Archive for Bradley Cooper

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Guardians of the Galaxy proved to be the sleeper hit of Marvel Studios’ prolific output from the last 12 years because it came completely out of left field, with no huge stars (on-screen at least) and about characters very few had ever heard of. However, the mix of a hilarious script, irreverent soundtrack and the chemistry of the cast came together to blow audiences and critics away.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t have that same luxury, people know what to expect from it. So, how does Vol. 2 go about replicating, if not building of the success of Vol. 1? As with so many sequels – especially in the comic-book genre – Vol. 2 goes bigger right from the jump.

The opening five to 10 minutes looks like it cost more money than any opening scene ever. But what the film does is focus on a very small, cute detail rather than the massive action set-piece happening in the background. And, in a way, that’s kind of the point of this particular franchise: the first film was about finding family, this film is about being a family – while also being a team that saves the galaxy.

Almost all the characters in Vol. 2 have been fleshed out and given more depth, rather than sticking with the templates that were sketched out in the fist film. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Yondu (Michael Drucker) have been given deeper issues to work through, Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) is more playful, the relationship between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) has been deepened with Nebula giving the real reason for her hatred of her stronger sister. Drax (Dave Bautista) continues to be a scene stealer with all the best lines, but his character has even been given more depth. Instead of being a character that takes things completely literally, he is now trying to use sarcasm, though he still doesn’t understand it.

The only character that doesn’t seem to have been given more is Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), despite the fact he has become the leader of the group and is the lead human character that we’re supposed to empathise with. He’s found his biological father in Ego (Kurt Russell), a god of sorts that offers Quill the chance to become a god too. For some reason though, this his character doesn’t seem to have the spark or charisma that he did in the first film.

There are some decent, if not well-telegrahed, plot twists along the way and some great visuals. Some of the action sequences, especially towards the end of the film, can be a little hard to focus on because of the quick cutting and the fact that there is so much going on.

There are some interesting cameos including Sylvester Stallone (who is difficult to understand), Ving Rhames (fleetingly), the Hulk (possibly), Jeff Goldblum (buried in the credits) and David Hasselhoff (bizarrely)! But my personal favourite was Stan Lee’s double cameo that goes some way to addressing a fan theory about his cameos. In it he is communing with the Watchers, a race of aliens who oversee the Marvel universe, telling them about his various entanglements with superheros on Earth. It would have been truly mind-blowing had he referenced a cameo in one of the Fox or Sony films… but that’s me getting super-geeky about things. Is he a Watcher in human form, or just a human go-between, keeping them abreast of goings on they may have missed?

If anything, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a funnier film than it’s predecessor and has been given more substance. The few criticisms levelled at it are the abundance of characters muddying things, the lack of development of the central character and the fact that a lot of what happens in the film relies on your knowledge of the previous film, even more so than most of the other films Marvel puts out. But if you’re seeing a film with Vol. 2 in the title before seeing the first, you’re doing something wrong.

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

guardian-of-the-galaxy

Review is not quite the word for this article. Advertisement might be a better description of what will follow. Because, simply, you have to see Guardians of the Galaxy.

Marvel Studios’ latest offering is as far removed from anything put out from their universe so far. Even though Avengers Assemble had alien invasion and Thor is from another part of the universe that watches over the rest, Guardians of the Galaxy is the first film set in Deep Space, far away from Earth.

Instead of being a superhero team movie the beings that make up GOTG are aliens from all across the universe who, through circumstance, are forced to work together against an almighty enemy. Each of the characters have their own personal problems and distinctive traits, let alone looks; they band together for the good of the universe.

Chris Pratt plays the human among them, Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana plays Zamora, the ‘daughter’ of Thanos (the big evil guy who is bent of galactic domination – Josh Brolin), Dave Bautista is Drax the Destroyer, and the voice talents of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel bring to like Rocket, a cybernetically modified racoon with a penchant for explosives and Groot, a living tree who only knows the words “I am Groot”.

The premise and character descriptions sound ridiculous enough, so I’m not even going to get into the plot, which would take too long to describe to make it sound good. Suffice to say the film is visually stunning with jaw-dropping special effects and action set-pieces.

Marvel took a real punt on making a film about a group of characters virtually no one in the mainstream cinema audience had heard of and putting it out there among the more established comic book movies. But they are so happy with what the director, James Gunn, has served up that they have already green lit a second film… before the release of this one!

The unknown element of this property is what really makes the film, with the bonding process and the excellently written and acted characters who are grounded and truly likeable enough to make you give a damn about such a ridiculous story. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously; in fact, it’s one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a very long time.

Gunn (or Marvel) haven’t tied it at all closely to the going on of The Avengers films on Earth which is another plus point, because it works completely on its own and that’s another reason it works so well – it stands out in a sea of sequels and re-boots being churned out by Hollywood at the moment and audience make-up and box office figures point towards this film bringing in a massive and, most importantly, mixed audience across all age ranges and sexes. Marvel have bucked a trend. Let’s see what other minor properties get their own feature film now. I’m secretly hoping for a spin-off from the last post-credits scene!

Review: Limitless

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

First of all, a message to the man in the back row of screen 4 in the Rochester Cineworld, Sunday 3rd April: No-one wants to see your feet!

I was made to feel sick to my stomach when a man sat in the middle of the row, with the stairs in front of him, proceeded to undress his feet and put them up on the chair in front of him. My suspicion is that he wasn’t happy with having one of the two or three seats in the whole screen with the most leg room; he wanted the whole half of the back row for himself by putting people off moving past him by blocking the way with his massive, gnarly flippers. Further to this he wasn’t even wearing socks, which smacks of going out of his way to achieve his goal.

A brave couple did decide to sit past him on ‘his’ row, which almost incited an argument. It ended with the selfish man relenting and letting the couple past with the guy throwing a final, brilliant put-down: “Nice toes.” Which made the people sitting within earshot laugh.

One last thing before I move on to the main review: if you are someone who does this, or if you are actually this person, when you are in the cinema you are not in your front room. You are in a public place and no-one wants to see or smell your feet; it is anti-social and off-putting to people around you. If you can’t abide by these rules then wait for the DVD. Below is the official code of conduct for the cinematic experience voted for by cinema goers on BBC 5 Live.

Limitless is the story of Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper), an aspiring writer who is suffering from severe writer’s block. He is offered a mysterious drug by his ex-wife’s brother who claims it is above-board and legal. The pill allows him to access all of his brain power but its effects only last a day. In no time he’s written a whole novel, has changed his image, started learning a number of foreign languages and has managed to charm women to sleep with him by using his new-found knowledge to impress them.

What then unfolds is a dubious moral tale of how drugs can take you on a series of unfathomable highs and lows and also how they have an adverse affect on your mental health. In this case, Cooper’s character moves from writing and self-cleansing into stocks and shares quadrupling his money in a matter of days. But the drug turns out to be not so legal, and the blackouts and cravings make him physically sick when he starts to run out of pills after finding out he can’t get any more.

There are a few hard-to-grasp moments where you find yourself wondering why someone with limitless intelligence would make such stupid judgement calls. For example borrowing money from a loan shark and forgetting to pay him back even though he’s made a ridiculous amount  of money on top of that in the first day of trading. Also, if you had a ration of these smart pills (NZT), why would you knock them back with such abandon?

The pace of the film means that there isn’t really a lot of time for you to think about these moments for too long. So much happens in the hour and a half that you have to concentrate, and any ill-timed toilet breaks could leave you lagging behind trying to figure out what just happened.

What is evident is that if Shia LeBeouf had played the lead in this film, which he was supposed to do before breaking his arm, Mora would have been a completely unbelievable character. Cooper plays him in a very genuine and likeable way, even though he is quite a grubby, greedy womaniser with a drug addiction which at one point drives him to drink the blood of a dead man just to get a hit of NZT. This is one of the most uncomfortable scenes I have seen in a long time and a loud groan of impending horror rose from the audience as it unfolded slowly.

Limitless is a well made, if not a little too fast-paced, thriller with some innovative camera work that gives a relentless surging feel as the camera is shot forward down the New York streets, through car windscreens and down sidewalks after Mora takes NZT. Also, when Mora is on the drug, the picture sharpens and colour floods onto the screen to indicate that he is experiencing every detail of the world in his new state of mind as opposed to the dull, grey tinged world he inhabits while off the drug.

 There is some brilliant acting from the cast including a great supporting performance from Robert DeNiro as multi-billionaire Carl Van Loon (a role he must have agreed to for the name alone, as his screen time is only about 15 minutes), who takes Mora on as a financial advisor. But more than this: it shows that Cooper can carry a serious lead role.

This won’t be the best film you’ll see all year, but it is definitely worth a watch if just to ask what you’d do in Mora’s shoes.