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.

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.

ABC Film Challenge – World Cinema – E – Escobar: Paradise Lost (2014) Movie Review

Director: Andrea Di Stefano

Writer: Andrea Di Stefano (Screenplay)

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson, Brady Corbet, Claudia Traisac, Tenoch Huerta, Ana Giradot

Plot: In Colombia, a young surfer meets the woman of his dreams – and then meets her uncle, Pablo Escobar.

Tagline – Nobody escapes Pablo Escobar.

Runtime: 2 Hours

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Strong Second Half

Story: Escobar: Paradise Lost starts as Canadian surfer Nick (Hutcherson) has moved to Columbia to start a business with his friend Dylan (Corbet) giving surfing lessons, he meets a beautiful local woman Maria (Traisac) falling in love along the way, only to learn that her Uncle is Pablo Escobar (Del Toro).

Nick does get welcomed into the family with what starts as a friendly welcome from a political figure, but soon Pablo shows the darker side, which both Nick and Maria want to escape from, but know if they run, they will end up like most of the victims against Pablo, dead.

Thoughts on Escobar: Paradise Lost

Characters – Pablo Escobar is the know criminal drug lord, here we meet him as a family man first, who will always welcome honest people into his family before showing his darker side, which will show how deadly it is to cross the man, with his ability to strike fear into the people of Columbia. Nick is a surfer that just wants to live in paradise, where he meets a beautiful woman, only he gets drawn into the life of crime by her uncle, where he is torn between going through with crimes or risking his own life. Maria is the woman that Nick falls in love with, they both want to enjoy the paradise they are living in, even if her Uncle has deadlier plans.

PerformancesBenicio Del Toro is strong in the leading role and shows the emotionless state of mind of the crime lord, while Josh Hutcherson does show us just how desperate his character become through the situation he finds himself in. the rest of the cast are fine without needing to do as much as the leads in the film.

StoryThe story here follows a surfer that finds himself working for crime lord Pablo Escobar against his will after starting to date his niece. The story does show us how innocent the romance starts out being, your typical boy meets girl, before it shows how much control Pablo Escobar had on everyone around him, striking fear into anyone that was against him by killing anyone he didn’t like. We see how Nick is trying to find a way out of this hell, to be with the love of his life and the consequences of being in this world. The first half of this story is slow moving, but once Nick is given his assignment, things get a lot more intense.

Crime/RomanceThe romance side of this film is your typical boy meets girl, it is all sweet until he meets the family, which does show us the crime world that we are thrown into under the crime lord who isn’t afraid to kill people, including family.

SettingsThe film does use the backdrop of Columbia well, it shows that the paradise would be a beautiful place to wake up to and how the deals could happen without people knowing.

Scene of the Movie – Nick’s mission.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The slow first half.

Final Thoughts This is a crime thriller that starts slowly but once we hit the half way mark it becomes edge or your seat battle between Nick and Escobar’s men.

Overall: Could have been saved with a stronger start.

ABC Film Challenge – World Cinema – A – Among the Living (2014) Movie Review

Director: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury

Writer: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury (Screenplay)

Starring: Anne Marivin, Theo Fernandez, Francis Renaud, Zacharie Chasseriaud, Damien Ferdel, Fabien Jegoudez

Plot: Three kids skip school in order to explore an abandoned film studio lot where they catch site of a woman being dragged across the lot by a masked man.

Tagline – Certains secrets ne doivent pas être révélés. [Some secrets shouldn’t be uncovered.]

Runtime: 1 Hour 30 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Brutal Horror

Story: Among the Living starts as we follow three rebellious school kids Victor (Fernandez), Tom (Chasseriaud) and Dan (Ferdel) who skip the last day of school looking to get into more trouble, including clashing with a local, the three end up at Blackwoods Film Studio, long abandoned, where they hear a noise coming from the boot of a car, inside a tied up woman, one they can’t rescue before the abductor returns.

Trying to save the woman, but being chased off by the masked killer, the boys are taken home, where the killer is sent to finish the job and eliminate anybody that might have seen him.

Thoughts on Among the LIving

Characters – Victor is the leader of the group of boys, he has been bitter at the world after his father’s death and needing to accept a new stepfather in his life, he will lead the guys into trouble not caring about the consequences, Tom is the most aggressive member of the group, he gets abused at home, which has led to him acting out this way, though his aggression can be controlled by Victor, when it needs to be. Dan is the final member of the group, often the butt of jokes, he comes from a wealthy family that would rather keep their appointments over spending time with their son. Julia is Victor’s mother that is disappointed in his behaviour, but knows he doesn’t mean the harm he is causing. Isaac is the man that controls his son, the masked killer, he has chosen to hide him from the world, only sending him to clean up any messes.

PerformancesTheo Fernandez, Zacharie Chasseriaud and Damien Ferdel are great together capturing the sense of the teen friendship like IT Chapter One and Stranger Things. Anne Marvin is strong once we meet her, she does the determined mother role with ease. Francis Renaud and Fabien Jegoudez are both great too with Fabien creating a terrifying screen presence.

StoryThe story here follows three school friends that stumble upon the liar of a serial killer who has captured his latest victim and now they have become the targets of the killers. This story does have a nice friendship tone to start with group where we do see how they work together to get into trouble, we do get a big turn in the tone, when they become the targets and while it might be confusing how the killer knows where to go to get them, it turns into home invasion style story which sees the teenagers needing to fight for their lives. We get a big mystery about what the killer will look like, which makes them somebody that is wanted to be hidden from the world. We do follow a strict one day and night events, which does make this feel just as fast forward as it is meant to and by the end you will be surprised with how it all unfolds.

HorrorThe horror in this film comes from the masked killer hunting down the teenagers, it will give us plenty of slasher type moments along with bringing the special effects to the table to bring us disturbing moments.

SettingsThe film does us settings which would be the location you shouldn’t be heading too, while the attacks do happen from within their homes.

Special EffectsThe effects are used to make the attacks look brutal, with one involving an arm being very difficult to watch.

Scene of the Movie – Victor’s house attack.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – How the killer knew where to go.

Final Thoughts This is a brutally disturbing horror that will give you a couple of moments that you would need to look away at times through the film.

Overall: Must Watch Horror.