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Thursday, 5 March 2015

American Sniper: A Movie Review

Genre: Action/Drama
Running: 132 mins
Directed: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Elise Robertson & Goat-Winston

American Sniper is the story of Chris Kyle; a prolific killing machine with 160 kills on record. Renowned as "The Legend" on the grounds of war, Bradley Cooper portrays Chris as someone with much emotion, mental torture and aftermath being an interesting (and surprising) direction in Clint Eastwood's film, despite Kyle's autobiography being "slightly" different in his hunt for American glory. However was this film worthy of its recent Oscar nod?

Spread out over four tours to and back from the war in Iraq, the movie begins by capturing the pinpoint accuracy of Chris Kyle with an intimate scene involving a deer-hunt and a lesson of life's values and harsh realities with his father. With ambitions of being a cowboy looking less likely, the attack on September 11 motivates Chris to play a part in the war against Saddam Hussein's divided Iraq. There we see the build of one man's innocence to the guilty pleasure of killing his proposed enemy. Despite his deadly occupation Chris struggles to balance both his marriage and his desire to stay on the grounds of war.

Director Clint Eastwood captures action and storytelling in a wonderful way but one has to question the source material which is either false or misused for sheer entertainment; so much so that American Sniper may have accidentally wound up in blockbuster territory. This is a cliched story of one mans ego born out of legendary stories both on (and off) the grounds of war with a gruesome battle of who snipes best as Chris sets his scope on "The Butcher" and his troupe. The Butcher is the enemy introduced to add a novel twist to this trail blazer. The Butcher is a horrid man who drills out the eyes of his victims. This is a surprising story that, despite all of what is happening in the Iraq war, a hero versus enemy backdrop is not so backdrop and overshadows the initial story of the navy SEALS and war. Chris Kyle's battle with another sniper through-out this movie proves shamefully entertaining and one can only imagine this to be fantasy in regards to the official story. Other scenes are wonderfully made up too. One such is made for the propaganda enthusiast; Chris Kyle watches on as the second plane hit the twin towers in a scene fictionally crafted to give off a heroic impression of Kyle. We know this event was so tragic it sent shock-waves through-out the globe, but justice looks destined to be served by an emotional Chris Kyle however the movie cuts to him fighting in Americas's war against Iraq? Wasn't  9/11 orchestrated by Osama Bin Laden and not Saddam Hussein? The movie fails to tell us our leading protagonist has wound up in the wrong place.

Based on the book "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History" by Chris Kyle himself, this movie adaption is a a slight reflection of Kyle's pro-war diary, E.G. the citizens of Iraq are branded "savages" in the movie also. So because this is "Chris Kyle's story" the movie struggles to find a balance, while Clint Eastwood's pro-American perspective is evident throughout (9/11 being one unnecessary ruling in the movies plot).

From a neutral standpoint audiences will applaud the cinematography which is mashed up of beautifully shot landscapes of war, the nitty-gritty tight-squeezed housing of Iraq which gives off a claustrophobic feel of being in battle with Chris Kyle as he picks his enemy off one by one, and the explosive final showdown which is breathtaking all the same. Bradley Cooper on the other hand gives a memorable performance but far from his best; a sense of reality is lacking in Cooper's portrayal and is often saved by his wife Debbie who is played by Elise Robertson. Elise brings this story of consequence and death to a more humane state of mind with a wonderful performance and really grabs this movie by the scruff of the neck whenever she appears on screen.

This is an entertaining movie that is fictionally suited to create a hero in Cooper's Chris Kyle which is true to some extent. Critics claimed a lot of what Kyle has admitted to be pure false, therefore it is difficult to ignore that when watching American Sniper so best see the movie before you read the book. American Sniper sat next to movies such as "The Theory of Everything", "Selma", "Boyhood" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" at this years Oscars Because this movie is running on "fact" based on one mans story it never stood a chance really. However American Sniper is indeed a fine action flick at best with a story so extraordinary on paper that Mr Eastwood ran with the superhero blockbuster effect, transforming Kyle's pattern of kills and emotions into an onscreen plot that should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Expendables 3

Genre: Action/Adventure
Directed: Patrick Huges
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren and Mel Gibson
Running: 126 Mins

Sly Stallone some how manages to squeeze a third movie out of an idea that became very boring, very quick. As someone who has supported this idea from the beginning, despite Stallone's mediocrity as far as his modern career has gone, it is fair to say that the Expendables 3 is a step too far, or a step in the wrong direction if you like. Sly, who now looks like a spread of mushy pinto beans, recruits the "old gang" for another expendable crusade only to decide he no longer needs his partners, substituting the originals for a group of amateur hoodlums - and Antonio Banderas. 

