Sunday, 25 September 2016

'The Inflitrator' Review

Bryan Cranston really seems to be able to do no wrong recently and 'The Infiltrator' backs that up. Where Cranston shines, the film slowly follows as the film takes its time to reach its true quality.

In 1986, federal agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) goes undercover to infiltrate the trafficking network of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Working alongside fellow agents Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) and Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), Mazur poses as a slick, money laundering businessman Bob Musella. After gaining the trust of Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), one of Escobar's top lieutenant's, Mazur must navigate his way around the criminal underground where one mistake could cost him everything.

Following the huge success of 'Breaking Bad' and off the back of an Academy Award nomination for 'Trumbo', Bryan Cranston is continuing to show why he is one of the best working actors today. Cranston has incredible range and this is shown throughout the film in a number of different ways. He's really allowed to showcase a large number of his talents in 'The Infiltrator' as he delivers great serious scenes portraying Musella but also moments where we see his character as a true family man. Cranston really is a remarkable talent and this performance more than backs it up.

Despite Cranston delivering another great performance, he cannot fully carry the movie to success. 'The Infiltartor' really struggles to find a main focus early on, both in the story and in tone. The film introduces us to a lot of characters early on and it isn't until later on in the film when Alcaino is introduced that the film really finds its main focus. Those who we meet beforehand don't get much time to be fully introduced and aren't interesting enough for you to become fully interested in. Alcaino then is introduced and the story focuses between his and Mazur's relationship and is where the film really improves and flourishes. 

The tone early on the film seems fairly lighthearted with comedy moments being very apparent. This does not help the film for one as the moments don't deliver as well as they could leaving the comedy to fall fairly flat. This also takes away from the tension that the film possesses when Mazur is in these potentially dangerous situations. Due to the comedy incorporated into these scenes and into the build up, the suspense doesn't work that well. Again, going back to the previously mentioned point, the film seems to sort this when Roberto Alcaino is introduced. The film then doesn't use as much comedy which really makes the situations and relationships in the film much more effective. It takes its time to reach this point but when it gets there, the film becomes so much better.

The relationship between Mazur and Alcaino is the strongest part of the film - alongside Cranston's performance - as the bond between the two is very interesting. We see that throughout the film, the pair grow to genuinely become friends and this also has to do with the great performances from Cranston and Bratt. The pair work very well with each other and create a true bond of comradery. The way that the pair bond despite the relationship being built on lies was very intriguing. This added a very interesting look to how people like Mazur would work and how tough their job would be. One mistake could cost them everything which the film does well do emphasise, as Mazur has to keep his real life a secret at all times. Due to this, the film becomes fairly tense as there are moments where he could be exposed at any moment. These work very well in the film especially as the film gets closer to the end.

Overall, I feel that is the best way to describe the film. The further on you get, the higher the quality is. A stuttering start with comedy elements doesn't work too great but Cranston pulls through this and delivers a great performance, as does Benjamin Bratt and Diane Kruger who compliment Cranston very well. A very interesting story which unfortunately wasn't consistent all the way throughout.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

'Blair Witch' Review

In 1999, the world was shocked by 'The Blair Witch Project' as the horror film introduced a new frightening found footage style. Many thought that this film was real footage which was helped by one of the best ever advertising campaigns for a movie ever. 17 years later, it seems as if the tale of 'The Blair Witch' is still alive as 'Blair Witch' is now here to test its hand at scaring audiences worldwide.

James (James Allan McCune) wants to explore the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland after new footage of his sister Heather emerged online. She went missing years ago and tales of the Blair Witch were heavily linked but nothing could prove this or find the remains of Heather. Along with some friends, they gain the help of two locals as they look to find James' sister whilst also filming a documentary. As the night goes on, they realise that the legend is not only true, but much more sinister than they could have possibly imagined.

For months, this film was packaged as 'The Woods' before it was revealed as 'Blair Witch' at Comic Con. Apparently, the film has been in production for five years which makes it one of the best kept secrets in Hollywood today. Following pretty much the same story as the original, 'Blair Witch' showcases both what is good in horror but also what makes the genre unbearable at times.

To start on a positive note, 'Blair Witch' at times is most definitely unsettling. The dark settings of the woods are things of nightmares and the film does a great job of creating a creepy atmosphere. Clever sound editing makes you feel startled by the slightest of things such as twigs snapping or little movements in the trees, which really plays with your mind. This leads you to be on edge, as it creates tension with you expecting to be frightened by something that can come out of anywhere. The atmosphere is eery throughout which proves to be really effective throughout the film.

