Avengers: Infinity War

Giant purple glove enthusiast Thanos (Josh Brolin) has a sad back story. His people, the Titans of Titan (which isn’t confusing at all, couldn’t it at least have been the Titons of Titan, or the Titaniums of Titan, or the Titans of Titanic? All viable options) were ravaged by over-population and over-use of natural resources, leaving their home world in ruins. Thanos had proposed an option to prior to this, which would have meant randomly killing half of Titan’s entire population, which was understandably vetoed. Now, in the wake of Titan’s ruin, Thanos has seen the opportunity to enact his plan on a much grander scale, wiping out half of all known life in existence, for which he will need the golden infinity gauntlet and six infinity stones scattered across the galaxy. It’s up to Earth’s mightiest heroes – and a few from some other places too – to try and stop Thanos before it’s too late.
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Two Mexican police officers (Benicio del Toro and Jacob Vargas) become embroiled in a corrupt drug investigation. Meanwhile a judge in Ohio (Michael Douglas) is tasked with heading the Office of National Drug Control, whilst his daughter (Erike Christensen) becomes more experimental with her own drug use. Even more meanwhile a DEA investigation (led by Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman) arrest a dealer (Miguel Ferrer) and keep him in custody to testify in court against a drug lord, whose wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) suddenly finds herself having to deal with her husband’s way of living with the help of her lawyer (Dennis Quaid).
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Boogie Nights

At the tail end of the 70s, times were a-changin’ for many folks, including those involved in the production of adult films. Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) is bussing tables in a nightclub, regularly frequented by porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), his cast and crew. Adams, who later will become known as Dirk Diggler, is somewhat gifted in a manner that would be beneficial in adult cinema, so he soon finds himself working in Jack’s pictures. This film chronicles the highs and lows of working in such an industry, not just for Dirk, but Jack, his leading lady Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), other cast members Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), Becky Barnett (Nicole Ari Parker) and Rollergirl (Heather Graham) and their crew, including Little Bill (William H. Macy) and Scotty J. (Philip Seymour Hoffman).Boogie 04 Continue reading

Iron Man 3

Genius billionaire philanthropist with a super-powered flying metal suit Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is not in a good way. Despite being in a loving relationship with his former assistant and the now-CEO of his company Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and with his best friends, Colonel James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and former security guard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) both doing rather well for themselves, Tony is suffering from severe insomnia and having heavy panic attacks. This may have something to do with him recently almost dying after delivering a nuclear bomb through a portal into space, through which aliens were attempting to invade and take over the world, after which he was literally scared back to life by the Hulk screaming at his face. This isn’t helped by the arrival of two figures from Tony’s past – former one night stand Maya (Rebecca Hall) and rejected  scientist Aldritch Killian (Guy Pearce) – and the Mandarin (Ben Kinglsey), a terrorist unleashing multiple bombs onto the American public. When the Mandarin’s latest bomb puts Happy in a coma, Tony is forced to take matters into his own hands. Continue reading

