Monthly Archives: April 2016

Review – CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

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Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland and Daniel Brühl
Directed by: Anthony & Joe Russo
Cert: 12A Running Time: 147 minutes

In the most ambitious of the Marvel movies yet, directors Anthony and Joe Russo  (returning after the brilliant Captain America: Winter Soldier), have served up no less than twelve super heroes in what is perhaps the greatest collection of costumed crime fighters ever to share screen time. So well woven now is their universe, that they fit seamlessly into the film’s narrative framework – the heroes torn apart when forced to consider the destruction and unavoidable collateral damage that comes with taking down the bad guys.

As with the recent Batman V Superman, the question of whether these heroes are good for mankind or a danger to them is examined at depth and having caused massive destruction in Sokovia (in Age of Ultron) and on a recent mission in Lagos that went awry thanks to Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), they are being corralled to sign an accord that will see them sent only on UN sanctioned missions as opposed to deciding threats for themselves. Faced with the mother of a recent American fatality at their hands, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) is inclined to sign, whereas Captain America (Chris Evans), believes “the safest hands are still our own” and that having someone else choose compromises what they do. Having laid the foundations for conflict between the two men in Age of Ultron, it feels entirely plausible that their principles and perspective could differ so strongly as to make them enemies and all that remains is for the others (Black Widow, Hawkeye, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Vision and Falcon) to choose where their beliefs and loyalties lie.

So far so serious and before it threatens to succumb to the weight of its moral high ground, writers’ Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely inject the film with a huge dose of fun. Key to this is the arrival to the Marvel universe at last of Spiderman (Tom Holland). A giddy teenager who adores Tony Stark, Spiderman is a brilliant addition to team Iron Man bringing his unique skills and youthful exuberance to the fight.  Black Panther too (played by Chadwick Boseman) is a welcome sight, a mysterious fighter who not only has the coolest costume but the moves, agility and claws to match. And then there’s Ant Man. Just the sight of Paul Rudd brings a smile to your face and the much trailered airport showdown is a highlight, worth the price of admission alone.

While the running time is pretty exhaustive at 147 minutes, the film does rocket along and though much of the action focuses on the various bouts between Avengers, it does have a villain in the form of Daniel Brühl, who is terrific as the soft spoken Zemo, keen to get a one-to-one with the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), suspected of a bombing in Europe. Strong support is on hand with the likes of William Hurt, Martin Freeman (convincing with a US accent) and Marisa Tomei as Spiderman’s ‘hot’ Aunt May, whose chemistry with charmer Downey Jr. is still fizzing since 1994’s Only You. We also get another heady dose of nostalgia in a supposed flashback to Tony’s childhood where we see a teenage Downey, perfectly rendered, similar to the age-defying magic worked on Michael Douglas in Ant Man, which is strangely peculiar but a wonder to behold.

This being a Captain America movie it would be remiss not to mention Chris Evan’s performance. As always, he nails the action – no amount of CGI can magic the sheer scale of those pecs but he has made Captain America a throwback icon, a soldier from another time constantly trying to adapt, yet hold on tightly to the good old fashioned principles he grew up with and Evans proves more than capable of making him believable and strangely vulnerable when it comes to his past. There are moments though where the script feels heavy-handed. At one point Falcon (Anthony Mackie) throws in a reference to Mark Fuhrman from the O.J. Simpson trial which jars in such escapist entertainment, while the dialogue in a key fight between Iron Man and Captain America doesn’t always hit the mark. However these are minor quibbles in what is a wholly entertaining film.

The Russo brothers’ deliver both on heart-stopping action and story, staying the right side of the narrative so that it doesn’t feel like a vehicle just to put two (or twelve) of our favourite heroes against each other for no other reason than to see who’d beat the crap out of who. If that’s the money shot for you, you won’t be disappointed but neither will those looking for a little more meat on their superhero bones.

4/5

Review – EYE IN THE SKY

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Starring: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Cert: 12A Running Time: 102 minutes

Speaking recently, Helen Mirren said proudly that she doesn’t expect to win any acting awards for Eye in The Sky – it wasn’t why she took the part, citing instead her belief in the importance of the subject matter and the story that screenwriter Guy Hibbert (Omagh, Prime Suspect) had to tell. Mirren however, is stunning in the role of Col. Katherine Powell and it’s her staggeringly good performance that anchors the tension, drama and moral questions at the heart of the film. Mirren as always succeeds in making her work seem effortless, a testament to her wonderful talent, especially in a film where the dialogue is spread across a succession of players, in different rooms, in different parts of the world.

Set almost in real-time, the film unfolds like an episode of 24 minus the visual ticking clock, as Powell commands a British mission using US drones and Kenyan intelligence on the ground to track down and capture a number of wanted terrorists outside Nairobi. All is well until they realise, thanks to local operative Jama Farah (played brilliantly by Barkhad Abdi) that the suspects are not there merely to plot, but to engage two recruits on an imminent suicide mission. Powell seeks to escalate the mission from capture to assassination via the ‘hellfire’ weapons on the drone and it is the machinations of the legal, moral, political and ethical landscape of war that make this fascinating to watch.

