Thursday, 5 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (Review)

'Blade Runner 2049' is a Neo-Noir Science Fiction film which is also a sequel of the 1982 film 'Blade Runner'. This film stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford and is directed by Denis Villeneuve.

Every person I know who is a sci-fi nerd has seen Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, it's become a right of passage viewing for anyone wanting to make a science fiction film. I for one felt underwhelmed by it, again like many films it felt over-hyped for me. I loved the visuals and atmosphere, but I wasn't as engaged in the story.

Now the sequel is finally here and the buzz is almost deafening, which is why I avoided all reviews before seeing this film. Denies Villeneuve is one of the most praised filmmakers in Hollywood right now and rightly so, with the likes of 'Arrival' and 'Sicario' to name a few, he has made some of the most intelligent blockbusters of recent memory, multiply him with the talents of Ryan Gosling, returning Harrison Ford, a Hans Zimmer score and the cinematography of Rodger Deakins? I'm in.

This film is visually astonishing and I don't use that word lightly. Deakins cinematography is so good that it's hard to even believe a human being can achieve it. The use of colour, the use of shadow and the framing not only looks impeccable, but also fits the atmosphere beautifully. Deakins, Villeneuve and Zimmer are all working at the top of their craft, creating one of the most atmospheric films to date. The visual effects are some of the most impressive you will see in any film, it's honestly outstanding. I could not even tell you most of what is practical and what is CG in this film. The best asset this film has is the display of pure talent that from it's filmmakers.

However, despite the impressive technical aspects of the film I found it quite hard to engage in the story of the film, there are points in the story which completely drew me in, however more often than not I felt uninterested in the events going on. This may be due to the films pacing, as the film has to do a balancing act between the story, themes and characters. If the film had a simpler story, but had a larger focus of the themes and characters then I feel like I would be more engaged. The film does make a good effort to be more thematic and character based in the second half, which is the parts of the story I felt more engaged in, however I wish the film was almost entirely thematic and ditched the heavy handed plot. I know that wouldn't please most people, but for me it's difficult to be invested in a plot which feels rather uneven.

Overall Blade Runner is a sequel that I mostly enjoyed and think clearly succeeds as it is true to the original, while exploring it's world further. For me I like it as much as the first. Both films I have a lot of respect and admiration for, however I am not blown away by either of them. Underwhelming? maybe, but very far removed from disappointing.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Victoria & Abdul (Review)

'Victoria & Abdul' is a British biographical period comedy drama which stars Judi Dench and Ali Fazal. This film is directed by Stephen Frears.

Living in a country with a proud history of monarchs it's no surprise that a film about one of the most celebrated is so heavily advertised, especially when the film stars Dame Judi Dench in the title role. From the advertising the film looks like a standard Oscar baitey bio-topic drama, however underneath the surface lies one of the best comedy films of the year. This film while dealing which some emotional topics has a good sense of witty humour threaded thought the film, which just makes this movie not only more enjoyable, but also more touching because through the humour the characters feel more humble and endearing.

It comes at no surprise that Judi Dench gives a fantastic performance as Queen Victoria, her performance felt more subtle that I believed it would be. Ali Fazel has the most weight on his shoulders as his character is the one who carries the story and he achieves it with the prowess of a true leading actor. The film features other note-worthy performances from the likes of Eddie Izzard as the spiteful and pompous Bertie Price of Wales and the comedic acting talents of Adeel Akhtar.

Overall, Victoria & Abdul is a story which will connect with most people and is executed well in the process. The film does play it safe when dealing with the history, however as a character study I believe it is engaging. Victoria & Abdul won't be the most effective film you will see this year, but it could be one of the most charming. All in all, it's a perfect Sunday film.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 22 September 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Review)

'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' is a action spy comedy film which stars Taron Egerton,  Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal and Julianne Moore. This film is directed by Matthew Vaughn.

After the success of the first Kingsman, Matthew Vaughn is back witch a second installment to a rapidly growing franchise. Kingsman, like a lot of 2010 films takes a meta stance on it's genre. Similar to 2014's '22 Jump Street' the film takes pride in it's tongue and cheek approach of doubling everything down, a self aware parody of what most sequels do. As easy as that sounds it's hard to actually surprise anyone anymore, which the new age of cinema goers obsessed with budgets, box office and rotten tomatoes people already know what to expected before going in.

'The Golden Circle does achieve in making this sequel interesting with the likes of Julianne Moore's character and it's wider world scenarios, however while the film still has a good sense of comedy and is well paced, you can't help but feel you are treading through a familiar territory and that to a film which is 30 minutes longer than it needed to be than you are left with a satisfactory sequel to a surprisingly strong first entry into this comedy spy franchise.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 18 September 2017

Mother! (Review)

'Mother!' is a psychological horror film which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. This film is written and directed by Darren Aronofsky.

From the director of 'Black Swan' and 'Requiem for a Dream' comes another film which deals with a dark subject matter and an unconventional way of telling it. I saw the film without knowing much detail going into the cinema and I believe that it payed off as I had no expectations. It's hard to explain the film without spoiling it, so this review will not go into any detail of the plot whatsoever.

The main thing to note is the way Aronofsky directs this film. The whole film feel like a horrible nightmare, Not because of it's visuals, but for the visceral experience it brings. Just like a nightmare the characters behave somewhat off and the sense of time becomes distorted. This film will divide people because of the way it tells it's story. This is the type of film which requires you to take a leap of faith and detach yourself from reality. My interpretation of the film is that it is a recreation of a nightmare, which is demonstrated by the writing and directing (particularly the POV shots)

The film relies on it's performances to make you invested into what's happening and the actors don't let the film down at all. Jennifer Lawrence is subdued but suitably so, until the film goes into it's second and third act when her performance transforms into one of her best in recent years. Javier Bardem is known for playing creepy characters, so it's always a worry that Hollywood will typecast him, but in the film he has a new corner to explore and he turns in another great performance. The Supporting cast which include Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson and Brian Gleeson all give performances that entice you further into the story, despite having little screen time.

Overall, 'Mother!' is a thought-provoker of the first degree. It won't please everyone, nor should it. It's an unpleasant viewing, but in my eyes an essential one. No matter how you feel about Darren Aronofsky you can't deny that his films are atmospheric, which is the most effective skill you can have as a director when you are crafting a horror film. The only tiny problem I have with this film is that I felt that the grand idea in the finally felt over enforced, nevertheless 'Mother!' is an effective horror film which left an impression on me as I am sure it will with others.

Rating: 9/10

Friday, 15 September 2017

It (Review)

'It' is a horror adventure film which stars Jaeden Lieberher, Bill SkarsgĂ„rd, Jeremy Ray Taylor and Sophia Lillis. This film is directed by Andy Muschietti.

Many years after the TV adaptation starring Tim Curry as the psychopathic clown, Stephen King's novel is returned to the screen with a wide theatrical release. The hype train is racing at full speed as the film is marketed as "One of the scariest films of all time!" with unsettling rumours of sightings of creepy clowns around the world to add to the anticipation of one of the most marketed horror films to be released. Of course the truth is, this isn't the scariest film of all time, not by a long shot. It nowhere even near to being one of the scariest films of the year. I understand that fear is subjective, but the reality is that this is a mainstream film that has a big budget and a well known author for it's source material.

If your watching this for the scares then you may be disappointed. If you are freighted by what you have seen in the trailers then you will probably find the film just as frightening, but it doesn't to much to surprise. One of the positive aspects of this film is how it focuses on the children as the central characters, while it's been done before many times, it's refreshing to see a 2017 horror film which isn't filled with dumb teenagers or a dysfunctional family. The actors are all excellently cast and do a great job with the material. The group of kids have good chemistry together and have great confidence in their acting. The production of this film is impressive, from the production design, to the costumes and the sound mixing all the elements work together well with the story to add a scale of world building. The films characters have some depth to them, but I don't believe that they are fleshed out enough for the more emotionally focused scenes of the film. Despite the actors effects, I didn't feel much for most of the characters in this film, even when the film kept asking me to.

Overall 'It' is a serviceable adaptation of the King book and is a decent horror film, however it isn't all it's cracked up to be. Worth a watch if your in the mood, but it's no head-turner.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Atomic Blonde (Review)

'Atomic Blonde' is an action spy film which stars Charlize Theron and James McAvoy. This film is directed by David Leitch.

Following the success of 2014's 'John Wick', David Leitch is back in familiar territory with this neon drenched action spy thriller. Similar to his previous work this film takes a huge benefit from Leitch's work as a stunt coordinator as each action scene feels intense and is shot with clarity and a style which is inspired by martial arts movies from the past. Charlize Theron is great as the film's lead, her confident performance compensates for the somewhat lack of character development in the writing. All of the actors performances in this film are of a good standard which is a testament to their own respective talents as actors and Leitch's direction. The editing, particularly noticeable is the use of overlapping and on screen graphics which are not only suitable flashy, but are also put to effective use for the fast paced rhythm of the film.

Of course this review could not be complete without mentioning the music. Now it's easy to put in 70s and 80s tunes into a movie to make it appeal to an audience for nostalgia and millennial-retro reasons, but it's another thing for it to work in a suitable context and improve upon what's already there and fortunately 'Atomic Blonde' does this well.

While the film is shot, edited and acted excellently, the problems are within the writing. In layman terms, you just can't follow what is happening. The way the film shifts from one plot point to another feels jarring and the characters motivations are very confusing. The film is just impossible to follow, but at the same time it's entertaining because of the technical craftsmanship, although at the same time it's near impossible to relate or connect with any of the characters because the film flip flops like a fish out of water. I have mixed feelings about this film, but if you want a film which is entertaining and visually stylish and don't care to much about the story, then I would recommend it, if you are mostly focused on plot and story then I think this film will just frustrating, in this instance I am of the earlier.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 21 July 2017

Dunkirk (Review)

'Dunkirk' is a action war thriller which stars Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy. This film is written and directed by Christopher Nolan.

Nothing director Christopher Nolan has made has ever been released quietly, whether that may be because of
the advertising and word of mouth from the critics and media moguls who boast about the IMAX and 70mm film formats, or it might be the fact that so far, Nolan's career has not made a wrong step, with each of his films being a hit with audiences and critics alike.

'Dunkirk' is another successful chapter in Nolan's Filmography. One of the complaints audiences and even some critics have about the directors work is that the running time for a Nolan film is too long, fortunately for those who were not impressed by the large scope of 'Interstellar' will be pleased to know that Dunkirk is only 1 hour and 40 minutes long and is more stripped back, having more in touch with Nolan's early works while also featuring the mature filmmaking sensibilities and craftsmanship of his more recent work.

The film is mostly told though the visual imagery, which is a fair distance from the directors previous films such as 'Interstellar' and 'Inception' which use the dialog as the major device for information and drama.

Anyone who knows of Nolan's work does not need me telling them that this film is well directed, c'mon everyone and their mother knows that by now, but the scenes involving the air force in-flight are worth mentioning because of the camera's focus on the central rotation of the real-life inverting planes, which is nothing less than an example of A-class cinema. The Music from Hans Zimmer is the emotional center of the film, not only because the film has little dialog, but also because of how Zimmer is able to capture the right emotion for every second of a film as fast paced and chaotic as this. The sound design is amazing, simply amazing, if it does not win the academy award, something is wrong, the film really would not work without it, similar to Zimmer's score it is the primitive core of the film and without it the film would feel hollow.

The performances are all good from the cast, yes even Harry Styles. This film however does not focus on performance and character as most war films do, in fact the focus is more on the event rather than the characters; for most films this would be a major fault in my eyes, but because of the impressive technical aspects, it actually works well.

Overall 'Dunkirk' is a masterful war film which is really worth seeing on the big screen, but is also capable of being engaging while seeing it at home. I would not give it a perfect rating because I did not have that rush of excitement or that feeling that you have just witnessed something that you feel is outstanding, but it is a piece filmmaking that is worth taking notice of if you haven't done so already.

Rating: 9/10

Blade Runner 2049 (Review)

'Blade Runner 2049' is a Neo-Noir Science Fiction film which is also a sequel of the 1982 film 'Blade Runner'. This film sta...