Honest Thief – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Dovowan. Anthony Ramos and Robert Patrick
Directed by Mark Williams
Written by Steve Allrich and Mark Williams
Length: 99mins

Liam Neeson explodes back onto our screens in brand new release ‘Honest Thief’ just in time for cinemas, bringing the hope many movie theatres need to pull audiences in while the industry faces potential collapse amidst the shockwaves of Covid:19. Neeson stars as Tom, the honest thief of the title, also known – much to his irritation – as the In-and-Out Bandit. Tom’s late-in-life bank-robbing career has bagged him $9million, but upon meeting Annie (Kate Walsh) decides that an honest, simple life might be worth more than the money he’d acquired.

Built around a solid idea, a master criminal choosing to hand himself in, Honest Thief begins by spending time on it’s characters, giving the roles a chance to develop which is a rarity in most contemporary action movies. It’s nice to see how the key relationship of the story starts and watch as the relationship develops, but also to get a glimpse into the lives of the peripheral characters without dedicating the whole plot to characterisation. It’s clever, subtle work of Mark Williams and Steve Allrich to bulk out the story and allowing the audience to empathise with characters that they might not had the time not been taken to include these moments in the script.

Most audiences will know exactly what they’re going to when the sit down to watch Honest Thief. Liam Neeson almost has his own ‘brand’ of films – very similar to some of his earlier movies like Taken; you know that his work is reliable, if perhaps a little predicable. Despite the similar narrative to some of his earlier works, credit has to be given – he’s 68 years of age and is still spitting out these brilliantly entertaining films with as must gusto as he did 10 years ago.

What I really enjoyed about this film is the themes surrounding guilt and personal responsibility woven into the plot. Again, it’s subtle and if you are looking for a steady action film without having to think about it you can happily enjoy the film for what it is. But it’s nice that it carries some deeper themes as well for the viewers who enjoy looking into the plot a little more. All in all it’s just a steady watch, as previously mentioned its a real treat for any cinemas that are able to open to be able to show a film with such a prestigious name carrying the feature. I urge you to support your local cinemas if they’re open; if this film is showing and you enjoy a solid action film then it will definitely be up your street.

The Equalizer – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz and David Harbour
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Written by Richard Wenk
Length: 132mins

Robert McCall (Washington) is a former special service commando who faked his own death in the hopes of living out a quiet life. Instead, he comes out of a self-imposed retirement to save a young girl (Moretz) and finds his desire for justice reawakened after coming face to face with members of a brutal Russian gang…

Antoine Fuqua does a brilliant job of telling the story – it doesn’t span over a great length of time yet a lot happens. I really appreciate how he manages to successfully illustrate Robert’s day to day experiences in just a few scenes without using an arty montage or other more suggestive techniques. He had a real confidence in Washington’s ability and you can see it translate to screen. What is fantastic is to watch a film that has a deep consideration of ‘character’ whilst also being able to pull off some amazing action sequences.

Denzel Washington is an absolute powerhouse, I don’t think anyone would argue that his skill is just phenomenal and it’s pretty much a given that he’ll be great in whatever role he undertakes. What is really interesting with the role of Robert is that they needed to cast someone who you can believe to be such a kindhearted, selfless individual who could be equally as convincing as a brutal, determined weapon – both in appearance and in build. Denzel was the perfect fit and it’s such a pleasure to watch him work, particularly in the first half of the film where he is interacting with the peripheral characters and taking situations in as they happen. Although all of the performances are strong in this film, Chloe Grace Moretz is also worth mentioning. Her part is not enormous but she manages to create a really likeable character who the audience empathises with; thus making Roberts reaction to her story much more acceptable to an audience who cares for her.

The film feels complete, which is quite refreshing. Though a sequel was released in 2018 I don’t believe this film was created with the intention of dragging the story and characters out. The story is wrapped up nicely and by the end of the story it leaves it’s audience with very few questions. Real credit to the writer, Richard Wenk, who creates a story where it’s a very natural start to the action – of course bits and pieces about the past come out throughout the film but there’s no confusion from the moment the film starts, right through the action to a solid ending.

