Prisoners Review

When I first saw this films trailer I was immediately intrigued; Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhall together in a film on paper says its going to be good. I was really looking forward to seeing this movie, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Despite that, I still enjoyed it.

Two little girls from different families go missing and police launch a frantic search for the two children. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhall) is brought in as the lead whilst both families (Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello & Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) take different approaches to help finding their children.

After a suspect is arrested but then let go because of not enough evidence, Keller Dover (Jackman) takes the law into his own hands, kidnapping the suspect Alex, and turning to torture to try and get the vital information he believes he holds. During these scenes you’re not sure who to feel sorry for more you are constantly left guessing as to whether Alex is in fact the kidnapper.

Even though the initial abduction is gotten to quickly in the film, the story is quite slow on the upkeep, giving the audience a lot of extra layers that eventually all lead up the reveal of the ending. Despite the movie being long, it’s extremely gripping and intense with plenty of twists and turns and conflicting emotions

The differing reactions from the parents and their coping capabilities vary as well, giving the actors more scope; Hugh Jackman takes a very pragmatic approach and gives a great performance -Keller is a man who is prepared to do just about anything to get his daughter back, quickly becoming desperate and angry. In contrast to this, his on-screen wife played by Maria Bello completely crumbles with inconsolable grief: she has to be medicated in order to keep her sedated and calm. The other family played by Terrence Howard and Viola Davis remain calm, and it’s intriguing to see both individual’s battles with their conscience once they discover the truth of Dover’s brutality. Gyllenhall was also great as Loki, compete with his own mannerism in the form of a double blink which added a nice touch to his character. He was calm and collected despite several run ins with Jackman’s character and the red tape that he faced at work.

The ending when it comes is both satisfying but also left open-ended, but as a viewer I was glad that it had finally arrived; it was an incredibly tense movie but even so it felt a little too long for me and I found myself being quite fidgety in the cinema. Despite this I thought it was a solid, gripping movie and one worth seeing if you’re a fan of either Gyllenhall or Jackman.

“Someone has to make him talk or they’re gonna die!” (Keller Dover, Prisoners)

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The Wolverine

Hugh Jackman returns to the role that made him a household name in this second standalone Wolverine movie. Set after the events of The Last Stand, Logan is still dealing with the emotional aftermath carrying the baggage and guilt of Jean’s death, living in solitude in the mountains. Until a Japanese woman seeks him out and brings him to Japan to help a dying man’s wish.

At the very start of the film Logan gets in a fight at a bar after he finds a bear injured after a group of men hunt it in the woods. It’s great to see Logan get so angry over the bear, seeking justice even for such small a thing – it allows him to have a connection to something, despite him seeking solitude. It’s also brilliant to see cameos throughout the movie from Famke Janesson, reprising her role as Jean Grey in Logan’s hallucinations. The film gave a sense of closure to fans that felt short-changed at the change of direction The Last Stand took us in and I felt the new director James Mangold did a great job with everything.

Hugh Jackman is still the perfect Wolverine and he proves it again with brilliant action sequences, raw emotion and that same sarky manner we’ve come to know and love. It’s been 10 years since the first X-Men movie and he is still physically fit and toned. And a moment in the film where he’s naked in a bath tub – a highlight for many I’m sure.

The film suffers a little because of the storyline that they’ve come up with; the idea that it boils down to a family business rivalry and argument about money that’s gone wrong is a bizarre concept for a comic book movie, and viewers have come to expect bigger, with much more at stake. That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its plus points. As I’ve said the action sequences are great, particularly the bullet train fight and the sequence at the house towards the end. The film is a little typical, and you can certainly see some angles coming from a mile off but the action sequences, Hugh Jackman and a much more Wolverine focused film, it’s a good solid feature.

Soon after the film opened, word spread of an end credits scene that may or may not be a teaser for the hotly anticipated Days of Future Past. Filming has officially wrapped and original director of the first two X-Men films Bryan Singer is returning to the helm. The film will combine the original cast from the first three films, and incorporate the newer cast and seeing them all take the stage at this year’s Comic Con panel was slightly epic. From Singer’s tweeting to the emotive words the cast and crew gave, you can feel the passion coming from this project. The end credits managed to fit in Trask industries, the return of Magneto and Charles Xavier back from the dead and I bet James Mangold was happy to hand it back to Singer and say ‘you explain everything’.

Overall, The Wolverine is a solid movie, filled with some nice moments and ties up a few loose ends, but nicely teases fans for next year’s movie.

Mariko: This is the hotel owner’s grandson. He’s the one who fixed you up…

(Boy draws back fearfully)

And you may have cut him a few times. (The Wolverine)

Real Steel

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I watched this film with little expectations of it being anything special, despite the trailer being rather enticing; the prospect of Hugh Jackman staring in a Transformers wannabe was too much to have any real excitement over.

However, I stand corrected. Despite being very predictable, this film is awesome!! Yeh okay the predictability does have a slight niggle at you during certain parts, but by the end you’ve totally forgotten about it and are literally sitting on the edge of your seat, shouting at the screen in sheer anticipation of what is happening.

Based on a father and son taking on the world of robot boxing, starting at the bottom and making their way to the top, it is clear that John Gatnis (screenplay writer) has been inspired by a certain famous boxing storyline….Rocky (and maybe a little bit of Robot Wars – YouTube this if you do not know what it is and you will see the resemblance).

Don’t worry, this is nothing like Transformers, and doesn’t try to be in any way. It’s a story about family bonding, shared passions and determination; definitely one to watch if you’re looking for something with a happy ending.

Les Misérables

The grand, orchestration opening and the image of a ship being pulled by dozens of tired and oppressed men and the opening words of “Look Down” and already I had Goosebumps. This was a musical adaptation I was extremely looking forward to, potentially more for the fact that I love anything Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman are in, rather than my love for the musical. I have seen the stage version of Les Misérables but that was a couple of years ago and I didn’t follow it very well. Now that I’m older I felt I could appreciate it so much more and appreciate it I did!

The story spans across decades and is split into three sections – the first sees the protagonist Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) finishing his 19 year stint in prison after stealing a loaf of bread for himself and his sister’s family. Hugh Jackman really does look totally unrecognisable in the first 20 minutes of so – he lost a lot of weight and for the opening scene in the prison he didn’t drink any water for 36 hours beforehand to make him look as old and weary as possible. He is released from prison and from his jailer Javert (Russell Crowe). The first interaction between Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman was fantastic and that standard was kept up throughout the entire movie. Their scenes together oozed hatred and tension and were electrifying to watch. The two characters are the two constants across the film. Valjean is at his lowest ebb – an ex-convict, he is met with prejudice and rejection at every turn until a chance encounter with a priest reignites his faith in God and in himself (personally his soliloquy is one of my favourite in this movie and left me feeling breathless with that last note).

The second section starts and it has been eight years since Valjean was released from prison and he is now a respectable businessman and at this point we meet Fantine (Anne Hathaway) perhaps the biggest ‘miserable’ in this musical. She has a small child that is living with innkeepers and she sends money to them, but after an altercation with the creepy foreman she is fired. In desperation she sells her possessions, her hair and even her teeth, turning to prostitution to make ends meet. Her performance of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ is raw and heartbreaking. The anger at the way her life has turned out and the sadness radiates off her expressions and her vocals portray the same desperation and realness to Fantine’s plight. All in all she is on screen for around 15 minutes but her performance is breathtaking and after already picking up the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress I truly hope to see her stood on that Oscar stage with the award in her hand.

Fantine dies of exhaustion and disease, but before this she is found by Valjean and he promises to look after her child, Cosette. Whilst all this is going on, Valjean crosses paths with Jalvert again and a game of cat and mouse between the two characters is initiated, ongoing throughout the entire film. Valjean rescues Cosette from her life with the crooked innkeepers, (played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter brilliantly, offering dark comedic humour whenever they pop up through the film) we jump nine years into the future where Valjean is older and greyer, and Cosette is a young woman (now played by Amanda Seyfried). The streets of Paris are filled with revolutionaries and we meet Eddie Redmayne’s Marius, who falls in love with the beautiful Cosette; this turns out to be extremely unfortunate for Eponine (played by Samantha Barks who some may remember from Andrew Llyoyd Webber’s search for Nancy) who is in fact in love with the young revolutionary. The three are locked in an agonizing love triangle, and Barks and Redmayne give a fantastic performance, both sounding beautiful and giving true emotions. Even though I am a fan of Seyfried, I have to say her portrayal of Cosette didn’t do a lot for me and as a character I wasn’t as emotionally invested in her as I was for other characters.

In the end, the revolutionaries all die horrible deaths at the barricade (including Eponine) with Marius escaping with the help of Valjean. Jalvert commits suicide and Marius and Cosette reunite and wed. Valjean retreats to die alone, but just before he dies, Marius and Cosette find him and he dies, the movie ending with a heart-warming rendition of ‘Do you Hear the People Sing’ from those that died through the film. The director Tom Hooper does a marvellous job brining everything together; the live music really makes the performances more real and gives it extra emotion. The one criticism I can give is the sets within the streets of Paris seem very small and you can almost sense the fact they are soundstages. However, once you get past this the movie takes you on a rollercoaster and hopefully revolutionises movie musicals, encouraging more to take the same approach as Hooper and allow the actors to sing live. You leave the movie feeling emotionally drained and I would recommend this movie for anyone that is a fan of a good musical.

 

Jean Valjean: My name is Jean Valjean.

Jalvert: And I am Jalvert. Do not forget my name. Do not forget ME….24601 (Les Misérables)