Margin Call Review: A thrilling take on the stock market crash with an excellent script

‘Margin Call’ is an excellent drama that takes us behind the scenes of the crash of the stock market.

An Investment bank is going through a lot of people being laid off at their firm, including Eric Dale, head of risk management, and the boss of Peter Sullivan and Seth Bregman, the two employees the film mainly follows. As Eric Dale is leaving the building he hands a USB stick to Peter Sullivan and warns him to be careful. Peter gets to work figuring out what Eric failed to and discovers something alarming. What follows from there is a tense and thrilling telling of the greed and devastation that took place in 2008.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Margin Call’ and thought it was a pretty much perfect film but the thing that I found hard to deal with was the amount of stock market terminology that I didn’t understand. I found it quite hard to know exactly what was going on because of this but it wasn’t so damaging it bothered me too much. On the one hand I understand that if they altered it to be more understandable it would have felt unrealistic but I would have been able to follow it easier if it was.

There is a powerhouse of talent in this film including Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Penn Badgley and Simon Baker. Wow, that’s a lot! I fully believed their characters and cared about what happened to them. You are constantly throughout the film unsure who will still be left in the firm by the end, and who will be gone, and that is gut wrenching as the film takes time for you to connect with these characters. There are some great scenes between two or three characters with dialogue that provoke deep thought. While it is horrible to witness the greed of the higher ups in the firm, the actors show they are human and not monsters. They could have easily just played them as money hoarders and foul mouthed degenerates, which is what people want, someone or something to blame, but that’s just not the truth, the writers, director and actors contributed to a very bold decision to humanise them and they feel real.

The cinematography in ‘Margin Call’ is unoriginal but does a fine job for what it sets out to achieve. I enjoyed the scenes where characters had some gravity to them which the director deserves some credit for.

‘Margin Call’ is thrilling, and with not one scene of action or violent argument, just pure genius dialogue and that is impressive. I love ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ but that was filled with scenes where big events or debauchery is taking place, and the fact that ‘Margin Call’ had me completely engaged the whole way through with none of that is an achievement that should be commended.

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Victoria Review: A foreign indie thriller that builds suspense wonderfully

Every so often a film comes along that I want everybody to see, I want to discuss it with everyone I know and revel in the fantastic medium of film making. ‘Victoria’ is absolutely one of those movies.

Usually I would talk about the plot but the best way to experience this film is to know as least as possible. If you know you want to see ‘Victoria’ go see it now and read this review after.

‘Victoria’ is a foreign film set in Berlin and characters speak English with the German dialogue subtitled. I will admit a few times I struggled to understand some English which was a little frustrating but was never so important it took me out of it.

‘Victoria’ was filmed in one take, and I don’t mean like ‘Birdman’ with camera tricks I mean literally one take of 2 hours and 15 minutes with the camera rolling the entire time and it’s absolutely insane. This makes ‘Victoria’ relentless, never giving you a chance to breathe or relax and it fits the film perfectly.

One of the most fascinating things about ‘Victoria’ is how they blurred the lines between a criminal and innocent. You see these characters commiting these abhorrent crimes and yet you empathise with them and feel they had no choice.

‘Victoria’ was largely ad libbed understandably due to it being filmed in one take. I can’t wait to see the behind the scenes on the Blu-Ray and delve into how they created a near-perfect one take film.

The one issue with ‘Victoria’ that stops it from being a perfect film is the beginning. The beginning was just a little to slow for me and while there are really important scenes that affect the future I feel it could have been tightened up. I can forgive it though as it was filmed in one take I understand why it felt slow. Let me tell you though, once ‘Victoria’ puts its foot on the accelerator, it grips you in your seat and never lets go and it’s one of the best thrillers I have ever seen. 

The acting in ‘Victoria’ is astounding. The realism these unknown actors achieve in its 2hrs and 15 minute running time is truly impressive. The leads Laia Costa and Frederick Lau play Victoria and Sonne and I will be following them and very much looking forward to their future projects.

