaway to provide more information for when we catch up to the modern world. For a two-and-a-half hour film, there doesn’t feel as if there’s much time when the story is able to simply slow down and let scenes play out naturally or with ambiguity – a stylistic trait that Zhao has become known for, but I imagine the Marvel producers are not so supportive of. You definitely felt the length of the film around the halfway mark, but by the end it seemed as if it needed another fifteen minutes just to simply round off the story in a more impactful way. Final goodbyes felt as if they were cut for time, and many characters had only a small conclusion despite playing a pivotal role in the film – but I suppose when it comes to Marvel there’s no need for goodbyes, as there’s always a sequel around the corner.

If you’re a fan of Marvel then you won’t need my recommendation to get yourself a ticket, but if you aren’t such a big Comic fan, I imagine you might find ‘Eternals’ a bit of a stretch to get through. Despite that, it’s always enjoyable watching these superheroes fight it out on the big screen, so if you’re just looking forward to a fun time, you can’t go too far wrong with this latest instalment in the MCU.

The Harder They Fall – Review

Rating: 15 Cast: Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield and Idris Elba. Directed by Jeymes Samuel Written by Jeymes Samuel and Boaz Yakin. Length: 139mins  

When outlaw Nat Love discovers that the man who murdered his parents in front of him as a child is being released from prison, he reunites his gang to take revenge. What more could you ask for? A revenge Western packed with memorable characters played by brilliant actors, each scene and moment staged for power and authority. 

This movie caught my attention while scrolling through Netflix, mostly thanks to the big name cast. The trailer presents a very accurate snapshot of what it is, a contemporary Western, which is an interesting concept in itself. Now the plot is relatively basic, but the content is just so interesting to watch. You can see a lot of Jeymes Samuels influences within the film, it feels very Tarantino at times and is a really artistic film. The framing and the camerawork is beautiful, the colour palette is vibrant and the music is something else. While the general aesthetic is classic western,  there are quick-draws, large-scale gunfights, horse stunts, and chases, a train robbery, bank robberies, and a couple of hand-to-hand brawls with several cliches that we would expect in a Western; bottles smashed over heads, fights with pitch forks, men thrown out of windows etc…the soundtrack and fight sequences are the main elements that keep it feeling modern and fresh.

The Harder They Fall is Jeymes Samuel’s debut feature film but his CV boasts experience of working with some incredible talent. In this film he gifts his actors with precious moments where their characters are allowed to listen to each other and quietly glance at each other. It truly feels like a ‘filmmakers film’ and I can only imagine that the cast leapt at the opportunity to be a part of it. While the whole cast is strong, lead by the brilliant Jonathan Majors, there are a couple who stand out. Idris Elba, unsurprisingly, brings a cool, mysterious quiet to the high energy of the rest of the cast and Regina King who we all know delivers in every single role. King brought everything that her character required, moments of vulnerability countered with absolute brutal, no nonsense reactions.

Now the film does feel quite long, the plot isn’t particularly captivating and some of it is fairly predictable, but it’s very difficult to criticise a film that really does feel like art. Yes, it wont be to everyones taste, but it really is worth the watch for all of the heart that comes through in its presentation. While speaking to GQ, Samuel said  “I always loved Westerns, but they would always present a very narrow scope in those stories. They’d be very white male-centric. They wouldn’t even show women with any power in those stories.” and I think you can really feel his words in this movie, he explores human nature, gives voices to powerful women and explores a genre that he clearly cares so much about.

Dune – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgard, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Charlotte Rampling
Directed by Denis Villenevue
Written by Frank Herbert (Adapted from the novel by) Denis Villenevue, Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts
Length: 155mins

Often described as an ‘unfilmable’ novel, Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction classic has seen many directors try, without much success, to bring its story to life on the big screen. Most notably attempted by Alejandro Jodorowsky in the 70’s, and then later converted into a major blockbuster by David Lynch in the 80’s, who felt deeply unsatisfied by the final result due to studio interference, it seems that to take up adapting ‘Dune’ has always been a doomed task. However, if there was any director who might have a chance of turning a great text into a great film, it’s Denis Villenevue – the man responsible for some of the most original and creative blockbusters this side of the 2000’s. 

