The Hunt – 2012

the hunt posterA teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son’s custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.

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What we think: The Hunt is a gripping yet dramatic look at the persecution of one man in a small Danish town, after he is accused of sexually assaulting a young girl.

With such subject matter being so delicate it needed a careful approach as its something that is so true to life it can resonate with peoples moral views in quite a significant way.

Lucas () is a nursery teacher, quiet and reclusive he lives alone trying to come to terms with the fact that he is not able to see his son as much as he would like to.

Lucas clearly has a fond affection for the children that he looks after, but his life is torn apart one day by a small white lie that sets the wheels in motion for a real life witch hunt.

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The film is hard to watch at times and rightly so, it’s dealing with something that occurs in the real world and it can be stomach churning. But director Thomas Vinterberg gets to the heart of the matter quickly and in such a way that it creates compelling interest.

Former Bond villain and TV Hannibal star Mikkelsen is an exceptional centre piece as a loving father desperate for a way out, and in such a small environment it seems to be a hard task to accomplish.

It’s at times like this that you know who your real friends are, and Lucas comes to realise that in the harshest of circumstances as he is slowly but surely chased down by a hunting pack of townsfolk.

How apt it is then that Mikkelsen seen hunting deer in the forest at the start, now knows himself what that feeling is like as the hunter now becomes the hunted.

It’s a film that genuinely makes you angry, your emotions are pulled one way and then the next as you try to put yourself in the shoes of a number of different people, but at the end of the day it comes down to one thing, guilty until proven innocent.

At the start we’re quite sure that Lucas is innocent, but there is enough in the narrative that at times we question ourselves in what is a slow burning story executed with the highest precision.

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The supporting cast are all brilliant, and do themselves credit to subject matter that must be hard to act against, especially when there are children involved.

People will do evil things when pushed to the limit by what they feel is right or wrong as the case maybe, and its a journey that Vinterberg takes us on in horrifying consequences.

The Hunt expels emotions such as paranoia, guilt and suspicion, all in a community bonded closely by long lasting friendships they have with each other. The closing scene proves that even after time has passed some things are gone but certainly not forgotten.

Gravity – 2013

gravity posterA medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.

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What we think: The opening shot is as tranquil and as beautiful as you could possibly imagine painting a still picture of the expanded universe.

Pitch black nothingness and the curvature of the earth are all we glimpse, having had a brief insight into the impossibility of life in space only seconds before.

Slowly a radio transmission crackles into life as the ominous object of the  space shuttle Explorer, STS-157, comes into full view with a trio of astronauts spacewalking around it, making checks and upgrades to the Hubble telescope.

The sequence is a flawless unbroken one shot take that seems to go on forever and introduces us to the characters, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney).

Stone is a NASA medical engineer who is undertaking her maiden voyage, she’s nervous and keen to impress the old hat Kowalsky in what must be the ultimate high pressure situation.

Kowalsky circulates the ship in his jetpack barking the odd instruction and regaling how he “has a bad feeling about this one”, he couldn’t be more right as what lies ahead of them is simply terrifying.

In close conversation is the voice of Mission Control, Ed harris, making a return to the position for the first time since he guided Tom Hanks and co safety back to earth in Apollo 13.

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It’s not long before the quiet peacefulness of space is broken by the news that debris from a nearby Russian satellite is hurtling towards them and in the chaos that follows Stone’s umbilical cord to the ship is cut and she’s sent hurtling back into space.

It’s a spectacular few minutes that puts the 3D aspect firmly front and centre as bits of flying debris are thrown out in all directions, if you ducked at this point then you probably wouldn’t be the first or even the last.

When the carnage has settled Stone is looking to get her bearings and a we’re placed inside her helmet for a nauseating point of view that you might have to look a way for a few minutes.

Gravity is not just a disaster film, it’s a film about survival as well as battling loneliness and emerging in reborn with the will to live. As one particular shot eludes to, as Stone, finally in the safety of the Russian space station curls into the foetal position in weightlessness to catch breath.

Stone brings with her, her own earthly problems of past trauma that might seem inconsequential to what is going on around her but that play a focal point in the film’s closing scenes.

Clooney’s Kowalsky is great support for Bullock who is giving what must be the performance of her career, in what must be the film of 2013 and maybe even a cert for an Oscar nomination.

He’s the cool calm head for Bullock’s out of breath heroine, and it’s her breath that acts as the film’s pulse. Short and sharp one minute then calm and calculated the next.

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Stone is short on time, with everything around her falling apart and dwindling oxygen levels she has to battle the elements as well as masses amounts of debris to get herself home.

At one point she’s ready to pack it all in, close her eyes and drift away, if not for that Kowalsky advice which might just save the day, not that he hasn’t already on more than one occasion.

