Stephen Mcfeely

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review


Good

This is the Marvel movie that divides the fans from the casual filmgoers, as the movies become more like a TV series in which the world is saved from disaster every week. While it's shot and acted to an unusually high standard, the script treats the characters like pawns to throw at each other rather than real human beings. So while it's hugely entertaining, there isn't a hint of actual tension or suspense.

Now settling into life in the 21st century, super-powered soldier Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and his cohort Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) are horrified when the mysterious, seemingly indestructible Winter Soldier launches an attack on Shield Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) on the streets of Washington DC. Suspected of being on the wrong side, Steve and Natasha set out to find out what's up, drafting in angry veteran Sam (Anthony Mackie) and his whizzy flying-wings accessory. Meanwhile, Shield boss Pierce (Robert Redford) is carrying on with launching a wildly heavy-handed security system for America.

Marvel show-runner Kevin Feige works hard to make these movies fit loosely into the overarching mythology while standing on their own. But this is the ninth time these superheroes have had to save the world since 2008's Iron Man, and it's getting a bit tired. This chapter introduces a perviously unseen darkness in the evil agency Hydra, but the real innovation here is the use of gritty Bourne-style direction for the lucid action sequences.

Continue reading: Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

Thor: The Dark World Review


Excellent

Marvel can't help itself: these movies have to get bigger and crazier. And this one leaves us wondering where they can possibly go next, as it spirals into a madly funny-scary thriller that threatens the existence of the whole universe. But it also feels like a story children would make up as they go along. Still, the sparky characters and wildly cataclysmic approach are hugely entertaining.

The action picks up right after the Battle of New York (see 2012's The Avengers), and scientist Jane (Portman) is miffed that Thor (Hemsworth) didn't call when he was back on Earth. She has just started dating a nebbish Londoner (O'Dowd) when her assistant Darcy (Dennings) stumbles into a spatial anomaly that draws Jane right into the middle of a 5,000-year-old struggle between Thor's home-realm Asgard and the dark elf Malekith (Eccleston), who wants to use a swirling goo called the Aether to plunge all of existence into blackness just as the universe aligns itself. As this convergence approaches, Thor defies his father Odin (Hopkins) and turns to his disgraced, malicious brother Loki (Hiddleston) for help.

The film is overcrowded with small but pivotal characters, including stern but helpful gatekeeper Heimdall (Elba), mad-doctor Erik (Skarsgard) and Odin's wise wife Frigga (Russo). All of them help distract us from the movie's wildly shifting tone as it darts from sardonic comedy to Lord of the Rings-style battles to silly romance to dark emotion. But the best thing is the tense, unpredictable relationship between Thor and Loki, an enjoyable mixture of sibling rivalry and brotherly love that's well-played by Hemsworth and especially Hiddleston. None of the other characters really has a chance to develop around them. But at least the actors have fun with their roles, including a number of hilarious cameos along the way (there are also two post-credit stings).

Continue reading: Thor: The Dark World Review

Pain & Gain Review


OK

Spirited and very funny, this movie should actually be rather disturbing since it's a true story about torture and murder. But director Michael Bay is so slick with the action and comedy elements that he lulls audiences to sleep, entertaining us with events that really should send chills down our spines. So the movie feels rather tasteless when you begin to think about it.

Wahlberg stars as Daniel, an obsessive bodybuilder in 1990s Miami who works as a personal trainer at a local gym. But he's becoming increasingly annoyed by the fact that his clients are much wealthier than he is. So he convinces his steroid-addicted colleague Adrian (Mackie) to help him kidnap a customer (Shalhoub) and steal his fortune. Realising that they need some help, they enlist born-again ex-con Paul (Johnson) in their plan. But none of them is very smart, and the kidnapping goes badly wrong from the start. Still, they manage to steal quite a lot before a tenacious private detective (Harris) notices something isn't right.

For a story that deals with such intensely serious themes, this is an oddly broad comedy. Bay never even tries to find dark irony here; he just focusses on how stupid these criminals are, convinced that they are as cool as the characters from their favourite movies and eerily unbothered by the fact that they are inflicting pain and even death on people for their own greedy ends. The actors inhabit the roles with a disarming naivete, so we can't help but laugh at their idiotic actions. Wahlberg plays Daniel as a muscle-head so focussed on getting what he wants that he doesn't notice the carnage in his wake; Mackie at least gives Adrian a sense of self-doubt, plus some comical romance (with scene-stealer Wilson); and Johnson has a tricky role as a religious guy with a weakness for drugs and women.

Continue reading: Pain & Gain Review

Los Angeles Premiere of 'Pain & Gain' held at TCL Chinese Theatre - Arrivals

Stephen McFeely - Los Angeles Premiere of 'Pain & Gain' held at TCL Chinese Theatre - Arrivals - Los Angeles, CA, United States - Tuesday 23rd April 2013

L.A. Pain & Gain Premiere

Co-Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely - Los Angeles Premiere of "Pain & Gain" held at TCL Chinese Theatre - Los Angeles, CA, United States - Monday 22nd April 2013

Co-Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Co-Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

'Pain And Gain' Trailer Released: Preview Of Michael Bay Movie Hits The Web


Michael Bay Mark Wahlberg Dwayne Johnson Anthony Mackie Christopher Markus Stephen McFeely Ed Harris Rebel Wilson

Michael Bay’s going back to what he does best with his latest movie Pain & Gain. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson (‘The Rock’) and Anthony Mackie, the movie finds the director finally unleashed from the world of Transformers and back into a world of action movies and dark humour.

Pain and Gain tells the tale of a ‘gym rat’ who finds himself discontented with his life and plots to steal from a corrupt businessman, with the help of two fellow weight-lifting buddies.The trailer looks pretty neat, a fine blend of action and a sharp comic strip. Oh and Mark Wahlberg, looking distinctly beefy in his role as Daniel Lugo, the frustrated fitness freak. Pain & Gain is based on the story of the Sun Gym Gang - three guys who “robbed and extorted their way around southern Florida in the mid-90s", according to Empire online and the script appears to have been deftly handles by the Chronicles Of Narnia’s Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The story was originally reported on by the Miami New Times journalist Pete Collins, back in 1999. Now, their tale gets the big budget Hollywood treatment, courtesy of Bay.

Also starring Ed Harris and Rebel Wilson, the movie is scheduled for release in April 2013 in the US and May 2013 in the UK. Prepare yourselves for a great deal of hype between now and then! 

Continue reading: 'Pain And Gain' Trailer Released: Preview Of Michael Bay Movie Hits The Web

Captain America: The First Avenger Review


Excellent
Director Johnston once again channels Steven Spielberg, this time for a raucously entertaining Indiana Jones-style adventure. With the energetic punch of a vintage serial, it actually leaves us wanting more.In 1942 New York, Steve Rogers (Evans) is desperate to join the war in Europe with his buddy James (Stan), but is too weedy to fight. Then a scientist (Tucci) spots him, and soon he's partnered with gorgeous Agent Carter (Atwell) and put in a top-secret programme that amplifies his muscles and will-power.

But as "Captain America" he's just a propaganda tool until he gets a chance to prove himself on the front line as a key weapon against the deeply evil Nazi Schmidt (Weaving).Shot more like a rollicking adventure than a typical superhero movie, the script spends just about enough time on the origin story to grab our attention, including nifty effects that render Evans as a 90-pound weakling. Then the action kicks off, powering through one set piece after another. Refreshingly, it never bothers to deepen the story with random sideplots, superfluous characters or knowing winks. So it's a lot of fun to watch.

The action sequences are thrilling without being too suspenseful and, for the most part, the filmmakers keep the stunts and explosions within believable proportions. In fact, the film has a wonderfully dishevelled look, combining more rough-and-ready filmmaking touches with the slick 1940s clothes and architecture. Which almost makes it feel like one of the propaganda films it so cleverly recreates.

Continue reading: Captain America: The First Avenger Review

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Review


Good
This third instalment in the Narnia series changes the director and studio, as well as the setting (from the land to the sea). The result is a rousing adventure that's enjoyable even if it still feels rather sanitised.As war rages in Britain, Lucy and Edmund (Henley and Keynes) have left London to live with their obnoxious cousin Eustace (Poulter). One day when he's taunting them about tales that they were royalty in Narnia, a painting comes to life and pulls all three of them into its watery depths. Rescued by now-King Caspian (Barnes) and his first-mate mouse Reepicheep (voiced by Pegg), they embark on an epic voyage in the ship Dawn Treader, sailing off the edge of the map on a quest to restore balance to the kingdom.The story is much more cinematic than other Narnia chapters, and director Apted makes the most of both the ship and the islands they visit along the way, adding a sense of scale and scope. Clever camerawork makes the digital creatures feel more matter-of-fact (to everyone except the horrified Eustace), and only a few dodgy effects (mainly the mermaids and a dragon) let things down on the technical side.In addition, the actors are more relaxed this time, giving more confident, natural performances. Franchise newcomer Poulter is especially good, walking the fine line between being a loathsome jerk and a needy young boy. So it's a shame that the plot feels so simplistic, composed of a series of set pieces as the ship stops at various ports of call and our heroes encounter seemingly random inhabitants who helpfully give them information to continue their journey.

Continue reading: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Review

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Review


Weak
In Clerks II, uber-slacker Randal described the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a series of endless walks. Nothing but nonstop, pointless treks. One has to wonder what his reaction would be to the overwhelming ambulation in the two Chronicles of Narnia films. While The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had origins and mythos to highlight, Disney's latest entry in the franchise, Prince Caspian, requires a more minimal setup. All returning director Andrew Adamson has to offer as a result is more shoe to footpath action, with the occasional CGI-sparked battle to break up the constant strolling.

It's been a year since Lucy (Georgie Henley), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), Peter (William Moseley), and Susan (Anna Popplewell) Pevensie have been to the magical land that they once ruled as kings and queens. However, 13 centuries have passed in Narnia, and a race of humans known as Telmarines have overrun the kingdom. They have systematically killed off almost all the creatures, and rule by blood and violence. Within the court, Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), brother of the late King Caspian IX, has taken over and threatened the life of the true, titular heir (Ben Barnes). With the help of the returning foursome, Prince Caspian will rally the remaining Narnians, leading them to victory over their evil oppressors.

Continue reading: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Review

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) Review


Grim
Since the first comparison made with C.S. Lewis' Narnia fantasy series is to his friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books, it is worth noting that - as recently mentioned in the New Yorker - Tolkien hated the Narnia books because their ideological underpinnings constrained the fiction itself. Tolkien was as devoutly religious as Lewis but you didn't see the hobbits going to church on Sunday; Middle Earth was a pretty pagan land where mythology, not theology, was the rule of the day. Lewis was a different sort, of course, and though the seven Narnia books were brilliant fantasy, they also had an irksome tendency towards preachiness. This same problem afflicts The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the (potentially) first Chronicles of Narnia film, a crass product of merchandised morality from Disney and Walden Media, a media company owned by Christian evangelist billionaire Philip Anschutz.

Director Andrew Adamson makes his live-action debut here after the two Shreks, but it's an easy transition for him, given that a good portion of the film has a CGI/character complexity ratio about as high as the last few Star Wars films. Although Narnia doesn't lend itself well to the cheeky pop culture reference-o-rama that Shrek did, it shares those films' same treacly sentimentality and market-researched plasticity.

Continue reading: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) Review

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) Review


Grim
Since the first comparison made with C.S. Lewis' Narnia fantasy series is to his friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books, it is worth noting that - as recently mentioned in the New Yorker - Tolkien hated the Narnia books because their ideological underpinnings constrained the fiction itself. Tolkien was as devoutly religious as Lewis but you didn't see the hobbits going to church on Sunday; Middle Earth was a pretty pagan land where mythology, not theology, was the rule of the day. Lewis was a different sort, of course, and though the seven Narnia books were brilliant fantasy, they also had an irksome tendency towards preachiness. This same problem afflicts The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the (potentially) first Chronicles of Narnia film, a crass product of merchandised morality from Disney and Walden Media, a media company owned by Christian evangelist billionaire Philip Anschutz.

Director Andrew Adamson makes his live-action debut here after the two Shreks, but it's an easy transition for him, given that a good portion of the film has a CGI/character complexity ratio about as high as the last few Star Wars films. Although Narnia doesn't lend itself well to the cheeky pop culture reference-o-rama that Shrek did, it shares those films' same treacly sentimentality and market-researched plasticity.

Continue reading: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) Review

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers Review


Good
Discussion topic: Which of the following people can accurately be described as "comic geniuses"? Woody Allen. Adam Sandler. Groucho Marx. Gilda Radner.

You're unlikely to get consensus on such a phrase, except for one: Peter Sellers. Everybody knows he was a genius, right?

Continue reading: The Life and Death of Peter Sellers Review

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