The soundtrack of ‘Victoria’ is haunting in an absolute essential way and listening to the credits really shows how the soundtrack affects the mood of ‘Victoria’ beautifully.

‘Victoria’ is a ground-breaking film that everyone should see and is unlike any other. Exceptional unique films are only getting more and more rare so please support films like this and ‘Son Of Saul’ so producers and directors have more faith in audiences’ reception of non-mainstream features.

Batman vs Superman Review: A clash of heroes isn’t always exciting

‘Batman vs Superman’ takes place at the end of ‘Man of Steel’, with Bruce Wayne witnessing the deaths of his employees and the destruction left following the fight between Superman and Zod. Bruce Wayne decides he is too dangerous to be left alone due to the unquestionable power he possesses. Clark Kent also ironically believes Batman is a reckless and violent vigilante. 

The first half of the film is an absolute mess, I felt so disconnected from the plot and the film itself, I really didn’t care about any of the characters or find the plot engaging. While the second half still retains all these issues I at least enjoyed the final action scenes. I do have to say though when Batman and Superman finally knock heads I was supremely disappointed. The action was very slow, predictable and just really not exciting. They hardly speak through it excluding the end, it just makes no sense when Superman could say one thing and easily end the fight and that is not even the worst part. The worst part is the actual reason they stop. I’m not going to spoil it but trust me, it’s really dumb.

Ben Affleck is by far the best thing about ‘Batman vs Superman’ and I was really happy he proved his critics wrong. Henry Cavill’s performance is fine playing the stoic Clark Kent. My favourite scene of Clark’s is an early one of him with Lois Lane played by Amy Adams who is actually really great in this. I was quite struck by how human and heartfelt her performance was, and it’s a real shame that the writing has her as a damsel in distress when she is so much more independent and stronger that that. Maybe I’m one of the few but I really like Jesse Eisenberg’s acting so I was very disappointed with his performance which I think had a great deal to do with the direction he was given. Jesse Eisenberg played Lex Luthor very erratic and insane. This didn’t feel like it fit and really started to annoy and frustrate me. The best Luthor I have ever seen was in ‘Smallville’. Michael Rosenbaum played Luthor so well balancing the wealthy charisma side, with the feeling that he could snap and kill someone in a second if they pushed him hard enough. The Luthor we got here just really didn’t deliver on that or a solid enough alternate version. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman doesn’t really provide more than being eye candy in and out of action which is a shame. Jeremy Irons has one or two scenes that point to something deeper between Alfred and Bruce but mainly serves as his tech sidekick which is a waste of Jeremy Irons talent.

The cinematography in ‘Batman vs Superman’ is great. There are some great shots of Bruce Wayne in his house and Batcave along with some gorgeous cinematography of Gotham and Metropolis. While as I said before I felt there was a misstep in directing in regards to Jesse Eisenberg, everybody else was fine. ‘Batman vs Superman’ is yet another offender of the soundtrack over exaggerating itself which causes major distraction. 

‘Batman vs Superman’ is so intent on setting up the future multi-verse films that it loses sight of being a tight and entertaining movie. This is a real disappointment when at the very least ‘Batman vs Superman’ could have been a really solid superhero movie. Lots of critics have said it failed because it was too dark. That is not why it failed, it failed because it is uninteresting and too concerned about future projects. What a shame considering the huge potential it had.

 

Captain America: Civil War Review: A flawed but still entertaining entry in the series

The long awaited ‘Captain America: Civil War’ is finally here in full force with all your favourite heroes along with a couple surprises. 

While trying to capture a criminal Captain America and his team cause an unexpected tragedy. The government decide they can no longer allow ‘The Avengers’ to operate as a private militarised service. Tony Stark (Iron Man) is on board while Steve Rogers (Captain America) is worried about the restrictions it puts on them. 

This aspect of the plot was thrilling with a couple great scenes of the team discussing their opinions for and against. The issue is that there isn’t enough of this and the plot gets bogged down with alternate branching storylines. They tried to fit in too much and didn’t focus on the most interesting aspects, which are although they have good intentions to help people, what about the damage they leave behind and the fact that people actually die. Whereas in previous films deaths of civilians are usually glossed over, ‘Civil War’ really wants you to feel the gravity of the consequences in the first act of the film. Unfortunately all of this is forgotten in the second act and a new antagonist is introduced that ultimately ends up being a pointless distraction. Everything this antagonist is supposed to bring out of ‘The Avengers’ they could have discovered on their own. There are also noticeable plot holes that are never explained that make it hard to go with the action at times. 

Now let me tell you what I loved about ‘Captain America: Civil War’. While this film has by far the darkest tone in the series which I really liked, it still has plenty of humour that I completely laughed out loud at. The fight scenes are incredible. I saw the best superhero showdown I have ever seen, it was epic, hilarious and surprisingly really clever the way they used their suits and abilities to counteract each other.

The acting due to the tone and plot is quite different than what we are used to which I much appreciated. A few of the characters are dealing with some deep emotional circumstances so it is very refreshing to see them pushing themselves and portraying their characters in a different light. 

The cinematography was top notch. I never felt like the camera was moving too much so I couldn’t tell what was going on which is rare. The directing is very solid and the Russo brothers show their expertise and experience.

The soundtrack for ‘Captain America: Civil War’ is one of the best of the year with exciting music for the action along with some really touching tracks during the intimate moments between characters. 

Overall I had a really fun time with ‘Captain America: Civil War’ but when all is said and done the film has an identity crisis and throws in too much sub-plot. Does it want to be a fun popcorn flick? Or does it want to be a political thriller? While the series usually balances serious and comedic scenes really well, due to the much darker tone the contrast is more striking and noticeable. When the internal conflict between ‘The Avengers’ is the most engaging thing, why distract me with a sub-par antagonist that just doesn’t fit? As I said before though the action and humour is great, there is plenty of it and these issues are overshadowed by the fun the series is known for.

Beasts Of No Nation Review: A brutal and harrowing look at child soldiers

‘Beasts of No Nation’ addresses a sadly still relevant and tragic issue. Child soldiers. This is an unflinching look at how child soldiers are created and the motivation they are given to become one. 
The first time I found out about the existence of child soldiers was when many years ago I watched ‘Blood Diamond’ for the first time. There are only a few scenes showing this culture but it still had a profound impact on me. I was shocked that child soldiers existed. It was an eye opening and terrifying moment for me. ‘Blood Diamond’ has nothing on ‘Beasts of No Nation’ though. The feature film was adapted from the novel of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala. Cary Joji Fukunaga knew this story needed to be told in a feature film and worked with the author adapting the novel into a screenplay. Cary Joji Fukunaga also took on the role of Director and went into harrowing and disturbing detail when adapting the novel. This is not a film for the faint of heart but should still be seen nonetheless due to its message, relevance and importance.

Agu (Abraham Attah) goes from having a loving family and community around him to nothing. The film dedicated more time than I would have expected to this time but rightly so as when it is taken from him, you have been given long enough to care about these characters so when he loses them you feel that loss. Agu runs away as fast as he can until he runs into the Commandant (Idris Elba) and his battalion. The commandant gives a Agu a purpose, a family and fuels in him a reason to fight against the enemy. You can understand why Agu would follow the Commandant. The Commandant is now Agu’s father figure who cares and loves him from Agu’s perspective. Agu has gone from having nothing to something to live and fight for. The lines of good and evil are completely grey. There is just people trying to survive and doing what is necessary to do that. The journey that Agu takes from having fun as a child to a cold blooded killer is as heartbreaking as it is understandable due to the loss and atrocities he witnesses. 

The cinematography in this film is gorgeous. It was shot in Africa and it pays off. The landscape is both breathtaking and visceral, and because you are following Agu the whole time and the lens used is so crystal clear it almost feels like a documentary which is very effective. The camera is very free and hardly noticeable to be on a track so you feel like you are there holding the camera as the events transpire. 

