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Reviews

Miles Ahead – magnificent mooch through the wilderness years

Written by Peter Bradshaw
courtesy of www.theguardian.com
21.04.16

 

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There comes a time in the life of any creative artist, or maybe any ambitious careerist, when a wave of middle-aged tiredness brings an awful dilemma. Do you stop and give yourself a much-needed rest after which you will return stronger and fresher and more creative than ever? Or is surrendering to the tiredness a fatal mistake: an irreversible slide into ennui from which you will never return? Maybe submitting to inaction is a painful but necessary price to pay for the creative process – even if the creativity is at an end. Don Cheadle’s excellent movie about jazz musician Miles Davis places itself in the centre of just such a situation.

We find ourselves alongside Davis in his wilderness years, the burnout period of the mid to late 70s, when he was living as a virtual recluse in his New York apartment, not performing, living on advance payment cheques from Columbia Records that theoretically gave the company ownership of the private experimental recordings that Davis was supposedly working on. Davis spends his alone time nursing a serious case of mojo loss: brooding, painting, scowling, calling radio stations to complain about them playing the wrong Miles Davis records and hitting a boxer’s punchbag, shouting the rhythmic phrase: “Get itback!

This is a labour of requited love for Cheadle, a subject he clearly feels passionate about that responds to his touch. As well as directing, co-writing and even composing some music, Cheadle plays husky voiced, cantankerous Miles Davis himself. He is whip-thin, with dark glasses and hair grown out into a frizzily dysfunctional halo: drinking and doing coke, in constant pain from a hip disease and cultivating a poisonous paranoia about being exploited. Ewan McGregor plays Dave Brill, a (fictional) British journalist claiming to work for Rolling Stone, who doorsteps Davis and wheedles his way into his life, keen to churn out some gonzo reportage about Davis’s new Howard Hughes existence.

McGregor is arguably yet another example of the white partner that Hollywood requires of its African-American stars, but his character is a legitimate incarnation of white hangers-on; he is dramatically subservient in the right way and also an excellent comic foil. Dave’s Brit way of speaking confuses Davis (“I was off my tits last night!” “Your tits? What?”), but he grumpily lets Dave be his assistant and bag-carrier for an ongoing project: a war of words and much else with Columbia Records and with a certain creepy producer-manager – marvellously played by Michael Stuhlbarg – who misappropriates a precious reel of tape with Davis’s new stuff.

It’s a movie that refreshingly avoids the cliches of linear music biopics; what Cheadle does is keep us in the present day, which itself unfolds eventfully enough, as Dave seeks to get in Miles’s good books by furnishing him with some top-quality drugs, and so showing that he is a parasitic enabler who really isn’t going to help anyone but himself.

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But coolly, Cheadle takes us away from this present tense into flashbacks showing his former bebop existence; the sudden shortness of hair and conventional clothes denote the time shift very efficiently. He holds these flashbacks an audacious length of time, so they feel like an ongoing present, and so returning to the previous situation is a dizzying and disorientating flashforward. We see his unhappy relationship with his beautiful former wife, dancer Frances Taylor, intelligently played by Emayatzy Corinealdi. Davis demanded that she abandon her career to be an old-fashioned wife to him, and rewarded this sacrifice by treating her negligently, hitting her (though the movie perhaps fudges the details here) and fooling around with other women. So now he is on his own: a lonely man, swamped in regret.

Maybe there is one cliche, or near-cliche. Cranked up with rage, Davis makes a personal appearance in the sleek offices of Columbia Records and fires a gun at a terrified A&R guy who had presumed to remind Davis of his contractual obligations. Present in the room is a wannabe musician, played by Keith Stanfield, who was Snoop Dogg in the recent Straight Outta Compton, in which musicians also smashed up the recording company’s offices. Shooting up the smug suits’ fancy pad is a scene that will probably continue to feature in music biopics.

Loyally, gallantly, Cheadle insists on an important and positive outcome for this fallow time, marked though it is by bizarre and black-comic escapades. It is a mark of his generosity and his excellent performance that we’re rooting for Miles Davis’s comeback, too. This could be Don Cheadle’s finest hour.

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Film Review: 3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets (3 ½ Minutes Can Last a Lifetime!)

Written by Orville “Kunga” Dread
04.10.15

 

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“Trayvon’s father text me a couple days after it happened,” he said… “I just want to welcome you to a club that none of us want to be in.” – Ron Davis father of Jordan Davis (February 19, 1995- November 23, 2012)

On Friday November 23 2012 at around 7.30pm, Jordan Davis 17, African-American was shot 3 times by Michael Dunn a 47 year old, white American who took a dislike to the loud ‘rap-crap’ music coming from the vehicle Jordan and his friends were sitting in. 7 more shots were fired as Davis’s teenage friends tried, panic-stricken, to make their escape from the Jacksonville petrol station in middle-class suburbia.
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3 ½ minutes, Ten bullets (2015), is a groundbreaking, access-all-areas documentary by award-winning director Marc Silver (photo) and is both intrusive and intimate. The critically acclaimed film also provides an insightful look at a justice system many consider to be flawed; in a country which purports to uphold the unalienable rights that all men are created equal, yet it’s a country where a black man is up to *40 times more likely to be shot by police than his white counterpart-  (*ProPublica 2014).

“If the facts are against you, then argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If both are against you, put someone else on trial!” – Closing argument of Florida Assistant State Attorney, John Guy.

John Guy the attorney for the state of Florida was also involved in the Trayvon Martin case in a failed attempt to prosecute George Zimmerman; Zimmerman who also felt he had no choice but to defend himself, to stand his ground and to shoot a 17 year old teenager to death. It is this paradox this gripping documentary attempts to scrutinise. How does a man, of apparent good standing, now stand accused of the murder of an unarmed teenager, calmly leave the scene and order a pizza? The film also asks questions of society at large. A society that has been taught to view young Black men as armed, angry and dangerous.

Stand your ground  – “A person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself”

The controversial section of that law relates to the fact that there is no “duty to retreat,” meaning that in non-stand your ground states one must, in most cases, “first attempt to get away if he or she is able to do so”.

