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Movie Review June 2015

matt-j-blakeTime to check in with Matt J Blake, and see what’s what over on the big screen this month….

Unfriended

     

If I told you they’d made a horror film with only 5 camera angles in it, shot as if on a webcam through the viewpoint of a Skype conversation between 5 friends? You think I’d had a few too many strong ones. Well they have, and I haven’t.

Unfriended is a stroke of genius, a genuine surprise and a completely fresh take on the horror genre. But I can’t help but feel that it’s out at the wrong part of the year. The plot? 5 friends have a group chat over Skype, and then begin to receive weird messages on Facebook from a dead girl’s profile. So far, so what? Right?

Only this girl committed suicide 2 years before, an act that was filmed and subsequently went viral. The fact that the cameras barely move and you feel like you’re sat on the inside of a laptop screen only adds to the complexity the film makers had to contend with when constructing the twisted narrative.

It’s superbly written, with an empathy for teenage woes and a flair of old school horror – back before the ridiculous Paranormal Activity trend ruined the genre. Unfriended owes its genius to the fabulous talent of its cast, its daring director and our own sense that we don’t actually know what the hell is going to happen next.

The film was a properly fun, if a slightly curious left field take on the horror genre. I really loved it. But I have to be critical; it droops at the midpoint before any real tension builds – which is mostly down to the reliance on a single character carrying most of the plot.

It’s bloody and chillingly brilliant.

Marvels Avengers: Age of Ultron

     

Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, The Hulk, Hawkeye, Thor and Nick Fury soar around the globe at lightening pace to enthral comic book fans and casual viewers alike in their ensemble quest to stop the destruction of earth.

The sequel to the 3rd highest grossing film of all time has a monumental amount of hype to live up to. Does it manage it?

In bucket loads.

The globe-trotting adventure sees the super heroes team up, separate, argue, fist fight and piss each other off for 2 and a half hilarious hours of in jokes, visual gags and a script packed page to page with zingers.

The action follows the team to South Africa, South Korea, New York and Europe – as they try to bring down a homicidal Artificial Intelligence creation, who finds his roots in Tony Stark’s lab.

Ultron, the villain, is hell bent on destroying Earth and all of its occupants. But is made of the strongest metal on Earth. The team have a real job on their hands bringing him down.

Director and writer Joss Whedon has a similar job trying to keep all of the plates spinning. Developing back stories, keeping the zany one-liners flowing and making the action coherent is no mean feat; and he just about manages it.

$275 million dollars goes up in smoke, but it’s incredible fun to watch. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is a scene stealer.

Big Game

     

Stick Samuel L. Jackson in a suit, call him the president of the United States; put him on the most secure and safe plane in the world, Air Force One, fly him over Finland – throw in an Arabian nut-job with more money than you or I will make in our lifetimes, and then blow the plane up.

As the plane and its passengers come hurtling to the ground, a 13 year-old boy called Oskari is on the hunt for a deer – following his village tradition of killing a wild beast at the ripe old age – becoming a man.

Their two worlds collide and they team up in the most unlikely of duos to get Jackson back to safety, away from the Arabian terrorist with a host of running gags and physical comedy – one stand out scene features the Oskari and Jackson tumbling down a mountain in a chest freezer.

Oskari has to live up to his Dad’s killing of a bear during his 13th birthday hunt, so the stakes are high. Jackson finds himself to be a useless fighter, he can’t fire a machine gun – and he is left with only one shoe after the crash.

It’s hard to believe that this film only cost $8.5 million to make, when the plane crash alone must have cost that. The story unfolds brilliantly – and the sense of time never escapes you. Oskari and Jackson bond with a remarkable poignancy – including a heartfelt conversation over a campfire about power and worth.

I’ve been waiting for Sam Jackson to take on a role like this – and believe it or not he can do serious. It’s blistering, surprisingly well made for such a small budget and lovingly well-acted.

A landmark role for Samuel L. Jackson.

Mad Max: Fury Road

     

I never thought I’d say this, but 2 hours of non-stop explosions car crashes and jaw-dropping stunts gets rather tedious after the first 25 minutes of the onslaught.

The trailers made it look epic, and it’s easy to see where the money has gone – especially in terms of the cast, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult and Tom Hardy – and the breath-taking stunts. But the plot is thinner than a Transformers film – which is saying something, and there’s barely 80 lines of dialogue (I didn’t count) in the entire film.

In the distant future, the world is a desert wasteland and civilization as we know it, has collapsed. Max (Tom Hardy), a survivor in Australia, is captured by the War Boys, the army of tyrannical cult leader King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Branded a universal blood donor, Max is incarcerated and used as a “blood bag” for the sick War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

Charlize Theron pouts, scowls and generally looks menacing whilst mumbling random things to herself.

The worst thing about this film is the fact that they even bothered to have talking characters at all; because as a visual spectacle it is about the most awe-inspiring, slack jawed, retina searing action movie I have ever seen.

But it’s all let down by the lack of any character development at all.

It looks simply incredible, and the action will leave you gasping for a break to catch your breath. But it may as well have been a silent movie.

Breath-taking, stunning – but tedious.

 

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