The last(?) chapter in John Rambo’s near 40 years of gun toting, arrow firing and knife wielding hack’n’slashing. Our battle weary veteran seeks a nice life in the countryside, though it’s not long before he has the resort back to the set of skills he has refined over the last few decades……..it takes a while to get going, it packs in one heck of a finale!
Directed by Adrian Grunberg
Starring: Sly Stallone, Yvette Monreal, Paz Vega
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Incredibly intense and wonderfully filmed, Sicario was one of the stand out films of 2015. The success of the original meant a sequel was inevitable, but without the influence of Denis Villeneuve and leading lady Emily Blunt, can this installment match the heights of the original?
Sicario : Day of the Soldado, directed this time, by Taylor Sheridan, follows CIA agent Graver (Brolin) as he once again enlists the assistance of rogue operative Alejandro (Del Toro) to destabilize the Mexican drug cartels, who are suspected of smuggling in terrorists across the US border. They aim to accomplish this by staging the kidnapping of the young daughter (Moner) of the cartel kingpin, and in effect, creating a civil war.
The opening and middle chapters of the movie are still as potent as the original. The film mixes the bloody violence and brutal nature of the cartels, with the meticulous nature of our agents well. Brolin who is having a very successful summer, is as fierce as ever. And Benicio Del Toro is the same mysterious, magnetic hitman from before. Although the film loses the character the audience could relate with (Blunt from Sicario), our duo as strong enough to keep her loss to a minimum. Isabela Moner, who yet again plays another young character with her namesake (after her role in The Last Knight!) also gives a great performance as a young girl caught up as the innocent pawn in a government covert operation.
As the plot starts starts to come together towards the climax, is when things really start to fall off. It was reported that the original screenplay was changed, and the film loses its traction it begins with. The plot starts to leave far to many gaps, and character decisions that really go against their previous actions. Alejandro, who was a ruthless assassin, willing to kill children, suddenly develops paternal like behavior, in hardly any time. We also never really know who the true antagonist is, the cartels? The US government? It’s obvious to see that this is a part 2 of 3, leaving a bit too much unexplained for the third chapter. The operation itself rather falls apart way to quickly, for something that was planned with laser precision. Unfortunately the film makes decisions that feel like a cop out, where the first was praised for the gutsy decisions the script took.
The tension and suspense the film creates is still on point. There are moments in the movie you will honestly want to look away. The Beast, the daunting, yet iconic soundtrack from the original returns, and when it starts intensifying, the tension cranks all the way up! The ambush scene is magnificently shot, and comes out of nowhere!
Soldado is not a match to the original, but the characters are more than strong enough to carry the film onto the obvious third installment. Sadly it does feel like filler, but maybe after the final chapter, Soldado will look better in hindsight.
Pixar have a habit of constantly releasing critically acclaimed hits, and their latest venture, could prove to be their greatest triumph yet. It’s taken Coco a few months to arrive on these shores, but the wait has been worth it.
The Day of the Dead, is our main focus here, the Mexican holiday in which people come together to celebrate the lives of the members of their family who have passed away. Miguel, our young protagonist, yearns to be a musician, but due to a complicated family history, the art of music, in any form, has been prohibited in the family. But in his attempts to emulate his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz,, the greatest musician of his time, Miguel finds himself trapped in the Land of the Dead, seeking his hero for a way out.
Considering the theme of film is pretty morbid, the movie itself is surprisingly vivid! It is probably one of the most resplendent settings in any Pixar movie, with the festival ambiance providing a fantastic backdrop to the story. The visuals are stunning, and has some of the best animation the studio have produced.
Pixar movies are always an emotional ride, and Coco delivers. The recurring themes of death, grief and family are mentioned throughout the film. So it’s not too much of a surprise that there is a certain level of poignancy to the plot. But the final third of Coco is so well done, it should move most people to some degree! Without spoiling, it packs a punch!
The cast are thoroughly enjoyable. Hector, a charming, witty trickster who accompanies Miguel on his journey is a wonderful character, he’s just not there for comic relief though, his story arc plays out to perfection. Ernesto, our pompous superstar, is just about the right level of irritation & arrogance! Considering there are two sets of families, one alive, one passed away, there is an abundance of names and faces, not all of whom are important to the plot. But it plays a vital role in pushing through its message about family.
With it being a Disney production, the musical score will always be a crucial factor. With Coco, the soundtrack delivers a wonderful blend of music, will the effervescent flamenco/latino party rhymes, to the sombre melodies. ‘Remember Me’, the recurring track that plays throughout, not only carries a great level of poignancy, it also plays a vital role within the film.
Regarding negatives, there really isn’t much to say against it, but if you were to knit pick, the opening 1/3 is rather slow to kick on. It’s really not too clear where the movie is going with things, but the remainder of Coco is so good, you’ll let that go. Also, there really isn’t a villain in the film, it doesn’t really hurt the enjoyment, but if you like a movie with a clear antagonist, this may bug you a bit.
That being said, these are very minor flaws in what is already one of the candidate for film of the year! A sure winner for the Oscar for best animation!