In Florida the state where the two young men, Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin were both born, in the same month, and ironically linked in very similar and tragic outcomes. there is no such requirement; in fact the shooter is permitted to “stand his or her ground,” when firing in self defense and does not need to flee. Add to this the ruling that the shooter may have had an “honest but mistaken belief,” that the victim had a weapon then one can easily draw parallels with cases still simmering here in the U.K.
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The mental image of a belligerent Black ‘man’ in baggy pants and a hooded top may well have been enough to convince the majority white white jury to acquit Zimmerman allowing him to walk free, leaving America, once again, having to confront its uncomfortable history of colonisation and entrenched racism.

But Mark Silver (director) does not judge the system; he leaves that to the viewer. As with his previous critically acclaimed docu-feature Who is Dayani Crystal? (2014), the director skillfully connects quiet moments of reflection, with meticulous focus on the minutia, juxtaposed with the cacophony of media orchestrated debate.

In 2012, reporters from the Tamba Bay Times collated over 200 Stand Your Ground cases across the U.S and found that 15.6 percent of those homicides in which a white person killed a black person were deemed justifiable, compared to about 3.4 percent of homicides in which the perpetrator was black and the victim was white – (WJCT, Rhema Thompson, 2014).

Lucia McBath, the softly-spoken, god fearing mother or Jordan Davis, now turned vehement anti-gun campaigner, has called the Stand Your Ground law as ‘legalised lynching’, feeling it disproportionately targets young black men.
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Silver’s film shows very little anger; tears, yes. But what is perhaps most haunting is the, almost child-like nature of Dunn, his ascribed white privilege making it impossible for him to acknowledge any guilt and the almost ‘matter-of-fact’ nature of Jordan’s friends, who despite barely escaping with their lives on that fateful evening as bullets pierced their vehicle and pierced through the body of their friend, seem almost accepting that Black youth in America are viewed a certain way

“Thug is the new ‘N’ word. That’s how ‘they’ be pursuing us now ‘N’ word is out ‘thug’ is in. They don’t want to be seen, (pause), ‘wrong’ so they use ‘thug’ instead of the ‘N’ word”. – Tevin Thompson, friend of Jordan Davis, 3 ½ minutes Ten Bullets.

There are also moments of humor as the young friends reflect upon their friendship with Jordan; joined by the dead boy’s father, Ron Davis a retired Delta airlines employee, they eat burgers and discuss how bad he was at basketball but how he would still want to keep on playing in order to improve, “but he was just too fast for the ball!” – Tevin Thompson. Mr Davis, who has been divorced from Jordan’s mother for a number of years, mentions how Jordan was an athlete and should have done track or baseball. They all agree.
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Ron Davis and other fathers have bemoaned the fact that the women are often the voices heard and images portrayed whenever a tragedy such as the death of his son is played out in the media but remains a constant ally as both parents are unified in keeping the memory of their son alive and true. Youth from middle class America, existing far from the stereotypical lexicon of a crime riddled neighborhood, should not be in fear of flying bullets and Silver is careful in showing that these youth who are not from the concrete ghettos of America but from an environment of freshly cut lawns and regular jaunts to the nearby beach still do not escape the maelstrom of America’s racailised myopia.

“When I arrived in Jackosonville Fl, I was struck by how everyone drives everywhere. Hardly anyone walks! These two people just happened to meet at a petrol station and had an argument. An argument which lasted just 3 ½ minutes”. Marc Silver

This is a important and brave film on many levels and is a must watch as it makes America look at itself once again but perhaps more importantly it asks hard questions of the viewer. That initial feeling when faced with a group of young Black teenagers. What is the default emotion?

3 ½ minutes, Ten Bullets is in UK cinemas Now – check your local cinema for details.

The Kush Film Boutique hosted an exclusive screening of the documentary at the Regent Street Cinema – check out a snapshot of our event below:

article by Orvil Kunga  / @kungadred –  Orvil kunga founder of Welcome to Busseywood and Adrinkra Arts Collective

Film Review: Dope

Written by Jeff Bannis
02.09.15

 

 

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What can one say about DOPE? Firstly, that it’s a far more intelligent comedy than the usual Hollywood effort.  It also has a cast list packed with young talent that will entertain and charm the most hard-bitten of cinema-goers.  On top of that, there are some thought-provoking moments that really hit home.

The opening scenes, where we meet Shameik Moore‘s Malcolm establish him as a nerdy kid who, in the best traditions of high school comedy, is mercilessly bullied by jocks.  In voiceover, Malcolm complains he is unpopular because he does “white stuff”, like read books.  Malcolm is obsessed with 90s rap music, as are his friends Diggy and Jib (played by Kiersey Clemons of Transparent and Tony Revolori of Grand Budapest Hotel).  One’s a lesbian, the other is just odd,  like Malcolm they’re also outsiders.
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When not on the run from the jocks, our geeky chums like to play in their rock band, Awreeoh (geddit?) or hanker after girls. Malcolm’s current crush is on smart ghetto girl Nakia, played by Zoe Kravitz. Nakia also attracts the amorous attentions of hood-with-a-heart, Dom (A$AP Rocky).

Set in a tough neighbourhood, named “the Bottoms” in the film but in reality a thinly disguised Inglewood LA, its only a matter of time before the eponymous illegal substance rears its head.  Finding himself in accidental possession of a massive drugs cache, Malcolm has to figure out a way to avoid the law and keep various drug-dealing villains off his tail while securing a scholarship to Harvard. Piece of cake!
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Its a complex set-up but there are some truly funny lines along the way. DOPE has a winning cast, some genuine laughs and the film’s light approach persuades you to stick with it. It’s a departure from its producer, Forest Whitaker‘s last success, the excellent Fruitvale Station, although the two share the same camerawoman.

On the demerit side, for a film that sets out to debunk black stereotypes, DOPE misses its targets.  Malcolm and his friends all love 90s rap, so why do they choose to express this through dated, post-punk pop music (courtesy of executive producer Pharrell Williams)?  The stuff Awreeoh perform really is rubbish but its presented, embarrassingly, as quality.  Now, perhaps its aimed at the assumed demographic for a John Hughes-influenced teen comedy, but its inclusion here implies that rock is the default musical form for intelligent teens, rather than just for white people.  Why don’t Awreeoh just make 90s-style rap?

