Origin of Several Species

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Director: J. A. Bayona

Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Rafe Spall, Jeff Goldblum, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Geraldine Chaplin, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Isabella Sermon, Justice Smith

Spanish director J. A. Bayona brings an impressive sense of Gothic Horror to the sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World, in the his latest film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom which is both riveting and tantalizingly watchable without reverting completely into blockbuster CGI overload. Although that said, the volcanic sequence on Isla Nuba off the coast of Costa Rica is brilliantly staged.

Familiar cast members return including Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dering who teams up with macho dinosaur wrangler Owen Grady wonderfully played by Chris Pratt whose phenomenal career path as rocketed since his casting as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord in Marvel’s The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) plays the villainous Eli Mills assistant to the immensely wealthy Benjamin Lockwood, played by James Cromwell (The Queen). Audiences should look out for a stand out performance by Isabella Sermon as Lockwood’s tenacious granddaughter Maisie who has to eventually contend with some monsters in her own childhood bedroom.

Watching over young Maisie is her guardian Iris played by the daughter of silent screen star Charlie Chaplin, Geraldine Chaplin (The Impossible, The Wolfman, The Age of Innocence) whom it is so refreshing to see on the big screen again.

As the dinosaurs of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom are consequently rescued just as the volcano at Isla Nuba threatens to make these ancient creatures extinct, a new threat develops on the massive Lockwood country estate in Northern California whereby director J. A. Bayona skillfully uses all the traits of Gothic Horror to add a fascinating twist to a blockbuster sequel with enough suspense to keep audiences entertained while also emphasizing the perennial issue of endangered species, something which endangered wildlife are constantly at risk of becoming in the increasingly technological 21st century.

Audiences that enjoyed the 2015 Jurassic World, will undoubtedly love this authentic and imaginative sequel.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and recommended for audiences that harbour an abiding fascination for dinosaurs.

 

The Fourth Son of a Political Dynasty

Chappaquiddick

Director: John Curran

Cast: Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Olivia Thirlby, Ed Helms, Bruce Dern, Jim Gaffagan, Taylor Nichols, Lexie Roth

Many films have been made about the Kennedys or those related to them, most recently being Pablo Larrain’s beautiful film Jackie featuring an Oscar worthy performance by Natalie Portman.

While The Painted Veil director John Curran’s film Chappaquiddick is no masterpiece and is quite slow moving, it nevertheless remains a fascinating account of one of the Kennedy’s lesser known political scandals.

This involved Senator Edward Kennedy, superbly played by Australian actor Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby), who was the fourth son of the Kennedy clan and the only surviving son after his three older brothers died successively.

Chappaquiddick takes place in Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1969, two days before American astronaut Neil Armstrong successfully landed on the moon. Edward Kennedy and his cousin Joseph Gargan played by The Hangover star Ed Helms host a small decadent party on Chappaquiddick an island off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Among the guests is Mary Jo Kepechne played by former House of Cards star Kate Mara who gets fatally entangled with Senator Edward Kennedy.

As the evening progresses Edward and Mary Jo go on a moonlight drive around the island but this romantic venture turns into tragedy when after becoming intoxicated Edward unknowingly drives the car off a low bridge and it plunges into a river and he escapes the accident unscathed, while poor Mary Jo gets trapped in the drowning automobile and dies. The worst part is that Edward Kennedy walked away from the scene of a fatal accident and then later tried to cover it up using his family’s considerable political influence.

Chappaquiddick deals with the aftermath of the tragic event and the engulfing political scandal it could have for the ambitious Senator Edward Kennedy who is desperate to follow in his two older brothers’ political careers with JFK becoming US president and Robert Kennedy becoming a US senator, both of whom got assassinated during the turbulent 1960’s.

What makes Chappaquiddick so fascinating is the way in which Edward Kennedy, with a cool emotional detachment and often seeking advice from his wheelchair bound father Joseph Kennedy, wonderfully played by veteran actor and Oscar nominee Bruce Dern (Nebraska) whose only word of wisdom is alibi.

The patriarch of the powerful political dynasty which is the Kennedys, based at their family compound in Hyannis port, Massachusetts, is determined to protect the Kennedy legacy, despite numerous tragic events and subsequent scandals.

Chappaquiddick is a riveting historical drama about a political scandal which literally gets eclipsed by the men landing on the moon on the same weekend. As compared to Jackie, Chappaquiddick lacks grandiosity and elegance, but remains relevant as to how political scandals are essentially covered up and the flow of information is conspicuously controlled.

