Hacksaw Ridge – Brand New Trailer!

War is brutal. War has been brutal. War and killing is wrong. But there are soldiers who fought for their principles as well as helping the war effort. In Hacksaw Ridge, one such man is being immortalised on the big screen.

Hacksaw Ridge revolves around the true story of Desmon Doss who, during one of the bloodiest battles of WWII wound up saving the lives of 75 men without firing or carrying a gun. As the only soldier to tackle the front line without a weapon, Doss believed that killing was wrong and braved fire whilst tending to the wounded as a medic.

Andrew Garfield is a stunning actor and the film is directed by Mel Gibson who is a surprisingly gifted filmmaker. Bloody, brutal, and powerful, Hacksaw Ridge could be an outstanding film.


Masterminds – Brand New Trailer!

Sometimes, it’s really hard to gage a comedy. Unlike dramas, comedy relies on some of the same tricks to keep it going. You’ll start to recognise patterns, lines and offense that should send you into a rip tickling raucous affair. See, you want to laugh but at the same time, you’ve seen it all before. So you’ll stay stoic, plum faced as your brain goes, “yes. This is funny. I find this hysterical” like a robot.

This is exactly how Masterminds feels.

Directed by Napoleon Dynamite’s Jared Hess and starring Zach Galifianakis as David Ghantt a lowly security vehicle driver who is thrust into an adventure and heist beyond his wildest dreams. When he develops a crush on his work colleague Kelly Campbell, played by Kristen Wiig, who ropes him in a scheme with some criminals. Unfortunately, the masterminds, well, aren’t and mob boss Owen Wilson’s Steve Chambers is a few dollars short of a heist, if you catch my drift. But Ghantt unexpectedly becomes the pansy of the group – prepped to take the fall.

I have faith with Hess’ work as his previous films have been comedic gems in my eyes. And the cast is stellar, especially with Jason Sudeikis as a psychopathic hitman and Kristen Wiig uniting with Ghostbusters’ Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. There’s laughs here too. However, they do seem somewhat generic or expected. Keeping reservations, there is something to look forward to here. But we’ll have to wait to August to find out.


Watch and Learn: Red Cliff – Review

When a typical Western movie goer thinks of grand, epic films and counties with the biggest film industries, they usually just list the UK, the USA and maybe Bollywood. What may be surprising to them is that there is one country missed off the list that’s film industry has grown so rapidly in recent years that their movie ticket sales are second only to the United States: China. In 2015 box office revenue in China hit $6.8 billion which is up 49% from the previous year.

That’s astounding considering that 26 years ago, chinese films were mainly government-approved communist propaganda films. Their audience attendance was tiny at best until they began importing some US-made films starting with The Fugitive. What may have also helped is the career transition of a particularly famous Asian filmmaker from China to the United States: John Woo. His filmography whilst he worked in Hollywood include Broken Arrow, Hard TargetMission: Impossible II and the unforgettable Face/Off. 15 years after moving to the United States, Woo decided to return to the Chinese film industry and made the epic 2-part war film Red CliffRed Cliff is a film based on the Battle of Chi Bi from Records of the Three Kingdoms where two underdog rulers Liu Bei of Shu and Sun Quan of Wu took on the massive naval fleet of influential Wei ruler Cao Cao.

Whilst some may lament the fact that filmmakers haven’t made proper epic movies without the aid of arguably far too much CGI since Waterloo, I would suggest that Red Cliff is an exemption to the rule. Whilst some digital effects are in the film, a lot of the scenes are put together for real. Naval warfare was set up at two working reservoirs and the chinese army lent 1,500 soldiers to play extras and build roads. Add in the fact that the film’s estimated budget was $80 million US which is currently the most expensive Asian-financed film to date and it’s no surprise on paper that the film would be an epic. Does this come across in the actual movie? Absolutely.

Woo’s style has always been about stylistic and emotional grandeur and that’s exactly what audiences get from Red Cliff. The cinematography perfectly captures every moment from the incredibly choreographed battle scenes and the panning landscae shots to the tense strategy meetings and the romantic interludes. The editing is so tight and flawless that audiences genuinely wonder whether any of the extras really got murdered by being impaled on spears by the main cast. Accompanying it all is the spectacular and richly textured soundtrack by Tarō Iwashiro and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra that further evokes the atmosphere of a time long forgotten.

One particular criticism some may have of Red Cliff is its dubious historical accuracy. Woo used two books for the basis of the movie: Records of the Three Kingdoms and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. As you can imagine Records of the Three Kingdoms is the official historical text writte by Chen Shou in the 3rd century which covers the history of the late Eastern Han Dynasty (c. 184-220AD) and the Three Kingdoms period (220-280AD). It’s the text that the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms is based on. Woo admitted himself that Red Cliff is only 50% factual. He found historical accuracy less important than how the audience felt about the battle and the characters. This is definitely in keeping with his general narrative style in films. Woo commonly mixes hyper-kinetic, chaotic action with psychologically interesting characters so altering the historical events makes sense but does it mess with the film’s historical authenticity? In my opinion, no. Everything from the characters’ costumes, the dialogue and the fighting is very 3rd century. The audience gets an excellent glimpse at what life may well have been like in war-time 3rd century China. A lot of work has gone into the film to do as well as they can to give the audience a more modern story with a historically authentic atmosphere.

This is a film that is a must-see! The uncut version that was released in Asia is now available on DVD in the West so you can see the entire 4-hour plus epic for yourself in the comfort of your home. It’s a film that’s not for background viewing – it’ll command your attention for its entire run time. It has a winning formula of stunning visuals and a gripping narrative.


Finding Dory – Review

By Rhiannon McKinnon

Last year saw something that animations fans have not experienced before. Not only did Pixar release two films in one year, instead of the usual single year release, but both the films were original concepts. This was a welcome return for the studio that once only gave us originality that has now succumbed to producing a tirade of sequels. Last year’s Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur may have been met with different degrees of success but for lifelong Pixar fans it seemed a step back to the studios former glory.

Knowing that this year’s release was a sequel to one of the studios strongest films, Finding Nemo, filled fans such as myself with both dread and excitement. Would this be a Toy Story success or a Cars 2 style disappointment?

Luckily, thanks to returning writer and director Andrew Stanton, Finding Dory is one of the strongest sequels the studio have delivered, with beautiful animation and the most lovable fish ever at the helm, Dory herself. Finding Dory may not be as on point as Pixar’s Toy Story saga but its strong enough to remind us why sequels can be a good idea.

After the events of the first film Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is living happily, (if forgetfully), with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence, replacing Alexander Gould). As part of the family, she slowly begins to remember that she did once have a family of her own. Taking Nemo and Marlin along for the ride, she sets out across the ocean to remember and find her lost family. Along the way meeting all host of sea creatures from Hank the Octopus (Ed O’Neill) to a pair of lazy Sea Lions, (Idris Elba and Dominic West)

Andrew Stanton is once again at the helm as writer/director now with the help of co-director Angus MacLane. Originally parent studio Disney had wanted a straight Finding Nemo sequel but later on Stanton pitched that the follow-up should tell the tale of sidekick Dory and how she ended up alone.

The similarities between the two films are obvious. Both centre on characters journeying across the ocean to find lost family, both see the journeying parties meet an array of sea creatures along the way, and, similarly, both films are fun and filled with humour and action.

Dory is also able to deliver on the emotional level. Her memories of her loving and protective parents propel her on her journey to reunite with them. Her fear of being alone and forgetting her friends is always present and makes her a vulnerable as well as plucky hero.

The only thing that sets this film apart from its predecessor is the story structure. Whereas the first film divides into two solid story arcs, Dory and Marlin and Nemo with the tank gang, this film does not. Here the split in the narrative feels messy until the two parties eventual collide.

The film is filled with characters both old and new, from Mrs Ray, Crush and Sea Lions to an Oyster Clam. Although these mass of characters are fun and cute, towards the end they feel overloaded, not adding to the story.

The first film was a marvel to behold with its underwater effects and array of sea creatures. The animation team have once again exceled in creating an underwater odyssey. More detailed and with more depth, a scene with a passing school of Sting Ray is particularly amazing.

Pixar’s technology has advanced so much that even a scene featured from the first film had to be reanimated due to the differences in appearance.

One concern many fans of the original faced was the evolution of Dory from scene steal sidekick to main character. So many studios have moved popular characters to the forefront in sequels without success. Here, despite a few narrative flaws, Dory is a lovable, emotional, and vulnerable leading fish.

DeGeneres not only embodies Dory with her charm, charisma, and humour but with more emotion. This is Dory’s journey to discover herself. Brooks again gives a stern but caring Marlin while newcomer Rolence does a sweet and developed Nemo. Great comic relief is offered from the large supporting cast including a surreal cameo from Sigourney Weaver.

One of Pixar’s strongest sequels to date. Not its finest feature but with beautiful animation, amazing characters, and a story that makes sure everyone will just keep swimming.

(Also stay till the end of the credits for an appearance from some old friends….)