On a similar note, in a piece direct to camera, Malcolm challenges the audience to examine their supposed surprise that he wants to go to Harvard.  This falls flat because “disadvantaged kid achieves excellence” is such a well-established trope in Hollywood, we can all write this film’s ending. Who exactly do the makers think will part with hard cash to see this film?  For its likely audience, it isn’t a revelation that black youths strive to achieve – it’s a revelation when they make it.

Rick Famuyiwa is not a debutant director – his forthcoming HBO movie, Confirmation, which stars Kerry Washington as Anita Hill will doubtless raise his profile even further.  But DOPE’s weak points are due to his uncertain handling of tone, especially noticeable in intimate scenes.
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The film scores hugely when it throws the over-complex storyline away for a while and lives in the moment. The LAPD need to put out an APB on model-turned actress Chanel Iman right now, because she absolutely steals this movie with a hilarious cameo.  It doesn’t play any part in the story but it’s genuinely funny, sexy and lifts the whole endeavour into the arena of anarchic fun that is surely the initial intention of every comedy writer.

It’s not giving much away to say that DOPE has a happy ending.  In a manner that’s not fully expounded on-screen, Malcolm acquires a backbone and starts standing up for himself.  The fact that he shows this by selling drugs and in a willingness to use violence undermines the film’s message somewhat but it puts necessary story elements to bed.

Dope has great entertainment value and is ambitious in trying to satirize the stereotyping of black people as criminals and their white clientele as warm, freedom-loving human beings.  If in rounding all the bases it loses its way, it should be forgiven if only because it takes such a refreshingly grown-up stance on stubbornly immovable social barriers.

© 2015 Jeff Bannis
kushfilms.com

Dope In Cinemas 4 Sept

Meet The Artiste: Filmmaker Rick Famuyiwa

Film Review: Straight Outta Compton

Written by Jeff Bannis
26.08.15

 

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I’ve got to start by saying that Straight Outta Compton is the best rap film I’ve ever seen. Nothing that has gone before comes as close to capturing the stirring attack on body and brain that rap can deliver. That simple fact explains why this story of seminal rap group, NWA, has been the surprise hit of the summer in the US. It’s likely to do the same sort of business in the UK – the film is an undeniable success on many levels.

The depiction of the group’s formation and first successes are conveyed with so much energy and drive it’s difficult to think of a music film of any genre that comes close. The lead characters, Eazy-E, Dr Dre and Ice Cube are so well cast that anyone familiar with the era will know them without any introduction.

Cube, the group’s lead rapper and lyricist ( O’Shea Jackson Jr) Dre (Corey Hawkins), the musician and producer and Eazy E (Jason Mitchell), who provides the x-ingredient hip hop flavour every great rap group needs (nn) are all established in the film’s tight opening minutes. If this is your first contact with NWA you’ll understand exactly why they’re onscreen. If you know the band already, you won’t be distracted by thoughts about the actor living up the character – they’re each faultless.
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Both Cube and Dre have producer credits, which guaranteed access to NWA’s hits. The challenge was always going to be finding a director who could deliver a film strong enough not to be over-shadowed by the music.

Straight Outta Compton has an immensely cinematic approach, lacing striking visuals in even as the drama gets under way. Director F Gary Gray shows his roots as a cameraman, especially early on, when bikers wheelie past in a slow-motion tracking shot which flows effortlessly into normal speed. As gimmicky as that may sound in words, onscreen it is pulled off with real style and panache. It’s a little signpost to tell you that this is a Compton that you want to know more about – and the film delivers.

That hip hop culture was a newer, more vital version of punk rock is no new idea and the film sensibly avoids directly raising the issue. Inevitably however, comparisons will arise; young people with few resources using music as a means to express themselves, to project their views on the world and maybe even make some money? Hmm. The mission of our protagonists, especially Cube, is to put out “reality rap”  or Gangsta rap to its friends – to talk about the real social and economic problems they were facing as black teenagers. Like earning a living amid the low expectations of schools and employers, or escaping the attention of the repressive and aggressive police.

The significance of the group in their time can be encapsulated in two key things – firstly, their name, Niggaz With Attitudes, caused the media conniptions and the public to break a taboo every time they discussed them. And that was often, because the second thing was the track “Fuck Tha Police” which swept the board in the US and the world.

The FBI banned performance of the song on NWA’s first national tour. All over the country, the group were literally read the Riot Act before going onstage. The Detroit climax of this sequence provides the film’s midpoint and it had the audience at the screening itching to jump to their feet and raise a fist. I can’t recall the last time a mainstream film conveyed such a feeling of feelgood rebellion as this.
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If it’s true that American lives have no third act, someone forgot to tell NWA. The notoriety given by the Fuck Tha Police furore leads to recriminations which threaten their success. The group’s subsequent split and the emergence of Cube and Dre as respectively rap’s best lyricist and producer are drawn well, if with some ellipsis. The film would have flopped without Dre’s involvement – he might not have allowed the use of his music or contributed the sparkling new productions which lift it above others. The upshot was – perhaps – the omission of his horrendous attack on Dee Barnes.

This has been the understandable focus of critics of Straight Outta Compton. The macho world of rap still hasn’t totally accorded women the place they deserve in its hierarchy. Like rock sadly, gangsta isn’t chivalrous. It is a necessary debate around the film. Reality rap needs to really be reality. Suge Knight has to be the centre of evil morality for the film’s second half to have a chance of hanging together as a story. And opting for a narrower focus leads also to excluding the fact that Cube has had, since those days, a woman manager.

Ultimately, Straight Outta Compton is the story of NWA – not just Dr Dre’s story of ugly violence and eventual rehabilitation.

A landscape currently dominated by the #Blacklivesmatter movement however, can draw much strength from NWA’s strident response to police violence. Rap was changed forever by the video of Rodney King and the riots that followed his attackers’ escape from justice.

