Ten years and nineteen films later Avengers: Infinity War finally arrives. Arguably one of hollywood's most top secret projects the latest Marvel blockbuster stars over twenty superheroes - so secret only Benedict Cumberbatch, Pom Klementieff, Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans were trusted to keep their lips sealed tight enough to have full sight of the entire script. In this breathtaking conclusion to the MCU, the Avengers are forced to set aside their differences and work hand in hand to stop murderous ultra baddie Thanos from collecting the six infinity stones intending to lay waste to the universe and murder half of its population.
A franchise ten years in the making, the MCU's journey reaches a climatic end in the devastating spectacle that is Avengers: Infinity War. Though it's tough if not impossible to juggle such a significantly large volume of characters in a story that stays focussed, the wonderful Russo Brothers yet again prove they are the best at what they do. Combining the cosmic comedy of the Guardians of the Galaxy flawlessly with the equally big headed Iron Man and Doctor Strange, Infinity War somehow balances all these contrasting tones, surpassing all Marvel's previous issues and delivering what is absolutely their biggest, best and most bizarre picture to date.
Infinity War runs the gauntlet of twists and turns across a one-hundred and fifty minute run time that simply blows by. Similar to The Last Jedi, the film diverts all expectations and rips the Marvel playbook in half. Revealing what must be the best hidden screenplay secret in recent times, Infinity War shuts down any and all of the many theories and speculation at the "snap of its fingers". Whether you're seeing this as a hard core Marvel fanatic, trying to avoid spoilers like the plague or otherwise a casually interested filmgoer, nothing can really prepare you for the shock, thrill or genuine heart break Infinity War brings you.
Although the plot and action sequences are done to their best possible effect, even by Marvel's standard, the greatest aspect of Infinity War is the culmination of our beloved hero's stories and the fate that unfolds for each of them. If you ever thought the wisecracking Tony Stark would be left speechless you were wrong. Witnessing Iron Man's exuberantly overinflated ego butt heads with Doctor Strange is something quite spectacular to behold, as well as Thor who almost impossibly joins Rocket and a moody Teen Groot to quite honestly steal the show.
Marvel confidently brush off their recent issues involving a repetitive formula and often irritating comedic timing - think Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther. The story taken at face value seems rather simple, but the complexity of Josh Brolin's Mad Titan Thanos enables the film to rise above the standard law of diminishing returns superhero template. His insane reasoning doesn't seem that ridiculous though he and his intentions are repulsive and detestable - to save one half of the universe by destroying the other. It may have been a long time coming but Marvel have by far their greatest and most dangerous villain, one I imagine will be hard to top.
Somehow after ten years Marvel achieve something that is way above anything they've ever created before. Across nineteen films they've delivered a fabulously kick-ass narrative, but very few outings have promised genuine and lasting impact as Infinity War - the ultimate electrifying spectacle that lays everything out on the table. Amazingly they achieve perfect fluidity, overcoming a seemingly choppy structure by effortlessly zig zagging across the galaxy. Avengers: Infinity War loudly and proudly delivers the MCU's defining feature, one that has most certainly changed the comic book movie game for good.
Avengers: Infinity War:
Whilst we have the YA (young adult) demographic with Hunger Games and The Maze Runner - we mustn't neglect the infamous Grey Pound target audience. Though these films play largely off one another - think The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Calendar Girls - most capture that warm, cozy Sunday afternoon atmosphere that goes down pleasantly with a cup of tea and plate of Jaffa Cakes. The Italian produced Leisure Seeker plays on the idea of the later stages of life as we follow couple Elle and John Spencer (Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland) taking a poignant trip in their trusty, vintage RV - The Leisure Seeker from which the movie takes it's name
The Leisure Seeker just about meets the mark of its elderly demographic, however it suffers badly from ageing wooden performances and - much like the faithful RV it follows - a rickety delivery. It seems almost impossible to imagine the all conquering Helen Mirren, Best Actress Oscar winner for the imperious Queen Elizabeth II back in 2006, in such a lacklustre role. Sadly, this substandard old time tear jerker that could've been saved by a few nips and tucks is left to rust on its own accord.
The Leisure Seeker's journey is as wayward as Mirren's shockingly inadequate southern accent. Her performance offers little character exposition; although Sutherland's performance is a tad more nuanced the two acting veterans fail to pump enough fuel into this rusty road trip flick. Their characters appear unconvincing and whilst the chemistry of their relationship is just about present, it feels as if you've come to view Mirren and Sutherland rather than the retired couple Elle and John they are portraying.
