Film Review: Big Hero 6

BIG HERO 6

Disney’s Big Hero 6 is an entertaining and engaging animated feature. The film offers enough to satisfy viewers of all ages.

Living in the city of San Fransokyo, young prodigy Hiro is encouraged to use his skills for something other than robot fighting. When Hiro develops a special bond with inflatable robot Baymax, who helps him investigate after a devastating event…

Big Hero 6 offers the best of Disney in terms of animation, a story with heart and humour. The heart of Don Hall and Chris Williams’ film lies in the character development. The main characters in the film are multi-faceted, and thus more convincing than protagonists in some animated features.

The relationship between Hiro and Baymax is both humorous and touching. There is the physical comedy of Baymax present, but also a more engaging relationship that develops between the pair. Supporting characters are more one-dimensional, but this is to be expected given their limited screen time.

Big Hero 6‘s narrative takes a little while to unfold, but this is necessary given the need for character development. The film blends a number of genres, including action adventure, drama and mystery. Big Hero 6 throws up a significant red herring in the mystery element of the film. This functions successfully to divert the audience’s attention.

Pacing in Big Hero 6 is good. The film allows or relationships to develop without neglecting action. The action sequences work well to exhibit the more imaginative side to the futuristic world created in the film. Animation is strong throughout the film. The use of 3D is subtle, and blends well into the animated world presented in Big Hero 6. The soundtrack is a fitting accompaniment to the on screen action.

Big Hero 6 is the latest in a line of well-executed Disney animated features, where narrative is not neglected in place of spectacle. Big Hero 6 manages to offer a great balance of these.

Film Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service is an entertaining spy comedy, very much in the style of director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman’s previous work.

A veteran agent at a super secret spy agency is tasked with bringing in a new recruit for trials. Eggsy does not fit the profile of a regular Kingsman, but the agency has a new threat to worry about…

Kingsman: The Secret Service entertains throughout, with its brand of comedy, action and ultra violence. Based on the comic book, Kingsman has a similar feel to Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman’s Kick-Ass. Those who enjoyed the superhero film will surely admire this latest effort.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a little predictable in its plotting. Nevertheless, the film offers enough charm to maintain its appeal. Kingsman plays with spy movie conventions. at times overtly as a source of humour as well as tension. The villain eschews archetypal traits in a humorous fashion. Protagonist Eggsy is a fish out of water, and this aspect works well in the relationship he has with his mentor.

Violence in the film is so gratuitous that it loses its effect to shock; instead it becomes cartoonish. This is particularly the case with the obvious special effects employed. Comedy is intentionally derived from this over the top violence; especially in a few standout sequences. Action in Kingsman: The Secret Service is good. Matthew Vaughn directs these sequences with the right amount of frenetic energy. The soundtrack is used to good effect.

Colin Firth plays the type of character he is often associated with, however he subverts this image with action. Taron Egerton is well cast as Egsy, bringing a likeability to the character. Samuel L. Jackson is also amusing.

Kingsman: The Secret Service works very well as a diverting action comedy. Although the film does not stretch beyond this, there is little to fault overall.

Stuff To Look At

A plethora of movie trailers and clips on Oscar nomination day, including Avengers: Age of Ultron, Blackhat and Cake

Avengers: Age of Ultron

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It all looks very, very bad in sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron. Where are jokes of Loki? From the above trailer, it looks like this Marvel instalment will have a more serious tone. Not that this is a bad thing, as last year’s superlative Captain America: The Winter Soldier can attest to. Avengers: Age of Ultron hits UK cinemas on 24th April 2015.

Selma

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So Selma may have been snubbed for several awards, but at least it has received a Best Picture nod from the Academy. Starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., Selma tells the story of his struggle to secure voting rights for African Americans. The film is released in the UK on 6th February 2015.

Cake

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Jennifer Aniston may have been snubbed for a Best Actress nomination at this year’s Oscars, but Cake still seems worth a look. A dark comedy, the film focuses on Aniston’s character and dubious relationship with a widower. Cake will be released in UK cinemas on 20th February 2015.

Blackhat

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Director Michael Mann delves into the world of global cybercrime with his latest thriller Blackhat. Starring Chis Hemsworth and Viola Davis, the film concentrates on convicted hacker who is helping the government tackle a network of criminals. Blackhat hits UK screens on 20th February 2015.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

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Following yesterday’s world premiere of Kingsman: The Secret Service, here is a clip from the film. Following the success of Kick-Ass, screenwriter Jane Goldman and writer-director Matthew Vaughan team up again for another adaptation of a comic book. Kingsman: The Secret Service is released on 29th January 2015.

Run All Night

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Here is the trailer for action thriller Run All Night. The film is about a prolific hit man played by Liam Neeson. Also starring Ed Harris and Joel Kinnamen, Run All Night is set for release in the UK on 1st May 2015.

Inherent Vice

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This clip from Inherent Vice sees Joaquin Phoenix reunited with his Walk The Line co-star Reese Witherspoon. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and with a stellar cast, Inherent Vice hits UK screens on 30th January 2015.

Preview of Coming Attractions: Disney in 2015

This year sees the release of numerous films under the Disney banner, ranging from sci-fi adventure (Tomorrowland – A World Beyond), fairy tale musicals (Into The Woods), superhero movies (Avengers: Age of Ultron), and re-envisioned classics (The Jungle Book). Here are some highlights from Disney in 2015…

Big Hero 6

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Above is an introduction to Baymax, one of the stars of Disney’s Big Hero 6. The film is about Hiro, a young robotics expert who spends his time competing in back alley robot fights. Although the film was produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, several members of Marvel’s creative team were involved in the production of Big Hero 6.

See it because: Big Hero 6 has been getting rave reviews from critics and audiences.

Big Hero 6 is released in UK cinemas on 30th January 2015.

Cinderella

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Disney’s live action version of fairy tale Cinderella looks sumptuous. Starring Lily James, Richard Madden and Helena Bonham Carter, the film looks set to dazzle with costume designer Sandy Powell’s collaboration with Swarovski for the jewellery and costumes, including the crystal slipper.

See it because: Cate Blanchett will surely be a wonderful wicked stepmother.

Cinderella hits UK screens on 27th March 2015.

Ant-Man

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The above trailer for Ant-Man was released this week, giving viewers a taste of what to expect from Marvel’s latest comic book adaptation. Starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, the film brings one of the lesser-known Avengers to the big screen for the first time.

See it because: The curiosity factor of seeing a miniature superhero.

Ant-Man is released in UK cinemas on 17th July 2015.

Inside Out

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Pixar Animation Studio’s newest feature looks to be a lot of fun, judging from the above trailer. The film takes viewers inside the mind, looking at the emotions based in its headquarters. Inside Out features the voices of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling.

See it because: The imaginative Pixar seem to have done it again with this film.

Inside Out his UK cinemas on 24th July 2015.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Giving Avengers: Age of Ultron a run for its money in the hotly-anticipated movie stakes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens sees the big screen return of the sci-fi franchise. With the cast of the film still growing, there is still a lot to be revealed about the seventh Star Wars film.

See it because: Director J.J. Abrams did a good job re-invigorating the Star Trek franchise; hopefully he can work his magic here.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is due to be released on 18th December 2015.

Film Review: Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher

Director Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher is a subtle but incredibly effective film. Great performances and strong direction make for a memorable film.

Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz is asked to train at a new wrestling facility built on the estate of wealthy heir John du Pont. Training for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, John requests that Mark bring his brother, revered champion Dave Schultz, and the rest of the team to his estate where he acts as sponsor to the team…

Foxcatcher is a slow burner with a lasting after effect. Based on real events, the film is meticulous in its character development and build up. The narrative unfolds at a glacial pace, allowing the characters and set up to breathe. Character development in Foxcatcher is never rushed, a factor which allows the feeling of unease to grow.

The crux of Foxcatcher takes a while to develop; those unfamiliar with the story may not know quite where the film is heading for a good portion of the duration. The effect of Foxcatcher, particularly the climax, is that it stays in the mind long after the film has ended. The themes of dependence and control become more potent as the film continues.

Bennett Miller’s direction is strong, in both the action sequences and the character-driven scenes. The atmosphere generated in the film is pervasive. The unnerving feeling grows as the film progresses, thanks to Miller’s careful crafting. Foxcatcher’s  great score also adds to this atmosphere.

Steve Carell delivers a memorable performance as John du Pont; portraying the unease and instability of the character in a most convincing manner. Channing Tatum is decent as Mark Schultz, but it is Mark Ruffalo who really impresses in his supporting role.

Foxcatcher‘s dependence on character and mood really pays off. The end product is a film which will stay with viewers after the credits have rolled.

Foxcatcher was screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2014.

Film Review: Into The Woods

Into The Woods

Rob Marshall’s musical fairy tale Into The Woods is an entertaining watch which should satisfy fantasy fans.

Longing to have a child, a baker and his wife are tasked by a witch to retrieve enchanted items from different fairy tales. If they can procure these items on time, the curse of their family tree will be lifted…

An adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical, Into The Woods sticks faithfully to its musical theatre roots. Rather than a film littered with musical numbers, much of the film’s dialogue is encompassed by talk-singing.

Rob Marshall directs Into The Woods with confidence. It is clear that he is having fun with the musical genre. The film is well paced, and has a winning mix of jauntiness and feeling.

Into The Woods is a story of two parts. The first part stays true to the fairy tale tradition. Appearances are of classic fairy tales, albeit with a hint of subversion. The second part of the film turns much of what came before on its head. Into The Woods plays with what viewers expect to happen in these well known tales, producing a musical that may surprise viewers unfamiliar with the source material.

Themes of identity and morality permeate Into The Woods, the latter being very typical of the fairy tale genre. The film plays with character archetypes, subverting some well-known characters with amusing or surprising results.

Production values in the film are good. At times, Into The Woods has the feel of a theatre set; in keeping with its origins and fantasy elements. Special effects are good, as is the art direction. Meryl Streep appears to be having a ball with her camp portrayal, whilst Anna Kendrick is well cast in the young maiden role. Chris Pine is also a wonderfully outlandish prince.

A must-see for musical fans, Into The Woods is glimmer of fun and frivolity for a grey January.

Film Review: Birdman

Birdman

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is an immensely satisfying black comedy which is skilfully crafted and finely executed.

Riggan, who hit the big time playing film superhero Birdman, is trying to make a comeback on Broadway. Directing and starring in a new play, Riggan must contend with family, co-actors, and his superhero past…

Director and co-writer Alejandro González Iñárritu has created a marvellous piece of cinema with Birdman. González Iñárritu controls the action with precision, but makes everything look endlessly natural and unrehearsed.

Birdman marries its different themes well. The film works on different layers; as a meta comedy, as surreal gameplay, and as tragic drama. Birdman is well paced, unfolding in a manner that is both engaging and unpredictable.

Comedy in González Iñárritu’s film is tight. There are lots of amusing asides to real actors and indeed the actors playing in the film. Part of the amusement arises from the film playing absurd situations straight; the comic effect here is most successful. Drama in the film works well also, thanks to the strength of performances. The script at times has an almost old-fashioned, rapid-fire quality to it, which is very welcome.

Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is a marvel. Lubezki captures both the claustrophobic freneticism of backstage, and the wonderfully abstract visuals of the more surreal sequences. The lack of obvious editing gives the film an energetic feel.

In this film about a former superhero star making a comeback, Michael Keaton is fantastic. The protagonist delivers a tour de force performance, serving as a timely reminder of what a great performer Keaton is. Acting is faultless across the board, with Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis delivering strong performances.

Birdman has hitherto received significant critical attention for good reason. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film is essential viewing. 

Film Review: The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything

Twee drama The Theory of Everything is well acted, and looks the part. James Marsh’s film strive for sentiment is not wholly successful however.

Whilst a student at Cambridge, Stephen Hawking meets Literature student Jane Wilde. As their relationship develops, Stephen is diagnosed with motor neurone disease. The couple must overcome these difficulties, whilst Stephen pursues his promising career…

Director James Marsh offers a pleasant portrait of a relationship in The Theory of Everything. The film depicts the depth of feeling between Stephen and Jane. In this sense, it feels authentic.

The Theory of Everything touches upon Stephen Hawking’s career as punctuations on a journey, but does not excavate into his theories in any detail. Instead, the film concentrates on the couple’s relationship in this period. The nature of Stephen’s illness is a key factor in the relationship, and this is dealt with using physicality more than anything, and humour as appropriate.

The Theory of Everything is twee in its style and sentiment. Perhaps the depiction of Stephen and Jane’s marriage is realistic, but it is completely nice. In cinematic terms, this means that there is no strong dramatic curve. At times, Marsh and screenwriter Anthony McCarten aim at emotion, but deliver pleasantry. This would not necessarily be a bad thing, but the film lacks a hook which would make it truly engaging.

Eddie Redmayne offers a convincing performance as Stephen Hawking. The physicality of his performance appears authentic; he seems to embody the well known character. Felicity Jones is solid as Jane, and Charlie Cox offers decent support as Jonathan. Costumes and art direction go a long way to set the scene.

Those expecting a biopic of the famed scientist might be disappointed by The Theory of Everything. The film is a romantic drama first and foremost. The Theory of Everything is congenial, even if it lacks dramatic punch.

Film Review: The Woman in Black: Angel of Death

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death

Sequel The Woman in Black: Angel of Death shifts action to the surrounds of World War II, although supernatural trickery remains intact.

During World War II a group of young children are evacuated out of London. Under the care of their teachers, the children are taken to stay at Eel Marsh House, where they are not alone…

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death retains the setting of the first film, based on Susan Hill’s novel. What changes are the characters and the period. The World War II setting works well both as a catalyst for the plot, and as a eerie setting. The house remains the same, albeit with the further decay that the change in era would bring.

In the same way as 2011’s The Awakening, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death uses the devastation of war as a backdrop for the supernatural horror that occurs. The prevalence of death and destruction seems like an apt climate for ghostly occurrences.

Like its predecessor The Woman in Black, director Tom Harper’s film constructs tension by showcasing unusual activity slowly to begin with, building to a near crescendo for the finale. The scares are typical of the supernatural genre, with little to surprise in terms of style.

The plot of The Woman in Black: Angel of Death is fairly predictable in terms of its shifts and outcomes. Characters in this instalment are more ready to believe in the unexplained than in other films of this ilk; a welcome change. However the main characters are rather one-dimensional in their backgrounds and development. Phoebe Fox certainly looks the part as protagonist Eve, whilst Jeremy Irvine is decent as Harry.

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death will satisfy those looking for run of the mill supernatural scares, but does not elevate itself above this. Sufficiently entertaining, but an unoriginal watch.

Film Review: Big Eyes

Big Eyes

Tim Burton’s long-awaited return to form Big Eyes is an engaging story which offers strong performances from its leads.

Margaret is an artist and a single mother in the 1950s. She paints portraits, giving her subjects strikingly large eyes. When a fellow artist enters her life, she finds success at a price…

Tim Burton offers something viewers have not seen from him in the last decade. Big Eyes focuses heavily on character and story, and features a cast that the director has not previously worked with. The result is a film holds the attention, and feels refreshing in the scope of the filmmaker’s recent work.

Big Eyes‘ narrative is constructed effectively; the film never seems overlong. It is a character driven piece, with focus given to the two central characters and the way in which their relationship develops. Both the characters and the changing relationship are believable.

Big Eyes is a drama, but it is not without moments of comedy. Burton does well to maintain a sober air in the moments that matter. Despite some passionate scenes, the Big Eyes never becomes melodramatic, and is a better film for this. The script is well crafted to illustrate the highs and lows of the central relationship, and it does this with drama, humour and sincerity.

Cinematography in Big Eyes makes the most of the film’s locations. Art direction also works well, with the period setting rendered seemingly authentic. Colleen Atwood’s costumes are as delicious as ever. Big Eyes‘ score is also great, exhibiting the range of composer Danny Elfman even when working with his most recognised collaborator. Amy Adams is expressive in a way that mirrors Margaret Keane’s work. Her performance is solid throughout. Christoph Waltz delivers another powerhouse performance, believable in his character’s charm and menace.

Big Eyes tells the story behind the well-known images. Hopefully the director’s next projects will run in a similar vein.