Posts Tagged ‘Zoe Saldana’

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.

 

 

Starlord’s Genealogy

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Sylvester Stallone, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn

Director James Gunn’s second foray into the Guardians universe is not as brilliant as his original film, mainly because the quirkiness of the characters of the first Guardians of the Galaxy has worn off slightly. If viewers enjoy psychedelic action with lots of CGI then Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 is for you.

All the original cast reprise their roles with a bigger screen time for Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana who both have familial issues to contend with. Pratt’s character Peter “Star Lord” Quill has to contend with unresolved father issues when he meets his dad aptly named Ego charismatically played by Kurt Russell who is definitely having a rejuvenation in his career. While Zoe Saldana’s Gamora has to contend with sibling rivalry with the unexpected arrival of her sister Nebula played by Karen Gillan.

Dave Bautista’s Drax seems to be more contented and has the best lines in the film. While Bradley Cooper who provides the voice of Rocket and Vin Diesel who does the voice of Baby Groot really just had to the star power.

The best scenes in the film are between Kurt Russell and Chris Pratt as Starlord discovers that his biological father is a slight megalomaniac with unresolved desire to consume the universe. Spoiler Alert there!

Sylvester Stallone pops up briefly as Stakar Ogord and unfortunately has too little screen time to give his character any credibility. Chameleon actress Elizabeth Debicki who was so brilliantly in the series The Night Manager and was seen in Macbeth and The Great Gatsby also unfortunately has too little screen time to really give her golden genetically enhanced character Ayesha – Ruler of the Sovereign race any menace although she does look absolutely gorgeous in all that gold.

Elizabeth Debicki should use her remarkable talents as an actress in a far better genre than psychedelic sci-fi  but then again Marvel are calling the shots. Marvel are certainly luring talented stars to play in their films. Just look at the cast of Doctor Strange.

Unlike Doctor Strange which was really well done with awesome special effects, James Gunn’s Guardians 2 with the tag line “Obviously” seems to much of the same and nothing remotely original. Strip away all the CGI and the plot is basically a father and son story about a son who slowly becomes disillusioned with the image of what his father should be, never mind the fatal legacy that Ego has install for Starlord and the rest of the gang.

Fans of the Guardians of the Galaxy will certainly enjoy this hasty sequel but lets face it this version is never as innovative as the original film. Now what remains to be seen is how the Guardians will fare in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity movie scheduled for a 2018 release featuring a combination of all the Avengers, plus Spiderman and the Guardians – Should be fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 is a fantastic fun-filled popcorn film but nothing more. Viewers will be dazzled by fantastic CGI that the whole universe will be dripping with neon.  Although, the Guardians films are enjoyable they are not in the league of Star Wars but then again my loyalties lie elsewhere.

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 gets a rating of 6.5 out of 10 but is strictly for the fans of the first film. Its quirky, fun, but nothing spectacular despite the presence of Kurt Russell and Elizabeth Debicki both of whom add gravitas to an otherwise skimpy plot line. On the plus side – the music is fantastic and Baby Groot is really cute!

A Fallen World

Live By Night

Director: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Sienna Miller, Chris Messina, Chris Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Remo Girone, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Clark Gregg, Anthony Michael Hall

Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Argo, Good Will Hunting) approaches another passion project with the cinematic adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s riveting gangster novel Live By Night about the rise of Irish mobster Joe Coughlin.

Set in Prohibition era America in the mid 1920’s, Live By Night features Affleck as the main character as well as him adapting the screenplay and directing the film version. To his credit, Affleck assembles a fine cast including an unrecognizable Sienna Miller as the gangster’s moll with a strong Irish accent, Emma Gould who Coughlin first meets in Boston.

Also in the cast are Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) as Coughlin’s father Thomas who happens to be Boston police chief, Oscar winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation) as Tampa police chief Figgis, Elle Fanning (Trumbo, Maleficent) in a stand out role as a recovering heroin addict Loretta Figgis and Zoe Saldana as Cuban beauty Graciela whom Coughlin eventually falls in love with after he moves to Tampa, Florida after fleeing Boston.

If viewers have not read Lehane’s book they might find the film version of Live By Night drawn out with a screenplay which delivers but doesn’t elevate the film to such genre classics as The Untouchables, Casino or even Goodfella’s.

Whilst the gorgeous period production design of Live By Night can be applauded as well as some stunning sequences in Florida, where after the initial gloom of Boston, the film definitely brightens to show a much more diverse and fascinating world in the deep South, the overall effect of Live By Night is laboured but not exhilarating.

Personally I loved the film, but I had read the novel so knew ahead what was install.

Ben Affleck’s ambitious plans to write, direct and star in a big screen adaptation of the novel might fall short, although his effort in doing so is admirable. What does elevate Live By Night are the superb supporting cast including Sienna Miller who after Burnt and Foxcatcher has an ability to disappear into any screen role and certainly is one of the most underrated actresses in Hollywood. Fanning as a bible preaching morally conflicted young woman comes across as sacrificial, yet her performance is brilliant despite the minimal screen time.

The best scenes in the film are between Affleck and Chris Messina who is wonderful as Coughlin’s best friend and crime partner, the wise cracking Dion Bartolo, a role which he played against type. It is refreshing to watch Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy) play in a period film as the gorgeous Cuban business woman Graciela although her role in the film is not as detailed as it is in the novel.

What Affleck does successfully is portraying America as a Fallen World, where as prohibition ends, there is nothing left except repression, bigotry and violence. Live By Night is a gritty, stylish and violent gangster film similar to Gangster Squad but not as brilliant as Bugsy or Public Enemies.

Audiences should only see Live By Night if they are ardent fans of gangster films, a genre which is difficult to get right at the best of times. Despite Affleck’s talent as a director, he is no Martin Scorsese or Brian de Palma. Although his evocative visual efforts should be commended.

Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Gangster Squad.

 

Gamora and the Infinity Stones

Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians_of_the_galaxy_ver2

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker, Glenn Close, Djimon Hounsou, Benicio del Toro, Lee Pace, Brad Cooper, Dave Bautista, John C. Reilly

Marvel’s sci fi action adventure Guardians of the Galaxy is like Star Wars on acid with an exceptionally cool soundtrack, featuring some 70’s and 80’s classics. Part comedy, part adventure, director James Gunn successfully mixes comic adventure with intergalactic chaos and mischief.

Featuring a suitably toned down Chris Pratt (Zero Dark Thirty) superbly cast as rebel Starlord, Peter Quinn who while rummaging on an abandoned planet discovers a mysterious orb which soon elicits a whole bunch of ragtag and riotious characters from all corners of the Galaxy as they race to claim the orb for themselves. The Guardians of the Galaxy featuring the amiable and funny Peter Quinn with some serious mommy issues, along with green skinned Gamora, played by Avatar star Zoe Saldana along with a talking racoon (yes you read that right) voiced by Bradley Cooper and a walking tree, with a severely limited vocabulary, voiced by Vin Diesel.

Guardians of the Galaxy is psychedelic sci-fi and not visionary like Elysium or Blade Runner, making no attempts to conceal its main target audience – teenage boys who have followed the comic book series of the same name. The film even retains a comic book feel and with some exceptionally interesting visual effects, Guardians certainly does make use of its 3D appeal.

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This is like Star Wars on LSD for a younger generation, but hugely enjoyable, thanks to the casting of comic actor Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldanha as Gamora, who are both after the powerful and illustrious infinity stones, which they soon hand over to the Collector, a wonderful cameo by Benicio del Toro, who was also seen in the closing credits of Thor: The Dark World.

Veteran actress Glenn Close (101 Dalmations) makes a camped up appearance as Prime Nova, a cipher of her Cruella de Ville character along with John C. Reilly and Djimon Hounsou of Blood Diamond fame.

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Lee Pace plays the evil Ronan who with his extraordinary makeup and pharaoh like costume is hellbent on destroying the Universe along with his adopted daughter Nebula played by Karen Gillian. Naturally the ragtag bunch of Guardians band together and fight the onslaught of the Kree against the fabulous planet Xander, which looks like Dubai on steroids.

Guardians of the Galaxy must have been a massive hit at San Diego’s Comicon and it’s not difficult to see why, humour mixed with romance, good versus evil all enveloped in a wildly over the top action adventure which makes the first Star Wars positively tame. Except that Star Wars was a classic and this sci-fi is not aiming to be anything more than merely fun and amusing much like the comics the story is based on. Marvel definitely got the concept right.

Recommended viewing for geek freaks and not to serious sci-fi fans, making Guardians definitely fall into the frivolous popcorn fodder category. Hugely enjoyable, with lots of implied moral messages, but this film does not aspire to be Alphonso Cuaron’s Gravity, this is Guardians of the Galaxy featuring Gamora and the infinity stones! Besides who can take this film seriously when there is a talking racoon and a tree in it?

 

A Dazzling Enterprise

Star Trek: Into Darkness

star_trek_into_darkness_ver4

Director: J. J. Abrams

Cast: Chris Pine, Anton Yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Alice Eve, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison, John Cho, Peter Weller, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Bruce Greenwood

Director J.J. Abrams dazzling reinvention of the Star Trek franchise continues with the glossy sequel to the 2009 smash hit Star Trek with Star Trek: Into Darkness, pulling together the same cast from the original and then adding the amazing talents of big screen-newcomer Benedict Cumberbatch (last seen in the extraordinary Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as the evil villain and celestial terrorist Khan, a reinvented character from the 1982 film: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Star Trek: Into Darkness opens with a spectacular volcanic sequence on a primal planet in which Captain Kirk rescues his half Vulcan friend Spock from near extinction to the 23rd century high tech metropolises such as London and San Francisco. Meanwhile back on Earth the sinister superhuman Khan destroys an Enterprise space library in central London and then wages an attack on the commanding officers of the Enterprise fleet at their Californian headquarters before fleeing Earth for a Klingon refuge on a distant planet.

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Captain Kirk played with boisterous heroism by Chris Pine and his team including Zachary Quinto as Spock, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Zoe Saldana as Uhura and ubiquitous Karl Urban as Bones, John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov head to the outer reaches of Klingon galactic territory and capture Khan, whose wily ways are only revealed as they head back towards earth. Cumberbatch is really superb as the sinister villain and far out does any of his co-stars maybe with the exception of Quinto’s slightly robotic yet sensitive Spock.

The unrequited love between Kirk and Spock is highlighted in a particularly touching scene when the dashing Captain appears to be dying in the heart of the Star Trek Enterprise and Chris Pine’s gorgeous blue eyes make the audience feel for his unfulfilled love as he seemingly expires due to radiation exposure under the mournful gaze of Quinto’s Spock.

But never fear Trekkies, Spock takes revenge on Khan and in a brilliantly orchestrated chase sequence through 23rd century San Francisco resulting in an extraordinary fight sequence aboard an industrial spacecraft, not to mention a crashing spacecraft taking out Alcatraz.

Whilst Star Trek: Into Darkness has less characterization as the 2009 Star Trek, it really is Cumberbatch’s film as he makes the villain into a truly deceptive sinister terrorist with some superb dialogue.  The rest of the supporting cast ham it up in their Trekkie uniforms without too much in depth characterization whilst the only subplot to attract minor interest is Alice Eve as the blonde weapons expert Carol channeling the Nicole Kidman look as she reveals her complex relationship with her dubious father veteran Captain Marcus played by Peter Weller from Robocop fame.

Star Trek: Into Darkness is for true sci fi fans and whilst not in the same thought-provoking existential vein as Ridley Scott’s Prometheus or Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion, it is pure glossy sci-fi entertainment and sure to remain an inspiration at future Comicon conventions , not to mention Trekkie conventions from Tokyo to Anaheim.

After all what can audiences expect from the producers of the successful Hawaii 5 0 series, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman but another action-packed brilliant bromance, however this time the visual effects and excellent sound editing triumph over characterization whilst the script retains its mythological narrative that has made the Star Trek franchise so enduring and iconic.

From Bogota to Turkish Revenge

Taken 2

Getting Tested in Turkey

Los Angeles always used to be portrayed cinematically as a potentially dangerous place, but now in the much anticipated sequel to Taken, aptly named Taken 2, it is the more exotic location of Istanbul that is proving to be treacherous with shady Albanians bent on revenge on retired CIA operative Brian Mills played with zest by Liam Neeson and his family who make a brief visit to the Turkish city.

Taken 2 follows a very similar storyline to Olivier Megaton’s 2011 hit Columbiana featuring the agile Zoe Saldanha who escapes crime ridden Bogota to the safety of America where she trains to be a superb and silent assassin in Chicago to avenge her parents’ murder by the king of a Colombian drug cartel.

Colombiana

Colombiana was big on storyline as well as action and highly engaging featuring a great supporting cast including Callum Blue, Michael Vartan and Cliff Curtis. Megaton’s directorial traits as demonstrated in Colombiana are repeated with less flourish in Taken 2, expertly making use of Istanbul as a fantastic action location as he did with Bogota and Chicago. Where Colombiana succeeded was that the narrative was more original and the action sequence more inventive especially as it wasn’t a sequel. Where Taken 2 succeeded was that it was brilliant as formulaic sequel using the similar revenge, kidnap and violence scenario of the original film Taken.

The 2008 film Taken was set in Paris and directed by Pierre Morel, both films were penned by the writing duo Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.  Taken 2 and Columbiana have all the traits of a Luc Besson film echoing his ventures as a director in Leon, the Professional and the groundbreaking 1997 hit The Fifth Element. Luc Besson as screenwriter has penned lots of high volume action films over the past decade including The Transporter series, From Paris with Love and Revolver, so while Taken 2 is not as fulfilling plot wise as the original it is just as watchable.

Taken

Using the same cast from the original film Taken (always a good recipe for a successful sequel), Taken 2 features an overprotective and ultra-alert Liam Neeson as Mills along with neurotic ex wife Lenore played by Famke Janssen and more switched on daughter Kim played by Maggie Grace as they journey to Istanbul.

Taken 2 is not big on plot but really a sequel to the success of the original film, involving expertly edited action sequences and some brilliant inventive sound editing which makes it a rather quick and violent excursion in Istanbul not to mention an engaging high velocity action thriller. Maggie Grace shines as the daughter and Megaton’s fluid direction makes Taken 2 a thrill ride making the most of the Turkish city without having to engage too much of the viewers intellect. In fact it is the city Istanbul and Maggie Grace which makes Taken 2 so watchable and those superb 30 minutes after the initial kidnapping has occurred. It’s no wonder that both Taken and Taken 2 has made a killing at the box office.

If viewers enjoyed Colombiana, Taken, From Paris with Love, then Taken 2 will be the perfect way to spend 91 minutes watching Neeson do what he does best. Take revenge in a foreign city in this case Turkish revenge where Istanbul is a nefarious environment and Los Angeles is inadvertently portrayed as a relative safe haven.

Virtual Colonialist Diatribe

Avatar

avatar

James Cameron much anticipated Avatar is a simulacrum of CGI images which will dazzle the viewers but leave any intelligent probing of colonialism in a virtual capacity as a hollow fantasy without any true substance, leaving the human characters to languish in a wilderness of special effects without a thread of credibility…. there again – it is billed as a fantasy epic – a strange mixture of Ferngully on Acid mixed with GI Joe Transformers – where are those corporates digging for precious metals?

Too little of such great talents as Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi are used purposefully onscreen while Sam Worthington’s avatar is as solid as it is imaginary, as two dimensional as the proverbial battle between the indigenous popultion, the Na’vi and the humans which seek to destroy and colonize Pandora

First half is stunning but once Pandora ‘s delights are discovered, it all goes South from there and the machines bring destruction and a new dawn…

Irony of the film is that the earth-loving Pandoreans would never have been created ten years ago without the 21st Century digital technology….

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Blade Runner, Babylon AD and Chronicles of Riddick do far better in the originality arena… held up by the bastions of Science Fiction Star Wars and the recent brilliant Star Trek.

 

 

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