Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Alien: Covenant (Review)

'Alien: Covenant' is a science fiction horror film which stars Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup and Danny McBride. This film is directed by Ridley Scott.

Ridley Scott returns once again to the Alien franchise with the second prequel installments which is a hybrid story which connects Prometheus to the earlier Alien films. Reactions were mixed with 'Prometheus' however myself enjoyed the film while acknowledging it's flaws. 'Alien: Covenant' is exciting for most audiences because it's more familiar to Scott's beloved 1979 original Alien. 
So here's the deal with 'Alien: Covenant' The dialogue is very exposition and the characters are quite boring, but the visuals and thematic elements are the best parts. Ridley Scott creates a visual intensity that is hard to forget, This film is one of the most beautifully shot films of the year. Micheal Fassbinder's character becomes more developed which is always interesting. A decent film, but I actually prefer Prometheus by a very small amount. certainly better than Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection, but nowhere near as good as the original. The film has one of the better stories of the alien films, however sometimes the scope of the story gets in the way of the small corridor horror of the first alien film or the straight forward hard hitting action of Aliens, yet it's a good story which has a great conclusion. In some ways the pacing of this film reminded me of 'Rouge One', the first two acts are slow and rather dull, but the third act kicks the story into gear and leaves the audience on a high note, so while you will leave Alien Covenant satisfied you have to sit through about 90 minutes of 'meh'.

If you have high exceptions for this film you will most likely be disappointing, however if you are willing to be patient then the film has many interesting and thought provoking ideas as well as recreating some of the excitement of the first two Alien films, but not quite matching it.


Rating: 6/10





Sunday, 2 April 2017

Free Fire (Review)

'Free Fire' is a crime comedy film which stars Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer and Michael Smiley. This film is directed by Ben Wheatley.

Sharp suits, but not so sharp shooters, 'Free Fire' is another entry into Ben Wheatley's cannon of pitch black comedy's. The set up of Free Fire is nothing new and the sound of the premise will probably make film buffs shrug their shoulders and say "I'd rather just watch reservoir dogs", but despite the obvious similarities, Free Fire still manages to surprise me with it's quick wit and creative action. The idea of making a film such as Free Fire sounds simple enough, however the way Wheatley directs and the style of Amy Jump's rapid fire dialog keeps you invested in the story and characters through 90 minutes of sheer gunfire.

The characters in this film are thoroughly entertaining to watch, the highlight performance from Sharlto Copley as the eccentric gun salesman Vernon is hilarious from the moment he walks on-screen. Other great performances from Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Sam Riley along with the rest of the cast provide brilliant comedic chemistry. The score from Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow is also surprising and unconventional for the style of music that they use, but yet still somehow works perfectly for this film. For a film which is set in one location pacing is very important and for the majority of the film's runtime it is executed well, however there is a slight few moments here and there which felt a little null. One of the few minor problems I have is the ending, it works well, but it felt quite predictable and I hoped for something a little more exciting and unconventional.

Overall 'Free Fire' is a film which may not aim high, but it shoots on target and will prove to be one of the funniest films you will see all year. 'Free Fire' comes highly recommended.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 31 March 2017

Ghost in the Shell (2017 - Review)

'Ghost in the Shell' is an American remake of the sci-fi action anime film of the same name. This film stars Scarlett Johansson, Micheal Pitt, Pilou Asbæk and Juliette Binoche. This film is directed by Rupert Sanders.

Going in with a complete blank slate, I had no reservations or any anticipation for this film, largely due to never seeing the 1995 original. What this version of Ghost in the Shell does very well is creating visuals which seem to pop out of an anime and into live action. The cinematography and set design truly is gorgeous. This film is likely to have taken visuals queues from Blade Runner for the films neon drenched aesthetic. Another thing to note from the technical side is the film's direction, which is quite impressive, taking in mind the restrictions of making 12A friendly action scenes, without using jarring quick cuts or shaky cam, although these days that thankfully seems to be a thing of the past. The synth/orchestral score from Clint Mansell is another impressive work to add to his long line of superior movie soundtracks.

Aside from the visuals the rest of the film works fine, but that is the main criticism I have with this film, it reaches it's peak halfway through and seems to decline in excitement during the second half of the film, to give some credit, it feels fast and ends before you know it, but at the same time that maybe the problem why the second act is less interesting, because the second act focuses on character, when the first act doesn't. When your halfway through a movie it's quite a bit harder for an audience to suddenly start caring for the characters once the action is over.

I admire the filmmakers ambition in making a film which is loud, big and somewhat action packed (first half) while still giving time to focus on the characters and the deeper themes within the context of the story. For the majority of the attempts at adding a third dimension to the main character 'Major'  the film succeeds, however it feels rushed and over expositional at times. Overall 'Ghost in the Shell' is a film that's worth seeing for it's impressive visuals and music, however I would personally not say this is a film you must rush to go out and see.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Lost City of Z (Review)

'The Lost City of Z' is an Adventure drama bio-topic film which stars Charlie Humnam, Robert Patterson and Sienna Miller. This film is directed by James Gray.

'Lost City of Z' is a film which after viewing it you wonder why it hasn't received much attention. The film follows the grand story of explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest to find the ancient lost city of "Z". For a film of such a large scale it's interesting to see how it's been advertised as more of an indie film, this maybe because of the film's advertisers want to cash in on the film's critical praise, it maybe because the film is too old fashioned for modern audiences to become interested in, however this film for better or worse has the feel of a 60s/70s film and if this film was released back in that period it would have certainly been sold as an epic adventure film.

The most obvious aspect to praise "The Lost City of Z" for is it's impressive visuals. Shot on 35mm film by cinematographer Darius Khondji, the film is undeniably beautiful and has a warm feeling in it's visuals which feel lost in today's age digital photography. The casting of this film appears to be quite unusual however it pays off as all of the actors give commendable performances. The score for this film is also impressive and stands out from other recent large scale films. The characters have a good amount of development and the main character played by Charlie Hunnam avoids being the black slate, uninteresting Mary Sue-type character, which is the vain of a lot of lead characters in action/adventure films. While giving time to reflect it is clearer to understanding why this film is not receiving a great deal of advertising, for one the film is targeted at adults because of the focus on the drama and conflict between the protagonists work and family. 'The Lost City of Z' also has a long runtime of 140 minutes (2hrs and 20 minutes) and is for the most part a slow paced affair, however I was never bored and didn't feel the weight of the films runtime because of the realised scale of the story. The only problem I have with 'The Lost City of Z' is that the main characters never seem to age despite the film taking place in a time span of 20 years, apart from that this is a film which is definitively worth seeing if you prefer the old school style of filmmaking.

Rating: 8/10


Friday, 24 March 2017

Life (Review)

'Life' is a sci-fi horror film which stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds. This film is directed by Daniel Espinosa.

Bringing back the straight forward 70s thrills of Alien with a new modern identity 'Life' is firmly slotted into the sci-fi horror genre while providing the intelligence that makes the film's central ideas interesting without being pretentious or pulling any punches with the horror aspects of the film. The most common complaint that I have heard about this film is that it is too familiar to Alien, although I agree this film takes a lot of inspiration from Alien it manages to create a story of it's own without fully depending on the built in expectation of that film.

The Alien in this film which is named 'Calvin' is one of the most terrifying creatures put on screen, without spoiling this film, it is not the appearance of this creature which is the most frightening. Daniel Espinosa establishes the film with long tracking camera movements that seem to float in zero gravity, similar to the 2013 sci-fi film Gravity. The use of floating and sweeping camera movements are a great way of communicating the unpredictable and unavoidable events which the characters will inevitably face. One of the ways the film progresses from previous films of the genre is the reasoning towards the characters choices and actions, the characters in this film make smart, rational decisions unlike characters in a stereotypical horror movie.

The performances in the film are of a good standard, the actors give it their all and while the film has an acceptable amount of character development, there could have been room for a little more, especially when it comes to the more emotional scenes, aside from that 'Life' is a film which may not live up to the heights of 'Alien' or any other sci-fi masterpiece, but it is simply entertaining from start to finish and is sure to be a film which most sci-fi and horror fans will at least appreciate.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, 27 February 2017

The Founder (Review)

'The Founder' is a biographical drama film which stars Micheal Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch and Laura Dern. This film is directed by John Lee Hancock.

John Lee Hancock is familiar with bibliographical films about ambitious business men and their struggles over power, with his previous film 'Saving Mr Banks' being based around Walt Disney and P.L. Travers' rocky relationship during the production of Mary Poppins. With this experience John Lee Hancock once a again provides a perfectly solid and thoroughly entertaining film. Micheal Keaton shines once again in another great performances to his current 'renaissance' career. Hancock with cinematographer John Schwartzman create a warm colour pallet which reflex's the simple times of yesteryear, which is always charming to watch. Unsurprisingly Keaton gives another charismatic performance as the optimistic, but sometimes ruthless protagonist.

Other performances from actors such as Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch also provide the film more dramatic ammo than one might expect from the advertised light-hearted comedy drama.

Overall The Founder is not a film which breaks any new ground, but it is a film which is good-natured, thoroughly entertaining and surprisingly more dramatic than you would expect.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 25 February 2017

A Cure For Wellness (Review)

'A Cure For Wellness' is a psychological thriller which stars Dane DeHann, Jason Isaacs and Mia Goth. This film is directed by Gore Verbinski.

A film like 'A Cure For Wellness' is not an easy sell to most audiences, but because of some cleaver viral marketing and the story's familiarity with 2010's 'Shutter Island' the hype has become quite strong for a mainstream film as unconventional as this, perhaps in this era of film, people want change, but does change result in a good film?

According to a majority of film critics it doesn't in this instant, but I for one enjoyed 'A Cure For Wellness' much more than I expected to. Gore Verbinski has never struck me before as a visionary, but more of a director for hire. This film proves I have misjudged him, this film is visually striking and provocative, echoing Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining". The film takes advantage of the hospitals setting which is located in the Alps, even though some of the visual imagery is clearly CG, the constant unsettling tone of the story make those images all the more disturbing and though provoking.

The performances in this film from Dane DeHann, Jason Isaacs and Mia Goth are all worth highlighting. Dane DeHann proves himself as a leading man for a film which questions it's main character. Jason Issacs unsurprisingly turns in another chilling performance and Mia Goth brings hope as a future leading actor.

As for the pacing, the first act of this film is brilliant, it's tense, engaging and menacing, during the second act there is a slight slumber, but things pick up as the film begins to evoke it's nasty side. The third act of the film is troublesome, while some plot points come together well, some others don't. There is a reveal towards the end, which did not make much sense for me. There are a few genre cliches here and there which are there to make the film more commercial, for the most part they work well and are not exploitative, but they can feel unnecessary in the grander scheme of the film.

Overall 'A Cure For Wellness' is a film which is worth seeing because of it's tone, visuals, story and performances. While this film is certainly not for everyone, it's themes and ideas could certainly resonate with a smaller audience which may lead the film to become a future cult classic.

Rating: 7/10


Alien: Covenant (Review)

'Alien: Covenant' is a science fiction horror film which stars Michael Fassbender,  Katherine Waterston,  Billy Crudup and Danny M...