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The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
The Killing of a Sacred Career
Yorgos Lanthimos is one of my favourite directors, perhaps even my favourite. His surrealist style is bold and undeniably him, as it is both humorously absurd whilst also containing a deep-rooted and complex message. The Lobster would be Lanthimos' first English language film and is arguably his best to date, the debate being whether Dogtooth is better. Now Lanthimos has moved from England to America with his second English language film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The film tells the story of Steven, a surgeon who befriends a disturbed teenage boy only to find himself with an impossible ultimatum on his hands. The Killing of the Sacred Deer is very much a Lanthimos film, however, it doesn't reach the heights of Lanthimos' best work, and feels a little too much like an attempt of commercialisation.
Don't get me wrong, Lanthimos' niche surreal style is ever-present in The Killing of the Sacred Deer. The script is filled equally with Lanthimos' hilariously direct dialogue and pointless high level of detail in that dialogue. As well as this, Lanthimos' signature surreal visuals glisten through the films stunning cinematography. Cinematographer, Thimios Bakatakis, changes up his style, favouring the fish eye lens, resulting in a fantastic sense of atmosphere and an almost CCTV feel to the film. Additionally, the film's score works beautifully with the visuals in the film, especially with one specific gruesome metaphor. It is by far Lanthimos' best use of sound to date. All of this comes together to create Lanthimos' auteur style to which I've come to expect in his films.
This all being said, the Lanthimos stamp isn't as prominent in the Killing of a Sacred Deer. Although there are surreal moments, they are few in comparison to Lanthimos' entire filmography. This is definitely Lanthimos' most accessible film, as the story is very simple and easy to follow, however, this is where the film falters for me, as a fan of Lanthimos' bold approach. The surreal images in the Killing of a Scared Deer are few and far between, and unfortunately, aren't replaced with anything of paralleling interest. This is a real shame as it's the off-kilter visuals that I've come to want, love and expect of Lanthimos' work. I can see many being bored of this film as the entertainment comes from the experimentation. As I've already said, the story is straightforward and the surreal images are few, therefore the film is rather linear and "normal" for the most part. I can't help but feel that Lanthimos is attempting to crack America with this film, almost abandoning his style along the way. He is attempting to make his niche style mainstream which is a paradox in itself. I can almost feel Lanthimos' loss of self-confidence, the pressure to make something more conventional and realistic must get to him immensely, but his attempt to become a modern-day David Lynch falls short. Instead, he's shooting himself in the foot
Overall, the Killing of a Sacred Deer is disappointing by Lanthimos' standards. As a film it's great, but as a fan of the Greek director, I was let down by the lack of abstract and experimentation. The story is just too simple for Lanthimos and the film just feels to me like a crisis of self. However, if Lanthimos' filmography wasn't already so rich with abstract ideas and experimental images, then I would probably find myself enjoying The Killing of a Sacred Deer a lot more than I did. This is a multiple watch film and I look forward to giving The Killing of a Sacred Deer a better chance.
Last Train Home
The horror genre has its fair share of hits and misses, however, it would seem that the sub genre of zombie horror suffers from the greatest ratio of misses to hits. Yes, the genre does have George A Romero's Night of the living dead and Dawn of the dead, as well as, spoof film Shaun of the Dead, but it would appear that is all we have. One must think hard to find a decent zombie film that doesn't end in "of the dead"... Until now. Director, Sang-ho Yeon makes his live-action debut with what is in my opinion, the best zombie horror film ever. 2016's Train to Busan, or Busanhaeng as it's pronounced in its native country of South Korea, is more than just a simple zombie film, it's ultimately about evaluating what matters most in life, as well as being a social commentary of Korea's government and perhaps even our own.
Train to Busan's success as a horror film could be boiled down to a singular detail, character development. Countless horror films don't take the time to establish and expand upon their characters, resulting in little to no tension, people you more or less want to die and the audience's overall detachment from the film. The social messages of Train to Busan demand fully realised characters for them to have an impact, and fortunately, the filmmakers choose to flesh out a number of characters rather than a limited few. The film's main protagonist, Seok-woo, is a father who prioritises his work over his family, now having again disappointed his daughter, Soo-an, Seok-woo reluctantly agrees to take Soo-an to see her mother in Busan for her birthday, but of course, the zombie outbreak makes things a little bit more difficult The film is primarily the journey, pardon the pun, of Seok-woo as he's forced to be the protecting father he wasn't pre-outbreak and witness the consequences of his actions as a fat cat businessman. As well as this, the film features a married couple expecting their first child, however, the father has yet to name the baby. I for one, found the couple and their love for each other to be the most impactful and engaging. Train to Busan also features; a sports team where one member and a cheerleader have an off and on relationship, two elderly sisters who care deeply for one another and a selfish business owner who I believe represents the ruling class in Asia. Train to Busan is rich with subtext, making it more of a mental and emotional journey than a physical one.
In addition to the emotional message of human life matters most, Train to Busan is contextually relevant in the modern day. With North and South Korea technically still at war having never signed a peace treaty, but more importantly, North Korea's constant threat of nuclear attacks and Donald Trump Well Doing what he does best as president, adding fuel to the fire and being racist So it's safe to say things are pretty sh*t in Korea at the moment. Train to Busan takes aim at the ruling class, from the fat cat businessmen like our protagonist to the government itself, controlling the media and thus the people to fit with their political agenda. The continent of Asia is no stranger to censorship and unquestioned authority figures such as dictators, and so I believe Sang-ho Yeon is attempting to highlight the errors of totalitarianism by effectively bringing a ruling class man to the ground, to see the errors of his ways and the ways of those like him. The shoe is on the other foot and together with the breathtaking performances from the films cast along with the films character development, this message is made all the more powerful.
It isn't all serious however, there is a lot of fun to be had and the film is incredibly entertaining. The action set pieces throughout Train to Busan are large in scale, visually stunning and seriously impressive. Visceral imagery takes the place of cheap jump scares in this competently directed action horror film. Yeon wants to scare you with the culturally relevant subtext, in conjunction with horrifying imagery, instead of simply relying on a loud noise. Director Sang-ho Yeon also understands the horror genre, its themes and concept. It's all about fear, but not just of a killer, a ghost, a vampire or zombie etc. Horror can be the fear of anything and Yeon has made a film that is more about the fear of failing as a parent, disappointing your family and fearing for your country, than it is about the fear of zombies. The human fear amongst the supernatural is what truly makes Train to Busan the best of its genre.
The world is a scary place. The divides between the rich and the poor remain intact and the threat of war is ever-present. Yet humanity does exist, there is light in the darkness we just have to open our eyes to the horror of others. Train to Busan is a poignant, relevant and phenomenal film which takes the audience on the same emotional journey as its characters. It's an extremely tense film thanks in no small part to the phenomenal cast and use of character development. This film can be read on a number of levels, I just hope people see it for what it truly is, a social and political statement highlighting the lack of humanity seen in the modern day.
The Unwanted Phoenix
In 2004, Australian filmmaking duo, James Wan and Leigh Whannell, made their debut with Saw. The original Saw is a psychological thriller about two men, chained to opposite ends of a room and who have to discover why the infamous serial killer known as Jigsaw, put them there. The film made waves, spawning the most successful horror franchise of all time and bringing the torture porn horror sub genre to the mainstream. After having released a Saw film every Halloween for 7 years straight, the series finally ended in 2010 with Saw the Final Chapter
Apparently, that film wasn't final enough, because 7 years later comes the release of Saw 8, better known as Jigsaw. Lionsgate is back to try and claim the Halloween slot once again and revitalise the torture porn sub genre. But the question is, does torture porn need reviving? The answer is no. It absolutely does not.
Jigsaw was everything I've come to expect from a Saw sequel; The plot and story are ridiculously complex and self-righteous, but ultimately comes off as nihilistic and dumb due to the vast number of plot holes. The characters are one dimensional, archetypal assholes who lack logical reasoning. The traps are parodies of themselves and there are flashbacks galore. There isn't much ground to cover in the regard of flaws, that hasn't yet been covered in a previous film, and so Jigsaw just comes off as utterly pointless But we knew that anyway. They still can't seem to pay Cary Elwes' acting fee, so this film doesn't pick up where Final Chapter ended. A wise choice, but one that disconnects Jigsaw from the ongoing narrative of the Saw series, making Jigsaw stand out as nothing more than a business decision. It is clear as day that Jigsaw is nothing more than businessmen trying to shoehorn another Saw film in, so they can line their pockets.
This all being said, I do have to give the film some credit. Jigsaw is the best looking Saw movie by far. You can really tell that Lionsgate invested some serious money into this film, as the visuals look incredibly professional, away from the B movie feel of the rest of the franchise, and gone too is the jarring editing that littered this franchise. Also, Jigsaw is more restraint than most Saw sequels, sure it's a gory film, but it does refrain from showing some moments in explicit detail. Some could say this is the films nostalgic nod to the original film similar to the films closing shot, but nonetheless, I appreciate that there is a level of restraint on display. As well as this, the director's attempt to create a sense of tension and high pressure, and to be honest, they did a decent job in certain moments. There are a number of almost Hitchcockian references in Jigsaw, that being when characters have to reach for something just out of their grasp. I found this to be rather effective and as a whole, this film is directed very well. Director's Michael and Peter Spierig really want to make the best movie possible in this contractual agreement film they find themselves in and stylistically they did a commendable job.
Long story short, Jigsaw is as pointless as you'd think, however, there is an attempt being made by the directors to make lemonade out of lemons, and I have to respect that. The film is as muddled and philosophically pretentious as ever, but every flaw in Jigsaw has been around since the beginning and thus has become expected. There isn't much to really say about Jigsaw other than this time, I hope John Kramer and the Saw franchise remain dead for good.
They All Float Down Here
Stephen King is no stranger to big screen adaptations of his work. The prolific author even directly wrote a handful of these films
And I think he'd like to forget the time he directed one. Some of King's classic film adaptations include such titles as; The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Stand By Me, Carrie, The Shining, Misery and It. Now, adeptly made 27 years after the classic Tim Curry starring miniseries, Mama director Andy Muschietti brings Pennywise the dancing clown to the big screen with IT. The film tells the story of the losers club, a group of outcast kids suffering from varying degrees of domestic issues, as they encounter a sinister being that takes the form of a clown and feeds off children's fear
No not like in Monsters Inc. IT both works as a horror film and a coming of age movie with Andy Muschetti proving himself to be an extremely competent horror/genre film director. IT is a heartfelt and truly creepy movie even if it does underwhelm slightly due to the hype surrounding it.
This adaptation of part one of Stephen King's classic novel is brought to life with nightmare-inducing imagery rather than loud sound effect jump scares. For this reason, director Andy Muschietti has my respect, as I can clearly tell he wants to truly scare and disturb his audience rather than conforming and relying on the laziest horror trick in the book. The opening sequence, aka the paper boat scene, is so fantastically executed by Muschietti, the tension drives you to the edge of your seat, and the payoff is frankly one of the most shockingly brutal things I've ever seen on a cinema screen. IT is unflinchingly gory for a film centred around a group of adolescent teens on the verge of puberty. However, the brutality and shock factor have been hyped up so much in the many articles written on this film, that you can't help but feel underwhelmed by the end product. Muschietti and his actors have gone on record about the number of "extremely disturbing" scenes that were cut, that you can't help but wish they had left them in. The paper boat scene is perhaps the most hardcore scene in the entire film, thus establishing the film's tone with this, will only lead to disappointment.
