Friday, 21 April 2017

REVIEW: THE ZOOKEEPERS WIFE

4/5

She Brought A Zoo.

126 Mins. Starring: Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Michael McElhatton & Daniel Bruhl. Director: Niki Caro.

Lions, tigers and bears. Oh my! This is 'The Zookeepers Wife'. Jessica Chastain's study of zoology. But save your 'Dr. Zoolittle' or 'Jessica Rabbit' pathetic puns. Because one of the leading actresses in the world today, the Academy Award nominated Jessica Chastain is getting real serious here and with her compelling career. This isn't no 'Zookeeper', Kevin James crass comedy. Or a light, 'We Brought A Zoo' feel-good flick. But something which we're amazed didn't garner at least an Oscar nomination for a woman whose work in 'Miss Sloane' should have also been honoured, as she would have gone up against herself aswell as Emma Stone and 'Jackie's' Natalie Portman. All we can say is we can't wait for 'Mollys Game' from 'The Help' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' actress who right now is on the form of her life. What more could you expect from a woman of great power and variety (and we aren't just talking about the New York publications feature)? One who is leading a revolt and a revolution to close the so behind the times it should have been removed way back when in Hollywoodland like the rest of that sign that became iconic once it changed (see?!) gender pay gap? One of our best actors (do we really need to distiguish?) that recently turned down a major role because her male co-star of equal billing was getting more zeroes for the same invested work (our money is on it being some sort of superhero movie for this heroine). Sure the actress who has starred alongside the leading likes of McConaughey (the incredible 'Interstellar'), Damon (the Mars mesmerizing 'The Martian'), Pitt (the otherworldy, outstanding 'Tree Of Life' origins...which she was in more) and Isaac (the major 2015 calender best, 'A Most Violent Year') is in the privilege position of being a millionaire who gets to act in parts she picks and wants to play for a living. But don't get it confused! With all due respect, like a Suffragette (she should have been in that movie with fellow icons Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep) for the rich and famous she's doing this for others too. All the young up and coming actresses who can't catch a break unless they are pigeon-holed into a sometimes sexual stereotype in this la la industry lands look at a world that in reality is full of characters as complex and collectively different as a round hole. But Jessica is willing to show us the square peg and not get in where she fits in (or some other tired cliche), but instead change the mould. Unlocking and breaking down the barriers of Diane Ackerman's book and real life story of Polish Zookeeper Antonia Zabinski who in a 1939 war-torn Warsaw saved the lives of around 300 Jewish people by hiding them from Hitler's Nazis in her zoo in World War 2.

Played with hope in the face of harrowing heartbreak like Oscar winning Adrian Brody's 'Pianist', to the book like Speilberg's 'Schindlers List', Chastain is gold as the amazing Antonia, playing the piano perfectly like in her creepy 'Crimson Peak' as a warning my day and a safe to come out now song by night. A monumental woman of history, Zabinski's story is one of many real-life inspirations from World War 2 that go largely untold to the masses. Much like the art saving old troops of 'The Monuments Men' that George Clooney and his Oceans of Matt Damon and Bill Murray and John Goodman, restored to underrated brilliance two years back. What Antonia and her zookeping husband Jan Zabinski did in saving so many persecuted Jews goes beyond the power of the sheer number, all the way down to the personal touch they beautifully gave to each person. Treating them like the individuals that they are and not a discriminated people based on their faith that the evil Nazis did...the darkest time in human history that still beggars belief. But even out of the bleakest time comes light and shining it on this story, 'The Moon By Whale Light' novel writer and poet Diane Ackerman and 'Whale Rider' director Niki Caro scream it from every rooftop many decades later for everyone willing to hear and learn about a story from history that teaches us yet again how to be today in a world needing more inspiration and less influence from the ignorant. Ingrained into our collective consciousness no matter how lacking of luster we are in a spiritually stunted modern world of discrimination still rampant across the borders by a captivating performance by Chastain. This the vegan actresses passion project as she describes a trust that lies in the eyes of animals that runs deeper than humans. As she rides around her zoo and all its inhabitants on her biycycle to start the day and film. With a polished Polish accent and the sincerity of this sweet lady showing unfathomable strength behind the shyness. Just like when she nurses a baby elephant calf back to health with the trunk of her protective mother bearing down. Facing up to abhorrent, bullying soldiers of inhumane evil, bravely in the wake of them torturing and cruelly killing not only her people, but the beautiful animals of her zoo too in some of the most horrific moments you'll avert your eyes from on screen.

Keeping and protecing jews under Nazi hiding lock and key is reminscent of the under the floorboards, terrifyingly tense, extended opening scene of Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglorious Basterds'. Done with much more dignity from the ketchup and spaghetti western director and his German, Oscar winning muse Christophe Waltz. And here his breakout Berlin star Daniel Bruhl is back in Nazi uniform again like this great actor really wants us to hate us. Coming off playing the unmasked Baron Zemo villain and Captain America's 'Civil War' with Iron Man orchestrata, alongside 'Thor' Chris Hemsworth's James Hunt nemesis Niki Lauda in Ron Howard's Formula 1 'Rush'. This recognisable face grows a terrible third reich 'tache and brutually buries any characterized confliction with conviction. It takes a truly remarkable actor to play someone so far gone evil, but Bruhl does it brilliantly with every emotion and doesn't play into the hands of uniformed cliche character fodder. On the right side of a revolt however we can't talk about 'The Zookeepers Wife' without honouring the husband himself. And 'Moscow, Belgium' actor Johan Heldenbergh plays Jan Zabinski with understated brilliance. Fighting for freedom and family in the forlorn face of unspeakable, insurmountable odds. One scene where he rescues a innocent child from the most horrific experience tears at every heartstring and remains the rawest emotional scene of a film full of tragedy at every turn (from brutal bombings to the subtely of the mistaken beauty of ash falling like snow). All until he helps arms open children onto a train, offering them some semblance of hope so they won't know the horrific end to the line that's coming. It almost sounds and seems crazy but it's all the man that did everything to save could do to ease a pain he couldn't protect. Now tell me that isn't a hero! Just like every common man and woman that strived and survived this war. Like the zoo worker that 'Game Of Thrones' actor Michael McElhatton captures with the genuine spirit of a sweet soul. Everyone from page to screen here is note perfect in retelling this story again and again with every moment of horror and heart unturned. It's the nature of nurturing the nicer stories of inspiration and humanity that came from a raw war utterly devoid of such. And in a year where best of British director Christopher Nolan is going to take us right into the sand of the beaches of 'Dunkirk' with Tom Hardy, his 'Interstellar' actress and the aformentioned actors 'Lawless' co-star shows us wars aren't just won by our best and brave soldiers...but everyday heroes that extend an unclenched hand too. And the actor that played the women that lead the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden and her help here may just be our leads leading picture in a formidable filmography.When it comes to Jessica Chastain's character chasing away Nazis she brings so much to this revolutionary role. And with Diane Ackerman's novel idea in mind, it's Antonia Zabinski's incredible, inspiring true story and legacy that will always keep. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'The Help', 'We Brought A Zoo', 'Monuments Men'.

Friday, 14 April 2017

#SilverLiningsColumn THE HOLLYWOOD 'LIFE' OF HIROYUKI SANADA

A Hiro's Journey. 

Australian actor and Hollywood star Hugh Jackman is currently cutting his claws one last time as the X-Men mutant Wolverine in the legendary, legacy making 'Logan'. Arguably both the most successful and popular movie for not only his character, but the 17 year strong Marvel mutant franchise as a whole...including Ryan Reynolds' 'Deadpool'.

Yet this isn't the first time Jackman and reuniting Johnny Cash biopic 'Walk The Line' director James Mangold have impressed the superhero genre. Back in 2013 Logan's run as 'The Wolverine' saw him lost in translation in Tokyo, Japan. Mixed up with all sorts of characters and assassins, from the neon night noir to bullet-train shot set pieces that streaked and illuminated. But one climatic fight scene resonated even more than all the high-wire action, especially on the deeper cutting R-rated edition of this movie.

And it was legendary Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada who played the opposing part perfectly as a villanious, but conflicted character who embraced the dark side for his final black rain at night temple showdown with the wolf. Combatting Wolverines claws with two samurai swords, dressed up like a traditional warrior and fighting to the death. Yet what was most impressive in this grotesque choreographed battle royale was his emotionally aggravated, but amazed acting in raw reaction to the Wolverine's renewed healing factor that really struck a far deeper cord.

This acting facet has been the 56 year old Sanada's Hollywood calling card for decades. From finding himself on the mysterious island series 'Lost', to 'Slumdog Millionaire' director Danny Boyle's stunning 'Sunshine'. But next week Hiroyuki goes up against Logan again with his 'Life'. Not a film to be confused with the 2015 magazine biopic of James Dean starring Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson. But an 'Alien' like, mars attacks, spaceship submerged sci-fi thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson. Now that's quite a cast, but it's Sanada's opening moments of the international trailer that see him proudly show his fellow astronauts a video sonogram back on earth of his pregnant wife that brings real heart to this horror. "Hey guys...it's a girl" he beams like the sun, before jokingly telling Ryan Reynolds to "shut up" after he quips and asks who the father is. All in good nature.

'Life' should find its line in this pre-summer season of blockbusters that the post-apocalypse 'Logan' started. Even in the year of 'Alien: Covenant'. And it won't be down to just the A-listers. But the Japanese megastar and Hollywood household name Hiroyuki too. The Tokyo born actor currently staring in the T.V. series 'The Last Ship', who trained as an actor with martial arts legend Sonny Chiba and got his first real serious big break with the movie 'Mahjong Hourouki'.

A man who has also conquered the British Isles, earning himself an M.B.E. from the Queen in the process for his performance in 'King Lear' for the Royal Shakespeare Company. An actor who continues to capture the heart of Great Britain. From starring alongside national treasure Colin Firth in the revelatory, hard-hitting prison of war drama 'The Railway Man', to aiding an ageing, sage Sherlock in Ian McKellen's incarnation of 'Mr. Holmes'. You'll know this actor through plenty a filmography. Whether putting Tom Cruise through his paces in 'The Last Samurai'. Or a sword similiar, Keanu Reeves '47 Ronin' update, albeit in a much more modern, supernatural form. And who could forget his terrific turn alongside great friend and Chinese legend Jackie Chan in 'Rush Hour 3'? Playing Detective Lee's bad guy brother as Jackie and motormouth Chris Tucker chased him to Paris, France.

This mans even been a voice to millions in 'Minions'. But with a new 'Despicable Me' out this year and the world gone yellow C.G. crazy you can find new 'Life' this month with one of the greatest actors of our generation.

Just don't tell Hugh.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

REVIEW: THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

3.5/5

The Fast & The Fury Road.

136 Mins. Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwyane 'The Rock' Johnson, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell & Helen Mirren. Director F. Gary Gray.

Straight outta petrol? Nah! Not with this gear shift. There's a new type of Diesel in the tank and this New York state of drive is not running on fumes or drifting like Tokyo. Changing lanes from L.A. to the Big Apple, the 'Fast and the Furious' franchise pole position driver is about to go all Mad Max with Furiosa by his furious side. All before turning into a baby tree with returning co-star Kurt Russell's Ego for Volume 2 of 'Guardians Of The Galaxy'. He is Groot. And this is Vin Diesel's month. If not the 'Return Of Xander Cage's' year he began with 'xXx' for his triple-threat. Now we don't know 'The Fate Of The Furious' in this eighth wonder of another 'Fast and Furious' installment, as modern day action hero Vin Diesel turns into this movie big bad and even has some candy a## beef with The Rock. But apparantly it's all 'F8' and in the wake of Paul Walker's tragic death and the beautiful tribute paid to him by his crew and real family brothers in 'Fast and Furious 7' this team just want to keep driving in his name until they see him again. And they'll sure have a lot to tell him all about after this long time as this formidable franchise with more track for the insane record than Usain Bolt hits the nitrus of the nitrus and lightning injects even more insulin into this cereal box, car candy, popcorn cinema sugar rush. Busting the blocks of the second chapter of 'John Wick', the last one of 'Logan' the 'Kong: Skull Island' reboot and the 'Ghost In The Shell' movie manga anime adaptation summer starters. All whilst veering off the road any hot season movies trying to take their turn whether monkey, 'Mummy' or Marvel. Ladies and gentelmen...restart your engines.

Wonder how this super 8 episode doesn't run out of tarmac on this long and winding road, whilst fans keep lapping it all up? It's automoblie B movie beauty in this age of Keanu Reeves new Neo cult characters. And taking the wheel from 'Star Trek-Beyond' Justin Lin successor James Wan ('Insidious'), it's 'Straight Outta Compton' and 'Law Abiding Citizen' actioneer director F. Gary Gray's-breaking all king of traffic violations-lane now. And the great Gary Gray-who once drove Minis through subways-drops Miley Cyrus' wrecking balls and das boot kicking submarines out of submersion like F bombs. Riding Mustang Sally shotgun to literal car jacks and pile up set pieces like the holy essence of the original street race wars. Reuniting with all kinds of 'Baby Boy' and 'Italian Job', street slick, car carnage actors and actresses aswell as Vin. Who truly becomes 'A Man Apart' here like the directing/acting dynamic duos most dynamite dual-picture pairing. Setting it off as always, Diesel is the pure petroleum powerhouse and the key to this ignition. This time going against his preached notion of familia and showing us that this modern day Stallone can play bad just as good as when he's on the right(ish) side of the law too like a Travolta/Cage unlocked 'Face/Off'. Fitting this costume change out as well as his Bruce Willis 'Die Hard' string vest complete with the silver cross he bears across his chest. Riding Clyde to Charlize Theron's 'Atomic Blonde' Bonnie. The dreaded, locked down hostage taking villain of this picture whose about to become the female 'John Wick' in her forthcoming flick. But behind a console more than a wheel we would love to see the ever thorough Theron with more 'Atomic' peroxide, showing the full fury of her 'Mad Max' Furiosa character. Especially as fellow shaved head Jason Statham has gone full 'Transporter' and changed 'Civil War' teams to the side of the road as his former 'Death Race' co-star Tyrese (I guess turning 'Tokyo Drift' star Sung Kang (we hope the rumors of this favourites return are true, because he's as missed as his former on screen love, 'Wonder Woman' Gal Gadot) into a spoiler alert is all forgiven). Becoming an 'Expendable' villain and teaming up with Dwyane 'Orange Is The New Rock' Johnson after a concrete hard prison breaking riot that ups the ante on the 'Daredevil' Punisher's cell block and counters. Action-hero Stath is as fun as he scene stealingly surprisingly was in 'Spy' as he and action Johnson turn this battle of the balds into some of the best dome shots and tank top one-liners you've seen since the baby oil and forehead back and forths. And even if The Rock and his almost milk carton screen-time with Diesel really is in a hard place the former wrestler turned Schwarzenegger shows that this isn't just his film but his franchise too. As the 'Baywatch' block stands guard on what might be his superhero becoming career year, going even 'Faster' than before, coast to coast. Berlin to Russia. A world as wide as his forearms.

Yet there's still so much more in the tank for this pure American muscle, epic, entertainment ensemble. Just like '2 Fast, 2 Furious' singing/rapping acting duo Tyrese Gibson and Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges making the 'Bad Boys' action/comedy in this rush hour looking all too easy. Black-Ty, the new punchline king here on his finest, formidable funny form...his best 'Fast' times since he siphoned the unleaded sequel loss of Diesel by stepping in and stepping up to the pedal. Whilst disturbing the online peace, Luda and returning 'Game Of Thrones' Fitz/Simmons 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' like love interest Nathalie Emmanuel (car-pooling with Braveheart bearded, fellow 'G.O.T' star Kristofer Hivju) hack into Theron's 'Net' like cyber-bully Chiper. Whilst Diesel's co-original star and on-screen love Michelle Rodriguez is beautifully trying to bring her beau back, just like he did to her for all these amnesic years and films. Making up for the loss of Jordana Brewster (that comes with the Paul Walker's absent character territory) and the Eva Mendes 'Fast Five' cameo which looks like it will never come to full film fruition like '2 Fast' too. But there's a lot of famous faces, familiar too that bridge all these gaps like 'Thor' Chris Hemsworth's wife Elsa Patkay. But to reveal more would ruin all the sweetest surprises. 'The Hateful 8' star and 'Escape From New York' legend Kurt Russell rejoins this G.T.A. N.Y.C. (with even more bails) of 'Death Proof' American muscle in what between the rig of 'Deepwater Horizon' and his little big planet turn in 'Guardians of The Galaxy' sequel looks to be the second volume of his cult/action hero classic career, honed down to a science fiction. His Nobody character really is something. All God's eyes where on this 'Bone Tomahawk' wild west great in the last 'Furious' turn and this time he's bringing another legend in Clint's legacy making son Scott Eastwood along for the ride. And boy does the 'Suicide Squad', 'Gran Torino' star, young Eastwood have it down. But for all the parts under the hood its great Brit national treasure and 'RED' action O.A.P. heroine Helen Mirren that's truly the jewel in this crown or chrome spoiler. And after pulling off getting the biggest name of royalty guess whose mother she plays? 'Fast 8' really goes pedal to metal in a Universal franchise that according to wild speculation once tried to include Matt Damon's 'Jason Bourne' and even a Terminator to the engines machinery like a 'Men In Black' crossover off 'Jump Street'. Stranger things have happened in this 'Rogue Dom-A Fast and Furious Story' for a franchise that has now escaped the chase of 'Police Academy' number sequels. Now this raging series that keeps going like NASCAR is gunning all the way for a 10th lap, can we suggest the name 'F9' for the next go-round? If 'Fat8' will have it. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Furious 7', 'Death Race', 'The Italian Job (2003)'.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

REVIEW: GHOST IN THE SHELL

4/5

Lucy In Translation.

106 Mins. Starring: Scarlett Johansson, 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano, Chin Han, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, & Juliette Binoche. Director: Rupert Sanders.

She is Major. Scarlett Johansson. She's on site. Whether Avenging heroine, or 'Iron Fist' whitewash. 'Ghost In The Shell'. 'Lucy' in a futuristic Tokyo meets Osaka and Kyoto like skyline, shining like neon diamonds. This is Black Widow's peak, ever since she was last 'Lost In Translation' in Japan. And no one complained about her opening shot in Sofia Coppola's classic when she was still a teenager. Or her on-screen coupling with a middle-aged Bill Murray in the offbeat romantic tour de force, from the lights of Shinjuku to the crossing of the Times Square like Shibuya. But now this Hollywood actress is portraying a character from a cult Asian anime for cinema? It's all Matt Damon in 'The Great Wall' again. Do you remember anyone saying anything about Tom Cruise in 'The Last Samurai'? Or Keanu Reeves in '47 Ronin'? Difference is Matt Damon's 'Wall' hit critical concrete, whereas this 'Ghost' is no shell. It's a haunting, visual spectacle of future 'Blade Runner' stakes in the 2017 year of '2049'. Sci-fi forefather Phillip K. Dick and creator of all things 'Total Recall' and 'Minority Report' would be as proud as his popping pupils for this reload on 'The Matrix' cult sci-fi, real-life like avatar plug-in revolution. Sure, yes all you need to do is look to 'Pacific Rim' to find an Asian actress more suited to major. Or even the Marvel show 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' for an Asian/American one. But Scarlett's action heroism honed in this continents 'Limitless' lengths of 'Lucy' is to the letter here. Sure there's an 'Iron Fist' race issue here, but just like that Marvel/Netflix show that shouldn't be confused for how actually good this is as a piece of entertainment. Even if a more fitting picture would make for this industries art. Either way this three dimensonal, block busting IMAX dream will leave you shell shocked.

Cultural appropriation may be the issue here, but this ghost in the machines shell suit raises a question of whether this cult adaptation is appropriate as Johansson basically looks naked in her Major get-up, like the time she truly got 'Under The Skin'. But the actress who argues that her skimpy Black Widow outfits are the same as her Thor and Captain America muscled and honed suit ups, is paying homage to the original 'Ghost In The Shell' source material look, all whilst affording more respect to the age appropriate crowds this movie hopes to please. And it makes for some cloaked and dagger, morphing action sequences that range with real power. Forget those Saben Iron Men looking "mighty" heroes and their fried chicken looking villains. Take the towering, formidable, first five minutes that debuted online to outstanding actioneering hits. 'Ghost In The Shell' has haunting, inspired imagery you couldn't design better. Spider crawling up the walls robot Geisha's and life like neon advertisings that are landamarks in their own right and light line the glass shattering towers of Tokyo that will make you spill your Sake. And for Major's sake, Scarlett Johansson gives maximum effort and in turn maximum output as this assimilating android, free falling from scraping skies as iconic as the Manga in cinema. She kicks ass in this video game dream as 'Lucy' or Widow per, but also brings a strength of soul of character in what serves as the actresses spiritual sequel to 'Lost In Translation' further East and into the future. After all this time translated you will find Scarlett's star power is still red hot in the land of the rising sun.

'Shell' holds plenty more users in 'Snow White and The Huntsman' director Rupert Sanders upgrade that gives this mesmerizing Manga and atmospheric anime the 'Tron: Legacy' polish and shine treatment. Fighting for this one and it's origins is Tokyo's own Takeshi Kitano. The Japanese acting, screenwriting and directing legend who usually goes to war with yakuza dramas is armed with a six-shooter and a car door here to the opening delight of all the true fans. He can't be beat. Whilst Chinese star Chin Han (you know the guy from 'The Dark Knight' whose "good with calculation") adds more to this set. Yet it's Danish 'Game Of Thrones' actor Pilou Asbaek (who is one for whitewashing controversy movies having just starred in 'The Great Wall') who makes a perfect Batou, going to battle and trust with Major. Speaking of robotics, 'Boardwalk Empire' star and Leonardo DiCaprio lookalike with Hollywood royalty as a surname Michael Pitt also computes, even if he too might be appropriating a little too. Still with more of a shell of a spindly frame this android counts his electric sheep too. Any legacy needing certification is confirmed by the presence of 'Chocolat' and 'The English Patient' legend Juliette Binoche. The actress who once turned down Steven Speilberg for 'Jurassic Park' has warmed to the idea of Summer blockbuster, monster movies having starred in 2014's 'Godzilla'. And even if this King Kong battling kaiju isn't as big in Japan as the one with a 'Shin' it's clear Binoche believes in blockbusters...at least smart ones. And this is exactly what this hardwired one is. So before you think this is built to self-destruct, it's time for a critical reprogramming. When it comes to reboots this 'Ghost In The Shell' has more power than those trying to take away from it. Whichever way you look at it. Even if a new anime has been excitingly announced by the original animators. This cyberpunk rocks. Shining like a neon night in the futuristic city of what we call 'Tokyosaka', this Ghost still keeps its soul and spirit. All whilst breaking free of its shell. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Lucy', 'Lost In Translation', 'Blade Runner'.

Friday, 24 March 2017

REVIEW: LIFE

3.5/5

Life Off Mars.

103 Minutes. Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare & Hiroyuki Sanada. Director: Daniel Espinosa.

This 'Life' as we know it finds a way to confuse us. Are we all in agreement that this is just another 'Alien' in the year of 'Covenant'? Or is this a 2015 James Dean magazine biopic starring Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson back issue repeat? An early millennium prison break comedy with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence breaking out the 'Shawshank' spoons? And people, why does Ryan Reynolds look so pissed in this above photo? Is it because someones shoved him in a washing machine at a laundrette? I know staring at a washing machine as a kid is fun, but being stuck in one is a different matter. No! No! And...well, perhaps. Like 'Prometheus' this is alien to Ridley Scott's infamous franchise. Apart of it, not a part of it. Even if the trailer for 'Covenant' coming before it will have all late comers in the dark spilling their corn and soda as they rush to their seats thinking the movies already started...not to mention escalated quickly. And this isn't the same 'Life' form of Dane playing Dean or Murphy getting 25 years too. There's so many reboots and remakes about these days it's a wonder there aren't more movie duplicates out now. Remember the 'Fast and Furious' confusion? Well before the 'F8' of that next Diesel power franchise lane and all the Marvel and monsters entering the Summer blockbuster race, 'Life' joins 'Logan's' last breath, the 'Skull Island' of 'Kong' and of course the man, the myth and the legend 'John Wick' to spring-step that season early. All with their own out of this world horror that will make the earthbound nature of Sandra Bullock's 'Gravity' and the literal life on Mars of Matt Damon's 'Martian' look like a moonwalk in the park on an interstellar level. Right before little green men start bursting out of everyones chests with all due respect and honour to the late, great John Hurt and Bill Paxton. Now in a space station odyssey turned into a tumble dryer, here's your latest close encounter.