This ambitious trilogy starts off at great pace and typical expendable fashion as Barney (Stallone), Christmas (Statham), Gunner (Lundgren), Caesar (Crews) and Toll (Couture) pursue a train carrying a former expendable in Doc played by Wesley Snipes. Bodies drop and explosions appear from every angle before we meet a breath of fresh air in Doc; a delusional, skillful and typically cocky character. Snipes does well in reminding us what we have been missing since his stint behind bars (oh the irony). It's not long after Doc meets the crew that he finds himself gearing up to take down this years bad guy. Just as we thought Sly and co had wiped out the best in Van Damme and Stone Cold, Mel Gibson's Stonebanks shows up to spoil the party. Conrad Stonebanks is a former expendable (a story surprisingly left this late in the series) turned criminal arms dealer. This plot could have ended 30 minutes in and we would have judged the outcome but thankfully, Barney's expression tells it all. He knows the consequence of Conrad's existence and what it could mean for the world as we know it. Introducing Drummer, or, the new Bruce Willis played by Harrison Ford. Drummer demands Conrad be brought in, alive! Barney is kind enough to consider the safety of his crew, therefore opting to recruit a bunch of young bloods to help bring in the maniac that is Stonebanks.

And so the oldies go back to normality and Ronda Rousy, Victor Ortiz, Antonio Banderas and some other dude gear up for a war that Barney himself sees no sense in. But Sly is the front man in this movie so he needs to lead, at least until his old mercenaries are called back into the frame to save the day.

The Expendables 3 is awful on every level. First off, the original concept is out the window therefore contradicting the original idea which was to showcase a level of entertainment featuring 80's originals. While the first movie received mixed reviews, I loved it for what it was; it had humor, character, excitement and an interesting bad guy. To top it off, it was bloody as hell. The sequel clung on to similar roots, giving us more Arnie and Willis. On the other hand Jean Claude Van Damme showcased an over the top terrorist recognized in retro action flicks before him. The expendables 3 lacks the actors necessary to fulfill its original, opting for the idea of modernized technology and youthful ideas in Sly's new cast of nobodies. It's predecessors, however the ridiculousness, made you anticipate who will appear on screen next. This return showboats the same ridiculousness without the surprise, or bite if you like to fulfill ones need for entertaining action or fight scenes. The fun, comic book like anarchy is downgraded thanks to the PG12 rating, a real surprise and slap in the face regarding the gory outlandish images the first two gives us. The lack of blood is a real let down in a film such as this because, as mentioned, its contradicting the original idea which was an attempt to mimic the graphic imagery of 80's action movies. Everything from the soundtrack to the dialog, this one falls flat on its face and the result is shown on Sly's face too. The former boxer slash soldier looks worse for wear when stood next to Snipes and Banderas both of whom tried to inject some life into this movie.

Maybe this needed a Jackie Chan, Nicholas Cage, Kurt Russel or Dwayne Johnson, either way I'm not buying the whole "leave your brain at the door" nonsense because I understand that. But when it comes down to what was and what is, one cannot help but question the transformation of audience director Patrick Hughes has opted for. The change of tone is a big problem in a movie such as this. While my brain switched off in preparation for some mindless fun, I found no nostalgia this time around, rather a two hour headache filled with boring characters with little or no relevance to the original idea. Sylvester Stallone too looked bored out of his mind from start to finish; at least he found some way of connecting with the audience.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: TV Spot

Giving very little away in the trailer previous, the latest TV spot was shown on American television last night. Let's just say this 30 second segment is just as reluctant, but there seems to be a bit more turtle in this one, oh, and if you keep your eyes peeled you may catch a glimpse of the masterful Splinter too.  

X-Men Days of Future Past: The Final Trailer

The third and final trailer for X-Men Days of Future past has hit the net today and boy is it the best one yet. What is an eagerly anticipated sequel to First Class (2011), the latest trailer shows Wolverine recruiting the army of mutants, while a whole bunch of exciting stuff occurs in the back ground! Check it out.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


Genre: Drama
Directed: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Aidan Gillen, Kelly Reilly & Chris O' Dowd
Running: 100 minutes 

John Michael McDonagh caught everyone's attention in 2011 with the humorous tale of an unorthodox policeman by the name of Gerry Boyle. The Guard, starring the always presentable Brendan Gleeson, was heaped for its off-the-cuff comedy, "Irishness" and originality. So much so that many ludicrous insinuators boldly claimed it to the "the best" Irish film ever made. McDonagh returns with Gleeson at the helm once again and "the best" Irish movie claim is revived once more in Calvary; a rural tale of societies outlook on the modern church and the impact it has had on various individuals. Calvary's gloomy concept is smartly shot and nicely written. But this Irish film will undoubtedly finds its "global" praise in its daring subject matter as  "our" renowned routine of independent movies with crafty dialog and likable characters has slightly dipped this time around as the topic of choice makes you wonder why it would advertise "black comedy" in the first place. 

"There is no point in killing a bad priest, but killing a good one? That will be a shock". That grueling statement is followed by a Sunday appointment that will see Father James Lavelle (Gleeson) meet his supposed killer. The aching pain of self-confession is heard through our mysterious antagonist, blaming Father James and his good morals for the church and its despicable accusations (and convictions) of the past. Seeking solitude among the local community, Father James is startled by the encounter however the seriousness of the matter takes its time. Father James is considered a rare breed in the town of Sligo as the locals confide in him. They are attendees of a small church they no longer seek hope in. Father James and his dedication to the church and his community is played out in various sequences as the mender and peacekeeper of his community. Encounters with the abusive Jack Brennan (Chris O'Dowd) and the oblivious Milo Herlihy (Killian Scott) shows that he is yet to give up hope for the towns moral dysfunction - even if the culprit behind the confession box is living among him.

Calvary is grungy in its perception of modern society and the affect the church has had on various individuals; all of which play their part, however strange they may be. There are some fabulous scenes involving Father James and fellow priest, father Leary (David Wilmot). It is a relationship that is "Irish" and believable and makes full use of its clever writing. The lingering affect in the air of the small town is felt with routine trips to the locals, some you will find memorable and heartfelt, others I felt were quite uncanny, disturbing and just added to darken a tone that is already blind. One such is an irritating Aidan Gillen who inherits a grotesque character similar to Lord Balish of Game of Thrones. The towns doctor and philosophical head-melt proves dull, strange and awfully performed by a fantastic actor in Aidan Gillen. The same is said for an imprisoned cannibal played by Domhnall Gleeson in a wonderfully shot scene but the dialog and overall description of the encounter feels exaggerated to add yet another haunting interaction that feels far from authentic. It prolongs its sympathy from an emotionally crushed priest to emotionally disturbed locals that falls flat in its many uncanny side-plots enforcing a message we previously gathered from its fantastically written introduction.

The relationship between Father James and his daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly) gives Calvary a real depth of both reality with its bereaving comfort and connection. The performance from Kelly Reilly is phenomenal and really bounces off the riveting presence Brendan Gleeson has so often conveyed. Gleeson probably has given what has already been decided as a career defining performance. Gleeson really drives the sensitivity and the movie's cynicism and the modern perspective that he is indeed the poster boy for. Unfortunately I found the comedy nonexistent. Not that I went in to laugh my gut off, but it was advertised with black comedy and I missed most of that it seems. The sequences in the local pub are supposed to provide the black comedy, giving screen time to Pat Shortt and some more Aidan Gillen which proves hard to indulge in.

Calvary has received much praise on an international level, with snobby magazines like Empire and Total Film bowing to its daring concept and visually gritty story. Its brave in its approach and there was no better actor to lead the line other than Brendan Gleeson who is clearly devoted to a character that brings much relevance regarding the history of the church, and the growth of society's religious perspective right to the dramatic climax. The uncanny characters just didn't do it for me. They are vital surroundings in this stylistic story but I felt they added dialog that proved philosophically boring, crude and forgettable. Kelly Reilly on the other hand conveyed the same devoted performance necessary to make us believe in this extremely hot and prolonging debatable topic of crime - even if the rest of locals failed desperately in its "black comedy".

Monday, 14 April 2014

Images of the Week: Dawn of the Apes (2014)

I don't know about you, but Man vs. Movie has been anticipating Dawn of the Apes since its epic predecessor "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (2011). The last time we saw Caesar he waved his last goodbye to Will (Franco) and took to the forest to rally what is bound to be a war of consequence between man and ape. New director Matt Reeves has given very little away in the build so far, with the teaser being, well, teaserish! As we look forward to the release of the sequel, you can take a look at tasty new images below. 