As good as Muschetti is at directing horror unconventionally, leading with the visual, not the sound, he does rely heavily on characters being lured into obviously dangerous situations. I understand that the protagonists are children and so are easily manipulated, but Muscetti literally builds to every scare with a character being overly curious and following a creepy sound/voice, or an ominous red balloon, a weird easter egg looking thing, or even their long-dead brother Although I'll allow the emotion transcending logic on that one as that is realistic, you get the idea, it's majorly overused and makes the film repetitive.
This all being said, IT doesn't just work as a horror film, but also as a coming of age film. Perhaps Muschietti's most effective use of horror revolves around the horrors of domestic life, abuse and growing up. Bill, Mike and Beverly are so emphatically brought to life in the script with such horrific back stories that no child should ever have. I believe that Beverly is fleshed out the best of the entire losers club, the tension between her and her father is so subtly constructed yet so effective. Mr Marsh's dialogue motif is so unnerving as it implies something much more disturbing and dark than what we see, which in itself adds a whole new dynamic and layer to Beverly's character, one of immense empathy. As well as this, the bathroom scene is wonderfully constructed to represent the ugliness and loneliness of a girls menstruation. This all being said, I couldn't help but dislike the films ending for sending the wrong message surrounding Beverly's character. The characters in IT are developed in such an engaging and distressing way, that you wish there was more of it. The horrors of home are great and really add to both the horror and coming of age genres, yet I feel a greater focus on this was severely needed, but then again this is chapter 1 after all.
Last but not least the acting is outstanding across the board. All the kids act better than most adults today, to the point that you forget you are watching a group of child actors. Bill Skarsgård makes Pennywise his own in this film, many would say Tim Curry is impossible to top, however, I do believe Skarsgård rose to the occasion and makes for a far scarier Pennywise in the few scenes that his makeup doesn't do all the talking for him. I wanted more of Skarsgård, just like how I feel about everything else in this film.
Overall, IT is an impressively made horror/coming of age film, that works on a number of levels. All the departments, from production design to make up, are doing a phenomenal job of bringing Andy Muschietti's horrific vision to life. Shocking and gory yet still coming off as tame, IT is a film that should have remained tight- lipped, however, everything Muschetti offers is so intriguing and engaging you simply cannot get enough. I for one cannot wait to see what Chapter 2 has in store, but one thing for sure, chapter one certainly floats.
Logan Lucky (2017)
The 2013 crime thriller Side Effects was meant to mark the feature film retirement of Steven Soderbergh, director of the Ocean's trilogy and Magic Mike. Fortunately, Soderbergh's retirement would be short- lived, lasting a total of 4 years. Now, after dabbling in television with the TV movie, Behind the Candelabra and TV show The Knick, Soderbergh makes his return to cinema with yet another heist film, this one being Logan Lucky. Soderbergh proves once again he is a talented director and can pull off the cinematic magic trick that is the heist movie. Be that as it may, Logan Lucky does feel far too similar to Soderbergh's greatest cinematic success, Ocean's Eleven. Fortunately, however, Soderbergh is aware of this and so creates interesting characters and obtains fantastic performances from his actors, which together save Logan Lucky from total self-plagiarism.
Logan Lucky is a heist movie, a beautifully shot, directed and written heist movie, nothing more and nothing less. And so it is easy to classify the film as unoriginal and a regurgitation of Soderbergh's previous work. To an extent, this is correct, from a story, plot and narrative point of view, Logan Lucky is a hillbilly version of Ocean's Eleven, but from a character and setting point of view, it is not. Whoever the mysterious Rebecca Blunt may be, they have written this film as best it could've been, that being a lighthearted and fun heist film, filled with entertaining characters and dialogue exchanges. Logan Lucky isn't the laugh-out-loud comedy of the year as some have alluded to, but it is, however, a fun and enjoyable film thanks in large part to the films phenomenal cast.
As stated in the aforementioned paragraphs, the film's script creates intriguing characters with entertaining dialogue exchanges made all the more pleasurable by the fantastic ensemble cast. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver work very well together and are believable as brothers. The two also perform well in their own right as well as interacting with one another. This being said, Channing Tatum and Adam Driver may be the leads in this film, but they aren't the stars of Logan Lucky. The star is Daniel Craig. Craig steals every scene he's in as the bomb expert Joe Bang. He completely transforms himself away from his clean-cut-yet-rough-around-the- edges James Bond image, to completely embody the southern American prison inmate he plays in this film. Craig swaps charm with charisma and completely shines in Logan Lucky. This is one of the very few times I haven't seen the actor in a character, I only could see the character. I believed I was watching Joe Bang not Daniel Craig as Joe Bang. This is by far one of the best supporting actor performances of 2017.
Aside from the unoriginality of the film's narrative, Logan Lucky lacks a crucial aspect in storytelling that prevents you from really caring about the action that takes place, this is character motivation. Logan Lucky is unclear as to why any character plays their part in this heist. Why does Clyde get involved so easy when he tells Jimmy his criminal days are behind him? Why does Joe Bang go along with the Logan's complicated plan to sneak him in and out of prison when he has 5 months left until release? Would he really risk more time on his sentence on a plan held together by human stupidity and coincidence? Probably not. It's not that these motivations are unclear, it's that they just aren't there. As a consequence of this, the stakes don't feel as high and again, as I've already mentioned, you cannot get invested in any of the characters.
Overall, Logan Lucky is a fun time to be had. With beautiful cinematography by Steven Soderbergh, marvellous directing by Steven Soderbergh and an amusing script probably written by Steven Soderbergh, Logan Lucky is a pleasant watch. It's not a hilarious and wacky roller coaster ride of a film, nor is it one you can truly invest in, but it's a brilliantly well acted and light-hearted film that starts Soderbergh's return on a high.
The Limehouse Golem (2016)
Here we are again!
The period drama is a genre to which Britain's film and television industry value a great deal for. History and film appear to go hand in hand within Britain's entertainment sector, arousing in such productions as Downton Abbey, Ripper Street, The Woman in Black, Peaky Blinders and Taboo, just to name some of the most recent successes. Now Jane Goldman, the writer of the most successful British horror film of all time, The Woman in Black, takes us back to Victorian era London where the community of Limehouse lives in fear of the mythical serial killer known as The Limehouse Golem. In this pre-Jack, the Ripper story, Detective John Kildare, played by Bill Nighy, is assigned the case and during his investigation, he finds himself emotionally attached to Lizzie, a woman accused of killing her husband and who is also a key asset to solving the Golem case. The Limehouse Golem is a mediocre mystery film, but one which fantastically develops its two leads and features an outstanding performance from Olivia Cooke.
The film itself begins as a murder mystery but quickly shifts its focus towards the character Elizabeth Cree, played by Olivia Cooke. The film essentially becomes her life story, a story paved in abuse and rape, but equally as much resilience making, Lizzie a strong feminist character. Lizzie's life, as viewed by Detective Kildare, holds the key to unveiling the mystery of the Golem, but the film plays a dangerous game, one that can easily reveal its hand before the final bets have been placed. The films main focus will arouse suspicion as to its ending, I even entertained the thought of what was to be the conclusion of the film, however, the film isn't as predictable as one might think even if nothing is really unexpected. Goldman installs a number of twists and turns to keep the audience on their toes, second guessing everything and hence providing somewhat expected moments with a surprisingly unexpected feel. The Limehouse Golem is a film that could easily slip into the boring and predictable, but Goldman's attempt to avoid this is felt, even if the reveal doesn't go unconsidered.
As aforementioned, The Limehouse Golem is essentially Lizzie's life story. Goldman's script thus creates a very complex character in Lizzie through excellent character development, which the story obviously gives an opportunity for. This complex character is made all the more fascinating by Olivia Cooke's terrifically versatile performance. Cooke embodies the poor girl opening herself up to the world, but who is also hiding/ not telling us something. As a spectator, I found myself feeling for Lizzie similarly to how Kildare does, with sympathy and respect that almost blinded me from the inconsistencies. As well as Lizzie, Kildare has a subtle yet effective form of character development to him, adding a rather complex and enduring reason as to why he wishes to save Lizzie. Goldman writes Kildare and Lizzie, as well as the rest of the film, in a surprisingly politically correct way, one which isn't conventional of Victorian era period pieces, and so works in the film's favour.
The Limehouse Golem is a valiant attempt by Jane Goldman at shaking up the Victorian period drama. The murder mystery is a slippery slope, but the film excels as a character piece as well as a feminist/ politically correct text. Olivia Cooke shines in the film, bringing her complex character to full fruition despite the flaws the surround her and the production. The Limehouse Golem can best be described as probably the best BBC TV movie ever.
Tra La Laaaaaaa!
2017 has been less than satisfying on the animated film front. Yes, The Lego Batman Movie was fantastic and the upcoming films, The Lego Ninjago Movie and Coco, look very promising, but with films like The Boss Baby, Despicable Me 3, Cars 3 and The Emoji Movie filling the family film slots over summer, there just isn't any excitement or much fun to be had, for the entire family unit
Or so we thought. Thankfully, Captain Underpants is here to save the day with a tra la la and a film that is a surprising delight for the whole family unit.
The films title and source material would lead many to believe this to be a very juvenile and immature film for kids only. On the contrary, screenwriter Nicholas Stoller is able to find the perfect balance of maturity, writing a film that is both true to Dav Pilkey's children's novels, but which also unexpectedly blindsides the audience with its adult humour. The narrative is also best described as organised chaos, able to be adventurously crazy and out there, without being a clunky and hectic mess. The film is also surprisingly heartfelt, taking George and Harold's dilemma, which could easily be presented as trivial, and portraying it from a mature angle, invoking sympathy in the audience, as well as, engagement with them as characters.
As well as substance, Captain Underpants has an outstanding sense of style about it. Its simplistic animation works wonderfully in its favour, allowing for the subject of focus in each shot to clearly stand out. The animation also varies in style throughout the film, featuring 2D comic book sections and even a sock puppet sequence. The film beautifully realises each new style and transitions between them seamlessly. Captain Underpants engages its audience further with a brilliant use of breaking the fourth wall. George and Harold are aware they are in an animated film and this makes for some intriguing meta moments, adding to the maturity of the film through its self- awareness. Captain Underpants even references Saved by the Bell's time out freeze frame, which should be nostalgically pleasing for many. Similar to its script, The film and it's animation stays true to the source material, blurring the lines between reality and fiction and also featuring the signature flip-o-rama which occurs in every Captain Underpants book. The Dreamworks animation team have really outdone themselves with this one
Captain Underpants is an unexpected gem of 2017's summer movie season. Loyal to the books without alienating maturer audiences, Captain Underpants is a beautifully animated movie, oozing with creativity and is the very definition of a fun family film.
