The Film Column #2: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Children of Men, The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies, Miller’s Crossing & Mud

In the second instalment of the Film Column, I continue to look at the last five films I’ve seen in alphabetical order. This time around, I’m looking at, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Children of Men, Miller’s Crossing, Mud, and The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies. There are light spoilers for The Hobbit but everything else is spoiler-free.

I’m making a slight change to the order this time around but otherwise it follows the similar structure as the old one, which can be found above. We have five movies in alphabetical order this time from different genres. I’ve got a period gangster film, superhero blockbuster, dystopian science fiction, a quiet Mississippi-set drama and a fantasy epic lined up, so hopefully you should enjoy my take on these films.
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

Director: Joss Whedon | Genre(s): Superhero, Action, Adventure | Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlet Johannason, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie | Length: 142mins
Starting with a bang, Age of Ultron is a strong entry to the MCU but not quite as good as I was expecting given the large amount of hype. However, it kept me entertained most of the way through, and the new characters, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (although Days of Future Past robbed some of his impact as the Quicksilver there was far better than the one we got here) were good additions with Vision being impressive as well. Ultron is basically just Spader’s Reddington from NBC’s The Blacklist only in robot form, and serves as an enjoyable antagonist for the characters. However, that said, there’s nothing new or different about Age of Ultron in terms of plot and it follows pretty much the same Marvel template that we’ve seen in most of their films before, and aside from a few changes is basically the same movie as the first Avengers film.
Some of the comedy however feels rather forced and the best jokes (the Avengers sitting around the table, trying to pull the hammer), we’d seen too many times in the trailers. But despite all the issues that I had with this film it does earn enough for an 8 rating (barely), as it provides a grand spectacle with some great scenes that give the Avengers plenty to do, and even Hawkeye has a bit more to do in this film than the first one.
Verdict: 8/10

CHILDREN OF MEN (2006)
Director: Alfonso Cuaron | Genre(s): Science Fiction, Dystopia, Drama, Thriller, Action | Cast: Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore, Charlie Hunnam, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Clare-Hope Ashitey | Length: 109mins
Alfonso Cuaron is the director of my favourite Harry Potter movie and one of my favourite (if not my favourite) films of 2013, so it was only a matter of time before I got around to watching Children of Men, and when I saw it in a second hand DVD store for only £0.50, I knew it was too good an opportunity to miss and I’m really glad that I did, because it might just be the best £0.50 that I’ve spent, ever.
This is how you do a dystopia film and arguably it’s the best modern dystopia movie that I’ve seen. The world building is fantastic and it’s refreshing to see a film in the near future take place in the UK as opposed to the US. The tension and the atmosphere of the film is superb and the acting is brilliant too, with Clive Owen giving one of his strongest performances that I’ve seen. Compulsive, compelling and incredible, Children of Men is a unique experience and a must watch film.
VERDICT: 10/10
The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies (2014) –  MINOR SPOILERS

Director: Peter Jackson | Genre (s): Fantasy, Adventure | Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Scott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbit, Aiden Turner, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Slyvester McCoy, Steven Fry, Luke Evans | Length: 144mins

I saw this when it came out at the cinema but this is the first time I’ve watched it on DVD and the flaws are more noticeable the second time around, I think. The opening set-piece could have easily been used at the end of the second one for example and the film goes on for much longer than necessary. However, despite that, and a few other problems such as the weak love triangle between Legolas/Tauriel/Random Dwarf ?/7 and the fact that three movies in, we still don’t care about ANY of the Dwarves apart from maybe Thorin, it remained fun to watch although I doubt I will rewatch these as much as the Original Trilogy.
It’s certainly epic, though, and the battle sequences were great with the Thorin/Azog showdown towards the end of the film being one of my favourites (a clever defeat of Azog undone by the sheer stupidity that followed = why remain on the Ice, Thorin?) as well as the moment when the Dwarves came charging out of the mountain, which gave me chills. The CGI is among the strongest that I’ve seen in any film and of course, the soundtracks are always epic and there are some good performances by Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage in particular. If you didn’t like the last two movies then you certainly won’t like this one, but for those of you who enjoyed them (then you’ll have probably already watched this by now), The Battle of the Five Armies is a watchable (but sadly it cannot quite hit the marks of the original trilogy) conclusion to the Hobbit Trilogy and a fascinating end to the LOTR film adaptions.
VERDICT: 7.9/10

MILLER’S CROSSING (1990)


Director(s): Joel Coen, Ethan Coen | Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Thriller | Cast: Gabriel Bryne, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro, Jon Polito, JE Freeman | Length: 115mins
What an excellent film! I’ve only seen two movies by the Coen Brothers, “O Brother Where Art Thou?” Being the other one, but they’ve quickly joined the list of my favourite directors. Miller’s Crossing was just as a unique experience as the former, with some superb directing and some great acting, and a chilling, atmospheric score that makes this movie so unique. There’s nothing else quite like it and it’s instantly become one of my favourites. So damn good, and one of the great crime movies that everyone should watch if they haven’t already.
VERDICT: 10/10

MUD (2012)

Director: Jeff Nichols | Genre: Drama | Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Poulson, Michael Shannon | Length: 130mins
2014 really was Matthew McConaughey’s year, starting it off with an excellent performance in HBO’s True Detective and finishing it with Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. However, one of McConaughey’s best performances actually comes from Mud, a film released two years earlier, as he really shines in an excellent, underrated drama from Jeff Nichols, making use of some great cinematography and a compelling story with sympathetic leads, Mud tells a quiet, intriguing movie set against the backdrop of Mississippi.
Featuring child actors that are actually good in their roles, the film focuses on the friendship between two boys Ellis (Sheridan) and Neckbone (Lofland) and their discovery of the drifter, Mud (McConaughey), a loner hiding out in an abandoned boat and a wanted fugitive. Despite facing problems at home, the boys eventually decide to help Mud find his long-time girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon), whilst evading both the police and the bounty hunters on his tail. It’s a plot that works and combined with a well-written script and a blend of good performances from A-List Actors and relative unknowns, the movie is well worth your time and has put Jeff Nichols instantly on the list of directors whose work I want to watch more of.
VERDICT: 8.5/10


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