Recommended for viewers that enjoy American historical films, Chappaquiddick gets a film rating of 7 out of 10. My only criticism is that sections of the film could have been edited to avoid repetition and the script required insightful dialogue.

 

Origins of an Intergalactic Smuggler

Solo: a Star Wars Story

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Erin Kellyman, Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt

I have to confess I am a huge Star Wars fan. Ever since the first trilogy I saw when I was a kid, I have been hooked.

Well, when rumours circulated in the film trade press that there was going to be an origins story for Han Solo – it certainly piqued my curiosity. The casting was superb. The boyish charm of Alden Ehrenreich last seen in Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply is perfectly cast as the Young Han Solo, a role made famous by the Hollywood star Harrison Ford.

With steady direction by Ron Howard, Solo: A Star Wars Story is a brilliant prequel recommended especially for fans of the original trilogy, extracting elements out of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi.

To add to the continuity, Donald Glover plays the young gambler Lando Calrissian last seen on the Bespin Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back and played back then by Billy Dee Williams. Glover is superb as the young Lando, a carefree gambler who gambles the millennium falcon in a space contest with the equally adventurous Han Solo.

Solo: A Star Wars Story also features Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson as the smuggler Tobais Beckett who teams up with Han Solo on a raid on an icy planet to steal some explosive mineral for the nefarious Dryden Vos, wonderfully played by British star Paul Bettany.

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke plays the intergalactic femme fatale Qi’ra who facilitates between Han Solo and his enemy Vos. As Beckett advises Han solo in the cutthroat world of smuggling and intergalactic piracy, trust no one.

Westworld star Thandie Newton briefly appears as Beckett’s love interest Val, a fearless fellow smuggler.

The magnificent scenes in the film belong to those between Lando and Han, which establishes a friendship based on rivalry and pure competitiveness as each recognize a rogue quality in each other. Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover are cleverly cast as these two iconic space heroes.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is an entertaining hyperspace glimpse into the origins of an infamous intergalactic Smuggler as possibly one of George Lucas’s best loved characters, the charming risk taker pilot Han Solo which both Ford and now Ehrenreich captured so perfectly onscreen.

With stunning production design and beautiful cinematography, Solo: A Star Wars Story gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

Highly recommended viewing for fans that love Star Wars films and fondly remember the original trilogy which shaped their love for sci-fi.

 

 

Written by Real Villains

Deadpool 2

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, T. J. Miller, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Eddie Marsan

Ryan Reynolds reprises his role as kickass superhero Deadpool in the sequel which quite frankly disappointed on all levels. Perhaps, my mood wasn’t quite into hyper-vulgarity or sleazy violence or spoof making.

Deadpool 2 makes fun out of everything from Barbra Streisand in Yentl to the X-Men franchise as well as creating a messy comic book pastiche which doesn’t take itself or the audience to seriously. My view is that as sequels go, this was terrible.

The only redeeming feature of Deadpool 2, is Oscar nominee Josh Brolin (Milk) superb turn as the tortured villain Cable an intergalactic strongman who comes back to the contemporary world to try and stop a mutant teenager Firefist played by Julian Dennison from running rampage in a creepy orphanage run by a sinister headmaster played by the ubiquitous Eddie Marsan (7 Days in Entebbe, Mark Felt, The Exception).

Morena Baccarin reprises her role as Wade Wilson’s girlfriend Vanessa whose romantic life gets tragically cut short.

Audiences definitely have to be in the right frame of mind to watch Deadpool 2 and perhaps I wasn’t. That said, some will find it hilarious while others find it stupid.

Ryan Reynolds obviously doesn’t take his career that seriously and let’s hope there is not going to be a third Deadpool, but knowing the ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe there is always room for more.

Deadpool 2 gets a Film Rating 6 out of 10 and is strictly recommended for audiences that enjoyed the original film.

Ultimately, every film finds a unique audience.

Thanos’s Deadly Compromise

Avengers: Infinity War

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, William Hurt, Letitia Wright, Pom Klementieff, Carrie Coon, Winston Duke

Following the phenomenal success of Thor: Ragnorak and Black Panther, Marvel has capitalized on its extended cinematic universe with the new Avengers: Infinity War featuring a plethora of superheroes from Spiderman to Ironman, from Captain America to The Hulk not to mention bringing in the Guardians of the Galaxy gang for additional support.

If Avengers: Infinity War feels a bit excessive, that’s because it probably is combining the Avengers franchise with that of the more quirky Guardians of the Galaxy. Some fantastic moments occur when Spiderman played by Tom Holland meets Peter Quill aka StarLord played by Chris Pratt or when Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr disagrees with the wizard Doctor Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The snappy dialogue is sometimes lost amidst the greater quest to fight the evil universe destroyer Thanos played by Josh Brolin.