Unlocking this pressure contained airlock of sci-fi horror is 'Safe House' director Daniel Espinosa who lets former Washington guard Ryan Reynolds back in. And from the opening eclipsing scene of the satellite station blinding like the sun behind it you know this is going to be as visual an experience as a visceral one. And this holds us even futher in this notion in the opening one shot camera grip that maps the entirety of this ship and introduces you to all the hard at working crew as they float around you and upside down in zero gravity. Impressive isn't the word. When it comes to these solar system crowded lost in space films, it's inspired. Much has been observed over the new creative trends of outstanding one shots. From Matthew McConaughey's undercover escape from a neighbourhood rife with racial raw tension and firearms in the first series of 'True Detective', to 'Daredevil's' double season namesake hallway hit 'em ups. And let's not forget the entire, epic, brilliant 'Birdman' movie that flew away with the Oscar. But this perfect pan has you floating and flying like Peter in perfect, synchronised time. But when it comes to the vice-like grip, face-hugger handshake introduction with this thing itself in Espinosa's alien picture that has influences from John Carpenter's Kurt Russell movie not set in China, New York or L.A. amongst other cult creature horrors and "nerd" references (even borrowing the 'Spirit In The Sky' volume off fellow spacemen the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy's' tape deck), this lotus flower come squid like creature is like no other. A far cry from those humanoid 'Star Trek' aliens that merely manifest a few bones in their cranium to convince us their other worldly. But with all due respect to the pointed ears this astronaut predator takes our eyes more. And anything else it gets its nerve pinching tentacles around.

Because when it comes to the man vs species they can't begin to understand, human nature of this survival in space story there is an international cast list on the menu in the form of this crew. Of course there is 'Deadpool' himself Reynolds. And the merc still has his trademark mouth that has got himself into all sorts of trouble. But how can you even be, let alone stay mad at this man and his quintessential quips when his light relief is exactly what you'd need in the solitary zero G's of space? Especially when he's on the traditional rocket boosted form of his life. But when the washing machine...or airlock door is closed on him in an iconic making moment, dates everywhere will get a treat as his Hollywood heartthrob, pin-up eyes are met by more in the two for the price of one leading man Jake Gyllenhaal. And the 'Nocturnal Animals' and 'Everest' star, clean-cut, shaven and looking like his wind the clock back, 'Day After Tomorrow' days traps us in the tortured loneliness of his characters just like he does in the arresting 'Prisoners', crumbling 'Demolition' or the skin of 'Nightcrawler'. Yet here isolated, even amongst others, looking out to the most beautiful view of planet earth and another world now so close, but a million miles and a record amount of 700 plus days away he's finally home. But even with this leading two dynamic duo, this is really Rebecca Ferguson's movie. And after stealing the show in the 'Rogue Nation' of Tom Cruise's 'Mission Impossible 5' and the gone girl of Emily Blunt's 'Girl On The Train' this is her moment...and boy does she own it in a commanding performance with the role as captain. Fellow great Brit Ariyon Bakare also graduates from the BBC T.V. series' of 'Spooks', the U.K. version of 'Law and Order' and a rogue cameo in last December's 'Star Wars' story with gripping first contact here. Whilst Russian actress Olga Dihovichnaya with her hair cut down to a Bullock bob, strapping herself into a spacesuit like a Sandra hero brings more grounding 'Gravity' to this film. As Japanese legend and '47 Ronin' star Hiroyuki Sanada completes this crew with heart of new family and so much soul, inspiring him to survive against any odds for what waits for him back on the blue planet. The man who from 'The Last Samurai' to 'The Wolverine' and 'The Railway Man' to 'Rush Hour 3' has always impressed brings so much more inspiration home here. There's so much life here in Espinosa's epic, breeding a new extraterrestrial one. And when it comes to the martian's, this is how Mars really attacks. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Alien', 'Event Horizon', 'The Last Days On Mars'.

Monday, 20 March 2017

T.V. REVIEW: IRON FIST

4/5

Iron Man 2.

13 Episodes. Starring: Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, Tom Pelphrey, Jessica Stroup, Ramon Rodriguez, Rosario Dawson, Carrie-Anne Moss & David Wenham. Created By: Scott Buck.

K.O.! Fists of fury fly as Marvel's one punch man finally claims his golden ticket a few courses away from the hand of the devils kitchen. All striking for his defence and fight for NYC. It's time. The back four of 'The Defenders' is complete before the eighth wonder of their Summer season plays the Ripley games of 'Alien' legend Sigourney Weaver. Still despite the assembling success of Marvel and Netflix's street-level superhero team-up, critics don't want to hand it to the last Defender. Instead they are throwing jabs at the 'Iron Fist' and Danny Rand is finding it hard to bob and weave. Lucky 'Game Of Thrones' star Finn Jones remembers his training. And that the legend of Marvel's Iron Fist began back in the seventies...no modern day appropriation. Even if critics are calling whitewashing like fellow Marvel Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson's 'Ghost In The Shell' manga anime live action remake. Sure there is definitly some ground for at the very passive racial discrimination. But in defence of these Defenders look what Marvel did with the unbreakable 'Luke Cage', the 'Jessica Jones' P.I. reveal and of course the blind ambition of 'Daredevil' (another martial arts expert like his energetic partner Elektra). But any critic calling this actually compelling set of (unlucky for some) 13 episodes bland don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to Rand's enterprise. And those white boy billionaire Trump comparisons? We won't go as far as to label it fake news. But what about that other billionaire, playboy superhero with a Stark Tower in New York? This glowing 'Iron Fist' pulls no punches even if critics are packing a wallop.

Good job Finn Jones knows Kung-Fu. And how to rock the Justin Timberlake N*Sync days blonde noodle curls. He really is taking it back to the days of 'The Matrix' (even 'Jessica Jones'' Carrie-Anne Moss is back, never one to dodge legal proceedings). Moving like Keanu in bullet time. From the first shot of the iconic 'Game Of Thrones' dark world style, meets martial arts ballet in a Turner painting over the skyline of New York theme, to all the fight scenes straight out of the hand-to-hand consoles of a video game. From hallway hatchets that rachet up the action ante, to unlimited cage fighting and iron link champion boss levels directed by 'The Man With The Iron Fists' himself. None other but the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA, straight outta Shaolin. Finn is emotionally engaged as well even if some times he comes across complaining like a spoilt brat with his new toy like he was holding Thanos' infinity gauntlet...hey he is a boy born into being a billionaire after all. More Iron Man than Ip Man, yet this "child touched by fire" sets alight this graphic, comic-book world that's not suitable for bed wetters. In each fighting style named episode, from Chinese New Year carnival chase clashes in Chinatown, to Samurai swords fights in the night rain of Central Park as atmospherically dramatic as the time 'The Wolverine' did this big in the temples of Tokyo, Japan. Baring it's knuckles this Iron Fist clenched by creator Scott Buck has a lot behind it. Espeically in the year that began with one last time for Hugh Jackman's 'Logan' and will soon dominate the seasons from volume two of the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy', to Thor's 'Ragnarok' team-up with the Hulk and Doctor Strange. Not to mention the long-awaited Marvel 'Homecoming' for Spider-Man. And that's just the blockbusting big screen. On the crisp smart-phone level this Defender starts the year of their Avenger like assembling, before Jon Bernthal's Frank Castle brings more binge watching punishment until your skull can't take the heat anymore. And you thought the 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' had it good, rolling shotgun with the Ghost Rider. Well Netflix's Marvels are igniting too...and it's all in the palm of their hands.

Helping hands come in many 'guises for the Fist however. Especially in the form of a familiar foe from another show (no, no not The Punisher...don't let your gun go off). It's a relief Rosario Dawson's Rachel McAdams rivalling Night Nurse is back to patch and link-up all the Defenders before she joins them again in being the only character to appear in all six series'. Just imagine how the beds in her apartment will look like when her guerilla surgery skills have to tend to all the Defenders all at the same time. She isn't the only heroine helping the cause however. More aid comes from the Jessica's. Henwick and Stroup. Finn Jones' 'Thrones' co-star Jessica Henwick peaks Black Widow's a## kicking and even quivers Chloe Bennett's Quake. The X-Wing pilot from 'Star Wars' really is an awakening force at Kiefer Sutherland 24 years of age, giving a hand to Rand...and some love interest too. You could cut the sexual tension between these warriors spirits with a Katana. '90210' and 'The Following's Jessica Stroup is more of a boardroom brawler mind and the emotional family catalyst of this drama that actually aside from what they say is one of Marvel/Netflix's best, brilliant backstories yet. Alongside her on-screen brother, the instantly recognisable and vocal Tom Pelphrey who now will be so for this. A scene stealing enigmatic favourite who we are with no matter how many times he slips between the dark side and redemeption as many times as his slicked back, GQ suit matching, tailored business cut ends up looking like the hair of Percy Wetmore in 'The Green Mile'. But boy if you thought he was sort of bad in a series of uncivil good versus evil war were you can't make rolling heads or twisted tails of which side you're on, then just wait until you see the sins of the father. As '300' and Oscar nominated movie 'Lion' dad David Wenham is rip-roaring as a beast of a bad man just waiting to be let out of his Gatsby lonely, art deco penthouse cage. Even 'Transformers' and 'The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3' support star Ramon Rodriguez's mysterious character has nothing on the meat and potato straight-forward hands of Welham who ham-fists one hell of death-defying human villain. Smack-dab in the middle of a Norman Osborne like characterization and a dark tower for a business as powerful and absolutely corrupting as Oscorp down the road. All in all these hands rock the critics cradle and anyone who finds this show boring may actually in turn need to wake up to this slap and high kick across the face. Because Marvel's Iron Fist hits you in ways no other Netflix show has concluding this solo legion of a group of avenging outsiders. Trumping any notion that this sky-scraping name is a Donald, Finn Jones' Danny Rand strives to be more than just his name, or the Iron Fist. No matter how many zeroes come after his name or the weight of gold light on his wrist. Perhaps it's not appropriate that this hero that honors martial arts and doesn't take from it is not Asian. But in origin sticking to the roots of character Marvel still pays homage to where martial arts comes from. And coming from within too it balances it all out like Chi, showing that anyone can be learn this art form as long as they pay their due respect. And that respect is measured in dedication without distinction. But remember no matter how strong the Iron Fist is. No student is a master quite like their sensei. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Daredevil', 'Jessica Jones', 'Luke Cage'.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

REVIEW: BEAUTY & THE BEAST

4/5

Fantastic Beast.

129 Minutes. Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen & Emma Thompson. Director: Bill Condon.

Beauty begins again as Disney go into live action beast mode with their Belle of the ball. And you're their guest Princess Hermione. 10 points to Emma Watson. She may not be the face of the 'Harry Potter' saga anymore, but she is the yellow dress of this fantastic 'Beauty and the Beast' thread of a classic coming into her own weaving and waltzing light. Shining in this Spring post Summer blockbuster that will last in theatres into the Winters beyond June. In a story as old as time. Or the original animated classic from 1991 itself. A roaring success from Disney that became the first animation in movie history to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. This Oscar darling almost had it if it wasn't for those lambs that like to keep quiet and Hopkins' Hannibal beast with even more of an appetite. This monster almost even beat Schwarzenegger's 'Terminator' box-office machine. Fast forward to the Cybernet future of 2017 and on this judgement day this rebooted remake may just go down as the greatest Disney live-action film yet, again years before 'The Lion King' is set to make us proud. No matter how good fellow princess 'Cinderella', last years 'Jungle Book', or even Angelina Jolie's 'Maleficent' is. Certainly this film is on record to be the most successful live cinematic take yet...and you can expect it to flood the next Academy with awards that gleam like that iconic dress as well as the ticket gates. You really can't lock this beast away. Think you can? Be our guest!

Beautiful in her grace and humility, 'Harry Potter' megastar Emma Watson has just found a new franchise for her face as she really is the Belle for this ball. And oh how she is having one too. Singing and dancing like clockwork with candlesticks. No wonder she and the work and rug cut out for her passed on Emma Stone's 'La La Land' Oscar winning role alongside Ryan Gosling. In love with more than just an ugly duckling, this Emma has never had this much fun. And she's the effervescent energy and luminous light in potentially one of Disney's darkest sagas of their storied history made even more live action real and raw. If you thought 'Snow White' brought it to your castle door with the soldiers of 'The Huntsman', then just wait until this princess with a palace as iconic as the one on the Walt Disney introduction I.D. with a ring of roses around it. And we'll all fall down and in love with this. And it's not a case of Stockholm Syndrome. More a dream, in vision made up once upon a time by 'Dreamgirls' director Bill Condon, who also shone a light on the nightwalkers of the first two 'Twilight' epics...arguably the best ones. What? You going to go with the last ones epic end that was just a dream? This films finale is much more fitting. You've never seen last waltz's so wonderful without a glass slipper. Your eyes have never been glazed this much since Simba clawed on for dear life like Bambi's mum. You've never sung along this much since 'Frozen'...and yes, we're sure that remake is coming but for now it has to wait in line...let it go! Right now live action Disney films have never looked so real...or genuinely magical.

Beastly as he may seem, 'The Guest' star Dan Stevens really is the prince host of this picture that would be king. The 'Downton Abbey' star currently moonlighting for FX as a legacy made Marvel mutant in 'Legion' really is effecting something much more special here. The Great Brit knows how to play it up to the ham, like his Knight exhibition in 'Night Of The Museum-Secret Of The Tomb'. But here this hairy man in the mirror with horns knows how to reflect the deeper, realer anguish of a man made monster by a curse kissed from the thorns of a rose. Wilting before our eyes his motion capture goes from white dots and green screen to weeping and seeing to be believed in all it's beauty of each and every emotion. This man truly is a beast in more ways than one. Showing not only the tortured soul of torment behind the fur, but the warmth too. Watson may be the star power, but Stevens has the strength to shoot for more. And there's plenty more room on the table for a growing guestlist. Like the ever-glad Josh Gad. Already a Disney legend for his iconic Olaf snowman built of 'Frozen's' mass merchandised, powerhouse popularity, he now makes an even greater legacy of change, playing Disney's first openly gay character. Perfect alongside a man who is in real-life, Luke Evans. Here 'Dracula' plays the villain Gaston with untold brilliance, something like a 'Baston'. With the cocksure, 'Captain Morgan' fuelled arrogance of a man who thinks he really did slay a dragon like in 'The Hobbit's' 'Desolation Of Smaug'. No wonder Belle's father Kevin Kline is in and out with his blessings. But you have to hand it to all Kline does do that to here. Because we haven't loved this man this much since 'Last Vegas'. There's more chips off the old block, or clock as Sir Ian McKellen plays Cogsworth, moving hands like Magneto aswell as hearts. Whilst Ewan McGregor makes a French candlestick funny, scene stealing favourite and as much fun as the time he spent a night in the 'Moulin Rogue'. As the one for Ewan is a feather duster who goes by the name of the great Gugu Mbatha-Raw. An actress who made her name in no other but a film called 'Belle'. There's even enough notes for a stunning Stanley Tucci to get his teeth into the keys of a piano man with a Beethoven wig that would make his 'Hunger Games' host jealous. But it's Emma Watson's old 'Harry Potter' alumni Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts that really is just the cup of tea. As 'Nanny McPhee' is fantastic in singing the Celine Dion 'Beauty and the Beast' theme song as old as rhyme. Forget John Legend and Arian Grande. I'd know who I'd more like to have a brew with. This beast really is a chip off the old block. As tested as time itself. Because some love stories happy endings we're made to last no matter how they look. And there's nothing more beautiful than that. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Harry Potter', 'Maleficent', 'Cinderella (2015)'.