The 3D is mesmerising throughout, from floating pencils to burning fireballs it all captures the essence of what space can do to a person, its a silent killer if its not treated with the upmost respect.

Cuarón has delivered an exceptional and intelligent piece of filmmaking with astounding CGI (of which James Cameron gave it high praise) and assured performances from its minimal cast, it really is out of this world!

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What did you think of Gravity? Leave a comment and let us know?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Iceman – 2013

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The true story of Richard Kuklinski, the notorious contract killer and family man. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters have any clue about his real profession.

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What we think: Michael Shannon is a menacing presence, given his track record already for dominating the screen its all but guaranteed that he’ll put in a performance worth taking note of.

Out at the same time as Man of Steel you’d be forgiven for thinking that contract killer Richard Kuklinski would give General Zod a run for his money in the pure evil stakes.

Kuklinski was a man that changed from shy reclusive individual to ruthless coldhearted killer in the space of a few years and who after his arrest showed no signs of remorse.

When he was finally arrested in 1986 Kuklinski’s body count was in the region of 100 and 250, although that figure has always been strongly debated.

The film is a biographical look at his life based on the book by Anthony Bruno called The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer, and it paints a chilling picture of a man who lead an amazing double life.

Kuklinski was a family man who used his cover well against his family, and that the life he was providing for his wife Deborah () and their two girls was a legitimate one.

Its easy to see why Kuklinski turned out the way he did, abused by his parents where he was beaten to within an inch of his life. His meeting with his incarcerated brother Joseph () gives us a brief interlude into his nightmare up bringing.

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Shannon gives an intensified performance that is spine chillingly good, but then we shouldn’t expect anything else from a man that given the role put in front of him could do almost anything.

He’s cast alongside great support, Ray Liotta seems contented to play the Goodfellas role that he’s well known for, taking on mob boss Roy Demeo another ruthless persona who brings Kuklinski in to work for him, but when work dries up won’t let him contract out for anyone else.

Chris Evans crops up second act as rival contract killer Robert Pronge aka Mr. Freezy, who using an ice cream van as cover teams up with Kuklinski to pull off hits and even helps him acquire his nickname of ‘the iceman’.

This due to the freezing of victims so police found it harder to ascertain time of death.

There is a brief cameo from  as a mob enforcer who gets greedy with the wrong people and an even briefer one from , but they all just drift into the back ground as Shannon continues to stop his authority.

If there is any problem with this film its that it feels rushed, trying to cram so much into such a short space of time will always come with its faults, and it could have benefited from a longer running time.

Elaborating on Kuklinski’s early life would have given us more insight into just the type of person that he was, not that you would want to ever justify what he did but for a film biopic its surely a relevant chapter.

It’s brutal and bloody and and at the same time provocative and uncaring, it’s easy to see why Shannon’s stock continues rise and anymore roles like this and everyone will want to invest in him.

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What did you think of The Iceman, leave a comment and let us know we’d love to hear what you think?

Insidious: Chapter 2 – 2013

insidiousThe haunted Lambert family seeks to uncover the mysterious childhood secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world.

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What we think: For any director having one hit film in a year is an achievement but having two is going someway to establishing yourself as consistent.

In James Wan’s case as he steps away from things that go bump in the night to focus on Fast and Furious 7, he may well feel he has done all he can with a genre dominated.

With writer pal , who also stars as Specs one of two paranormal investigators, Wan has helped to craft a horror sequel that actually has a great deal of credibility.

This one picks up right where the first left off, with Josh () over in the nether regions of the Further searching for his son, he returns but its clear that he has brought something unpleasant back with him.

A brief flash back to 1986 and enter a young Elise Rainier who comes in to debunk the theory that a young Josh might be experiencing unnerving terror in the house after his mother Lorraine calls for help.

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And so the usualness of all things spooky start to emit themselves in cliched ritualistic fashioned, but Wan is a master at this. The timing and delivery is spot on every time, and no matter how much you prepare yourself you’re never 100% ready for it.

Doors creaking, baby toys moving and general unease are all present in a plot that moves from ghost story to murder mystery and back all in the space of an hour or so.

Shifting a narrative like this especially in a sequel is risky business but in Wan’s hands it feels assured, it ties in well to the first outing and opens up a whole heap of new twists and turns.

The scares are effective, despite what anyone says the whole quiet…..quiet…..quiet….bang has stood the test of time in many other films but not delivered in the right way, Wan knows exactly which buttons to push to get the desired effect.

While the main focus in the first film was to shoot completely within the house, there is the sinister location of a disused hospital (another classic genre stalwart), which brings me onto the first small plot hole.

