“This is the land of wolves.” Sicario review

Denis Villenueve takes no prisoners in brutal drug-war thriller Sicario. 

Director: Denis Villenueve Cast: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Daniel Kaluuya, Jon Bernthal and Maximiliano Hernandez Rating: 15 Running Time: 121 minutes

Driven by compelling performances from Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro, Denis Villeneuve’s latest film, drug-war thriller Sicario, is a brutal blend of intense action and powerful drama. Though hampered slightly through its narrow narrative scope, Villeneuve’s feature builds suspense to near perfection, whilst also offering a horrifying look into the drug cartels of Mexico.

Sicario opens with a bang and never really looks back, as Blunt’s hopeful FBI agent Kate Macer leads a bust that uncovers the savage nature of one of the most notorious drug cartels in Mexico. Operating near the border in Arizona, Macer is recruited into an elite government response team by task force official Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and mysterious consultant Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). Venturing deep into the heart of gangland Mexico, Macer is forced to question everything she believes in order to survive.

Sicario is one of the best thrillers in recent times. Villenueve hardly ever misses an opportunity to increase the tension – something that worked so brilliantly in his 2013 film Prisoners. This feat is achieved through both stunning cinematography and a pulsing score. Award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins gives it a real gritty feel that immerses the viewer into this kill or be killed world. On the other hand, Deakins, who also worked on Prisoners as well lensing Villenueve’s upcoming Blade Runner sequel, lays out stylish shots of Mexican wastelands and beautifully crafted scenes that evoke his earlier work on No Country for Old Men and Skyfall. 

The score by Johann Johannsson hangs over the images like a stalking beast about to pounce at any moment. The two make for a killer combination.

(‘Ale-Alejandro, Ale-Alejandro!’ Del Toro’s steely Alejandro means business.)

Emily Blunt more than holds her own here amongst Hollywood heavyweights Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. Blunt’s idealistic Macer tries to be the good cop amongst the bad, but Brolin’s shady Matt Graver and Del Toro’s even shadier Alejandro are in full control, placing themselves somewhere on a line between good-guy government pawn and corrupt criminal. Del Toro is perfect for the role and he makes for the film’s most interesting character. He’s a lone wolf motivated by revenge, “and this is a land of wolves,” he says.

Throughout Sicario we’re kept in the dark as to what’s really going on. A lot of the time you don’t really know what’s happening. Like Macer you feel on edge at all times, none more so than in the alien landscape of Juarez, Mexico. “Nothing will make sense to your American ears,” says Alejandro to Macer before their mission. Rolling slums, mutilated bodies hanging high above the traffic and night time light shows of gunfire and explosions. Its scary stuff that’s really going on, but Graver’s team are in and out before Villenueve explores any underlying thematic issues here. This is perhaps the film’s only criticism – its inability to explore the wider issues at work in this hellish drug-war.

Sicario is one of those films that either draws you in or completely isolates you. A film you perhaps only visit the once, Sicario, which is Mexican slang for ‘hitman’, is uninviting in many ways. But if you can shoot through its hardened narrative and alienating approach, it makes for a rare and thrilling piece of cinema that goes in for the kill.


“In your face Neil Armstrong.” The Martian review.

Cast Away meets Gravity in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi drama, The Martian. 

Director: Ridley Scott Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Sebastian Stan, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor Rating: 12A Running Time: 141 minutes

Matt Damon has gone from bad astronaut to good in his last two outings set in space. Where he was very much the surprise villain in last year’s dimension exploring epic InterstellarDamon plays the solo hero this time around in The Martian – Ridley Scott’s best film in years.

When a severe storm disrupts the work of NASA’s Ares III crew on the surface of Mars, botanist Mark Watney (Damon) is thought dead after he is struck by debris during the evacuation. Coming to terms with the harsh truth that he is now alone on a planet with no natural water sources, no food, and no means of communication, Watney vows to stay alive in a battle against insurmountable odds.

Even from the its earliest trailers, The Martian’s tone is noticeably lighter than that of its space film counterparts ie. Gravity and the aforementioned InterstellarReaders of Andy Weir’s novel (of which the film is based) will no doubt attest to the way in which Scott brilliantly captures Watney’s snarky demeanour and dry wit. The result is a slightly more relaxed movie with some fun moments to accompany the more serious ones, something that Christopher Nolan’s film severely lacked.

As well as Watney’s constant positivity throughout, the film’s disco soundtrack keeps things on the up. Thanks to Commander Lewis’ (Jessica Chastain) extensive music library, Watney solves problem after problem to the likes of Donna Summers’ ‘Hot Stuff’ and David Bowie’s ‘Starman’. It’s very Guardians of the Galaxy in this respect.

(Watney and the Ares III crew catch up on some serious Netflix and chill time.)

In terms of story, The Martian is not really about what will happen but rather how they happen. We know that Watney’s crew members; Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (who also starred alongside Damon in Interstellar), House of Cards and Fantastic Four’s Kate Mara, plus Marvel duo Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Michael Pena (Ant-Man), won’t just head back to Earth and do nothing about saving their friend.  We also know that despite the cost of a rescue mission and the media implications if they fail, NASA chiefs Jeff Daniels (Dumb and Dumberand Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) will do everything they can to get their man home.These Hollywood big-hitters are just about convincing enough as the action flits between planets. At times even Damon’s performance feels just shy of the 110% required to play the ‘cast away’ role.

But it’s all about the how. How does Watney survive? How does he make food designed to last six weeks last four hundred days? How do you pull of a rescue mission in outer space? This is what keeps things ticking. A problem presents itself and Watney solves it, somehow. Even if this does mean stirring human faeces in order to make fertiliser.

As per usual in a Ridley Scott movie, the visuals are truly out this world. Exquisitely brought to life by the sand dunes of Wadi Rum in the south of Jordan, Mars has never looked so good – or as desolate.

Overall, The Martian makes for an immensely entertaining outing from Ridley Scott, whose legendary status has been questioned of late with the likes of Prometheus and Exodus: Gods & Kings. We’re still nowhere near the realms of Scott classics such as Alien and Blade Runner. But with a tonne courage and a shit load of science, The Martian takes Scott one giant step closer to being back on the right track.


“Blood is thicker than water.” Legend review

Tom Hardy is double the trouble in Kray twins biopic Legend. 

Director: Brian Helgeland Cast: Tom Hardy, Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Paul Bettany, Christopher Eccleston Rating: 18 Running Time: 131 minutes

You can never have too much of a good thing, especially when that good thing is Tom Hardy. In writer-director Brian Helgeland’s Legend, Hardy turns in a fascinating yet farcical performance as suave tough guy Reggie and the immensely psychotic Ronnie; the notorious Kray twins who terrorised London during the 1950s and 60s.

But, although Helgeland’s (L.A. Confidential) rise and fall tale about these infamous and iconic mobsters is filled with all the brutal brashness and cockney clout one would expect from a film about the Kray’s, Legend falls rather short amongst its peers as a gangster classic.

The film is narrated by Reggie’s wife Francis, played by Emily Browning (Sucker Punch), who fills you in on who and what these two men are – gangsters. One’s a nice guy, one’s “off his rocker.” They’re criminals but it’s just the way things are. This pointing out the obvious voiceover becomes rather tedious after a while, despite Browning’s best efforts.

Helgeland’s film is much about Frances as it is about the Krays, as the film attempts to tell us about the east-end twins from an unbiased outsider’s point of view. But this narrative prang seems to slow down the natural inertia of the story and Frances’ character is severely underwritten. She could’ve easily played as large and important a part without these mechanical monologues.

Legend likes to state the obvious though. It really does want to let you know that yes, this is the unmistakable 60s but look, there’s a Ford Cortina and oh, is that The Meters’ ‘Cissy Strut’ playing on the soundtrack.

(Two Toms for the price of one! Hardy’s Ronnie [left] with Hardy’s Reggie [right]). 

Hardy saves the day though. He goes all in with his portrayal of both Kray brothers. It showcases Hardy’s talents perfectly, with both the classy-ish Reggie and the catastrophic Bronson-like Ronnie. This film should be seen on Hardy’s performance alone.

He’s spectacular as Reggie; swooning around in sharp suits with slick back hair, sucking on cigarettes like each one is his last. He also gets the business done on the gangster side of things too; switching from all round nice guy to ultra-violent thug in a matter of seconds, reminding you that he is, in fact, also a bad guy.

Terrifying yet twistedly amusing is Hardy’s performance as Ronnie, who was a paranoid schizophrenic, homosexual and outright proper gangster – well, that’s how he refers to himself anyway. Ronnie’s character in Helgeland’s picture is jarring in so much that you’re unsure whether to laugh at, or feel sorry for this brutish chunk of a man who’s so clearly lost in his own mind that he doesn’t know right from wrong.

Ultimately though, the film suffers from a muddled tone that on one hand glamorises the life of a 60s crime boss whilst on the other reducing the Kray’s lives to not that much at all. Displaying each of their lengthy prison sentences and stating when they died on screen at the end of the film, sums up the Kray’s so-called legend and definitely shoots this gangster film’s title in the foot.


Legend is out now in cinemas.

Bryan Singer teases X-Men/Fantastic Four crossover

Superheroes love a good shared universe don’t they? Disney’s Marvel Studios have set the bar pretty darn high when it comes to cameos and crossovers. The Marvel cinematic universe blew us all away with THE AVENGERS and will hope to do the same with next summer’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Even the Warner Bros. owned DC Entertainment have their house in order, as they begin to roll out their own shared series of films beginning with next year’s BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE.

It seems natural then that 20th Century Fox, who own the rights to both X-MEN and FANTASTIC FOUR, are gearing up to combine the two teams in a crossover film; something X-MEN: APOCALYPSE director Bryan Singer says could happen.

Talking to Yahoo!, long time X-MEN collaborator Singer, explains that a crossover between the two could easily work, but also depends on the success of Josh Trank’s upcoming FANTASTIC FOUR reboot.

“Those ideas are in play. That would be natural match-up because they’re both ensemble films and there is a natural mechanism in which to do it. It deals with time. That’s all I’m going to say. We’ll have to wait to see how the [upcoming] film turns out. To just say you’re going to do it would be a mistake, you have to see how the films evolve before you make that decision to completely commit to that.”

Singer certainly has some interesting things to say on the potential crossover. Whether or not the USUAL SUSPECTS director will be involved in any way is yet to be seen, but you’d imagine he’d be on board in some capacity, maybe even to direct. He’s also no stranger to the ideas surrounding time travel as we saw with X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST.

With Josh Trank’s reboot yet to hit theatres, amid rumours of extensive re-shoots and concern over the director’s conduct on set (which apparently led to him leaving a planned STAR WARS spinoff), we’ll have to wait and see how well FANTASTIC FOUR connects with audiences, before pinning all our hopes on a live-action image of The Thing tossing Wolverine into battle.

FANTASTIC FOUR flies into theatres August 5, 2015 with a sequel already set for 2017 and X-MEN: APOCALYPSE hits May 26, 2016.


“Pick on someone your own size!” Ant-Man review

Director: Peyton Reed

Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll, Evangeline Lilly, David Dastmalchian, Michael Pena, Bobby Cannavale, Abby Ryder Fortson, Judy Greer, Wood Harris, John Slattery, Gregg Turkington and T.I.

Rating: PG-13/12A

Running Time: 117 minutes

Just how do you follow one of the biggest superhero movies of all time? Go bigger, right? Wrong. Arriving straight off the back of megabucks super-sequel AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, you’d think the story of a low-life crook’s road to redemption was pretty small fry for the ever expanding Marvel cinematic universe. But you know what they say, good things come in small packages, and ANT-MAN is no exception.

Hilarious, heroic and full of heart, ANT-MAN more than measures up to its super-powered peers as one of Marvel’s most enjoyable films to date.

Bringing the MCU’s Phase Two to an end, ANT-MAN feels more like a fresh start than the closing of a grand chapter. But it’s just what the doctor ordered after Tony Stark’s evil A.I. went rogue and levelled an entire city. This film has a human core. Well, sure, there’s ants too.

Enter Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) – a jailbird who vows to go straight for the sake of his daughter. But hard times and the thrill of one more bust pulls Lang back into the world of crime. The loot, however, isn’t a safe full of money. Nor is it precious stones from galaxies far, far away. Little does he know that the beat up black & red leather suit he finds is actually the creation of super scientist Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas).

(With great power, comes great responsibi – oh dammit wrong film! Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym mentors the new Ant-Man.)

Donning the suit, helmet ‘n’ all, Lang discovers that this is no ordinary outfit – shrinking down to the size of an insect at the touch of a button, giving him super-strength and the ability to communicate with ants! Busting him out of jail, Pym recruits Lang as the ANT-MAN in order stop his former protégé, Darren Cross (HOUSE OF CARDS’ Corey Stoll), from weaponizing Pym’s greatest invention, the Pym particle.

It has to be said that whilst YES MAN director Peyton Reed’s film was never going to take itself too seriously, ANT-MAN is without doubt the funniest Marvel film yet. I mean, it’s pretty much an action-comedy and Reed absolutely nails it. Just how much of parting director and co-writer Edgar Wright’s (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ) script actually made it in to the film is something we’ll probably never know. Citing creative differences, Wright left the project weeks before filming was due to start.

But there’s no doubt that Wright’s presence can be felt throughout the film, as well as ANCHORMAN director Adam McKay’s, who adjusted the script with the delightfully funny and extremely well cast Paul Rudd. Marvelites will be licking their lips at the prospect of Rudd’s ANT-MAN, Downey Jr’s IRON MAN and Tom Holland’s new SPIDER-MAN firing jokes and trading insults in upcoming movies. I for one, can’t wait.

Staying with funny and almost stealing Rudd’s thunder, is the hilarious Michael Peña (END OF WATCH, FURY), who plays Lang’s burglar sidekick. Expect to see him again somewhere down the line in a Marvel feature.

(Thumbs up if you want to be an Avenger! Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang tries on the Ant-Man suit for size.)

Another masterstroke from Marvel was deciding to go for an older Hank Pym in Michael Douglas. Pym is the original ANT-MAN in the comics and one of the founding members of THE AVENGERS. Playing the role of mentor, the veteran actor still packs a punch, quite literally, and gives a real hearty performance. Pym’s daughter Hope, played by THE HOBBIT’s Evangeline Lilly, also plays a key role in proceedings. Expect to see her again in the future too.

We’ve seen dimensions intertwined and cities razed to the ground, but not until now have you seen the intricate details of carpet fibres! ANT-MAN boasts some of Marvel’s best visual effects yet and they’re even more astonishing in 3D.

With all six of its legs firmly placed in the MCU and with Rudd’s character set to appear in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, ANT-MAN certainly feels like a movie that’d work just as brilliantly outside its larger canon. But whether you watch it as part of a Marvel marathon, or as a stand alone flick, ANT-MAN is this summer’s superhero sensation. And it won’t be squashed.


“You’re nothing but a relic.” Terminator: Genisys review.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke star in sci-fi/action reboot Terminator: Genisys.

“I’ll be back.” When Mr Schwarzenegger first uttered those immortal words back in 1984 he meant it literally. Walking out before crashing a truck through a building and disposing of an entire police force in search of Sarah Connor, Arnie’s Terminator was terrifying, relentless and unforgiving.

Thirty-one years and four Terminator movies later, Arnie’s back again in franchise reboot Terminator: Genisys as, wait for it – ‘Pops.’ Something, pretty much everything, is very wrong with this picture.

Genisys spits in the face of its much loved source material and completely undermines everything that was spectacularly right with the The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. It’s worse than Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, whilst somehow making the Christian Bale lead Terminator: Salvation seem ever so slightly watchable. Genisys is quite possibly the worst Terminator yet.

Things kick off in 2029 with the leader of the human resistance John Connor (played by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Jason Clarke), on the verge of defeating the machines and taking down Skynet for good. But the super-computer has a backup plan, sending the T-800 from the original film back in time to take out Connor’s nineteen-year-old mother in 1984. But we already knew that. Connor, obviously aware of Skynet’s plan, sends loyal soldier and friend Kyle Reese (this time played by A Good Day to Die Hard’s Jai Courtney), back in time as well, to protect his mother and become his dad in the past. But we already knew that as well.

(“Wassup playas!” A T-800 takes a break from murdering to pose for a headshot.)

Here’s where the wheels start to fall off – 15 minutes in. Something goes wrong just before Reese is sent back, winding up in an alternate timeline where Sarah Connor (Game of Throne’s Emilia Clarke) is already a badass with her very own cyborg named ‘Pops’ (Arnie), to protect her. A spoiler free explanation of this new, confusing timeline is hard to achieve. But since the trailer already gives away Genisys’ ‘twist’, if you can call it that, Connor, Rhys and Pops go up against the film’s main villain John Connor, who’s turned into a human-terminator hybrid by Skynet to ensure its own survival.

There’s almost nothing good about Terminator: Genisys.  It’s so desperate to recreate the great things about the first two films it forgets to actually put down a meaningful mark of its own. There are plenty nods to the originals, giving fans a cheap pop, but Genisys has its’ wires crossed from the start.

At least it’s fun seeing Arnie again. However, Pops is basically a parody of Arnie’s previous cyborgs with his character coming full swing from mindless killer to huggable cyborg foster-father.  He still dishes out the one-liners, though they aren’t great, and some nifty CGI work helps him kick some ass, but even Mr Terminator himself can’t save Genisys from self-termination.

(You can’t be the mother of dragons AND the mother of mankind’s saviour all at once Emilia! Got it!?)

A microwave could probably give a better performance than Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. Nobody can top Michael Biehn’s original portrayal, but Courtney is so dull you’d think he was an actual robot. Mother of dragons Emilia Clarke does enough as Sarah Connor but she’s not entirely convincing. Jason Clarke is as equally boring as Courtney. Also, JK Simmons wins the award for ‘strangest casting of a good actor with not enough screen time in an awful film.’

The action sequences make the popcorn a bit easier to swallow. Arnie vs Arnie is fun while it lasts near the beginning, but the rest is nothing new and instantly forgettable. Thor: The Dark World director Alan Taylor and screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier have created a muddled mess that gets caught up in its own poorly written dialogue and mediocre action, with some cyborgs chucked in for a laugh.

Before the credits roll, microwave, I mean Jai Courtney’s Reese, mutters that “the future isn’t set.” With Terminator: Genisys the first in a planned trilogy of Terminator films, let’s hope the microwave is right.


“You didn’t ask for reality. You asked for more teeth!” Jurassic World review.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the park with genetically modified dinosaurs! When Steven Spielberg first opened the gates to the awe-inspiring world of Jurassic Park back in 1993, he could probably envision its success overnight. However, he could’ve also predicted the inevitably uninspiring sequels to come.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park had its moments. But even Jeff Goldblum couldn’t save it from its absolutely ridiculous ending that still doesn’t make sense no matter how many times you watch it. Oh and I almost forgot karate gymnast girl who loves to boot Velociraptors through windows. I mean, come on.

Let’s not even get into Jurassic Park III.

But twenty-two years after park creator John Hammond (played by the late, great Richard Attenborough) decided not to endorse Jurassic Park, because you know, the dinosaurs started eating everyone, along stomps Colin Trevorrow’s fourth instalment to the saga, Jurassic World.

(‘Everything is roar-some!’ The Indominus Rex gets ready to chow down.)

Where Hammond’s original park had only a handful of different species of dinosaur, a simple safari style tour and two programmers that controlled the entire Costa Rican island, this new park makes the old one look like a flea circus. Now a fully-fledged theme park with monorails, futuristic cable cars, nifty little self-controlled glass orb thingys and dozens of species of dinosaur, Hammond’s dream has become the new Disneyland.

The film has many a nostalgic pop; Mr DNA, the heavy so they’re expensive night vision goggles, even Dr Wu is back from the original. But Jurassic World’s supreme sentimental moment and one of the best moments of the film, comes after we follow young Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) out onto the balcony of his hotel suite, getting our first proper look at the park. If the combination of sweeping visuals and John Williams’ infamous Jurassic Park theme (slightly modified by Star Trek composer Michael Giacchino) doesn’t give you goosebumps, then you’re dead inside.

Gray and his bigger brother Zach (Nick Robinson), who’s clearly more interested in girls than Gallimimus’, find themselves at the park after their parents send them off to spend some quality time with aunty and park operations manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard).


Clearly though, normal dinosaurs just aren’t enough for some people, with investors keen to maximise the park’s potential by tampering with dino genetics creating new hybrid species that will really wow visitors and spike attendances.  “They’re dinosaurs. Wow enough,” says Raptor trainer – yes you heard me, Raptor trainer – Owen, played by Chris Pratt, who executes his best Indiana Jones audition yet.

Enter the Indominus Rex. Jurassic World’s big, and I mean big, bad. Of course it escapes and of course they can’t contain it, sending the park into meltdown with thousands of lives, including Claire’s nephews’, in danger.

Obviously Jurassic World is no match for the original. No past, present or future Jurassic film will ever be. Trevorrow knows this and instead of trying to recapture the feel of Spielberg’s classic, The Safety Not Guaranteed director shoots straight for an all-out dino disaster movie. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s pure box office gold. A record breaking $1 billion to be precise. At times it’s a mindless blockbuster; an utterly predictable, CGI blasted gumf. Mostly however, it’s a really fun and enjoyable thrill-ride. Will we see another Jurassic sequel in the near future? A billion dollars says we might.