Unlisted: Iron Man 2

Yesterday I discussed the near flawlessness that is Iron Man, and whilst all these praises remain for the sequel, it suffered from having far greater levels of hype, anticipation and expectation. It seemed that all who had loved the first couldn’t wait for the second, everyone wanted more, and more was most certainly what they got, especially when it comes to an overabundance of supporting characters, superfluous plot strands and men in metal suits hitting each other. Where the original finale, with Stark and his business partner, Jeff Bridges Obediah Stane, knocking seven bells out of each other in their rocket-propelled armour, seemed fresh, new and exciting, in the sequel we get something similar not once, but three times, as well as two metal men fighting an army of remote-controlled drones and an early confrontation between Stark and new villain Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) at the Monaco Grand Prix. Some of the action set pieces, like the aforementioned meeting, seem a little shoehorned in to put an action beat in place, but are still impressive, and the suiting-up sequences have also been greatly improved upon, especially the Suit-case.
All the supporting characters are back, but Don Cheadle has replaced Terrence Howard (Howard apparently wanted more money than Marvel thought he deserved, and seeing how little he brought to the table in the first film I’m inclined to agree with them) as Rhodes, and all the characters get an expanded upon arc, even director Jon Favreau’s background cameo as driver Hogan gets himself something to do. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts is the new Stark Industries CEO, Rhodes wants a suit to take back to the military, Scarlett Johansson is Tony’s new assistant/undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (a welcome addition to the cast, if only for aesthetic reasons), Tony is in talks with Samuel L. Jackson’s one-eyed Nick Fury about his role in the Avengers, weapons rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is desperate to better Stark and bird-obsessed Vanko aims to settle the score regarding his father working with Stark’s dear old Dad (Mad Men’s John Slattery). See, that’s a really long sentence. Far too much to take in. The first film was streamlined, with not much chaff around the wheat, but here there’s just too many strands. I didn’t even mention that the arc reactor keeping Stark alive is also killing him, a completely unnecessary plot point that adds nothing and is resolved by the end, so doesn’t affect the series, but takes up about 20 minutes of screen time. Even with so much going on, the film is 5 minutes shorter than the first, but feels half an hour longer, as boredom sets in from watching metal men punch each other repeatedly.
Even more so than in Iron Man, this feels like a prequel to the Avengers, especially with Johansson’s Black Widow, bigger roles for Nick Fury and Agent Coulson and references to Captain America and Thor. That, and the film’s finale feeling disappointing after a protracted build up leaves this film with all the entertaining pats of the first, but an unfulfilling sequel that doesn’t take them anywhere. Favreau has since dropped out of part three, but Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black has stepped up instead. He’s worked with Downey Jr. on one of his best roles to date, so here’s hoping.
Choose life 6/10

Crash (2004)

An all-star cast playing characters from all walks of life who, over a period of a couple of days, become intertwined with one another’s lives through circumstances distressing, joyous, criminal and fatal. No, I’m not talking about a masterpiece lovingly crafted by Paul Thomas Anderson or Robert Altman, instead a thoroughly commercial, awards-baiting crowd-pleaser from Paul Haggis, largely depicting themes of racism and prejudice in Los Angeles. Featuring a pair of car jackers (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges & Larenz Tate), a racist cop (Matt Dillon) and his rookie partner (Ryan Phillippe), dating police detectives (Don Cheadle & Jennifer Espoisto), a TV director and his wife (Terrence Howard & Thandie Newton), the LA district attorney and his socialite wife (Brendan Fraser & Sandra Bullock), a Persian storeowner and his family and a Mexican locksmith (Michael Pena), as well as secondary characters including William Fichtner and Keith David, it is clear that Haggis wanted to make a film to be discussed, to be seen by many and considered for awards a-plenty, but not necessarily a good film. The issues he discusses are important and the situations topical, for example a black director being told to make one of his characters ‘talk blacker’, or a district attorney concerned about his public ratings after being mugged by two black criminals, but the revelations are shallow and the characters stereotypical, none of them deep enough to warrant a great deal of screen time, in contrast to Anderson’s Magnolia or Altman’s Short Cuts. That said, the film is enjoyable, the cast do well and some of the dialogue is excellent, so go ahead and watch it anyway. I could argue that it didn’t deserve the Oscar for Best Picture, but up against Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich and Brokeback Mountain I don’t really know who is more worthy.
Choose film 6/10

Ocean’s Eleven

Sneaking its way onto the list at number 500 of Empire’s top 500 films is the 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven, one of the few remakes on the list to surpass its original. This film relies on the complexity of the genius heist plot and the easy camaraderie and star wattage of its leads to create an enjoyable and cerebral popcorn flick. But as usual it’s the small moments of humour that meant the most to me, especially how the story and characters play with the real-life personas of the actors playing them. For example, at the beginning of the film Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan and George Clooney’s Danny Ocean are teaching ‘movie stars’ how to play poker. The so-called stars they are schooling include small screen heartthrobs Topher Grace (That 70s Show,) Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek) and Holly Marie Combs (Charmed), each playing themselves, and here dubbed as major movie stars, being photographed by the paparazzi whilst Pitt and Clooney, at the time two of the most famous faces in the world, are ignored by everyone. Another parallel is Pitt and Clooney’s teaching of Matt Damon’s rookie conman Linus Caldwell, in a sense showing Pitt and Clooney teaching Damon how to become a star as renowned as them, with Damon continuing his meteoric rise to fame with the Ocean’s Eleven, arguably reaching the same level as Pitt and Clooney. Finally, Pitt’s performance as a fake doctor parodies Clooney’s stint on ER, especially his flamboyant overacting.

Choose film 9/10