Tuesday, 24 October 2017

'Thor Ragnarok' Review

It's safe to say that the previous 'Thor' movies haven't lit audiences up like many of Marvel's other projects have done so. The first two films haven't been bad, they just haven't been particularly exciting or memorable. However, the same cannot be said for 'Ragnarok' as the film creates an exciting identity that is unlike any other superhero film that we have ever seen.

After a family revelation, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself imprisoned on a strange planet by a man known as the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Whilst on this strange planet, Thor is forced to battle for his life and in doing so, he is reunited with fellow Avenger The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Together they must find a way to get off the planet and return to Asgard before the evil Hela destroys the entire civilisation. 

Comic book movies are often heavily criticised for lacking an identity that makes the film stand out from the others. Many claim that all the films look and feel the same whilst having similar if not identical plot points and storylines. With Taika Waititi directing 'Ragnarok', many were unsure to how much of his style would be replicated into this film as Marvel hasn't collaborated well with unique auteurs previously - see Edgar Wright and the 'Ant-Man' situation. However, Marvel have taken that risk they've held back on previously as 'Thor Ragnarok' is much more of a Taika Waititi film rather than a Marvel film.

Waititi's fingerprints are all over this film as it is a straight-up comedy. Over the years, Waititi has proven himself to be a true force when it comes to comedy and has made two - now three - of the best comedies of the last decade. With Waititi, you know that you will be getting a barrel of laughs in the film with cleverly crafted jokes, gags and slapstick humour. 'Ragnarok' has the same identity of Waititi's other film that allows it to truly stand out from the pack. Nobody else could've made this film as it is so distinctive to anything out there or that we have seen before in a big budget superhero flick. Waititi has been rewarded for his hard work on smaller indie films and has followed the likes of James Gunn in showing why such bright, creative minds should be given chances on a much bigger scale. 

The film most definitely possesses its own unique visual style to allow it to stand out further from the previous MCU films. The colour palette of 'Ragnarok' is off the chart with bright blues, yellows and red/pinks which creates a vibrant look that matches the tone of the film. As the film is a complete joy to watch and is 130 minutes of complete fun, the bright colours only enhance the film's exciting personality. The brightness of the film, again, helps the film stand alone as it goes against the norm to create something truly unique. The colours also blend very well with the action as it adds more excitement to these adrenaline filled scenes, as well as simply making them more appealing to the naked eye.

'Ragnarok' still does fit into the superhero genre but offers many moments that again differentiate it from other films, most noticeably within its climax. The film doesn't have the same ending as every other superhero film as it offers a fresh situation with a different solution. A lot of time is dedicated to the heroes actually being heroes in this moment as it isn't just a showdown to end the film. Instead, there is an abundance of characters fighting to save others, sacrificing themselves and looking to save as many people as possible. There are genre tropes that are hard to avoid but 'Ragnarok' manages to offer fresh and new situations that allow it stand out from a story perspective as well as the nature of its tone and visual style.

At this stage in the MCU, the films are still looking to develop the characters whilst adding many new ones at the same time and 'Ragnarok' does this tremendously. There are many regulars like Thor, Loki and Hulk who are yet again magnificent but the many new characters are great additions to the series. Tessa Thompson is the main example as Valkyrie, an independent tough female superhero who can hang with Thor and Hulk as she becomes an instant fan favourite. Waititi himself even appears as a rock creature Korg who manages to steal every scene he's in with his soft Kiwi accent. Cate Blanchette and Jeff Goldblum are two incredible additions to the already impressive cast and both commit to the wackiness of the film.  

Chris Hemsworth provides his best performance yet as the God of Thunder as his recent experiences in comedy films has helped his overall charisma as he truly shines. In previous films, he has sort of taken a back seat as others have stolen the show, even in his solo films. Hemsworth commands the screen and works tremendously well with the humour in what is his most enjoyable performance to date. His chemistry with Tom Hiddlestone is ever apparent as the two continue to impress working alongside together, with Loki continuously using his brother for his own good.

Once again, though, Marvel does not completely nail the villain as Hela is often forgotten about for large periods of time. We spend a lot of time away from Asgard where Hela is causing havoc but we see very little of it and at times, she becomes a bit of an afterthought. Blanchette does commit to the role but some extra screentime would really have made her much more fearful to our heroes. There are a few scenes that show her capabilities but not enough to consider her as a great villain. The film can be accused of not offering much more than laughs but as a bona fide comedy, these complaints cannot merit too much. 

Overall, Taika Waititi brings a very welcome addition to the MCU that is also one of the years best comedies. This is easily the best 'Thor' film there has been as this stands out from the rest of the films in this cinematic universe. A fresh film within a genre that is considered to have some fatigue, 'Thor Ragnarok' is a complete joy from start to finish.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Thor Ragnarok'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the movie or not, I highly recommend that you do so! Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

'mother!' Review

Darren Aronofsky is one of the few directors working who seems to be able to garner two opinions about his films. Usually, you either love them, hailing them as masterpieces, or despise them, claiming they are a waste of time. The director has received many plaudits from critics whilst also creating controversy with his films, with many believing that sometimes he goes too far making uncomfortable, disturbing films. His latest film 'mother!' will certainly be no different as Aronofsky more than makes use of the films 18 rating.

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a loving couple whose relationship is put to the test after strangers come to their secluded home. This starts a series of events that raise the tension and drama with each and every step.

'mother!' may just be the most complex, unconventional film of the year and due to this, I have absolutely no idea where to begin talking about it. It is very hard to talk about this film without verging on spoilers so take this as your precautionary warning.

Darren Aronofsky has taken a very unusual approach to his latest controversial film 'mother!'. If you are looking for a film that has a usual structure, set up and story, then you will not be best pleased with this movie. This film is unlike any other this year as instead of following a new story that unfolds before your eyes, everything instead is symbolic and means something else. The entire story is made up of imagery and symbolism which in many ways is very effective. 'mother!' can be interpreted in many ways but my take on it seemed to be very obvious of Christianity and many stories from The Old Testament. Many scenes are incorporated from the stories from the Bible and do make for some compelling, tense and incredibly well-acted scenes.

However, the fact that the film doesn't look to really tell its own story can cause problems. I found myself becoming generally lost due to not having the full knowledge of the biblical stories. This didn't happen a lot in the film but it did take me out of what was happening and made it generally less effective overall. Films that make you think are truly great and we really need them, but I do feel that having the entire story based on symbolism doesn't work that well. Perhaps if it were based on a topic that I was much more familiar with then I wouldn't have a problem or notice anything wrong with it. A balance of the two is fine for me as it allows a clear story to be told amongst having much deeper messages within it. This seems to be the problem that people are having with the film and it is completely understandable. The film doesn't and can't stand on its own without the viewer having prior knowledge of the symbolism. The extreme reactions then come to this as the film really hasn't connected to the viewer and engaged them into the message it is trying to drive home.

Aronofsky has undoubtedly taken a huge risk and his bold choice to use this narrative is to be commended whether you loved the film or hated it. This is an incredibly bold risk that could've been a complete disaster but Aronofsky manages to make it work. An odd type of an artistic piece that only someone with as mad a creative mind like Aronofsky could have the nerve to attempt. It's not a perfect formula but it is a change to traditional styles and has to be admired for creating something original.

As far as performances go, you may not see a better performance all year than Jennifer Lawrence's in this film. The four-time Oscar nominee may very well be on her way to another nomination with what is a completely mesmerising performance. It's strange that in this stage of her career, Lawrence still has many skeptics but 'mother!' only solidifies why she is one of the best actresses working today. Lawrence's unnamed character goes through a lot which allows Lawrence to show a wide range of acting skills. Her facial expressions are on point and help all the way in helping you feel exactly the same way as the character. This is a key factor in the film for me as Aronofsky captures the turmoil that Lawrence's character is going through and completely feel and understand her emotions. The constant use of close-ups of Lawrence - whether on her face or following her around the house - really allows this to be possible as no look or action is wasted. The finale really allows Lawrence to shine as her last words are packed with emotion and genuine feeling, leaving an everlasting impact.

