Thursday, 27 July 2017

'Dunkirk' Review

Christopher Nolan is a special kind of director whose films create a special kind of buzz as if they are one of a kind. His stellar filmography is hugely impressive as he produces hit after hit with his ability to craft unique interesting stories. His ability to create awe inspiring, large scale films are second to none, especially in the last decade of his work. With his latest project 'Dunkirk', Nolan's bold choice for a war story may be his most immersive yet.

In May 1940, the Second World War is underway with German troops advancing into France which has pushed and trapped the allied forces on the beaches of Dunkirk. Whilst under attack, the forces will look to bring back the hundreds of thousands of soldiers by any means possible, even using civilian vessels. This is the tale of the brave attempt to bring over 300,000 back home.

'Dunkirk' looks at three perspectives during the mass evacuation of troops from the beaches of Dunkirk at the start of the second World War. The first is on the beaches, with soldiers waiting on to be retrieved and brought back home whilst still under air attack from the Germans. The second, from the sea, where Mark Rylance takes his own boat to try to retrieve British soldiers. And the third follows Tom Hardy as a pilot who looks to aid the effort from the sky. The three follow the same story loosely, with the stories overlapping but not all at once.

The film doesn't have a clear protagonist as survival is the focus, not solely on any specific character. To some, this may not satisfy as they look for that extra something from the characters to make you care about them which is a criticism that can be made. It does pose a problem that you don't really build a connection with the characters which gives you that extra incentive to root for them or to see them succeed. However, the film looks at a true event and tries to create as realistic a story as possible for the viewer for maximum impact. The fact that these characters are looking scared and unsure about what is going on is accurate and does make it clear that they are in constant peril. This story is about being in the moment of this event and does a fantastic job of recreating the feeling of what it was like on that miraculous day.

This constant peril is helped massively due to the production and use of real effects. The film utilises real boats, planes, locations and hundreds of extras to make this seem even more realistic. The action is made to look brutal as real ships are blown up using pyrotechnics to create something visibly real, rather than something that has been made up on a computer. Nolan's use of these real effects, transports, and people make this film feel huge and truly epic. This is something quite simple but it makes a huge difference as it helps produce something lifelike as if you were actually there. Seeing how this event would really look really helps immerse you which is only helped by the gripping action.

As previously mentioned, the action contains many scenes where boats and planes are being attacked with pyrotechnics going off rather than using digital effects. This helps create this authentic feeling as everything looks like it is actually happening. The ships are really sinking, there's no dramatic use of transport being taken out, there are no unnecessarily large explosions which create a feeling of realism. The air aspect is a great example as there are many dogfights that aren't over the top. It doesn't feel staged or hugely cinematic, it's just a simple battle that immerses you as you are unsure of what the outcome will be and you are put into the pilot's seat. Nolan masterfully brings you into the film by being up close to the characters in these tense situations. The audience is taken inside the cockpits and the ships as these attacks are going on making you feel right in amongst the action. With this, you see the true terror that these people are facing as well as the horrifying expressions on the victim's faces in these moments. This is essentially a huge battle where the characters are under constant threat and barrage and Nolan does a truly incredible job of bringing those moments in 1940 onto the big screen.

On a technical level, as expected with a Christopher Nolan movie, you will struggle to find many better-executed movies. 'Dunkirk' is visually stunning with great overhead shots showing the grand scale alongside many perfect shots utilising the stunning locations in the background. The cinematography is exceptional and we can expect to see Hoyte van Hoytema be nominated at the next Academy Awards. The standard of film making is next level and on the big screen, it is simply breathtaking. There's been a lot of talk recently about how to see this new release which I have to urge you to see at the cinema and if possible, in IMAX. This is the sort of film that is made for the big screen as it is a complete experience. The visuals alone make for seeing this on as large a screen as possible a must. What puts this over the edge is the sound design and the score. As far as sound mixing and editing go, 'Dunkirk' is a complete masterpiece. The sounds of the battles, whether it be gunfire, airplanes or the destruction of boats, everything sounds brutally real. Again, the action is improved due to the magnificent quality of sound. To go back to the point of seeing this in IMAX, the sound is a large selling point for this. With the epic and loud speakers around the theatre, you feel every single shot whizz past you and feel the shots coming from all directions. You are completely immersed as this is more than a film, it's an experience.

A Christopher Nolan master class would not be complete if it wasn't accompanied by a great score from the legendary Hanz Zimmer. Much like with Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy, and Interstellar, the film has a pulsating score that adds that extra bit of emotion and tension to each and every scene. This is one of the best scores of the year as it is incredibly powerful whilst making your hair stand up during the film's finest moments.

Nolan uses regulars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy yet again in what is an odd ensemble cast that features the likes of Oscar winner Mark Rylance to pop sensation Harry Styles. The majority of the cast are not given that much dialogue, especially those in the beaches and the pilots are mainly talking about their attacks and planning each move. This leaves for a lot more silent moments, leaving the actors expressions to do a lot of the work to get their emotions and feelings across. Fionn Whitehead is the main protagonist on the beaches and barely says a word throughout the first act, yet his performance is very powerful. The film doesn't require its actors to provide a long inspirational speech to rally everyone together. The performances are a lot more quiet and subtle that makes you really focus on their facial expressions to know what the characters are feeling and going through.

As expected with the genre, there are many highs and lows, with this, in particular, edging more towards the lows. The film is brutal as every little chance the allies get to evacuate is under threat creating a constant state of fear and anxiety to what will happen. This is carried on with the characters being timid to do what failed previously creating a lack of trust at times. This creates great continuity making the characters feel real and intelligent too.  Whenever it seems like there's a small victory, danger is never far as Nolan creates tension in every scene, no matter what aspect of the film is being followed.

Christopher Nolan has yet again crafted another incredible, unique film. The decision to look at the event itself rather than the characters is a decision that may and has put people off the film but it works incredibly well. All the technical aspects fall into piece and make something truly remarkable. Everything seems so realistic in this truly epic war film that will have you experiencing all kinds of emotion. This is one of the year's finest pictures and you can expect to see a lot of buzz come award season despite us being very much in the summer season. Nolan again shows how a blockbuster can still be art as it provides many great moments whilst being aesthetically pleasing. Make sure to see this one in a cinema as it is an experience you do not want to miss out on.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Dunkirk'? 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 highly recommend that you do! Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Saturday, 8 July 2017

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Review

Spider-Man is finally within the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Sony's latest attempt at building a universe around the character failed 3 years ago. Fans were thrilled with the news and the character's appearance in 2016's 'Captain America: Civil War' was a highlight for many. However, with this being the third different incarnation of the character in 15 years, many are still skeptical about this edition. If 'Homecoming' is anything to go by, we may be on our way to having the best representation of the web-slinger on screen.

After his encounter with the Avengers, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns home but is still looking to make an impact on the world and catch the eye of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr). Peter now has to combine responsibilities - as a superhero and also going to school at the same time - as he wants to be more than a friendly neighbourhood hero. The emergence of a supervillain The Vulture (Michael Keaton) will put Peter's abilities to the test as he looks to prove himself worthy.

A large criticism that the superhero genre as a whole has garnered recently is a feeling that they all feel the exact same. It must be said, though, that 2017 has looked to change this, with each superhero film being different from one another- 'Logan' as a road trip/drama, 'Guardians 2' as another space comedy. 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' is no different here as it takes the superhero genre to where it hasn't really been before - high school. 

The latest edition of everyone's favourite web-slinger sees him as a 15-year-old going through the challenges that life is throwing at him in what seems like the closest thing to a John Hughes superhero film that we'll ever see. 'Homecoming' provides a unique superhero story that does double duty as a coming of age story, as our protagonist matures and deals with the normalities of high school. Director Tom Watts looks to create a realistic, modern look at high school life, with no over the top jock bullies and snobby popular girls. This film shows that it's inspired by previous works from Hughes but creates its own modern feeling, adapting to the times whilst maintaining some of the usual tropes. 

As known with coming of age films, interesting characters is a must. Otherwise, you simply don't care about what they are going through. Luckily for 'Homecoming', the main character is a beloved hero whose stories have spanned decades. However, the film doesn't just rely on this to get the character by as Peter Parker is made to be relatable, interesting and entertaining, leading to you wanting to see more of him. The biggest task faced was trying to create the perfect Spider-Man, something that many believe hasn't been represented on screen. Tobey Maguire is thought to have been great as the geeky Peter Parker but didn't excel as the witty Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield had a similar fate, just with the roles reversed with him suiting the cocky, quick-wittedness of Spider-Man. Tom Holland handles the awkward geeky side of Peter Parker very well, seeming shy, unconfident and fairly awkward during his day to day life. As Spider-Man, he is a completely different person - witty, full of confidence and charisma. The Peter Parker/Spider-Man combo has never been handled equally as well. Holland succeeds in both aspects, more so than his predecessors. Due to this, no matter how nostalgic the previous actors make you feel, Tom Holland is undoubtedly the best representation of Spider-Man ever seen on the big screen.

Peter's high school experience brings us some new interesting and fun characters to the series as well. Jacob Batalon provides comic relief as Peter's best friend Ned, who is even geekier and awkward leading to some outbursts that are hilarious. Batalon is great as he himself has to deal with knowing that his best friend is a famous hero and has to try his best to not let it slip. Eugene 'Flash' Thompson returns in the form of Tony Revolori who is a much different version of the character, being much more of an arrogant, vocal bully rather than one that's athletically inclined. Revolori does well as not a completely serious bully, acting immature with silly insults and actions to make others look bad. There is plenty of comeuppance for Thompson in what is the most attention the character has ever been given in any film before. However, it is Zendaya who seems to steal the show as Michelle Jones, a tribute to MJ from previous Spider-Man comics and films. Michelle is clearly inspired by Ally Sheedy's Allison Reynolds from 'The Breakfast Club'. The character is a loner who spends most of the time by herself and doesn't really seem to fit in with others. She is clever, quick witted, weird and incredibly cool. Zendaya steals every scene that she is in, with her cleverness and humour providing many great moments. Michelle has one of the coolest personalities in film this year and will have you wanting to see more of her in the future.

'Homecoming' is still undoubtedly very much so an MCU film, with the superhero part still being the main focus. We get to skip the origin story of Spider-Man and jump straight into the character dealing with his new responsibilities. Here we get the rare chance to see superheroes handle smaller situations, as the masked man stops car thieves and helps give people directions. Due to this, he feels human and like every other person. We rarely see the superheroes doing tasks that aren't just normal helpful tasks. We do of course get the bigger scale action throughout the story as Spider-Man looks to find larger opportunities to prove himself.

An interesting aspect of the film is how Peter has to deal with this new suit that he has been given. As a young man with newly acquired powers, he is rather rash and even flashy when using them meaning he has to mature and use them responsibly. However, as he grows with the suit and realises its potential, he loses track of this and puts himself and others in further harm. There is a real character development through this as Peter realises how influential his actions really are and what can happen. The use of Robert Downey Jr and Jon Favreau as mentors for Peter really help this progress as well, as they stand in as sort of father figures, making restraints that Peter disobeys whilst looking out for his best interests. Downey Jr and Favreau's roles are minimal but effective nonetheless.

With these superhero movies, it always seems as if the film is about some person trying to destroy the entire world. 'Homecoming' is a lot more of a smaller story, dealing with a supervillain thief rather than someone determined on world domination. This again is a great change as it isn't the same story yet again, allowing the story to feel fresh and different from the others. This is what makes 'Homecoming' such a success, it feels fresh in a time where there are many superhero films. A difference in sub-genre, story elements, and fresh new characters really give this film life.

 In saying this, though, the main faults do come from the usual problems that the MCU as a whole has. Michael Keaton gives a good performance as Adrian Toomes/The Vulture but the problem is that he is severely underdeveloped. We see how he gains this equipment but there is a severe change in his psyche that makes him more of a supervillain. This lacked much character progression and just seemed to be a rushed effort to turn Toomes from a workman to suddenly an evil villain. The score as well is not very memorable and is weak despite including the animated series theme song early on. The film's runtime comes in at 133 minutes which does feel a bit too long. A good fifteen minutes could probably be cut as there is enough in the two hours to satisfy the audience.

The screenplay credits six people and usually, when there are multiple people working together on one script, it can cause problems. With different ideas and personalities, it could even destroy a film's chances of succeeding. However, with 'Homecoming', the script is actually very solid, combining the high school life of Peter with the action-packed life of Spider-Man. The script also delivers a lot of laughs as the usual MCU humour is turned up a notch. We get to see Spider-Man in his best form due to this as he is quippy during his fight scenes. But the film as a whole is incredibly funny through its whole runtime, with side characters doing their bit equally to provide some great comedic moments. The great Stan Lee is also involved in this with his latest and one of his most funny cameos yet.

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' combines elements of a high school, coming of age film and an action, superhero movie incredibly well. It has great characters, humour and action that will satisfy fans of the genre. In a year of great superhero films, 'Homecoming' does stand out, offering something that feels fresh and isn't a carbon copy of everything else. This is a highly enjoyable, fun film that fans of the MCU and of the character, in general, will surely enjoy.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'? 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

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

'Okja' Review

'Okja' was selected to be screened at the illustrious Cannes festival and as the screening started, it was met with boos from the crowd. This was due to the film being made from Netflix and an opinion was formed that the streaming service was killing cinema. However, once it had finished, it received a standing ovation, showing that Netflix is only helping the current state of cinema by providing a truly great film.

In 2007,  the Mirando cooperation set up a competition where 26 super pigs were sent to 26 different farmers all over the world. These pigs were to be farmed for 10 years before the winner was announced in New York. Mija (Seo-Hyeon Ahn) lives with her grandfather who has one of these pigs named Okja and she has grown up with the creature, growing to love and care for her. Once the 10 years have been completed, Mirando returns to collect Okja to the despair of Mija. Once Okja is taken away, an animal activist group reveal the true intentions of the company and with Mija, they look to rescue Okja and stop the Mirando cooperation from their evil doings.

The kerfuffle surrounding the film being released by Netflix is nothing but embarrassing. As film lovers, we should welcome all platforms that make original and quality content. That's exactly what they have done with their emotional latest project, 'Okja'.

As the film starts, it is fairly lighthearted. The wonderful Tilda Swinton starts it off by explaining the origin and concept of the competition for these pigs in an informative but also light-hearted way. After this, we get to see the sweetness of the creature as we are introduced to both Okja and Mija, with the pair spending their time exploring the woods and catching fish together. Okja is made to seem like a normal dog, just massively oversized with her tendencies whilst playing, sleeping and eating. These scenes of the two together really help build the relationship between the two, making you care for both of them which is helped by a scene where Okja saves Mija from death. Apart from this, the tone is kept rather fun as it develops its two main characters and the relationship early on.

That being said, the tone does change quite dramatically once Okja is to be taken back to the Mirando company. We see the heartbreak that Mija goes through once she realises what has happened to her best friend and she immediately fights with her grandfather and sets off to be reunited with Okja. This really helps solidify Mija who is played wonderfully by South Korean actress Seo-Hyeon Ahn as she is shown to be a strong and independent character despite being at such a young age. The threats to Okja are made even more clear with the introduction of the ALF (Animal Liberation Front), a group of animal activists who want to free Okja from the Mirando's grasps. The group unveils new knowledge about the Mirando's intentions, adding more drama and need for them to hurry in their quest. The film goes through many twists and turns, each with plenty of drama and emotion to keep you thoroughly engaged in the story.

The Mirando company by their motives do sound quite generic, their own personal greed powers them to do whatever they want to reach fame and wealth. However, that may be true, in this situation it works perfectly well. The evil co-operation Mirando look to use this super pig competition as an elaborate cover up what they are doing behind the scenes. Due to the kind of business that they look to use Okja and the other pigs for, it does draw them some easy heat as nobody is a fan of animals being treated unfairly. However, the film uses the business very well, using gruesome imagery to leave an effective mark on the viewer. If a cliche is done well, then it isn't a problem and that is the case in 'Okja'.

One of the film's key strengths is how well written the characters, their motivations and actions are. The protagonists Mija and Okja are made out to be completely innocent making you feel and care for them being stuck in such a horrible situation. The villains, portrayed by Swinton and Gyllenhaal are used well, being charismatic and interesting yet still making you dislike and root against them. But it is the ALF who have handled arguably the best. They are technically the heroes but they aren't perfect. The members of the group the complete good guys who do everything fair. In fact, there are many conflicting situations that make you question their morals to an extent. This happens none more so than in a scene involving Steven Yeun where he betrays the trust of many others. The good intentions are there, but the actions they take aren't always in the same bracket. 'Okja' creates one of the most interesting dynamics I've seen which helps bring a true harsh feeling of reality to the film. An added bonus is that the characters are all given distinctive looks that help them stand out and be even more memorable. Tilda Swinton has one of the most distinctive looks with a strange combo of braces and white hair. The ALF are given slick looks with small differences such as Paul Dano's slick suit look and Lily Collins' bright red hair. These characters are memorable and cool and may possibly be your new favourite characters.

That feeling of reality is also which makes it very emotional for the viewer. You can imagine these events taking place in real life, with there being many people to do what they can to make themselves look great when behind the scenes, there are much worse things going on. The finale is truly heartbreaking as we see the large production of these super pigs. The ending brings one of the most emotional and sad moments of the year, with the great use of CGI playing a key role in this. If you are a meat eater, you will definitely feel a bit guilty for being so after watching this film.

There are some clear weaknesses though and very surprisingly, it is from one of the more famous cast members. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the eccentric TV show host and face of the Mirando company  Dr. Johnny Wilcox who at first seems like quite a quirky villain. However, this schtick starts to become quite annoying at times and felt quite out of place in a film that was dealing with a serious storyline. Although Tilda Swinton's character had moments of humour, it was mainly through quick wit or remarks she made. Gyllenhaal seemed to be too cartoony which seemed like the wrong way to take the character. Another weak point comes again from the humour as the film relies on fart and poop jokes quite early on. These don't work too well yet are repeated and feel really out of place throughout the runtime.

Bong Joon-ho made a name for himself in the Western world with 'Snowpiercer' and he has only built on that with 'Okja'. This is a tremendously well-crafted story, filled with great performances, humour, and emotion. This is the kind of film people should be seeing as it will strike you on all levels, delivering high, enjoyable, entertaining moments as well as those that will have you fighting back the tears. There are great characters, the CGI is used very well and most importantly, the film has heart. This is one of the year's best films so far and is one that many should definitely seek out.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Sunday, 25 June 2017

'Baby Driver' Review

Edgar Wright's departure from Marvel Studios 'Ant-Man' raised a few eyebrows as "creative differences" was cited as the reason for the split. Wright claimed on Variety podcast 'Playback' that he "wanted to make a Marvel movie but I don't think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie". Wright also felt that he didn't feel as emotionally invested in the project due to being more of a "director for hire". Wright did cite doing 'Ant-Man' to allow him to make a film in the future which he had already written. Once Wright ended his partnership, he was then able to focus entirely on his passion project and would be allowed to handle it just however he wanted. That movie was 'Baby Driver', and Wright can add it to his already impressive list of successful movies.

Baby (Ansel Ergot) is an extremely talented getaway driver who is constantly listening to music due to an accident he suffered as a child. After paying off a debt to a gang and meeting the girl of his dreams Deborah (Lily James), Baby sees a way out of his currently shady lifestyle and start a new life. Just as Baby plans to leave this lifestyle, he is dragged in once again for another job. It's now or never for Baby as the heist threatens his chances of escaping with his true love.

This summer looks as if it is going to be filled each week with big budget, high action blockbusters. Superhero films and franchises seem to be dominating cinema's, with a new picture fitting that criteria seeming to come out every week. There is such a demand to create a world within the movie as studios look to make the most off of an idea. 'Baby Driver' does not look to do that and due to this, helps this movie really stand out from the rest.

With an Edgar Wright film, you go in with several expectations, one of these being the great use of humour. In most of his other pictures, the comedy has been the main feature and has been combined with other genre elements (Shaun of the Dead - Horror, The World's End - Sci-Fi). The humour is still very much apparent, with every character having quippy lines and quick witted remarks.

However, 'Baby Driver' is a much tenser state of affairs, with it taking more of an action/crime thriller feeling. Due to this, 'Baby Driver' does feel like a different film to anything Wright has done before whilst maintaining those key qualities that makes his filmography so great. The dialogue handles more of the humour rather than some visual gags in previous ventures. Instead, as it is much more of an action movie, we are treated to many fantastic practical car effects on the streets of Atlanta. No CGI was needed as real stunt drivers create highly entertaining and pulsating car chase scenes that are a total joy to watch. The film doesn't only rely on car chases for its action as it features classic shootouts in different locations to keep things fresh. This movie proves that modern day action does not need any gimmicks via camera techniques or CGI to be enthralling to audiences, instead it lets your interest in the characters and gripping tensions between them.

The film is filled with an abundance of great, unique characters with fantastic performances all around. Ansel Ergot stars as Baby who is quietly great as his characters quirks and charms make up for a lack of vocality. Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzales and Kevin Spacey provide great support to Ergot as the more willing robbers which allows Baby to seem more innocent. The writing of the film also keeps you guessing the true motivations of the characters and whether or not they are good or bad. It isn't until late on that a main villain is established after an unexpected turn of events. Ergot works incredibly well with Lily James, Baby's potential love interest who share great chemistry with one another. The two characters are incredibly sweet and you root for the two to get all that thy could possibly want. Due to the nature of the film, this does have you biting your nails and hoping for the best when either one is threatened. One small criticism is that the relationship between the two may seem fairly rushed, with the two hitting it off and deciding to spend their lives with each other very quickly. The characters are all unique and memorable, with different traits that will have you second guessing them throughout the runtime. There are interesting conflicts due to this, with different ideologies, tempers and personalities creating interesting situations and ensuring that every scene has a bit of fire in it.

Music plays a huge role in this feature as it is a plot point - Baby plays music to combat his Tinnitus and syncs it up to whenever he is driving on the job. Due to this, the film has a killer soundtrack, putting every other soundtrack this year to shame - sorry 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2'. The music from Queen, Golden Earring and T.Rex ensure that 'Baby Driver' is not only the film of the summer but the soundtrack of it as well. The music is used throughout action scenes and is choreographed within the scenes to match the stunts happening at the same time. The music blends in to add an extra layer of enjoyment throughout the action packed scenes that will have you humming the tunes on your way out of the cinema. The use of the soundtrack is vital as it even helps with the humour, with Baby's choices of music and rocking out in certain situations drawing laughs.

There probably won't be another movie that will combine so many different genre elements and be so succesful at doing so. The action, humour, characters, story and music are all great, combining to make one of the most fun film's released in a long time. It's a basic tale of someone being dragged back into the world of crime but it feels so fresh due to Wright's magical touch. 'Baby Driver' has a special charm to it that you don't get often today. A special, original film that you most definitely should check out.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Baby Driver'? 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 see this one as soon as possible. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

'The Mummy' Review

 Originally, the new branded Universal Dark Universe was to be started off with 2014's 'Dracula Untold'. Due to negative reaction, the film seems to have been removed from the slate of Dark Universe films. If the same cruel fate was to be applied to 'The Mummy', we could expect another restart to this collective universe.

Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) makes a living selling off ancient artifacts on the black market to the highest bidder. Whilst under attack in Iraq, Nick and his partner unearth Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an Egyptian princess who was mummified alive and imprisoned for thousands of years after trying to take over the Egyptian empire. With Ahmanet now free, her powers are growing stronger as she looks to bring the God of Evil to life by using a human host. It is now up to Nick to stop her before the world feels her true power.

'The Mummy' currently sits at 16% on review site Rotten Tomatoes. To put that into perspective, that's lower than 'Dracula Untold' (23%) and lower than 1999's 'The Mummy' (58%) and 2001's 'The Mummy Returns' (47%). The fact that this reboot has done worse than the previous 'Mummy' films and the disowned 'Untold' is a damning indictment on the start the 'Dark Universe' has made. What was once a great series of horror monster films, now looks set to become a series of generic action films.

The film does get off to a fairly good start, doing a good job of establishing the mythology surrounding Sofia Boutella's Ahmanet, showing the evil the princess possessed whilst making motivations clear. Unfortunately, less than 5 minutes later, Tom Cruise jumps in to turn this into another generic action film. Cruise, stunts, and explosions soon become the main focus for the film which ultimately is the downfall of the film. John Landis was quoted as saying " As soon as you announce that Tom Cruise is in 'The Mummy', you know you're not going to see a horror picture! It's not gonna be 'The Mummy', it's going to be the Tom Cruise show" and this definitely seems to be the case. In a film like this, the focus should be mainly with this character, making them be feared and truly a monster. This is the case even more so when you have someone as talented as Sofia Boutella as the titular character but she is criminally underused.

Boutella isn't given lots to do in the film as her character seems to suffer from what most Marvel villains do. The supposedly feared Ahmanet allows a large group of faceless henchmen to do most of the work, leaving her with less screentime as we hardly see her do anything. It also doesn't help that the film looks to get absolutely everything that Tom Cruise does into the final product as possible. There is a clear example of this in the film where Ahmanet approaches armed guards to get into a tomb and right before we get to see what she can do, it changes to a different scene with Tom Cruise. Boutella has shown her capabilities in films like 'Kingsman' and 'Star Trek Beyond', where both films utilized her skills to great results. Unfortunately, she was not used nearly as well in this film which is a huge missed opportunity. 

In all fairness, the film does have some exciting moments featuring good stunts and choreography. The plane scene where Cruise and co-star Annabelle Wallis are floating in zero gravity is quite marvelous to watch and is the kind of thing that Cruise excels at. Cruise's performance is what you can expect from him in any other film which does give it that feeling of being a generic action film. You could swap out Cruise for any of his other recent characters and there would be very little difference if any. When the character is facing off against supernatural presence, you'd expect a lot more fear from the character. However, Cruise never really seems fazed by this and just goes on as if it's an everyday encounter.

That is the main problem with the film as a whole. There are many moments that the film could take more serious to make it seem more dangerous or creepy but it is ruined by an out of place joke, One of the first encounters between Cruise's character Nick and Ahmanet is a sacrificial ceremony as she looks to execute Nick. For some reason, the creators felt it was a good idea to have moments where Cruise would be laughing throughout and then shortly placing a comedy moment in the same scene. The use of Jake Johnson in this film didn't help as he was this figment of Cruise's imagination and used solely for comic effect. Again, this felt so out of place especially when it is happening during the main attack from Ahmanet, who should be feared not treated as a joke.

'The Mummy' shows just how a big budget movie can be a joy to look at with great sets and well-filmed action can still be a tonal mess with a weak story and poor use of talent. The decision to make this have more laughs and jokes really doesn't help a franchise where you look to build monsters. We don't need another generic action franchise. The Dark Universe can and should be so much more different to anything else as it has such great characters to use. There is nothing from 'The Mummy' that suggests the 'Dark Universe' is heading in a different direction and due to that, I can't say I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of these films. Boutella is underused, the Mummy isn't the main attraction, there's very little horror and threats are treated like a joke. A huge missed chance and an even bigger disappointment.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'The Mummy'? If so, what did you think of the movie? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the movie. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Friday, 16 June 2017

'Wonder Woman' Review

It's safe to say that the DC Extended Universe hasn't got off to the best of starts. with 'Batman V Superman' and 'Suicide Squad' failing miserably and 'Man of Steel' being nothing more than an average film. Due to this, a lot of pressure was on the shoulders of their latest film to bring some credibility to the series. 'Wonder Woman' brings life to the DCEU by blowing its predecessors out of the water and in doing so, takes its place amongst the hierarchy of superhero films.

Before she became Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was an Amazon Princess called Diana, a warrior who was brought to life by the God Zeus. Diana grows up on an island hidden from the rest of the world until World War 1 spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on the island. After saving Trevor, he tells her of an ongoing conflict that is killing many people all over the world. Believing this to be the work of the evil God of War Ares and that she can help end this trouble, Diana decides to go with Trevor to help fight and try to end the war.

Patty Jenkins makes her long-awaited return as a director in a feature film with only her second film and the first big budget movie that she has helmed. Due to her lack of involvement in feature films, it was questioned whether it was a good idea for Jenkins to direct such a big budget and socially important film. Once the credits start rolling, all of those doubts have been put to bed as 'Wonder Women' succeeds on many levels.

It's been made clear that DC should look to Marvel as inspiration for how to handle their cinematic universe, with it looking like DC have been rushing their projects to catch up with their competition. 'Wonder Woman' does what no DCEU film has done before. It is handled with care and precision as every detail is used to help progress the character and the story. A bit more time could have been spent on looking at exactly what Diana's powers are - as someone fairly new to the character, there were some surprises that seemed to come out of the blue. In comparison, 'Wonder Woman' unsurprisingly does a better job than the DCEU's previous origin stories, creating an instantly likable, entertaining and charismatic lead character from the beginning.

When it was announced that Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman, I was very skeptical. I was yet to see her in anything as a lead character and thought of her has someone who would only be capable of providing a supporting role. I never thought that she would be considered to be one of the first female leading roles for a modern superhero movie, especially with all the pressure that would come with that responsibility. Thankfully, I was proved wrong. Any queries I had surrounding the Israeli actress were removed after watching her fantastic performance as the Amazon princess. Gadot shines throughout the film, whether she is adapting to 1910's Europe or showing great humour and wit and of course, in the action scenes. Fans of the character can relax knowing that their beloved heroine is not only in good hands but is the shining star of the franchise so far.

Of course, Gadot is not alone in her quest to bring credibility back to the DCEU. The only Chris not in the MCU Chris Pine plays off Gadot as Steve Trevor, an American Spy who crash lands on Diana's island and brings her to the war effort. Pine and Gadot share excellent chemistry as Trevor is tasked with explaining and guiding Diana through 1910's war-ridden Europe. Due to the chemistry from the pair, the moments where the two are just traveling and getting to know each other are just as enjoyable as the superhero action that you are expecting. The likes of Robin Wright, Ewen Bremner and Connie Nielsen provide good support but don't have a patch on Gadot and Pine who really steal the show.

With superhero films, the downfall is usually that the villain is not that strong and this, unfortunately, is the case for Wonder Woman. The film actually has three villains, General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) and later on in the film Ares (David Thewlis) but there isn't enough focus on any of them, especially the latter. Ludendorff and Dr. Posion are the main targets for Steve Trevor and the war effort but there isn't much from them that is memorable. We aren't given any reason to really fear these characters or feel that they can be a threat to Wonder Woman which makes it obvious how the eventual encounter will end up. There is some intrigue behind the Dr. Poison character which I look forward to seeing more of in the future. There is a twist surrounding Ares and that he has been masquerading as someone else all along. For me, this twist didn't work too well and took me out of the film as I couldn't imagine a God just sitting in day to day life as some sort of politician. I guess it does make sense that the God of War would surround himself with people sending others to war whilst they stay and twiddle their thumbs.

What 'Wonder Woman' does so well is create so many morally complex situations. Steve Trevor is constantly faced with difficult decisions, made harder due to Diana's rash decision making and lack of knowledge. The actions of the characters really affect what happens in the next scene to drastic effect. These moments really take a toll on Diana which makes her seem human and that she truly feels the effects of what she has indirectly caused. This is something that isn't often developed too well in this genre but 'Wonder Woman' really succeeds with this element.

With such a high-budget superhero film like this, you expect the action to be very good and that is true for the most part. Jenkins does well with the action although does seem a bit obsessed with the slow motion effect during scenes. These are a bit overplayed and do make it feel quite video game like at times but the most important part is that it is all easily visible and won't give you a headache. A problem that I do feel with the DCEU's action, in general, is that the final battle is just punches and people being sent for miles rather than something that seems choreographed. That is just a personal preference but it did disappoint me that the climatic battle did end up like that. Other than that, there aren't many complaints. The over the top action scene is absolutely incredible which is made even better due to Rupert Gregson-Williams score that had inspiration from the Wonder Woman theme in 'Batman V Superman'. Those who enjoy the typical superhero action films will enjoy Wonder Woman as the standards are met for the general audiences.