By then wracked by separation, NWA’s focus was on life as experienced by ghetto youth and their contribution demonstrates how little has changed. Their moment in the spotlight could hardly be more relevant today. It shouldn’t fall to those who will go on to enjoy this as full-blooded entertainment to defend every act of the real-life characters. The performances, the story and the unstoppable music are what Straight Outta Compton is all about.

© 2015 Jeff Bannis
www.Kushfilms.com

Straight Outta Compton in cinemas now

Film Review: Brahmin Bulls

Written by Jeff Bannis
21.08.15

 

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Whoever thought up the title, Brahmin Bulls, has some explaining to do. What exactly does it refer to? Is it a reference to the rampant masculinity of the two leading men? Is it anything to do with Hinduism and sacred cows? Or a play on Brahman bulls, the first native domesticated American cattle stock? To find out, let’s chew the cud.

This story is set in a sleepy LA suburb where Sid, a thirty-something architect, is sounding the depths of his first divorce. Ellie, his wife, has jumped ship on her own, leaving Sid to mope around what was once their dream home, a nondescript bungalow Sid once harboured dreams of turning into a triumph of design. As we join him, he is playing nursemaid to the cat he always hated as a way of delaying the final separation of goods and chattel.

It’s beautifully photographed and scored and actually creates a credible facsimile of a more hip, indie aesthetic before weaknesses in the script and a general lack of conviction begin to tell.

One day, Sid’s dad, Ashok turns up on his doorstep. An academic ostensibly in LA for an engineering conference, Ashok wants to spend a week with the son he hasn’t seen since Sid and Ellie tied the knot three years earlier. Ashok has no idea his only child’s marriage has ended.
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Unifying and dividing the two men is the memory of Sid’s mother who died while he was young. Sid resents his father because he feels that Ashok left her unmourned. This powerful storyline however, is left somewhat under-explored, as are other intriguing subplots, one involving a date with a beautiful fellow architect; another, the frustrations that ended his marriage and yet another, Ashok’s resurrected relationship with a mystery woman played by Mary Steenburgen.

Brahmin Bulls’ problem lies in touching upon some great ideas for family drama, then running away just as they get interesting. Restraint is admirable in cinema but this film is too quick to abandon its themes. The result is that the drama never really comes alive.

Returning to that title, there is a noticeable tendency to over-state the aura that Ashok and Sid project to those around them. Particularly women. The pair are portrayed as being virtually irresistible to every member of the opposite sex and everywhere they go, they are met with instant female adoration. This runs contrary to the more typical approach within the American indie genre the film seeks to emulate, where the idea of the men as macho “Brahmin bulls” would tend to be gently mocked or ironised, rather than upheld.

Sid’s makes a horrendous faux pas in attempting to kiss a beautiful office colleague. Maya soon simperingly forgives him however when he spouts his half-baked treatise on his love of architecture in her ear. But hang on, as a qualified architect herself surely it would take something slightly more compelling to impress her? Perhaps she could have told him that architects use computers and 3D drafting programs these days and not giant A0 drawing boards? We’ll never know because it’s another of the undeveloped avenues opened up but then not explored in the story.
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Roshan Seth rescues the hour with a humorous and charming performance and really lights up the screen in the sequence when he takes his son out on the town. His presence and that of Mary Steenburgen lift the film onto a higher plateau. Their sequences are the most enjoyable and encourage the suspicion that ultimately the audience will not mind their scenes stealing the thunder of the film’s main plot.

An inoffensive way to pass 90 minutes then, but maybe Hollywood makes fewer comedy dramas nowadays because the best of the best have raised the bar so high. My beef with Brahmin Bulls is, in terms of humour, insight into human emotion and social mores, it doesn’t quite get there.

Brahmin Bulls in UK cinemas 11th September 2015

 

Film Review: Kajaki

Written by Graeme Wood
01.06.15

 

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“It’s not about politics, not about what went wrong. It’s about heroism. Hollywood films seem to glorify everything they do, it’s great to watch but it’s hard as a soldier to look at the realisms. I can’t see how this film could have got it any more true to life then they have!” Paul ‘Tug’ Hartley, GM.

 

Paul ‘Tug’ Hartley was one of a group of troops from 3 Battalion, Parachute Regiment who in 2006 became trapped in a minefield while stationed at the Kajaki Dam in Afghanistan. The small unit of soldiers set out to disable a Taliban roadblock when they found themselves in a dried out riverbed, without warning one of soldiers detonates a land mine, blowing off his leg and setting into motion a desperate rescue mission.

His fellow soldiers swiftly attempted to aid their comrade only to find themselves trapped in an unmarked minefield, a relic of the Russian invasion of the 1980s. With no way out, any movement risked certain injury and possible death. ‘Kajaki’ is an extraordinary tale of bravery; selflessness and heroism as the team risk their lives to help each other and ultimately survive.
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Bringing this remarkable tale to life for British Independent Pukka Films, are director/producer Paul Katis and screenwriter Tom Williams. The stand-out British cast are led by David Elliot, Mark Stanley, Scott Kyle, Benjamin O’Mahony and Bryan Parry. It’s a classy debut from Katis sparsely realized but engaging, terrifying, emotive and full of surprises.

The opening moments superbly capture the bleakness of the Afghan landscape, the comradeship and personal dynamics of the team as they set out on their mission. The platoon stave off boredom and have mixed feelings about what they have been tasked to do and the remoteness of their position. There is a palpable sense of realism throughout that makes the platoons daily rituals seem duller than you might expect but when events take an unexpected turn the results are shocking and explosive. When one of men, Stu Hale, stumbles onto a land mine, losing his leg in the blast, the after effects of panic, torn limbs and the team’s adrenalin-rush to save their comrade are shown in all their aesthetic detail.

The cast and director thrust the viewer into the chaos that follows as the soldier’s frustrations, fear and bravery are all brought to the fore to save their friend. Just when you think the story is about to come to a close with an emergency medical air-evacuation a second mine explodes leaving two Kajaki_3_5more men fallen and suffering horrific injuries. The ad hoc procedures used to stem their injuries are shown in graphic detail and with an inevitable detachment by the men as they use whatever is at hand to stem the blood loss. Stoic medic ‘Tug’ Hartley frustrated by being cut off from his fallen comrades; Wright and Pearson makes a desperate attempt to reach them by throwing a backpack into the mine area, to detonate any mines, then jumping onto the backpack himself once it is deemed safe. It is in turns darkly humorous and terrifying!

Spurred on by the agonised screams of his friends ‘Tug’ eventually reaches them only for yet another landmine to explode causing more panic, injury and destruction.

What follows in the final third of the film is a step by step look at the desperate attempts to keep the injured alive while being cut off from major assistance and waiting for the air-evac team to arrive via helicopter. The tension is cutting edge intersped by dark moments of humour as the men await rescue. Director Katis keeps the momentum going, though at times you start to feel the story sagging under its lengthy runtime, but the moments of frustration faced by the soldiers are underscored by the knowledge that this remarkable tale is exactly how events unfolded. The unflashy, sparse editing and lack of movie score enhance the overall feelings of claustrophobia, desperation, heat and terror that the audience are asked to share with the stranded soldiers during their ordeal.

When the evac team eventually arrive you feel sure that all will end well for the team but we are reminded that this sort of bravery is not without cost.

As the end credits roll we are shown the real life team of soldiers and an update of what they are now doing. It’s an incredible chain of events as the men survived almost four hours before being rescued by Chinook helicopters but not without loss, the explosion took the life of Corporal Mark Wright who held on long enough to see his comrades rescued. The survivors received the highest recognition for bravery from those higher up the chain of command; Lance Corporal Paul Hartley and Fusilier Andrew (Ken) Barlow were awarded the George Medal. Corporal Stuart Pearson was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal and Corporal Mark Wright was awarded a posthumous George Cross.

“Mark wouldn’t let go until he knew we were all safe”, says Stu Hale. “Then I think he almost allowed himself to die. That was certainly the way it seemed to me.” Hale, was fitted with a prosthesis and later became the first amputee to return to Afghanistan until eventually leaving the army in 2014.

★★★★★  Daily Mail

★★★★★  Sunday Express

It’s a story so incredible it couldn’t have been made up’ ★★★★– David Edwards, The Mirror

‘Brilliant, powerful, heart-stirring – everyone should see this film’  – Baz Bamigboye, Daily Mail

‘A celebration of heroism and bravery in its purest form’ – Ed Frost, Film3Sixty

 

You can purchase your copy or watch now on DVD, Blu-ray, VOD & est ON

Pre-Order Links:

–    iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/movie/kajaki-the-true-story/id964451408

–    Amazon DVD – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kajaki-DVD-Mark-Stanley/dp/B00T6DN7PW

–    Amazon Blu-Ray – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kajaki-Blu-ray-Mark-Stanley/dp/B00T6LQHB0

 

Available Extras – DVD & Blu-Ray:

–    Behind the scenes with cast

–    The Veterans’ stories, including Stu Pearson QGM and Tug Hartley GM

Film Review: Spy

Written by Christine Eccelston-Craig
07.06.15

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Desk- bound CIA analyst Susan Cooper, (Melissa McCarthy) has been playing the role of an ear-worm for Bond-like CIA agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). But with the other agents, including the entire CIA Corporation under threat from a mysterious terrorist organisation, Cooper volunteers to go undercover to put a stop to their diabolical plan of a deadly nuclear explosion.

The plot of the film is clearly just the bed of which to lay the jokes. And believe me there are jokes all throughout this film. From character Cooper’s obsession with cheesy self-obsessed Bradley Fine right down to Rick Ford (Jason Statham) constantly exaggerating what it means to be an “extremeMelissaMcCarthy_spy agent.” It’s comedy gold! With that being said, the plot was entirely predictable. As always defeating the bad guys was inevitable and well films like these are bound to have a happy ending right? I mean we can assume the ending will be a triumphant one but even the segments which were supposed to add an element of surprise or suspense were often ruined by the foreshadowing of previous scenes. It was all just a bit too obvious.

However on a more positive note the jokes did leave the audience roaring with laughter (so I guess that alleviates the plot a little bit). The film also featured gory action scenes which left the audience I was with howling. I suppose it sounds quite disturbing to be laughing at someone’s legs being broken but believe me the way the scenes were done you’ll probably be laughing too!

With other recent action films it’s almost becoming a theme (Kingsman: Secret Service) and now Spy follows in that mould of slow-motion action scenes with booming sound-effects intermingled with Spy_3what could be described as disturbing visual content (for some of us). The lines between general violence and comedy-action are becoming less distinguishable. I wonder what the next Spy-Comedy film will entail!

“Give up on your dreams Susan, my mom used to write that in my lunchbox”

Melissa McCarthy has appeared in films such as Bridesmaids, The Back-Up Plan and even The Hangover Part 3. We cannot ignore her undeniable talent when it comes to making audiences scream with laughter. She is incredibly funny, and makes a rather good spy too. Prior to character Susan Coopers mundane desk job she was a trainee spy and acquired some of the skills needed to be full-blow agent. So what kept her behind the desk I hear you ask? Her unrequited love for Agent Fine! But as the story unfolds and new dangers come to light, Susan finally says enough is enough and plucks up the courage to take her previously learned skills and go undercover in order to track the villain. It’s been a while since I’ve seen McCarthy in an action type role and seemingly doing all these ludicrous stunts and deliberately making a fool out of herself all in the name of acting. We adore her for her bravery and unadulterated efforts to keep audiences smiling. She’s definitely one to watch.

“I once drove a car off a freeway on top of a train while I was on fire”

A character that unmistakeably stood out not only to me but to everyone who’s seen this film is British born actor Jason Statham. He is better known for his action man roles in the Transporter films and a whole raft of other action films (Expendables, Death Race) along with the recent Furious 7 film where he was a straight up villain.
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The role of CIA Agent, Rick Ford in Spy sees Jason in a much more amusing role which is something I haven’t seen from Jason in a while, since Guy Ritchie’s ‘Snatch’. This character is clearly overcompensating as he feels he has to go overboard with his perception on what makes an impeccable spy. Jumping from helicopters, bringing guns to private parties (visible from his back pocket) and disguising himself as what we can perceive as a 70’s disco fanatic in an attempt to catch the villain. I think it’s safe to say Rick Ford is having some sort of mid-life crisis; he surely is insane but also one of the most enjoyably loveable characters of the entire film. Minus his potty mouth and confusion with American and British lingo, he is a ride or die character, always looking out for the team (even if his idea of team is him alone). It is refreshing to see Jason in this role it’s almost as if he set out to make a mockery of his normal on-screen self.

