Friday, 27 April 2012

Review: Avengers Assemble

With great power comes greater egos, and even greater banter!

When the headquarters of secret organisation S.H.I.E.L.D are compromised and a mysterious source of unparallelled power is stolen by the villainous Loki (Tom Hiddleston), brother of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), it is time for S.H.I.E.L.D Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to launch the Avengers Initiative; a programme designed to assemble Earth mightiest heroes into one super team in order to save humanity from an otherworldly threat. However, the process of bringing The Avengers team together was never going to be straight forward, with the complex backgrounds, dynamics, egos and alter-egos clashing between superheroes Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) - the real challenge isn't saving the world, it's just getting along!

With a huge existing fan base from the comic books and the existing films, there is immediately a lot of pressure riding on bringing together four separate film franchises and combining them to create one mega-franchise - alongside the high potential of very easily screwing it up by attempting to do too much with too many characters (this could have very easily become Iron Man 3). However after years of hard work developing and building up towards this one film (with clever hints and sub-plots added to all of the recent Marvel Studios films), director Joss Whedon proves his worth as the man for the job by creating a superhero film that is as fantastic as it is ambitious; successfully merging four franchises into one. The only flaw that I found in the film was that it does start off a little bit slow as the Avengers assemble, something that is to be expected as it is key to the whole film and therefore excusable. However once it pushes past this, the film very quickly takes off in a huge way; flowing with exhilarating action scenes and fantastic humour blended seamlessly together to create one hell of a fun trip.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) battle it out in Avengers Assemble

As an action film, I cannot remember seeing a film as genuinely exciting as Avengers Assemble; a film which features a level of cinematic spectacle and scale that is truly hard to match. One shot in particular, taking place during the final battle sequence with one single tracking shot travelling through the city, switching between and following all of the main heroes as they individually do their own thing as part of one epic scale battle, was mind-blowing executed - I'll never know how they managed to write, storyboard or film this impressive single shot! Alongside this the use of humour is enough to match a comedy film in terms of gags and laugh out loud moments (if the film has anything greater than its level of ambition then it's the number of one liners used!), thanks to the sharp dialogue in Whedon's script and the fantastic acting talents on board too. Ruffalo's Hulk character, arguably the weakest of the four existing franchises, surprisingly steals the show with a number of hilarious slapstick moments that had the whole cinema in hysterics.

Bringing together so many large character based franchises means that above and beyond being a superhero/action/comedy film, this needed to be a strong character piece - and it is. Each character is well written, developed and acted; all with their own equally balanced moments in the spotlight. It is this reason why Avengers Assembles works so well, and is far superior to a lot of other blockbuster films of its kind released today. The focus on characters and plot brings us as an audience into the world more, making us become more emotionally attached. This attachment that we develop makes the action scenes that much more exhilarating, the comic moments that much funnier, and the film as a whole that much more enjoyable and rewarding. Unfortunately a lot of blockbusters released today fall at this hurdle; they have the budget, the scope, the stars and the talents needed to make an incredible experience, but cheaply and lazily fail to develop a good enough script or set of character to make us as an audience feel involved or emotionally invested enough - often leaving us seeing something forgettable and unrewarding. In achieving this so skilfully, Avengers Assemble made me leave the cinema feeling fully satisfied in the knowledge that I had seen something spectacular that would last with me for a long time; a special experience that I won't soon forget - and isn't that what the cinema should do?

My biggest problem with the film? Even despite it's 2 hour 30 minute running time - I left wanting more...

With a lot riding on it, and huge potential to become the biggest disappointment and disaster in the history of film, Avengers Assemble is a well crafted blockbuster that perfectly balances it's fantastic story, plot, action, humour, dialogue, characters, emotion, excitement and spectacle that have leapt out of the minds of Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios and on onto the big screen. In this case bigger is definitely better (if available, IMAX is a highly recommended option); Avengers Assemble breaks the mold to prove that an ambitious and high budget special-effects action blockbuster can provide both spectacle and quality. As one of the most most exciting and funniest films I've seen in a long time, this incredibly fun ride is definitely one to embark upon.

Verdict: 5/5

Avengers Assemble is now showing in cinemas across the UK.

Agree or Disagree? Leave your comments below!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Review: The Hunger Games

This hunger that may put you off your appetite...

Set in a fictitious and dystopian version of Earth, The Hunger Games is an annual event where two young people are selected from each of the 12 districts and then pit against each other in a controlled forest battlefield environment where only one person can survive to become a part of the richer world who watch on through a reality TV show. During the participant selection for District 12 when the particularly young Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is selected as the female candidate, older sister and expert archer Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers herself in her sister's place, and is sent off into a fight for survival with the district's male candidate, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).

Adapted from the original book (the first in a trilogy) by Suzanne Collins, and brought to the big screen labelled as 'the next twilight,'  The Hunger Games actually provides much more for a much larger audience than you would initially expect from what appears to be a film aimed at a teenage girl demographic. Whilst the film is rated a 12A here in the UK (down from a 15 certificate after the cutting of seven seconds of  footage and the digital removal of blood splatter), the film is very dark and mature from the very start; when we are introduced to the character of Katniss in the poverty filled District 12 as she hunts animals in the wood for food. Once the film enters the battle arena after a whole host of training sequences and Olympic style proceedings from the TV show, the events suddenly turn very brutal, with violent killings of and by youths as they literally fight for survival. This is something that I in particular didn't expect to see coming so vividly, meaning that it's certainly not appropriate for some younger viewers and perhaps even some of the older ones either - you have been warned! However whilst I give caution to this, I do at the same time feel that this is actually the film's strong suit too, giving the film a lot more weight and credibility for making it a much darker affair, with a much greater reward for the audience - it simply wouldn't have worked with a lighter family orientated tone.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in The Hunger Games

The film's acting cast, lead by Jennifer Lawrence, is fantastic and work well to bring this world to life. Lawrence in particular does a fantastic job of portraying a very strong female lead character, who is tough yet lovable and upon whom the entire film rides upon and works as a result of - seeing a film with such a female lead character like this was a breath of fresh air to see. Despite this I did feel as if her love relationship with Peeta did weaken her character slightly, with their whole love story becoming cliched and unneeded, pushing the film further towards the anticipated teenage girl demographic; however the twist and questioning of just how genuine their relationship is within the reality show setting did give it a bit more power and weight, helping to justify it a bit more. Aside from that little quip, the film on the whole features a gripping and exciting character driven plot, directed excellently by Gary Ross who creates a visceral world that keeps you enticed and never bored throughout. Whilst it's an not entirely unique story, it certainly is one that hasn't been done like this before or used recently, making it a cinematic treat that you may not have seen coming - if you ignored all of the initial hype generated by the fans of the original books, you better start believing it!

People keep saying that this could be the next big thing in film after the recent Harry Potter and Twilight franchises - I think they may be onto something. Whilst the trailer didn't fill me with much hope, this dark and exciting film definitely isn't the new 'Twilight' teenage girl targeting film that you may go in expecting - it is much, much more. Suitable for a large teen and adult audience of both genders; with bold action, an enticing story and a great cast lead fantastically by Jenifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games certainly isn't one to overlook.

Verdict: 4/5

The Hunger Games is still showing in cinemas across the UK.

Agree or Disagree? Leave your comments below!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Beyond Infinity Film is now on Facebook!

Beyond Infinity film now has its own official Facebook page! Here I'll be posting links too all of my new articles, features and reviews, as well as some other Facebook only exclusives too. Please 'like' it at the the following link, as always all support is greatly appreciated.

To celebrate, as a Facebook launch exclusive I have uploaded a gallery of photos from my trip to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter at Leavesden Studios for your enjoyment. The tour was fantastic and I heartily recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to go - the photos don't do full justice to this fantastic experience: Click here Now!

Don't forget to also follow BIF if you're on Twitter too: @beyondinfinityf

Review: Wrath Of The Titans

Sometimes history is better off left in the past...

Set after the events of 2010s Clash of the Titans, this sequel to the greek mythology adventure picks up with Perseus (Sam Worthington) raising his young son Helius (John Bell) alone after the death of his wife during childbirth. After a series of unfortunate events sees Perseus' father Zeus (Liam Neeson) imprisoned in the underworld by his son Ares (Édgar Ramírez) and brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes), it is up to Perseus to save his father and the world from the impending threat of the rising titans and Kronos - with a little help from his accomplices Agenor (Toby Kebbell) and Andromeda (Rosamund Pike).

It clear from the start that the film has set out to achieve a number of different things, but unfortunately it fails to successfully carry any of them through. The blockbuster budget brings with it a number of expensive CGI creatures and ambitious battle sequences that should excite and entice the audience - instead however the film drags, bores and fails to excite in any way at all. The acting class is stellar with huge names like Neeson, Fiennes and a small cameo from Bill Nighy providing a minor highlight in what is an overly dull film - however the characters are poorly established and lack any depth, making the audience fail to care for them at all; part of the reason why the film is so dull and boring. The filmmakers involved have gone on record to say that they have tried to create more emotion in the sequel, pointing it out as a fault of the first, something that they believe to have fixed through the sub-plots and themes of father and son relationships - all of which fail to encapsulate the audience who just don't care because of its poor execution.

 Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Zeus (Liam Neeson) in Wrath of the Titans

The death of Perseus' wife also attempts to establish emotion and the father and son relationship theme, as well as to enable a new love story between Perseus and Andromeda's characters, however it's almost like the filmmakers forgot to include it and simply tacked it on at the end of the film with a cliched on-screen kiss - with no hints, build-up or character development in their relationship it completely comes out of the blue: or at least it would if the film wasn't as painstakingly predictable, brainless and formulaic as possible. This is possibly the film's biggest problem, there is no character development at all. Anyone who knows anything about film will tell you that character development is crucial to a film, as it's what drives a good film forward and often provides the story and the audience's emotional connection to the events - Wrath of the Titans completely fails to establish any character development, or any deep characterisation at all for that matter, disconnecting us as the spectator and making us uninterested and uncaring to what we are seeing.

With an expensive CGI extravaganza forming such a formulaic and mindless spectacle, Wrath of the Titans provides no reward to its viewing audience. This technically ambitious yet overlong, dull, boring and bland film boasts an impressive array of acting talent who do little to show their potential through characters with no emotion or depth, resulting in a film that at the end of the day we just don't care about. With a budget and cast like Wrath of the Titans has, a film really shouldn't be this poor.

Verdict: 1/5

Wrath of the Titans is still showing in cinemas across the UK.

Agree or Disagree? Leave your comments below!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Review: The Woman In Black

Daniel Radcliffe attempts to defeat his greatest adversary yet: typecasting - in Harry Potter and the Woman in Black!

The classic British horror studio Hammer, the studio behind some of the most iconic horror films including Christopher Lee's Dracula, makes a welcome and much overdue return to the big screen limelight with their adaptation of Susan Hill's 1983 novel: The Woman in Black. Well known to a lot of people today through the terrifying West End stage play, The Woman in Black follows the story of Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), a young solicitor and single father (after the untimely passing of his wife during labour to his son) who has the tricky task of sorting out and selling Eel Marsh House. Soon after his unwelcome arrival to the village, Kipps discovers the tragic curse of the house, and it's paranormal inhabitant; the ghostly Woman in Black.

Directed by James Watkins (Eden Lake) and written by Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class), the film does a very good job of capturing the tensions and thrills of an old fashioned horror film. Numerous scenes of the film are beautifully shot in a way to hide and reveal the ghostly characters in a truly chilling manor. Even the loud-noise moments used to make the viewers jump out their seats - a technique that can often come across as cheap and cheesy with little skill needed and little reward (Paranormal Activity, I'm looking at you!), are done during this film very well too as a way to support the the more subtle and perfectly executed thrills, concepts and themes that allow the film to excel and have greater effect upon its audience. The story itself is fantastically adapted to the big screen, despite the fact as I'm reliably informed that there are some significant changes made from the book and the play. Whilst the ending initially seems slightly rushed and poorly thought out, the film's final conclusion is one that works well for the big screen and makes the film last with its audience long after they leave the cinema.

Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) in The Woman in Black

However the film is far from perfect, with one main problem causing it to unfortunately flounder: Daniel Radcliffe. Whilst Radcliffe has clearly done the job the producers wanted him to do: sell the film to the Harry Potter market (hence the 12A certificate instead of 15) making it one of the most successful British horror films ever made, his performance ultimately lets the film down. As I sat watching the opening scenes as the film introduced his character, I experienced something that I have never experienced before: I sat there thinking "he's just acting" - and worse than that, "he's just trying to act!" Whilst even the biggest actors instantly become their characters within a film rather than leaving the audience remembering their external lives and careers, Radcliffe's poor and unbelievable acting brought me out of the film and prevented me from connecting to his character, background and story - something that is crucial in any film, particularly in this one. This is partly due to the fact that Radcliffe seems too young to be a father figure, but ultimately his performance on the whole lets down the film. Later in the film, when the Scooby-Doo style ghost chase commences, Radcliffe then does the one thing he probably didn't want to do; he becomes Harry Potter, with too much of a similar performance as his character urgently rushes around to save the day. Radcliffe, who clearly needed a film like this in order to separate himself quickly from the heavy burden of the Harry Potter franchise, which has lead his career for the last decade, ultimately fails to establish himself as a serious actor in this film; it'll certainly be interesting to see where his career goes next...

The Woman in Black does a great job of creating a chilling and thrilling ghost story that revisits the old fashioned feel of the classic horror film from the likes of Hammer; thanks to fantastic direction from James Watkins and a brilliantly adapted screenplay by Jane Goldman. However the film feels let down by the main performance by Daniel Radcliffe, who can't seem to shake off the ghost of Harry Potter let alone the ghost of the Woman in Black! In comparison to other recent horror film offerings including the Paranormal Activity and Saw franchises, this film is a horror genre treat that is certainly worth a watch.

Verdict: 3/5

The Woman in Black is still showing in cinemas across the UK.

Agree or Disagree? Leave your comments below!