The music for this film is spot on. Whether it’s emotion or tension that the scene is conveying the music does a great job of amping that up so you really feel it. 

Now let’s talk about the leading duo that makes me feel appalled they were overlooked by the Oscars. This is the best performance I have seen from Idris Elba and I think he does a terrific job in ‘Luther’ but he really takes it up a notch here. I’m not an accent expert but his accent worked really well and felt natural to me. He’s so magnetic, charming and inspiring on screen that you really feel the passion and bloodlust he is fuelling into these kids. He does a great job of humanising and empathising with a character that could have easily been a one dimensional stereotypical warlord character. 

Make no mistake here though. Abraham Attah as Agu steals the show. What this young actor achieves is awe-inspiring and must have been a really complex role for such a your actor to portray. Just from his facial expressions I felt his emotions and understood his motivations for what he was doing. He portrays the emotional turmoil that Age experiences throughout the film so well. Abraham Attah says he does want to act again and I am really excited to see what comes next from this amazingly talented actor.

‘Beasts of No Nation’ is an extremely hard watch but one of the few important films in 2015 that must be seen. Idris Elba, Abraham Attah and the supporting cast do an incredible job of making you feel the brutal realism of this world. The film doesn’t feel exploitative for awards at all and is genuinely set on telling a story that is unfortunately still taking place as you read this. I am so happy it has received such a great reception and created a big dissuasion because this is a hard film to sell. You will not enjoy watching this film but it is without a doubt one of the most necessary films that has been made this decade. 

You can view the trailer underneath and you can watch it right now on Netflix. Please watch it and comment with your thoughts. 

https://youtu.be/iWK5VD0MF4k

Giana Sisters Dream Runners Review: A repetitive platforming experience

I would like to prefix this review by stating I have not played the previous titles in the Giana Sisters series and this is my first.
The Giana Sisters Series started as a 2-D Sidescroller where you controlled one of the sisters (Giana or Maria). There was actually a lot of controversy surrounding the release of The Great Giana Sisters as it felt so similar to Super Mario Bros.

Giana Sisters: Dream Runners (sequel to Twisted Dreams), the multiplayer platformer is developed by Black Forest Games and was published by EuroVideo Medien.

Giana Sisters Dream Runners platforming gameplay is drastically different to previous titles in the series. Whereas in previous entries the emphasis was on being slow and accurate with your platforming Dream Runners takes the series in a much speedier direction. Pun intended. You are expected to play through tracks as fast and efficiently as you can. But is it fun?

When I play a 2-D platformer I expect punchy, exciting and satisfying gameplay. I unfortunately with Giana Sisters: Dream Runners just felt like I was going through the motions and after a few races felt like I had played the whole game. 

The four gameplay options available to you at the main menu are ranked, local, quick match and custom match. You will spend most of your time in Ranked and Local when learning the gameplay mechanics. Local you can play with up to 3 bots ,local players or even fill up the party with online players that can join. Ranked throws you online where you are ranked on how well you do in races and will rise or fall according to your performance. I definitely felt the game lacked content at 9 tracks.

Races work by players looping around the same track and if you fall behind you are automatically excluded from that part of the race until a player wins. The player who manages to still be standing after everyone has fallen behind wins a star. Once a player is awarded three stars they win the race. You have an assortment of power ups to use against your rivals to win the race from boosts to minion-like creatures that will attack your rivals. My biggest issue with races was because the tracks just loop round, even one race starts to feel repetitive. On top of that if you haven’t unlocked any characters (there are four) you get one base character with a different colour for each player. Ultimately though this isn’t good enough to determine where your character is and found myself multiple times not able to find mine. As tracks can get very busy in certain parts you really have no clue where your character is. 

One thing I did enjoy was the art style of the game. Dream Runners took inspiration from other 2-D platformers like Sonic and Rayman and it was an exciting blend of the two. 