Locked and Loaded: Caesar's heavy artillery 

A fit Gary Oldman: He will need to be 

Caesar's war face

Caesar: Making a stand 

Apes and Horses combine: A new level of intelligence 

And finally: Jason Clark's Malcom looks worried 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Genre: Action/Adventure
Directed: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Anthony Mackie, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel Jackson & Robert Redford
Running: 136 minutes

Man vs Movie has reported on the Marvel allegiance takeover in dull fashion over the years. Frankly, I am sick to death of it. The success of Iron Man (2008) and Avengers: Assemble in (2012) is well deserved. However Disney have all but forced us to eat a particular dinner that looked delicious in the oven but turned out to be too cold, mushy and tasteless i.e. the boring tale of Thor and The Dark World (2013), Ironman 2 (2010) followed by the divided opinion of Ironman 3 last year. Man vs. Movie can officially confirm that Ironman 3 was pure garbage! We could ramble on about Spiderman but that's for another day. The latest from Marvel studio is yet another sequel that tries to prove to superhero fans that the spawn of the Avengers success was not a once off enjoyment. As you may have already guessed, I did not like Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). I questioned myself but I would be lying if I told you there were sleepless nights. I came to the conclusion that maybe I just don't like Captain Steve Rogers as a whole? Well, since the release of winter soldier, Marvel fans (and me) have united to celebrate what is one of the most surprising movies of 2014 (so far) and the best marvel movie since the Avengers? (Yes that is a question).

Captain Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is now celebrated as the hero and ageless World War II veteran Captain America who is fitted to a new suit and assigned to American duty; protect, serve and like the fantastic opening scene on heavy waters, infiltrate. Captain America and SHIELD’s recruitment set the ass-kicking tone from the off as Captain America takes out armed guards on a SHIELD vessel occupied by an Algerian mercenary. The fight choreography is rough and tense as we watch what looks like an upgraded Captain flinging his deadly shield beyond all corners of the vessel.  SHIELD companion Natasha aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is on her own mission of intelligence, one that leaves the Captain questioning the initial orders of Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson). It is only after the mission that the Captain is briefed by Fury as the patched dictator reveals Project Insight; three hellicarriers designed to park in the sky limit in order to eliminate any potential threat to the United States. Seeing this as a way of spreading an epidemic of fear rather than protection, Captain America's once proud perspective of the United States government is no longer. Steve Rogers struggles to adapt to modern society outside the suit. However Captain America is forced to put his politics to one side when Nick Fury is attacked by unknown assailants with the name “Winter Soldier “being linked to a potential destruction of SHIELD. 

Captain American and Black Widow seek to retain intelligence data that could reveal far more loose ends than they could have ever imagined. Creative villain Winter Soldier is the poison to Captain America's chalice making this sequel far more interesting in terms of depth; a story of relevance yet a backdrop of history and some much needed character development. The fantastic action scenes are just one reason this sequel pulls you in. Each character has their moment.  That "about time" moment happens for Nick Fury who gave us nothing but jibe talking jibber jabber in Marvel's “phase one” chapter.  However this time around Nick Fury advertises the very reason he is leading a bunch of kickass heroes into battle because he too can bolster some action. The lustful Black Widow is entertainingly witty and dangerous in her brutality once again, while new companion Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) aka Falcon is a humorous character of much likeness and excitement regarding the expansion of his story.

If a movie is going to be over two hours long the director would want to make sure it is well balanced. In this case, the action does outweigh the drama, and so it should; we want action, and we want it now. But, those looking for an all-out deconstruction of a country will want to stick to Man of Steel or Transformers because the portion of drama and dialog are added in what becomes a necessary environment of morals and human decisions based on terrorist acts, intelligence and the very existence of war. I think that is where winter soldier is receiving the majority of praise. It does carry relevance and depth followed by some well-choreographed scenes of brutality; an elevator brawl, a highway chase and a memorable showdown full of twists and turns. Reflecting back to my above sentence, this Marvel tale has everything involved to keep you interested.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo go into much detail regarding the story's backdrop. The inheritance of the old “factual history” trick has worked really well on this occasion and fortunately suits the origins of Captain America and the villainous antagonist. Previous director Joe Johnston did something similar in its Nazi-mystic element featuring the red skull but it was two hours too long. The action became boring and the story was careless, while we never truly rooted for Steve Rogers and his transformation. The Winter Soldier does well in building on an already existing chapter and overdeveloping the story of “what was” in its brief flashbacks of the first movie. So in a way this sequel has the first movie to thank in regards to the diagnoses of each character, developing Chris Evans into a Captain America we engage with and ultimately root for – something that proved hard to do in its predecessor. It brings satisfaction in relation to the extent of where Captain America, as a comic-book superhero is going and will inevitably become.

We will see a third movie but not before a much anticipated Avengers sequel. Then we will see a return of the hammer wielding Thor and maybe a Mark Ruffalo Hulk revamp. By the time a third movie comes out fans would have made up their mind on where the hell Marvel is going to take all of this. Nevertheless, The Winter Soldier has done what Thor and Ironman failed to do – create an exciting level of anticipation regarding a trilogy.