Though the violence and, shall we say, ‘creative’ methods that Robert uses to dispatch the bad guys is pretty brutal, the film is only rated 15 so it gives you an indication of the intensity before you watch. If you can stomach a bit of violence I really recommend giving it a watch. It truly holds its own as and action/thriller and is a really brilliant watch with some stellar performances.

Hot Fuzz – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Paddy Considine and Bill Bailey
Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Length: 121mins

In 2004, British director Edgar Wright released his comedic homage to the zombie genre in the form of ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ a brilliant and clever film that utilised the stereotypical tropes of the genre to create a film that felt completely unique. This would be the start of a three-part series of films that would each take on their own respective genre in a comedic manner, and would feature a recurring all-star cast led by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Concluded in 2013, the so-called ‘Cornetto’ trilogy (named after the recurring appearance of the ice cream in each film, with three different flavours to match the three different genres) was rounded up by ‘Worlds End,’ a take on the world of sci-fi and aliens. However, I think that the strongest of the trilogy was made in 2007, when Wright turned his attention towards the action genre, and headed to Somerset to create his ode to the blockbusters of ‘Point Break’ and ‘Bad Boys 2.’

After over-successful London Constable Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is sent to enforce the law in the idyllic rural village of Sandford – hidden amongst the hundreds of other communities just like it – he begins to find that all is not what it seems, and after taking the Chief Inspector’s son PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) under his wing, Angel begins to believe that a series of grisly accidents may not be entirely so coincidental.

To say that Wright is thorough with details when it comes to designing his films would be an understatement. Within the script, the almost constant moments of humour are often accentuated by the smallest of details that may have alluded to future scenes in the earlier moments of the film. Not a line is wasted, and as a result, a moment of dialogue from the story’s beginning will only feature further along down the line. This extreme approach to script writing is what sets Wright and Pegg (who also co-wrote the script) apart from most, as their clever understanding of what adds humour to a scene is perfectly executed throughout the entire 121 minutes.

Wright isn’t only obsessive about recurring and subtle ideas in the script that may only be caught after repeat viewings, but also within the set and sound design. Moments such as Butterman’s peak of intrigue after Angel reveals that he’s been stabbed before is punctuated by a distant ‘ca-ching’ sound of a till opening somewhere within the pub, as well a burst of laughter from a pub-goer after Angel describes it as “the single most painful experience of his life,” are the kind of moments that could be easily mistaken for simple background noise, but are actually the work of meticulous sound design at the hands of a director who understands that if he’s creating a comedy, then he can use all areas of film form to add humour to a scene.

The fanatical use of noise doesn’t just stop at the sound design. Wright’s ideas towards musical accompaniment and the action of a scene are perhaps best displayed in his later work, ‘Baby Driver’ from 2017, where not a moment of action isn’t to the beat of a song, but ‘Hot Fuzz,’ still showcases some brilliant use of music. From Adam Ant’s ‘Goody Two Shoes’ accompanying the over-enthusiastic Angel in his police training, to Dire Strait’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ accompanying a scene of tragedy after a rendition of the titular play is performed. Being aware of the relationship between sound and action is what allows Edgar Wright to create moments that flow to a beat without the audience perhaps even realising.

Aside from the later action of the film, Wright perfectly captures the life of so many small villages dotted throughout the English countryside. From the only after work activity being the Pub, to the frequent reiteration of “everybody knows everybody round here,” anyone who’s spent time in such a place will know that ‘Hot Fuzz’ perfectly depicts the repetitious and slow lifestyle of any English village. Wright himself grew up in Wells, Somerset, where ‘Hot Fuzz’ was actually filmed, and was quoted as saying “I love it but I also want to trash it.”

