Tobey Maguire Weekend – Pawn Sacrifice (2014) Movie Review

Director: Edward Zwick

Writer: Steven Knight (Screenplay) Stephen J Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Steven Knight (Story)

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Lily Rabe, Edward Zinoviev, Alexandre Gorchkov

Plot: Set during the Cold War, American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer finds himself caught between two superpowers and his own struggles as he challenges the Soviet Empire.


Tagline – In 1972, Bobby Fischer faced the Soviet Union in the greatest chess match ever played. On the board he fought the Cold War. In his mind he fought his madness.

Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Chess Made Interesting

Story: Pawn Sacrifice starts as a young Bobby Fischer grows up learning chess, his reputation grows and before long he becomes the champion of America. Not happy with just winning in America Bobby (Maguire) wants to become the youngest world champion and take on the Russian players with the world champion Boris Spassky (Schreiber).

After learning how the Russians play, Bobby storms out of the game, knowing he wouldn’t get a chance to win, Paul Marshall (Stuhlbarg) and priest Father Bill Lombardy (Sarsgaard) agree to work with Bobby to put his name back on the map, to one get the showdown with the champion Boris.

Thoughts on Pawn Sacrifice

Characters – Bobby Fischer is an American chess prodigy, he has proven himself in America and wants to conquer the world, it doesn’t take long before he starts learning about the corruption within the game, which will hold him back, he does make himself difficult to work with, always believing he is being bugged by the Russians, storming out at certain moments, his determination to have thing done a certain done the right way, does make things more complicated for his future in the sport. It is clear that Bobby is dealing with a lot of mental issues, which don’t get dealt with properly. Boris Spassky is the Russian Grand Master, current World Champion, that like Bobby is being controlled by his handlers, he just wants to prove himself against the best, which means facing Bobby in whichever style of game possible. Paul Marshall is the man that brings Bobby back to the game, he becomes his manager, making thing happen for the player, however difficult Bobby is to work with.

PerformancesTobey Maguire is wonderful in the leading role, this is one of the movies which does seem to be one of the finally screen appearances in years, which is a shame because of how talented he is. Liev Schreiber is great to watch as the rival chess player, with the fellow supporting cast, Michael Stuhlbarg and Peter Sarsgaard both giving strong performances.

StoryThe story here follows the rise of chess genius Bobby Fischer as he deals with his own mental health when trying to break down the Russian dominance in the world of chess to become the new world champion. This is an interesting story because it does show how conflicted Bobby was when it came to the game of chess, he did want to become champion, but being in the middle of the cold war, only built up the tension between the nations playing the game too. If we were going to look to learn the full Bobby Fischer story, we will be left disappointed because his life because even more fascinating after the big championship match.

BiopicThe biopic side of this film only shows the build up to the big championship match, where the two heavyweights will come to face each other, instead of the more interesting later steps of his life.

SettingsThe film does show us just how many different locations that could be bugged that would cause the problems for Bobby.


Scene of the Movie – The chess matches.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We could learn so much more about Bobby’s life after this big match.

Final Thoughts This is an enjoyable thriller about chess, who would have thought of this beforehand. Tobey Maguire is great to watch through the film.

Overall: Interesting Chess Thriller.

ABC Film Challenge – Sci-Fi – W – Icetastrophe (2014) Movie Review

This is under W because of star, Victor Webster.

Director: Jonathan Winfrey

Writer: David Sanderson (Screenplay)

Starring: Victor Webster, Jennifer Spence, Richard Harmon, Tiera Skovbye, Mike Dopud

Plot: A meteorite brings ice and freezing temperatures, which threatens to harm the residents of a small town at Christmas.


Tagline – Mankind is on thin ice.

Runtime: 1 Hour 26 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Typical SyFy Disaster Movie

Story: Icetastrophe starts when a small town is struck by a meteorite, Charlie Ratchet (Webster) must try to save the residents of his town, including his son Tim (Harmon), with research student Alex Novak (Spence) heading to the town to investigate, the side effects of the meteorite are shown, as a new flash ice wave covers the land, killing anyone caught in the path, it becomes a race against time to stop the whole area become an frozen wasteland before it is too late.

Thoughts on Icetastrophe

Characters – Charlie is the explosives expert in the town, he finds himself needing to save the town and his family after a freak meteorite strike hits the town covering it in a ice storm, he must save his family and work with a scientist to save the town from complete destruction. Alex Novak is the astrophysicist that had been following the meteorite and is now looking to study what has happened, bringing the expert opinions on how to stop the sudden change they have faced. Tim is the son of Charlie who risks his own life to save his girlfriend Marley, which show how the support cast are involved in small subplots while the bigger event is going on.

PerformancesThe film is led by Victor Webster who has the look of an action hero, with Jennifer Spence as the scientist who is helping, the two are the best part of the film, they don’t get challenged by any means, but for a disaster film we don’t have any truly bad acting, which is often the case for these movies.

StoryThe story here follows a small town that gets hit by a meteorite which brings a devasting ice storm, which is covering the land freezing people instantly, it become a race against time to save the land before it is too late. We know we get big ambitious ideas when it comes to the disasters, this does bring a wild idea to life, even if the peril related scenes are just a repeat scenario. We get the characters you would expect to see in the roles, the reluctant hero, the scientist out to prove themselves, the greed one who makes mistakes and of course the lost teenagers. It plays out like most of them, with the idea being the stand out from what we are seeing.

Action/Sci-FiThe action is more about trying to outrun the ice, the chase scenes don’t feel like they are filled with much peril, with the sci-fi side of the film being surrounding origin of the meteorite.

SettingsThe film does us the small mountain town as the setting, which shows us just how many different beauty spots this town could have.


Scene of the Movie – The warm woods.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The random flare showdown.

Final Thoughts This is everything you would expect from a SyFy disaster movie, it has fun, while not being original in character design, even if the concept is interesting.

Overall: Interesting Concept.

Chris Evans Weekend – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writer: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (Screenplay) Joe Simon, Jack Kirby (Comics)

Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders

 

Plot: As Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he teams up with a fellow Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Black Widow, to battle a new threat from history: an assassin known as the Winter Soldier.


Tagline – In heroes we trust.

Runtime: 2 Hours 16 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Best Pure Action Comic Book Movie

 

Story: Captain America: The Winter Soldier starts as Steve Rogers (Evans) is recruited to help Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) on her latest mission, he being a soldier will help any civilian in danger, which does seem him cross paths with Nick Fury (Jackson) who he feels is using him for the dirty work to clean up SHIELD’s secrets.

When Nick is killed by the Winter Soldier (Stan), Steve must learn who he can trust as he looks for answers as SHIELD has become compromised, Steve is joined by Natasha and starts investigating SHIELD’s connection including Nick’s friend Alexander Pierce (Redford).

 

Thoughts on Captain America: The Winter Soldier

 

Characters – Steve Rogers is still learning to adapt to the modern world, he hasn’t been able to make any friends yet and is starting to deal with his own guilt from his time at war, he is getting used to help save people in need for Fury. He must investigate the murder of Fury only for to need to learn ho to trust and clashing with a friend from his own past. Nick Fury has been pushing the SHIELD’s latest plan to be pushed back, this sees him having the attention drawn to him and turning to the only person he knows he could trust, Steve. Natasha Romanoff has been working with Steve on mission, she still keeps to herself and is the only one that Steve can trust while searching for answers. Alexander Pierce is Nick’s connection to the world committee being the old friends, he has been going against the Nick’s wishes looking to use his own place of power for control. Winter Soldier is a new deadly assassin, one that even Steve can’t fight against, he does have a connection to his past too. Sam Wilson is a former soldier that Steve meets, he has been running groups for soldiers who have been struggle since returning from war and can related to where Steve is, while dealing with a friend’s loss.

