Sunday, 22 July 2018

'The Secret of Marrowbone' Review

Plagued by a mysterious presence from their past, Jack (George MacKay) looks to protect his family after the passing of his mother.

With an impressive young cast and mysterious, well-made trailers, 'The Secret of Marrowbone' looked incredibly promising. Eery whilst not giving much away about the story, the film was set up to look like a tense and interesting affair by its marketing. Unfortunately, this was not transferred into the final product at all, with the film being extremely disappointed and very messy.

It must be said that despite this film failing to hit the mark, it isn't at all to do with a lack of effort or laziness. 'Marrowbone' is the directorial debut from successful screenwriter Sergio G. Sanchez and is a fairly ambitious effort from the Spanish filmmaker. However, Sanchez' inexperience as a director shows as he looks to cram in more than the film can handle as the film has major pacing issues. The first half often forgets at times that it's a horror film but does very little to build character or use the time to create interesting scenarios to keep you engaged. There's a weirdly large chunk of time dedicated to playing on the beach and decorating as if the film was a BBC special about children in the countryside which doesn't mix well with the tone the film tries to set later on. During this time there is no attempt at all to try and build any sort of interesting or likable characters. To sum up, the first half of the film is very poor, with it being dull, lifeless and sadly, downright boring. The second half tries to make up for this a bit too much as the pacing goes from 0 to 100 very quickly. Soon enough lots of information and events are rapidly being thrown in with little breathing period. In amongst the ending is a twist that the film heavily relies on but its effect gets lost in amongst all of the ongoing chaos. The film is very unbalanced with far too little of interest happening early on and then far too much ensuing nearer the end and by that time, you've already checked out.

As previously mentioned, the cast for this film made 'Marrowbone' a lot more appealing with an impressive crop of young talent but even this aspect failed to deliver. Anya Taylor-Joy is completely wasted as a love interest with very little character other than her endearment for Jack, played by George MacKay. MacKay is undoubtedly a talented actor, but the script sees quite an emotionless performance with the occasional overly shouty dialogue that doesn't allow him to showcase his abilities. As for the likes of Charlie Heaton and Mia Goth, they are only there to make up the numbers as again they are wasted. There isn't much character in this film at all and with the dull story, it doesn't make for an entertaining viewing. 

What is unquestionably disappointing is the horror elements, as the film resorts to predictable jump scares and loud noises as its main source of 'horror'. There was a potentially interesting element regarding mirrors but it falls completely flat combined with the final twist. This is perhaps the most disappointing part of this film as the scares don't seem to have much thought within them. Although the rest of the film does miss the mark, there is a clear intention to try something ambitious and slightly out of the box. Unfortunately, with its execution of horror, the same cannot be said.

'The Secret of Marrowbone' does take risks with its storytelling but the craftsmanship isn't quite there. The pacing is all off which really harms the effectiveness of the chaos that ensues later on in the film with there being very little of interest happening early on. Despite an attempt to create a film that really makes you think, 'Marrowbone' is certainly an unfortunate misfire.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Monday, 16 July 2018

'Mission Impossible: Fallout' Review

The best intentions come back to haunt Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as dangerous plutonium falls into the wrong hands with plans to attack a third of the world's population. Hunt will join up with familiar faces and some new members in order to right the wrongs previously made.

There's nothing worse than seeing sequels being forced out with little care, passion or creativity evident within the final product. After 22 years, you'd maybe think that the 'Mission Impossible' series would end up heading that way like countless other franchises in the past. This most definitely isn't the case, as 'Fallout' is not only the series best film but one that will be looked at as one of the best in the entire action genre. 

