Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Doctor Strange (spoiler-free review)

Doctor Strange

BBFC Certificate: 12A

'Doctor Strange' is a superhero fantasy film which stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams and Tilda Swindon. The film is directed by Scott Derrickson.

Branching out even further as Marvel expands it's cinematic universe even further with this fantasy flick. While Marvel is well known for incorporating new elements from different genres in their more recent films, 'Doctor Strange' is where they have truly pushed the boat out in establishing a new breed of superhero films. What I was most impressed by was the fact that it wasn't really a superhero film, but more of a mystical fantasy film, rather than just hinting at the fantasy genre 'Doctor Strange' actually is part of it.

It goes without saying that the visual effects are spectacular, not just in the scope of the grand 'illusion' scenes, but they also manage to capture the very finest detail when the magic is introduced.  Another thing to note  is how well structured this film is, unlike previous marvel films, this film does not relay on being an advertisement for a sequel or spin off (discounting the stinger). Benedict Cumberbatch is well suited for the role as is Tilda Swinton who turns in another great performance despite the smaller role. The visual direction and cinematography is excellent, using soft lighting to give the film a much needed whimsical appearance. Although despite these qualities I do have minor problems with this film such as the on and off humour and the over emphasis of exposition in some of the dialog.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Best 10 Films of 2016 so far (UK release dates)

With the first half of the year been and gone, it's about time to discuss what I think are the most immersive, enjoyable, artistic, entertaining, thrilling and memorable films of the year so far. Take note: this list is based on UK release dates, some films may be released last year in other territories. 

10: The Revenant

Want Further proof  you don't need 3D for a film to be immersive? watch 'The Revenant'. Shot in remote, uncompromising, but beautiful locations. This film is a visceral experience to behold thanks to the actors and filmmakers dedication to their craft. Dicaprio gives a strong physical performance, with Tom Hardy being the contrast as the mouthy antagonist. While both leads give excellent performances, for me Domhnall Gleeson steals the show with his supporting performance. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's direction lifts the story beyond it's revenge arch trappings and with Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography the film becomes one of the most visually stunning films of this decade.

9: Eye In The Sky

One thing many critics will praise about 'Eye In The Sky' is that it is timely, which is true, however many films of the same ilk are. What makes 'Eye in the Sky' striking is it's use of tense thriller scenes which also convey a sense of realism. Despite the main actors filming their scenes separately without ever meeting, the chemistry between them feels authentic and natural. The film balances the perfect line between entertainment and morality, making it a must see for people who are interested in the subject of drone warfare.

8: Zootropolis (aka- zootopia)

While at this time in cinematic history we are bombarded with civil rights films, this movie is actually more honest than any of the Oscar bait movies in recent memory. The characters in this film, particularly Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde are Disney's strongest in years. Not only was I invested into the story, but I could actually connect to the characters in the story, which in family films is a rarity for me. The animation is beautiful, each setting feels meticulously crafted and designed. The voice acting is exceptional with each actor giving their all for their characters, overall Zootopia is the best film of Disney's 2nd renaissance so far.

7: 10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane may not be the monster movie some people were expecting, but it is still one of the most terrifying films of this year. The main focus of this movie is not to scare the audience visually, but rather psychologically, much like Alfred Hitchcock did with 'Psycho'. I would say more, but I would hate to spoil it, the less you know about 10 Cloverfield Lane, the better experience you will have watching it. What I will say is that this film, despite it's very talented cast is dominated by John Goodman's performance. If you like tense films then this comes highly recommended.

 6: Spotlight

Spotlight in a word is absorbing. The writing, performances, direction and score absorb us into the drama as it unfolds on screen. While the film may not be as visually stunning as 'The Revenant' the film's writing and performances make the film all the more memorable. Mark Ruffalo's performance is powerful, but also realistically subdued, investing the audience in, but also  not drawing the attention away from the story itself. The film tackles a sensitive issue (about the child sex abuse scandal in the catholic church) without exploiting it or sensationalising it for the purpose of drama, seeing the story for the journalists perspective makes this film all the more intriguing.