How is it that they seem to get into these abandoned and locked up buildings with such ease? Oh well who am I to criticise I’m not the one behind the camera. Putting that aside it plays out well, complete with shock value.

The build up to the finale almost rifts The Shinning as Patrick Wilson goes a bit stir crazy with the family taking shelter in the basement of all places, but it does nothing to dent what has been a thoroughly enjoyable ride so far.

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It’s already had its fair share of harsh critics, all queuing up to take a swipe at Wan who’ll be ridiculed for copying old tricks and offering up nothing new in the process, but what do they know?

It’ll certainly do well at the box office and those are the only figures anyone really cares about these days.

It will most certainly put the hairs on the back of your neck up on end, and delivers a final act that is sure to turn the page  over to Chapter 3.

If Wan has had enough of tinkering with muscle cars one hopes that he makes a welcome return to complete the trilogy.

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What did you think of the film, does it warrant a third? Leave a comment and let us know?

Iron Man 3 – 2013

im3When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.

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What we think: First off, I had to flip a coin to decide between this and Star Trek as to which would be the entertainment of choice for a Saturday night, sadly I wish I’d gone to see the latter.

That is not to say that Iron Man 3 doesn’t deliver entertainment value to an already successful franchise, it does, but parts of it frustrated me and left me wondering….why!?

Jon Favreau stepped away from completing his directorial trilogy and handed the reigns over to Shane Black, wanting to focus more on his character Happy Hogan (he needn’t have bothered).

A writer initially, Black had brought Lethal Weapon to life as well as other first class action films, but in terms of directing he’d only done one film previous to this, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

It was a solid capture and as he’d already worked with Downey Jnr. before it was a safe bet he’d be able to get the best out of the screenplay, which he helped co-write.

In this outing, the first Marvel film post Avengers, Tony Stark is going through a few issues  as a possible result of his heroic deeds in New York.

He’s having trouble sleeping and spends most of his time tinkering with his vast array of suits, as he looks to develop a new suit where the parts fly to him and recombine on his body.

His relationship with Pepper Pots is shaky at best, and he tries to reassure her that all is well when she knows very well that it’s not.

The film starts off in 1999 where the playboy, billionaire (you know the rest) is partying it up ready for the new Millennium. When he’s accosted in an elevator by Aldrich Killian who proposes that he invest in his new scientific project, Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM).

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Stark arrogantly brushes him off and in doing so sets the events in motion back in 2013 where things are about to go from bad to worse for him.

The film has some epic action sequences, the destruction of Starks Malibu mansion is the pick of them, leaving you not a moments breath as everything comes crashing down around Stark.

The attack on the Presidential plane Air Force one was another slick visual, and the film’s climax, well, that followed the blue print for most Marvel films.

And so to the villains of the piece, Aldrich Killian, his crippled introduction reminded me very much of a certain Edward Nigma in Batman Forever, who by being swept aside by another popular playboy billionaire turned him into a revenge fueled nutcase.

Guy Pearce never really pulled it off, nowhere near a convincing villain as he could of been, especially when you’ve seen him in Lawless where he was by far and away more terrifying.

Then there was The Mandarin, a character so underused and wasted it should have a been a crime. Ben Kingsley’s initial entrance as the great nemesis to Iron Man should have been a welcomed delight for fans of the comic books.

His dark back story as a ruthless terrorist beset by inflicting destruction on the west made it seem like he was going to be the central villain to Pearce’s Aldrich Killian, and maybe he was (in some ways).

Despite quite a good turn from Kingsley, it was a missed opportunity to capitalize on a character who could have done what the Joker did for The Dark Knight.

Added to that Eric Savin (James Badge Dale) Killian’s right hand man and muscle who underwent the Extremis treatment to boost his combat skills, also misses out on some tasty back story.

According to comic folklore Savin was converted into a cyborg called Coldblood who could manipulate his way mentally into any computer system, sounds pretty exciting. The closet thing to Savin looking like a cyborg was when he donned Iron Patriot’s armour.

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It would clearly seem then that Black and co-writer on the screen play, , wanted to take the story and character development down a different path, how that has sat with the fan boys is anyone’s guess?

There is a lot going on in Iron Man 3, it feels like Black wanted to make the most of being trusted with such a massive budget, and on the whole I think he did a pretty good job.

But parts just felt flat, there was far too much humour going on that it sided more to action comedy than action drama. But then that is the tone which has long been running through all these Marvel films.

I prefer the darker side and characters with grit, psychopaths with a disturbed pasts, here that was all but non existent. I had high hopes for this and it dropped the ball on more than one occasion, maybe I should have been beamed up after all?

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Please feel free to leave a comment about this film, we would love to know what you think and we’ll do our best to respond!