Continuing from the high standards set by 'Ghost Protocol' and 'Rogue Nation', 'Fallout' looks to and succeeds in raising the bar once again. With the previous installments in the series, there are specific moments that stand out as the highlights and the most memorable moments of the film; the Burj Khalifa scene in 'Ghost Protocol' and Tom Cruise hanging onto the side of a plane in 'Rogue Nation'. With 'Fallout', there are simply too many to choose from. From brutal fight scenes in bathrooms and cabins to insane motorbike chases and an incredible skydiving set piece, the action in 'Fallout' is second to none with different styles of this genre being displayed magnificently. Each scene is packed with a high level of intensity that is matched equally with creativity, creating highly enjoyable and thrilling moments that leave you in complete awe. 

There's a reason as to why Tom Cruise is held in such high regard in the action genre as his clear passion is evident in each and every role he takes. His commitment is second to none and once again it is on show with him performing countless stunts that really draw you into the film - with his broken ankle making the final cut as well. Not only does Cruise go above and beyond in his action scenes but also delivers fantastic moments of wit and even emotion and his character faces turmoil in his personal life. Alongside a tremendous ensemble cast that features an impressive turn from Henry Cavill and another great showing from the magnificent Rebecca Ferguson, the different tones transition with ease and never feel out of place. Cruise produces another textbook performance as he continues to amaze whilst showing no intentions of stopping anytime soon. 

A lot of credit must go to writer/director Christopher McQuarrie who becomes the first director to return to the series. McQuarrie has created a script around these action set pieces that is full of mystery, intrigue, humour, creativity and sheer cleverness with very little moments feeling overlong in its two and a half hour runtime. 'Fallout' truly deserves to go down as one of the best action movies as the sheer effort and creativity that has gone into this film is easily noticeable. There is nothing generic about 'Fallout' as it looks to push the boundaries further and further as the film goes on and that is due to McQuarrie's fantastic abilities as a filmmaker.

'Fallout' is undoubtedly the best action movie of the year and the best that we have seen since 'Mad Max: Fury Road'. It has everything you want in a great action movie, from kickass heroes - both male and female -, insane stunts, great fight scenes, a perfect mix of humour and seriousness and genuine threats from villains and situations. A pure thrill ride from start to finish, this is easily the year's best blockbuster bar none.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Mission Impossible: Fallout comes out on the 25th July in the U.K

Monday, 9 July 2018

'Sicario 2: Soldado' Review

As the Mexican Cartel's start to smuggle terrorists across the U.S border, CIA officer Matt Traver (Josh Brolin) recruits the help of Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro) in order to take them down. Using one of the top kingpin's daughters to raise the tensions, the plan goes wrong leaving everyone to question what they are fighting for. 

'Sicario' spawned the career of screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, making him one of Hollywood's most promising talents and rightfully so after another two successful outings which gained him an Academy Award nomination. Sheridan works closely with crime thrillers, with tensions and stakes being raised continuously culminating in a thrilling finale. For the first time in Sheridan's career, this was not the case as studio interference looks to have caused a blemish on what was so far a perfect résumé.

'Soldado' wastes no time in grabbing the audience's attention, with a graphic but in the long run meaningless terrorist attack within the first few moments. This moment looks to set the tone and main story of the film but soon becomes very apparent that its only intention was merely to shock and showcase a tougher, grittier tone. It's a bizarre start to the film as this incident is barely brought up again and has little effect on the rest of the story. There's no retribution or punishment relating to this attack which is put to the side and forgotten about very quickly.

Much like its predecessor, the film focuses on the ways that government bodies will take care of business, even using inhumane and illegal tactics in order to achieve their goals. The grittier tone is carried out with drone strikes, interrogations, kidnappings and murders in broad daylight as the way the U.S may deal with things is shown in shocking ways. There are plenty of exciting and clever set pieces as the main bulk of the film features an interesting insight into just how far these high ranked officials will go. Focusing on a staged rescue mission, the relationship between Alejandro - played magnificently yet again by Benicio Del Toro - and Isabela (Isabela Moner) shows a surprising development of both characters as they bond over trying to survive in tough circumstances. Sheridan showcases his talents as a writer tremendously throughout the main bulk of the film, with great set pieces and dialogue carried out by simple small talk. There isn't as much artistic appeal but Sheridan's strengths shine through creating a thoroughly thrilling and exciting experience nonetheless.