I'm surprised by how good 'Wonder Woman' actually was as I certainly had doubts surrounding the film and its lead actress. Thankfully, they've proved me wrong big time and even more impressively, restored my faith in the DCEU. In a time where a superhero film is released every other month, 'Wonder Woman' does a great job at feeling fresh and maintaining a high quality. An important film that hopefully opens more doors for female filmmakers and inspires many more

Final Verdict =

So have you seen 'Wonder Woman'? 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 encourage that you do. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Saturday, 22 April 2017

'Rules Don't Apply' Review

Small town talent show winner and devout Baptist Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) arrives in Los Angeles, gaining a contract under the legendary Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty). Once she arrives, she is introduced to Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) who would work as the young actress' driver and the pair hit it off instantly. However, both have strong religious beliefs as well as Hughes rule that no worker may have an intimate relationship with a contract actress, forbidding them from being together.

The last film that Warren Beatty directed, wrote and starred in was nineteen years ago with 'Bulworth' which he gained an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Beatty has had a great career in film, succeeding on so many levels with different aspects of filmmaking. However, it is a total shame to say that Beatty is the main reason that 'Rules Don't Apply' is not a success.

If you have seen the trailer for 'Rules Don't Apply', you would see that the film is advertised as romance film between Lily Collins and Elden Ehrenreich's characters. Although this is still an element within the film, it is, in fact, a very small aspect of the story. The film does actually start off with a focus on the relationship between Mabrey (Collins) and Forbes (Ehrenreich) but it is soon moved to the side for Beatty as Howard Hughes to come in and be the main character of the film and turning the film into a biopic of some sorts. 

The film starts off with Marla first coming to Los Angeles with her mother, wide eyed with high hopes and she is soon introduced to Frank Forbes and Levar (Matthew Broderick) who will work as a driver for her whenever necessary. The rules for the drivers is that they are forbidden from having intimate relationships with any of the contracted actresses, creating a conflict and a barrier for the two protagonists to battle against. As the film starts to develop the relationship between the two, Collins and Ehrenreich's chemistry shines, engaging you into the film and makes you care for the two characters. The scenes where the two are onscreen together are by far the most enjoyable as the film plants the seeds early on for the two and you expect the film to just flourish from then on. This is until about twenty minutes in when Howard Hughes is introduced into the story.

As Hughes (Beatty) is introduced, the film slowly and gradually becomes more and more frustrating as the focus moves away from the two characters you were invested in early on. Beatty takes the spotlight and runs away from it but not in a good way, as the story changes into a telling of the latter years of Hughes life, where it was questioned whether he could function on his own or not. This takes centre stage and despite Beatty being fine in his performance, it is nowhere near as interesting as what was shown in the first twenty minutes and in the trailer. Warren Beatty seemed to be on a mission to make sure that everybody knew that he had an impact on this film. Despite being the writer and director, Beatty cannot hold himself back from completely messing the film up in what can only be described as Beatty going mad with power. There are a couple of decent moments involving Beatty such as the long ongoing shot with himself and Ehrenreich exchanging small talk to one another which does show that he does possess great talent. But the problem is that he wants to be the star of everything. He meddles too much with the film and it takes you away from what you want to see in the film. It seems like Beatty wanted everyone to know that this was his and only his film.

The film could've and should've followed the relationship between Collins and Ehrenreich but it, unfortunately, does not. We get treated to over an hour and a half of Beatty holding business partners up and showing glimpses of dementia. The rest of the cast is then resorted to simply playing second fiddle as the film abandons its best parts, all so Beatty can be the star. It's not very often that you see a creator become so madly in love with themselves and put themselves in the forefront despite the film's best interests. This is a project that's only intention is to make Beattrelevantnt in todays society after years of inactivity. He would've done just that if he had just took a step back and just wrote and directed a competent romance film. Beatty is charming enough to even play a good side character who can help the film progress, instead, he completely destroys it. 'Rules Don't Apply' is a frustrating mess as early on, it has the potential to be a worthwhile watch. However, it doesn't continue that and instead is as clear a vanity project you'll ever see.

Other than the clear meddling, the film does well to capture the old Hollywood feel, with its cinematography, setting and costumes playing a big role in doing so. The film is really easy on the eyes with everything looking great in what is the most consistent part of the film. As far as the acting goes, there is no real problem with any of the characters. Matthew Broderick provides great support as does Beatty's wife Annette Benning, bringing some great scenes amongst a cast mainly much younger than themselves. The experience shines through from these veterans who showcase their talents with limited screentime but lasting impact. 

A return after many years is, unfortunately, a disappointing one. This could've been so much more but it is a frustrating mess of a film. An egotistical power trip does not make a good movie and hopefully, those involved will not be harmed too much by it as they are not the problem with this film.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Rules Don't Apply'? 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 blog, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor