Category Archives: Adventure

Thor: Ragnarok – Taiki Waititi

I really like Marvel Comics movies and of all those I love the Thor movies. With Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as Loki it’s a no miss buddy God franchise. What can I say. Instead of saving the Earth this time Thor saves Asgard from his sister – the evil Hela played but Cate Blanchett. The special effects are great, the supporting cast of Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbach, Anthony Hopkins, Karl Urban, Idris Erlba and especially Jeff Goldblum you really can’t miss. Goldblum is classic in a totally comic role and a new comer – Tessa Thompson also provides great comic relief. I have to admit that comic relief from a script that is totally tongue in cheek is not really necessary, but it is really fun anyway. Not Oscar stuff but truly Great Trash!! I promise. If you like super heroes you will love this movie. Oh by the way, the director Taiki Waititi is a New Zealander and plays a cameo role. You won’t recognize him except by his broad New Zealand accent since he plays a rock creature. The movie is up there with Guardians of the Galaxy in my opinion and I really like Stan Lee taking such delight in having fun with his characters. Oh yeah, Stan Lee also has a cameo. Look for him when you go to see it.

Kong: Skull Island – Director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Okay… I guess many think “oh my God not another King Kong movie! Its been done to death”. There is some truth to this and I also thought this when I first heard about it but… It’s awesome. What changed my mind was the cast that includes Tom Hiddleston (the Night Manager), John Goodman (Argo, Trumbo and many others) Brie Larson (Room), Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane) and John C. Reilly (The Lobster). Then a review from Eli Glasner who described it as a B-movie on steroids and others who called it Apocalypse Now meets Kong. I was sold and when I went I was not disappointed. Glasner was absolutely right and as soon as you suspend disbelief and get into the fun you will enjoy this movie. Hiddleston is great in the lead role and everyone in the cast is clearly having a great time. The special effects are also excellent. Set in the early 1970’s the story is about an expedition of scientists with an army escort heading off to a mysterious island in the remote Pacific. Once they arrive it is not long before they encounter Kong and not only Kong but a whole island of monsters from which they must escape. Brie Larson is a great Fay Wray, John C. Reilly adds comic relief as a World War II US pilot who crash landed on the island and has been there for more than 30 years. All in total fun and adventure. Enjoy.

Lion – Director, Garth Davis

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Lion is an interesting movie and actually quite enjoyable. Briefly it tells the story of a very young Indian child (Saroo) from a poor family in a poorer village who gets lost in the chaos of life in that country. He is rescued from a several potentially horrible fates but no one can find his family and he is too young to help them. He is adopted by a family in Australia where he is raised to adulthood. Haunted by his childhood memories of his mother and brother he finally decides to track them down. The movie is a great ad for Google Earth which is the tool he uses to search for the village he was born in. He is finally reunited with his mother and the film ends happily. This is no spoiler as the film is richer than the outcome of the search and there is much about the finding that I have not shared. The film is in two parts. The first hour follows the young boy as he is lost, escapes several potentially awful fates and ends up in Australia. We then jump ahead 20 years to him as a young adult and follow his efforts to seek out his roots. Dev Patel plays the older Saroo and has won a BAFTA for his performance but I actually liked Sunny Pawar who played Saroo as a child. I am unable to find out his age but did learn that he is very young, beat out 2000 other children to win the part and was unable to attend the US premiere of the film because he was denied a visa. Really??? The US is pretty messed up even before Trump. I am guessing the movie will not win Best Picture but it might very well win Best screenplay. It is adapted from an autobiographical story and is based on a true story. The latter fact is interesting because the story is an amazing adventure and helps prove the adage that truth is stranger than fiction or at least as strange.

Hacksaw Ridge – Director, Mel Gibson

I have to admit I was sceptical about this movie when I went to see it. Mel Gibson has been, let us say, controversial in recent years although I have always been fan from the days of Gallipoli, Mad Max, and Lethal Weapon to name but a few. My philosophy has always been to like the actor’s roles if not the actor’s real persona (i.e. Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey etc). But Directors are something else. Gibson however dazzles in this film. A warning to those who do not like graphic violence or depictions of battle, you may not enjoy some of the scenes. The film tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector in the Second World War who enlisted and served as a medic. He refused to carry a weapon which cost him much respect from his fellow soldiers and commanders during his training and initial deployments. At the battle of Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa, he redeems himself in the eyes of his comrades. As the marines were beaten back by Japanese troops he remained at the top of the ridge and single handedly rescued 75 wounded soldiers one by one including his commanding officer. He is the only medic to receive the Congressional Medal of Honour for bravery under fire. The story of his struggle and the respect he won for his bravery and his refusal to carry a weapon and kill others is exciting and moving. At the end of the film some of the characters who are alive are interviewed and lend reality to what is a remarkable film. It has five nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and three technical awards for Sound and Editing all deserved. The fact that it has not received any acting nominations is somewhat disappointing. I thought the performance of Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss and Hugo Weaving as his father were superb. The editing nomination is also well deserved as you sit on the edge of your seat during the rescue of the 75. Clearly Mel has learned something after all these years of film making.

Midnight Special – Director, Jeff Nichols

I went to see this film largely on the recommendation of Eli Glasner who gave it a rare 5-star rating. While I sometimes agree with Glasner this rating is a mistake. The movie is good and entertaining but not great and not 5 stars. I have always been of the opinion that movies are for entertainment primarily and occasionally they move above that but lists of the greatest films ever made tend to suggest an appeal to some universal principles of greatness that simply do not exist. So all that said Midnight Special is a sci-fi movie that may well fit into a class with some of the more loved films in the genre like Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Ex Machina or Blade Runner. The story is about a boy who appears to have special powers over which he does not have complete control. Everyone wants him from the NSA to the FBI to a crazy religious cult but none of them fully understand him. He is kidnapped from the religious cult and taken away by his father and mother who are chased down by the Feds but not before they are able to deliver their son to his ultimate destiny. The film is never entirely clear about how anyone knows about him, how he could possibly be the progeny of the two mortals or what really is going on. There are too many hiccups like this to make the film worth the 5-star rating in my opinion but I agree that it is a great ride with great acting and its not so bad that we are left with a few questions. Thanks Eli for making me go see this one and I will give it a 4-star rating so we are mostly in agreement.

The 33 – Director, Patricia Riggen

This movie got mediocre reviews and I think I understand why. It tells the story of the 33 Chilean miners trapped for 69 days underground and finally miraculously rescued. It was a dramatic story that captured the attention of the world for over two months and brought in mining and drilling experts from all over the world including Canada. The making of a movie about the events made sense and I recall listening to a radio documentary about the making of the movie a couple of years ago that piqued my interest in the film and learning that Antonio Banderas and Gabriel Byrne were in the cast. The film, if it had been made as a fictional story would perhaps have garnered more praise. Unfortunately, the real story while dramatic is also disturbing.  Despite all the attention, the company that owned the mine was never punished for creating the unsafe conditions that led to the disaster and the minors were never compensated for their trauma. The film touches on these issues but never really focuses on them. Instead we focus entirely on the rescue in a pretty typical Hollywood manner. There are some interesting characters among the miners and there is some real tension. One of the best scenes is the final rescue as the minors are pulled one by one from the mine. I enjoyed the movie and am just disappointed that they didn’t do a better job.

Theeb – Director, Naji Abu Nowar

Unlike Room ( see below), which also focuses on a young boy at the centre of the story, this film is far more powerful and interesting. It is set in 1916 in Hijaz province (Western Saudi Arabia today) of the Ottoman empire. It is during the First World War at the time of Lawrence of Arabia and tells the story of a young boy named Theeb or Wolf in Arabic and his older brother. They are asked to guide a English soldier to a well on the way to Mecca. They are moving through a war torn area and are victims of a conflict they have nothing to do with. The cinematography in this film is beautiful and reminiscent of David Lean’s masterpiece. The boy is a great actor and not nauseatingly cute as in Room but very real. Unlike Room I was entranced for the full hour and a half. This movie has a high rating from reviewers but like many foreign language films has had very little exposure. The knock on this movie is that it is a simple coming of age adventure film with a predictable outcome. I am not sure this is entirely fair. The world in which it is set and the time is a violent one and this movie avoids any gruesome violence or unjustified confrontations or death.It’s a good adventure story and I would highly recommend it to you. it will be at review cinemas and the Lightbox so get out and see it.

Jurassic World – Director, Colin Trevorrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had to watch this movie even though it is total attempt to make some money on the original. Still its really well done and the dinosaurs are really great. I especially like the battle at the end with the T-Rex. I really liked the original Jurassic Park which was something special. I remember going with my kids and their friends when they were quite young. The movie was so engaging that one of the kids remarked at the end wondering how they managed to control the velociraptors during the filming of the movie. Then realized what he had said. It just showed how completing engaging the film was. This time around it was sort of like the Star Wars reboot. Once you saw the original the sequel is always a bit disappointing but this should not put you off renting this one and enjoying a couple of hours of roaring and chomping. Very entertaining so it ranks as really good trash. Go for it if you like dinos.

The Revenant – Director, ALEJANDRO GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU

This film has garnered 12 Oscar nominations including all the big ones except for the screenplay. It deserves maybe two of them. Di Caprio does not deserve a Best Actor award for one of his most forgettable performances ever. There is no real acting just a lot of grimacing and staring into the distance. On the other hand, Tom Hardy, who is one of my favourite actors, deserves a nomination for his role as the villain. He really does act and his scenes are among the best in the whole movie. He gets no recognition for some reason for some simply awesome character acting including Legend and The Drop to name but two. This is a great performance and deserves recognition but its not enough to save this disaster. The other nomination it deserves is for cinematography which is stunning but OMG… it just goes on and on. This is a very bad movie with the exceptions noted. It runs over 2 ½ hours and could easily be an hour shorter with no loss at all. I fell asleep briefly in one part and only stuck it out to the end to see how they were going to finish it. The story is of a scout who is leading a group of fur trappers back to what counted as civilization in the early American Northwest. They are attacked by native Americans who kill many of them and the survivors struggle on. Di Caprio’s character – the scout – is attacked by a bear and just survives but he is too badly injured to continue. His companions try to take him along but have to give up assuming he will die and they abandon him leaving one of their number to stay with him until he dies and then bury him. Di Caprio’s son also stays back. Needless to say the caregiver fails in his mission and abandons di Caprio assuming he will die and murders his son in the process. He heads back to join the others. He has miscalculated and of course di Caprio survives and comes back for revenge. The journey is long and grueling and actually totally unbelievable. The flintlock guns they use are deadly accurate (which is totally impossible) even over distances of hundreds of yards. The falls, cold and so forth di Caprio survives despite his grievous injuries are literally impossible to survive and it all becomes almost funny. The character played by di Caprio is totally unlikeable and his connections to the local native Americans are poorly drawn and not made a significant part of the story. For the last hour I must have looked at my watch every 10 minutes praying for the end to come. To be perfectly honest the only times I was captivated were with Tom Hardy’s scenes but even that, at the climax of the film, was poorly written. Also I take back my comment about the cinematography. One more shot of bleak wintery forests and mountains was one too many. Two thumbs down so to speak.

The Martian – Director, Ridley Scott

This is one of the first Oscar nominated films I have seen so far this winter. Telling the tale of an astronaut isolated on Mars with only his wits to help him survive, it is thrilling, funny, uplifting and Matt Damon is excellent, carrying the film very much on his isolated shoulders.  With 3 of its 6 Oscar  nominations for sound and production design and visual effects it is also great to watch.  The science is mostly pretty good according the geeks who have seen it. Sure there are lots of misses and miscalculations to those who choose to pick at it but all forgivable in my opinion for an excellent cinematic ride.