PerformancesChris Evans gives his best performance in this leading role here, he gives us a character we believe is trying to do the right thing throughout the film. Samuel L Jackson continues to be the inspiration leader of the group. Scarlett Johansson shows us once against that she is wonderful in the Black Widow role. Robert Redford steps into becoming the villainous figure in the film which is unexpected and he delivers in it. Sebastian Stan returns, this time in a more prominent role and as a threat. Anthony Mackie is a welcome addition to the cast never looking out of place.

StoryThe story here follows Steve Rogers as he looks to learn about the modern world, unlock the truth about who to trust and investigate who has been working from within SHIELD to create more problems than they are meant to be solving, while dealing with an old friend. We get a much straight drawn out action story here which does deal with a political side of having superheroes in the world. we do get to see just how Steve will always put the people ahead of anything else in his life. The idea of how Steve learns to cope in the modern world is shown strongly here as he does have help, he does see similar problems people could be suffering from too. The return of Hydra is great to see because we see a more calculated villainous force that keeps everything human, showing that the heroes will need to deal with their own battles before worrying about ones coming from space.

Action/Sci-FiThe action in the film feels more like a pure action movie, with it including car chases, street shoot outs and more of a pure hand to hand combat, yes, we do get the big action set piece at the end, but we rarely look at explosions as part of the superpowers. We do dive into sci-fi once again by looking at a future we could face with technology being a major part of it.

SettingsThe film keeps the settings in and mostly around Washington, which helps play into the political side of the story that is going on.

Special EffectsThe effects are not needed as much as most of the other films in the franchise, the ones we do get work very well never taking us out of the set pieces.


Scene of the Movie –
Car chase.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The Stephen Strange reference doesn’t make that much sense in this film.

Final ThoughtsThis is easily the best action film in the Marvel universe, it keeps most of the action grounded staying away from the big time explosions others have had in the past.

 

Overall: The action superhero movie we wanted.

Rating

 

 

Get on Up (2014) Movie Review

Director: Tate Taylor

Writer: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth (Screenplay) Steven Baigelman, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth (Story)

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Lennie James, Fred Melamed, Craig Robinson, Jill Scott, Octavia Spencer

Plot: A chronicle of James Brown‘s rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history.


Tagline – The Funk don’t Quit

Runtime: 2 Hours 19 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Strong Performances

Story: Get on Up starts as we see James Brown (Boseman) in different stages of his life, the older famous one, the time he was just starting up and his childhood, where he was raised by his mother Susie (Davis) in a remote cabin in the woods, before his aggressive father Joe (James) returns, once James gets out of his cabin, he makes a good living, before ending up in prison for stealing a suit.

We see the rise of James Brown, with his push to always be seen the biggest name on the show and how his genius for music made him an icon, even if his personal life shows a much darker side to his way of thinking in life.

Thoughts on Get on Up

Characters – James Brown is one of the most influential musicians of the last century, there is no doubt what he did will live on forever. We get to see how James started with nothing, in an abusive childhood with no education, before learning to take the chances thrown his way, trying to make a difference to the world in the spotlight, even if he doesn’t always keep the crowd around him, not always as loyal as he should be. This doesn’t make James look like the most integral person behind the spotlight. Bobby Byrd is the man that gave James a chance to get out of prison, to start something with his singing in gospel, he will stand by James through all the troubles he faces, the bands he goes through, knowing James is the main talent and just being part of this would make him remembered. Ben Bart makes everything happen for James, he tries to help him navigate difficult moments in history, but will help him make the right choices which sees the friendship grow as the success does. Susie is the mother of James, she is forced to leave because of her partner and once he becomes famous wants to come back into his life, while James isn’t willing to let this happen.

PerformancesChadwick Boseman is fantastic in the leading role, he shows that his biopic man, he can bring James Brown to life on stage and in his personal life with ease. Nelsan Ellis is great in his role, showing us that he could provide excellent supporting performances in the film. Dan Aykroyd is strong too, with Viola Davis making a big impact in her scenes in the film.

StoryThe story here follows the life of James Brown, from his poverty like childhood, to his international success in the music industry, we see his ideas on wanting to make a change and just what it will do to the people that helped him get to the top. One of the biggest weaknesses in the film here comes from the early time jumps, we are constantly jumping between moments, which doesn’t help the story telling process. This story also doesn’t paint James as a nice person away from the spotlight, even if he was always trying to achieve something more from his career. The story does try to ram too much into the film, which does make it hard to understand each moment of his life.

Biopic/MusicThis does show a lot of his life, it doesn’t help us get invested in just how much of an impact each moment was. The music can’t be questioned with his hits playing through the film with every beat we know.

SettingsThe film creates some of the biggest stages of James career, never looking like we aren’t in the correct time period.


Scene of the Movie – The performances.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The time jumps.

Final Thoughts This is a by the book biopic, it has wonderful performances and the music you would expect to see, though we do cram too much in for everything to run smoothly.

Overall: By the Books Biopic.

Prey (2014)

Director: Alastair Orr

Writer: Max Roberts (Screenplay)

Starring: Zachary Soetenga, Lindsey McKeon, Sofia Pernas, Pierson Fode, Jamie Anderson, Mark Steger

 

Plot: American Tourists travel to Panama and have a very terrifying experience.


Tagline – There are places you should never visit. This is one of them. 

Runtime: 1 Hour 26 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Standard Weak Horror

 

Story: Prey starts as five tourists Scott (Soetenga), Steph (McKeon), Elena (Pernas), Trevor (Fode) and Charlie (Anderson) are on vacation in Panama for adventures with surfing being one of their main goals, when the friends learn of a perfect waterfall in a forbidden jungle, they go there with the local woman Carmen (Penuela).

Once there and after their fun they start getting hunted down by a mysterious creature, lost in the jungle the legendary Chupacabra is hunting them down as the race to desperately escape.

 

Thoughts on Prey

 

Characters – Scott is about to move on with the next chapter of his life, this could be his last holiday with his friends and he wants to make the most of it, part of his work is a new app which can use social media to locate and identify people on video, he picks this location, he records the message for help. Steph is Scott’s girlfriend who also worked on the app, well I think the characters are not drawn out well, she is about to go to veterinary school. Elena is the other female friend, that’s about all we learn about her and Trevor and Charlie are the other guy friends who want drinks and sex.

PerformancesThe performances, well the group go have chemistry between them and the fun around their adventure seems realistic, the problems come from the horror side of the film which is mostly them running in darkness and screaming, which never gives anyone a chance to perform well.

StoryThe story follows the group of tourists that end up going too deep into the Panama jungle and encounter the Chupacabra, here we have the standard characters doing the running through the jungle routine, this is all done before and done a lot better, the most interesting element of the story comes from seeing the social media rescue attempt which I feel we could have seen larger parts to make it more interesting. While I would like to say this is easy to watch, I would be lying because everything in the jungle is shaky cam and difficult to figure out who is who between the character in the dark landscapes. It does however follow the normal trends, you know the order the people will get picked off without needing to think too much about it.

HorrorThe horror side of the film comes with the ideas of it being a creature feature, though it does feel like The Descent creatures got ripped off and thrown into a jungle.

SettingsPanama has the beauty which we see early on and the mystery about its jungle, which brings new horrors to the film.

Special EffectsThe effects focus more on the wounds which can look graphic while the creature looks frightening enough in the dark.


Scene of the Movie –
The media rescue.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The shaky cam.

Final ThoughtsThis is a by the books creature feature which never gets out of first gear, relies on shaky cam to often and doesn’t give us enough characters to care about.

 

Overall: Forgettable horror.

Rating