However, the film unfortunately uses similar techniques to be incredibly lazy throughout the movie. One of the main gripes about horror movies is to do with the use of jump scares, mainly false ones. This will consist of something not really that scary happening but a huge noise goes off that pierces your ears giving you a fright. The scene isn't scary, the noise just makes you jump without the film actually doing anything. This happens so many times in 'Blair Witch' and it really stops this movie from excelling. There are so many moments when the characters will jump in front of the camera and shout "Hey" to get the attention of their friends creating very cheap jump scares. They constantly use this as well, not even freshening the scare up with something else. Incredibly lazy and really disappointing to see.

The film follows six young adults who each are fairly bland. The main protagonist James is motivated by his sisters disappearance but, that is really the only thing that we learn about his character. No traits or qualities of interest really come into play which can be said about the others. James' potential love interest Lisa (Callie Hernandez) is a little better as she is a filmmaker and overall a decent person. However, she again isn't that interesting and the relationship between her and James seems abrupt as it fails to convince you that they could be a pairing. Lisa however does provide a good reason to how these events are being filmed, giving a fresh and understandable look into the found footage style.

 Brandon Scott and Corbin Reid make up the couple of Peter and Ashley, both being fairly disposable characters. Neither are likeable and don't possess any good qualities rather than being rude and whiny before they even come into course with the 'Blair Witch'. That leaves us with the pair of locals, Talia (Valorie Curry) and Lane (Wes Robinson). With this pair comes to the two opposite ends of the spectrum. Talia has pretty much nothing to do in the film, doing nothing memorable or useful for that matter. Lane however, is by far the most interesting character, carrying a shroud of mystery with him which keeps you questioning about him. You are unsure about what he is really like which adds an extra something to the film as you don't know what to expect from him. It's a shame that the film didn't take more of an advantage with this as they could have looked to do something slightly different with the tale.

The last twenty minutes of the film are really its saving grace. As you get sick and tired of the terrible jump-scares, you finally get what you wanted from the movie: genuinely scary moments. The finale really pays off as you are gripped by the movie as it gives you what you wanted all along. Scary and tense provides a great ending to a horror film that looked to be going the completely wrong way. It's also a shame to see this as you see the capabilities of the creators in this film as they create scenes and situations that are frightening.

Overall, 'Blair Witch' is a pretty average horror movie due to the extreme differences in quality at times. Some weak characters and cheap scares could have made this completely unbearable. However, the film is saved by great sound editing and an ending that works incredibly well. A strange watch due to this as 'Blair Witch' brings both the good and bad in the horror genre..

Final Verdict =

So have you seen 'Blair Witch'? If so what did you think of it? 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

Monday, 19 September 2016

'Hunt for the Wilderpeople' Review

The indpendent movie scene seems to be taking a number on the blockbusters this year with many indie movies out shining the much bigger budget movies. Next to dazzle is 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople' from New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi. Known for the hilarious 'What We Do In The Shadows' and 'Boy', Waitit was hoping to create another comedic success. With help from Sam Neill, they were able to create this years best comedy.

Young Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a troubled child who arrives at a new home after bad luck in care homes. Aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) looks to bond and take care of him in the New Zealand countryside where she lives with her husband Hec (Sam Neill). Tragedy strikes though a Bella passes away leaving the unlikely pair of Ricky and Hec together. Child services want to take Ricky back so he runs into the wilderness with Hec pursuing him. The pair are now being hunted down as they think Hec has kidnapped young Ricky. The pair are now on the run to avoid real life and juvenile prison.

I did not see a single piece of advertising for this movie whatsoever, not even in the cinema that I regularly go to. No posters, no trailers, nothing. I knew of this film solely down to the YouTube reviewers community who praised the film very highly and I noted it down to keep an eye on for future release. Due to this, 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople' seems to have gone under the radar from the public eye, despite being one of the best movies of the year.

Taika Waititi is one of the best comedy directors right now and he really shows it in this movie. The New Zealander clearly has a knack after previous succesful endeavours like 'What We Do In The Shadows', and his latest film is a quality addition to his filmography. He really works well with comedy which is shown clearly as he is both writer and director for this movie. He keeps a quirkiness throughout the film with the bouncy soundtrack accompanying this. This supports the film feeling quite upbeat as Waititi's humour really shines, creating just a fantastic and enjoyable viewing. Waititi is one of the best when it comes to creating a genuinely funny comedy movie, something that is actually quite rare these days.

The film follows the troubled Ricky Baker and Hec, two people who couldn't be more different. A huge age gap, different interests and general demeaners are only a few things that this couple of oddballs are unlike each other and it leads to an incredibly fun journey. Sam Neill plays the grumpy outdoorsman Hec and he is absolutely magnificent. One of Hollywood's most underrated actors and this role surprised me as I never thought of him as a comedy actor. However his no-nonsense style and grumpiness is fantastic to watch as he contrasts very well with young actor Julian Dennison. Dennison's Ricky Baker wants to be a gangster so uses foul language whilst acting tough and bigger than he actually is. The pair bounce off of each other incredibly well with Baker often annoying Hec much to Hec's displeasure. The relationship is the main factor of the film as despite their differences, they share a common goal as they don't want to be captured. One of the best on screen pairings this year as the partnership really delivered.

Not only do the two leads deliver very well comically, the supporting characters pitch in their fair share and do very well. From Paula (Rachel House), the woman from child services to the crazy 'Psycho Sam' (Rhys Darby), everyone adds to the film very well. The latter is one of the funniest characters I have seen in a long time as everything Sam did was really funny as everything he did seemed to click for me. The strength of the supporting characters really helps as the lend a helping hand to our leads - not that they needed it. Despite that, the more great, enjoyable characters there are only adds to the movie. They don't over do it as well as the main focus stays on the oddball pairing making their roles as supporting characters very successful throughout the film.

Now the humour is a main part of the film but at the same time, it really impacts your emotions. There are two examples of this that are heartbreaking as the film drops in some sad moments that are really impactful. I never expected these moments to work as well as they did, especially the second time around after the influx of comedy filled most of the film. The performance from Sam Neill also makes this very effective as he shows great range, especially in these moments. They tug at your heartstrings and are very effective adding another great layer to the film which also helps bring depth to the characters.

Unfortunately, there is a problem what stops 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople' from shining even brighter. The ending for this is quite disappointing as the journey of Hec and Ricky ends quite flatly and in a way that isn't great in the slightest. It seems rather abrupt and is a real shame to see the film fade out like that. The end really doesn't match the quality of the rest of the film which is quite easily noticeable.

Overall, 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople' is one of the best films this year and in my opinion, the best comedy. Sam Neill and Julian Dennison are fantastic together in what is a great comedy pairing. The journey is incredibly fun and you will be laughing throughout in what is another success from Taika Waititi. Please go see this film, it really deserves more attention than it is getting and is the kind of film we should be supporting.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople'? If so what did you think of it? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing this movie and I cannot stress enough that you should go see this one! Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Sunday, 18 September 2016

'Kubo and The Two Strings' Review

From Laika, the creators of the unique animated movies 'Coraline' and 'The Boxtrolls' comes 'Kubo and The Two Strings'. A much more different style to the likes of Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks yet, 'Kubo' stands above most of the family animated movies so far this year.

After staying out too late, Kubo's world comes crashing down as he summons a vengeful spirit from the past. His mother sacrifices herself for his safety which leaves Kubo (Art Parkinson) alone or so he thinks. Now on the run and on the hunt for the three pieces of armour, Kubo is accompanied by Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) as they slay monsters and travel to discover the fate of Kubo's lost father.

As Hollywood seems to be full of remakes and sequels, Laika are offering yet another intriguing and entertaining original movie. The tale of Kubo is packaged as a Japanese myth, allowing the film to go all out with its mystery and magic creating a very enjoyable experience. As Kubo can make incredible things happen with his two stringed instrument, dazzling things are happening that will surely entertain the whole family. Due to Kubo's abilities, it keeps the film very fun as he is a child who can do marvellous things. With a young mind like Kubo who looks to do creative things with his abilities, it creates endless fun.

The fun is continued throughout the film due to the characters within the movie. Kubo as established is a fun character due to his abilities as he can do miraculous things. He is supported incredibly well by 'Monkey' and 'Beetle' who voices are two of Hollywood's current best in Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey. Monkey is very protective who seems to mainly be against wasting time and shows her annoyance when the pair of Beetle and Kubo joke around. This does lead to some great comedy moments throughout the movie as she is like a mother to two misbehaving children. Beetle is a lot more light-hearted like Kubo but also brave like Monkey which shows him to be a fun and reliable companion. The two are excellent supporting characters proving to be useful in the story and entertaining for the audience.