Thanos is equally conflicted about having to gather all the infinity stones including the one for Souls in which he has to make a choice between himself and his adopted daughter Gamora played by Zoe Saldana. In the meantime, his evil minions are wreaking havoc on earth in New York and in the magical technologically advanced African kingdom of Wakanda where Vision played by Paul Bettany along with Captain America  and Scarlett Witch played by Elizabeth Olsen seek the assistance of Black Panther played by Chadwick Boseman.

Audiences have to suspend their disbelief but judging by how packed the cinemas are for Avengers Infinity War, they are quite happy to do so. This film is pure sci-fi fantasy with little of the action taking place on earth. Most of the fight sequences occur on outer galactic planets like Titan.

Thor needs his hammer back and seeks the help of Eitri played by Peter Dinklage who forges a brilliant new weapon out of a powerful star, the celestial capability of which was last seen on the forgotten kingdom of Asgard.

Whilst directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo compile an absolute Geekfest with Avengers: Infinity War with enough alien creatures and superheroes to stockpile Comicon for the next decade, it’s a clear sign that the Marvel Universe has ambitious plans to expand even further.

That said Avengers: Infinity War has a convoluted story line weighed down by too many subplots but if viewers see it as a precursor to a second film then they will not find the surprise ending so disruptive….

Avengers: Infinity War gets a film rating 7.5 out of 10 and is strictly for Marvel comic book fans who have followed all the films from the original Iron Man 10 years ago.

The visual effects are fantastic as will be the box office receipts. See it to believe it.

 

 

Taking Down the West Wing

Mark Felt:

The Man Who Brought Down the White House

Director: Peter Landesman

Cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Lane, Josh Lucas, Tony Goldwyn, Kate Walsh, Marton Csokas, Tom Sizemore, Eddie Marsan, Ike Barinholtz, Maika Monroe, Michael C. Hall, Bruce Greenwood, Julian Morris

Parkland and Concussion director Peter Landesman takes on another factual drama in his detail heavy fictional account of the Watergate scandal called Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the Whitehouse.

It’s April 1972 and Mark Felt, deputy assistant director of the FBI deftly underplayed by a haggard looking Liam Neeson is hoping to get the job of Director of the FBI after the death of J. Edgar Hoover.

Oscar nominee Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List) plays Mark Felt brilliantly, underplaying the amount of stress he is under when Felt is by-passed for the directorship for a Nixon crony Gray played by Hungarian actor Marton Csokas (Noah, The Equalizer).

Felt, who always played his cards very close to his chest, realizes that there is a massive conspiracy within government agencies. These fears are confirmed when the magnitude of the Watergate scandal broke in 1972 in which covert ex-spies where caught red handed breaking into the National Democratic Convention headquarters at the Watergate Hotel just prior to the November elections.

President Nixon got re-elected in November 1972 but Mark Felt soon realizes that a move by the government to capture the integrity and independence of the FBI when the slimy Billy Sullivan is poking around headquarters. Sullivan is suitably played by Tom Sizemore who hasn’t been in many films recently but is most remembered for his roles in Natural Born Killers, Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and Heat.

If audiences like detailed political docudrama then Mark Felt is for them.

Don’t expect action in this drama which is saved by memorable scenes between Neeson and his co-star Oscar nominee Diane Lane (Unfaithful, Trumbo) who plays his wife Audrey Felt as the couple also battle with the disappearance of their wayward daughter Joan played by Maika Monroe (Independence Day).

Mark Felt is a fascinating portrayal of one man’s ability to stick to his own ethics at a time when the Nixon administration was beyond reproach as Felt clandestinely feeds classified information to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward played by Julian Morris and Time magazine journalist Sandy Smith played by Bruce Greenwood.

Felt was indeed the man who brought down the White House and in media circles was known only as deepthroat, a rather sexy title for an informant and extremely valuable source to the Fourth Estate which eventually caused the impeachment of President Richard Nixon and his administration.

Despite the intrigue, Mark Felt does get caught up in the details and scores a film rating of 7 out of 10. It is nevertheless a fascinating film for those that enjoy an intriguing docudrama. 

The film does feature a superb supporting cast including Eddie Marsan, Michael C. Hall, Tony Goldwyn and Josh Lucas. Recommended for viewers that enjoyed director Peter Landesman‘s previous American historical drama Parkland about the assassination of JFK.