Various moral questions feed up the ‘kill chain’ from military, to UK and US politicians, with no-one it seems willing to hit the strike button against the outcome of possible collateral damage. The question of what one life is worth versus scores at the hands of terrorists permeates the debate as the window of strike time shrinks by the second. Though the film is close set, switching from one room and one debate to another, it’s a riveting affair elevated by a great cast, each bringing their A game. The late Alan Rickman is wonderful as General Benson, more at ease sanctioning missions that picking out a present for his grandchild. Joining him on the British side both Jeremy Northam and GOT’s Iain Glenn excel as politicians faced with difficult decisions, while across the Atlantic, Aaron Paul is the plucky Nevada based drone pilot with a conscience, willing to follow orders only when every last i is dotted and t crossed. With few lines, he expertly steers not only the ‘eye in the sky’ of the title but the emotions of the audience as ultimately the man who must squeeze the trigger to strike.

South African director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, Ender’s Game), who also appears here as Paul’s senior officer, has fashioned a compelling morality tale, a taut thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat whilst engaging your mind and your own conscience as to which moral side of the fence you would be on. With reportedly 10,000 drones in the air around the world in any minute, one can only begin to wonder what missions they provide eyes and strike capability for that we are completely oblivious to. Nail-biting stuff!

4/5

The Best Lines from The Walking Dead: Season Six Finale

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 1. “Things have happened but it’s always worked out for us, ‘cause it’s always been all of us, that’s how I know. ‘Cause as long as it’s all of us, we can do anything” – Rick

The finale was all about the fall of the house of Rick. So confident was he that he had put a serious dent in Negan’s operation with the slaughter of his sleeping soldiers, that he felt confident of moving poor Maggie to the Hilltop with the Saviours baying for blood. At the beginning of the episode he’s in control and his words to Maggie in the RV, when he tells her she’ll be okay, are full of confidence in their abilities as a group, an unstoppable force. The fact that they end the series finale kneeling before Negan is a huge blow as we see Rick’s  confidence shattered and the truth sinks in that Negan will indeed break them.

2.  “If you care about anyone, there is a price Morgan and you’re gonna pay it. I have and I can’t anymore” – Carol

Who better to track Carol down than the one person she clashed with in Alexandria. Fighting with Morgan over his capture of one of the Wolves earlier this season forced Carol to hold a mirror up to herself and with the time to finally breathe within its high fences, she realised what she had become and it began to tear her apart. Morgan is a huge factor in her deterioration and she was loathed to explain to him of all people that she just can’t live like that anymore.

It’s also worth noting that in that scene as Morgan packs away the first aid kit, there’s a bookshelf beside him with the words ‘Payback’ written in large print on the jacket. Payback is indeed what’s coming for them all.

3. “I owe them” – Carl

Looking completely badass now with one bandaged eye and the other overhanging with his long locks and sheriff’s hat, Carl is out for one thing – retribution for the death of Denise by the Saviours. While Ingrid argues before they set out that she owes it to Maggie to journey with her to Hilltop, Carl replies with the above. As he watches from the RV window as a walker stumbles through the field outside, he overlooks it like it is nothing. He doesn’t want to kill walkers, he wants to kill Saviours by his father’s side. A coming-of-age hunting trip if ever there was one.

4. “You’re a survivor. You always were. We just didn’t know it” – Abraham

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the whole episode, beautifully set to the tender score by Bear McCreary, Eugene finally gets his chance to have his moment in the sun. His selfless act of sacrifice in an attempt to save the people he loves, is a lump in the throat moment, especially when Abraham, his one-time protector realises that Eugene was a survivor all along.

5. “Do not make me kill the little future serial killer. Don’t make it easy on me” – Negan

We waited the whole season for Negan to arrive and what an entrance it was. Though he was only in the final fifteen minutes or so, he stole the episode, emerging from the RV like a movie star from his trailer. A charismatic, smiling killer swinging the “awesome” Lucille, his signature weapon where baseball bat meets barbed wire for maximum carnage. He quickly zoned in on Carl asking him to “lighten up” and “at least cry a little” as the teenager was one of the coldest and dead eyed of his captives. Seeing something in the him, he quips the above line to Rick. Truth is they are all now serial killers.

6. “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe..” – Negan

And so it began as Negan, unable to choose one of them to “beat the holy hell outa”, decides to go the childhood route to fair play with a little game of Eeeny, Meeny. Never have such words brought such fear or shredding of nerves. The camera cuts to close ups of Rick, Sasha, Abraham, Darryl, Michonne, Rosita, Aaron, Carl, Maggie, Glenn and Eugene as Lucille’s barbs are thrust before them. Who will it be? Sadly (at first) and then thankfully (I think) we didn’t find out as the camera switched to the point of view of his chosen victim and Negan’s wrath with Lucille. As he uttered these words, I found myself considering which one I, as a viewer, could afford to let go. Whose death could I cope with? Aaron, the Alexandrian? Perhaps. That would hurt but not too much, until I realised I didn’t want any of them to die. As Negan says in the end “You can breathe. You can blink. You can cry. Hell you’re all gonna be doin’ that”.

The Walking Dead returns with Season 7 in October.

Til then, just survive somehow…