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


Monday, 20 February 2017

20th Century Women (Review)

20th Century Women is an independent period drama film which stars Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann and Billy Crudup.

Set in the late 1970's, '20th century women' studies the counter culture of the era and the coming of age story of a teenage boy discovering how to become an individual man. Good-natured without being too sentimental '20th century women' is a film which places idealism and philosophy front and center while still remaining characters which still feel realistic and natural.

For a drama film which is nominated for the Oscars it's surprising that none of the performances here are nominated. Annette Bening shines as the impulsive single mother Dorothea Fields. She is perfectly cast in this role as sells every minute of comedy and drama the character has to offer. Elle Fanning turns in another good performance to her rapidly growing filmography. Newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann gives a great and honest performances as the films lead. One of my favorite and the most surprising aspects of this film for me was the cultural setting of the punk scene which grew in California at that time. The film stars with the first wave of punk and continues through the new wave and hardcore punk scenes. As someone who is interested in the history of punk it was not only a nice feature, but also accurately presented the youth culture of the time which is crucial for a coming of age story.

Despite the strength of the performances and writing I felt that the second act of the film dragged and became too repetitive, which made the film longer than I believe it needed to be.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, 17 February 2017

Fences (Review)

'Fences' is a period drama film which stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. This film is also directed by Denzel Washington.

Adapted from the 1980's Broadway play of the same name 'Fences' has been a long time passion project for Denzel Washington. The revival broadway cast return with Washington helming the directors chair. The choice to cast actors who have performed this play was wise because they have a lot of experience with the screenplay which is clearly present when seeing the drama on-screen. Unsurprisingly Denzel Washington and Viola Davis give brilliant performances, as do the entire cast, which is impressive when considering the huge amount of dialog in the film, but when you've done this story over 100 times you can only get better. The dialog is compelling and is filled with character.

To adapt the play into a cinematic form, the film opens the world that the characters live in, instead of just being set in the backyard of the family house, the film shows us the streets of pittsburgh which works well for the films opening, however the film spends time establishing the world of the characters into the second act which feels unnecessary and does slightly ruin the pacing of the film for me.  My only other compliant is that the ending to the film is a bit over the top with it's themes. Overall Fences is drama film which is worth viewing for any fan of film or literature because of it's script and acting.

Rating: 8/10

Moonlight (Review)

'Moonlight' is an independent drama film which stars Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali. This film is written and directed by Barry Jenkins.

Based on the poem "In The Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" by Tarell Alvin McCraney, 'Moonlight is a film which really is indescribable. While some critics and audiences have viewed it as a film about prejudice, I myself saw it as a film about guilt and forgiveness.

 The main character Chiron tries to find a place in his life where he belongs as throughout the film we see his life develop from when he was a child, a teenager and then a fully grown adult. This film is open to interpretation, there are no clear themes which shadow over the story. By doing this Jenkins makes the film more of a social realism film than a heightened drama, although because of his confidence in his visual storytelling the film also crosses over into a more art-house style of filmmaking. While at first this sort of style felt jarring, it began to make more sense as the film progressed and by the end I felt that the techniques Jenkins used for the film greatly benefited the film.

The film is also gains strong support from it's cast. The leading role was perfectly portrayed by all of the three actors, to play a main character which hardly speaks and yet is the emotional core of the film is not an easy task for most actors yet alone these actors are all new to screen acting, it's an achievement for them and it's an achievement for Jenkins direction. The more seasoned supporting actors such as Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris also give great performances which has deservedly drawn attention from this years awards season. Andre Holland gives a brilliant performances as Kevin, Chiron's long-time best friend.

Overall 'Moonlight' is a passionate and a truly emotional thought provoking film, which may be interpreted is many ways, but it will always open the door for discussion, which is what cinema is all about and while I can interpret the film in my own way, I don't feel I am doing it justice, to have any understanding of Barry Jenkins latest film you just have to cancel out the noise at watch it for yourself.

Rating: 10/10

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Lego Batman Movie (Review)

'The Lego Batman Movie' is a animated comedy film which stars Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson, Micheal Cera and Ralph Fiennes. This film is directed by Chris McKay.

Perhaps more anticipated than it should be, The Lego Batman Movie brings us the return of Will Arnett's fan favorite interpretation of Batman from 2014's hit 'The Lego Movie'. Keeping with the colorful stop motion-like animation of The Lego Movie this film once again shows off the talents of the animators, each scene feels detailed and thoroughly designed. While some people will focus on how this film makes jokes about the current DC extended universe, it is worth noting the jokes also thrown at Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, there was one which I found particular amusing during the opening credits. The writers and filmmakers sure have a love for the batman franchise as references are made from every corner of Batman history.

While the story of this film is admittedly similar to 'The Lego Movie' I found to enjoy it more because of the films more reduced world which is for the most part only set in Gotham so there is less world building for the audience to sit through and as a spin off to a recent film, that's how it should be. I was entertained throughout the majority of this film and found most of the humour to be funny. The main issue for me was that there was too much humour and not enough narrative stakes and although going in to 'The Lego Batman Movie' you should expect many references to Batman and other superhero films I think that a little too much of the humour relied on those pop culture references. Overall The Lego Batman Movie doesn't break any new ground, but it's an entertaining and humour filled film that's is certainly worth watching if your a Batman fan.

Rating: 7/10