Javier Bardem plays off Lawrence incredibly well as her oblivious husband who is easily recognisable as being selfish and reckless. The contrast between himself and Lawrence's characters work very well with the symbolism as Bardem doesn't hold back in his role. He plays his character incredibly well acting oblivious to mistakes, yet powerful and devious when needed. Michelle Pfeiffer is a strong bet to be considered for an Oscar nom as well as she truly shines in her short supporting role. Pfeiffer is great to watch and steals every scene she is in with a mysterious, intimidating role that commands your attention. She delivers every line with a great deal of attitude towards Lawrence and perfectly shows her disgust at J-Law's character. The look Pfeiffer gives Lawrence whilst leaving the home is one of the best pieces of acting you'll see without a word being said.

On a technical note, there are many aspects to truly admire. The sound design, in particular, is a highlight as it gives the setting a true genuine feeling. When characters walk away or go into different rooms, it sounds as if there is a distance between the characters which makes you feel like you are right there in the moment. A friend of mine summed it up perfectly by saying it allowed the home to feel like it had an anatomy which fits perfectly with the symbolism within the film. Aronofsky has specialised recently in using a lot of close-up shots and he does well with them here to create a tight, claustrophobic feeling within the house. This helps with the character played by Lawrence who in many ways feels trapped. At times, the camera work can feel a bit bumpy making it a bit sore on the eyes at times. It's not detrimental to the film but the handheld camera work at times wasn't that successful.

'mother!' doesn't really have much in its build-up that makes it feel like it deserves its 18 rating but oh boy the last 15 minutes or so certainly earns it. The film goes completely off the rails and lets loose giving the viewer all it has to offer. There are some disturbing scenes that may be excessive for many which will leave the viewer completely appalled. With the film's narrative and the vulgarity at the end, it is no surprise that there is the reaction it is getting from many. Is some of it unnecessary? At times, yes. But there's no doubt that this ending is incredibly memorable and will impact in you in some way. For me, it worked incredibly well leaving a tragic ending to a truly challenging film.

'mother!' certainly is an incredibly unique film that you will either love or hate. If the symbolism clicks, you may have one of your favourite films of the year. If it doesn't, you may have one of the worst. Due to this huge contrast, 'mother!' is quite an important film that you should see immediately. I can't really think of a recent film that has caused such a great discussion within the community, critics and casual fans. Aronofsky certainly seems to be taking pride in this effect the film has caused and quite rightfully. He has made something truly memorable and new in a time that seems to lack originality. Give this film a try, what's the worst that can happen?

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'mother!'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film or not. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

'Wind River' Review

Few people in Hollywood are on such a hot streak like Taylor Sheridan is right now. His first feature film as a screenwriter 'Sicario' gathered a whole lot of praise and put Sheridan on the map. His follow up did even better as 'Hell or High Water' gained Sheridan an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Sheridan seems to have a knack for compelling, cop dramas and 'Wind River' rounds this unofficial trilogy off magnificently well.

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a wildlife officer who knows the Wind River Indian Reservation area better than anyone else. Lambert comes across the dead body of an 18-year-old woman out in the open snow under unusual circumstances. The autopsy reveals that the woman was raped before she died as FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) arrives to handle the case. With a lack of help from her superiors, Banner teams up with Lambert in order to find out what happened to the young woman and bring those guilty to justice.

Sheridan has more than proved his quality in Hollywood by producing two of the best crime films in recent years. 'Wind River' provided the 47-year-old the opportunity to direct his second feature film but the first that he had also written the screenplay for. There's no denying that the screenplay yet again from Sheridan is incredibly strong as it provides great drama, emotion, and even humour perfectly yet again. He has a clear knack for creating a great dynamic using compelling and interesting characters. Sheridan is also an expert at making the setting of the film a character within itself. In 'Wind River', the harsh snowy conditions adds to the mystery of the film, bringing more tension and threats at every junction. The dialogue is yet again fantastic as there are many engaging, interesting and powerful conversations that really hit the films messages into you. Sheridan really doesn't miss anything out as he covers all bases you look for in character, story, and emotion proving yet again that he is one of the best writers working today. As a director, Sheridan isn't quite up to the same standard just yet.

The two scripts Sheridan has previously written have then been directed by different directors - Sicario with Denis Villeneuve and Hell or High Water with David MacKenzie. It's clear to see that Sheridan has learned many things from working with these directors especially on how to handle tension. The standoff scene only confirms this as Sheridan produces the tensest moment of the year. However, as a director, Sheridan does seem to rush some moments where he could really let it linger on to create even more impactful moments. In saying this, it is a very solid mainstream debut as he does create a fairly well paced, shocking film that succeeds very well in the end.

Jeremy Renner produces perhaps his best performance to date as Corey Lambert, a wildlife officer who takes care of the large snowy area. Renner's character is deeply troubled by his past and the murder mystery really hits him deep which gives him the motivation to find out the truth. Renner is quiet in his role but showcases the misery of his character as well as being well informed and wise. He is paired with Avengers co-star Elizabeth Olsen, an FBI agent located in Vegas who is simply thrown into the harsh conditions due to being the closest available agent. This creates a fish out of water dynamic for Olsen as she is completely unprepared and has very little support. Due to this, she requires the help of Lambert but it is her who is providing the support to Lambert instead. This gives each character clear motivations and reasons to slug it out in the wilderness in order to find out what has happened in this brutal circumstance. Gil Birmingham returns to work with Sheridan who provides a very solid performance which helps bring such a satisfying ending to the film.

'Wind River' is so impactful as it feels so incredibly real. The conditions have already been talked about and the cinematography really shows the grand scale of the location. The use of showing Renner constantly traveling via Snowmobile also adds that extra harshness of the wilderness and how this area is unlike many others in America where people are forced to live. The sound design plays a great role in conveying this feeling as you hear the elements which then makes you feel in that situation. There is a chilly feeling that comes with this film as the film capitalises on its setting and conditions for a much effect as possible. Details to the story such as the lack of help from the FBI without the autopsy defining the cause of death as murder add to this feeling especially due to where this film is set.

 The end of the film features statistics of how Native Americans have suffered from a lack of help as it really hits hard for the viewer. And this is also what the film is majorly about. It's not just a murder mystery film but a telling of events that still happen today. This is an area of America that really doesn't get much attention and those statistics only prove that. This makes the film not only a highly enjoyable and thrilling movie but a very important one as well.

Sheridan's writing makes this film one of the years best and a great end to a loose trilogy of American frontier films. He continues to prove himself as a great talent and his skills will only improve the more work he does, whether that's directing and/or writing. Packed with drama, tension, emotion, and one of the most satisfying endings of the year, 'Wind River' is one that you cannot miss.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Wind River'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film or not which I recommend you do. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Sunday, 10 September 2017

'IT' (2017) Review

When it was announced that Stephen King's IT would be getting the reboot treatment, the reaction was not very positive. However, as more images and footage was released, the film soon became highly anticipated by many. After a lackluster end to the summer of 2017, 'IT' looked to provide the quality missing in the last month. Thankfully, 'IT' delivers making it one of the best horror remakes in recent years.

Every 27 years, an evil presence Pennywise haunts and torments the children of Derry. It's latest victims are the Losers Club, a group of misfit kids who are already targeted by the neighbourhood bullies. Over the summer IT will look to bring these kids fears to life and feast on the children themselves. 

Recreating a story using an iconic horror villain is never an easy task - ask 2010's 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' or Rob Zombie's 'Friday the 13th' - as no matter what, the film will be compared with its predecessor. This version of Stephen King's classic horror novel isn't a direct adaptation, changing from a mini series to a film format with some changes to make it different and stand on its own. The characters - in this case, Pennywise in particular - will be compared due to the great performances in the past series. Tim Curry's portrayal of Pennywise is instantly recognisable and brought great fear to audiences across the world. Bill Skarsgard would be challenged with improving on an already beloved character. With a new look and a bag full of new tricks, Skarsgard does just as good a job as Curry did back in 1990.

Anyone with a fear of clowns will not be able to sleep easy at night after seeing the latest incarnation of Pennywise. Skarsgard provides a creepier version of the shapeshifter that uses more psychological torture and wild antics to mess with his prey rather than using his own moniker entirely. The Swedish actor goes all out, fully committing to the character in every scene, a particular highlight being when he torments Eddie Hasbrek for the first time at the Well House. This new Pennywise is very different to many of the recent clown characters we have seen as it takes a fairly childish approach to some antics which is close to being fairly silly. However, it knows when to push it at the right time in order to get as much effect as possible.

With this adaptation happening 27 years after the original, the film is able to do a lot more and be creative using CGI. The practical effects are gone with a lot of CGI replacing to try and recreate the thrills and scares. At times, this was quite excessive making the effects look very fake which in hand made some moments a whole less scary. This is the one factor of the film that did disappoint. The use of CGI is very apparent in many scenes which take you out of the world that has been so masterfully created throughout the film. This problem seems to be very apparent in modern horror films - 'The Conjuring' Universe is a big criminal of this - and it is no different with 'IT'. 'IT' also falls victim to using an extremely loud noise to accompany a "scary" moment. This really doesn't help as it doesn't add anything to the scene, it might shock you at first because a loud noise went off but that is it. Some of the best scares were also in the trailer which has been playing non-stop which has caused these moments to lose some effect. Although the film creates a tense and creepy atmosphere, I never really felt scared by anything that was happening. Maybe the pre release buzz and my expectations for the film set the bar too high but I have to say, this aspect sort of disappointed me.

Despite the scares not working at every moment, there is plenty to enjoy and that is mainly down to the cast of kids playing The Losers Club. There is a 'Goonies' vibe to this group of unpopular kids who are a complete joy to watch. There is so much personality in this group which makes every scene enjoyable and never leaves a dull moment. As someone who really enjoys a good coming of age story, I found myself enjoying the friendship of this group just as much and even more so than the horror aspect most of the time. Finn Wolfhard is the stand out for me as Richie Tozier, the loud trash talker who steals every scene with his quick wit. He bounces off each character fantastically well showing that he is capable of providing great comedy. The whole gang are great and really carry this film themselves due to their being very little screen time for the adult characters. In saying this, some of the characters are left with little to do in the film, especially Mike and Stanley. Mike, in particular, is robbed of his main role as it is delegated to another character, leaving him with little to do for most of the film. This does make some of the characters feel much less important than the others.

There is plenty of depth given to each character in the Losers Group as well as their main bully Henry Bowers. We get to see each character's background and own personal story that really helps builds each person as an individual. This creates so many layers for the characters and allows the film to create many creepy and eery scenes for each specific character. The use of these characters is fantastic as no detail really feels unnecessary as the film capitalizes on almost everything it sets up. The script is incredibly strong as it succeeds in making you really care for and take an interest in all of the characters. The first part of the mini-series was the most enjoyable due to the group of children and that has transcended into the feature film and the script deserves huge praise for this.

It's a rarity to see such graphic violence to children, even in horror films but 'IT' certainly does not hold back in these moments. This helps the film go much darker at times and create an everlasting impact on the viewer. The biggest example is the classic scene where Pennywise attacks and drags Georgie into the sewers with him. In the original, all you see is the clown grab Georgie and then a close up of Pennywise's gaping mouth closing in on its prey. The film recreates this scene shot for shot until the encounter when it improves on it massively. I won't spoil it but the images are truly horrifying and gets the film off to a blistering start.

'IT' is a highly enjoyable film even for those who aren't the biggest horror fans. A great coming of age story with an everlasting creepy feeling is a great combination that provides great entertainment. I wish it was a lot scarier with much less CGI but 'IT' is definitely worth checking out nonetheless.

Final Verdict =

So have you seen 'IT'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film or not. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

'A Ghost Story' Review

Casey Affleck under a bed sheet as a ghost, a quiet film with little dialogue and not a clear story, 'A Ghost Story' won't be for everyone but it is certainly the most unique film of the year.

A passionate young couple are about to move home when tragedy strikes. This loss takes the ghost of the victim on a journey about time, life, loss, and love.

Production company A24 has really made a name for themselves by creating unique stories in the sub genre of 'post-horror'. Films like 'It Comes At Night' and now 'A Ghost Story' are looking at existential dread rather than the usual techniques used within the horror genre. Due to this, it is moving away from the expectations of a horror film which is causing critics to love the film but the general audiences to feel like they're missing out on something. These types of films are becoming incredibly divisive and most certainly aren't for everyone - this was most evident as many people walked out of the cinema during the screening. It all seems to depend on what you would like to watch a film for. If you want something that will really make you think during the film and once you leave with the focus on a deeper meaning rather than on story, then 'A Ghost Story' is for you. If you're just looking for a normal horror that uses traditional scares, then it's probably best to stay away from this one.

'A Ghost Story' starts off with us being introduced to an unnamed loving couple played by Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. Soon after, tragedy strikes as Affleck's character is killed in a car accident, leaving Mara to deal with the loss. Whilst at the autopsy Affleck rises but under a bed sheet with two holes cut through in what is a budget ghost costume for Halloween. At first, this does seem incredibly silly but it does the job perfectly picturing a supernatural presence. From here we go from the current time, into the future and back to the past in this very unconventional tale.

Director David Lowery uses imagery almost fully to tell the story of this film as dialogue is fairly scarce. The film is eerily silent throughout the majority of the runtime as its imagery looks to explore several different issues such as dealing with the passage of time and with loss. This is all except for one particular scene where there is a fairly large monologue where a character basically reaffirms everything that has been shown so far but audibly hammers the concept of the film into you.

 'A Ghost Story' takes the viewpoint of the ghost rather than those who he is following or haunting as the film mixes time travel and loops into the story. We see the immediate aftermath with the ghost keeping an eye on the widowed Mara as she deals with the loss. There is a great deal of emotion in these scenes as we see the struggle of dealing with loss but also how heartbreaking it is that the ghost is there and unable to act or help out. As time goes on, Mara's character moves on with her life and due to this, it leaves an impact as she tries to move on from her husband, all the meantime while he is spiritually still there. Again, there isn't much dialogue and you can't even see the facial reactions from the ghost. Yet, this is so incredibly powerful as you have seen the loving bond between the two and how sad it would be to have that stripped away from you all of a sudden.

This unconventional story is also filmed different, being shot in 4:3 ration with rounded edges like Pulp's 'Disco 2000' music video. The screen is shrunk down which gives a more intimate frame which makes each shot more tightly constructed. The cinematography is also breathtaking as the film uses slow pans and stills very effectively in maintaining emotion, the journey home for the ghost is a great example for this. The film as a whole is incredibly beautiful and is backed up by a powerful score and soundtrack. The slow music adds so much impact to the film as does the original song from Dark Rooms. There is a scene where we see Mara reflecting over the loss whilst listening to her late partner's song in what is one of the best and most emotional moments of the year. The performances, music, and editing all combine magnificently, creating a powerful beautiful scene.

The performances alone deserve great praise, especially for Rooney Mara who mainly acts with the ghost watching over her. With the lack of dialogue, Mara has to use her reactions and facial expressions and she does so masterfully as she continues to show that she is one of the finest actresses of her generation. A scene which features Mara eating a whole pie in a 4-minute unedited sequence shows her grief in an eerily silent, unique, and incredibly effective way. The scene is also a good gauge for whether or not you will like this film as this is when the seven people left my screening. To me, it was one of the film's most powerful moments. Casey Affleck spends most of his time under a bed sheet yet leaves an impact. The film plays with some tropes of the horror genre such as why paranormal things may happen such as moving objects and random noises. The film looks at this being something deeper with frustrations of those lost being the reason which allows Affleck to really leave his mark.

'A Ghost Story' really is something truly unique and special there isn't really anything like it. The story doesn't try to horrify you but it will leave an everlasting impact as you leave questioning so many elements of life and time. Emotional daring and beautiful, 'A Ghost Story' is a slow burning emotional rollercoaster that will have you thinking about the film for a long time afterwards.

Final Verdict:

So have you seen 'A Ghost Story'? If so what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film or not. Once again thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Monday, 14 August 2017

'Atomic Blonde' Review

Everybody moans that every action or big budget film now is a sequel, reboot or part of a franchise in some way. Despite being based on a graphic novel, 'Atomic Blonde' looks to offer a new, fresh and vibrant story to the action genre whilst kicking a lot of ass along the way. With Charlize Theron on board, the film certainly fulfills the latter.

Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is a secret agent working for the MI6 who is willing to use any skill or weapon to stay alive during any mission. With the Berlin Wall about to fall, Lorraine must travel to the German capital to retrieve a priceless dossier that is vital to the government. With a few allies, Lorraine must do whatever it takes in order to succeed and survive in her latest mission.

Based on the graphic novel 'The Coldest City', 'Atomic Blonde' is the solo directorial debut from former stuntman and stunt coordinator David Leitch. Leitch has come into fame in recent years with his work in 'John Wick' that has received many plaudits for its sleek look and tremendous action scenes. It comes to no surprise that 'Atomic Blonde' at times seems like what the female version of 'John Wick' would look like.

Leitch's background working with stunt work is yet again clear as 'Atomic Blonde' is filled with many brutal yet brilliant action scenes. Leitch clearly knows how action should be shot, using long continuous takes to make everything seem as realistic as possible whilst maintaining that the viewer can easily see everything that is going on. These techniques were highly successful in the 'Wick' series so far and that has transcended into 'Atomic Blonde'. This is most evident in the truly brilliant stairwell scene where the editing helps keep up this illusion of one continuous shot in what is the best action scene of the year. The action is brutal and inventive as the characters use any object available to them to get the upper hand whilst keeping a feel of realism during the fight scenes. 

There is a slight noir feeling to this film as it the settings are mainly kept bleak whilst occasionally being lit up with neon colours. This gives the film a really sleek look which helps give the film an identity to stand out from many others. From a visual stand point, the film is a joy to look at and everything from the cast, costume, and lighting really helps make this possible. The film has a real sexy vibe to it that adds another layer to the film. Charlize Theron is completely enigmatic in her role where she truly glows which helps bring a new dimension to another action film. Her physical acting in the action scenes is to be admired as it always makes a difference seeing the real actor/actress involved in the big action scenes. Theron certainly will have picked up some injuries from her work as she truly commits to her role.

Although there are some great points and moments about this film, the problems lay heavily with the script. The story is convoluted and filled to the brim with plot points that are all over the place. The film clearly has the ambition to try to be this clever, intricate story that ultimately misses the mark. There is simply too much information and plot lines that the film tries to show and convey which become all muddled up throughout the 115-minute runtime. Due to this, you often forget about most of these elements as they are briefly mentioned or introduced but are then not talked not about again for a long period. There is some decent conflict within the film with the shady nature of the characters leading to some unpredictability in their actions. But there isn't enough of this as the film bounces between different plots surrounding different characters which are simply too complicated within the short time they are given.

It doesn't help that there is an abundance of characters that lack any quality that makes them remotely interesting. As previously mentioned, Theron is fantastic as his her co-star James McAvoy who plays a sleazy untrustworthy ally whose character and relationship should have been explored more to create a greater conflict. With there being so many characters, there is a great lack of emotion or feeling to them. Apart from Theron, you don't really root for any of the allies as you don't know anything about them. There also isn't a villain to detest which would lead to an intriguing yet entertaining climax to the film. Instead, it's just a lot of random faces that you are not invested in at all. Sofia Boutella's character Delphine seems to be the exception as there is development with her character and you actually care about how she progresses as the film goes on. We see a human side to her which makes you take an interest in her which shows that the scriptwriters were more than capable of creating interesting characters that you will care for. Unfortunately, this only happened a few times.

The soundtrack features many great 80s hits from the likes of Eurythmics, Nena and Depeche Mode that do install an 80s feeling to the film. However, the track list does seem very out of place at times, especially in regard to the tone of the film. The likes of 'I Ran' from A Flock of Seagulls felt very out of place during a car chase in what seemed to be a dramatic and serious part of the movie. The tones certainly didn't mix well which made some of the songs feel entirely out of place. With the recent successes of films such as 'Guardians' and 'Baby Driver', it seems like the film felt the best way to get success out of some action scenes was to blare a recognisable pop song alongside it. 'Atomic Blonde' is very different to these in regards to tone so it is no wonder that this same use of music was not nearly as successful.

Sleek, sexy and full of great action, yet 'Atomic Blonde' doesn't reach its full potential, meaning that the film will only be remembered as simply a decent action flick.

Final Verdict: 

So have you seen 'Atomic Blonde'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film or not. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Monday, 7 August 2017

'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets' Review

With a budget coming in at around $200 million, 'Valerian' is one of the most expensive films of the summer despite being mainly independently produced. Director Luc Besson has had the thought to adapt the comic book series for years, trying to find a way to make this adaptation possible ever since 'The Fifth Element'. Unfortunately, this project will go down as one of the biggest flops in summer movie history.