Director Paul Feig has directed films such as Bridesmaids, Bad Teacher and Knocked Up, so is quite commonly known for his romantic comedies. Despite this he did a pretty good job fusing comedy with the spy movie genre. Much like Director Matthew Vaughan did on the film Kingsman: Secret Service. I’d also like to add the casting for this film couldn’t be any better. The fusion of British and US actors is really becoming the standard and was pleasing to watch.

I would 100% recommend to everyone who enjoys comedy spy movies to watch this one! Of course if you have a weak heart or don’t like the sight of blood you might want to sit this one out. But for those of you who can withstand such visual content, this one’s for you.

 

Film Review: Mad Max Fury Road

Written by: Graeme Wood
19.05.15

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You might think that you know all there is to know about cars and trucks but wait till you experience this film! The real stars of “Mad Max-Fury Road” are the array of soup’d up, pimped up metal monstrosities that tear across the desert landscape and engage in robust carnage. They are equally strangely beautiful and awkwardly ugly, there’s nothing elegant about them at all. They’re made of joined up bits of different weather beaten road hardy vehicles and soldered together to create angular modes of transport. They’re weaponised too with all manner of hidden defence and assault capabilities, the best of which are long poles rising into the air from which their assailants dangle performing an acrobatic ballet then lean across the vehicles they are pursuing dispatching death and grenades in equal measure!
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Our two stars in the battered and supercharged War-Rig may be Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron but they struggle to get a look in amidst the clanging metal, fire laden racing and dusty road battles of these vehicles. Bizarrely the pursuing bad guys even bring along their own soundtrack, with guitars, speakers and drums melded into their vehicles cleverly providing the movie’s soundtrack and their own battle anthem! This is a very loud film with incidentals and effects turned up to the max.

Thematically it is a women in prison escape movie but its also one long ‘Wacky Races’ type chase against a post-apocalyptic background!

Furiosa (a shaven headed and nearly unrecognizable Charlize Theron) is engaged on a regular trip from The Citadel, a mountain encampment where the populace is kept under the mighty thumb of Immortan Joe; by his control over their water supply. The citizens of The Citadel are a nightmarish bunch with freakish half men, albino bald-headed warriors and obese women used to farm breast milk! Furiosa leads her convoy off-road and when it turns outmad_max_charlize_theron she’s helped several of Joe’s imprisoned slave wives to escape his breeding vault the chase is on! Amongst her pursuers is Max himself – introducing the films narrative with a Bane-like (Batman) voice over Max is strapped to the front of a jeep as a living ‘blood bank’ for a young warrior – or ‘war boy’ – called Nux (an equally unrecognisable Nicholas Hoult). You have to give some credit to Hardy, taking over the iconic role of Max from Mel Gibson and who spends the first third of the film tied up with his face obscured by a metal grid while valiantly attempting to convey Max’s fury, insanity and fear on this unplanned road trip.

The action is shot with momentum and jerky reality by George Miller capturing the dusty bleakness of the landscape and providing a number of tense sequences especially during chases in the bold first half of the movie. One advantage the film has over some of this year’s other big screen offerings is that much of the action consists of real-world rather than computer generated effects. You feel the scrapping of metal and the thunder of wheels because it really happens. An army of stunt people provide some impressive work conveying a sense of real danger and excitement to the audience. In this respect it is far more captivating than the now standard superheroes demolishing public buildings and landmarks in some of those other blockbuster spectacles.

At just the moment when Miller realizes we may be tiring of tyres not to mention engines, dust and people under wheels, the film opens up with (a little) more shade. Its revealed that Furiosa is taking the escaped concubines (all beauty and white drapes) to her mystical ‘green place’ and circumstances cause Max and Nux to join them, initially under duress, but eventually as willing allies. There’s a neat twist that you may see coming which turns the film around literally for a final half hour and because the first third has been so intense it doesn’t have quite the same impact. Even so this still provides a final chase that leaves you grimacing with disbelief as one near death jeopardy after another is overcome.
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Inevitably the humans struggle as much with character as they do to stay alive; though there is a message of hope running through the film. The protagonists are all searching for some form of escape, Tom Hardy’s Max, struggling with bouts of delusion and stark images of a dead daughter is hard to relate too and could have done with a little more dialogue, meaning that Charlize Theron steals the film as the determined but practical Furiosa, channelling empowerment and looking like ‘Alien’s’ lead character Ripley. Nicholas Hoult has the only real character development, his early nihilistic Nux slowly losing faith with the god like Immortan Joe through an early attraction and the kindness of fellow escapee Capable. Hugh Keays-Byrne’s Immortan Joe looks like something H R Giger may have dreamt up and provides the necessary menace (all snarls and raging eyes) and danger as the film’s main villain. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley plays an escaped and heavily pregnant bride (the bizarrely named The Splendid Angharad) with an air of fierce determination that adds some emotion to her sacrifice and Riley Keough as Capable gives enough to make her character stand out from the other brides who provide little more than background.

This is not a subtle movie, drawing from Western and comic book iconography as well as having more than a hint of humour lifted from those old Road Runner and Wacky Races cartoons, albeit in a slightly demented form. Some may weary of its near constant motion and frenzied action but with comparatively little CGI, a terrific sound mix, thrilling stunts, breathtaking cinematography and strong direction this latest entry into the Mad Max franchise is a thoroughly exciting ride that has to be seen on the largest screen you can find to be fully appreciated!

Tom Hardy as Mad Max

Tom Hardy as Mad Max

With its early global box office success and having managed to breathe new life into a series of memorable 80s movies it will be interesting to see where Miller takes our road weary anti-hero Max next on his travels.

 

Coming Soon: Movie Preview May-June 2015

Written by Graeme Wood
01.05.15

 

As we head towards summer it’s that time of the year when distributors start the build up to what has traditionally become blockbuster season, full of often overblown special effects and family friendly releases. So let’s take a look ahead to some of these and the other notable big screen offerings coming up in the next week few weeks.

First up on the 1st May brings “BAD LAND: ROAD TO FURY”, director Jake Paltrow’s futuristic drama of a time when water is hard to find and a teenage boy sets out on a quest to survive the wastelands and protect his family. Starring Nicholas Hoult (X-Men), Michael Shannon (Man of Steel) and Elle Fanning.

 

Also opening on 1st May is Thomas Vinterberg’s interesting take of Thomas Hardy’s FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD starring Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen and Tom Sturridge. For those who enjoy their period drama with an edge this Victorian tale of the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene and her suitors will provide sumptuous enjoyment.

 

The sequel to 2010’s sci-fi thriller “MONSTERS – DARK CONTINENT is also in cinemas from 1st May, set ten years after the original film and this time directed by Tom Green. The film stars Johnny Harris, Sam Keely and Joe Dempsie. It’s all out war this time around as Infected Zones have now spread worldwide and in the Middle East a new insurgency has begun. At the same time there has also been a proliferation of Monsters in the region forcing the Army to draft in more troops in order to deal with the onslaught.

 

Celine Sciamma’s “GIRLHOOD finally hits theatres on May 8th, the film saw a lot of interest at last year’s Cannes and BFI Film Festival’s. This dark thriller tells the story of Marieme and her search for identity in the suburbs of Paris Oppressed by her family setting, dead-end school and future prospects Marieme joins an all-girl gang, falling under their influence she begins to make brave and foolish choices.

 

TV’s spy thriller Spooks gets this big screen treatment in this follow up to the decade long running series – “SPOOKS-THE GREATER GOOD”, directed by Bharat Nalluri. It stars Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones), Peter Firth (Spooks), Jennifer Ehle and Elyes Gabel. When a terrorist escapes custody during a routine handover, Will Crombie (Harrington) must team up with disgraced MI5 head Harry Pearce (Firth) to track him down before an imminent terrorist attack on London. On general release from May 8th.

 

As you should know by now if you are a regular user of this site on general release from May 8th is the Chris Rock’s long awaited “TOP FIVE” movie, written and directed by Rock, this thoughtful comedy also stars Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Cedric The Entertainer, Tracy Morgan and Kevin Hart. A box office and critical smash in the US this should be worth checking out.


May 15th
sees the arrival of ‘LAMBERT AND STAMP a documentary film of the unlikely partnership of Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert. In the early ‘60s the aspiring duo set out to make a documentary about London’s dissatisfied youth, instead they discovered and mentored the volatile young R&B band that would later become The Who. Featuring contributions from the band themselves and historical footage this should prove a fine contribution to The Who’s 50th Anniversary celebrations and celebration of the duo who helped launch what many feel were the greatest rock’n’roll band who ever toured.

 

The sequel to 2012’s comedy hit ‘PITCH PERFECT 2’, directed by Elizabeth Banks, also arrives in UK Cinemas on May 15th and reunites most of the original cast, Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Brittany Snow. The film sees the Barden Bellas enter an international a cappella competition that no American team has ever won before with, no doubt, hilarious consequences!

 

George Miller’s re-imagined “MAD MAX-FURY ROAD” hits IMAX 3D screens the same weekend starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, in which people fight to the death, Max teams up with a mysterious woman, Furiousa, to try and survive. With breathtaking New South Wales vistas and some impressive vehicles and hardware there should be thrills and spills aplenty but the film has a lot to live up to for those who enjoyed the original trilogy.

 

Superior 80s horror “POLTERGEIST” gets the reboot/remake treatment on 22nd May this time in 3D for added jump out of your seat frights. Directed by Gil Kenan the film stars Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jane Adams.

 

Heralding the start of summer blockbusters season comes Disney’s hotly anticipated “TOMORROWLAND: A WORLD BEYOND” on May 22nd, starring George Clooney, Britt Robinson and Hugh Laurie. This Sci-Fi adventure sees a curious teen and former boy-genius inventor unite to embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory. The trailer doesn’t reveal much but is enigmatic enough to make want you to see more!

 

Also on general release May 22nd is director Shion Sono’s cult hit ‘TOKYO TRIBE, set in an alternate Japan where territorial street gangs form opposing factions, known as the Tokyo Tribes. When Merra, leader of the Wu-Ronz tribe crosses the line to conquer all of Tokyo – all out martial arts war ensues.

 

Rounding off on May 29th is the disaster movie “SAN ANDREAS” directed by Brad Peyton (Mysterious Island/Cats and Dogs) and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Alexandra Daddario and Carla Gugino. In the aftermath of a massive Californian earthquake a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his estranged daughter.

JUNE

June 5th brings the third chapter of the “INSIDIOUS” horror strand, this time around it’s a prequel set before the haunting of the Lambert family and following gifted psychic Elise Rainer as she uses her abilities to contact the dead. Directed by Leigh Whannell, the film starts Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott and Angus Simpson.

 

June 5th also finally brings Writer/Director Debbie Tucker Green’s “SECOND COMING” to general release. Starring Idris Elba and Nadine Marshall. Tucker’s feature film debut poses a bold question – what if a modern day, middle class British woman found herself miraculously pregnant? The film challenges the audience and boasts riveting performances from the cast particularly Francis Lewis as Marshall’s young son Jerome.

 

June 12th sees the hotly anticipated ‘JURASSIC WORLD opening, directed by Colin Trevorrow and starring Chris Pratt, Judy Greer, Bryce Dallas Howard and Ty Simpkins. This continuation of the Jurassic Park franchise is set 22 years after the original’s events and in a fully functional theme park but when visitor rates fall the corporate mandate to increase profits results in a hybrid attraction being created – naturally this backfires with disastrous results!

 

The ‘ENTOURAGE” movie arrives June 19th, picking up where the TV series left off, written by Doug Ellin and Rob Weiss and directed by Doug Ellin. The film reunites Adrian Grenier, Jeremy Piven, Kevin Connolly together with an all star guest cast as Vincent Chase is back in business and back with his boys and navigating Hollywood’s cut-throat world.

 

The intriguing horror ‘KNOCK, KNOCK’ arrives on June 26th, from a screenplay by Eli Roth, Nicholas Lopez and Guillermo Amoedo and directed Eli Roth. The film stars Keanu Reeves, Colleen Camp, Ana de Armas and Lorenza Izzo. Two nubile women reveal a sinister agenda after they spend the night with a married architect and proceed to turn his life upside down.

Film Review: Avengers Age Of Ultron

Written by Graeme Wood
03.05.15

 

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Joss Whedon set the bar of expectation high with the first Avengers film in 2012 and the sequel employs a similar palette with a satisfying if mixed results. Presented with a number of seemingly impossible boxes to tick, from pleasing fans, children and adults, introducing new characters, joss-whedonprogressing the threads of Marvel’s TV franchise, pointing the way ahead for character’s individual movies and ensuring some decent action figures along the way you’d be surprised if Whedon didn’t drop the ball somewhere along the line. However, Whedon is a writer who is always able to find a lighter moment to punctuate what could otherwise be a po-faced affair and in the midst of skull crushing and building destruction he’ll add a knowing gag or character beat that reminds us these are (mostly) human heroes not without their flaws. If some of the plot doesn’t necessarily pass rigorous inspection, the sheer momentum of the movie ensures it sails through its lengthy running time like a breeze. It’s never boring, always restless with ideas and frequently thrilling. In contrast to almost every other superhero movie it is perfectly paced too.

We open with the Avengers in full effect and for those who have followed the Marvel characters on AgentsOfShield_Marvelboth small and big screen events tie in neatly with the current story from TVs Agents of Shield, though for those who haven’t been watching both this doesn’t take away from a standalone story in this film.

Here we see what is likely to become the film’s renowned signature shot an especially impressive slow-mo tableau of our heroes united and all leaping in to battle the hordes of Hydra soldiers. The team are attempting to recover Loki’s staff from the first film, having been stolen by Hydra following the collapse of SHIELD in the second Captain America film -The Winter Soldier. With the staff back in their possession its revealed properties open up an intriguing possibility for inventor Tony Stark who driven by a sense of failure wants to protect his friends and more importantly the world.

Stark has always seemed less of a team player and though he comes through in the end there is a sense that he is dismissive of others and always far too pleased with himself. As played by Robert Downey Jr, always a captivating screen presence, this has been a hard act to match though this film sees a more even spread. Stark’s pursuit of a laudable-but impossible-goal drives him to set in motion the creation of a new nemesis in the form of Ultron. It may have a moniker suggesting a 70s floor cleaner but this super adaptable artificial intelligence becomes the most dangerous foe the team has faced because, as one character put it, he is everywhere. Not just a series ofUltron_avengers interconnected and constantly evolving robots but living inside the Internet too. Voiced with casual menace and sardonic pleasure by James Spader Ultron’s intent is to realise Stark’s idealistic vision of a totally peaceful world by wiping out everyone and forcing mankind to evolve over. Not exactly what you might expect a super intelligence to come up with but the parallel here is with Stark who has also evolved himself by creating the Iron Man armour. Cleverly, Whedon uses the mind controlling powers of new arrival the Scarlet Witch to shorthand the fears, doubts and inner feelings of our team so we never have to second guess their motivations.

Conceptually Ulton’s plan may be a stretch and his powers do ebb and flow dependent on the demands of the narrative yet Spader’s fruity vocals and an effectively expressive CGI are sufficient to render it convincingly powerful.

Whedon is also aware enough to second guess some of our doubts and address them in the narrative, there is no doubt that Ultron is a suitably big bad foe able to create divisions within the team an aspect that Whedon returns too never allowing the film to get lost amidst the increasingly big set pieces in the second half.
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Chris Evans’ Captain America proves to be the biggest beneficiary of this approach, his no frills moral stance putting him on a collision course with Stark’s ‘the end justifies the means’ ideals. The difference in their characters means their scenes together provide a cornerstone to the film and a signpost to what will unfold in Marvel’s Phase 3 movies.

Also pleasing is that Hawkeye and Black Widow, characters without their own showcase and who tended to become side-kicks in the first film are given much more satisfying and developed arcs this time around. Scarlett Johansson’s scenes with Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner are touching and subtly played even if the Hulk itself is sometimes a sledgehammer too many. While Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton provides an unsuspecting humanity and heart at the centre of the film which grounds our characters and determines their mission.

Among the new arrivals we’re introduced to the Maximoff twins Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, however due to the X-Men and Mutants belonging to Fox studios the twins are introduced here as AgeUltron_Quicksilverenhanced experiments rather than Magneto’s offspring. While their place in the plot is earned as individuals they fail to make much of an impact as interesting characters, particularly as the cast keeps growing. Making worthwhile cameos and even managing to expand their characters in the brief time on-screen are Don Cheadle (War Machine), Samuel L Jackson (Nick Fury), Anthony Mackie (Falcon), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Idris Elba (Heimdal) and Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter) Marvel’s watchword – ‘It’s all connected’ – never ringing truer.

The final character to be introduced is a Paul Bettany as The Vision tipping the balance perhaps a little too much as his powers seem to conveniently mop up any gaps in the skills of the others and providing the key to defeating Ultron. Nonetheless the team rally into battle in the final act and the action is impressive. Whedon’s use of Italy, Bangladesh, Johanesburg and Seoul and locations provide a suitably refreshing and global feel to the proceedings which lifts the action sequences far above the norm.

Though the outcome of the battle is rarely in doubt Whedon ensures that it doesn’t come easily and it’s not without a cost, while the cinematography and direction ensures these scenes continue to hold our attention. By the film’s close we see some intriguing story threads laid for the next sequence of Marvel’s cinematic universe and a new team of Avengers ready to continue the good fight under the leadership of Captain America. However, one must wonder if subsequent Avengers movies helmed by Anthony and Joe Russo can possibly ever match the verve of the first because Whedon has ensured these are the cream of an increasingly overcrowded market.