That being said the pivotal part of 2-D platformers is that the gameplay must be fun and interesting so the art style doesn’t save it I am afraid. After played the game for 30 minutes I honestly didn’t want to play anymore. I felt like I had to play for a few more hours to give it an honest review. If I am enjoying a game I will sit there for hours playing it but I had to take breaks with Dream Runners as I simply wasn’t enjoying it. 

I cannot say Dream Runners is a bad game as it functions well but the game just didn’t excite me. I didn’t get that addictive feel when I play a platformer wanting to master every track. The game is fine for a few races when your friends come round but that is the problem and how I would describe the game. Fine.

The Evolution Of The Arkham Trilogy: A look back at the greatest superhero video game series ever made

Please note this article was written in the past for a different website but as that website is no longer active I thought I would upload it to my own. All written content I own and was all written by me.

With ‘Arkham Knight’ being released tomorrow on 23/6/15 here in the UK I thought it was a good chance to reflect and discuss how the trilogy has evolved from ‘Arkham Asylum’. Please note that I do not include ‘Arkham Origins’ as it was made by a different company and I will be avoiding plot details as I want anyone who has not experienced this awesome series to go in as spoiler free as possible.
Before ‘Arkham Asylum’ came out there wasn’t really any games that were very good for Batman fans. A tie in for ‘Batman Begins’ that was average and a few beat em’ ups. So when ‘Arkham Asylum’ was announced there was a lot of hope. We as fans were skeptical when the game was shown at E3 as all was shown was combat and we thought we were just going to get another beat em’ up with a graphics upgrade. I remember it was being released on my birthday and I couldn’t wait. How wrong we were! When ‘Arkham Asylum’ was released our fears were shattered instantly. Intuitive combat, gadgets and stealth gameplay that was truly remarkable and unlike anything we had ever really seen before. So many collectables with the riddler taunting you with each of his riddles, and how satisfying the feeling was when you figured them out. And particularly gruelling challenge rooms focused on combat or stealth. The icing on the cake was the voice actors. Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy returned to revisit their iconic roles. The downside was that the boss fights were a bit too repetitive and being enclosed in an Asylum felt a bit limiting. Why the down face Bats? ‘Arkham City’ is being released!

‘Arkham City’ truly addressed everything that needed improvement or alterations from ‘Arkham Asylum’. The combat was improved to near perfection adding in double counters, more special moves than you could handle and the biggest map you could ever want to glide around and really feel like Batman. The plot and gameplay was so absorbing with once again countless riddles and boss battles that were by far improved from its predecessor. Every boss fight was unique and completely fit the character perfectly. My personal favourite involves a very intelligent character that requires you to take him down a different way every time using the environment and gadgets at your disposal. With major plot twists, fan favourite characters and the once again returning voice cast I am really excited to see how they are going to top ‘Arkham City’ with ‘Arkham Knight’.

Before we talk about ‘Arkham Knight’ though let’s discuss the game mechanics and go into more detail.

From day one Rocksteady knew and implemented the ethos of the Batman universe perfectly and that has continued throughout with surprises for Batman fans. It is clear from the first two games that Rocksteady live and breathe the Batman universe and have crafted their games with the upmost care and attention to detail. 

The combat from the games can be as basic or advanced as you like. On an easy difficulty you can probably get through the game button mashing but when you learn the combat system of how to counter and keep your combo going it creates a whole new intense experience as you have to time things perfectly. I will say though that especially in ‘Arkham Asylum’ I have been hit unfairly from not being able to counter as I am in the middle of a movement which can get frustrating during harder parts of the game or challenge rooms.

The gliding in ‘Arkham Asylum’ was very simple. Hold ‘X’ on the Playstation or ‘A’ on the Xbox to make Batman glide with his cape. But once we got to ‘Arkham City’ it was all about gaining momentum and height by an all new gliding mechanic. Dive bombing while gliding to regain the momentum and height you need.