5: Dheepan

Winning the prestigious 'Palme D'or' at the Cannes film festival, expectations were high for French Filmmaker Jacques Audiard's latest outing ... and it didn't disappoint.  While 'Dheepan' is a foreign language independent film it feels somewhat epic with it's story and impressive visuals. With great performances from it's cast and a brilliant direction from Audiard the film deepens into the common and complex subjects of social conditioning and the human spirit. The film is impressive both visually and emotionally, a film which captures the social standing of our generation.

4: The Neon Demon

Director Nicolas Winding Refn's third installment to what I have dubbed "The Neon Trilogy" (Drive, Only God Forgives, The Neon Demon) The Neon Demon is a controversial film which has divided audiences and critics, to the people who are familiar with Refn's work, there is no surprise there.  Like all of Refn's films the visuals are absolutely stunning. Working with Cinematographer Natasha Braier the film is not only an artistic method of storytelling, but it is also a cinematic experience which echos the likes of Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' with a mix of 70s exploitation horror films such as 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'. Like the arthouse/B-movies that inspired 'The Neon Demon' the film has more to say about our modern society then the prestige Hollywood films that try to imitate it.

3: Suburra

'Suburra' might be one of the most unheard of releases of 2016, but cinephiles should defiantly take note of this Italian gem. 'Suburra' blends American crime dramas such as 'The Godfather' and 'Mean Streets' with the style of European films of recent years. The film is set in Rome which director Stefano Sallima and the cinematographer take full advantage of with a flavorful mix of historical and modern environments to create an atmospheric world which makes Rome a character in itself. The film is beautiful and well structured and while films of this type of genre and story are nothing new, the filmmaking craft here is hard to fault.

2: Room

Not to be confused with Tommy Wiseau's 'The Room'. Lenny Abrahamson's 'Room' takes a complex, almost unfilmable novel into a emotionally wrecking, but heartwarming story about the bond between mother and son. 'Room' is one of the most powerful drama films that you will come across this year. There is one crucial part of this film which makes the story believable and a crucial viewing and that is Brie Larson's performance. She won the Academy Award this year for 'Best Actress' and rightly so. Jacob Tremblay gives an extraordinary performance, every frame of his performance felt natural. Like 10 Cloverfield Lane the less you know about 'Room' before watching it the better, but I can tell you that the direction, Cinematography, writing, score, production design and of course performances are all excellent. It's a must see.

1: The Big Short

The housing market, hardly riveting is it? The question many film audiences were asking when they read the plot on imdb. Fortunately the filmmakers behind 'The Big Short' gave us the most engaging and entertaining film of the year.  With brilliant performances from it's A-list cast, 'The Big Short' will make you laugh before appropriately sending you on a downer.  Adam Mckay is a revelation when directing dramatic emotions, gripping the audience and making them feel like a fly on the wall. 'The Big Short' features an excellent screenplay and a fast paced narrative which makes 'The Big short' not only one of the most entertaining films of the year, but also one of the most important.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The Peanuts Movie

Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie

BBFC Certificate: U

'The Peanuts Movie' is CG animated film based on the classic Charles M. Schulz comic strip 'Peanuts'. The film is directed by Steve Martino.

Using a mix of 2D and 3D animation 'The Peanuts Movie' is film targeted for fans of who grew up with the comic strips and television specials and is also geared towards the new generation of children. This film truly feels original to the source material, but also has the variety of the new technology not only to keep the younger viewers invested, but to also further emphasis the cinematic value of this type of animation. The film uses a very basic story, and for the most part it is well executed. The comedic timing was golden, the film successfully shifts from each tone without becoming too forced and over bearing. The film has a few flaws, the smplicaty of the story can at times feel repetitive for older audiences, and the film does often shy away from being striking. However, the peanuts movie is a charming and entertaining family film, that does feature a single fart joke, and that's good enough for me.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 18 December 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BBFC Certificate: 12A

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' is the latest entry into the sci-fi saga 'Star Wars'. The film features a large assemble cast and is directed by JJ Abrams.

