Wednesday, 21 February 2018

'The Shape of Water' Review

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute, cleaning lady who develops a close bond with a mysterious sea creature from the waters of South America. The creature is in danger as government officials look to kill him in use of research. With help from others, Elisa looks to break the creature out, allowing him to live freely.

On paper, a romance film with a mute cleaning lady and a humanoid sea creature as the romantic interests may sound too bizarre to be possible to work. It sounds off-putting and downright weird but in Guillermo Del Toro's latest film, The Shape of Water, it absolutely works. In fact, it works so well that it is the Mexican director's best work within his esteemed filmography.

1960's Baltimore provides a perfect setting for this forbidden romance as it takes us back to a time littered with strife over many different issues like segregation and homophobia that are highlighted in the film. Throw in power-hungry government officials and Russian spies amid The Cold War and you have a boiling pot of tension that looks certain to spill over. Each of these parts plays a huge role in building characters and the situations that our innocent protagonists find themselves caught in. Del Toro alongside co-writer Vanessa Taylor has packed a lot of detail into the film's script with each aspect having a point, leaving no loose ends or wasted plot lines.

Del Toro's films have been known for their beauty, both in the story and in production values. From Pan's Labyrinth to Crimson's Peek, Del Toro has shown that he has an incredible eye for detail as each shot he sets up is as meticulous as the rest. From the lighting to set designs, Del Toro makes genuine art with his films as he creates visually stunning set pieces. For this film, the camera is mainly in motion and is rarely stagnant which helps the film feel vibrant and constantly moving forward. Again, this helps in adding as much detail possible to every shot.

The Shape of Water's romance focuses undoubtedly on acceptance and loving others for who they truly are. Neither Sally Hawkins' character Elisa or the sea creature can communicate vocally with others which is the basic building block for this relationship to develop and flourish as the film goes on. This oddball romance undoubtedly is strange - with side characters questioning that - but it is one that is truly beautiful and displays the message of acceptance and embracing those for who they truly are and how they make you feel. It's deeply moving and touching as this pure love is infectious and enviable allowing the audience to become caught up in all of the drama. The film ends perfectly summing up the love from the film and the love we should aspire to receive/give with the poetic lines

"Unable to perceive the shape of you,
I find you all around me.
Your presence fills my eyes with your love,
It humbles my heart,
for you are everywhere".

As Richard Jenkins reads out those final lines and Alexandre Desplat's gorgeous score plays out, you will be sat in an emotional state of happiness whilst in awe of the beauty you just experienced.

Sally Hawkins is the star of the film in what is an Oscar-worthy performance as the mute Elisa Esposito. Despite being unable to vocally express her thoughts and feelings, Hawkins provides a powerful performance, showcasing an impressive range. Unlike many contenders during award season, Hawkins doesn't have to shout or deliver long monologues to leave a lasting and memorable impression. Her expressions and mannerisms perfectly capture how she is feeling, whether positive or negative and she makes the love between her and Doug Jones' creature feel genuine. If Hawkins role isn't believable, the film simply fails. Luckily, this is one of the best performances we've ever seen.

Hawkins is supported by a truly fantastic ensemble diverse cast, with each character having their own individual problems and wants that factor into the main story. Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer play Giles and Zelda, Elisa's closest companions. The two provide an excellent contrast to Hawkins, both being very chatty against Elisa's silence. The characters are incredibly likable and add a perfect amount of humour without overdoing it whilst maintaining the seriousness of the film's situations and settings. In what could've been an incredibly cartoony villain role is the ever-intense Michael Shannon. Shannon borderlines at times on being over the top but it cannot be denied that he is constantly one to be feared throughout the entirety of the film. His unpredictability and short temper create a vast amount of tension and a genuinely frightening villain. Huge credit again must go out to Del Toro's frequent collaborator Doug Jones who plays his non-human role perfectly yet again.

Del Toro has created a genuine masterpiece that is equally narratively and visually stunning. Everything comes together perfectly to create an emotional rollercoaster of a film that will leave you feeling incredibly satisfied by the time the credits roll. Del Toro has crafted something truly special with this film and is one that I will never forget. Emotional and beautiful, The Shape of Water delivers on all levels.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

'Status Update' Review

Family problems mean that Kyle Moore (Ross Lynch) has had to move across the country due to his parent's separation. Settling in at a new school isn't going well until Kyle goes to get his phone fixed at a local mall. In doing so, an app called Universe is put on his phone and anything he posts will come true, giving Kyle the ability to make whatever he wants to come true. 

It's safe to say that after seeing the trailer and poster for this film, my expectations were not very high when it came to seeing Status Update. The target audience for this film is undoubtedly teens, with its high school settings, heavy use of social media and young Disney channel related actors. With this, the film has a responsibility to put out something that isn't particularly harmful for the young viewers despite the overall quality. Although the film is terrible in its own right - we'll get to that later - but the biggest crime is how the film represents many things such as sexuality and use of social media.

If there was ever an example of how diversity in film shouldn't be handled, it would be Status Update. The film features a fairly diverse cast and group of characters but it is how they are represented and how they act that is the problem. The minority characters in this film are delegated to being losers, jerks or carry out terrible actions. This most evident comes with the homosexual character in the film who is handled terribly. It's hard to believe that nobody saw a problem in production around this representation. The gay character in this film is insultingly stereotyped, violent and sexually assaults the main character. This is all played off as humour to make things worse and it is shocking to see that this was carried out. Sexual assault is apparent again in the film and again, its played off as humourous. Maybe it's just the current climate but I certainly don't think this should be something that's made a joke of, especially when targeting to young impressionable people.

The film could have clawed back some humility if it even had a valuable message about the use of social media but it even fails miserably at that. Obviously, the use of social media is the main aspect of the film but the film seems to take away from the severity of actions online. In a particular scene featuring main character Kyle and his mother, she seems to talk to him about how what he posts isn't that significant and takes away from the effects in real life. Again, with the targeted demographic, this is a terrible message to be sending out to the intended target audience. This part really surprised me the most as the film's concept is the abuse of a social media app but yet, the film doesn't do anything to really nail that message. 

Although the harmful and offensive aspects of the film may be out of the way, the film's quality does not get any better. We follow Kyle Moore, a teenager whose parents are separated and he wishes his life could go back to normal. Now, this film gives Kyle the opportunity to wish for whatever he wants but he doesn't really do that at all. He makes vague changes to his problems when he has the problem to solve them entirely. In all honesty, this just makes the character seem fairly stupid. To top this off, the writing of the film makes him completely unlikeable in part reason to that. He has this ability to do as he wants but he focuses on different things. I know you have no movie if the character just does everything perfectly but there is nothing to gravitate you to liking or caring for this character. Olivia Holt's character is the only character worth caring for but the problem is that shes tossed to the side easily only to forgive Kyle once he decides he's sick of being with someone else.

There are musical numbers in this film that feel incredibly awkward and not organic at all. There's a full scene where Kyle sings and dances like Bruno Mars as the whole school turns into the cast of High School Musical. This isn't a fantasy scene or anything and is played off to be real but the film isn't a musical. With this, the whole scene is incredibly cringe-inducing and lasts for far too long. The main song of the film 'Drowning' does look to claw some dignity back to the film but it is again let down by the fact that it doesn't seem genuine. A few catchy musical numbers can go along way in making a film somewhat enjoyable, yet there's no sense of personality or emotion in any of these moments to give you that feeling. Instead, it just wastes more time and makes the film seem even more soulless.

It's no surprise to see that there is little information regarding Status Update online at the moment. It doesn't seem to have had a wide release which may be a good thing. To those who look at this film and think it may be a fun film to pass the time with, don't waste your time. This film certainly does much more harm than good and really should be avoided at all costs.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

'Coco' Review

Miguel (Anthony Gonzales) is a music fanatic who admires the great Ernesto De La Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) but he is forbidden to play due to his family’s ban on music. After running away to play music, Miguel steals a guitar and is sent to the Land of the Dead. Miguel meets his ancestors and new friends as he looks to escape before sunrise or he’ll be trapped there forever. 

Ever since Inside Out, Pixar seems to have gone through a mini-slump of movies that haven’t quite matched their usual standard. Coco, the latest addition to the Pixar filmography, sees a return to the quality we expect from the animation studio.

Coco takes place during the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos, also known as The Day of the Dead, and is a perfect set up for a Pixar film. It allows the film to entertain with bright colours, wonderful animation, and fun characters, as well as having an emotional message that will leave a deeper impact on audiences.