Wind River (2017)
This is the land of you're on your own
Taylor Sheridan has made quite the impact in the last two years as a writer. Having predominantly been an actor, most recognised for his role as Chief Hale in Sons of Anarchy, it seems Sheridan has found his true calling. Sheridan's first script, Sicario, introduced us to Sheridan as a writer, as well as introducing the world to leading director, Denis Villeneuve. Sheridan's next script, Hell or Highwater, would then gain Sheridan an Oscar nomination and received the Oscar push Sicario didn't quite achieve. Now, Sheridan both writes and directs his next film, ending what has been an unofficial American setting trilogy. Sheridan's third script and second directorial effort come in the form of Wind River, the true story of veteran game tracker, Corey Lambert and his assistance with the FBI on the homicide of a Native American girl. A writer stepping up to direct is often risky, but with Wind River, Sheridan simply adds another string to his bow.
The settings of Sheridan's films are almost characters in their own right. The settings can determine people's states of mind, character motivation as well as highlighting specific social or political conflicts/ problems. Sheridan has thus far used the America Mexico border and Texas in such a way, and now he swaps the warm for the cold. Wind River takes its name from the ice cold Indian reservation in Wyoming, and this setting perhaps the most important and significant one Sheridan has written about. The film is rich with Native American culture, but not in the stereotypical sense that everyone would think. Wind River highlights just how disenfranchised Native Americans are in their own country without getting overly political or racially charged. The film feels authentic and highlights its issues in a heartbreaking and frankly factual way. Wind River is the mystery of a Native American girls murder but is most notably a statement about Native American homicides, as well as, a character study of Jeremy Renner's character, Corey Lambert.
Jeremy Renner's performance as Corey Lambert is phenomenal, with great performances in such films as The Hurt Locker and The Town, Renner's performance in Wind River is yet again Oscar worthy. Renner brilliantly portrays a man struggling with the loss of his daughter, by attempting to claim some form of justice, not only for the family of the girl murdered but also for himself. Wind River is a character piece and Renner rises to the occasion as the character of focus. The film reunites Renner and Elizabeth Olsen from the Marvel universe, acknowledging they have a platonic relationship already established and thus utilising what the two have already displayed to great effect. These two actors work well together and the casting directors knew this well. The film also has great performances from Graham Greene as well as a surprise appearance from Jon Bernthal who is always great to see.
Sheridan directs this film similarly to how Denis Villeneuve and David Mackenzie directed his last two scripts. Sheridan has clearly taken note from these two as he establishes a slow pace which absorbs as much of the setting as possible, while also having punchy action that exhilarates. It could be viewed by many that Sheridan simply pads the film's run time with shots of vehicles moving in the snow, and to an extent, they are right but knowing of Sheridan's significance of setting, these shots have within them, an element of dread and isolation to which these shots capture so vividly. Sheridan's slow pace in the first two acts of the film makes for an intriguing thriller with great character depth, but unfortunately, the films third act fails to impress from a mystery thriller standpoint.
The reveal of the murderer and the crime in the third act felt far too abrupt and took away from the build to it. On reflection, the mystery story was very simple and didn't feature any developments of much interest. Instead, we slowly build to what feels like midway through the investigation and then have everything revealed at once via flashback. I know Hitchcock has done this famously with Vertigo, unveiling the reveal earlier than audiences expected, but with Wind River, I feel it just takes away from the intense and brooding build up of the first two acts. Also the killer is a character we first meet within the flashback, and thus yet another genre convention subversion that didn't sit right with me. However, after reflecting on this, I acknowledge the fact this is a true story and that Wind River is predominantly a character piece and statement of social injustice in America. Nonetheless, the film promises more than it delivers from a genre perspective and features an extremely simple mystery which is hard to not be disappointed by.
Wind River is a fascinating character piece with a strong social statement about Native American missing persons. Excellently acted by Jeremy Renner and sophisticatedly written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, Wind River may not have hit the right notes as a genre film, but has more than excelled in every other way. Wind River is a very human story of vengeance, justice and how the two can be one and the same. The title card at the end speaks volumes about the world we live in and how true equality doesn't exist, but as this film also expresses, this needs to change.
The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017)
Explode a car again, I dare ya, I double dare ya mother f*cker!
Everybody loves actors, they are essentially the face of the film industry and many are role models in their own right. Actor's play a huge factor in marketing a blockbuster film to an audience, and in some cases, they are the only thing the film can use to market itself
Well aside from genre of course. The Hit-man's Bodyguard is a film very similar to 2016's Passengers starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Both films seemed like nothing more than an excuse to get their two lead actors in the same room. Whereas Passengers had an acclaimed director at the helm and got moderate to mixed reviews, The Hit- man's Bodyguard solely relies on the talent of its stars, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, and offers little more than their persona's comically clashing with one another.
Reynolds and Jackson are two of the best actors at delivering insult comedy, but they are simply the performers of their material, not the writers of it. The Hit-man's Bodyguard seems to have mistaken Reynolds and Jackson for professional writers or impressionists, as the film's attempt at comedy feels more like a prompt sheet they gave the two leads, hoping they could work it into something funny through their fantastic on screen chemistry. But Reynolds didn't write Deadpool and Jackson didn't write Pulp Fiction, they just executed other people's work with outstanding comedic flare. The film's script simply puts swear words into normal sentences, hoping that because it's Samuel L. Jackson's voice saying "motherf*cker", it will be funny Well, it isn't, except to the one lady in my cinema who even found the serious terrorist attacks hilarious. This uninspired approach to comedy is frankly annoying, as it leaves the actors with nothing to work with and having to make the screenwriter look good. The film's story is also pretty cliché so I don't really know what the screenwriter was paid to do honestly This film had and still does have, so much potential with its paradoxical title, if only this idea was given to filmmakers who were able to find that potential and live up to it, rather than sit back when Reynolds and Jackson walk into the room. But then again the film is making money so guess they played the game right.
This film is also rather confusing as to what it wants to be at times. We don't really know any of the characters in this film, even though a very slight attempt is made with Ryan Reynolds and Elodie Yung, and Sam Jackson is given a fair bit of backstory. The film flashbacks to Jackson's past as he tells stories of his past, but when the time comes for that to be relevant it's completely glossed over and forgotten about, same goes for Reynolds motivation of his triple-A rating... He went on about it enough for Christ's sake, someone give the man his God damn rating back... The film introduces certain aspects only to forget about, or gloss over them, later in the film once they change their mind on what they want to focus on. The Hit-man's Bodyguard all of a sudden gets caught up in love and characters romantic relationships, because romance is essential for any blockbuster movie, the guy has to get the girl in the end right? To be honest I didn't care about that and wished they stayed more focused on the main story at play here rather than trying to turn it into a soppy love story.
Which brings me to the pace and direction of the film, it's fine. Patrick Hughes improves upon his last movie, The Expendables 3. The film is shot better as the action scenes are rather fun at times, especially one that starts in a kitchen and ends in a home depot. The action in this movie is actually decent and way better than I expected, hence why I believe it should have been a straight-up action film, rather than padding its runtime with comedic failure. Patrick Hughes has a thing for blowing up cars in this film. I'm not sure why, but nevertheless a drinking game lies within that. Although the action scenes are shot rather well, the film does, however, feel rather rushed. As I said the action is decently shot and fast paced, but the combination of action scenes and how the film is edited as a whole, doesn't make you feel any urgency but instead makes you feel the film's hurry to end.
Overall, The Hit-man's Bodyguard is a very forgettable action comedy that relies entirely on its cast. The action is shot well and is enjoyable to watch, but the whole film feels rushed, lacking in a clear focus and tries too hard, or not hard enough, to be funny. The film is neither bad or good, it's just a dose of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, as well as Gary Oldman, who for some reason isn't used to market this film ? If all you want to see is Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds awkwardly sing battle each other in a car, then I guess you're in luck.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
You can't unf*ck what's already been f*cked...
Hollywood has gone nuts for 1980's nostalgia ever since Guardians of the Galaxy's soundtrack became a hit. It's now a staple of James Gunn's superhero series and even Edgar Wright has jumped on the bandwagon, with his 80's and older music soundtrack in Baby Driver. As well as this, John Wick has become a hit film series, with its brilliantly framed and choreographed fight scenes, making waves with their return in John Wick: Chapter 2. Now, from the uncredited director of John Wick and the credited director of the upcoming Deadpool 2, David Leitch, we have Atomic Blonde, a spy film set in Berlin 1989 with a soundtrack full of 80's hits, complete with neon lighting and an unstoppable, kick ass hero(ine)... As much as the marketing wants you to think this is John Wick doing the 80's, it is actually more of a classical, convoluted spy thriller, but one that is oozing with style.
Atomic Blonde is a beautifully shot and a superbly directed film. The neon lighting of the film makes every shot look gorgeous, while also establishing the films neo-noir tone excellently. The cinematography as a whole is simply mesmerizing and thus makes Atomic Blonde an absolutely beautiful film to look at. David Leitch himself is an experienced stuntman, and similar to his co-director of John Wick, Chad Stahelski, that experience shows in his film. The films stunt choreography is outstanding throughout and makes the films action sequences extremely gripping and entertaining. Although, these scenes aren't as impressively shot as John Wick: Chapter 1 and 2, they are far better than many action scenes put to film in recent years. Atomic Blonde has a couple fight scenes throughout which are great, but there is one which is simply extraordinary and puts together everything that makes this film great. This scene involves a flight of stairs and takes place near the end of the film. The scene is long and obviously features a lot of choreography and stunt work, to which the director puts together in what seems to be one take, I am unaware if it is one take or not, but i doubt it actually is. Nevertheless, this scene is the heart of the film, this scene is the treat the audience get for choosing to watch Atomic Blonde. It's the absolute highlight of the entire film and makes the film worth watching, despite its weak narrative.
Which brings me to Atomic Blonde's major flaw, it's story. Whereas John Wick's story is simple, a retired assassin gets revenge on those who killed the dog his late wife left him. Atomic Blonde's story is far more complex. What we have is a classic spy thriller filled with countless double crosses, plot twists and a convoluted web of relationships that most audiences won't follow. The film tries to do a lot and be complex with its story driven narrative but just comes off stale and hard to follow. Atomic Blonde tries to be more complex than it needs to be and is more likely to lose people along the way than grip and impress them. As well as being confusing, the film makes several bad choices in regard to narrative techniques. The idea to have Lorraine (Charlize Theron) recount her story to Kurzfeld (John Goodman) and Gray (Toby Jones) takes a lot of tension away from the film. By beginning at the end, we already know about 50-60% of the characters will definitely survive, or at least survive the majority of the film. Thus any tense scenes featuring these characters lose their impact. Also, the film features little to no character development, leaving you with characters you don't really care for and whose actions you don't care about. It's hard to follow a convoluted film when you don't know or care for any of the characters, their actions or motivations. The film does feature a dream sequence and photograph to provide some backstory to Lorraine's character, however, this attempt is all we get and it simply isn't enough to deliver what it intended. All in all, the story just gets boring, but thankfully the film's style is good enough to compensate for its lack of substance.
Atomic Blonde is not the lighthearted and fun, female John Wick film I was made to believe it would be, it is instead a highly stylized, if rather boring spy thriller. Its script makes many wrong turns and narrative decisions, but fortunately, the excellent cinematography, lighting, choreography and directing, make up for the films hollow and lacklustre story, but then again style will only take you so far. The film should've been character driven, here's an idea for the sequel, put Lorraine in a no smoking zone and see how long she lasts Better make it a short...
Annabelle: Creation (2017)
The Ultimate Underdog Story
In 2013, James Wan brought us the critical and commercial success that is, The Conjuring. The film followed real life demon hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren, on one of the many cases they worked over their career, The Perron family haunting. The film would also introduce the creepy doll Annabelle if only playing a minor role in the film. Annabelle would then of course gain a less than well- received prequel spin off a year later. Now after Wan's second successful venture with the Warren's in The Conjuring 2, we now have a universe on our hands. The Conjuring Universe, or Conjuring-verse if you will, has expanded with side characters from The Conjuring 2; The Nun and the Crooked Man, getting their own spin offs, similar to how Annabelle initially did. 2017 marks the release of the fourth Conjuring-verse film and second Annabelle film, Annabelle Creation. Directed masterfully by Lights Out director, David F. Sandberg, Annabelle: Creation defies all expectations one would have for a prequel to a prequel spin off that wasn't any good
It's actually decent.
Annabelle: Creation proves what Ouija: Origin of Evil proved, good filmmakers will make good films, regardless of the quality of franchise they make their film within. David F. Sandberg directs Annabelle: Creation with confidence and proves that he is a competent horror film director. He has obviously learnt from and taken note of James Wan and his films, as Annabelle: Creation feels like a James Wan film. Sandberg knows that jump scares aren't the only scare tactic out there, he actually attempts and succeeds at building tension and suspense to nail biting levels, understanding the importance of the build, rather than simply working towards the payoff, aka jump scare moment. Similar to Wan, Sandberg generates the majority of his fantastic scares through the art of misdirection. Sandberg will crank up the suspense, building or alluding to a particular scare and then not doing that, but instead, the scare comes in from a blind spot, catching you off guard. Wan has said before that when trying to create a scare, he'll build to something the audience expects, but the scare should/ will come from something they didn't see coming at all, as that will truly surprise the audience. Sandberg does this numerous times in Annabelle: Creation and is hence why I attribute this film's surprise success to him. The film is truly terrifying.
As well as approaching horror in the same, mature way James Wan does, Sandberg also directly pays tribute to James Wan through a number of visual homages to The Conjuring franchise. Sandberg features the long take, tracking shot around the haunted house which Wan used in both Conjuring films. Although the shot serves very little purpose in all three films, there is pleasure in recognising Sandberg's homage to Wan and it does help make Annabelle Creation feel like a Wan movie. There is also a shot of a girl in a chair with Annabelle on their lap, similar to the Conjuring's poster and almost recreating Annabelle's scene with Bathsheba in the Conjuring. As well as this, Sandberg further attempts to connect the films and create the universe, those who have seen the first Annabelle will get a kick out of the film's end. Sandberg also features one subtle reference to The Nun within a photo frame. The reference is so eerily subtle that it's outstanding, and the film does feature a post credit scene for the Nun, however, I believe few have actually stayed around long enough to see it. Seeing as there is a mid credit scene and this isn't Marvel, I thought it was done, alas I was wrong.
However, Annabelle: Creation's story is your standard possession movie cliché, but the film manages what many cliché horror films fail to do, and that is creating characters to root for. The film is essentially about two of the orphans, Janice and Linda, whose friendship is tested and torn apart by this demonic being. Janice has polio and so is outcast and seemingly targeted by the demon due to her condition, this really made me sympathise and root for these girls and so an another layer of anxiety and suspense is added to the film. This being said, once the focus shifts away from polio ridden Janice, to her able bodied friend Linda, I didn't seem to care as much, as I only really cared and rooted for Janice. As well as this, the film really fails to develop anyone else. There are attempts, but they amount to nothing, especially the Mullins, who I believe are a wasted opportunity and kind of pointless for the most part.
In the end, Annabelle: Creation is a film that is far better than a prequel to a sh*tty prequel spin off deserves to be, and puts the Conjuring universe three for four. Although your standard possession movie formula is at play, director David F. Sandberg proves that with characters you care for, and a competent horror film director at the helm, your standard possession film can be a great thrill ride start to finish, no matter if everything in the world points to it being sh*t. Good filmmakers make good films and Annabelle: Creation proves just that.
Prepare to get angry... Very, very angry...
Anyone who knows anything about Eminem knows that Detroit is an American state that is pretty f*cked up. The state has been known for its constantly turbulent financial situation, and even going bankrupt in recent years. However, one of Detroit's most notorious moments in history is arguably the race riots of 1967, to which Kathryn Bigelow's new movie takes place. Finishing off her unofficial gritty war film trilogy, Bigelow brings the war to the streets, focusing on one particular night and event during the 1967 Detroit race riots, the Algiers Motel incident. Bigelow delivers on her unflinching, documentary/ Paul Greengrass style of filmmaking, in what is probably her most traumatic film to date.
The film begins with an animated montage of exposition to explain how black people came to live in Detroit, and why they eventually rioted. At first, I thought I was watching a short film before the actual film started, as the colours and animation style completely clash with Bigelow's gritty directing style and tone. Alas I was not, the animation was the intro to Detroit and immediately got me thinking "this could've been done better." The animation, although good, doesn't fit and is far too short to really deliver on the exposition it aimed to convey, leaving me still unaware as to why the riots actually started. We then cut to a celebration at an all black, unofficial bar, to which gets raided by police and riots soon ensue. Further research revealed that this bar was created due to the poor treatment of black people in normal bars, so they made their own, and when that got shut down it became the straw the broke the camels back. Detroit could've and should've introduced the film this way, with the facts behind how the riots started. What we get is a nice animation, but one whose purpose is rather weak, and Bigelow can do better than what she offers here.
We are now thrown into the riots and lives of people within Detriot, both cops and citizens. Bigelow has an obvious bias towards African Americans, and against the police in this film. This bias has been seen to be rather unpopular and controversial, but Bigelow is no stranger to making controversial statements in her films, 2013's Zero Dark Thirty heavily suggested that the American military used torture as an interrogation method during the hunt for Bin Laden. In Detroit, the actors who play black citizens are presented as everyday people, while the cops are presented as horror villains/monsters. Bigelow's direction, as well as Mark Boal's script, brilliantly portray the cop characters as evil, frightening and inhuman beings that even you are fearful of. Ultimately, I attribute the scare factor of the cops to the actor's outstanding performances, especially Will Poulter who utterly shines in this film. The entire cast is excellent as an ensemble, John Boyega, Algee Smith are also outstanding, however, it is Will Poulter as the racist brute, Krauss that steals the show in this film. Having previously made a name for himself in comedy with films such as We Are The Millers, seeing Poulter in such a disturbing role excellently exhibits his acting range with this extremely drastic juxtaposition of roles.
The film mainly revolves around an hour or so long sequence, the Algiers Motel incident. Bigelow cranks up the tension in this film and does not turn it down, with help from a script that feels, for the most part, natural, and an absolutely astonishing cast. Bigelow's documentary style makes you feel you are actually watching this horrific event happen, that coupled with some of the most uncomfortable acting to ever witness, Detroit feels less of a cinematic event and more of a traumatic one, to which this was back in 1967. You feel this has been documented and not filmed or particularly staged, as what you witness will disturb you and leave a lasting imprint, I have to say that the one word that best describes this film is; traumatic.
Although Kathryn Bigelow is a great filmmaker, she does tend to overuse hand-held camera in her films, and Detroit is possibly Bigelow's worst use of the technique. The technique is again overused and so too is zooming, which are not film techniques held in high regard. Detroit reaches stupidly bad levels of shaky cam and zooming as some shots, albeit very few, literally lose the subject of the shot altogether, take note of the Fred going to work scene. As well as this, John Boyega's character seemed almost fictional as he simply does nothing in this film, however, due to the reality of his character, I can understand this is probably close to what actually happened.
Finally, the film's biggest issue lies in its lack of context and general information. The film offers a very obvious and strong bias, hell the script even features ham handed dialogue from other cops saying things like; "Who could do something like this?" when we all know it's the Detroit police. Alas, this film has some rather large plot holes and/or areas to question. The film even states at the end that they don't know for sure what happened, which feels like the film is chickening out of it full on onslaught of Detroit's police force. The film does pick up on enough evidence that would convict these cops in today's far less, openly racist society, however, it equally has enough holes within it to get that evidence dismissed. Although I personally believe this film is close to the truth, if exaggerated, you can't however, ignore the flaws.
With excellent acting, a decent script and great directing, Detroit is an unflinching and frankly, traumatic film. Detroit does have its flaws and plot holes, but so too did people's recollections of the Algiers incident. This film will enrage you, but that reaction in itself proves the film has serviced its purpose, to provide a form of justice for the people who got none.
A Ghost Story (2017)
In The End does it matter?
A24 have started to make a name for itself on the low budget, indie movie scene, distributing such great and ambitious films as; The Lobster, Moonlight, Swiss Army Man and Enemy. A Ghost Story is their latest ambitious effort, starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, and written and directed by David Lowery. Just two days after he had finished the Disney Blockbuster, Pete's Dragon, director David Lowery began shooting A Ghost Story, in secret for an absolute fraction of the price of the live action, Disney feature. The film tells the story of a couple, C and M, living in their suburban home, until one day C, played by Casey Affleck, dies in a car crash and proceeds to haunt/ watch over M, played by Rooney Mara, and their house as a Ghost. If you know anything about this film, you will know that Ghost in this film is dressed as you would a child, last minute for Halloween, some might call it its 'gimmick'. However, similar to many of A24's ambitious work, A Ghost Story does not solely rest on this surreal image, the film takes something that even the director found laughable, and turns it into something emotionally profound and extremely thought provoking. A Ghost Story is an unconventional gem.
When you hear 'A Ghost Story' do not expect a horror film, because you will be disappointed. A Ghost Story does play with certain horror traits such as; flickering lights and bumps in the night, but in a way the subverts our understanding of horror films Does a supernatural being have to be malevolent? No, it could just be frustrated, confused and/or lost, and that is just one small way that A Ghost Story excellently subverts expectation to provoke discussion. As I have said, A Ghost story is not a horror film, it is an unconventional drama that explores emotional and thought provoking themes such as; grief, time, space, existence and its meaning, or lack there of.
Another way in which the director, David Lowery is experimental, is with his use of shot duration. Lowery, having come from an editing background in film, as well as, being inspired by the use of long shot duration's in European and Asian cinema, has taken the long take to the extreme. Shots linger for minutes at a time to the point were, as Lowery himself stated, you forget you are expecting something to happen. There is a 9 minute scene of Rooney Mara eating an entire pie and vomiting it back up That is all you need to know about how long Lowery lets the camera roll for. The use of long take is great as it does feel like you are watching life happen, due to the unedited nature of those shots, and it really does make for a truly unconventional film. I can however see some people getting bored and giving up on this film, due to this technique being heavily used in the films first act, but I do urge those people to please give the film the whole 90 minutes, as it is definitely worth your time.
Now whilst on the subject of time As well as having extremely long takes, this film also has pretty much every kind of cut you can think of, fast cuts, jump cuts, cuts to flashback, intercuts, elliptical cuts spanning years, decades and even centuries, the list goes on. This film is about time and how it waits for no one, even when we die time keeps on going, and Lowery has excellently used editing to illustrate this and play with time. He has said that he believes it is time, and the editing of time, that makes film stand out as an art form. Lowery's editing is seamless and complex as he manipulates time in a varying number of ways throughout the film. My personal favourite instance of Lowery's time manipulation is C's song scene, Lowery intercuts between a warmly lit flashback and a dull and cold looking present as C's song plays in both shots. Plus the added proxemics between M and the Ghost makes for a deeply emotional scene that hit me hard.
The entire film is best summed up in the films final act, with a series of elliptical jump cuts involving a little girl. This was perhaps Lowery's best use of editing and direction in the film, as it so perfectly, and rather cynically, explores its main theme of the film; does anything matter? We all die eventually, and our aim seems to be, to create something that will outlive us, but that will surely die too right? Maybe someday soon or far in the future when the world is nothing but a wasteland. And so we have gone full circle and ask again. Does it matter? As everything dies in the end, but also the Ghost sees all, it lives on so in a way things do matter don't they? It's an ongoing debate that A Ghost Story sophisticatedly explores, the answer is entirely subjective to the individual audience member.
A Ghost Story is a emotional, extremely thought provoking and unconventional movie that people have to experience for themselves. With excellent writing, editing and directing from David Lowery this film will leave you utterly speechless. The film takes its 'gimmick' and makes you sympathise with it as you watch the Ghost yearn for the the business and people it's left behind. Beautifully shot by Andrew Droz Palermo and with a home movie styled aspect ratio that further elevates the Ghost's feeling of entrapment, A Ghost Story is a work of art that I truly hope means something in the long haul
Christopher Nolan is without a doubt one of the greats, a modern day auteur, and the filmmaker behind some of cinemas most highly anticipated indie films. The man has managed to find the sweet spot between blockbuster and art film, gaining the praise of critics and casual viewers alike. The man has become an event in himself, everyone knows when a Christopher Nolan film is coming and they flock to the cinema because of his name. I love Christopher Nolan's films, he has yet to make a bad film, despite The Dark Knight Rises being disappointing on reflection. Although not stepping many feet wrong his entire career, I don't view Nolan and his work as many others do, that being as the work of an untouchable God. I try to walk in without expectation or, without having already decided the film is a perfect 10/10, as it seems quite a few people don't do. However, I really wanted to enjoy Dunkirk for my own sake, God forbid I actually didn't like it, I would swiftly be told why exactly I am wrong in even suggesting Nolan could step a foot wrong
Thank God I actually really enjoyed the film, phew. Dunkirk recounts the true story of the evacuation of British soldiers from Dunkirk in 1940. The film is high octane, action packed and suspenseful and again Nolan proves why he's a human cinematic event.
This film is obviously a Nolan film, there are some star talent in the film, but they are there because they want to work with Nolan, not the other way round. The film is, for the most part, wordless, this isn't really a film for actors to shine, it's for Nolan to show the world how the real thing can be, and is often, better than CGI. With the film being wonderfully wordless, Nolan shows he knows exactly what film is and always should be, the visual art of storytelling. He has obviously taken note from such greats as Hitchcock, using sound and dialogue to further aid the visual, not to overpower it. In today's film landscape this is quite rare, and so you have to give Nolan credit and respect for making a film the way they should, but rarely are, made. This is film after all, not radio. Also to note, Hoyte Van Hoytema's cinematography in this film is absolutely breathtaking, Dunkirk would be little without his work and he is in need of some serious recognition.
Dunkirk isn't a conventional war film, we don't get character development in the form of "who you got back home son?" campfire talks, nor do we get multiple battles throughout the run time. Dunkirk doesn't have a dull moment whatsoever. It is a battle from beginning to end, and so with this, Nolan does not allow us, the audience to rest easy. Nolan doesn't hold off on the tension at all. I personally loved moments where Nolan momentarily lulls us into a false sense of security, only to then provide a sudden jump scare in the form of gunfire, reminding us that you are never safe in the middle of war. Now this is how you use sound as a jump scare correctly. This film is high octane, tense and extremely gripping from start to end.
Also this being a Nolan film, he has to make things more complex, he can't just tell a war movie with a chronological narrative structure. Dunkirk follows the same story, from three different perspectives and three different time frames. For audience members, like myself, who understand Nolan's knack for complex storytelling, this will be confusing for a moment whilst you recall previous information to make everything make sense again, and then you will love what Nolan has done. However, audiences who expect to see a war film, which by our conventional understanding is often self explanatory, will forget that previous information and thus remain confused throughout the rest of the movie. I've seen negative reviews say that Dunkirk gives no indication of time, and to an extent they are right, but then again all I can say is watch it again, but this time take note of the opening title cards which read "one week", "one day" and "one hour" it should clear things up, but I do think maybe the title cards could be a little clearer.
To conclude, Dunkirk is Nolan's Full Metal Jacket. I wouldn't say this is his greatest masterpiece, I reserve that for Memento. But Dunkirk is an outstanding piece of cinema that proves Nolan's auteurship and that he is one of the greatest filmmakers alive, if not, who ever lived. The man knows film and knows how to make a great, complex one. Hell the guy has a knack for impressing the experts, having actual scientists make discoveries through Interstellar, and now by a soldier who was at Dunkirk, praising Nolan for his accurate representation of the event. Now if that doesn't say it all then I don't know what will.
Apes together Strong!
The Planet of the Apes franchise is no stranger to remakes, reboots, prequels, sequels and literally every kind of incarnation or adaptation a film franchise can have. Back in the late 60's, early 70's we got the original film, plus several sequels, then in 2001 we got whatever the hell Tim Burton made, and then in 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes started, what is by far the best prequel series ever, and has thus far been, one of cinema's greatest all time film trilogies. 2017 marks the end of this prequel series with the release of War for the Planet of the Apes, The third and final film in this phenomenal series and yet again Matt Reeves strikes gold.
What is by far the films greatest strength, is its depiction of war. The film creates a very realistic representation of what a war is like. There are multiple different battles going on, between opposing sides and within the same sides. Apes clash with apes and humans clash with humans, the film doesn't depict a black and white version of a war, it knows war is more complex than that and respectably portrays this. The film also adds quite a lot of depth, depicting characters inner conflicts rather than just the physical ones seen in battle. This really added to Caesar's already established character and gives him even more of a character arc than he has already had. Not only does Caesar get added depth, but Woody Harrelson's Colonel is given a very intriguing and personal backstory. This really added to the films realistic presentation of a war, showing both sides as having their own inner struggles and presenting both as in some way human. This film packs an emotional punch which is surprising from a blockbuster franchise film, even if the last two films have been glorious.
Matt Reeves excellently directs this film, depicting war realistically and respectably, while also making a nonstop, action packed movie that deals a great deal of emotional impact. War for the Planet of the Apes is extremely engaging and is an utter joy to watch, thanks to an action packed script and masterful directing, well done Matt Reeves. As well as Matt Reeves, Andy Serkis strikes gold once again as Caesar. The man is truly a pioneer of motion capture and a living acting legend because of it. The man plays Caesar again, but differently to how we have previously seen him. Serkis shines once again, nailing the deeper inner conflict of becoming Koba, consumed by hate, unable to forgive, as well as slipping back into the role of Caesar like a pair of comfortable shoes.
To criticise this film is hard, the criticisms for this film fall into the nitpick domain of film criticism, but nonetheless I shall state them. The film is awfully predictable, but in all honesty, what do you expect from a blockbuster movie and franchise sequel? Most films can be predictable if you think hard enough. Also the human soldiers/security in this film are hilarious. In the latter part of the film, the human henchmen are used so conveniently to progress the plot, being so hilariously bad at their job. This does take away from the realism the film creates with its depiction of war, and occurs so frequently that it's comical. I constantly found myself thinking "How have none of the humans seen this?" and "Are you seriously going to do that? You are a trained soldier!"
To conclude, War for the Planet of the Apes is the ideal end for this fantastic film trilogy. Andy Serkis and Matt Reeves are phenomenal once again, one upping on their previous efforts. The film does have some dumb moments near the end to further the plot and is a bit predictable, but the realistic depiction of war and the brilliantly crafted, action packed movie, with an emotional motive, outshines all the criticisms or nitpicks with the film. Apes together strong!
The Beguiled (2017)
Coppola Canne do
Sofia Coppola is one of, if not, the best female filmmaker working today. Daughter of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia has learnt from the best. To make clear, by no means do I mean this in a sexist way, I would think this regardless of gender. I thought the same of Ridley Scott's son when he made the sci fi movie, Morgan, because let's face it, who else would have taught him how to make a sci fi film? Anyway, Sofia Coppola is a great filmmaker in her own right, making such films as Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides, earning her own Oscar for writing the former. Coppola's latest effort, a remake of Don Siegel's 1971 film, The Beguiled, takes a different approach, one that would make Coppola the second woman to win Best Director at the Canne film festival. The film takes us to 1864, the American Civil War, more specifically to a school for girls in Virginia, run by Miss Martha, played by Nicole Kidman, and aided by Edwina, played by Kirsten Dunst. When one of the girls stumbles upon a wounded Union soldier, played by Colin Farrell, tensions and paranoia run high as we are left to question who is the Beguiled? The girls or the soldier? The Beguiled is a well constructed film, but whose restraint direction doesn't quite satisfy me personally.
The film is extremely well acted from its very small cast. Nicole Kidman doesn't disappoint, playing a very strong leader, but who is also struggling to keep control and protect the girls. Kirsten Dunst also does well if wrongly cast in this film. Edwina is a rather plain/normal looking girl, or at least is in the Don Siegel version, so when you see Kirsten Dunst, you don't really question Edwina's relationship with McBurney. Dunst is a great actress and does well in the role, but because she is a naturally good looking actress, some audiences who haven't seen the original film or read the book, will not question certain aspects they should be questioning. Colin Farrell cranks up the charisma as Union Soldier McBurney. Farrell perfectly portrays the character to keep you guessing as to how genuine he may be. Is he a good man? Or has war made him evil? Or is he naturally evil? So many questions and so much complexity to him and the role. Well done.
My personal favourite aspect of The Beguiled, was its classic film construction. From the films opening shot/ title sequence, to the films aspect ratio, the film looks and feels like an old school classic movie. I found this to be very nostalgic, and this will be nostalgic to a lot of older audiences and overall, it's a nice touch to a period piece, perfectly fitting with the films 1864 setting. As well as this, Coppola makes other great directorial decisions in this film; such as the sheer lack of score which created tension and anxiety so well that you don't even notice the film has been borderline musically silent. Coppola wonderfully creates tension in this film whether it is through sheer silence, eye line match edits, the ambiguity of the script, or simply a high pressure situation taking place, Coppola masterfully conjures up unease in the audience that is felt throughout the film.
Coppola's approach is one I can appreciate and respect, the ambiguity of the film really leaves the audience guessing, but I personally would have liked a bit more. I understand the point of this film is to show restraint, but as I've heard, the Don Siegel version was rather out there and 'balls to the wall' and so I feel that's the version I want to see. I believe this mainly stems from how I witnessed the trailer, to which alludes to more of an actively tense, action packed horror film. I oddly enough saw the trailer for the first time when I saw It Comes At Night, another film that I feel falsely advertised, although The Beguiled isn't as big of a liar than that film. The trailer for The Beguiled was shown amongst various horror film trailers like IT and Annabelle Creation, and seeing as the trailer implies a dark, horrific and exciting horror film, I understandably felt lied to when actually seeing the film, which is a slow moving period drama, where for the most part, subtext rules over text.
Overall, The Beguiled is a beautiful looking movie, well acted by its cast and excellently directed by Sofia Coppola. It's unfortunate that the trailer sold me a different film and was almost damaging to Coppola's vision, but fortunately it isn't as drastic a misdirection as It Comes At Night, so it comes off fine by comparison. Coppola's restrained approach and different take on The Beguiled is the right way to go about a remake, but I just wish it had a little more of an impact to which the trailer implied. The film is charming if a little bit deceitful I guess you could say that the film itself is Beguiled...
The Big Sick (2017)
Kumail's Culture Clash
Pretty much everyone knows the score with romantic comedies. A guy and a girl meet, hating each other at first, but through 90 minutes of "kooky" bonding, the quirky odd couple fall in love, but fall out in time for the cheesy climax often involving the girl leaving on a plane, only for the guy to chase it down, get on last minute to confess his love for her and live happily ever after
The genre comes with certain expectations, for most part, they aren't optimistic. Well take all your expectations and leave them at the door when you see the romantic comedy, The Big Sick. This film breathes new life into the rom-com genre, and is simply a beautiful and genuinely funny movie. The Big Sick tells the story of Kumail, played by Kumail Nanjiani, an uber driver from an Islamic Pakistani family who also does comedy on the side. Despite his parents traditional beliefs, Kumail meets Emily, a white American girl played by Zoe Kazan, and the two start seeing each other. What follows is a hilarious, but also heartfelt story about love, family, the fear of disappointing your family and the clash between liberal/ more relaxed belief and strict tradition.
The Big Sick is fantastically well acted by the films four central actors. Holly Hunter's presence is felt immediately when we first meet her character, and she excellently plays the strong but also compassionate mother of Emily that is Beth. Ray Romano makes a brilliant comeback as Terry, Emily's father, Romano is obviously no stranger to playing the father role, being one a father of four himself. Romano's experience shows in this film, he is funny, timid and believable in this film and it's great to see him not play a Mammoth in a movie for once. Zoe Kazan is also great as Emily, playing her with a great level of emotion and, similar to Holly Hunter, having a real presence, even if she isn't featured all that much in the actual film.
However, the real star of this film is Kumail Nanjiani. This is Kumail's movie, he absolutely shines in the films lead role and is simply a revelation. His comedic timing and line delivery is absolutely on point and his use of sarcasm is exquisite, but not only that, Kumail nails the more serious and emotional scenes, even shedding a few tears, which I honestly did not see coming. Kumail Nanjiani doesn't just shine as a comedic actor, but as a well rounded actor and I really hope this film does wonders for him.
But of course comedy is not just about the delivery, it's also largely about the material and The Big Sick's material and overall script are simply marvellous. Not only shining as an actor, Kumail Nanjiani shines as a writer, co-writing this laugh out loud comedy with his wife Emily V Gordon. The couple have excellently crafted a subversive romantic comedy that feels so genuine and so real, that you almost don't want it to end, I know I didn't. What makes this film truly stand out from other rom-coms is how just genuine the film feels and how clearly you can feel the writer's emotions. It's obvious that this is more than just a film and was written from the heart. Not only that, it's laugh out loud funny, which to get me to laugh aloud is like getting blood out of a stone, and deals with its very relevant themes of cultural tradition and family disappointment daringly yet also respectably.
Yes this film is hilarious and emotional, but what really makes the film stand out is how it handles its sensitive subjects. Kumail comes from a strict, traditionalist, Pakistani Muslim family living in America, so he is going to struggle with the type of life he wants to live and the one his family want him to live, while also experiencing his fair share of 9/11 and Isis comments and overall bigotry. How The Big Sick handles these sensitive matters is outstanding, it doesn't cower from both debating issues and making some very controversial jokes surrounding them. The film doesn't tiptoe around these things, but also doesn't make the film all about them either, being loud and proud without being pretentious. We simply need more films like this.
Overall, The Big Sick is a beautifully well written and excellently acted film, that confidently addresses its sensitive areas without being cocky and feels extremely genuine on both a comedic and emotional front. I went in knowing little about the film and that is honestly the way to go, as the films end/ start of credits added a nice surprise that just added a whole new layer to the film. I actually laughed aloud which is extremely rare for me and my smile did not leave my face until long after the film had finished. I really hope this launches Kumail Nanjiani and co-writer Emily V Gordon into all new levels of acclaim and success. Bravo and Brava.
It Comes at Night (2017)
I would argue that we are living in the golden age of horror. In recent years, filmmakers have began to really understand what Alfred Hitchcock knew all along; "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." The Conjuring, It Follows, The Babadook, The Witch, Don't Breathe and most recently Get Out, are just some of today's horror films that have proved that just because a film is a horror film, it doesn't mean it has to be loaded with jump scares and have a poor quality overall. 2017 especially looks to be a very good year for horror fans, yes The Mummy wasn't good and Saw is set to return, but with Get Out being one of, if not THE best film of the year, as well as, the rave reviews Annabelle Creation has gotten, and the hype the new IT adaptation, this year is shaping up to be one of horror's finest.
The most recent horror film to get the big thumbs up by critics is none other than It Comes At Night, the film has been praised for its bare bones story and fear of what isn't on screen, and has been considered, like Get Out, as one of 2017's best films . Everyone else however, begs to differ. What is perhaps most interesting about It Comes At Night is the drastic disagreement between critics and audiences and that the films marketing is said to be misleading. Having now seen It Comes At Night I can see both why people love, as well as, hate this film. It Comes At Night is a hard film to review and one I'm still not really sure how to feel about, but what I do know is that film is extremely well made, even if it mislead its audience and went for an preferred reading that is widely not taken and is a bit of a stretch.
Firstly I'd like to address the argument that this film is falsely advertised, as this is where i believe a lot of the negative responses from audiences came from. Having seen the posters and the trailers, I completely understand why people will feel cheated and tricked when actually seeing It Comes At Night, as the film is not the one implied in its marketing. I attribute this to the fact Universal are involved with this film, and so have to market to attract an audience. Thus what is advertised is a mysteriously unnerving, Joel Edgerton starring, 'Don't-open-the-red-door-at night,-or the-unknown-night-monster-will-kill-you' movie. The film is not the same film that is advertised, but to be honest, I don't think Universal could've sold the film that It Comes At Night is, or at least not in a way resulting in successful box office returns. For me the big issue with the films mislead marketing is the films title. It Comes At Night is a cookie cutter horror movie name, that if you look back at every horror film ever, would allude to an unknown creature that comes out and kills at night That is not the case with this title. Director Trey Edward Shults has stated that it is a metaphor, but no one really seems to know what metaphor that is. Is the 'it' in the title meant to be paranoia, fear and distrust of others? That's the only thing I can think that 'It' is. But then again IS 'It' an unknown creature that kills at night? Because, SPOILER ALERT, who killed the dog? And who brought the dog back to the house and opened the red door?
This all being said, the film is well crafted even if it lies and teases the audience. The suspense was excellently crafted in this film as you are left to feel on edge for the films entire run time. Part of this suspense is due to the lack of answers, and so in a way that is successful in making you feel the suspense and paranoia of the characters. As well as the suspense, the theme of paranoia was explored brilliantly mainly due to the fact that it is the smallest details that characters question, such as; the door being open, Andrew sleepwalking, Andrew keeping his eyes closed, Will's brother etc. To an extent, the lack of answers helps fuel the paranoia, not only in the characters, but in us the audience. But it's only the little things and minor questions that work by being unanswered. Also, say what you will about the film, but the acting is definitely brilliant. The film's small cast do a great job and Joel Edgerton once again proves a brilliant actor, having shone as writer, director and actor with The Gift in 2015, Edgerton pulls off another great horror film performance, this time the exact opposite of the calm and calculated Gordo.
To conclude, It Comes At Night is a confusing movie, one that is hard to put my finger on, but also one where I can see every person's argument. It's essentially the Blurred Lines music video (except not offensive), the director has stated that the text is one thing, while the audience collect evidence to say otherwise, rejecting and hating what the director has made. The films cookie cutter title and mysteriously gripping marketing clash with the directors overall goal and have left audiences disappointed in Trey Edward Shults because of this. This isn't Shults fault, however his efforts have not helped to extinguish the blaze of negative responses from the average movie goer. Marketing aside, It Comes At Night is a well crafted film, that excellently creates suspense and paranoia in the audience, unfortunately a bit too well for some audiences. The film offers far more than it delivers as it simply wants to be minimal, which I can appreciate, but it's just a shame that the marketing team did such a good job at the expense of Trey Edwards Shults vision.
Despicable Me 3 (2017)
Here lies the remains of this franchises credibility
Despicable Me was a hit no one saw coming when it came out in 2010. I remember going in with zero expectations and leaving pleasantly surprised at how good this animated family film was. Steve Carell was great, the Shrek like story had a real sense of humour and heart to it, and the minions were first introduced firmly in their place, the background. Unfortunately the success of this one film meant the rise of the Minion by Illumination, an animated film company that has yet to make a film anywhere near as good since. Now after an okay second film, an abomination of a spin off and the extremely bland Secret Life of Pets, Illumination brings us Despicable Me 3. I was hopeful going in, the first film was great and the second was also enjoyable, so the third film should be an improvement upon the Minions movie right? Well yes, but Despicable Me 3 is yet another cash grab sequel that proves that this franchise has done all it can and is on the brink of death.
The producers of this franchise know who their audience are and who buys their ancillary markets, although both audiences aren't necessarily one and the same, the producers seem to think so and thus have made this film for the merchandise buyers, aka super mainstreamers and children The third Despicable Me film is the first in the trilogy to abandon attempts to please the family unit, in favour of appealing to 4-12 year old's and anyone with a Minion phone case. As a consequence, the film contains an endless barrage of idiotic slapstick comedy, crappy puns, stupid voices, silly dances, as well as, Minion babble So literally nothing we haven't already seen, and seen done better in this case, in every single kids and family film ever made
The biggest issue for me was the films humour, or better yet, lack of humour, as it was so horrifically bad that I seriously questioned every punchlines, do people actually think that these jokes are funny or are they meant to be ironic? Is the joke that these jokes are so painfully unfunny? I genuinely don't know. I do know however, that when i did laugh, which was rare, it was ironically, as this film is littered with cliché and cringey jokes which are delivered with a slight level of uncertainty by the voice actors, to which lead me to question it being ironic or not. About midway through the film there is a dinner scene which was the tipping point for me. I found myself in such discomfort, due to the scenes extremely unfunny nature and large levels of cringe, that I was hysterical, unable to contain my laughter for all the wrong reasons. Despicable Me 3 is so unfunny that it's even funny at times, but you have solider through the field of cringe and discomfort that comes with the films grating sense of humour. If Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm can't save the Minions movie, Trey Parker and another Steve Carell cannot save Despicable Me 3
The film itself does what the Minions Movie did even worse, and that is not fully commit to certain plot lines. The film introduces the villain Balthazar Bratt in the opening, only to have him do nothing for the rest of the film, in favour of a brotherly love story between Steve Carell and Steve Carell. The film does cut back to Bratt and doesn't forget about him completely, but he feels very out of place once Dru is introduced. As well as this, the film recycles the same two or three sub plots from the first two films; There is a struggle with a character about being a parent (In this case, Lucy), Gru struggling with the urge to be bad when he knows he must be good for the 'Gurls!', and the Minions get a side story because Minions are the hottest of sh*t in the 2010's.
Lastly, Kristen Wiig comes off as excruciatingly awful in this film in large part due to the films unfunny nature. Kristen Wiig is an awkward comedy comedian and thus relies heavily on good material to work with, otherwise it's just cringe. All of Lucy's humour falls flat on its face as the material given isn't good, and Wiig's performance overall comes off as desperate-for-a-laugh because of this. Sorry Kristen :(.
To conclude, Despicable Me 3 is not the quality boost the franchise needed, but rather proves that the Despicable Me franchise has nothing more to offer us. The films have become more accessories to the Minion Merch with every new instalment and I pray that they please let this die as this film proves that it is ready for the sweet release of death. This is a huge shame as Despicable Me in 2010 was a great film, now ruined by a series of cash grab sequels that are the reason The Emoji Movie exists Thanks a lot Gru, thanks a lot.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Spider-Man is arguably the most relatable and beloved superhero of all time, I know this is true is for me. When Sam Raimi first brought him to the big screen in 2002, the film had the biggest opening weekend for any film at the time. Now 15 years, 5-6 movies, 3 actors and 2 reboots later, we now are graced with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Directed by Jon Watts and stars Tom Holland as the third Spider-Man, Michael Keaton as the Vulture and Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, Spider-Man: Homecoming tells the story of an overly eager, adolescent Peter Parker, who is done with being the bridesmaid (your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man), and thus desperately attempts to impress Tony Stark in the hopes of becoming an Avenger. The film is a fun addition to the Marvel universe that is by far the best Spider-Man film since Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 (2004).
Spider-Man: Homecoming is unlike any Spider-Man film before it. It is crossover film in more ways than one. Yes the film has Iron Man in it, but it also has Spider-Man face off with former Batman, Birdman now Vulture, Michael Keaton. Jokes aside, this film is unique in the sense that it does its own thing and doesn't follow in 'The Amazing Spider-Man's footsteps by retelling the classic Uncle Ben origin story. The film fortunately does what Spider-Man 2 did so well, getting right into Peter's life as Spider-Man. I swear if we got a third origin story that would be a last straw, I'm sorry Spidey. Also in the same light as Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming plays with the question "can Peter Parker be Spider-Man without the suit?" I personally enjoyed the rather realistic way this was handled and this really helped warm you to Tom Holland's Spider-Man as a person with faults, thus juxtaposing the way audiences related to Tobey Maguire's relatable, good guy nerd Spider-Man.
As I've compared Spider-Men and Spider-Man films I might as well cut right to it. Tom Holland is a great Spider-Man, he embodies the naive ambition, rebellion and awkwardness of a young teenage boy and did what I believe to be the right way to approach Spider-Man, that is playing Peter Parker first and Spider-Man second. People love Spider-Man not because he can swing from a web and climb walls, well not just because of that. People love Spider-Man because Peter Parker is a relatable character. When I was growing up Spider-Man wasn't just a hero, he was a figure of representation and therefore was MY hero. Although Tom Holland will never be better than Tobey Maguire in my eyes due to personal history, he is a surprisingly close second. I appreciate Holland's approach to my childhood icon, and I think it's safe to say, he was definitely better than Andrew Garfield. As well as Tom Holland, Michael Keaton also did an excellent job as the films antagonist, The Vulture. His story was understandable and his character was given a surprising amount of depth for an MCU villain. Keaton's Vulture stands out above pretty much all MCU movie villains (except Loki of course) and would feel more at home in the Netflix shows alongside Cottonmouth, Kilgrave and Kingpin.
My only criticisms surround the high school dramedy parts of the film. Although, a lot of the comedy that came from this was pretty funny and so I can't fault it too much, I could however have done without the teen romance sub plot with Lizzie. Again, I understand that it does become crucial to the plot and nicely reflected the Osbournes over for dinner scene in Spider-Man (2002), this being said, It just felt cliché overall and seeing as this is a rather fresh take on Spider-Man, the typical high school romance took away some of the films freshness, in my opinion. Also I felt that maybe the character Ned and Michelle could have swapped positions. Ned just didn't do much for me by being in the film, I feel Michelle and Peter could have had better banter and that Michelle could've acted as Peter's reality check. I do see however that Michelle may become important in the sequel so we shall see.
Finally, I get this being an Avengers crossover movie, Tony Stark being a father figure to Peter, as well as, a massive payday for RDJ, but there is a part of me that feels this is Marvel trying to make every superhero movie a 'Mini Avengers' movie, ever since the success of Captain America: Winter Soldier. This is a Spider-Man film, but it also isn't as it is a constant reminder that the Avengers exist and have a movie next year. Part of me would have liked an solo Spider-Man movie with references to the universe similar to the Marvel/Netflix shows, which to be honest it does do, but at the end of the day, I'm just thankful they have finally made a good Spider-Man film after 13 years of trying.
To conclude, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a fun and surprisingly relatable superhero movie that ends Spider-Man's bad movie streak. Its an entertaining action and teen movie that understands its character, as well as, what made the last three movies not so great. Sure its another 'Mini Avengers' movie as well as a typical teen film, but with brilliant acting, writing, directing and a real sense of humour, Spider-Man: Homecoming does my childhood icon justice and satisfies on many levels.
The Numbers Mary... What do they mean?
Back in 2009, Marc Webb would make his big screen debut with the fantastically unique romance that is, 500 Days of Summer. Webb would then, having probably impressed some big dogs at Sony, go on to direct the big budget blockbuster reboot that was The Amazing Spider-Man... After the second film crashed and burned and Sony made a deal with Marvel, Webb now directs Captain America, returning to his comfort zone of feel good indiewood movies with his new film Gifted. Gifted is the story of child prodigy, Mary and her uncle/guardian, Frank as Frank battles for the future and custody of Mary against his own success seeking mother. This film marks a step in the right direction for Webb after The not so Amazing Spider-Man mess, while also giving underrated/ typecast actors a platform to really act.
Firstly, the film boasts a decent cast who in effect the backbone of the film. Octavia Spencer doesn't disappoint and Jenny Slate does a decent job as Mary's teacher Bonnie. However the entire film would be nothing without it's two stars; Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace. The on screen chemistry of their father-daughter bond is extremely believable and is what gives the films story its emotional weight. As well as with Evans, Mckenna's entire performance is mesmerising and is hands down the absolute highlight of the film. What is it with cinema and fantastic child actors at the moment? Jacob Tremblay (Room), Sunny Pawar (Lion), Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special), Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar) and now Mckenna Grace. I don't know what has happened, but long gone are the days of Jake Lloyd Meesa happy about that.
The film itself is your standard fare feel good film about a special child and a custody battle. Gifted is conventional for the most part due to the way it chooses to handle its subject matter and story. It's essentially Kramer vs Kramer at its core. However, the film uses its conventions in a winning combination which is still rather effective and emotional, with more than a little help from its cast as well. The film ends somewhat realistically, and in parts, cynically surrounding the character of Evelyn played by Lindsay Duncan. I personally liked this angle, as it made the ending not too cliché, but I can see many people disliking it, thinking the complete opposite. Films like these can often tend to dip into utter fantasy for that 'Happily Ever After' ending, and so I appreciate the element of realism that Gifted seeked to retain.
Nonetheless, Gifted has one major flaw and that is the scripts narrow mindedness. The film becomes almost like everyone in the custody battle courtroom, so focused on Mary's life and what is right for her that is ignores other important factors and fails to open its eyes to the bigger picture. Characters aren't developed upon as they are only relevant to the role they play in Mary's life. For example, Octavia Spencer's character Roberta feels like she was only written so that Octavia Spenser could be in this film. Jenny Slate's character Bonnie is just a teacher and love interest for Frank. And Frank is Mary's carer, to whom we only learn about through being the brother of Diane, Mary's mother. When Frank takes the stand in the courtroom, a lot of information is briefly mentioned about him as a person, information that I would have loved to see developed upon. At the end of the day the whole story is revolving around Frank's ability to be Mary's legal guardian, so I believe a lot more character development is needed with his character. Yes the film is from Frank's perspective, but we are simply watching Frank watching Mary's life. As Frank is the primary complication in the films narrative, perhaps the film could have focused on his rehabilitation, or at least getting a job with healthcare But then again this could be handled poorly and come off as cliché, but would provide the ending with some actual resolution and answers, either way a much deeper development of character is needed.
Gifted is a good comeback for Marc Webb to his comfort zone and offers up an impressive feat of acting for a largely underrated cast. Although the script needs to widen its focus, developing characters such as Roberta, Bonnie and Frank, the acting and feel good formula is enough to satisfy and overall makes the film enjoyable. Webb may not have had the best go at Spider-Man, but his go with Captain America is definitely a huge step up.
The Mummy (2017)
Back in 1999, Brendan Fraser and co. made a name for themselves with the Mummy. The film would then lead onto two sequels, both gradually decreasing in quality, and a short yet fun roller coaster ride. Now, after his not so recent, yet still rather recent, split from creative partner Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman directs a reboot of the Mummy with the intention of creating, what has been called the, 'Dark Universe', for one of Hollywood's Big Six conglomerates, NBCUniversal. This Mummy reboot parallels the start of the DCEU, it's a fall at the first hurdle. What is created is a film that tries to be many things, fully achieving none and is obviously an high concept, studio money maker that sees nothing but green.
Where this film fails is its acknowledgement of who its audience is and what it is they want out of a film. The film doesn't seem to pick an audience but instead tries to attract as many people as it can. The film has Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe to attract Tom Cruise and/or Russell Crowe fans, horror themes and elements to attract younger and/or horror fans, blockbuster action and glossy visuals to attract mainstream audiences, and elements of comedy and a world building organisation to attract people you have been absorbed by the MCU and DCEU. The economical intention is clear, however the combination of these elements are contradictory and thus has made the film a failure both critically and commercially. Of all the things the film offers the only thing it seems to deliver is Tom Cruise and a forced attempt at world building. The film falls completely flat as a horror film and horror franchise, for the simple fact that this film is more of a Tom Cruise blockbuster than a genuine attempt to make a horror film franchise. Seriously, its called the 'DARK universe', the audience will be expecting dark horror and monster movies.
Many directors, including one of the current industry leaders in horror, James Wan, has been vocal about studio horror and why it is often very bad. As Wan has said, it is because they rely too much on formula and repeated conventions, such as jump scares to get a reaction from their audience. The Mummy is a perfect example of this. There is literally a scene in which two disposable cop characters search a dark location, splitting up and being killed one by one in a jump scare moment... Horror doesn't get more cliché than that. Speaking of cliché, the script is filled with two things; 1) cliché, cringe worthy dialogue and 2) exposition... Lots and lots of painfully boring and unnecessary exposition. I understand there is a lot to explain with mythology and world building and all, but can you actually try and use the camera to explain this for once. As Alfred Hitchcock said "Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms." It's also worth noting that the film tries to be funny, obviously taking the MCU approach to cinematic world building, seeing the success of the lighthearted feel of Marvel's films and trying to profit off that. This is however yet another part of the film that proves that The Mummy was not made for the audience, even if the director says so.
The Mummy is a cinematic identity crisis. Trying to be so many different things to so many different people, that it ultimately fails at being what it should have been, a horror franchise, and instead becoming a glossy Tom Cruise blockbuster that is barely a 15 certificate. Similar to Wonder Woman, both critics and audiences are in agreement, they both believe that the Mummy simply isn't good. I agree that this is Tom Cruise's worst film and disagree with the director's statement that this was made for audiences, because it clearly is not. The film industry is a business and the goal is to make money, the problem with the Mummy is that this is the only thing made clear to anyone Universal need to focus more on the content of their future Dark Universe films, I don't mean certificate rating content which is what they will think, what I mean is simply decide to be a monster/horror movie universe, stick with it, rip up the rule book and just make a good f*cking film not a marketing accessory. Daniel out *drops mic*
Baby Driver (2017)
Plug In Baby
From Edgar Wright, co-writer and director of the Cornetto trilogy and Scott Pilgrim vs the world, comes a rather fresh take on the Heist genre that is Baby Driver. Ansel Elgot of the Fault in Our Stars and Divergent fame, stars as Baby, a young getaway driver with a deep rooted love of music and indebted to the wrong person, Kevin Spacey. Baby drives to pay his debts and keep those he loves safe, but when things start to escalate its dog eat dog. Wright's first solo writer/director feature is like True Romance as a heist film, while bringing Wright's auteur stamp to the genre. It's a brilliantly acted and directed film, even if the story unfortunately does get progressively worse.
The films first half was far better than its second in my opinion. Opening with a heist that immediately solidifies the film as an Edgar Wright one. Baby's car dancing and lip synching establishes a comedic element that has run throughout his work and the signature Edgar Wright fast cuts are used as good as ever in several absolutely fantastic car chases in this film, but especially in the films opening. The films first act is the films peak. I would also like to highlight Wright's choice in this sequence, and throughout the film, to not show the heist take place, he could have easily made the film super conventional and shown a heist, but this film isn't about that. Wright Knows the film he is making and it's really quite a feat to make a heist film without really showing a single one. Not only is he unconventional in not showing a heist, but he also uses the long take quite a lot, and from the 'Master of the Fast Cut' this was very interesting to see. After the excellently executed opening sequence we are graced with an equally well executed title sequence which is all done in one take. I understand why Wright would use the long take. It lets the actors feel the music, move and react to it. The title sequence is exactly that as Baby goes to get coffee while listening and reacting to a song as it plays in its entirety. The long take is used throughout, similar to Wright's signature fast cut, and it simply showcases his versatility as well as his impeccable handle over a soundtrack.
At the screening I saw, Edgar Wright stated in an introductory video to get ready for an awesome soundtrack and he isn't wrong. What makes Baby Driver's soundtrack so good isn't just the selection of songs, which is brilliantly done by Steven Price, but the way in which Wright has woven them into the film. I did think to myself before the film started "are they just trying to capitalise off what Guardians of the Galaxy did and is doing?", but now having seen Baby Driver I can safely say, that the way Wright has used his soundtrack is truly unique, and not just an easy attempt at merchandising. You can tell that Wright had the songs in mind before and/or during the script writing process as scenes are written and directed around certain songs, such as Debora by T. rex. I have heard critics call Baby Driver a 'sudo-musical', but I would prefer to compare it to more of a 2 hour long music video. The use of music allows for Wright to play with how the film is edited and he does not disappoint as the entire film is edited wonderfully by editors Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss.
Now, although Wright directed the absolute hell out of this film and the wove the soundtrack in nicely, the film does however suffer a dip in quality when it tries to create and relationships. My biggest issue is with Kevin Spacey's character who I would like to have known more about, especially in regards to his relationship with Baby. This is mainly a problem as his character takes a sudden U turn in the films third act which is so sudden to which we are given one sentence explanation "I was in love once." Maybe Wright wanted his character to be a mystery, I don't know, but personally I would have liked the film to focus a little more on Spacey and Elgort's relationship, thus giving the film's final act a little more kick even if it doesn't really need it. Also the relationship between Baby and Debora was okay but didn't have to take up so much of the run time as it did. The only other issue I have is with the films final act as, although directed fantastically and filled with unexpected moments, it did feel rather expected due to the nature of the heist genre. I can't help but have the films The Town and Triple 9 in mind, and personally this association made the final act a bit too conventional than for what I would have liked. I also didn't really like the ending. I found it a bit rushed and arbitrary and to me it felt like an alternate one you get in the DVD extras But then again who doesn't like a happy ending? In this case me I guess.
To conclude, Baby Driver is written and directed to near perfection by Edgar Wright, with a big star cast that more than satisfies expectations the audience would have of it, and a kick ass soundtrack that is woven beautifully into the film, Edgar Wright has made yet another great film here. Although the script could have probably done with one more draft, adding a little more detail into characters and their relations to others, but then again it is because Wright has created such interesting characters that I even want to know more in the first place Watch out Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift because here is the real Drift King.
A decent film with one Colossal problem...
Original films are hard to come by nowadays. Everything is either based off a comic, novel or true story. So when an original concept comes along I automatically have a level of respect for the filmmakers while simultaneously crossing my fingers, wanting it to be good. Colossal is a truly unique movie that tells the story of Gloria, an alcoholic f*ck up who moves back to her hometown to clear up her act... Oh and at the same time there is a giant monster tearing through Seoul, South Korea at exactly 8:05 am in the morning that Gloria is somehow connected to through a children's playground. As I said this is a truly unique film that I have a lot of respect for, but really misses the mark in regards to character.
This film is nuts. The story is original and really quite weird which lends itself to sequences that are also originally weird. The nature of the films story opens up doors to the director to construct some really well shot and original sequences such as the slo-mo stomp circle around Gloria. Writer/Director Nacho Vigalondo opens up some really creative doors for himself and he finds his way through some of them, however the film could have made better use of these open doors. Yes, there are original sequences to be had, but the film focuses too much on the protagonists alcoholism and real life rivalries, that the monster aspect becomes more of a dialogue topic than an attempt at original film making. I do understand however, that visual effects cost a lot of money, and the films visual effects are really good, very reminiscent of the classic Godzilla (Gojira), and thus I understand that budgeting may have been an issue, but it still doesn't change the fact that this film could have been handled and done much better.
The acting in Colossal was pretty good. Anne Hathaway is decent in this film. A believably unlikable at times alcoholic with intensity in her emotions, she does a good job as the films lead. However, I thought Jason Sudeikis had the harder task and was far better in this film, making the absolute best out of a poorly written character. Sudeikis plays Oscar, a local who Gloria used to go to school with and now owns a bar. Sudeikis both makes you love him and then absolutely despise him in this role, and frankly he surprised me at how well he could pull off a full on psychopathic character. Although his character becomes more of a caricature once he goes full psychopath, Sudeikis' performance makes the best of this and is really quite disturbing to watch, so a lot of credit to Jason Sudeikis for turning lemons into lemonade on this one.
As previously stated, the character of Oscar is terribly written. The character starts off as extremely likable, but then Vigalondo does a complete 180 degree shift in his character, which is so sudden it completely detaches you from the film. Oscar goes from sweet and lovable to full blown psychopath in a matter of minutes and it's extremely jarring. His character isn't developed at all and the attempts made during the film are extremely brief to the point of being pathetic. We are given one look at his apartment and a photo with his mums face scratched out and that is meant to explain why this man suddenly turned into a clinically insane psychopath all of a sudden.... I don't think so, seriously talk about eggshell thinness. I cannot get my head round this sudden shift in direction except for the sake of having a villain, but it simply was not needed and almost completely ruins the dynamic of the film.
So what have we learnt? Don't drink alcohol because if you do you will be a f*ck up or at worse become a psychopath... Yep that about does it. But in all seriousness, Colossal is almost a complete screw up if it wasn't for strong lead performances and an okay attempt at creating original film making. I congratulate and respect the intentions of this filmmakers, even if the film doesn't live up to its full potential at all, but sadly I simply cannot forgive the drastic shift in Jason Sudeikis' character, that is simply a Colossal screw up.
My Cousin Rachel (2017)
Rednecking and Gold Digging
Daphne Du Maurier's work in no stranger to big screen adaptations. Alfred Hitchcock brought Rebecca and The Birds to the screen, immortalising them in cinema as well as their initial novel format. Now in 2017 Roger Mitchell, director of Notting Hill, brings us another adaptation of Du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel. The film tells the story of Philip, the young heir to his guardian's land who blames his guardian's widow Rachel for his demise. Phillip plots his revenge but upon meeting her his feelings begin to change, and he becomes almost possessed by her beauty. My Cousin Rachel doesn't break any new ground in the period drama genre, but it's acting performance and psychological elements save this film from total blandness.
As mentioned, the acting from My Cousin Rachel's key cast is solid. Sam Claflin nails the naive schoolboy character of Philip, presenting a keenness and innocence of someone his age. Phillip after all is a young boy having his first encounter and relationship with a woman, and thus Claflin portrays Phillip as such. Iain Glen is also good as Nick Kendall, Philip's trusted adviser and shareholder until Philip becomes of age to claim his property. The stand out performance of this film is by far of the title character. Rachel Weisz plays Rachel Ashley with such ambiguity and strength it makes her utterly compelling. She is the life of the party while later crying her eyes out, showing her acting range perfectly and nailing every second she is on screen. It is in no small part that the success of this film is down to her engaging and entertaining portrayal of the films title character.
The films first half is purely setting the scene and character development. This is natural for some period piece films to do, however My Cousin Rachel doesn't do this at a good pace. The film opens and within 5-10 minutes we know all we need of the story, and we patiently wait another 10 minutes for Rachel to be introduced, and then another 60-70 minutes for anything to really happen. The film takes its time to develop character and I understand and accept that, but the film does very little with that time it has and not a lot more is gained from this extended period of time. The film is extremely slow moving and feels about 30 minutes longer than it actually is, and this is down to the films poor use of time.
This isn't helped by the predictable nature of the majority of the films run time (I haven't read the book, nor knew the story before hand). The films synopsis sums up about 90 minutes of the films 106 minute run time to a tee and thus you end up waiting for what feels like 2 hours for the characters to discover what you already know. This again isn't helped as the film seemed to go to the A Cure For Wellness school of "less than subtly forcing a drink onto the protagonist to no end" thus making later revelations pathetic. The film is largely eventless and predictable, however the films final act saves the film.
Normally the final act of the film will resolve all unanswered questions and leave the audience satisfied, however this is thankfully not the case with My Cousin Rachel. The most compelling aspect of this whole film is by far the psychological thriller aspect and ambiguity surrounding the character Rachel. Is she a psychopathic murdering gold digger, or is she just a genuinely nice person? The film doesn't answer this question and instead leaves the character and her many enigmas unanswered. I was not expecting this, bearing in mind I had no prior knowledge of the book. I do understand however this is more down to the book itself than the filmmakers, but I am grateful they didn't adapt this bit differently to which they possibly could have. So either way, the films final act saves My Cousin Rachel from full scale predictability and so I appreciate the restraint needed for this to happen. I must also add my admiration for the films final shot, as it lingers and for that, I believe could provoke an interesting discussion and possibly opens a door to rewatching from a different perspective, that of Louise Kendall. It's the enigma codes that hold My Cousin Rachel together and, to me, the final shot added another enigma.
My Cousin Rachel is a real slow burn period drama that doesn't make very good use of its time, but fortunately features such a compelling performance and character in Rachel, as well as, a psychological element to the film which makes it so much more enjoyable. Ah Rachel, my Torment.