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Film Review: Rush

Rush perfectly captures the deeper essence and meaning of the Hunt/Lauda rivalry, as well as the inherent sex, glamour and action of the 70s sports setting

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James Hunt and Niki Lauda had one of the greatest rivalries the world of Formula 1 had ever seen, and the Ron Howard directed, Peter Morgan scripted Rushperfectly captures the deeper essence and meaning of their competition, as well as the inherent sex, glamour and action of the 70s sports setting.

Morgan has become an expert of the modern-history screenplay, with the Oscar-baiting The Queen, and the most thrilling movie of two men talking ever with Frost/Nixon. In the latter Morgan builds the interviews between the two contrasting characters on a sports-movie type template, with the underestimated underdog mounting a stunning comeback against the overly cocky heavy-weight. Morgan builds on that experience inRush to pit the two drivers against one another. Chris Hemsworth fully embodies everything that was the handsome, reckless, carefree playboy James Hunt, while Daniel Brühl excellently sinks himself fully into the character of Niki Lauda, the rat-faced, diligent professional, whose blunt social manner and uncaring air mask his internal insecurities.

The two men meet in the low ranks of Formula 3, where they immediately become enemies when Hunt’s irresponsible driving puts both their lives at risk. While Hunt lives the life of a sporting rock star, and equates being a racing driver to the death-defying life of a knight, Lauda sees racing as much as a business as a passion, and is willing to accept 20% risk of death, no more. The film charts the interweaving course of their lives over the next six years, how their journeys to the top mirrored each other in many ways, until the famous 1976 season, when the eyes of the world were fixed on their intense rivalry. But it also manages to show how these two seeming opposites were in fact similar in many ways, that this was not some simple hatred, but based on a deep respect and knowledge that their rival was a good influence on them in life and racing.

Howard shows that he’s become a master of recreating the mood and feel of the 70s (after Apollo 13 and Frost/Nixon), and while the film reflects many classic sports-movie tropes, it mostly  manages to transcend them with excellent character work and superior, tense, and thrilling action scenes. The racing is some of, if not the best ever put on screen (and not just for fans). After highly pedestrian affairs like the Dan Brown adaptations, it feels like Howard has been able to break free and experiment, find his directing mojo, and the sheer variety and experimental choice of shots brings an incredible immediacy and intensity to the race recreations, aided by a thumping score from Hans Zimmer.

The film zips along briskly with much wit and laughs in the beginning, then allows the slower moments of introspection, the troubled marriages, the spectre of deaths that looms over the sport, enough room to affect without putting on the brakes too heavily. Hemsworth brings an enormous amount of charisma and presence to Hunt, while Brühl does nice work quietly revealing the complexity to his character.

Rush is almost, but not quite, an absolutely classic sporting movie. Hemsworth and Brühl are excellent in their respective roles, while Howard creates a totally immersive world, complete with thrilling racing action and, more importantly, gripping characters.

RUSH
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl
Distributor: Hopscotch Films
Runtime: 123 minutes

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Film Reviews

Spider-Man: Far From Home is a splendid coda to the Avengers

Save the world, save the girl?

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Spider-Man

Where do you go after Avengers: Endgame? The finale to an 11-year journey was always going to be a heavy exhale. But with much of the story finding conclusion, it was only natural that the next chapter would be something a little lighter, less fraught but still tense with importance. The question of responsibility and the burden of carrying it has been a fundamental principle of being a superhero in this universe, a burden that only continues in the final film of this phase. So where does the Marvel Cinematic Universe go after Endgame? Well, on holiday of course. Spider-Man: Far From Home is not only a splendid film but a nice coda to the biggest cinematic undertaking we’ve seen in recent history.

You can find Spider-Man: Far From Home nestled in the cinematic landscape somewhere between Iron Man 3 and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Peter Parker (Tom Holland, really solidifying himself as this generation’s best Spider-Man) is Clark Griswolding himself across Europe to chase the heart of MJ (Zendaya). As a bumbling 16-year-old who only wants to find the girl, his romance is cut a little short by the expected Marvel cinematic tomfoolery we’ve come to expect from our arachnid hero. Jake Gyllenhaal’s turn as Mysterio is a concerted effort; a cross between Tony Stark’s wise but too cool tutelage and Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin (take that how you will). As the carnage across Europe unfolds, the film becomes a well-balanced juxtapositioning of the kind of humor we’ve found appealing within in the MCU and action and adventure that doesn’t become overly burdensome or heavy. Far From Home keeps things light and breezy, but you never forget the stakes or think that this is just a tacked on fling after the events of Endgame.

The cast are well rounded and the addition of Marvel players we’ve come to love (Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan, Spider-Man sidekick Ned, and both Nick Fury and Maria Hill) makes it hit with almost the same gravitas as the previous films. But more importantly, they never make the film feel like an overstuffed mess that plagued outings like Age of Ultron. The pace is engaging, and as the story unfolds amongst the smoke and mirrors, you can’t help but feel a kind of comic book happiness that you felt through Homecoming. It’s charming, it’s earnest, it’s funny, and at times, doesn’t take itself too seriously (Spider-Man video game in-joke included!). Plus it has those little moments that while may have been written for fans, will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good laugh, a touching moment, and good filmmaking. While the death of Tony Stark looms large within the narrative of the film, it doesn’t become baggage- but rather the catalyst for growth within Parker and helps propel the story to its conclusion.

However, one can’t help but feel that the continued presence of Tony Stark, and the reminder that he is gone, really does give this universe a sense of finality. If you stay for the end-credits (both scenes), you’ll know that Marvel has plans both big and small in the coming years. Far From Home is both the end and the beginning in a sense. It’s a nice coda to Endgame, and for some, probably a good place to step away from the past 11 years. Far From Home is also continued proof that heart and the desire to do good doesn’t always have to follow the same tired script. Save the world, lose the girl? Maybe not this time.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is in cinemas now.

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Colbie Smulders, Marisa Tomei
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Run time: 129 minutes

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Film Review: Murder Mystery

Murder Mystery is a pretty crap film.

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Murder Mystery is the next film in the long line of terrible Adam Sandler films distributed by Netflix. At this point we’re not sure that Netflix actually watches these movies before they put them on their service but here we are. Murder Mystery, like many of the recent Sandler-helmed flicks, seem less like movies than they do lavish holidays that Adam Sandler and friends go on where filming of random skits tied together loosely by some semblance of narrative occurs. Much of the film is slapped together with the kind of duct-tape storytelling you’d find in all those mediocre SNL movies.

There is star quality though. Jennifer Aniston is back, after working alongside Sandler in 2011’s equally terrible Just Go With It, and they’ve roped in some pretty prominent names, including Luke Evans (Fast & Furious series, The Hobbit), Gemma Arterton, and a happily cashing in his check Terrence Stamp. What happens can be best described as stupid Cluedo, or more blatantly, a dumb Murder On the Orient Express where Sandler and Aniston’s characters, a bumbling New York cop and hair dresser, stumble upon a high-stakes inheritance-grab murder mystery where absurd things happen. It never makes much sense but the biggest problems with these movies are not so much the cartoony skits (Sandler’s cop is so bad at shooting his gun that when he does, it’s a cartoon-like hail of bullets missing their target), but just the insanely unbelievable characters that fill these movies. It’s OK to suspend belief, but at this point, you don’t believe for one second any of the characters would exist in real life or that any of them act like actual humans do. There is also no shortage of cartoon bozos: Fat New York cop sidekick? Check. Buffoony Inspector Clouseau French detective? Check. Overly Spanish Spanish guy? Check. Ali G Indian guy? Check. Even Gemma Arterton’s Jessica Rabbit-esque character would make Jessica Rabbit shake her head in disbelief. At least Rob Schneider isn’t in it.

Is it funny? No, but there are actually some moments worth a chuckle. And that’s already better than Sandler’s previous Netflix outings. Murder Mystery’s jokes are mostly at the expense of the exaggerated caricatures and Sandler’s goofy self, but for the most part, its pretty bereft of humor. To make matters worse, the film has that cheap Netflix sheen to it that makes it even more of a TV movie than it already is. In the end, the movie is such a blatant Murder on the Orient Express rip-off that the end scene literally shows the Orient Express train. Unironically too.

Netflix’s has a serious movie problem- one that we’ve talked about before. Murder Mystery, is no different. You can’t fault Sandler for continuing down this path. Same goes for Aniston. Both have more than established their craft over the years that at times, you can’t help but feel envious of the position they’re in. So what if they just want to put their feet up, cash in a nice pay check, and enjoy the nice sights? Who wouldn’t?

Murder Mystery is a pretty crap film, but it’s what happens when we’ve given this much clout to Netflix. Spielberg had a point when he said Netflix movies shouldn’t be competing for Oscars. It is not only because they eschew theatrical traditions, but it should also be because they’re crap. And not even in the Spielberg Artificial Intelligence sense of being an average movie- but in the Lifetime channel level of crap. So really, when you think about, Murder Mystery is all our fault.

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