The Mexican setting allows Pixar to explore a different culture that hasn’t had a great deal of focus on in recent times – The Book of Life being the main exception. This colourful festival fits perfect with Pixar’s animation as each frame is crafted full of detail, with fluorescent colours, unique characters and locations and the usual Pixar Easter Eggs. Not only is the film visually stunning, but it presents the opportunity to learn more about a celebration of life and family from another nation. Early on there are a few exposition-heavy scenes but it is necessary to make sure that everybody – especially the children – are fully aware regarding the meaning of this festival. Once the details have been straightened out, Coco’s true charm takes over as the adventure really begins.

The best kind of Pixar films are those that are equally as entertaining for both kids and adults – see Toy Story series, Inside Out, WALL-E etc. Coco joins this esteemed list as it is a fun adventure story packed with antics and great music to keep you thoroughly entertained. But most impressive is how the film manages to gain an incredible emotional response, especially in its final stages. The threats to the well-being of great characters may be enough to garner a response from you but the films respectful use of a sad disorder will have you fighting back the tears. It is a really beautiful moment and one of Pixar’s finest scenes that they have ever crafted – it’s up there with the first 10 minutes of Up and the incinerator scene from Toy Story 3.

Themes of family and creativity and how to balance the two are ever apparent as the film’s message about the two is very clear. Again, this is both equally as valuable for both children and adults as it is a universal message that everybody can relate to in some way. Pixar never fails to amaze on how they can create a story that has such a range that it can touch even the sternest of viewers.

Michael Giacchino’s score and the original songs from various artists contribute heavily enabling you to feel immersed in this world.  The music is created through a combination of mariachi, salsa, and flamenco with the results being high energy, catchy tunes which will stick in your head for days. The work from the cast members – particularly from Gonzales, Bratt and Gael Garcia Bernal – is to be praised in making the musical numbers of the film seem as authentic from the characters as possible.

To continue talking about the cast, its great to see that in a film like this that the majority of the cast were all of Latino descent, bar Pixar regular John Ratzenberger. Despite being an animated film, its great to see that this cast was made up in the correct way and it really helps add to creating this authentic imagined world.

Coco provides everything you could possibly want from a Pixar film. Fun, enjoyable characters within a world that is a joy to explore, as the film also looks to tug at your heartstrings. Add in the originality of the story which provides fantastic representation for those who celebrate this event and you find very little to not enjoy. Despite a slowish start, the film has plenty of conflict, twists, and entertainment to keep you engaged throughout its entire runtime.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Coco hits theatres in the U.K. on the 19th January

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

My 10 Worst Films of 2017!

Now that the 'Best of the Year' list is out of the way, it is now time to look at the very worst that 2017 had to offer. Despite being a fairly good year for film, there were a lot of stinkers that often overshadowed the better creations in cinema this year. There were many to choose from and like with the 'Best' list, there were films that missed out on making the list. With that here are some dis-honourable mentions:

47 Metres Down

Underworld: Blood Wars

Fist Fight



Alien Covenant

and The Circle


At number 10 is a film that could so easily be number 1 on this list but for one reason alone it is much higher up. The Bye Bye Man is a completely inept film which has one an incredibly silly plot - if you say or hear the words The Bye Bye Man, you're haunted until death. There are no scares in this film which features terrible dialogue, awful characters and acting as well as some of the worst special effects in recent history. However, this creates an extremely enjoyable viewing and is so bad that it is actually a good fun watch. This really is a god awful film but The Bye Bye Man is a film you can gather your friends to watch it and have a great time laughing all the way through. Due to this, it finds itself at number 10 as the next nine films have little to no redeeming qualities.


With Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons in leading roles, Justin Kurzel directing and a sizeable budget, if there was ever going to be a successful video game movie, then it was surely going to be Assassin's Creed. Unfortunately for everyone, this movie was a painful slog as the depressingly boring story held the film back from reaching its true potential. The focus of this film was completely wrong and lacked anything interesting which is a real shame considering the source material. This film was released in the first week of 2017 in the U.K and the fact it managed to stay in bottom 10 for the entirety of 2017 is somewhat impressive.