Garnering widespread attention from early in it’s production, ‘Dune’ stirred up a lot of conversation not only due to its ambitious source material, but also because of the incredible cast that the filmmakers appeared to be assembling. Timothée Chalamet, fresh off the heels of ‘The French Dispatch’ being released earlier in the week, takes up the lead role of Paul, the youthful son of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), leader of house Atreides – one of the key families who rule over the universe. Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), however, is also from a powerful bloodline, being an acolyte of the Bene Gesserit, a female order whose advanced physical and mental abilities are unmatched. One of the many things which I admired about ‘Dune’ was its focus on a Mother-Son relationship to lead the film, as such dynamics are rarely explored on these large scale productions. Together, Chalamet and Ferguson put in some brilliant performances, and the complexity of their relationship develops along with the narrative, drawing on moments of uncertainty as to whether they each have the best interests of the other at heart. 

To talk about ‘Dune’ and not mention its visuals would not do the film any sort of justice. Greig Fraser’s camerawork is absolutely breathtaking at times, delivering everything you’d want from a sci-fi blockbuster, and more. The colour palette consistently plays around with yellow and orange tones, painting each scene with its own beautiful composition. Furthermore, the costume and set design on display are just as incredible. There’s a clear divisiveness between the futuristic setting and the traditional values and styles upheld by the characters that never needs to be mentioned aloud by anyone, as the art department does such a brilliant job showing this juxtaposition visually. Despite being two and a half hours in length, no shot ever feels unnecessary, and no shot ever seems to let down the intriguing and meticulous aesthetic which is established throughout. 

The first of two parts, Denis Villenevue absolutely made the right decision when it came to adapting Herbert’s eight-hundred page novel. Despite going into ‘Dune’ knowing that it would ultimately end on a cliffhanger, I never felt that the film served only to lead into the second. Character and story arcs were established and developed within the space of the film in a captivating and gripping manner. The way in which Villenevue is able to introduce each character and perfectly encapsulate their personality within minutes is a talent that was required when working with such an all-star cast, and as a result the film’s pacing is absolutely perfect. Each sequence works not only within its own space, but also to serve the greater narrative. ‘Dune’ is a masterclass in filmmaking on perhaps the biggest level, just as all of Villenevue’s films are, and I imagine Part Two will be no exception to the rule. We can only wonder how our own stories will have changed when we sit down for the next installation in two years time.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage – Review

Rating: 15 Cast: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris and Stephen Graham Directed by Andy Serkis Written by Kelly Marcel and Tom Hardy Length: 97mins

In Venom: Let There Be Carnage we rejoin Eddie Brock (Hardy), a struggling journalist and host to the cheeky, gravel-voiced alien ‘symbiote’, Venom, seemingly living their now entangled lives. The plot revolves around serial killer Cletus Kasady (Harrelson), who Eddie interviews in hopes to reignite his career. Throughout the action Kasady is infected with his own symbiote, Carnage, who wreaks havoc and sets his sights on destroying Venom while searching for Kasady’s mutant girlfriend.

It sounds as ridiculous as it is…but if you buy into the world then it’s definitely an easy and somewhat entertaining watch. Venom and Brock are somewhat lesser known ‘anti-heroes’ but after the success of the first film, fans were keen to jump back in and see which stories were left to tell. What I really enjoy about this film, is the lack of backstory. Serkis doesn’t feel the need for overcomplicated world-building. It seems that you either buy in, and accept what you’re being told, or you don’t and that your enjoyment will likely hinge on that level of acceptance.  Searches dispense with the detailed explanations and instead amps up the humour, leaning into the more goofy dynamic between Venom and Brock.

What is interesting about this film is the level of absolute talent interwoven. Tom Hardy really creates a wonderful character dynamic between his human character and alien counterpart, while the humour is at the forefront, there is a connection that the audience can see, he creates a brilliant emotional core that shows itself at intervals throughout the action which can’t be an easy task to undertake. Woody Harrelson jumps straight in and throws all of his energy at his part, Kasady is an interesting serial killer, if slightly predictable at times. Supporting characters including Eddie’s ex, played by Michelle Williams and Kasady’s girlfriend Frances, played by Naomie Harris don’t really get much of a look in. Harris is fun but underused, and Williams is really just brushed over. It’s a shame to have such talent in a film without really needing or using them. 

This quirky sequel is lighthearted, action packed and amusing. You’ll know if you’re going to like it, probably from just looking at the poster. It’s an easy, short watch that will allow you to escape reality if you can get behind it. If you didn’t enjoy the first film, you’re unlikely to enjoy the second. Take it as it is and it’s a fun way to spend 90 minutes but if you’re looking for stirring plot points or world changing revelation then it’s not for you.