Stealth is at the very heart of what Batman is all about. A huge part of the Batman universe is the fear aspect of stealth. And there are many different ways you can strike fear into the henchmen. Very few games come close to what they achieve here. There are so many different ways to stealthily take enemies down. You can simply sneak behind an enemy and take him out or you can grapple gun to a high structure and and hang behind them for a particularly satisfying and humorous takedown. These are just two of the many different and unique ways you can use stealth and fear to your advantage.

So what new additions are going to be in ‘Arkham Knight’. I would suggest if you want go in completely spoiler free I would ignore this part but these are extremely minor spoilers. I was lucky enough to see a 10 – 20 minute demo of ‘Arkham Knight’. The major new addition to ‘Arkham Knight’ is that you will now be able to drive the Batmobile and the way you can combine this and combat is really interesting. The set pieces are still as awesome as they always have been. And of course due to the ending of ‘Arkham City’ the plot is going to be very different and from what I saw from the demo I am really excited to see how it all plays out. 

I hope you enjoyed this look back at the Arkham Trilogy so far and are looking forward to ‘Arkham Knight’. 

Infinite Warfare Trailer Released

As all ‘Call Of Duty’ fans know by now this afternoon in the UK we will be getting our first look at ‘Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare’. This was assumed to be mainly a trailer and a Q and A. Well, the reveal trailer has just been released on the official ‘Call Of Duty’ YouTube channel. Make sure you watch until the end for what will undoubtedly be the most talked about 20 seconds of the whole trailer.

 

Bastille Day Review: A disappointingly mediocre action-thriller that squanders Idris Elba’s talent

I had promise for ‘Bastille Day’ and really wanted it to be a solid action thriller. I by no means expected it to be one of the best films of the year but I wanted a more suspenseful and fun film than I got.

‘Bastille Day’ takes place in Paris when a bomb goes off and a local pickpocket Michael Mason is the prime suspect. CIA officer Sean Briar catches up with Michael and in order to clear Michael’s name he works with Briar to clear his name and uncover the conspiracy at the heart of Paris before Bastille Day, a French National holiday.

The first 30 minutes of the film are the best plot wise, as all it consists of is introducing us to characters and the first incidence in Paris that is a catalyst for everything that follows. From here on though they give the game away of whose behind it way too early and it becomes really predictable. However there is one scene about halfway through the film that is unique and entertaining to watch. Michael Madsen is tasked with gaining some information in a bar and how he uses his pick pocketing skills to acquire this information is both entertaining and uniquely shot. Admittedly looking back on the scene it can feel very lucky that everything plays out the way it does but it’s still the highlight of the film. The rest of the film I wasn’t bored but I wasn’t particularly entertained either and that’s the issue.

Idris Elba (Luther) is the strongest of the cast but that’s not saying much as I was even disappointed by his performance. The American accents in ‘Bastille Day’ are pretty terrible and really take you out of the experience. It pains me to say this as I liked Richard Madden in ‘Game Of Thrones’ so much but his performance here is mediocre. The rest of the supporting cast (Kelly Reilly, Charlotte Le Bon, Anatol Yusef, Jose Garcia, Eriq Ebouaney) do a fine job but never reach any impressive heights.

Cinematography was standard with the exception of that one scene I mentioned earlier. The action scenes are shot well, while far from anything exceptional are far more entertaining than the plot. I feel the Director could have got much more out of these actors, it was very by the numbers with no nuances, nothing that provokes you to care about any of the characters. The soundtrack fit well with the film which I appreciated. It didn’t overhype the film which is really important to me. I had a fairly irritating issue with the editing also, during one particular chase scene on foot, the films shows too much of a stunt double that it becomes glaringly obvious. The worst offender was that scene and all others were not noticeable.

The writing of this film is really underwhelming. Dialogue between characters is so straight forward, the humour feels forced and falls flat. The antagonists dialogue borders on evil caricatures and that guy who is having second thoughts about their actions.

I guess I expected more with Idris Elba starring in the film following the masterpiece ‘Beasts Of No Nation’ but unfortunately ‘Bastille Day’ amounts to nothing more than a sub-standard action thriller.