The latest film in the 'Star Wars' franchise is likely to please most audiences. With references to the original trilogy without being nostalgic and having too much fan service to drown the narrative. Seasoned director JJ Abrams gives us a marvelous looking movie, his direction perfectly fits the materiel. The special effects in this film are incredible, a perfect blend of visual and practical effects, which is refreshing for a major blockbuster film. John Williams awe-inspiring score is absolutely beautiful, hearing the score brings the whole audience back to childhood.

 I myself have never been a huge Star Wars fan, I haven't been invested enough in the characters in previous installments to be in love with the franchise, however after watching The Force Awakens things started to click for me why people love this franchise, and after this film I for one like this franchise a whole lot more. The villain in this film is one of the better ones in the franchise, not quite Darth Vader, but certainly interesting enough to keep you invested into the story.  The two main protagonists are likable however it's Harrison Ford who steals the show. The film has some flaws though, for example; the film is quite tongue and cheek with it's humor, which does work for the majority, but can sometimes lead to a fault. There is also a romance in the film which feels a bit forced and rushed together.

Overall 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' is a return to form for the long living franchise, The film may not be a masterpiece, or a fan-boy's ultimate dream, but it is sure to entertain young and old alike and does more than enough to serve it's purpose. Good job Mr Abrams.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 9 December 2015



BBFC: Certificate: 15

'Carol' is a period romantic drama film starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. The film is directed by Todd Haynes.

'Carol' might not the first film you would think to watch during this festive season, but Edward Lachman's cinematography gives the most warm and nostalgic feeling for the audience, which does a great job of grabbing the audience into the curious romance of the two leads. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara have a wonderful chemistry; you could believe every moment of their relationship. Both of the leads play their roles down, which is a relief because the trailers for the film have an unquestionable "Oscar touch" to them. Todd Hanyes prominent direction lifts the story from some genre pitfalls.

However, the surface is not the hole layer. 'carol' is for the most part a two act film, the first act is the romance, the second act is the split up. While 'Carol' is not as cliche to leave it there, the film doesn't do enough to fully separate itself from other films, the second act of the film felt quite cluttered and anti-climatic.

Rating: 6/10 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Black Mass

Black Mass

BBFC Certificate: 15

'Black Mass' is a crime drama film which is based of the FBI and the south Boston Irish mafia's alliance. The film stars Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch and is directed by Scott Cooper.

'Black Mass' may not be the first or most original gangster film, but it is entertaining and insightful enough to be recommendable to fans of the gangster genre. Johnny Depp brings a return to form with a intense and terrific performance as James "whitey" Bulger. The supporting cast give good performances, however the story tries to balance plates too hard between the characters and the story and eventually both of the story and the characters sometimes seem to overshadow each other. Scott Cooper's direction is a breath of fresh air. Instead of over stylish shots and flashy editing, he directs his film like a play which gives a further opening for the drama to unfold, which helps separate the film from the genre uniform.

Overall 'Black Mass' is an entertaining and well acted gangster film. The film may seem a bit too familiar at times, but thanks to Johnny Depp's performance and Scott Cooper's directing it doesn't become a bland, run-of-the-mill movie.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies

BBFC Certificate: 12A

'Bridge Of Spies' is a historical drama film starring Tom Hanks and directed by Steven Spielberg.

Everybody's favorite actor and director are back with this engaging drama. It's very pleasing when you watch a film that you have high expectations for and it hits the mark. Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance both give brilliant performances; the chemistry between the two is very charming to watch. Steven Spielberg shows us all how it's done with a magnificent direction. Without any doubt he will be nominated for best director at the award ceremonies and deservedly so. Matt chairman and the Coen brothers have written an excellent script filled with wit and character. Thomas Newman's exceptional score gives plenty of warmth to the story.

The only very minor problem I have with the film is that I think the film's ending slightly outstays it's welcome and a minor nitpick I have is that the film is not very re-watchable,

Rating: 9/10