‘Hot Fuzz’ is one of those films that you can stick on anytime, anywhere and with anyone, and not only laugh out loud, but get something new from it every time. Edgar Wright displays his talents excellently in this film and I look forward to the release of his new film, ‘Last Night in Soho,’ sometime in the near future.

The Legend Of Tarzan – Review

Rating: 12
Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz.
Directed by David Yates
Written by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer
Length: 110mins

In 2016 David Yates brought the story of Tarzan back to the big screen. Originally books, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, the story of the boy raised by apes certainly captured the attentions of a wide range of audiences; assisted, of course, by Disney’s animated musical adaptation. There have been several film versions since so why make another? This film succeeds in taking a well known story and finding a totally fresh angle. While including the charm of a childhood classic it’s full of action, romance and friendship – a true family film and perhaps a modern classic.

Part of the intrigue of this film is that it’s main story is somewhat separate from ‘the boy raised by apes’. The movie starts with the setting of the scene – the African Congo divided and King Leopold of Belgium running up enormous debts in his attempts to discover his new colonies’ riches; in desperation he sends Leon Rom (Waltz) to source the legendary diamonds of Opar who is met by a mighty tribe determined to defend their land and its heritage…or so it seems. Our first introduction to Tarzan (Skarsgard) is as John Clayton, Lord of Greystoke, a gentleman thriving in his adult life with his wife, Jane (Robbie). A whirlwind of events follow in a plot filled with a wonderful originality for a legendary story remade many times.

For those hoping for a nostalgic experience, you will not be disappointed. Though this film does lack amusing little musical numbers and talking animals, we are presented with familiarities of the legend through flashbacks and reminiscent dialogue. This movie doesn’t strike me as one that aimed for particular accolades within the film industry and though armed with a hugely talented award winning cast, it really feels like the storytelling is at it’s heart. The editing and the score fit perfectly with the essence of the overall production. This seemingly ‘simple’ approach, by simple I mean a key focus being plainly on the telling of the story, is what makes it so watchable. Through my watching and re-watching of this movie it has highlighted and elicited a desire to pull out the truth from amongst the story. Though this particular storyline was created and developed, King Leopold of Belgium and the horrors that he imposed onto the Congo were very real; slavery, exploitation, kidnap, ransom and genocide. It is my view that if a fictional story can highlight an issue enough to encourage it’s audience to research how much, if any, of it’s story is true, then it’s a vitally important tool.

Alexander Skarsgard manages to portray a truly believable character, one difficult for many in western civilisations to comprehend. Though many will understand ‘Tarzan’ to be a fictional character there are some who believe that Lord William Charles Midlan, an earl who lived in the wilds of Africa between 1868 and 1883, was the inspiration for the original story. There are many true stories of children taken in my primates and though they most likely didn’t ‘speak’ to the animals, a level of communication and learning must have developed. Fascinating scenarios that really do add to the enjoyment whilst watching a film like ‘The Legend of Tarzan’.

While the country is in lockdown this is a perfect film to sit down and watch with the entire family, with little flashes of humour, action and a whole load of originality it should capture the attention of all ages. As previously stated this film encourages research, be it into the original inspiration for Tarzan (Lord Midlan), into cases of humans taken in by animals or into the historical injustices that cover the worlds history. If one of those areas interests you I urge you to look into it and see what you can learn.

Charlie’s Angels – Review

Rated: 12A
Cast: Naomi Scott, Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks
Directed by Elizabeth Banks
Written by Elizabeth Banks, David Auburn and Evan Spiliotopoulos
Length: 118mins

As soon as I heard about a third Charlie’s Angels movie I knew that people would love it or hate it. The first two films (2000, 2003), starring Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz, are not typically considered ‘great films’ and I would absolutely agree with the general consensus. The 2019 movie had a make over – new cast, writers and director, as well as a more contemporary approach to the whole thing. If, like me, you loved the idea of the first two films but cringed at the cheesy moments and physically impossible ‘stunts’ then I urge to you give this new film a go. If you hated everything about the originals then perhaps, I would suggest, this one isn’t for you.

This revamped story of female spies working for the Townsend Agency isn’t a retelling. It’s not replacing the characters of old and just jazzing up their story. It widens the world of the original, including a few nice subtle ‘nods’ to the past films without forcing it’s audience into confusion if this is the first Charlie’s Angels film they’ve watched. I think the one of the main reasons why I enjoyed this so much is because they made it that little bit more believable – in a world where so many films are about superheroes, I quite like that the film makers created a world with heroes that could, in theory, exist. Although it compliments the older films with little throwbacks, you don’t need to have seen them to watch and enjoy this film.

While not particularly complex, the story does have a couple of twists and turns which keep you gripped. The film is kept light by the comical moments, brilliantly executed (usually) by Kristen Stewart. My least favourite element was the somewhat comical villain, played by Sam Claflin. Don’t get me wrong, I really like him as an actor, but there are a few scenes where his squeals and slightly panto-esque facial expressions changed the tone of certain moments. I imagine they were choices made for comical effect, but for me, they weren’t really funny and cheapened it slightly.

One theme, explored in both the older movies and the new, is considering women and how they were/have been/can be perceived. I actually found the attempts from Banks to try to modernise the gender politics appropriately pitched – there were powerful messages of intelligence and strength alongside a sharper awareness of how men might underestimate the skills and physical competency of women which is nicely heightened. The leading trio are made to be sexy without being turned into sex objects. Equally, the film isn’t perfect, and it’s important to remember that one film will never cover all areas and, alone, wont impact the masses into social change.

If you pull this movie apart and analyse every frame, you’ll struggle to find cinematic genius or deeply powerful undertones. But I do believe that if you enjoy a bit of fast paced fun then you could thoroughly enjoy the watch and might find one or two moments that speak to you outside of the story.

The Gentlemen – Review

Rating: 18
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding and Hugh Grant.
Directed by Guy Ritchie.
Written by Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies.
Length: 113mins

The Gentlemen is, on the surface, exactly what you expect it to be – it’s a Guy Ritchie, fast paced, gangster movie about the British drug industry. Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) is right-hand man to the UK’s biggest weed dealer Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). When Raymond gets home late one night he finds Fletcher (Hugh Grant), a sleezy journalist who’s waiting for him. Fletcher has a story he’s ready to sell to the highest bidder involving Mickey, drugs, violence, and more, and as we watch that story unfold it serves as an introduction to a mixed bag of characters who’s stories intertwine whether they want to or not…

The 18 certificate is undeniably down to the sheer level of bad language and violence. I don’t mind either of these elements as long as they are telling a truthful story, if it’s all within context. I felt like some of the language in this movie was just thrown about and wasn’t necessary which tainted the overall experience. What surprised me was the carefully considered story line which was executed really well. The viewer experiences most of the narrative through the lens of Fletchers blackmailing story which was really effective, it doesn’t feel like it disjointedly jumps between the present and the past, it’s much more smooth which also reflects the characters and their natures.

The film is well formed and pretty to look at. While that’s aided by the brilliant cast, credit is deserved for the cinematographer Alan Stewart and costume designer Michael Wilkinson. Every scene has an air of class about it in both the way its shot and the wardrobe giving each character their own sense of style and purpose. They’re clear in our minds even before the characters have opened their mouths to speak, and their outfits become an extension of the kind of men they are at heart. From the beautiful suits to the leather jackets to Farrell’s track suit, it assists in the overall telling of the story.

Several of the actors fall into their comfort zones with these characters and that is not a negative comment, it’s exciting to see people do something they’re so good at while wrapped up in a story that could take a different route at any point. Charlie Hunnam is both smooth and terrifying all at once with a real sense of danger in every slight gesture while maintaining a gentlemanly front, McConaughey is just brilliant, as he always is, commanding the attention of each scene. But the biggest surprise for me was just how wonderful Hugh Grant’s portrayal of Fletcher is. He’s the total opposite to the charming, awkward leading man we’ve seen so many times before but is so committed to this funny little character. I found it both hilarious and captivating and really enjoyed seeing him play out of his typical casting type. I also enjoyed Michelle Dockery’s portrayal of Mrs Pearson – again the complete opposite of her role which shot her to stardom in Downton Abbey, she settles into the role naturally and doesn’t over compensate, she still carries a classy nature while expressing a believable link to the criminal world with flashes of danger that she carries both independently and in communion with her on screen husband.

This film seems to have gone slightly under the radar. I’m not sure whether that’s down to it’s certification or the fact it’s not a part of a mega franchise but it really is one to watch if you enjoy a good gangster movie. The intelligence of the story gives it more layers than just guns and egos and while painted with a classic sweep of Guy Ritchie it’s exciting and captivating with dashes of humour.

1917 – Review

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Rating: 15
Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, George Mackay, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden.
Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Length: 119mins

‘1917’ tells the story of two soldiers who must deliver a message to a battalion set to advance on the German front. The story may at first appear quite simple, but with time against them, land that no other soldier dare cross ahead and desolate areas of war which no longer feature any nature, but rather the cold wiring and metal of human influence, the narrative of ‘1917’ presents its own complexities and terrors.

Perhaps best described as an ‘anti-story,’ the events which occur throughout the narrative of ‘1917’ all work against the outcome which both the audience and the protagonist wish for. Rather than a piece of entertainment, the film presents itself as more of a dutiful respect to those who endured the horrors of war. Every step in the necessary journey which Schofield and Blake must carry out is another step towards our conclusion, and any event which distracts them from this is only a greater enemy to the overarching resolution of this story. Put simply, the audience desires to see them reach their goal before time runs out.

It would be unjust to describe ‘1917’ as simple. Of course, the narrative does remove many of the complexities which are found within a typical drama, but this is necessary for the sake of the realism which is created. Director Sam Mendes allows for a clear distinction between the goal-oriented plot and the wider thematic story. A multitude of relevant topics are touched on throughout the film, as our two leads articulate their approach to honour, family and trauma in ways which any two young men would. They don’t deliver any elegant monologues on what should be owed to those who lay down their lives, because that isn’t what their character would do. Instead, short anecdotes and simple sentences build a basis for what they feel is right in a world of conflict.

There are two key elements of film form which build on such an idea of personal perspective – the cinematography and the sound. Roger Deakin’s deserves all the praise that he has received for his contributions as the cinematographer of the film. Not only is the illusion of the ‘one-shot’ perfectly executed and used in a manner which is relevant to the story, as it allows for the narrative to develop in a way which can build tension or hold a moment of beauty with apparent ease, but also the ideas conveyed through the visuals compliment the message of each scene excellently. Composer Thomas Newman also provides another layer to the film, with an accompaniment which feels not only articulate but necessary. Each scene is developed as a result of his contributions. I also appreciated his decision to abstain from any leitmotifs – a recurring musical idea which accompanies a greater theme or idea – as this would lack relevance to the diegesis. Once these characters leave for the mission, their entire purpose is deliver the message they carry. Every second is a further exploration into the unknown, and the composition reflects this.

‘1917’ is an experience which brings to light many ideas. Not only from a film making perspective, but also in the way we remember and appreciate the sacrifices given by these young soldiers, with so many just wanting to do the best that they could for those around them, and those that they love.

Midway – Review

Rated: 12A
Cast: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Luke Evans
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Written by Wes Tooke
Length: 138 mins

Director Roland Emmerich brings us a lengthy but passionate presentation of the story of the battle of Midway in the 2019 movie simply named ‘Midway’. Throughout the film we explore the events leading up to the battle of Midway in WWII and get to know some of the heroes along the way. With a strong cast we not only follow the historical timeline but get to know some of the characters, based on real people, who made such an impact.

I think where this film excels is in it’s determination to allow its audience into the lives of several characters and pinpoint the enormity and truth of victories and losses in battle. If you struggle to pay attention during war films then you might find this one difficult as it is long and there are a lot of characters. It’s easy to miss names or who is talking about who but, if you can keep with it you get to witness a presentation of history that I found to be powerful and thought provoking.

I’ve already mentioned the length of this film – at 2 hours 18 minutes it isn’t the longest film of 2019 but I did find myself aware of the time passing. I love that this film bounces between several people doing their jobs for a united goal but, naturally, that means creating a bit of a story around each individual so the audience can relate to the characters which adds to the length of the film before you even get to the main ark of the story. I didn’t think everything included was necessary, for example the character of Roy Pierce could have been cut and it wouldn’t have affected the film as a whole. As well as this I felt some of the Pearl Harbour scenes could have been cut down – I appreciate that setting the scene and building the emotion is important, but most of the audiences will have a basic knowledge of what happened and I’m sure that they could have found a shorter method to serve this purpose.

One thing that admire about this movie is how it shows both sides of the story. I was quite moved during a couple of scenes that I felt were very effective but subtle, seeing how the Japanese officers spoke to each other and to the young pilots and just how similar the conversations and motivational speeches were to those of our ‘heroes’. I found it helped humanise the ‘enemy’ and for me, assisted in presenting the war and a glimpse of it’s horrors without instilling hate towards a race.

I’ve rated this film 7/10 based mostly upon my general enjoyment of the storytelling. The visual effects didn’t blow my mind, the story was based upon truth and the script was good but the performances were great – but the standout was undoubtably Ed Skrein who brilliantly played the heroic (but not perfect) Dick Best. I would recommend this film for the historical truth and to honour the brave individuals who made an impact in the real events.

Jumanji: The Next Level – Review

Rated: 12A
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Awkwafina, Nick Jonas
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Written by Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg
Length: 123mins

2017 introduced a new generation to the thrilling and captivating world of Jumanji with a whole new take on the 1995 movie starring Robin Williams. With a fresh approach which saw our heroes pulled in to the game, rather than characters from the game entering our world, some were nervous that the new movie wouldn’t even come close to iconic original. The masses flocked to see the brilliant Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black play video game avatars, taking on the personalities of teenagers and audiences were taken aback by the hilarious performances, brilliant writing and completely fresh idea to compliment the original movie. Is making another film pushing it that bit too far? Or has Jake Kasdan managed to pull off another hit sensation?

Jumanji: The Next Level see’s our heroes returning into the world of Jumanji expecting to find the same ‘game’ as last time but are surprised to find a whole new quest. Not only are there new levels to face, but different bodies, skills and weaknesses. Part of the charm of the Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017) was it’s originality, it had never been done before and was funny to all ages. While still funny, this presents the issue that the audiences know roughly what to expect, it takes some of the ‘wow-factor’ out of it and requires more thought to captivate and hold it’s audience.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017) explored themes of friendship in high school and looking beyond individuals differences. Jumanji: The Next Level carries on with similar themes, but considers taking friendships further as you enter a more grown up world and, through the brilliant Danny DeVito and Danny Glover, the importance of forgiveness and the value of long lasting friendships. I love how there are two storylines intertwined throughout – as you would expect, the bulk of the story, humour and attention is on the world of Jumanji and it’s avatars, but the action that takes place at the beginning and end with the ‘real’ characters is just as interesting and entertaining. Separate stories, connected perfectly. The writers have managed to create characters that we as an audience are so drawn to in their ‘real’ forms, that it affects how we view their avatars and to me that is just incredible. Yes, of course this is hugely assisted by the wonderful cast and their detailed, intricate performances, but I found myself caring for the personality of the avatars, not just their amusing characteristics within the game.

There’s not too much more I can comment on without introducing spoilers and this is a film that will be best enjoyed if you go in with no expectations. But I would highly recommend this movie as a bit of exciting, family fun over this festive period. It has laughs for all the ages, with sufficient action, good pace and important underlying themes. A brilliant piece of lighthearted film making that you can share with everyone.