Movie Review – Hardcore Henry (2016)

Director: Ilya Naishuller

Stars: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett, Tim Roth

After waking up in a lab with his wife attaching cybernetic implants in him, Henry is then forced to go on the run from Akan (Kozlovsky), while trying to find a way to hunt him as he captured his wife. Along the way he finds help from Jimmy (Copley). Oh, and the whole thing is shot from a first-person perspective.

When I saw the trailer for this I was impressed yet remained skeptical for I wondered if, over 90 minutes, the visual style would get annoying. I am pleased to report that it does not. In fact, it is incredible and I can foresee a few more films following this trend. Henry doesn’t speak through the film and yet it’s testament to the script, the direction, and the way the actors react to Henry that we do want Henry to succeed and feel an attachment to him. The style is obviously a tribute to video games and I’m sure that there are many homages to various titles that I didn’t get because I’m not into that whole scene. I loved how different the film feels though. The stunts and camerawork is impressive and the sense of humour is prevalent through the film. If you want a gauge to see if you’d like this or not then think of Crank as it is very much in the same vein.

Copley is brilliant here, and in my opinion its his most enjoyable role since District 9. It’s clear quite early on that there’s something going on with his character, and all I say is that the colonel is my favourite.

The plot of the film is one thing I wondered about going in, because video games are mostly notorious for having thin stories. This one is better than I was expecting although there are still some shortfalls. For example, Akan has telekinetic powers but there’s no hint as to why, and I do wish more had been made of Henry’s past life. We get flashbacks to his father but there were a couple of opportunities to show some more of his past. However, those complaints are minor because the film is so much fun and there are so many little references to the genre it is paying tribute to that it just feels wonderful.

I highly recommend this. I had such a blast watching it and I hope that the good word of mouth spreads.

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Movie Review – Midnight Special (2016)

Director: Jeff Nicols

Stars: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Ezra Miller, Kirsten Dunst, Jaeden Lieberher

A child has special powers and he and his father go on the run while the government and a cult, who fear him and worship him respectively, chase after them.

I had high hopes for Midnight Special as, although it’s not based on a comic book, it is basically a superhero movie given that it deals with the themes of power and how people react to it. The film begins with a great deal of intrigue as we’re thrust in media res to a hotel room with a newscast playing on the tv about a boy who has been abducted. There’s something strange about Alton (Lieberher) but we don’t know yet, all we know is that his father, Roy, (Shannon) and friend, Lucas, (Edgerton) are the ones who have kidnapped him. The narrative moves to introduce the cult that seeks to worship the child, and the government who soon get involved for, it turns out, Alton has been able to intercept secret government broadcasts. These two factions are both trying to get their hands on the boy while Roy and Lucas are trying to get him to a mystery destination because…they have to?

That’s basically all the film offers. It’s vague intellectualism at its worst. It introduces a few themes but leaves the audience so misinformed that there’s nothing of substance here. Sure, it acts as a metaphor for parents having to deal with their children growing up, and it presents the two contrasting viewpoints on how to view someone with extreme power, but these are neither original ideas nor explored fully in the film.

Shannon gives his best pained looks as he fights to protect his son, and we’re drip-fed some information here and there but there’s nothing to hold onto. I never felt emotionally invested in the story because it never felt like there was a story. It feels like this film is the second act in a film, and it sorely misses the first and third acts. If there’s any meaning here then it’s all on the viewer to infer for themselves. The history the film hints at is interesting, and the future of the world at the climax of the film doubly so, but there’s no point to any of it. There’s simply no point to the film. The pacing drags and I was hoping that it would lead somewhere but it never does. The cinematography is murky, and the dull, droning monotony of the film is interspersed with some sci-fi effects that jolt the viewer from slumber.

Highly disappointed in this one and I’m quite frankly astonished that this has been getting such a good reception. It didn’t engage me on any level and left me feeling cold, so it’s a hard pass.

Movie Review – Eddie the Eagle (2016)

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Stars: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman

Based on a true story, Eddie the Eagle depicts the journey that Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards (Egerton) went through as he tried to achieve his childhood dream of being an Olympian. Facing challenges from the British Olympic Committee and his would-be peers, he eventually convinces washed-out ex-ski jumper Bronson Peary (Jackman) to become his coach, and together they forge a path to the Winter Olympics in Calgary.

First of all it’s important to note the ‘based on’. Much like The Danish Girl this takes extreme liberties with the background of its subject matter, even to the extent of creating Hugh Jackman’s character from nothing, which is quite egregious. But Mr. Edwards himself has come out and said that although the facts are inaccurate, the spirit and essence of the film are correct. The grace with which he approaches this adaptation of his life is symbolic of the film itself, and one that transcends mere facts. I’m 30 so I’m not old enough to remember Eddie the Eagle when he flew, only mentions of him as I was growing up and unfortunately he’s become somewhat synonymous with heroic failure and played for laughs, a punchline to a joke that everyone seems to be in on.

This film corrects that myth and although it is inaccurate and probably exaggerates the extent to which he was opposed by various people (according to what I’ve read his father was in fact supportive, rather than the grumbling figure depicted in the film) it does encapsulate the Olympic spirit, which is that performing to your best is the most important thing. It’s a phrase that has often become trite and patronising, almost a way to soften the blow of defeat, but through this film we are reminded that overcoming one’s own shortcomings is a triumph in and of itself, and in a pointed conversation towards the end of the film we are reminded that it is through heart and attitude that we become champions.

In an age where much of our pop culture has had a cynical edge Eddie the Eagle is an antidote to the gritty, brooding attitude that pervades much of our entertainment. It’s heartwarming without being saccharine, uplifting without devolving into empty sentiment. Egerton is quickly forging a reputation for himself and should be commended for his work here. Jackman gives a standard Jackman performance, but I liked the way their two characters complemented each other. The direction was good, capturing the majesty and unnerving danger of ski jumping almost as well as The Walk captured the dizzying heights of tightrope walking.

It’s simply a film that reminds you that things are possible, that if you work hard enough you may not be the best in the world, but that’s not the only thing that matters. For a long time Eddie the Eagle has been identified with failure, but he should be championed for his success because he achieved his dream and became an Olympian. We can all learn something from his example, and for that reason I give this film my highest recommendation. Absolutely loved it.

Review – Scribd

Scribd is an e-book service that’s basically Netflix, but for books. It’s not entirely accurate, and I’ll get into that in a minute, but it’s $8.99 per month and you get access to a range of books, comics, audiobooks, documents, and sheet music. The last three categories don’t interest me at all but the first do too. I’d been toying with the idea of getting Marvel Unlimited (which is $9.99 a month and grants the user access to most of the Marvel comics ever printed). However, Scribd has a two week free trial and Marvel Unlimited has not, so I signed up for the two weeks of Scribd to see what it’s like and if it’s worth sticking with over trying out Marvel Unlimited.

I’ve had it for just over a week now, and my initial impression is that I really like it and I’m going to keep my subscription after the free trial period, but it’s not perfect. As I said, it’s a little similar to Netflix with one major difference. There’s a limit of three books and one audiobook a month, which they seem apologetic about in the FAQ but it’s still a little annoying, especially for someone who can read quickly. I’ve read two books in the first week. But to make up for this Scribd do have a number of books that are unlimited, so they won’t count to your total. Also, you can read a section of a book before you take it off your monthly limit so if you’re not enjoying it as much as you hoped you won’t have to regret using one of your slots. Another aspect of this is that if you don’t use your slots they will roll over to the next month, which is another nice touch and it gives me the impression that Scribd really do want to give its customer base the best value and deals possible, and if they have to have a limit in order to make money then so be it because, quite frankly, for the price it’s still good value to get access to their catalogue (especially if you’re like me and you don’t mind owning books).

The other great thing is that comics don’t count towards this limit! And, although it doesn’t have as much depth for Marvel comics as Marvel Unlimited it does have comics from other publishers like IDW and Vertigo, so there’s a huge back catalogue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers comics, for example. The Marvel comics they have range from some classic stories to more recent ones, so overall there’s a good selection. The books are split into various categories and when you sign up it takes you through a process where you enter your likes and dislikes so the right books will come up for you. There are also editors’ picks and trending books, so you can see what other people are reading. So far I’ve explored sci-fi and was delighted to see that there are a plethora of Star Trek books on the service, so I plan to catch up on a lot of the developments in the TrekLit world, as well as some classic stories like Imzadi that I never got around to reading.

I’ve explored a few other categories that I’m interested in and I’m hoping that the biography and memoir section gets some more content added soon, but already I’ve added so many books to my library it’s going to take a while to get through them all.

Once in the library you can make collections, so I’ve split some up into Trek novels, Marvel Comics, Other Comics etc. This is neat, but I do wish that the books would then be taken out of the library just for ease of use and neatness’ sake. I also wish that in the case of some comic series, like Transformers, there was a guide or an easy way to suggest the order in which they should be read. For comic reading there’s one main annoyance I’ve found and that is that Scribd doesn’t offer panel-zoom. So you get the page presented and can’t tap on a panel to enlarge it, which is usually alright on my Kindle Fire if the page is portrait, but on landscapes I have to zoom in and scroll around to read the page properly.

Other than that I really like Scribed. The wealth of books offered is awesome and although the limit is something of a handicap for a voracious reader like myself, I like the fact they’ve made the effort to have unlimited books, and I can supplement my reading with comics or getting books from my local library. All in all I would highly recommend at least checking out the free trial, and if I could make a suggestion to Marvel Unlimited I’d say that they should have a free trial as well