Wednesday, 12 July 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes (Review)

'War for the Planet of the Apes' is the third installment of the rebooted science fiction franchise Planet of the Apes. This film stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn and Amiah Miller. This film is directed by Matt Reeves.

Rebooting a franchise from the 60s is an ambitious task, no matter how big the franchise, but these new films take a step further then just rebooting the franchise, these films also start a completely new story which is far different from the original film, but is also faithful to the source material's theme of the trials of humanity.

The first two films of this new series are great and can truly stand on their own, but now with this third installment, this series is now a legacy trilogy similar to 'The Dark Knight' and the 'Lord of the Rings' films.  While I don't think this film or the other two are "outstanding" and flawless, they are all brilliantly crafted and executed. This film does not disappoint. Everything you want out of a 'Planet of The Apes' film is in this film and without any unnecessary pandering to the audience.

Like 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' this film is more focused on the apes and further explores how they have evolved since the last film and shows the audience through subtitles and body language how they interact with each other, which is quite a risk considering half of these films are actually sub-titled, not many blockbusters would dream of trusting their audience to read. Without a doubt this film is one of the most intelligent blockbuster films in the past few years. The tone throughout this entire film is somber and foreboding as the emotion of the film is centered on Caesar's grief and anger. It's impossible to not relate to Caesar's feelings as the film presents these emotional themes clearly and in a beautiful manner which is more expected in an art-house film, but works brilliantly here with the help from Andy Serkis' powerful performance and the extremely talented CG animators (The academy really does need to consider motion capture performances). Woody Harrelson is always a reliable actor, especially in the art of menace, but with the efforts from the screenwriters, the villain he portrays is multi dimensional and frighteningly relatable.

The director Matt Reeves, is in my opinion; one of the best directors currently working in Hollywood. This film and 'Dawn' really show off Reeves' talents as a director who can combinate large scale action sequences with small emotional silence without even a slight sense of jarring. His name belongs with the likes of Christopher Nolan for creating Blockbusters which are crafted like thought provoking independent films. Not only is each shot beautifully framed, but also serves for effective symbolism which can be interpreted to religious and historic iconography, which makes me want to view it again for further analysis.

Michael Giacchino provides another fantastic score with his style of using unique and unorthodox instruments to composes his themes. The score is the backbone of all the emotion in this film and being a war film there is a lot of emotional dread and consequence, Giacchino score can make you feel the dread for the apes and the humans, as well as making you fight back the tears and every time the score can make you feel something on demand.

I have a nic-pic with this film which is to do with Steve Zahn's character 'Bad Ape' who is the comic relief of the film. While he is more complex than the average comedy relief character and is again played splendidly by Zahn, I could not help, but feel a little tired of his antics. I would not go as far to say that the character is annoying, in fact for the most part I enjoyed the character and found him amusing, but during one occasion the comedic relief became a little too much for me, but he served a good purpose as the audience I was with were getting lots of laughs from him.

'War of the Planet of the Apes' is not only one of my favorite films of the summer, but it is also one of my favorite films of the year and while I would not consider this film to be perfect, I am looking forward to seeing it again as soon as I can.

Rating: 9/10

Friday, 7 July 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Review)

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' is a superhero action film which stars Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, John Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. This film is directed by Jon Watts.

Any high expectations of a second reboot of a 15 year movie franchise are questionable, after all can audiences be still invested in a franchise which has previously failed to deliver both critically and financially? Many fans of the much beloved webslinger believe it is now in safer hands with marvel studios having creative control over the picture, rather than Sony. I can say that for the most part, the fans are correct with this assumption. This is certainly one of the better Spider-Man films (not saying much - I know)

The main reason why this improves upon the 'Amazing Spider-Man' films is because it is not trapped in the origin of Spider-Man which we are now far too accustomed to seeing, but rather presents Spider-Man/Peter Parker as an underdog hero who is trying to prove himself worthy of being a true member of the Avengers, which is far more interesting story than exploring the worn-out legacy of the character.

The film presents Peter Parker as someone who is young, ambitious and quite naive, and in that sense this film is the most accurate portrayal of the character in a movie adaptation. The relationship between Peter and Tony Stark is used to great effect as Stark is almost presented as a father figure, as Parker's goal is to gain approval from Tony Stark. Micheal Keaton is great as Vulture/Adrian Toomes. Keaton once again presents his skills to be comedic, but also menacing at the same time, similar to his performance as Ray Kroc in 'The Founder'. My only complaint is that I would of like to have seen the character developed further and have his reasoning and ideology explained earlier and more sporadically throughout the film rather than the hasty and exposistional way it was told, to me that would make the character all the more impactful and threatening.

As the title would suggest we see Peter Parker's high school life leading up to the homecoming dance, which most of the comedy is shared between his classmates and his tormentor Flash played by Tony Revolori. The humor in this film feels more natural and less self referential than other marvel films.

Overall 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' is a welcome rebirth of a troubled franchise and while I do not believe it is as strong as Sam Rami's original 'Spider-Man', it is certainly back on the right track.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 30 June 2017

Baby Driver (Review)

'Baby Driver' is a crime action film which stars Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal and Jamie Foxx. This film is written and directed by Edgar Wright.

After 4 years since 'The World's End' was released in cinemas director Edgar Wright has returned with a fast paced, referential, musical comedy film with all the greatest car chase sequences in Hollywood. At this point it is no surprise to say that an Edgar Wright film is stylish from it's first frame to it's last, so when it comes to directing car chases you can't go wrong if you have Wright. While many action scenes can feel repetitive in most films, each car chase in 'Baby Driver' is different, exciting and fresh thanks to the directors love of the genre and sheer talent for effective framing, positioning and pacing for each shot in every sequence. The soundtrack is amazing, you really can't fault it, I know it's cliche to say that something inanimate is a character itself, but the soundtrack really is a character itself, the film would not be half as interesting without it.

The performances from Ansel Elgort and Lily James are great and bring out more depth from each of their characters. The rest of the cast also turn in good performances, nothing that is a career best for any of them, but seen as they are more seasoned actors than the two main stars they will naturally have more dramatic works in their filmography, however their performances still add more to the film. My only critique of 'Baby Driver' is that I would of like to have seen some of the characters further developed and fleshed out to give them a bit more of a third dimension, while the two main characters have a good amount of depth I would of liked to have seen more from Jamie Foxx or Kevin Spacey's characters.

Overall Baby Driver has to be the most entertaining film I have seen this summer, the films pacing never lacks and each action sequence is as exciting as the last. If you want a fun filled, action packed, cinematic extravaganza without killing your brain cells, Baby Driver is for you.

Rating: 8/10

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Volhynia - Review (E.I.F.F)

Volhynia is a Polish period drama which stars Michalina Ɓabacz and
Vasyl Vasylyk. This film is directed by Wojciech Smarzowski.

Volhynia is not an easy film to review, just like it is not an easy film to watch. This film has been marketed to the UK as a war film with most of the screenshots used to advertise the film were shots from battle scenes, however I can tell you that Volhynia is not a war film, but it is certainly just as brutal as one. The film takes place during second world war in the village of Volhynia, which was a settlement by Ukrainians, Poles and Jews. Once the war breaks out the village is torn apart by violence among it's villagers as each form their own alliance and hatred towards each other.

The first two acts of the film are used to set up the rising tension between the nations and despite the film being two and a half hours long, this time is used rather well to create an understanding of multiple characters perspectives, which pay off later in the film, while it works for the end of the film the shift between character perspectives is jarring to say the least as it's difficult to understand who's story we are following and why. The editing for the majority of this film is made up of quick cuts which at first are bothersome, but once the film delved deeper into the story I felt that the off nature use of them was an intentional devise to make the events seem confusing and overbearing the perspective of the characters. The film does not shy away from the bloodshed of the savage battles, so a fair bit of warning if people are squeamish or consider yourself faint-hearted. This film puts you at the very center of the brutality in these historic events.

My only issue with this film is that the second act does feel slow and confusing as the story flips from different character perspectives which threw me off for a few minutes. Overall the film is a fascinating account of  history which I never knew about, the direction and cinematography work well as an emotional storytelling devise, the acting is of a high quality and the story while confusing at times will stay with you for a while.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 26 June 2017

Fog in August - Review (E.I.F.F)

'Fog in August' is a German drama film which stars Ivo Pietzcker, Sebastian Koch, Thomas Schubert and Fritzi Haberlandt. This film is directed by Kai Wessel.

'Fog in August' is a film about a sensitive subject which has not been explored before in mainstream cinema, this drama deals with the so-called 'euthanasia hospitals' where doctors would kill their patients who are not seen as desirable by the Nazi dictatorship. Director Kai Wessel deals with the subject in a respectful manor that is heart wrenching and hard hitting. The story of this film is tragic to say the least, especially once you have an understanding of the subject matter. The film features a powerful script with some of the best performances I have seen this year from the films cast. Similar to other holocaust films such as 'Schindler's List' and 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' the film is follows the theme of optimism in the face of the characters pessimistic world that we see through a child's eyes. The cinematography is also a highlight, the film features a brownish tint to it's colour palette which reflects the somber atmosphere of the film. Despite the story and setting of the film, there is quite a bit of humor which is integrated really well as serves for great storytelling as well as being much needed comic relief.

I believe that this film is best seen with knowing as little as possible, so I will not get into any plot details, but I will say that I have a very minor issue with 'Fog in August' which is that I believe that the story line between the main character (a young boy) and a young girl, feels slightly overused, but I understand and appreciate why it is there. Overall 'Fog In August' is a thought provoking, earth shattering film which I would highly recommend to anyone who is interested in the history of the holocaust or mental illness, nevertheless this film is sure to be effective to everyone who sees it.

Rating: 9/10

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Sweet Virginia - Review (E.I.F.F)

'Sweet Virginia' is a American/Canadian neo noir thriller film which stars Jon Bernthal, Imogen Poots and Christopher Abbott. This film is directed by Jamie M. Dagg.

Set in a rural small town in Aslaska, 'Sweet Virgina' has a feel of a Coen brothers neo noir thriller mixed with the dark controlled visual nature of a Stanley Kubrick or David Fincher film, with a hint of Cronenberg. This film is beautifully framed, director Jamie M Dragg has a clear eye for memorable and effective imagery which is not just visually appealing, but also serves has a great devise for great visual storytelling. The cinematography in this film is brilliant, the use of low lighting appears very natural, yet complements the films dark thematic tone. For the majority the characters are interesting and are fairly well written especially Elwood played by Christopher Abbott who's performance echos the eeriness of Javier Bardem in 'No Country For Old Men'.

While the characters are well developed and have a good degree of background, the problem I had with 'Sweet Virginia' is that it feels like we start the story from the middle of most of the characters arcs without the beginning of their stories unexplained, which made them become unrelatable and hard to really route for. 'Sweet Virginia' for the most part a respectable thriller film, but it's story and characters are not strong enough for it to fly above other films within the genre.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, 24 June 2017

In This Corner of the World - Review (E.I.F.F)

 'In This Corner of the World' is a anime period drama film which is directed by Sunao Katabuchi.

Based on the manga of the same name 'In This Corner of the World' follows the story of Suzu, a young woman who is quickly married and has moved from her small suburban town in Hiroshima to live with her husbands family in Kure during the second world war.

What was most unexpected from a film which started out light-hearted and fantastical is how accurately the film deals with themes of war and tragedy. While many films put their characters center stage of war and destruction, this film presents destruction from afar, which during this time in our history, it is more relevant than ever. The animation may feature less movement than Studio Ghibli's productions, however the level of detail and artistry add a lot of detail to the story. The film is very effective because of it's use of tonal pacing. The humor and dramatic elements are mixed very well and do not become too overbearing at any moment. The characters have good amount of background and depth and while some scenes can feel slightly over expositional the story is strong enough to sustain the film. My only fault with this film is the jarring nature of the first act as it seems to jump from a dream sequence to reailty, it's only a small oversight as the rest of the film was is executed tremendously.

Rating: 8/10

War for the Planet of the Apes (Review)

'War for the Planet of the Apes' is the third installment of the rebooted science fiction franchise Planet of the Apes. This film ...