For many, the prospect of a Dark Tower film or series has been highly anticipated whilst this property has been stuck in developmental hell. 2017 finally saw the story be depicted on the big screen and it really wasn't worth the wait. In a year that had many great Stephen King adaptations - Gerald's Game, IT and 1922 - The Dark Tower proved to be one of the worst ever. The film tries to cram too much into its 95-minute runtime and is a complete mess in terms of tone. Matthew McConaughey puts in one of his weakest performances as he adopts some strange accent that makes his villain someone you cannot take seriously. I certainly hope that the books are much better than this pitiful film.


Ugh. Is there anything more disappointing this year than the attempt to recreate the Dark Universe with The Mummy reboot? The chance to create a dark cinematic universe based on the classic Universal monsters was an incredibly exciting idea, but after The Mummy, all that excitement vanished. The film looked to cram in as much exposition and build up other stories rather than focus on making The Mummy a good film in its own right. It becomes yet another Tom Cruise action film which the Dark Universe really should not be. Sofia Boutella is criminally underused as the titular character as the story makes her take a back seat for most of the film. Yes, the reboot film focuses more on a terrible, generic Tom Cruise character, Russell Crowe and average action rather than the Mummy herself. This is perhaps the biggest cock up in trying to start up a franchise which is music to the ears for the previous holder, the DCEU.


Lets hope that Michael Fassbender has a better 2018 as it couldn't get much worse than his 2017. His biggest crime of the yeat was The Snowman, based on the Jo Nesbo bestselling book. This film was so dull it was hard to believe that talented director Tomas Alfredson and great actors Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson were involved. From a pure talent perspective, this should have been quite the hit but the film delivered on absolutely nothing. The film feels about 5 hours long with nothing of real intrigue happening. The final showdown is extremely laughable as this film apparently went through a lot of trouble in post-production. The final cut of this film is apparently missing key scenes but I'm not sure they'd be able to completely salvage this snooze fest. A terribly handled film that has reached meme status, stay away from The Snowman.


Wish Upon's premise was a fairly interesting one, with a teenager being given an overwhelmingly amount of power. This could've been an alright film but the film suffers from some of the same problems as The Bye Bye Man. There are many moments in this film that are laughable - mostly involving the deaths - but it isn't nearly as enjoyable which is why it is so low on this list. Every character is just terrible people which makes watching this film insufferable when it is focussing on their stories and interactions. There's little to like about this horror which isn't remotely scary or suspenseful at all. 


Any of these next four films could easily have been number 1, these really are the worst of the worst. To try and rank these four, I had to think long and hard about different aspects of these films. At number 4 comes Flatliners due to the fact I think it has the best performance in any of these four films, that being from Ellen Page. However, the rest of the film is incredibly dull with very little happening that is scary, interesting or compelling. Nothing is really explored in this half-arsed attempt at rebooting the 1990 film. The film doesn't really explore the effects of flatlining as the film seems to make it up as it goes along. This is also very poorly edited as something drastic and damaging will happen to a character, yet the film will instantly cut and that person will be perfectly fine. Dull with a wasted crop of young actors, Flatliners is one of the most lifeless films of 2017.


Sometimes adults can be accused of being far too cynical when it comes to animated films, but I feel like a good gauge is experiencing the audience's reaction firsthand. When I saw The Emoji Movie, the screen was dominated by parents and their children. The atmosphere was silent as this god awful film didn't even manage to have an effect on the younger viewers. This is such a blatant cash grab filled with lazy, cheap jokes that create a very painful watch. It's bland in so many ways with uninteresting characters and James Corden. This Hollywood at its worst as it looks to capitalise on anything remotely popular or well known. The only good thing about this film is that it was only 91 minutes long which made it more bearable than these next two films.


I know I'm not the target demographic but surely there aren't people who genuinely believe this series has any form of quality within it? It's not hard to believe that the 50 Shades series was based on Twilight fan fiction as its terrible writing has transferred to the big screen. Christian Grey is one of the worst characters in film history with one of the most disinterested performances of the year by Jamie Dornan. The film isn't sexy, it's creepy. For a romance, it lacks any sense of loving and care which makes the character Anatasia's decisions even more baffling. There's a random helicopter crash thrown in that leads to nothing just because. Literally nothing happens from it and there are no consequences, it's absolutely baffling. Unfortunately, this isn't the last of the series and I fully expect 50 Shades Freed to end up on my list for the worst of 2018.


