Passengers

4 Stars

Decent, but had even greater potential.

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Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) are passengers on board a start-of-the-art spaceship ‘The Starship Avalon’, travelling from Earth to inhabit a new colony planet. 30 years into the 120 year journey, a malfunction in the ship causes Jim’s hibernation pod to open too early. Unable to reset the pod, and with only an android bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen) for company, Jim must consider his options.

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The prospect of being stuck on a spaceship hurtling through space alone with no hope of escape is a really interesting premise; reminiscent of Alien and Moon. This makes for a really strong start to the film. Passengers starts out in sci-fi thriller territory but unexpectedly ends up in romance, somewhat killing the tension that had been built up. Luckily there are just enough plot twists to keep you entertained regardless. Although if I had a choice, I would have preferred things to remain in the same vein throughout. There was potential there for a far more intense (and less cheesy) storyline.

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Chris Pratt is perfect as the regular, down-to-earth guy Jim. This takes up the slack for Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora, who is a little more up tight and therefore harder to relate to. The Starship Avalon is almost a character in itself, with its hi-tech automated messages and assistant holograms. The vastness of the unpopulated ship helps to give an eerie feeling, similar to the hotel in The Shining. Yet its luxurious design scheme adds so much to the overall look and vibe of the film.

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Finally, It’s nice to see a big budget film come out that isn’t part of an existing franchise! Passengers premieres in Sweden on 21 December.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

3.5 Stars

Slightly better than The Force Awakens.

For those who are unaware, Rogue One is actually a Star Wars Anthology film – a standalone story which is set within the Star Wars universe; but not part of the sequel trilogy. This means the main characters from other Star Wars movies are largely left out.

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The story centers around Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) who are on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star – a superweapon developed by the Galactic Empire with the capability of destroying entire planets.

From the locations and sets to the costumed background characters and aliens, the Star Wars universe has been utilised to full effect with beautiful results. There are many visually stunning scenes.

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It is actually refreshing the fact that this is a standalone movie that hasn’t been stretched out or watered down in order to fit into a set number of installments. I think this is what makes it superior to The Force Awakens, it feels more complete.

The story is a little complex and difficult to follow at first, but don’t stress – as the film folds out everything starts to become clear and make sense. It can be a little confusing when place names sound like character names and vice versa!

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My misgivings about Rogue One largely center around the lacklustre lead characters. It’s not that there is anything ‘wrong’ with them as such, they just can’t hold a candle to the likes of Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, Princess Leia or even Queen Amidala in terms of likeability and charisma. Jyn Erso’s character doesn’t feel fresh, as her look and personality traits are much like Rey from The Force Awakens – she might as well be the same person. This lack in strength of the new characters becomes further apparent when Darth Vader makes a brief but welcome appearance in a couple of scenes.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premieres in Sweden on 14 December.

Suicide Squad

2.5 Stars

Style over substance.

If anything, this film is proof that being hip and cool doesn’t count for much when the story isn’t up to par. Even with a winning concept, the wardrobe department on top of their game and a killer soundtrack.

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Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) works for a secret government agency in charge of security. Against her colleagues’ advice she suggests putting together a squad of the most dangerous and colourful criminals in custody, in order to respond to future security threats. Under command of Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), her suggested lineup includes Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), amongst others. The most lethal of these is a witch called Enchantress (Cara Delevingne).

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In this depiction of the comic world, The Joker (Jared Leto) is Harley Quinn’s boyfriend. As much of a fan as I am of Jared Leto, I found his portrayal of The Joker a little lacking in something that I can’t quite place my finger on. Lacking in soul, perhaps? Or maybe just *TOO* odd. I’m not sure if it’s because he didn’t have enough scenes to really show what he had, or maybe we have been so spoilt with Heath Ledger’s version that nothing else can come close. He certainly didn’t copy – i’ll give him that.

The beginning of the film is promising, it feels like they had a decent writer churn out the overall idea and then handed it over to a bunch of monkeys to finish it off. Disjointed, boring at times, I could go on. It’s such a shame because there was so much potential.

My favourite thing about this film? Harley Quinn’s outfit and props, hands down.

Suicide Squad premieres in Sweden on 3 August.

The Revenant

3.5 Stars

That bear scene, though.

If there’s any reason at all to see The Revenant, it’s certainly for the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio. This role demanded everything that he had, and he delivered 100 percent. There’s a heartfelt scene where he’s hugging his son, and his emotions are so intense that he’s producing deep forehead wrinkles in a formation I’ve never even seen before.

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Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) are part of a hunting team sourcing fur pelts in the woods. With native American Indians on their tail, their hard-earned hoard is threatened and their leader, Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) must decide what to do next. When unruly team member John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) starts to show his rebellious side, tensions start to run high.

Special mention to Tom Hardy whose acting was also outstanding. His accent is so perfect it’s easy to forget he’s actually a Londoner. As the sinister Fitzgerald he’s able to give creepy looks just with his eyes, reminiscent of Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Nightcrawler.

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The violence and gore in this film is perhaps even more than Tarantino-level – and that’s saying something. It’s clear to see that no expense has been spared with getting the special effects right, especially in the surreal scene with the Grizzly bear (see trailer). Then of course the beautiful wintery landscapes are a joy to behold, director Alejandro Iñárritu yet was very particular about using only natural landscapes and light – no CGI was used for these shots.

Yes, the quality of many aspects of this film is extremely high. So why only 3.5 stars? Actually it’s the storyline. It was good, but just not compelling enough to be remarkable. The Revenant is worth more for its individual parts than the overall package.

The Revenant premieres in Sweden on January 29.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

4 Stars

Does what it says on the tin.

What is it with action flicks opening with dramatic aeroplane scenes these days? There was The Dark Knight Rises, then The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and now again in MI:5 – come up with some new ideas please, writers of Hollywood!

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This installment sees Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) along with his IMF teammate hackers Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and boss (Jeremy Renner) try to conquer the rogue organization called ‘The Syndicate’. To track down The Syndicate, Ethan must pursue the mysterious Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) – but whose side is she really on?

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As you would expect, the film is set in your typical spy-esque destinations; including Minsk, Vienna, Washington, Morocco, Paris and London. As usual, Tom Cruise carries off his stunt-work with ease. And like the previous films, it is fun and enjoyable to watch. My only real complaint is that it has become a little too generic now, in comparison with the original movie. Apart from the standard bunch of actors, you could just as easily be watching one of the Bourne or 007 films. They have also added a hint of comedy to the mix, which doesn’t feel very true to the franchise – although this no doubt makes it more easily accessible to mainstream audiences.

Good news for fans, though: Tom Cruise has already stated that Mission Impossible 6 will probably start shooting next summer! It looks as if Karl Pilkington’s film idea featuring Mission Impossible 7 and 8 might just come true, although the timing is a bit off (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch this).

MI:5 premieres in Sweden on July 31.

Black Sea

4 Stars

A back to basics nail-biter.

If you enjoyed The Great Escape (1963) you’ll feel right at home with this. This man-on-a-mission adventure thriller features a bunch of men on a submarine – enough to shamelessly fail any Bechdel test anyone cares to throw at it.

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Robinson (Jude Law) is a Scotsman who has just been fired from his unique and highly-skilled position as captain of under-sea salvage. In order to continue providing for the welfare of his son, he agrees to command a highly lucrative but challenging mission to retrieve some yet unspoken for gold bars from one of Hitler’s u-boats which is buried beneath the Black Sea. He brings with him a motley crew of British and Russians with expertise in their respective fields, including a psychotic Australian diver thrown in for good measure. To add some extra tension, Robinson also chooses to bring along a young inexperienced lad called Tobin at the last minute, to make up the numbers.

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The drama begins when Robinson reveals that the profits are to be shared equally amongst the crew, and talk starts to brew over the possibility of eliminating other crew members in order to increase one’s own share.

Law is surprisingly authentic in his role as a tough and hardened captain, however I do think he would be even more suitable as the next James Bond (Why has he not been chosen to replace Daniel Craig yet?).

Overall a very enjoyable film and even quite touching at the end. I’m surprised that it’s currently only 6.4 on IMDB, I thought it deserved more. It’s a thumbs up from me! Black Sea premieres in Sweden on April 10.