In the 28th Century, Valerian (Dane De Haan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) work together as special operatives who look to maintain order throughout the human territories. On a mission, the pair are assigned to Alpha, a striving community that hosts thousands of different and diverse species, each learning off of one another. As a mysterious force looks to disrupt the harmony of the community, it is up to Valerian and Laureline to stop them before it is too late.

'Valerian' looks set to join the miserable fate of films such as 'Jupiter Ascending' and 'Sucker Punch' by flopping tremendously at the box office. It is being reported that with the $200 million production budget, the film would have to make $350-400 million to make the film a success and merit further films. However, 'Valerian' doesn't deserve to be in the same category as those films in terms of quality. 'Valerian' isn't a good movie but it's nowhere near the terrible standards of those aforementioned. The biggest problem is that 'Valerian' provides an overall feeling of 'meh'.

The main story of 'Valerian' is a mystery surrounding a planet that was recorded as being uninhabited and was destroyed.  Simply enough, it is up to Valerian and Laureline to undercover what really happened and what is currently underway within 'Alpha'. Now make this makes for an easily understandable and fun adventure for the characters to go on. Unfortunately, the film is bogged down heavily by many sub plots that just weigh it down completely. The film's runtime comes in at 2 hours and 17 minutes long which feels closer to 3 hours due to its long drawn out story. There are many unmemorable sub plots that the film really could do without as the film really drags throughout each individual short story. None of these stories are enthralling or compelling at all as the film lacks that special something.

What doesn't help the film in any way is the script written by Luc Besson. The script is a tonal mess as it switches from serious to cheesy to comical before it establishes any form of identity or tone. Besson seems to have looked at the most recent sci-fi hits like 'Guardians of the Galaxy' and even 'The Force Awakens' and looked to use the quippy dialogue that will help build character whilst making interesting and fun conversations. To the dismay of the film, this does not work at all as the jokes and quips fall flat and when the story gets serious, it is tediously dull. There are some decent interactions between characters in the film but really nothing to get overly excited about. Again, the sub plots do not help this at all as we jump back and forth between many different situations and none are that exciting to demand your attention. Ideally, the film could've focused on fewer sub plots and dedicated the time to make them worthwhile rather than fitting as much in as possible.

'Valerian' is led by the duo of talented actor Dane De Haan and model-come-actress Cara Delevingne who seem to be horribly miscast. I believe that De Haan is a great talent, having loved his performance in 'Chronicle' as well as other serious roles in 'A Cure For Wellness' and 'Kill Your Darlings'. However, his character is meant to be a badass, cocky playboy which he is not believable as. De Haan isn't awful but he doesn't possess that wit or seem like a womanizer which are main traits of this character. Delevingne isn't terrible as Laureline but the character is much more level headed than Valerian. The two actually seem better suited for each others roles in terms of the characters traits which do not receive much development throughout the story. Rihanna also makes a brief appearance in what seems to be no more than a publicity stunt as her weak acting ability takes away from a moment that could've been more powerful.

If you have seen the trailer, you will know that this is a truly beautiful looking film, with a wide palette of colours providing stunning settings. The huge budget has been put to good use in this aspect as the world is incredibly detailed, with the use of different elements creating many interesting locations. With this aspect being handled so well, it makes you want to really explore this world and get to know the different species and the many stories that go along with it. It doesn't look like this will happen due to this film bombing which in itself is a real missed opportunity. The opportunities with this world are endless and make it even more frustrating that the filmmakers were unable to capitalise and start the building blocks for a new world we haven't seen on the big screen.

Time will look back at 'Valerian' as being a huge missed opportunity to create something truly special. The film isn't that bad to be known as one of the biggest failures of all time, it's just unmemorable and lackluster. There are many worse films out there but when you spend around $200 million, you expose yourself to heavy criticism. 'Valerian' could have done with a whole lot more care and with a better focus on the story and characters, this could've easily succeeded. It wasn't meant to be this time for Luc Besson as 'Valerian' is one of the most underwhelming films of the year.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Valerian'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film or not. Once again, thank you for taking the tme to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor