Sunday, 29 April 2012

Cinema Review - Avengers Assemble

It's been four years in the making, and after six films of build-up, Avengers Assemble has finally hit cinemas. Undoubtedly this has been one of the most talked about films for 2012, and months of build-up has culminated to the main event. With expectation levels at their highest peak and director Joss Whedon in place to tackle what is one of film's biggest tasks, does Avengers Assemble deliver in aces? Unsurprisingly, it's an astounding yes.

Following on from the events in the most recently released Marvel films, Captain America and Thor, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is in possession of the Tesseract, a powerful cosmic cube that, if put in the wrong hands, could mean the end of the world as we know it. When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) infiltrates the S.H.I.E.L.D. base of operations and steals the cube, Fury has no option but to reignite the 'Avengers Initiative' and bring together the world's most mightiest heroes in a fight to save mankind. With Loki banding together an invasion army, it's up to Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow to prevent the imminent threat.

With such a heavy burden put on his shoulders, Joss Whedon could have easily crumbled and dashed any hopes of a superhero-ensemble ever working to its full potential; fortunately the man knows his stuff and shows here why he is such an icon. Avengers Assemble is a film that appeals to comic book fans, film fanatics and, basically, people of all ages.

It's without any hesitation that it should be said that Whedon has carefully considered every aspect of the film in order to provide for the masses. With perfectly flowing dialogue as well as action sequences that are nothing short of near perfection, Avengers Assemble wipes the floor with those films Marvel have previously released. It’s testament to Whedon’s directing ability that he is able to conjure up so many memorable moments of sheer humour combined with an impressive character development process and some hard-hitting, pulsating action sequences.

For a film littered with so many high-end stars (as well as characters) the end result could have been a pure mish-mash of personalities that clash rather than accentuate, but the cast all-round is solid as Thor's hammer. Whilst Chris' Evans and Hemsworth continue their sharp performances similar to those in their first outings in costume, it is Robert Downey Jr and newbie Mark Ruffalo who steal the show as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Dr David Banner/Hulk respectively. Downey Jr continues to inject his one-of-a-kind charm and wit to the Tony Stark character, whilst Ruffalo's take on Banner is one of great presence, clearly indicating a man who is still attempting to embrace 'the other guy' in his life. On villain duties, Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki and furthers his performance in Thor in leaps and bounds. Cutting a dark and evil figure, Hiddleston escalates in providing a truly worthy opponent for our heroes and lays the foundations for villains in years to come.

With an impressive showing from all involved, Whedon had to get it spot on with the action sequences and in maintaining pin-point pacing to the film, the anticipation levels heighten with the film's duration, leading to the grand finale battle. Whilst some may cast similarities with the climax of Transformers, Whedon's final battle shys away from the off-putting shaky cam and produces action of such fluidity and grace it wipes the floor with many blockbusters seen previously. Focusing on each character's fight in equal measure, the director teases and taunts with some run-of-the-mill action before unleashing a storm of superb shots involving the heroes banding together throughout the city. 

Avengers Assemble could have easily been a disaster. With a massive audience following and expectations possibly higher than any film before, Joss Whedon and his team had a mountain to climb. Fortunately the man knows what the people want and provides with a well-presented and ultimately astonishing superhero ensemble piece. Heading to the peak and vastly improving on its predecessors that led to this big event, Avengers is a movie experience not to be forgotten and sets the bar for blockbusters to come in 2012.

Film Rating: 5 out of 5 F's

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Cinema Review - The Cabin In The Woods

The words 'expect the unexpected' could not be applied to a film more than the latest horror film to hit cinema screens, The Cabin In The Woods. The brainchild of two of the most creative minds in the industry, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, it can only be described as the horror event of the last decade.

As such a tale of intricacy and twists, it would not be fair to divulge the full details of the premise of The Cabin In The Woods, as it is essentially a movie you should enter knowing as little as possible. What you should know are the basics. A group of friends are setting off for a break away from everyday life to party and have a good time. Amongst these are your stereotypical horror movie individuals; a jock, a geek, a stoner, a sexy blonde and the virginal shy girl. Heading out to a secluded cabin in the woods, owned by the jock's brother, the gang proceed to get the party started, unaware of the threat that they are about to face.

A simple premise you will agree, but within its simplicity Cabin weaves out what is truly one of the best and cleverly made horrors for a vast amount of time. Whedon and Goddard, who have previously unleashed the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost and Cloverfield upon audiences, have clearly done their homework on the genre and set out to create something special. and special Cabin certainly is.

As is with many of these films, the acting can become rather one dimensional, but luckily in Cabin we witness some truly brilliant performances from all involved. As the most famous face in the proceedings, Chris Hemsworth takes the role of the jock and this plays out perfectly, with the Thor actor satisfying with another notable performance. Although Hemsworth's status is more established than his co-stars it is in fact Fran Kranz who outclasses his co-stars, with what is a hilarious and well presented representation of the conventional stoner character. Kranz has fun in his role and gradually ramps up the laughter levels to great effect. 

It will have you gasping, jumping in your seat and, most of all, laughing until it hurts. Such is the variety in the source material, that the reactions to the events are ever-changing, and usurping all those previous is the fact that the movie is filled so much with OMG moments you will feel almost perplexed upon exiting the cinema after viewing the incredible 90+ minutes. 

The Cabin In The Woods defines horror on a whole new level. It grabs the audience, throws them in a familiar situation and then pulls the rug from underneath to immerse you into an unimaginable scenario one could never foresee. It's a class above so may horror movies of late and proves that, when handled with care and benefiting from stark originality, the genre can be revitalised and continue to live on. 

Film rating: 5 out of 5 F's

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Cinema Review - Battleship

The prospect of a childhood board game turned into a movie no doubt sends the majority of us into a sense of bafflement and, with the release of Battleship, one wonders how this can conjure up a feasible plot and ultimately an entertaining feature length film. Well, Hancock director Peter Berg certainly felt he had the content there to make it happen.

Battleship focuses on Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), who joins his brother, Stone (Alexander Skarsgård), in the Navy for a new start in life, after seemingly serving no purpose whatsoever. Whilst his brother remains an esteemed and highly ranked individual serving his country, Alex is always late for events, unreliable and utterly misplaced. When a routine exercise for the whole Navy arrives, headed up by Alex's girlfriend's father Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), it is the perfect chance for Alex to show he has what it takes to prove he was born to serve his country.

When the Navy fleet finally hits the seas they soon encounter what is an unforeseen structure of great power. Joined by weapons specialist Raikes (Rihanna), Alex heads out to investigate the unknown entity with the fleet awaiting results. On investigating the huge structure, a rapturous EMP blast is unleashed, along with a series of unimaginable spacecrafts. With the crafts releasing spiked balls of destruction and trapping the fleet in a domed shield there is only one thing to do; lock and load for a fight to save the planet. 

With Hasbro already bringing to screen their most treasured franchise in the form of Transformers, it was almost an inevitability that Battleship would maintain some of the characteristics of the Michael Bay-directed robot actioner. Whilst basing itself on rather diverse source material, Peter Berg almost moulds Battleship into the next sequel in the Transformers universe. 

The crafts he uses are almost identical to those Cybertronian vessels in Bay's third outing and the level of destruction brought to screen almost seems as if Berg is in fact auditioning for the director's chair for Transformers 4. Admittedly, the film sees Berg as an extraordinary visionary in terms of CGI; glass buildings reduced to rubble and vessels feeling the full brunt of the alien attack all impressively captured, but there is little else on offer here.

Where the visuals bring the positives, the acting slowly sinks the ship. As choppy as the waters our characters are working on, there is little to be impressed by from our stars of screen. Kitsch provides little in the way of a lead to root for, only heading back to his poor Gambit performance as opposed to continuing from a star turn in John Carter. Supports in the way of Alexander Skarsgård and Brooklyn Dekker are also key elements of the film that are easily forgettable; the former unable to get to grips with the older brother role and Dekker clearly inserted purely for her 'assets'. 

Disappointing too is Liam Neeson, as the most established actor in the fold, he seems almost resigned to the fact this is an easy pay-day and trudges through his few scenes without so much as an inch of care showing. Last but not least, the film debut of pop star Rihanna has been much talked about and, despite obviously not possessing the acting skills to be a world beater, manages to hold her own and certainly does not stick out like a sore thumb. True, she has very few extensive lines to carry but when she does get involved it is neither terrible nor unbearable as some of the performances we witness. 

In essence, Battleship was always destined to be a film of CGI, explosions and mindless fun. Unfortunately the fun is not quite present and, paired with some cheesy dialogue and disappointing acting, sinks like an anchor. More Michael Bay's ultimate wet dream than a riveting popcorn action flick, it proves to be a pointless affair and conjures up the question, why make a movie out of a board game involving pegs and guesswork?

Interestingly enough, on IMDB those who like Battleship also liked Green Lantern, enough said? I think so! Sink or swim? Battleship certainly sinks to the deepest depths never to be seen again. 

Film rating: 2 out of 5 F's