However, despite all the good work done creating the main chunk of the film, its decision making in its finale almost completely derails the film. You can basically tell at a certain point where studio interference came into play, as the need to set up further films undoes a lot of the good work previously done. One of the films risks is undone which leads to a cheap and downright cheesy Hollywood ending that ends up being the films most shocking moment. 'Soldado' is a perfect example of why talented filmmakers should be trusted and how studio interference can have a huge negative effect on a film's outcome.

Despite the loss of Villeneuve, Deakins, and Blunt, 'Soldado' manages to create an interesting and gritty story nonetheless. Until it's finale, it looked like a very worthy sequel to a great film but is unfortunately tainted due to its extremely poor ending. What was a solid and exciting thriller quickly becomes a disappointment that has you leaving with a bad taste in your mouth.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

'GLOW' Season 2: Review

The 'Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling' are back after a successful pilot. With this comes new problems in production as well as behind the scenes as the gals deal with problems at work and in their personal lives. Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin) continue to butt heads whilst Sam (Marc Maron) takes a bigger role as a father whilst trying to keep the show running as smoothly as possible.

'GLOW' burst onto the scene last year with unashamed silliness in what was a fine and perfectly enjoyable debut season. The introduction of fun, interesting characters and the conflicts each face was enough for the show to be a success and gave a taster of the potential that the series had. Now back for season 2, the show isn't pulling any punches and takes that step forward in making a good show a great show that can't be missed.

GLOW continues to showcase a cheesy, silly tone as a main feature in its second season and does so more than its predecessor - best summed up in episode 8 'The Good Twin'. The volume is turned up as the comedy delivers with wilder and sillier antics apparent in each episode. Despite that, the shows main strength surprisingly comes from its more serious moments, providing unexpected dramatic moments that match even the best of dramas. This second season is incredibly bold and takes risks by trying to pack its episodes with as many issues to tackle as possible. From relevant topics to this day like representation and dodgy sleazy executives to the exploitation of stereotypes, troublesome family lives and generally finding your place in this environment, season 2 looks to tackle many different issues that woman would've faced at this time in this industry. The show is no longer solely an entertaining comedy, it's an important series that looks to tackle real issues and deserves full credit for its more serious turn. The show's combination of serious drama and silly comedy is a sight to behold as on paper, they are polar opposites yet, they contrast wonderfully creating one of the best and most unique shows of the year.

With the shows bizarre yet effective use of tones, this allows the diverse cast to showcase their incredible range in many different ways. Alison Brie shines in her leading role as she yet again bounces between tones with incredible ease. Whether it's as 'Zoya' - or twin sister Olga - showing off her goofy side and comedic chops or facing off against her co-stars in the serious moments, Brie is fantastic and could easily find herself very busy during award season. Each side character deserves an abundance of credit, with the likes of Betty Gilpin, Marc Maron and Kia Stevens all shining throughout the season, packing plenty of emotion and laughs into the series. There is no weak link, no character who you feel doesn't belong or isn't impactful. The series continues to build each and every character, making everybody feel important and necessary to the overall story with their own individual moments to shine. I'm yet to see a better ensemble cast as these misfits work together perfectly with chemistry that is off the charts.

With only 10 episodes in the series at an average length of 33 minutes an episode, the show never lacks any dull moments as time flies by with each episode. GLOW is the ideal show to binge as each episode is meaningful and entertaining meaning many will fire through it easily. And as a show that covers all bases, it is to no surprise as the show is filled to the brim with compelling and fun entertainment. The second season is best summed up by one of its final lines; "Highbrow, lowbrow, comedy, drama, heartache, violence, this show has something for everyone". You will laugh and you'll cry. You'll feel uncomfortable and it'll make you overwhelmingly happy. This is a very special series from a show that has really found its identity and deserves all the plaudits it gets. Compelling and fun from start to finish, season 3 cannot come quick enough.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

'Ocean's 8' Review

For years, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) has been planning the biggest heist of her life, targeting the world famous Met Gala. She must assemble a highly skilled team featuring hackers, con artists and a suburban mom in order to pull off a job worth over $150 million.

A cast can only do so much for a film. With the newest addition to the 'Ocean's' franchise, it's been the film's main draw, with the impressive crop of high-quality actresses looking to bring in a new audience into the series. Although the talent delivers big with genuinely enjoyable performances, they can't cover the film's weaknesses that spawn from its writing.

'Ocean's ' really fails to capitalise on its great ensemble with a complete lack of character or development, leading to each and every character is incredibly disposable. Each character has a very basic introduction and a moment to showcase what they will bring to the group but after that, they are left with very little to progress them throughout the rest of the film. The character interactions with one another revolve entirely around Sandra Bullock's Debbie so we don't get a great deal of this diverse cast mingling with one another. With this, the film does lack some personality, as none of the characters really feel any different from one another. There are no distinguishable traits other than the skills they bring to the team as the film hopes your admiration for these actresses will be enough to get them by.

Although the writing leaves a lot to be desired, these actresses try their best to add a fun energy to the film and succeed in doing so. Bullock and co are a joy to watch but it is Sarah Paulson who really stands out. Her character receives the best treatment from the script, with her being shown to have some form of a backstory, personality and just simply being an integral part of the heist. Paulson is fantastic with her character having the most hands-on approach allowing her to shine more than her co-stars. There is no weak link with stellar performances all around but you can't help but think how much more enjoyable they would be with better writing.

Not only does the writing leave the characters underdone, there is a sheer lack of drama and tension which in a heist film is a problem. The film's idea of creating tension is having Helena Bonham Carter look at a necklace long enough for it to be scanned or bus-boys stalling whilst taking a tray of dishes to a kitchen. There is never any moment where you feel as if the protagonists are in any real danger of being caught as they don't run into any real hiccups along the way. Although the heist itself is fun, it could've done with a bit more intensity in order to add more excitement to the final act. It has to be said that the heist itself is still enjoyable regardless, with some clever tricks, great costumes and the cast's charm shining through.

'Ocean's 8' gets by with its stellar cast, but the film's lack of character and drama stops it from being anything more than average. Although the film has its moments and is fun and enjoyable, you can't help but feel that it has come short of its potential. There is some optimism for if there is to be a sequel but also plenty to work on as well.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Saturday, 16 June 2018

'Hereditary' Review

After the death of her secretive and difficult mother, Annie (Toni Collette) and her family start to experience some changes in their lives. As more is found out about the families past, the trauma intensifies as the family look to escape the terror they are destined for. 

Recent horror films have taken different approaches to freshen the genre up, through new ideas or building on those previous tropes. 'Hereditary' looks to build on this, with clear inspiration from past films being handled in a mature, clever and fresh way. 'Hereditary' combines art and horror exceptionally as its shocks are truly shocking whilst maintaining its aesthetic appeal.

Horror is most effective when there is a sense of realism behind it which reflects the real world in disturbing ways. With 'Hereditary', what seems like a 'demon' or possession movie has deep laying themes of mental illness, stress, family and coping with loss which is showcased in deeply harrowing ways. Like other A24 films, it is fairly unconventional with metaphors and ambiguity being used heavily throughout the film which may take time for viewers to absorb and fully appreciate. The jumpscares are kept to a minimum but are used effectively with chilling build ups and brilliant use of tension. There are no cheap tactics with 'Hereditary' as its story, performances and atmosphere do more than enough to keep you on edge. This is best summed up by how a simple click of the tongue can continuously make your skin crawl.

From the very start, it feels as if something is off and you are immediately drawn into the film. First-time director Ari Aster does a masterful job in creating this constant feeling of unease, with his slow pans and long takes early on establishing this feeling before escalating further on in the film. Less is more and Aster displays this as he hides actions and figures in the darkness with subtle movements giving away that something creepy is around the corner. Aster uses every inch of the screen which no doubt will benefit the film on rewatches as viewers will pick up on creepy and disturbing moments that they may have missed the first time around.

Toni Collette is undoubtedly the star of the film as her characters emotional turmoil allows the Australian actress to showcase her abilities. Whether it's bickering with her son or screaming the house down in terror, Collette is wonderful and never silly, creating a true feeling of dread and fear for what is happening. She is supported tremendously by Gabriel Byrne, a great contrast to Collette's character as he is the calm head who looks to keep everything together. Both Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro leave a lasting impression with impressive performances in such intense roles, with their youth and innocence adding to the trauma.

'Hereditary' is an incredibly clever horror film that trusts its story to carry through its horrifying messages. It never engages in lazy tactics and respects its audience and it pays dividends. This is not only the best horror films of the year but one of the best films in general of the year. This remarkable debut is truly special and is a genuinely terrifying art piece. 'Hereditary' is exactly the kind of horror film we should expect and hail with plaudits due to its boldness, creativity, intensity and the sheer terror it creates. Genuinely horrific and unpredictable, 'Hereditary' is undoubtedly the best horror film of the year.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, 9 June 2018

'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' Review

Years after the disaster at Jurassic World, a rescue mission is set to retrieve the dinosaurs from Isla Nublar where a volcano threatens all living species. This mission soon turns for the worst with the dinosaurs being auctioned off to the highest bidder as weapons. Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) must stop these creatures being sold off for the world's sake.

'Fallen Kingdom' starts off with a horror-esque, dark and creepy sequence with director J.A. Bayona showcasing his talents yet again using larger than life creatures. This suspenseful scene joins the original 'Jurassic Park' as one of the best starts in the franchise's history and offers hope for the remainder of the film. Unfortunately, there is little of this creativity and originality to be found in the rest of the film.

The latest installment of the 'Jurassic' series may as well be titled 'Greatest Hits' as the film is filled with moments found in previous films with little more to them. Audiences will feel the nostalgia being forced upon them as the film tries to re-create classic scenes and moments with updated CGI and technology. The problem is that the film doesn't have the magic and engagement of the audience to get the maximum effect from these scenes. Due to this, it just seems like a cheap imitation more often than not. Unfortunately, there isn't much to rave about in terms of new additions to the series, with a potentially interesting look at John Hammond's relation with previous partners being squandered for more explosions and dinosaur attacks. The 'Jurassic' series now has very little meaning to it, other than dinosaurs being a metaphor for nuclear weapons, with the action spectacle being the main feature. 

The biggest strength of the film comes from its casting, with Chris Pratt's unquestionable charm and charisma making the film a lot more enjoyable. His pairing with Bryce Dallas Howard works tremendously yet again, giving the audience a genuinely likable pairing to root for. Rafe Spall and Toby Jones provide good support in villain roles with greedy motives and although not given much to work with, leave a lasting impression on the film. With better material, this cast could do wonders with a wide range of quality actors featuring but we just have to settle with them making the film watchable. 

'Jurassic' is undoubtedly now just another franchise that offers very little to be excited by. We can expect sequels to come out every other year but they won't be much different to each other or worth the time. It's a shame to see this series go further and further away from what made it so great in the first place. 'Jurassic' is now just another 'Transformers' or any other franchise that is just being milked for money which audiences will eat up undoubtedly. As far as generic blockbusters go, 'Fallen Kingdom' ticks all the boxes and although it's watchable, it offers a very limited experience in terms of shocks, thrills and excitement. 

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars