Archive for Chris Pratt

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: The Magnificent Seven

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Yet another modern-day remake of a classic western that was itself a retelling of Seven Samurai.

This version of The Magnificent Seven is progressive in the it has a pretty good mix up of characters that make up the eponymous group of gunslingers. This gives the tensions within the group a certain sense of reality that other movie team-ups have to really labour the point to have you believe.

A big problem with this film is that it can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a comedy or a darker more serious film. It has a real schizophrenic quality that feels jarring, especially with such broad comedy in some scenes being followed by quite heavy scenes where some characters are dealing with the aftermath of post-traumatic stress.

There are some great action set pieces and some brilliant characterisations, most notably from Vincent D’Onofrio, but the tone of the film really lets it down.

Anywhere But Here, Episode 126 – Spoilercast: Jurassic World

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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As it’s Father’s Day and Ant’s off being treated, what better time to review and spoil Jurassic World?

Hear what Ant and Tom thought of the latest offering from the franchise that refuses to go extinct, and seems to comprise elements from all over the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Be warned: Here be spoilers… many, many spoilers!


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Review: Jurassic World

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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22 years after the events of Jurassic Park and, coincidentally, 22 year in real life too, the four film in the franchise that refuses to go extinct picks up. Without a trace of continuity referencing The Lost World: Jurassic Park or Jurassic Park III. So, finally, we can disregard those films.

Jurassic Park has been re-opened, despite the horrors that happened there in the past and the warnings of Dr Ian Malcolm and Dr Alan Grant. Apparently, the world has become blasé about dinosaurs and what the punters want now is bigger, louder animals with more teeth.

The scientists at the park have decided to appease the focus groups and the park’s sponsors by creating a hybrid from various strands of DNA from other dinosaurs and animals. The result is the Indominus Rex, a giant, aggressive, intelligent, colour-changing predator. What a great idea! This’ll give the adults nightmares, never mind the kids says the astonished park manager, Simon Masrani (played by Irrfan Khan).

Khan’s character is a mix of John Hammond’s heart and a corporate number-cruncher, in that he still has a wide-eyed child not too far under his business-like exterior. Whereas Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire is all about the focus groups, numbers and contracts.

Claire’s nephews are visiting the park while their parents go through a divorce and Claire has no time to show them round, so entrusts them to her assistant. They give the assistant the slip and go off on their own to have fun. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to Chris Pratt’s ex-navy-turned-Velociraptor-trainer, Owen, who – it’s obvious – has a past with the cold Claire. Owen saves an intern who falls into the raptor pen and shows off his mutual respect with the beasts who don’t instantly rip him to shreds. He is also having a back-and-forth with Vincent D’Onofrio’s InGen security manager, Hoskins. Hoskins is looking to use the raptors in the field of war rather than drones or robots, which is a ludicrous idea even for a Jurassic Park film.

All this happens in the first half an hour before the Imdominus Rex escapes to wreak havoc on the dinosaurs and humans alike. So there’s a heck of a lot of set-up before all the action takes place, which would lead you to think that the script would be quite complex. It isn’t. It’s a Jurassic Park film.

After the I-Rex escapes things start to pick up quite drastically with all the elements that you’ve come to expect from these films in the last two decades; tension, jump-scares, implied gore, loud roars, running and driving and screaming, with a decent amount of humour thrown in.

There are some brilliant set pieces that take you right back to the first time you saw that Brachiosaurus for the first time. The visual effects are, expectedly great and it’s great to see these animals back in the cinema again and Chris Pratt is a charisma machine, but there are a few things missing. For one, John Williams is sorely missed. Michael Giacchino is a great composer, but Willliams’ shoes are too big for him to fill. There’s a distinct lack of T-Rex, which is a shame and the plot is so predictable that you can spot all the big reveals coming a mile off.

It’s big, loud fun while it’s happening, but after you leave the cinema you’ll have forgotten the majority of it, which is a shame because it’s actually the second best of the four films. It has a meta quality to it where it excuses what’s going on by highlighting the ridiculousness of its plot and calling them out, and this is the reason it scores higher the other two films. However, no one will ever touch the original.

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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

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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: The Lego Movie

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Lego is one of the most successful brands in the world, starting life in the shed of Danish carpenter, Ole Kirk Christiansen – who set up the company in 1949. The company has expanded ever since, spilling out into theme parks, lucrative movie tie-ins, computer games and now a full-length feature film.

The plot focusses on Emmet, a regular construction worker who builds things in a team and always follows the instructions until, one day, he stumbles upon a group of super-builders who are fighting against the tyranny of Lord Business, who controls the Lego world with instructions that the populace follow in complete obedience.

This is the thrust of the movie; don’t be constrained by the instructions, use your imagination and you can create what you want. Which is, kind of, the point of Lego. And, why wouldn’t a Lego movie be about anything else? Well, for a start, it could have been about anything. Literally. But instead, this is a very formulaic, paint-by-numbers, nuts-and-bolts film that is pretty devoid of any real soul.

Understandably, the calls of “but it’s a kids film” will be flung my way, but it could have been made a much more inspirational story and have a slightly more likable character at the centre of the action. Emmet, voiced by Chris Pratt, is fine and lovable when he’s playing by the rules, unaware of the control asserted on his world by Will Ferrell’s Lord Business. Emmet is upbeat and fun-loving, but when he is recruited, wrongly, but the master builders, led by Vitrvius (Morgan Freeman)among assorted heroes such as Batman (Will Arnett) and love interest, Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Emmet turns overly reluctant and a little whiny. This is overcome by the end of the film, but doesn’t detract from his character’s personality in general.

The Lego computer games are peppered with sly bits of humour and there are moments in this film that elicits laughter, but not enough to raise it into the big leagues of Pixar or even DreamWorks.  The funniest moment for me involved the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, involving cameos from Anthony Daniels as C3PO and Billy Dee Williams as Lando, but not Harrison Ford as Han Solo.

I think, in the end, this film is missing something that the games have nailed. It’s difficult to say what it is, but perhaps it’s because the games are based on an existing script and story line? Whatever the reason, The Lego Movies is fun which you watch it, but not engaging or funny enough.