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

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

It Comes at Night (Review)

'It Comes at Night' is a psychological horror/thriller film which stars Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Kevin Harrison Jr. and Riley Keough. This film is written and directed by Trey Edward Shults.

In the same category of recent art house horror's The Babadook and The Witch, 'It Comes at Night' is not a straight cut, carnival fear horror, but instead a quiet psychological thriller that creeps it's way into our fears of intimacy and betrayal. The film features brilliant performances from it's small cast, particularly Kevin Harrison Jr who's performances as teenage son 'Travis' feels complete natural despite the high emotion stakes and terror throughout the film. I loved the way Trey Edward Shults directed this film. The shots were controlled and were used to create effect to not only convey atmosphere, but also information, which is vital for the characters in this film as well as the audience.  The music is this film is striking and quite unexpected considering the story and genre of the film, but yet fits perfectly to add the the pulsating unease throughout the film.

Overall 'It Comes at Night' may not be the creature feature horror film that many were expected, but it's a film that's not only gripping and entertaining, but it is also a film worth studying for aspiring filmmakers wanting to do a thriller film in a small space.

Rating: 8/10

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

Mother! (Review)

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