Thor: Ragnarok

Image credit: Disney

The powerhouse that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe is showing no signs of slowing down with its latest edition, Thor: Ragnarok.

With such a high standard to live up to, this newest Marvel film has still managed to bring something new to the table. Director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows) creates the perfect mix of edge-of-you-seat action with witty comedy that will have you in stitches.

Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor when a threat arises that could see then end of Asgard. Unfortunately for the God of Thunder, before he can face that, he must survive a gladiatorial contest where he is pitted against none other than the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

Ragnarok brings new and old characters together to face the new big bag threatening the universe. While comic fans may know some of these new additions, as is the rule with all Marvel movies, Thor is crafted in a way to keep current fans from getting bored with hidden easter eggs, but still be perfectly coherent to casual fans of the film franchise.

More and more, characters from previous Marvel films are being slotted in to fill small parts of the storyline, without becoming major players. This continued interconnectedness shows serious dedication to their stories and really give viewers the sense that this is a whole new world they have created.

A lot happens in Thor: Ragnarok which means the story line has to move quickly. Not a scene is wasted however, and you don’t feel like anything has been rushed with how perfectly everything falls into its place.

Taking a leaf from Guardians of the Galaxy, a kick-ass soundtrack of power ballads carries the retro vibe this film is saturated in. These carefully chosen songs placed at just the right moments give a huge boost to the energy of this action packed sequel.

Along with the soundtrack, a heavy use of bright colours and lights in the design of the locations and characters is different to the pervious Thor films, helping with the mix of action and levity.

Fans of Director Taika Waititi’s work will likely recognise his slightly quirky style woven through the movie. It is this style that ultimately finds the balance between making fans laugh and giving a strong, emotive story.

Along with all the mandatory Marvel easter eggs throughout the film, Waititi has cleverly added plenty of references that will likely only make sense to Australian and New Zealand fans.

Marvel are well and truly ahead of the pack when it comes to superhero films and only really have themselves to compete with. But that doesn’t stop them from continuously besting themselves with each new endeavour, and Thor: Ragnarok is a prime example of that.

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War for the Planet of the Apes

As written for West End Magazine.
Image Credit: Chernin Entertainment
Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Cloverfield) returns to the director’s chair for War for the Planet of the Apes. Taking post-apocalyptic battle movies to a new level, it’s both high-energy action and emotional roller coast as you try to decide where your allegiances lie. For those concerned that it will fall into the trap of so many franchise sequels, don’t worry: strong characters, plot, and moral quandaries would make it successful even as a stand-alone film.
After a huge personal lose, ape Caesar (Andy Serkis) is torn between his duty to lead and protect the apes, and his thirst for revenge against the Colonel (Woody Harrelson).
A long journey to face off against the Colonel and his men leads to new discoveries and new challenges for everyone trying to survive in the new world.
The opening scenes are understated in a wonderful, almost vintage way. With a slow, quiet build up, Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 2014) draws viewers back into his world of intelligent primates. Moving from an eerie, almost silent forest to a battle for life and death, you’re immediately invested.
Characters on both sides of this ongoing conflict have been carefully crafted. As more is learned about each ape and human’s backstory, acts that seemed cruel become a little less black and white.
Steve Zahn joins the cast of this latest Apes film, adding some unusual comedy. While laughing may feel out of place at first, his physical comedy and quirky personality was conveniently placed to traverse slower plot points and make necessary connections between scenes. His caution and self-preservation held a juxtaposition to the gung-ho, ride or die attitudes of other characters.
For those who haven’t seen Rise or Dawn of the Planet of the Apes recently or at all, don’t worry too much about missing out. While the story definitely carries on and fans of the series will see familiar faces and make connections a little quicker, this film can still be enjoyed as a standalone feature.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

As written for West End Magazine.
Image credit: Actual Films
More than a decade ago, An Inconvenient Truth delivered warnings of what was to come with climate change, backed up by unnerving research and examples from around the globe. Now, follow-up An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is less of a warning and more an I-told-you-so.
As world climates change and severe weather patterns continue to disrupt the population, former US Vice President Al Gore revisits his warnings about what needs to be done to save the planet.

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Baby Driver

Image Credit: Sony Pictures

Baby. B-A-B-Y, Baby.

Heist movie, meets car movie, meets love story, meets one killer soundtrack. Directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End), Baby Driver is a true break through film.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a young hot-shot driver whose skills have him in the unwilling employ of criminal master mind, Doc (Kevin Spacey). A childhood injury has left Baby with a constant ringing in his ears which he drowns out using his favourite tunes, letting him choreograph his life to his personal playlist.

Not one to enjoy the criminal life, Baby is happy when things start changing. His time with Doc is coming to an end, and the beautiful Debora (Lily James) is the start of a new tune. Of course, things don’t go to plan; but it wouldn’t make for a good movie if he could just whistle a tune and end his contract in peace.

The film kicks off with a heist. As Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and Griff (Jon Bernthal) head in to rob a bank, Baby is left in the car, waiting to make a quick getaway. This is the first example of how important music is going to be to this film. An epic lip sync routine ensues to Bellbottom by The Jon Spencer Blue Explosion ensures while Baby is waiting. Music continues at the forefront of the film, really becoming a character all its own. Different situations require different songs, and Baby carries around numerous iPods to ensure he’s never left without the right track.

The specific choreography of the film really comes to light in the second scene as Baby heads out on a coffee run. The way Elgort moves down the street blending to the music as the street itself matches up with lines from the song using graffiti, store signage and more to create the ideal music video for life.

Throughout the film camera angles chop and change to make the most of each scene. With aerial shots and street view following Baby’s insane route through the city.

If you’ve listened to anything about this film, chances are you heard it described as ‘cross-genre’; there isn’t a better way to describe it than that. Action filled car chases and adrenaline fuelled gun battles blend with love in the diner and witty work colleagues in a seamless way.

Baby Driver will have you completely invested in the first 5 minutes, and unable to look away until the very end.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Marvel fans rejoice! We have another roaring success with the newest addition to the Cinematic Universe. Since his introduction in Captain America: Civil War, the newest reincarnation of New York City’s web slinger, played by Tom Holland, has captured the hearts of Marvel fans.

During the wall-crawler’s first stand-alone film, we see the clean-up of New York after the Avenger’s (2012) battle. Some entrepreneurial workers who are less than pleased when they have the post battle clean up contract taken from them. Luckily, they find other ways to make a profit from the battle. Add a little time jump (Civil War, 2016) and, of course, things have started to go bad; But Spidey is there to save the day.

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The House

Image Credit: Warner Brothers Pictures

When a much needed scholarship falls through, Scott and Kate Johansen have to find a way to send their daughter to the college of her dreams. A trip to Las Vegas gives them the perfect idea.

The only logical choice, of course, is to open an illegal casino.

Bored wives and husbands from around their suburban neighbourhood soon get involved and ‘The House’ is a roaring success; they rake in the cash and draw in on their goal before things start to go wrong.

You’d think Will Farrell and Amy Poehler on screen together would result in non-stop laughter to the point tears. Unfortunately, ‘The House’ stops short of the mark.

With a lacklustre dialogue and a few attempts at physical humour, the movie falls fairly flat. Jeremy Renner does provide a change of pace eventually, but that comes in far too late in the piece to be a saving grace.

Die hard Farrell or Poehler fans might enjoy ‘The House’ but it’s not guaranteed.

Train to Busan

Image: Next Entertainment World

I am a sucker for zombie movies and will watch nearly anything, even if it is not of the highest quality. Thankfully, Train to Busan is not one of the second-rate z-flicks.

Disclaimer to start with, this is a Korean film so if you do not like subtitles it might be a struggle; but I would definitely recommend fans of the zombie genre give it a chance.

Directed by Sang-ho Yeon, and written by Yeon and Joo-Suk Park, Train to Busan is a suspense filled thriller meets horror. Workaholic dad, Seok-woo (Yoo Gong), and his young daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim) are on the train headed to see Soo-an’s mother in Busan. When riots and violence begin to break out, the trains passengers see it in their media feeds on their phones, and start to receive calls from loved ones as people try to work out what it going on. Unfortunately the incidents don’t stay outside the train. When one infected gets aboard it starts a domino effect. Continue reading

Split

Image: Blinding Edge Pictures

With M. Night Shyamalan at the helm, Split promises great things before the opening credits even begin. Most of what the trailer used to suck you in has already come into play by the 20-minute mark of this film. From that point forward, nearly everything is new.

Three teenage girls are abducted by Kevin (James McAvoy), a man whose body plays host to 23 completely separate personalities. While most of these personalities are harmless, there are some who foretell the rise of something terrible.

Split offered the opportunity of a lifetime for any actor wanting to test their mettle; and James McAvoy certainly played the role to its fullest extent. While there are 23 personalities living inside Kevin, the main focus throughout the film is on three of them, Patricia, Hedwig, and Dennis. The complete and utter difference between these characters is astounding. For the most part, the clothes McAvoy wears in any given scene tell the viewer which personality is in charge, but wardrobe isn’t the only thing that changes. Each personality has distinct voices, speech patterns and body language. While actors often change all these things to suit a role, its unusually for an actor to have to switch between them in a single movie.

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Gold

Image: Black Bear Pictures

2016 gave us some great based-on-true-event films, and 2017 looks set to continue that trend. Built loosely around the mining scandal that befell Bre-X in 1993, Gold brings adventure, crime, and suspense to the big screen once more.

Prospector Kenny Wells’ (Matthew McConaughey) business is just like his liquor, on the rocks. Having taken over his late father’s company, Wells has been unable to land a big contract and he grasps at his last available straw. Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) is a geologist living in Indonesia. When Acosta is approached by Wells to find the gold the geologist was once so sure exists beneath the jungle, a little persuasion is required. Soon enough, they’re off, obtaining funding (though only enough to scrape through by the skin of their teeth), workers, and core samples; but they find nothing. Just as all hope seems lost, what should appear? Gold.

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La La Land

Image: Summit Entertainment

Winner of seven Golden Globes, nominated for fourteen Oscars, and with numerous other award nominations and wins under its belt, La La Land breathes new life into the art of cinema.

Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress, drawn to Hollywood by her dream to be on the screen. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a pianist with a love for the classic jazz music of Hollywood in its heyday. They find themselves coming together, despite the different circles their lives are in. After a half-hearted effort to not get involved, their lives intertwine to create an old-fashioned love story for the 21st century.

Costumes, music, sets, acting, the whole nine yards of this film are unbelievable. They blend together so perfectly, while still allowing each individual feature to take its time at centre stage.

With an Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Costume Design you can expect something special. Seemingly old fashioned styles with ladies in bright dresses and gentlemen in suits and wingtips, make you feel like you’ve been pulled back in time. The occasional smartphone being used and the models of the cars are the only real indicators that this is 2016.

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