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The Revenant

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It’s only a couple of weeks until the Oscars now, and I finally get round to seeing one of the frontrunners-The Revenant. But after Alejandro G. Inarritu’s last film Birdman won Best Director and Best Picture can Inarritu possibly strike gold again a year later?

In 1823 a group of trappers are left stranded after an ambush by a Native American party. As they try to head back to safety hunter Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is badly mauled by a bear. While the majority of the group go onhead for help, John Fitzgerald -one of the men left to look after him- manipulates events to leave Glass half burried in a man made grave. Barely alive and heavily injured Glass must survive on his wits and his will for revenge to make it back.

This is a movie based on real events, and it’s an impressive story of one man’s struggle to survive against the odds. Battling aginst nature, animals and other men, Inarritu immerses you into Glass’ journey. You feel the brutal coldness of the wildlife and the harshness of the elements. Sometimes the movie feels like an endurance, which is probably exactly how Inarritu intended The Revenant to be.

There are impressive set peieces such as the attack on the trappers by the Native Americans at the beginning of the movie and the bear attack attack on Glass. The make up on display here is amazing, all of Glass’ injruies are shown in glory, bloody detail, if it wasn’t based on a true story you would think Hollywood was getting too ridiculous in it’s fight for survival stories. DiCaprio makes a strong bid for his long awaited Oscar for Best Actor, although I think his turn in The Wolf of Wall Street is still his most impressive performance. In supporting roles Tom Hardy is good but I was more impressed by Will Poulter as the conflicted, naive Jim Bridger.

However much I like The Revenant, I left feeling as though it was more a film to admire rather than love. Inarritu is a great director but as one of the front runners for Best Picture at the Oscars I feel The Big Short and Room are more deserving of the big win out of all the films I’ve seen so far. The beginning is great and so is the bear attack and the majority of Glass’ journey, but the film is 156 mins long and you really start to feel this in the second half of the movie. I was really intreaged by the subplot of the Arikara Native American party who is on their own search for revenge, but it ends up being a disapointment. And while I could suspend my disbeleief over Glass’ bear attack and recovering from being half buried alive (as these are based on real events), I was struggling more when Glass manages to survive gallaping off a cliff on a horse (the horse more realistically does not survive). There were also moments which I suspect were meant to be heartfelt and tear-jerking such as when Glass sees visions of his dead wife, but it ends up being more distracting and unintentionally funny.

Maybe this is what happens as a result of being the most hyped up movie of the Oscar season, by the time I got round to see The Revenant it was bound to be an uphill battle. Also after having seen The Hateful Eight, Everest and The Revenant in a space of a few weeks I’m getting a bit sick of movies set in the cold and the snow. Hopefully the next trend will be movies set in the Bahamas.

Rating 3.5/5 – stunning cinematography, direction and acting but way too long

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Legend

Legend

London gangsters The Krays seems to have held a fascination by the British public for a while. Having already been the subject of the 1990 film The Krays, Tom Hardy is now taken on the challenge by playing both of the criminal brothers. But was the movie worth his effort?

During the 1950s and 1960 twin brothers Reggie and Ronnie Kray (both played by Tom Hardy) terrorized London. But mixing with politicians and actors gained them notoriety and made them seemingly untouchable. However their reign can’t last forever and the story shows their rise and fall.

The film is told through Reggie’s wife Frances (Emily Browning), a fragile, young girl who is at first amazed by Reggie and his world then learns the hard way how it can all go wrong. Browning is great as the sole sympathetic character in the movie. The film has a lot of great supporting actors too from the likes of Paul Bettany as a rival gang member and Taron Egerton as Teddy, one of Ronnie’s lovers.

Legend is stylishly shot and has a tense, sometimes hilarious script. But what everyone will be talking about after they’ve seen this movie is Tom Hardy’s incredible performance. He fully convinces as the Kray twins, openly gay, certifiable insane and violent Ronnie and the suave and less psychotic but just as dangerous Reggie. It could easily have been a vanity casting, but Hardy is brilliant in both roles that you forget he is playing opposite himself as he loses himself completely in these characters.

Some people may find the film glamorize and humanizes the Krays too much. Personally I think the film manages to find the right balance between the “legend” and the violent truth of the Krays.

Rating 4/5 – violent, thrilling and sometimes darkly funny with a possibly oscar worthy performance from Tom Hardy

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Mad Max: Fury Road

At first the signs did not look good for this movie. After all it’s the third sequel to a classic movie, that has been stuck in development hell for years, so how good could the film be? But then strange things started happening. It got a load of rave review and wide acclaim. Despite all it’s problems getting here could Mad Max: Fury Road actually be a decent movie?

Set in the future after nuclear war has made the world a desert wasteland, Max (Tom Hardy) is drifting on his own, haunted by his past. He is soon captured by a group called the Wild Boys led by the tyrannical Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrns). However when Furiosa (Charlize Theron) betrays Joe and takes his five wives away, Max ends up unwittingly involved in the women’s escape. But Immortan Joe won’t let his wives go without a fight.

I have a vague recollection of seeing Mad Max and Mad Max 2: Road Warrior, or at least I remember seeing the end of them. I haven’t seen the third movie, although I’ve definitely seen the Tina Turner music video for Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. So while I’m not able to say if Fury Road lives up to its predecesories I can say that on its own merit it’s an adrenaline fuelled movie, that’s absolutely bonkers, and all the better for it. Whether it’s human blood bags being strapped to the front of vehicles or the villains’ crew including men playing guitars and drums on cars as they chase their victims across the deserts, this movie is appropriately quite mad. It’s also hugely enjoyable.

While Tom Hardy is strong and on brooding form as the title character its great that a testosterone full movie like this is not afraid of having strong female characters. Charlize Theron in particular is great as Furiosa. I was worried that the Five Wives (Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) were going to be useless baggage dragging the film down. While they are living McGuffins there to drive the plot along, they are actually interesting and make themselves useful. As the movie goes on you’re willing for them to make it away from Immortan Joe’s grip. Nicholas Holt as Wild Boy Nux is also great in this movie. He manages to be funny in one scene and then pitifully sad in another, even though he’s one of the people chasing after The Five Wives. The baddies are also appropriately grotesque and creepy.

It’s not a flawless movie. Max’s visions of his dead daughter are annoying, while I’m sure they provide the audience with Max’s motivations I still got irritated every time she appeared or heard her voice. But when a movie is as fun as this it’s a small quibble to have.

Rating 4/5 – over the top it made be, but it’s definitely the post apocalyptic-action blockbuster to beat

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The Dark Knight Rises

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There aren’t many movie sequels that live up to the original. There are even fewer trilogies that make the grade. Seriously, I can only think of The Bourne series and the Indiana Jones films as examples where the quality has been maintained the whole way through. Can Christopher Nolan’s latest Batman film join that elusive list?

For those who don’t know The Dark Knight Rises is set 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight. After Harvey Kent’s death has been blamed on Batman, Gotham has been relatively crime free, while Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has hung up his cape and is living like a recluse. Threatening Gotham’s new found peace is Anne Hathaway’s morally ambiguous Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman, although she’s never called that on screen) and Tom Hardy’s villainous Bane.

I’m a big fan of Nolan’s work as a director. As with Inception and the previous Batman films Nolan isn’t afraid to mix intelligent films with high entertainment value, and The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t disappoint. Nolan gives us dramatic car chases, fights and most memorably Gotham’s football stadium imploding on itself. But the audience is also treated to discussions on state responsibility and tensions between the haves-and have not’s.

Whereas most trilogy fail by introducing too many new characters to the mix (looking at you Spiderman 3) the characters slip effortlessly into Nolan’s world and serve a purpose to the plot instead of feeling shoehorned in. Finally Nolan gives us a strong female character in Selina Kyle, she brings a sense of fun sometimes missing in the Batman series and her quips bring plenty of laughs to the screen. Also making a great debute to the Batman series is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as police officer John Blake who gives the film heart as he encourages Bruce Wayne to come back into action.

The film’s main antagonist Bane is a good opponent for Batman to end his trilogy with. He is a mix of brawn and brains, showing he is more than a match for Bruce Wayne as shown in their brutal first fight together. Wayne has been out of the crime fighting game for a while and having gathered various injuries, Bane knows how to use those weakness against him and comes across as a credible threat to Gotham’s stability.

There are a few downsides to the film. Michael Cane’s Alfred doesn’t have as much screen times as in the earlier films, and the romance between Bruce Wayne and Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate is dull with little chemistry between the two. There’s much more spark in his encounters with Catwoman. Although Tom Hardy is great as Bane, he has a distracting and sometimes inaudible voice that’s almost as irritating as the voice Bale puts on for Batman. Was there a secret bet going on as to who had the more ridiculous voice?

There is more I want to comment on in this film but it does involve huge spoilers which I wouldn’t want to ruin for anyone else. But there were moments in this film which made my inner fan girl scream with delight. A good film to end on.

4/5

About as brutal and serious as a blockbuster gets, Nolan’s Dark Crusader will be missed.

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