 

Title of Dignity

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell, Amanda Warren, Carmen Ejogo, Sam Gilroy, Tony Plana

Oscar winner Denzel Washington (Glory, Training Day) received another Oscar nomination for Best Actor at the 2018 Academy Awards for his betrayal of human rights lawyer Roman J. Israel Esq. in a film of the same name perceptively directed by Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy.

Dan Gilroy expands his notion of urban cinema further in the compelling legal drama Roman J. Israel Esq. whereby the city in this case Los Angeles becomes another character in his film like it did so vividly in the disturbing Nightcrawler.

Its Roman who is living in downtown L.A. who doesn’t drive and catches public transport, living in an old apartment building next to a condominium construction site whereby he continually complains to city authorities about the after all hour noise levels.

Roman J. Israel Esq follows the story of an out of touch human rights lawyer who is unwillingly thrust into the legal limelight when his more esteemed partner has a sudden heartache. Roman takes on a case about a young African-American boy who is accused of killing an Armenian drugstore worker.

However, Roman’s case soon is not what it seems when he falls under the guidance of hotshot attorney George Pierce, a slick oily performance by the impressive Colin Farrell (The Beguiled).

Pierce soon lures Roman into the corporate legal world with plush offices in a downtown skyscraper overlooking a busy Californian highway. Roman also has to contend with his own ethical and moral convictions as he battles with the idea of being seduced by the trappings of wealth and commercialism, which conflict so sharply with his idealistic human rights beliefs.

These beliefs are embodied in Roman’s awkward relationship with the head of a civil rights Non-Profit organisation, Maya Alston played by Nigerian British actress Carmen Ejogo (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them).

Roman’s former law firm is being wrapped up by his incapacitated partner’s niece Lynn Jackson played by Amanda Warren last seen in the Oscar winning Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.

As the case of the young accused becomes increasingly more complex and Roman J. Israel Esq in a desperate bid to earn fast cash does something illegal against all ethical considerations, the consequences of which come crashing down on a L. A. lawyer who like the inner city he dwells in, eventually consumes his entire existence.

Roman J. Israel Esq is a compelling examination of dignity, career ethics and the seduction of wealth, held together by a mesmerizing performance by Denzel Washington who plays the civil rights lawyer grappling to adapt to the changes of a millennial environment, while still listening to his Walkman and clutching a bulging briefcase on a legal motion to transform the Federal law system by giving each defendant a stronger chance of being represented equally and fairly before the law.

Roman J. Israel Esq gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is highly recommended for those viewers that savour a complex and ethically dubious legal thriller filled with conflicting images of paranoia and idealism. 

Operation Thunderbolt

7 Days in Entebbe

Director: Jose Padilha

Cast: Rosamund Pike, Daniel Bruhl, Eddie Marsan, Ben Schnetzer, Nonso Anozie, Mark Ivanir, Denis Menochet, Lior Ashkenzi

Robocop director Jose Padilha directs Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl in the fascinating life recreation of the 1976 Hijack drama of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris which eventually lands up in Entebbe, Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin.

Pike and Bruhl play Baader Meinhof terrorists and PLO sympathisers Brigitte Kuhlmann and Wilfried Bose even speaking German which is a comfort as Bruhl (Rush, The Zookeepers Wife, Inglourious Basterds) is half Spanish half German.

It’s also refreshing to see the Oscar nominee for Gone Girl, Rosemund Pike play a role against type.

Brazilian director Jose Padilha frames the action and tension of 7 Days in Entebbe within an Israeli contemporary dance number which is inventive and clever. The Book Thief’s Ben Schnetzer plays an Israeli soldier who is tasked along with his battalion to rescue the Israeli passengers from a rundown old Entebbe airport terminal, an efficient military exercise known as Operation Thunderbolt.

Nonso Anonzie makes a brief appearance as Idi Amin, but the real star of 7 Days in Entebbe is the almost unrecognizable Eddie Marsan as the Israeli defence secretary Shimon Peres who would one become Prime Minister of Israel. French actor Denis Menochet (The Program) plays a practical Air France flight engineer who attempts to gain sympathy for the plight of the passengers from the inexperienced terrorist Wilfried Bose.

7 Days in Entebbe is a fascinating recreation of one of Israel’s most daring rescue operations which captured the world’s attention at a time when hijacking was a common terrorist threat.

The tone of the film is definitely pro-Israeli but it is refreshing to watch an action drama which is not Americanized in any way but became one of the highlights of the Israeli military back in the summer of 1976.

Director Jose Padilha effortlessly blends real documentary footage with a brilliant recreation of one of the most bizarre hijackings in aviation history in the riveting 7 Days in Entebbe.

Whilst the film could have been edited in parts, 7 Days in Entebbe is a recommended film for audiences that enjoy stories based on real international events, whatever your political views are on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Operation Thunderbolt ticks all the right boxes held together by superb performances by the films three main leads: Rosamund Pike, Daniel Bruhl and Eddie Marsan.

7 Days in Entebbe gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

 

 

Attack on Mount Fuji

Pacific Rim Uprising

 

Director: Steven S. DeKnight

Cast: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Burn Gorman, Charlie Day, Tian Jing, Rinko Kikuchi

Successful sequels only work if they have a cinematic uniformity of vision.

Unfortunately the sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s highly original Pacific Rim (2013) called Pacific Rim Uprising is a paint by numbers sequel without much depth to it beyond massive creatures attacking Tokyo and Honolulu and the defensive Jaegers trying to fight them off.

Featuring rising stars John Boyega (Detroit, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost from Pacific Rim and Scott Eastwood (Fury, Suicide Squad) as Nate Lambert, there are only few of the original cast in the sequel including Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) as Mako Mori and Charlie Day as the crazed tech genius Dr Newton Geiszler.

Unfortunately no Idris Elba or Charlie Hunnam to light up our screens and make this sequel dazzle.

In trying to prevent another attack of the Kaiju on the Pacific Rim cities around the globe, Jake teams up with a young delinquent Amara Namani played by Cailee Spaeny.

Tian Jing (Kong: Skull Island, The Great Wall) plays Liwen Shao , head of a shady Shanghai Tech giant Shao Technologies which plays on introducing drones to control the Jaegers as a defence mechanism against another impending attack of the nefarious Kaiju.

Jake and Amara try to rustle up a team of young recruits but that is soon usurped by a sudden attack in Sydney of a rogue Jaeger. The action moves swiftly onto Tokyo in the most impressive CGI sequence whereby the roaming sea monsters are intent on attacking Mount Fiji while Jake and his team have to fight them off before they reach their volcanic destination.

As an effects laden CGI movie, Pacific Rim Uprising is fun to watch but lacks originality and the script is lacklustre coupled with the uninspiring direction by Daredevil director Steven S. DeKnight.

Pacific Rim Uprising gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is recommended for only those viewers that loved the first film. Otherwise this sequel, like many, is not going to have a broader appeal.

A Nigerian in Mexico

Gringo

Director: Nash Edgerton

Cast: Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, David Oyelowo, Thandie Newton, Amanda Seyfried, Harry Treadaway, Sharlto Copley, Alan Ruck

Joel Edgerton’s brother Nash Edgerton directs this colourful and crazy action comedy Gringo about drug running, kidnapping and evil American corporates. Set in Chicago and Mexico, Gringo plays on all the usual preconceptions about America versus Mexico.

Edgerton plays the obnoxious and self-obsessed American boss Richard Rusk who along with the fiesty blonde man eater Elaine Markinson played by South African Oscar winner Charlize Theron (Monster) who together with fellow employee and fall guy Harold Soyinka, an American Nigerian wonderfully played by David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom, The Paperboy) travel to Mexico to conclude a rather shady drug deal only for Soyinka to be left across the border.

Harold Soyinka ingenuously fakes his own kidnapping only to be really kidnapped not once but twice by a nefarious Mexican drug cartel and Rusk’s brother Mitch, a gung ho mercenary played by another South African star Sharlto Copley (Maleficent, District Nine).

What follows is a dangerous action adventure with enough plot twists to entertain audiences punctuated by some truly witty dialogue, all held together by an hilarious performance by David Oyelowo.

His character Harold Soyinka also crosses paths with a naïve Californian couple Miles and Sunny played by Harry Treadaway and Amanda Seyfried. The best scenes in Gringo are between Seyfried and Oyelowo as they both try and figure out what mess they have got themselves into.

Westworld star Thandie Newton (Jefferson in Paris) has a brief part as Bonnie Soyinka who is not only cheating on her husband but ruining him financially.

Gringo is by no means an excellent film but if audiences don’t take the story too seriously then they should enjoy it. Director Nash Edgerton blends equal part action with comedy creating a serious crime caper with a unique twist. Although he doesn’t necessarily paint Mexico in a flattering light. Think kidnapping, tequila and drug running.

For all its faults, Gringo is a fun film to watch and gets a rating of 7 out 10. The plot is convoluted and at times confusing but the action is sudden and unexpected.

 

 

 

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