Sunday, 17 November 2013

292, Ender's Game

This is another of the movies that crept up silently, without a single trailer or clue what it was about before I came to watch it.  I literally knew that Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley headed up a pretty slick cast list about a space age generation, locked in battle with an alien race.

After coming close to extension - the bravely on one warrior, Mazer Rackham (Kingsley) gave his life to save the human race.  50 years on - and expecting a retaliation attack, Colonel Graff (Ford) is heading up an elite force of teenage warriors - leading the way with game strategy and computer based warfare intelligence to create a 'remote controlled' army - set to destroy the enemy race - The Formecs.

Don't get me wrong - its not all kids in-front of TV screens - there is some actual training and one-on- one combat between the trainee troops but its the skills of youngster Ender Wiggin, played by Asa Butterfield that catches the Colonel's eye and Ender is quickly promoted through the ranks to officer training and with his own battalion of like minded youths.

 The final training scenario sees a now hardened and strategically advanced Ender take on Bonzo - leader of the Salamanders and as such - promoted to lead (albeit remotely) the potential attack on the Formecs.

I wont go into to many details about the end of the movie as there's a cheeky twist that see's Ender and his troops come to realise exactly the situation he's advanced himself to with devastating effects however on the whole, this was a new twist on an old story and one that was well acted and well received.

Ford & Kingsley head up the cast in roles that I wouldn't have guessed either would be interested in.  Maybe Ford is getting used to begin back in space ahead of his (rumoured) Star Wars return in Episode VII, due 2015. 

The special effects were standard to any other space / alien movie but you have to award this one to the kids, with the exception of Bonzo, who just sadly came across as annoying.  Ender, Petra, Bean & Alai all seemed to revel in their roles and under the leadership of Ford and Kingsley made this movie a nice little surprise that was a definite one to watch on the run into the Christmas blockbuster season.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

291, Escape Plan

Those who have read this blog from Day 1 will know my love of 80's Action heroes.  Stallone, Arnie and the like and with Expendables 1 & 2, my childhood memories of huge explosions & 1 man armies was easily realised which meant that although being on a smaller scale - two of my all time favourite action stars teaming up for an intelligent 'prison break' styled movie was one I couldn't wait to see.

Sly plays Ray Breslin - the leading authority on private security and the type of guy who gets locked up (under cover) in some of the worlds toughest prisons, just to break out of them.

Breslin is seduced by the thought of topping his career by breaking out of the worlds toughest prison - location unknown, no safe words - a real lock down, but it soon becomes apparent that this ruse to get Breslin locked down is a set up and with no way out he has no choice but to defeat the most secure facility on earth - along with its own private army of guards.

Whilst inside he teams up with another aged but respected inmate (Arnie) who he manages to bring on-side with a promise of freedom if he helps Breslin crack the security protocols.  The guards (which include Vinnie Jones) are led by softly spoken Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) who although controlled and well mannered, shows an almost sadistic nature in his hold over the inmates and rules his prison with an iron fist.

The movie does plod along quite nicely and as with the Expendables - there are plenty of old age pranks between them both and a far more realistic and less 'gun-ho' approach to battle than their previous solo lone wolf outings. 

Caviezel is a new favourite of mine after the watching him in the brilliant TV show - Person of Interest and he is the perfect choice for this role however Vinnie Jones as the right hand 'hard-man' did seem to lower the tone ever so slightly - sorry Vinnie! 

On the flips side however - Sly's own team on the outside consist of Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson - who is actually entirely watchable and very impressive as the I.T brains of the business Breslin runs.  A far cry from the expected 'Gangsta' persona and one he'd do well to reprise if given the chance.

The plot is cleverly thought out and delivered smoothly - the thought behind the prison itself, once identified is a brilliantly perceived the escape plan itself - helped by a secret Arnie is hiding throughout the movie, only realised right at the end is a welcomed unexpected twist.

If you love your action heroes then it doesn't come bigger than these two but there's as much clever escapology and logic as there is fisticuffs and that makes for a believable and realistic movie that should go down well with fans of the overpowering twosome.

290, Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips charts the true story of Richard Phillips, Captain of the U.S flagged MV Maersk Alabama who was hijacked by Somali Pirates, the first American Cargo vessel hijacked in over 200 years.

Hanks plays Phillips in what most are saying is the role of his life and I for one have to agree.  The sheer scale of this film is firstly spectacular.  The opening scenes show Hanks preparing for the voyage, going through the motions of standard preparation and the journey to the airport where he meets up with his vessel & within 20 minutes we are on board and on the seas with a vigilant Philips questioning the pirate security measures, seemingly overlooked by a quite despondent crew.

Only after noticing a few small blips on the radar do the crew actually start to realise the potential danger they are in and in a brilliant first assault - the brave crew manage to fend of the Somali's - hell bent on securing the vessel for ransom.

Its Phillips leadership that manages to turn a handful of 'union' deck hands - initially stating they didn't sign up for heroism duty to man up and after a more successful 2nd attack - the ship is boarded and Philips taken captive while his crew hide out in the depths of the ship.

The movie is fast paced and punchy and only half of is it aboard the Cargo ship - the final half takes place on a tiny lifeboat - launched clear of the Maersk after the crew tactically overthrown the pirates but with a fear for his life - Philips ends up aboard the escape vessel with some quite panicked but committed pirates - led fantastically by Muse (Barkhad Abdi).

What goes down between the Pirates, Phillips and the US Navy is simply awe inspiring - edge of the seat stuff that sees one of the most dramatic ends to a movie I feel you will see all year.  Hopefully - this story is well known so no need for spoilers but the final scenes of the movie - with Hanks in the medical bay are some of the most moving moments you will ever see on film and will bring a tear to the hardest of eyes.

Best film of the year?  Well, Hanks certainly once more proves he is the stuff of legends and the 2hrs 14 minutes fly by in what seems less than 90.  The overall scale of this movie is fantastically mastered by director Paul Greengrass and if Hanks isn't given the best actor nod then I'd be very surprised - but who knows what else is to be released state side between now and the Academy getting together.

I cant fault this film in any way.  A true thriller with everyone turning in a fantastic performance and Hanks - the centre piece of my favourite film all year.