My worst film and the most incompetent of the year is Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. My god was this by far the worst experience I've had all year at the cinema. Two big reasons for this being my worst film is due to its horror and action styles of filmmaking. The film is littered with awful jumpscares that become predictable after a mere five minutes. The film doesn't try anything new or creative and is the laziest film of the year. To make things worse, half the film is unwatchable due to the excessive use of shaky cam. I commend you if you manage to watch an action scene from this film and see exactly what is going on and don't leave without a headache. As a fan of action and horror, this atrocity hurt even more than the others. There is also great source material behind these films which makes it even worse. It's a completely lazy and insulting film and only proves further that Paul W.S Anderson is one of the worst working directors today. This series really needs to die and I hope this really is the final chapter, although the ending does leave the story open. Please don't make us suffer anymore. Incompetent at every level, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is the worst film of 2017.

So that wraps up my 10 worst films of the year list and my reflection on 2017 film in general. What was the worst film that you had the displeasure of watching in 2017? Let's hope 2018 has a lot better films in store than these 10 piles of garbage, I don't think it could get any worse than the bottom four on my list, Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Monday, 1 January 2018

My Top 10 Films of 2017!

So 2017 has come and gone, so everybody is rushing to put out their best and worst of the year lists. I know you've probably seen dozens of these already, but why not look at yet another? With that, here are my 10 favourite films of 2017, enjoy!

This list is also based on films by their U.K. release dates, so if there's a film you feel is in the list that shouldn't be by date, this is why. 2017 was a pretty good year for film and was an improvement on 2016 in most regards, especially in terms of blockbusters. With such a competitive year, there were, of course, many films that narrowly missed out on my list. Due to that, I'd like to give a shoutout to some honourable mentions that were very unlucky to miss out on my list:

Wind River
A Ghost Story
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Personal Shopper
and Logan 

 So now that's out of the way, let's jump into number 10!


At number 10 is the first of two Netflix films on my list and is what I believe to be the best Stephen King adaptation of the year, Gerald's Game. 2017 was a pretty good year for the horror/thriller genre, with films such as Get Out and Split being fantastic in their own right. Yet, it was this that really got under my skin, with its simple plot that is handled magnificently by director Mike Flanagan. Carla Gugino puts in one of the best performances of the year -whilst mainly handcuffed to a bed - in a story that creates a terrifying situation but also is a fantastic character study.  The film gets really dark at times and is very unsettling, especially when we explore Gugino's characters past. For fans of horror, definitely give Gerald's Game a watch.


Coming in at number nine is an early U.K. release that did very well during award season in 2017, Hacksaw Ridge. Mel Gibson's return to the director's chair was a very successful one, as Hacksaw was one of the years most powerful and finely crafted films. The film focuses on an unlikely war hero and focuses on his determination to save lives rather than take them. The action scenes are incredibly realistic, creating many brutal moments, but Hacksaw is a true testament to the human spirit and retells this miraculous story wonderfully. Andrew Garfield was fantastic as the stuttering Desmond Doss in a film that gets great performances from Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington.


Paddington 2 is by far the most surprising film of the year for me and is one of the best times I've ever had at a cinema! This film is pure fun and it really caught me off guard. I expected a fairly enjoyable film that would satisfy me for just under 2 hours. However, the film exceeded all expectations, with a great story filled with fun, interesting characters and silly antics making this one of the most purely enjoyable family films of recent times. This already impressive British cast was improved with the additions of Hugh Grant and Brenden Gleeson, who are fantastic in their newly acquired roles, whilst the returning Ben Whishaw and Sally Hawkins are ever so delightful yet again. A complete joy that will have you laughing, tearing up, gazing in awe and on the edge of your seat, Paddington 2 is a very worthy addition to this list.


The second Netflix film to make my list is Bong Joon-ho's Okja, an extremely emotional story that really caught me off guard. The first half of the film explores the relationship between young child Mija and this super pig Okja, as we create an emotional bond with the two. The second half is much darker as it explores celebrity depiction, animal cruelty and greedy conglomerates which mirrors the real world oh so closely. This film features an impressive cast of stars who all bring it as very conflicted characters which is something I really appreciated with the film. The characters whether good or bad are not all morally perfect - with the exception of Mija and Okja - and creates for some interesting dynamics and only showcases the innocence of the two main characters furthermore. With such sensitive subject matter like animal cruelty, there are some very emotional moments, none more so than in the finale. The film is a Netflix original and is the kind of film that needs support in order for Netflix to continue making strides with their original films.


Edgar Wright is one of my favourite filmmakers and has created some of the best genre-blending films, with hits like Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. Due to this, I was eagerly anticipating his latest film Baby Driver ever since it was announced. It isn't my favourite film from Wright but that is no discredit to the film as this is one of the best-crafted action films of recent years. The use of real stunt drivers, choreography and music create some of the most enjoyable action scenes of the year in a film that was oozing of originality. The ensemble cast works perfectly well with each other, creating an interesting dynamic which kept you guessing which way the story will go. Wright has yet another success under his name and continues to showcase his abilities as one of Hollywood's best and most creative directors.


Cracking into the top 5 is Call Me By Your Name, which I feel has the best male performance of the year from Timothee Chalamet. This gay-romance film is both beautiful and heartbreaking as the story follows a young Italian boys first ventures into love. Despite the nature of this relationship, the story is universal and there are things that everybody can relate to and even see reflections of themselves in. This makes the film even more powerful and emotional for the viewer, which is backed up furthermore by fantastic performances and soundtrack. There are two scenes in particular that will stick with me for a very long time due to their powerful effect, including the end credits where Chalamet showcases his talents. The way he conveys his emotions without saying a single word is arguably the best piece of acting this year and is a fantastic ending to a great film.


At number 4 is perhaps the most unique film of the year and certainly of this list, Raw. This French/Belgian coming of age, horror film really surprised me with just how good it was, as it follows a young woman's first experience at veterinarian school. With this, she faces many urges but not all that would be expected in a coming of age film. The film actually uses cannibalism to explore temptations, rivalry, sexuality and many others in this environment which leads to some very startling and incredibly grotesque moments. Garance Marillier is fantastic in the lead role as we slowly see her character Justine descend from a top student into a flesh-hungry, jealous nightmare. This was a very challenging performance which Marillier excels fantastically well in Julia Ducournau's feature film debut as a director. As both a fan of coming of age and horror films, this was a perfect blend for my tastes and one that I won't forget anytime soon.


Manchester By The Sea may just be the most realistic film of 2017 and it uses that authenticity to power its often bleak and emotional story. The film follows Casey Affleck - who gives the performance of his career - and how he struggles to deal with past and present traumas and problems. As the film goes on, we get more information about this deeply troubled character, and with each addition of information, there is a powerful punch behind it. Kenneth Lonergan's script is near flawless as the film is never ever dull and constantly has you hooked, despite it being miserable a lot of the time. It must be said, though, that the film does have some great humour within the film to stop it from being all doom and gloom. This is a film that could turn people the wrong way but I loved every moment of this film and was hungry for more once the credits started to roll. 


At number 2 is Christopher Nolan's war epic Dunkirk. Dunkirk certainly won't go down as one of the best character-driven movies but certainly will in terms of a cinematic experience like no other. This film is completely immersive with flawless sound design, cinematography and practical effects that help create an ever so realistic setting. An impressive cast featuring the likes of Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy and even Harry Styles provide rooted performances, filled with emotion, fear and struggle at every moment whilst stuck in this situation. The narrative structure itself is very unique and was a great way for Nolan to explore different aspects of this event, with linking them up simultaneously. For me, this is up there with Nolan's best work and one that I'll be rewatching soon in 2018.


At number 1 and way ahead of everything for me is La La Land. By comparison, nothing ever came close to overtaking La La Land as my favourite film as I was completely swept away by this film. The music, choreography, performances, cinematography, costume, set design, everything was just perfect. This is now one of my favourite films of all time as I loved every moment of this film. I was humming the soundtrack for days and think about it constantly as it is a truly magical film. This happens to be the film I've seen the most at the cinema as I could not get enough of this movie earlier this year. Ever time I talk about it, it just makes me want to watch it yet again. The film has resonated so deeply with me unlike any other this year which makes La La Land, undoubtedly, my favourite film of 2017!

So that concludes my top 10 list of films released in 2017! I hope that everyone had a great year and hope for all the best in 2018! Let me know what your favourite films of the year were and also what you're looking forward to seeing this year. Also, keep your eyes out for my top 10 worst films of the year which will be a lot harsher list! Until then, thank you for taking the time to read my blog, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

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