DVD & Digital

Film review: Flag Day

 As an actor, the talent of Sean Penn has rarely been called into question yet behind the camera, his work has been known to divide audiences. His previous effort was infamously met with a chorus of boos at Cannes Film Festival five years ago, but he’s back in the director’s chair once again for family drama Flag Day. Based on the memoir Flim-Flam Man: A True Family History by author and journalist Jennifer Vogel, it tells the true story of troubled con artist John Vogel (Sean Penn) and how his crimes impacted upon his relationship with his daughter (Dylan Penn), who is working through issues of her own.

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DVD & Digital

DVD review: Deadpool 2


Two years ago, Marvel refreshed the superhero genre when they re-introduced Deadpool, an X-rated, fast-talking crime fighter like nobody else we’d seen in spandex on the silver screen. Now the fourth-wall smashing ‘merc with a mouth’ is back for his much-anticipated sequel. Directed by David Leitch, the plot sees Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) reunite with a gang of B-team X-Men members after he suffers a personal tragedy. They encounter a teen mutant who goes by the name Firefist (Julian Dennison) who is being targeted by Cable (Josh Brolin), a cybernetic soldier who has travelled back in time to save his family. To protect Firefist and bring down the villain of the piece, Deadpool must form his own alliance.

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DVD & Digital

DVD review: Sicario


French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has enjoyed a relatively unblemished track record thus far with critics and cinema-goers alike, his films such as Enemy and Prisoners receiving acclaim for all angles. His latest feature, ‘Sicario’, which is a Latin American term for hitman, explores the crime thriller genre, focussing on drug trafficking and federal corruption. Emily Blunt stars as FBI kidnap-response team leader Kate Macer, a strong-willed and idealistic agent, determined to bring cartel boss Manuel Diaz (Bernardo P. Saracino) to justice. Following a gruesome discovery related to her target, she is approached by shady CIA officer Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) who invites her to join him and his mysterious right-hand-man Alejandro (Benicio del Toro) on a mission aimed at getting to the very heart of Mexico’s criminal underworld. Seizing the opportunity, Macer agrees but soon finds herself compromised, unsure who to trust in an dangerous environment where the lines between right and wrong become increasingly blurred.

Collaborating again with the celebrated cinematographer Roger Deakins, a menacing atmosphere is ever-present in Villeneuve’s visually striking depiction of the comings and goings across the US-Mexico border. We observe the dark, slow-burning narrative unfold through the initially naive perspective of agent Macer, discovering plot points as and when she does, and see her moral compass waiver as her involvement in the assignment deepens. The pulsing score, expertly crafted by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, brings nerve-shredding tension to the excellent black-ops scenes. The suspense building never lets up, hitting hard in a particularly well choreographed sequence shot using first-person techniques through night vision goggles, placing the viewer right in the midst of the threat.

Continuing on from her powerful co-starring roles as no-nonsense female figures in films such as Looper and Edge of Tomorrow, Emily Blunt comes under the leading spotlight in Sicario, showing the same heroine qualities for her portrayal of Kate Macer. Beneath her hard-edged exterior is an endearing vulnerability that gives her character depth and relatability. Her by-the-book principles creates conflict with her peers, making for enjoyable dialogue between her and her ethically-challenged colleagues. She frequently butts heads with Graver, played suitably sleazily by the ever-professional Brolin. A solid supporting cast includes Jon Bernthal and Daniel Kaluuya, their characters used as devices to dissect Macer’s character, showing all aspects of her personality.

A well-placed revenge tangent sees supporting character Alejandro take centre-stage for a brief spell. This helps implement a subplot centred around a crooked policia officer called Silvio (Maximiliano Hernández) with the main plotline, and develops Del Toro’s primarily nuanced turn into an electrifying performance, which culminates in a shocking dinner table showdown as well as a rewarding two-hander finale with the protagonist.

Complex subject matter is delved into intelligently by Denis Villeneuve, and ‘Sicario’ is further evidence of his quality as a filmmaker. With the crime genre as his current forte, he executes with style and substance in equal measures. The comprehensive screenplay is penned by Sons of Anarchy actor-turned writer Taylor Sheridan and Blunt, Brolin and Del Toro impress and excel in the richness of the material. Villeneuve’s direction and Deakins’ skilful cinematography work together to achieve the desired effect, isolating and alienating Macer in hostile territory where heroes are merely lesser villains.


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DVD & Digital

DVD review: Everest 3D

In 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. The survival statistics for those that have tried to emulate the magnificent feat since are terrifying. The frightening figures lead us into adventure disaster epic simply titled ‘Everest’, directed by Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur. The film is based on the 1996 expedition when two groups attempted the climb, one led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and the other by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). When both teams face tough terrain on the ascent, they join forces and club together their resources. Can they topple the almighty odds to make it to the top?
  Shot in spectacular 3D, this is one of the few times I’d recommend adding an extra dimension to your cinema experience. The camera work here from Salvatore Totino adds great depth to the landscapes which are literally breathtaking. The narrative creates a respected villain out of the mountain itself and doesn’t over dramatise the situations in the way most disaster genre movies would. Without spoiling the plot, character exits are deft and in fact more shocking by the underplayed approach, life slipping away from bodies slowly and quietly. Where the film falls down slightly is the lack of emotioneering behind the back stories of the multitude of characters. We only see and hear about glimpses of their pasts and their reasons for wanting to achieve such a goal, quoting the famous George Mallory’s ‘because it’s there’ line.
  There is a huge star-studded cast list but because of the location of the film it can at times be difficult to tell them apart, all dressed up in big coats and covered in snow! The tense atmosphere and drama of Everest itself engulfs the acting but there are a couple of good turns that deserve a mention. The central performance from Jason Clarke is the most memorable, with a multi-layered quality to it given the fact that Hall was a coach to fellow climbers yet was at risk himself. Gyllenhaal plays the care-free adrenaline junkie Fischer with his usual flair and likeability, bringing about welcome light relief when events get rather heavy by whooping hysterically and delivering dialogue such as ‘it’s about the attitude, not the altitude’. From the small selection of those that aren’t up the mountain, Emily Watson gives the most emotionally charged portrayal as Helen, the base camp manager, acting as a go between from the mountaineers and their loved ones.
  ‘Everest’ is definitely a movie worth taking time out to see on the big screen, as its strong point is the powerful visuals. Kormákur excels in this field and manages to create an aesthetic that is both brutally realistic and larger than life simultaneously. The storytelling is morbid but can be very hard-hitting and successfully dodges the sentimental genre tropes but doesn’t explore the psyches of Hall, Fischer and the rest of the group enough. Because of this lack of development where the core climbers are concerned, more questions are raised than answered.


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