In its best moments The Leisure Seeker captures the crippling devastations of both Alzheimer's and old age itself. However this is obstructed by a confused and schmaltzy delivery, which is where the faults become apparent. It borrows too frequently from classic road trip movies and the problematic situations that can occur: being pulled over by the cops, leaving one another behind, being held a at knife point. The rest of the picture is delivered with a heavy hand and no real purpose, leaving us no choice but to buckle up and wait to see where it ultimately leads.
Heartbreakingly the film's sentimental aspects are almost entirely lacking. When it tries to be humorous it fails miserably so there isn't that natural balance between tongue and cheek humour and heart wrenching emotion. With the script being substandard and the performances so unbelievably poor The Leisure Seeker is very difficult to empathise with. Though its heart is in exactly the right place there is both little to offer or enjoy of The Leisure Seeker. In rare moments it tackles physical and mental illness well but The Leisure Seeker is a wishy-washy retirement road trip that lacks the key elements needed to make an engaging movie.
The Leisure Seeker:
Though it is the young Star Trek actor Anton Yelich's last performance following his tragic, untimely death back in 2016, Thoroughbreds sees the emergence of two rising stars surely set to take Tinsel Town by storm. Fresh from making its run at the festival circuit, most notably Sundance, first time writer-director Cory Finley brings to us Thoroughbreds. Taking place in the suburbs of Connecticut, two upper class girls rekindle their friendship after years spent apart - hatching an evil plan that will ultimately solve both of their problems.
For all the sharp zing of its two leads, sadly Thoroughbreds lacks flavour, energy or excitement. Though 2018 seems to be the year for first time directors - most notably Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) and John Krasnkisi (A Quiet Place) - Finley's debut lacks the oomph desperately needed to make it a little more gut punching. Unfortunately Thoroughbreds ends up quite dry and almost instantly forgettable.
However there is much to appreciate from a film making perspective. For a debut feature Thoroughbreds is indeed very subtle and very technical. Most strikingly Finely uses natural white light and bright clean cut colours for Lilly (Anya Taylor-Joy) and dark, shadowed backdrops for Amanda (Olivia Cooke). This subtle technique of light and dark is used to emphasise how far the estranged girls are, and the different places in life they current occupy. As the plot sort of unravels the colours and lighting blends together - cleverly - as the two character's minds converge. It's delicate and incredibly easy to miss but is carried out with such wonderful art and proficiency. Even where his film ultimately falls short, Finely has earned major directorial brownie points for his visual invention.
Gathering all the loose strands of the film and tying them into a somewhat cohesively together we have the young and uber talented Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke. The two upper class girls bounce violently off each other and gain the sort of razor sharp edge that outside of their relationship the film ultimately lacks. As we see Lilly slip further and further into Amanda's unforgiving world of darkness you are hooked, and it becomes blindingly obvious that these two actors have major stardom to follow.
We learn that Thoroughbreds is in fact metaphor for two unhinged young girls. Nurtured for years in a financially stable, closeted environment with all the frills and pamper - the idea of racing horses is used to demonstrate both the privileged and protected lives the girls have led. Nevertheless, this concept has little to do with the actual premise of the film. it's used as more a gimmick, with the film having little to offer other than this.
Thoroughbreds is smart in the little picture but in the big picture it’s incredibly boring. The main problem simply lies with there being too little happening on screen - one expected more laughs, more horror and definitely more suspense. Thoroughbreds is best when its cynical, at it's peak when these lines are delivered by two mighty leads. It's fair to say Thoroughbreds is unpredictable, but sadly the possible outcomes aren't all that interesting anyway.
Last month's Tomb Raider significantly raised the previously shocking standard of the video game movie genre. That said, whilst it wasn't revolutionary it was most certainly a step in the right direction, but can Rampage follow in its footsteps? Dwayne Johnson stars as primatologist Davis Okoye who buddies with geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell - Namoi Harris - to save Chicago from being destroyed by three animals who become infected with a dangerous pathogen.
King Kong meets the King of Guilty Pleasure in the ridiculously stupid but nonetheless exceptionally fun Rampage. Considering the storyline of the classic 80's arcade game revolves purely around playing a ginormous monster trying to smash up the city - Rampage indeed improves on its source material. It's pure, dumb fun - if you were expecting any more from a movie that sees a gorilla flip off, fist bump and use a fingering gesture towards Dwayne Johnson you're most definitely in the wrong screen. In fact, this movie begs you to just sit back, relax and shove as much popcorn in your face as possible - it's as if you can feel Dwayne Johnson's cheeky smile commanding you to have fun.
First San Andreas then last year's Baywatch and now Rampage - Johnson proves once again that the odd guilty pleasure movie goes a long way. Does he play the same smouldering, ex-army character as always? of course! but he just does it so damn well. When it comes to his acting roster it's a simple case of if it ain't broke don't fix it. Cheeky and charismatic as always, Johnson continues to dominate the silver screen as the lovable man of action.
Although the goal is to ultimately deliver that action packed third act, Rampage is engaging all along the way. Straight from the explosive opening scene you instantly get the feeling that you're about to spend one-hundred and seven minutes of your day not being bored. Taking just about every cliché from the playbook - an evil science corporation, trigger happy military men, bumbling sidekicks, sex jokes and exuberantly cheesy dialog - Rampage embraces the silly clichéd formula to deliver a film that is far more enjoyable than it has any right to be.
Johnson joyfully and effortlessly carries this entire popcorn disaster movie, and I fear Rampage wouldn't have turned out so well without him. Rampage is a ridiculous, extremely cringeworthy monster movie that is incredibly enjoyable but doesn't take itself at all seriously. By this point in Johnson's extensive career you know just about what you're going to get. It succeeds as it doesn't try to be anything more complicated than it already is - if you're up for an energetic popcorn smash up featuring a giant gorilla, thirty foot flying wolf and sky scraping killer croc - then you'll love Rampage for the irresistible, laugh out loud guilty pleasure it is.
Emerging from his quaint, little desk in Scranton, Pennsylvania - The Office star John Krasinski makes his directorial debut whilst leading alongside real life partner Emily Blunt. A Quiet Place is set in the post apocalyptic near future where a family must live in dead silence or else creatures that surround them will hunt and kill - that is if they detect a single sound. This eerie creature feature also happens to be produced by Transformers' Michael Bay.
You're paralysed in utter silence for a brief ninety minutes in anticipation of some well earned scares, however Krasinski's directorial debut isn't worth all the hush. The main problem with A Quiet Place is how hard it pushes itself as a horror movie when there are genuinely no frightening scares across a movie that is built upon the expectation of them. By no means is it personal, I happen to be sacred of legitimately everything - however this Cloverfield esque thriller just doesn't live up to the hype.
As it begins, A Quiet Place is, of course, quiet. Following a creepy opening scene that throws you straight into the mix of this post apocalyptic world where nobody can make a single sound - Krasinski's unique gimmick of dead silence is both incredibly original and instantly spine tingling. Unlike most post disaster thriller flicks - A Quiet Place opens on "Day 89" and refrains from showing the initial day the unknown creatures arrived to earth; in that sense the movie quickly overcomes a clichéd hurdle that would've it tripped up immediately. Whilst this originality sticks and is consistent throughout - in terms of story, things wear a little thin.
The entire first half of A Quiet Place is dedicated to setting up the human characters - the Abbott family. Although the pacing here may be a little slow, I found the first act far more engaging than the second, ironic really as the latter half of the film is supposedly where all the proper scares lie. Kransinski crafts an incredibly isolated world that's eerie atmosphere undoubtedly never dies down, it's praiseworthy how the actor turned director creates such a convincing world surrounded by fabulous performances and an unexpectedly visual experience.
Aside this commendable originality A Quiet Place is left feeling rather incomplete. This gradual, some may argue sluggish first half isn't coupled with a rewarding finale of terrifying moments. It feels as if you've done all the work required, sacrificing the crunch of your salty popcorn and been set up for a frightening feast of thrills and terror but are ultimately left with no scary moments to compliment the originally of the film's premise. This wouldn't appear so much of a problem if A Quiet Place didn't boast so greatly about its "horror" aspect.
A Quiet Place will most definitely place Krasninki on the map as a noteworthy director, as for a first its fairly impressive - however the film doesn't deliver on the frightening fuss surrounding it. Conceptually the film thrives but when it comes to genuine fear you might as well pass on the loud snacks or even save your money for a scarier film.
A Quiet Place:
Though he's mostly known for his work behind TV projects such as The Flash, Super-girl, Black Lighting and Legends of Tomorrow, this is Greg Berlanti's first coming of age feature as of note. Based upon the book Simon vs the Homosapien Agenda - Love, Simon tells the story of Simon, a young teen with a seemingly perfect life - nice house, nice school, supportive family and loveable friends. Except he has one huge secret, he is gay and nobody knows it. After he is threatened by someone at school, Simon must learn to embrace who he truly is, and all the complications coming out brings with it.
Love, Simon is a sweet and tender teen tale that avoids most of the obvious cliches of being gay. Exploring the normalities of being homosexual - Berlanti emphasises how our sexuality doesn't define who we are, and that absolutely everybody is truly entitled to a "great love story". Reminiscent of John Hughes' acclaimed coming of age stories - Love, Simon plays precisely like an 80's rom-com, but this time mixed with a far more progressive premise.
Making history before even hitting the big screen, Love, Simon is the first mainstream gay high school rom-com. Yes it's easy to play the LGBT card, but Berlanti pulls something different out of the bag, creating a beautiful story with all the Disney channel glossy overtones but gaining a great deal of family friendly sentiment. Love, Simon may not be revolutionary in the world of cinema, but for standard teen rom-coms it's a significant breakthrough.
Clearly young American actor Nick Robinson escaped the evil clutches of the Indominous Rex back in 2015's Jurassic World. It's good job he ran as fast as his little legs could carry him otherwise he wouldn't have delivered what is evidently his finest performance to date. Wonderfully charming and innocently coy, Robinson is the beating heart at the centre of Love, Simon. His shy and compelling turn as introvert gay teenager will encourage and inspire many young members of the LGBT community to embrace themselves and be proud of who they are. There are a few shortcomings to his character, at times he is a little too inexpressive but ultimately Berlanti is highlighting the anxiety and insecurity that follows with coming out, conveying how quite literally anybody of any type could be gay. In Simon, Robinson delivers us a gay male lead - something so often absent in Hollywood casting schedules.
Another one of the many boxes Love, Simon confidently ticks is the delicate and perfectly crafted screenplay. Lines delivered across the board with perfect comedic timing, and as the story progresses and Simon begins to pick up clues as to who his hidden pen pal might be - the dialogue becomes even whittier and even smarter. Berlanti skilfully dodges the easy traps of cheesy dialog and cringeworthy teen character interaction. Love, Simon simply gets it, boasting an intelligent script that is both amusing and emotionally resonant.
Paradoxically, Love, Simon is so special by making itself seem so ordinary. The story is perhaps played a little safe with a mainstream structure at its core - it looses the edge classic teen flicks such as The Breakfast Club so distinctly have. However, the sugary innocence is also what makes Love, Simon so brave and endearing. Berlanti goes above and beyond, creating a gay love story that is doing everything in its power to blend in with the genre and seem, well, normal.
For a film that promotes self love, individuality and acceptance - Love, Simon is a universally inclusive coming of age romance that will encourage, inspire and empower. Being the first of its kind, Berlanti crafts a story that’s as progressive as you would expect, but far more charming than you'd have thought. It loves its audience, it loves its demographic but most importantly it loves the story it's trying to tell.
He may of directed Ocean's 11, 12, and 13 but can Steven Soderbergh - supposedly retired after 2013's Behind the Candelabra - return to his days of complex and intellectual film making with a single character piece? Shot entirely on an iPhone 7 Soderbergh's latest uniquely titled feature Unsane (which isn't actually a word) follows Sawyer Valentine, a young stalker victim who accidentally enrols herself into a mental facility. She is forced to stay against her will by the distant and difficult staff, and begins to think her stalker is working at the hospital. The more she explains she's not crazy however, the crazier they think she is. Is she correct, or truly insane?
Soderbergh's latest iPhone 7 shot picture may be interesting to look but its execution very poor. Whilst you can't beat a good old fashion movie camera, it is refreshing to see an experiment hit the mainstream in this way. In spite of an absorbing first act, Unsane doesn't really deliver the movie you think you are going to get. Promising an agitated tale of anxiety and fear, Soderbergh's latest feature sounds far more intelligent, even looks more intelligent than it actually turns out to be. It may have seemed a marvellous idea on paper but, in simple terms Unsane is absolutely ridiculous. As a film supposedly depicting the insanity of the human mind, Soderbergh serves a load of randomness and disconnection that becomes increasingly uncomfortable to endure.
Once our lead reaches the facility, almost at the drop of a pin Unsane becomes a silly, solitary confinement thriller that triggers a domino effect of every other scene appearing even more ridiculous than the previous. The ideas of exploring the mind of a stalking victim is completely abandoned and Unsane develops into a nonsensical, crazy ex-boyfriend thriller that is low on originality and high on cheap thrills. Devoid of any creativity whatsoever, we are delivered a cinematic piece with an almost desperate reliance on shock value - whether it happens to scare you or not, Unsane is lazy and inexcusable.
Holding a stern face throughout, Netflix's The Crown star Claire Foy throws in the jewelled tiara for hospital scrubs. Surrounded by some very questionable performances, Foy's anxious and apprehensive turn provides many gripping moments in a film that would be completely lost without her. Though I haven't seen the young British actress before, she is most definitely a fascinating talent to look out for. Unsane really misses a trick - hinting at an interesting concept with a star who works over time only to deliver a ridiculous bargain bucket movie deal. Yes, Unsane feels claustrophobic, because you're trapped in a movie you don't want to be in.
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.