Outcast: 'A Darkness Surrounds Him' Review

Robert Kirkman's latest show gets off to a flawed start.

Confirmed: John Boyega to Star in 'Pacific Rim 2'

Boyega joins the sequel hot off the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Box Office: Ninja Turtles 2 Suffers in Anti-Sequel Summer

TMNT 2 is the latest sequel to bring in some disappointing numbers.

Review: Eye in the Sky

Gavin Hood's military drama is an impressive achievement.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Review: Eye in the Sky

Gavin Hood's Eye in the Sky chronicles the unfolding of a complex military situation in Nairobi, where two Al-Shabaab extremists have been found preparing suicide vests for an imminent attack on a populated area. British Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is eager to eliminate them with a drone strike before they have the chance to leave, but the situation is made far more complicated by the arrival of a young girl selling bread who would likely be caught in the blast radius and possibly killed.
This already impossibly difficult situation is made all the more so by the tightly restricted time window those in charge have to make a decision. As Powell points out numerous times, the extremists could potentially leave at any given moment and the consequences of their escape could be devastating. The audience isn't spared from the gut-wrenching indecision as the film takes place more or less in real-time, and feels very much like watching a real military operation in action.
This is an impressive feat, especially when considered that some of the technology in the film is quite clearly beyond what is currently at our disposal. But even with this knowledge, there's a great sense of realism carried throughout this film's runtime and that is because the futuristic tech never distracts from the theme this movie is drawing attention to; that being the ethics of drone warfare.
This is a theme handled with surprising delicacy and sophistication; as characters start taking sides in the debate on whether or not to strike, neither preference is made to seem like the "right" choice nor is either side portrayed as either villainous or heroic. The film is remarkably objective and never tries to force a point of view onto the audience, instead giving us all the arguments and allowing us to form our own opinions on the matter.
This high-tension story is anchored by strong performances across the board with the aforementioned Mirren portraying a hardened Colonel, but still managing to retain a sense of humanity. Aaron Paul, still searching for his place in a post-Breaking Bad world, reminds us why he was the emotional core of that show in his role as American 2nd Lieutenant Steve Watts. As the one who would have to fire the missile, Watts is arguably the most concerned for the life of young girl Alia and displays quite powerfully just how much strain a single day in the military can put on a person's mind. 

Barkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips fame is undercover agent Jama Farah, and as the character in the most imminent danger is easy to empathise with and proves here that his 2013 Oscar-nominated debut was no fluke. Finally, Alan Rickman (who tragically passed away earlier this year) puts in an excellent performance here as Lieutenant General Frank Benson. Rickman manages to perfectly deliver some of the film's comedic lines while never losing his persona as a respected and somewhat intimidating high-ranking member of the military.
Indeed, that is something that could be said for the film as a whole. It does occasionally veer into darkly comic territory in its satire of government and military indecision, while pointing out just how far removed some of the key decision makers can be in situations like this. Still though, it never makes light of the obviously highly sensitive situation it depicts and doesn't become so satirical as to lose the very grounded and brutally realistic tone that it establishes early on.
Eye in the Sky is a thrilling look at the ethics of drone warfare that could quite possibly end up being one of the most thought-provoking films of the year.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Batman v Superman v Daredevil (2003) | Which is Better?

Batman v Superman has a lower score on Rotten Tomatoes than the Daredevil movie from 2003! But is this really accurate? David Craig presents this in-depth exploration of both films, with the intention of deciding once and for all which is the better super-hero movie: Batman v Superman or Daredevil (2003)?

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Review: Midnight Special

This review is spoiler-free.

Midnight Special has been showered with praise by many critics, and so I'm quite disappointed to say that I feel the film has really let me down. Expectations were high given the strong track record of director Jeff Nichols and the impressive cast which counts Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver among its number. Unfortunately though, Midnight Special ends up buckling under its own weight by setting up a mystery it can't satisfyingly solve.

Indeed, it was around halfway through the movie that I began to suspect answers to the many questions this film poses were unlikely to be revealed, and as a consequence what tension the film had began to be drained. This also wasn't helped by its plodding pace and thin characters, many of whom lacked development.

Joel Edgerton's character stands out to me as particularly odd; he explains in the film that he only has a distant relationship with Michael Shannon's character Roy, and yet he seems quite happy to put his life on the line for him and his son while being remarkably unaffected by the young boy's superhuman abilities. This kinds of oversights make these characters feel less real, and in a film focused on exploring superhuman events in a very real-world setting that becomes a problem.

Still, the actors do the best here with what they're given. The entirety of the main cast are at the top of their game right now and it shows; frequent Nichols collaborator Michael Shannon rarely lets us down, while Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver are hot off of recent head-turning performances in Fargo, The Gift, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens respectively. Meanwhile, Nichols was able to find a child actor with real talent, as the young Jaeden Lieberher impresses in only one of his first main roles in a major motion picture.

There are some engaging sequences in Midnight Special, particularly in the film's earlier scenes however when the final act falls apart quite so catastrophically as it does here, it's hard to see those moments as redemption. There is really no pay off to anything in the ending Midnight Special provides, ending with a bizarre sequence intended (I assume) to be emotional and exciting but ultimately failing at being either.

The warm critical reception to this movie implies that for some Midnight Special will be a pleasing experience; however, for those looking for a coherent story that can actually answer the mysteries it sets up I would recommend looking elsewhere.