Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Battle of the Sexes (Review)

'Battle of the Sexes' is a sports drama starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell. This film is directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

Sports and gender politics are consistently changing and evolving in today's world, but in the early 70's a more radical change was made with the 1973 tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King dubbed 'The Battle of the Sexes'.

As a biographical drama 'Battle of the Sexes' ticks all the boxes you would expect. It establishes it's main two characters background, it highlights the journey of their rivalry and it makes timely comparisons to today's society. From the outlook it looks like it's easy to make a story like this one, but in actual fact a story likes this puts a lot of pressure on the actors to deliver their characters drive and that's where Emma Stone and Steve Carell really shine. Emma Stone's performance is easily the best aspect of this film, despite the wig and glasses her performance was a lot less theatrical than I was expecting and found a good balance between subtlety and charisma.

The penultimate tennis match is quite a thrilling moment to watch, the way Dayton and Faris directed and shot this scene in particular was simplistic, but it was all the better for it. Although the film has great performances and is well directed, some of the writing has room for improvement. Some of the dialog is feels sappy and heavy handed when the film wants to discuss it's themes. The film also feels a little too long, during the second act there were moments where I could feel myself losing interest.

Overall, 'The Battle of the Sexes' is a film which is made with a lot of heart, and while some of that feels over the top, most of that passion for this story pays off.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Good Time (Review)

'Good Time' is a crime thriller which stars 
Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Ben Safdie. This film is directed by Ben and Josh Safdie.

Pumped up pacing and sheer drive make 'Good Time' one of the most punchy thrillers of the year. In similar nature to 2014's 'John Wick', Good Time's narrative is a straight forward, but clears the runway for a film which feels out of control but has a clear grip on what makes a compelling narrative.

This film features a head turning performance from Robert Pattinson, proving he has the talents of great  chameleon actors of recent cinema, such as Joel Edgerton and Gary Oldman. This type of chameleon acting is rare for his generation of screen actors and this performance stands out because of Pattinson's efforts. Co-director Ben Safdie also gives a earnest performances as Nick Nikas, the main characters brother who suffers from autism.

The electronic and eccentric soundtrack provide the film with a cool sheen and electric pulse, certainly one of the most memorable soundtracks of the year.
My Only flaw with this film is that Taliah Webster's character Crystal feels underdeveloped and is used as more of a plot device rather than a memorable character.

'Good Time' is a film which is has a speedy pace and a straight forward narrative, with impressive visuals and music to boot. The performances lift this way above your standard crime thriller and as for as the overall package, the film is an engaging ride for viewing as an audience and is a good piece of filmmaking for the more analytical sort.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 17 November 2017

The Florida Project (Review)

'The Florida Project' is a independent drama film which stars William Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite. This film is directed by Sean Baker.

Florida is becoming a new hot spot of american indie film settings, recent films such as 99 Homes and Moonlight have used this location to explore the poverty side of the state we rarely see. The Florida Project is set in Kissimmee, Florida, just outside of the 'Walt Disney World Resort', this film is named after the original title of the development plan for Walt Disney World, the film like the title plays on the absurdity of tourism mixing with the poverty of the underprivileged who reside there.

This film is not the charming, happy go lucky indie film it was advertised to be, but it is rather a brief, but realistic look at the lives of children living in deprived areas, such as long stay motels and hosing projects. The film uses colour for two dramatic uses, one is to portray the juxtaposed dream like setting the characters live in and it's effectively used as a device to see the world through a child's eyes.

'The Florida Project' is not an easy watch, the first 30 minutes are hard to sit through because none of the characters seem likable, however it's to the film's strength that because of the well written and detailed character arcs you begin to sympathise with them later on in the film.

The performances from new comers Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinaite are brilliantly natural and feel completely earnest and heartfelt. William Defoe provides another excellent charismatic performance. All the performances in this film are a testament to Sean Baker's talents as a "actor's director".

Overall, 'The Florida Project' is a well written, beautifully shot and terrifically cast film which mostly hits the mark, but can sometimes become too distracted by itself to create the amount of impact it desires.

Rating: 7/10

Justice League (Review)

'Justice League' is a superhero action film which stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher and Henry Cavill. This film is directed by Zack Snyder.

Like many superhero films, Justice League has been the subject of much anticipation and dread. Each exciting news released is soon met with a red label warning of how much of a mess it will be. It's no secret that DC had been struggling with critics and audiences alike, but public opinion has since changed with this year's 'Wonder Woman', so naturally people are split whether to be excited about this or dread it's release it multiplexes everywhere.

The truth is that this film feel a lot more balanced than one would expect, whether it be a positive or negative aspect of the film, the tone is always consistent which is what my largest worry was. The 2 hour run time seems very restrictive for a film of this scale, yet this works both as a blessing and a curse, the positive is that the film is fast paced and each scene feels urgent and essential, yet with a rushed narrative which spends too little building character development. At first when I saw 'BVS' I felt that the world building and visual effects were bad because they didn't look realistic, but watching this film, with it's lighter tone the world fits in naturally with the story that is being presented.

As far as the characters are concerned Batman, Wonder Woman and Flash are fleshed out the most, Aquaman has some good scenes, but it's Cyborg who is stuck without much meaningful and memorable dialog, but he's given heavy exposition to explain who he is. As a team, the characters play well off each other and provide the film with some of it's best scenes. The performances are of a good and memorable quality especially from the likes of Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller. The action sequences are very fun to watch because they dial them up to 11 here, if you want realism, you won't find it in this film, but for the type of film it is, it's all the better for it. Most surprising of all is that despite the amount of time Superman is on-screen, he is far more interesting to watch then he is in previous DC installments.

Overall, 'Justice League' is not a runaway success and is problematic, but yet this film doesn't feel like a hot mess unlike 'BVS' and 'Suicide Squad', it's an entertaining film which is serviceable, but disposable, but it was a fairly enjoyable watch nevertheless.

Rating: 6/10

Friday, 3 November 2017

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Review)

'The Killing of a Sacred Deer' is a art-house horror drama which stars Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman. This film is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

Yorgos Lanthimos' follow up to his critically acalimed 'The Lobster' follows the same abusdise and nightmare driven pitch black comedy which makes his work stand out. In laymen's terms Lanthimos films are weird, The take turns you wouldn't expect, they are uncompromising, and times you are thrilled and in awe with what you see on screen, other times you feel personally sickened and provoked. This director certainly hasn't sold out on his creativity because I felt all of these emotions watching this.

Each moment of this film changed my perspective on it, there was a scene I loved followed by a scene that repelled me. It felt earnest and utterly pretentious at the same time.

The cast deliver great performances with thematically and tonally challenging material and the film benefits from it's haunting slow pace.

'The Killing of a Sacred Deer' can be a hard film to get your head around, some of it was engaging and effective, other parts felt boring and self satisfied, but overall I give credit to a film to make me feel something and to provoke and manipulate multiple emotions from me.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 30 October 2017

The Death of Stalin (Review)

'The Death of Stalin' is a satirical black comedy film which stars Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend and Jason Isaacs. This film is directed by Armando Iannucci.

In the same fashion as films such as 'Dr. Strangelove' and Iannucci's own "In the Loop", 'The Death of Stalin' takes dark subject matter and turns it on it's head with slick dry comedy and a pitch black sense of humour. The film is held first and foremost by the brilliant comedic forces of it's actors. The talented performances in this film are first rate, each actor is remarkably skilled at bringing out the most humour without becoming too broad or over theatrical. Steve Buscemi gives one of his best performances in recent memory as the quick talking, weasely, but manipulative First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev. Jason Isaacs plays Georgy Zhukov in an unexpected, but priceless performance as a masculine no-nonsense northerner.

If you were expecting a historically and culturally accurate film, then you maybe confused as to why all the Russian characters have distinctive British and American accents, once you start to settle into the tone of the film you begin to understand why director Armando Iannucci has made this decision. In terms of tone it feels like a mix between 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' and 'House of Cards' as odd as a mix that sounds it works excellently to create the absurd world that is satirising one not too dissimilar.

The writing, performances and direction make 'The Death of Stalin' a film which whatever your political opinion maybe, laugh at the flawed and desperate nature of the characters, which we can all relate to in one way or another. While I don't have any real criticisms of the film, the film does not leave you on a high note, which is hard to complain about because of the subject matter, but for a comedy, despite all the laughs, the ending did make me feel quite low, however I think on multiple viewings I may grow to like it more.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 27 October 2017

Thor: Ragnarok (Review)

'Thor: Ragnarok' is a superhero fantasy film which stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett and Mark Ruffalo. This film is directed by Taika Waititi.

Any competition is already green with envy with the early success of this new chapter of the MCU cannon. Marvel knew that their new superhero film would need a little something special to compete with DC's upcoming Justice League and that is to dial the style up to eleven by hiring New Zealand director Taika Waititi, his zany flair was a sure fire guarantee for some needed originality.

To my surprise and admitted disappointment, the film was not as visually crazy as it was marketed to be, the film certainly has it's eye catching moments of style, but despite the hype, Marvel has already made more visually captivating films with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The main different between this film and the other Marvel film's is that it plays as more of a comedy than previous avengers related films, for the most part it's successful in creating an amusing and entertaining story with a good amount of character development for it's main characters. For me the highlight is seeing Thor and Hulk/Bruce Banner conversing with each other, Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo have a good comedic chemistry between each other which makes the characters all the more human, despite their characters god-like capabilities.

If some of you were hoping for a compelling villain then turn away because you won't find one here. Although Cate Blanchett tries here best at hamming up her performance, the writing is just not there for her to play a villain that you are interested in, plus the fact that each opportunity for her to be threatening is bundled because the film is pushing the humour as far as it can go, even in places were it hurts the tone.

 Overall 'Thor: Ragnarok' is a film which fits in slightly above average marvel fare with fun moments, good pacing, but again another weak villain. it's well made fun and uplifting entertainment, but it's a film which I doubt I'll remember in the future.

Rating: 7/10

Jigsaw (Review)

'Jigsaw' is a horror film and is the 8th installment to the 'Saw' franchise. This film stars Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, and Hannah Emily Anderson. This film is directed by the Spierig Brothers.

After a 7 year break the 'Saw' franchise is back with a  sequel which plans to revitalise the franchise into a new era. While no one seems to be excited for this new era, I went in with an open mind and I felt quite excited about seeing the Jigsaw killer return to cinemas, mostly because mainstream horror films have focused more on the supernatural side rather than violent homicidal maniacs and to be honest I prefer my horror films to be about the latter.

From my critical stand point 'Jigsaw' is not a good film. It's writing is clumsy, the acting is sub-par and the story, while admittedly makes more of an effort than previous saw films, it eventually becomes a quite convoluted and cartoonish.

With that being said though, if you know what your expectations should be from the saw sequels then you'll probably have a good time. The pacing is good, the traps are fun in a blood-lust sort of way and are more plausible than in previous films (except the first). The music works well and the production is fairly impressive. Above all though, the filmmakers actually tried to make something a little different and I think praise should be given, although not all of it sticks there a some ideas in there which are put to effective use. The film has a sense of self awareness and dark humour that the other ones lack and while I usually find postmodernism to be forced and annoying in recent films, I felt that the film really needed it to make the experience more enjoyable.

Overall it's not, from a critical stand point 'a good movie', but it's one of the better installments from the franchise (the best since Saw II) and despite it's flaws I found it to be enjoyable and entertaining.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (Review)

'Blade Runner 2049' is a Neo-Noir Science Fiction film which is also a sequel of the 1982 film 'Blade Runner'. This film stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford and is directed by Denis Villeneuve.

Every person I know who is a sci-fi nerd has seen Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, it's become a right of passage viewing for anyone wanting to make a science fiction film. I for one felt underwhelmed by it, again like many films it felt over-hyped for me. I loved the visuals and atmosphere, but I wasn't as engaged in the story.

Now the sequel is finally here and the buzz is almost deafening, which is why I avoided all reviews before seeing this film. Denies Villeneuve is one of the most praised filmmakers in Hollywood right now and rightly so, with the likes of 'Arrival' and 'Sicario' to name a few, he has made some of the most intelligent blockbusters of recent memory, multiply him with the talents of Ryan Gosling, returning Harrison Ford, a Hans Zimmer score and the cinematography of Rodger Deakins? I'm in.

This film is visually astonishing and I don't use that word lightly. Deakins cinematography is so good that it's hard to even believe a human being can achieve it. The use of colour, the use of shadow and the framing not only looks impeccable, but also fits the atmosphere beautifully. Deakins, Villeneuve and Zimmer are all working at the top of their craft, creating one of the most atmospheric films to date. The visual effects are some of the most impressive you will see in any film, it's honestly outstanding. I could not even tell you most of what is practical and what is CG in this film. The best asset this film has is the display of pure talent that from it's filmmakers.

However, despite the impressive technical aspects of the film I found it quite hard to engage in the story of the film, there are points in the story which completely drew me in, however more often than not I felt uninterested in the events going on. This may be due to the films pacing, as the film has to do a balancing act between the story, themes and characters. If the film had a simpler story, but had a larger focus of the themes and characters then I feel like I would be more engaged. The film does make a good effort to be more thematic and character based in the second half, which is the parts of the story I felt more engaged in, however I wish the film was almost entirely thematic and ditched the heavy handed plot. I know that wouldn't please most people, but for me it's difficult to be invested in a plot which feels rather uneven.

Overall Blade Runner is a sequel that I mostly enjoyed and think clearly succeeds as it is true to the original, while exploring it's world further. For me I like it as much as the first. Both films I have a lot of respect and admiration for, however I am not blown away by either of them. Underwhelming? maybe, but very far removed from disappointing.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Victoria & Abdul (Review)

'Victoria & Abdul' is a British biographical period comedy drama which stars Judi Dench and Ali Fazal. This film is directed by Stephen Frears.

Living in a country with a proud history of monarchs it's no surprise that a film about one of the most celebrated is so heavily advertised, especially when the film stars Dame Judi Dench in the title role. From the advertising the film looks like a standard Oscar baitey bio-topic drama, however underneath the surface lies one of the best comedy films of the year. This film while dealing which some emotional topics has a good sense of witty humour threaded thoughout the film, which just makes this movie not only more enjoyable, but also more touching because through the humour the characters feel more humble and endearing.

It comes at no surprise that Judi Dench gives a fantastic performance as Queen Victoria, her performance felt more subtle that I believed it would be. Ali Fazel has the most weight on his shoulders as his character is the one who carries the story and he achieves it with the prowess of a true leading actor. The film features other note-worthy performances from the likes of Eddie Izzard as the spiteful and pompous Bertie Prince of Wales and the comedic acting talents of Adeel Akhtar.

Overall, Victoria & Abdul is a story which will connect with most people and is executed well in the process. The film does play it safe when dealing with the history, however as a character study I believe it is engaging. Victoria & Abdul won't be the most effective film you will see this year, but it could be one of the most charming. All in all, it's a perfect Sunday film.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 22 September 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Review)

'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' is a action spy comedy film which stars Taron Egerton,  Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal and Julianne Moore. This film is directed by Matthew Vaughn.

After the success of the first Kingsman, Matthew Vaughn is back witch a second installment to a rapidly growing franchise. Kingsman, like a lot of 2010 films takes a meta stance on it's genre. Similar to 2014's '22 Jump Street' the film takes pride in it's tongue and cheek approach of doubling everything down, a self aware parody of what most sequels do. As easy as that sounds it's hard to actually surprise anyone anymore, with the new age of cinema goers obsessed with budgets, box office and rotten tomatoes people already know what to expected before going in.

'The Golden Circle does achieve in making this sequel interesting with the likes of Julianne Moore's character and it's wider world scenarios, however while the film still has a good sense of comedy and is well paced, you can't help but feel you are treading through a familiar territory and that to a film which is 30 minutes longer than it needed to be than you are left with a satisfactory sequel to a surprisingly strong first entry into this comedy spy franchise.

Rating: 6/10

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 Skarsgård, 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's 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

Friday, 25 August 2017

Detroit (Review)

'Detroit' is a period crime drama which stars John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith and Jacob Latimore. This film is directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

'Detroit' stands tall as one of the best period dramas of the year. Although the film has a lengthy 143 minute runtime each scene is engaging as the last thanks to Bigelow's direction and Mark Boal powerful script and not least of all to the intense performances from the films talented cast, the highlight being Will Poulter who plays the violent, hateful and vicious cop Philip Krauss. The dread fueled motel scene is more terrifying than most horror films, due to the power of Will Poulter's demanding performance.

The film feels realistic and captivating due to Barry Ackroyd's excellent documentation-like cinematography. The score and soundtrack are another effective device into engaging us into the danger that surrounds the characters, like them you fear about what will happen next.

'Detroit' is a very powerful film indeed, Brilliantly written, directed and performed. It's honest about a sensitive subject matter, and is brave enough to accurately portray the atmosphere of turbulent times. Whether you want to draw modern day parallels, or you agree or disagree with the films politics, you have to admit that the film feels real, for a film like this, that's what really matters.

Rating: 10/10

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

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Okja (Review)

'Okja' is a Korean/American sci-fi adventure film which stars Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Lily Collins and Jake Gyllenhaal. This film is directed by Bong Joon Ho.

Joining the cannon of Netflix's original films, Okja is a film which doesn't seem to target any audience, but is reaching out to the widest audience possible at the same time. This film seems to cross many genres and tones throughout each act the positive effect of this it that the film surprises you at each turn, while the narrative of the story is nothing new, the premise is quite original and interesting. The performances are very hit and miss as the actors eat up the scenery with wacky and sociopathic characters.
This film is for a lack of a better term, 'A Mixed Bag' the storytelling and themes are compelling, but the tone of the film is all over the place and it can be hard to focus despite all the filmmakers best efforts.

Rating: 6/10

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 Łabacz 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 as 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

Friday, 23 June 2017

God's Own Country - Review (E.I.F.F)

God's Own Country is a British romantic drama film which stars Josh O' Connor and Alex Secareanu. This film is directed by Francis Lee.

The opening film of the Edinburgh Film Festival presents the cold, un-glamorous and brutal environment of the Yorkshire pennines as the backdrop for a romance between two men who work on a farm. One of the first things to note about this film is how the two men interact with each other. The relationship does not feel romantic, but there is certainly a lot of understated emotion. Francis Lee does a good job of crafting the harsh and unsympathetic world the characters live, which creates an understanding of their desperate, self destructing methods of escapism. The performances from the main two leads Josh O'Connor and Alex Secareanu are the highlight of the film, their performances felt natural and powerfully portrayed characters who don't have emotional outlets, if in the hands of another director or other actors the performances could of easily been hammy or over emotional.

For the first half of the film I was taken aback by how gritty and realistic the film presented it's characters and the how the film explored the theme of love without emotion as the characters felt vulnerable sharing there emotions not just to everyone else, but each other as well, unfortunately the second half of the film falls into a predictable pit as each act feels like it's rushing to get to the next, for a film with an unconventional start it was frustrating to see it conform into a heightened romantic drama that feels repetitive all too often.

Overall God's Own Country is a thoughtful study of an understated relationship through a cold and foreboding environment, but the film cannot be saved from it's cliche story and it's repetitive narrative.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, 12 June 2017

My Cousin Rachel (Review)

'My Cousin Rachel' is a mystery period drama film which stars Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin. This film is directed by Roger Michell.

It's apparent that the old costume drama mystery is not dead with Roger Michell's latest film. The set up for this film and execution of this film is very traditional in terms of the genre and film making which serves as both of my praises and criticisms of 'My Cousin Rachel'. One of the most impressive and praiseworthy aspects of the film is the way it is beautiful framed and the use of bright contrasts used by cinematographer Mike Eley. The film is also well acted with the highlight performance from Rachel Wise which almost feels like a double performance because of her character Rachel Ashley's questionable behavior. Sam Claflin's performance as Phillip for the most part serves the film well but at some point it felt quite hammy and over theatrical. The film is advertised as a horror/thriller film, which without spoiling too much, it really isn't one at all, it's easy to dismiss the film because of the disappointment of the film delivering the thrills you were expecting. The main problem for this film for me was the way the story was told, it felt like it had a whole lot of potential, but the film always took the safe and predictable route leaving me unsatisfied, not mad or upset, but just unsatisfied of how exciting or thought provoking this film could have been.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, 5 June 2017

Wonder Woman (Review)

'Wonder Woman' is a superhero action film which stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright and David Thewlis. This film is directed by Patty Jenkins.

It's no secret that the DC Extended Universe is struggling. The first three installments of the franchise (Man Of Steel, BVS and Suicide Squad) received less than mixed reviews from critics and fans alike, Fortunately Wonder Woman has broken the curse and provided the franchise with it's first competent, fulfilling and overall good movie ... who would have thought?

One of the first things to note is Gal Gadot's performance as the titular character, for me it's no question now that she was the perfect casting choice, Gadot brings the character to life on the big screen with charm, charisma and a whole lot of energy. The supporting cast also turn in good performances to support the star all being helped by the strong origin story, Chris Pine is naturally charismatic when he is on screen as the somewhat pessimistic, but always likable Captain Steve Trevor. Performances from Lucy Davis and Ewen Bremmer provided a comedic element to the film without overstaying their welcome which can be the vain of some blockbuster films with comedic relief characters.

The film is directed in a way which would usually irritate me because of the use of slow to fast motion action shots and the camera panning rapidly up and down, however the shots work because of the way Jenkins uses them in the context of the scene, for example the shot in the trailer where Wonder Woman is seen diving on the floor tripping up people in slow motion, the use of the effect feels warranted because it shows the unique way Wonder Woman fights, rather than the actions of typical fights we see in the average Hollywood movie. The film for the majority is a beautifully colorful and the production design really is incredible to look at from the island of Themyscira to World War One London. Rupert Gregson-Williams' powerful and exciting score and is allowed to strike it's attention to the audience loudly and clearly unlike many films of the action/superhero genre in which the scores are drowned out by sound effects and dialogue.

I only have a few small problems with Wonder Woman, one of them is that the climax of this film feels stereotypical at this point, I understand that not much can be done at this point in time, but it's a case of ... it's not bad, but I've seen it done better.  Overall the strength of the film up to the climax is worth praising and while they are certainly better climax scenes in other superhero films it doesn't hold back the film from being an exciting, charming and enjoyable experience overall.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 26 May 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge (Review)

'Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge' is the fifth installment into the adventure film franchise 'Pirates of the Caribbean.

For the generation of children who grew up with the originals pirates of the Caribbean film back in 2003 can agree that after 14 years the franchise is starting to sink people's interest. Since the rise of other blockbuster franchises such as the MCU and the new star wars films, the likes of Johnny Depp's stumbling antics no longer seem the hype and excitement of which they did during the 2000's, however with the suggestion rumoring that this is the last film the series has hope to bring back the fans of the franchise for the finally of this long running film series.

To be frank, I did not like this film at all, it was just plain bad. Before I slate the film I want to say that I enjoyed the first three films of the series. The first film, I thought was fun and quite original for the time it was released, the second two are guilty pleasures of mine, I know they are flawed, but I enjoyed the double downed set pieces and the thrilling visual flair, the fourth was a pretty dull affair, but it had some redeeming quality, but this one, well I don't have many positives to say about it. One mildly impressive aspect of the film was the production design, which is easy to take advantage of when watching these types of films, however even the production design is not great, because I have seen it done better in the previous pirate films. I also thought that Geoffrey Rush did a good performance and put his effort into it despite the poor material he was given. Everything else has horrible, the performances were bland and half-arsed, the story didn't make sense, even for a pirates film. The music just felt like it was being dubbed over by the cringe worthy dialog. The GCI looks like it has not been rendered and the film might as well be fully animated with how much it is used and how glaringly noticeable it is. The direction is just plain bad and does nothing to help the poorly conceited action set pieces. The cinematography looks cheap and unoriginal, almost as it were from a TV film from the early 2000s.  I did get some enjoyment out of the film, but not for the right reasons. I summarize the films quality with this; not even Stephen Graham can save it.

Rating: 3/10

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

Friday, 3 March 2017

Logan (Review)

'Logan' is a superhero action drama film which stars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen. This film is directed by James Mangold.

Following the great success of last years Deadpool it was announced that the 20th century fox was aiming for an R rating of the american ratings board MPAA, meaning the film would likely be more violent and graphic than previous X Men films.

This film could have just used the R/15 age rating as an advantage for violence and while the film has violent scenes, it is not the end all goal. This film knows it's aiming for an adult audience, so it aims for a more adult story. Many consider this film to be a modern day western and while the parallels are interesting, I see it more as an indie adventure drama, similar to the works of David Michôd and Taika Waititi.

For the most part I think this type of film pays off, as their is more of a character study then in previous X-men installments. For me the greatest aspect of this film is how you see the relationship between Logan and Laura Kinney develops, where both Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen shine in their respected roles. Stephan Merchant is very well cast as Caliban, his comedic and tragic performances shows much promise for Merchant's acting career.

The thing which bugged me about this film is in the final act, as the film comes towards it's climax, it becomes more and more like your standard superhero film, which for a film that film that opens with great promise and feels revitalised, it's quite disappointing to see it fall back into familiar territory.

                                                                               Rating: 7/10

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 clever 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

Battle of the Sexes (Review)

'Battle of the Sexes' is a sports drama starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell. This film is directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie...