Review: Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

muppets most wanted

Successfully reintroduced in The Muppets, Jim Henson’s loveable puppet creations are back for Muppets Most Wanted, a sequel that’s every but as fun and brisk as its predecessor, even if it does skimp on the heart.  Capitalising on their newfound success, the Muppets embark upon a world tour. Soon after, Constantine, an evil frog, escapes from prison, only to swap places with Kermit and use the Muppets’ worldwide tour as cover for a series of elaborate crime heists. Continue reading

Review: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive isn’t like the vampire films Hollywood have churned out over the years. There’s no sparkle, nor is there much in the way of action or suspense, only people – people with a deep resentment for the world in which they inhabit, who happen to favour blood over food and other liquids. It pays to be different though, and Jim Jarmusch’s film is a stunning subversion that’s entrenched in a wonderful sense of artistry and atmosphere. Continue reading

Review: The Joy Of Six (2013)

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Short films have never had quite the same attention placed upon them as feature length films. However, with a new scheme launched by New British Cinema Quarterly, in partnership with independent distributors Soda Pictures, it seems that’s set to change in a very positive way. The Joy Of Six, a collection of six short films from up-and-coming British talent, offers a unique and innovative way for audiences to discover and potentially embrace the short film format. The six shorts, starring Peter Mullan, Judi Dench and Tom Hiddleston amongst others, range in length and quality, though Continue reading

Review: The Avengers (2012)

After laying hands on “the Tesseract” (a cube shaped source of energy capable of opening portals between worlds), Asgardian demi-God Loki (Tom Hiddleston) becomes hell bent on conquering Earth once and for all. Realising they don’t have a human army resilient enough to check his wrath, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls upon six individuals with superhuman abilities – Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – in a plan codenamed the “Avengers Initiative”, to Continue reading

Review: The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

Succumbing to the unexpected throes of love, Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz) abandons her stable life with High Court judge William (Simon Russell Beale) for Freddie (Tom Hiddleston): a youthful pilot, formerly of the RAF. However, their romance is not easy, as we see his frivolous personality slowly evaporating when faced with her needy disposition.

Establishing itself with an intense, compact opening sequence depicting Hester’s attempted suicide, screenwriter and director Terence Davies Continue reading

Review: Thor (2011)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Thor is the latest comic-book adaptation from Marvel, and stars Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgård.

The film centres on Thor (Hemsworth), a powerful but arrogant warrior, who is cast down to Earth by his father Odin (Hopkins) and is forced to live among humans. A beautiful young scientist, Jane Foster (Portman), has a profound effect on Thor, awakening romantic feelings for the first time.

It’s while on Earth that Thor must learn what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth.

Branagh, who seemed at first like an odd choice for director, succeeds in making the fantastical elements feel grounded and realistic: something which was always going to be tricky to achieve. He employs plenty of sweeping cinematography to fully explore the intricately detailed environments, never letting the epic scale get out of hand.

This is aided in no small part by a strong, humorous and consistent screenplay – full of snappy dialogue, subtle references and nifty cameos – which improves the somewhat predictable morality tale. Moreover, he has elicited convincing, enthusiastic performances from his eclectic cast.

Hemsworth truly embodies Thor, proving himself more than capable both in terms of action and humour, stepping up from minor supporting actor to a leading Hollywood star.

He stands out amongst a heavy-weight supporting cast, including ditzy and on-fire Portman, a hilarious and shamefully understated Dennings and an ever-solid Skarsgård.

Hiddleston delivers an effective, and wholly opposing, performance as Thor’s twisted brother Loki – a far cry from his recent low-key turn in Archipelago. Hopkins, as is to be expected, adds a touch of cinematic class as the patriarchal Odin.

It’s a shame the supporting characters aren’t further explored, but it’s a minor issue and understandable considering the circumstances. It’s encouraging to hear that various roles were beefed up after test-screening reactions.

There are, like many big-budget productions, a number of visual and narrative flaws, but Thor manages to be a superbly grounded, infectiously gratifying and valiantly executed summer blockbuster, completely defying mediocre expectations.

All involved in production have done a commendable job in making this superhero movie feel as seasoned and entertaining as possible, embracing the absurd in a way that entirely proves Branagh a sensible choice in director, and Hemsworth a fantastic Thor.

Review: Archipelago (2010)

Archipelago is Joanna Hogg’s second directorial feature, and stars Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Baker, Kate Fahy, Amy Lloyd and Lydia Leonard.

The film follows an upper class family and their holiday on Tresco, Isles of Scilly. Patricia (Fahy) calls together daughter Cynthia (Leonard) and son Edward (Hiddleston) for some quality time before Edward embarks upon a volunteer placement in Africa While their father appears only over phone calls, he casts an unseen presence on the characters’ development. With hired cook Rose (Lloyd) and family friend Christopher (Baker), the family’s relationships soon begin to strain, and its foundations are tested and tortured as the holiday continues.

Filmed on location, the weather, natural lighting, and the raw, irresolute environment perfectly echo the family’s turbulent relationships, switching from light optimism as they initially gather to a dull grey monotone when they eventually depart.

In long, static takes, full of wide shots which dare to linger and embrace the awkwardness, Hogg delicately exposes the chasm between polite pretences and repressed animosity.

The script exquisitely fluctuates between the brutally comic and the frustratingly trivial actions. Some may find it uncomfortable, but Hogg instills the right amount of indignation to keep the audience emotionally invested throughout, taking her time to carefully examine each character, as well as the family dynamic as a whole.

The acting itself, in particularly from Hiddleston, is superb, with all the actors committing admirable and earnest performances as their respective emotionally disconcerted character, each at different stages in their lives.

Most of the dialogue and character interactions are improvised, relying on staging, body language and the vapid conversations to further the narrative, which in turn give the family’s relationships a wonderfully authentic nature.

Ed Rutherford’s score is impeccable, seamlessly integrating with the films low-key style, helping to accentuate the unsettled relationship at its heart, and the unsaid words lingering between them.

All these elements make Archipelago a wonderfully raw, realistic and inquisitive study into family life: the ups and downs, the turmoil, the repressed emotions and the subtle moments of joy. It’s a truly superb and accomplished piece of filmmaking that, while not being to everyone’s tastes, certainly proves that Hogg is one of the most visually daring and unique British directors in recent years.

Some may find it deplorable and and utterly pointless, while others will cherish it and savour every moment. I, on the one hand, find myself in the second category.