The animation style has mentioned before is most definitely unique. It's stop motion likeness works fantastically well throughout the film as the movement is so fluid and natural looking. It is refreshing seeing different styles of animation compared to the normality as everything is now at such a high standard, it is hard for some to stand out. However with Laika's unique look, 'Kubo' shines with its different look that really impresses. Everything looks magnificent throughout the movie from the magic that Kubo can create to the incredible scenery and locations that the trio reach in their journeys. 

As a family movie, the film does have a slightly darker tone to it that surprised me. This does make the film feel much more mature and maybe even to the extent where it may frighten very young children. With the evil spirits causing havoc and hunting for Kubo, it easily creates a threatening presence up against our heroes. This comes in the form of Kubo's mothers evil twin sisters whose giggles are enough to send shivers down your spine. Combined with the pale masks that they wear, the twins have a real creepy feel to them. I would like to have seen more done with the pair however as they seemed to be incredibly crafted and could've done a lot more in the film. Instead, they were more like henchmen to their father who didn't really impact the film quite like I had hoped he would. My only real gripe with the film is to do with the main villain as I didn't feel him to be in it that much or doing that much to make him seem really threatening.

Overall, 'Kubo and The Two Strings' is a great animated family movie that will challenge the best of them this year. Not quite up to 'Zootropolis' standard for me but still a very strong outing. An interesting story with great characters make this easily likeable and an enjoyable viewing all around. I'd recommend this especially if you have kids as it is an entertaining and beautiful original project. 

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Saturday, 17 September 2016

'Don't Breathe' Review

2016 has seen a pretty great return for the horror genre with 'The Conjuring 2', 'Lights Out' and 'The Witch' really impressing so far. 'Don't Breathe' provides yet another intriguing premise to the genre and fortunately for the audience, gives an entertaining and very effective thriller.

Rocky (Jane Levy) wants to move to California for the benefit of her daughter and promises to do so as soon as she can. Along with Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto), they look to rob a war veteran who has been blinded. The blind man (Stephen Lang) won a court settlement worth $300k after the death of his daughter. Figuring that the job will be easy, they break in an attempt to retrieve the money. They are in for more than they bargained for as they are soon trapped with the blind man who is very dangerous as they also discover a very dark secret.

Horror is having a great 2016 with interesting premise's like 'Don't Breathe' leading the way. The stories are becoming a much larger part rather than just gore fests and lazy jump scares and it really is a great thing to see. The premise is what has intrigued a lot of people and has been the main part of the films marketing campaign. How refreshing is it to see a film taking advantage of its quality to create a decent campaign rather than tropes that others have made very stale recently?

'Don't Breathe' may just be one of the most tense film of the year as there are so many close encounters throughout the film, you are continuously on the edge of your seat. With the three burglars breaking in, they soon realise that the blinded war veteran is a much bigger problem than they anticipated and everything soon turns south. The film constantly looks for new ways for how to create these close encounters and does well to not continuously go back to the same tactics. This keeps the film feeling fresh throughout, creating an entertaining viewing. That's something that the scares in the film deserve credit for too. Most of the scares come from frightening acts and just how scary Stephen Lang is as the blind man. His actions are terrifying and does seem reasonably realistic which is terrifying. This is even more true when the dark twist is revealed and we see a much darker side to the blind man than we had anticipated. There are some jump scares but they are effective and used to good effect such as when the characters are in the dark with the blind man trying to get a hold of the intruders. Refreshing once again to see a horror not rely on cheap tricks to be very effective.

What is also effective is how the film makes you wonder who is in the right here. At first, you are against these robbers as they are breaking into what seems like a harmless mans home for their own personal greed. You don't really see a reason to like them apart from Rocky wanting to create a better life for her daughter. Even once the blind man turns vicious, it seems more than fair enough for him to react this way. However, as the film progresses, we learn more about the blind man who leads you to actually feel and root for the intruders. It does this very cleverly and does not rush as it builds the story magnificently.

Stephen Lang really shines in this movie as the very dangerous blind man. Early on he seems very timid and not a threat at all. His performance is very effective as he does fool you into thinking he may not be a problem and then a quick switch shows him go from clam to crazy, turning him into an unstoppable force. He then is very scary, showing that you a realistic horror villain can be just as threatening. Jane Levy also does well as Rocky who seems to be taken back by the events that have just occurred, reacting very well towards them. She is also very strong throughout the film as she is clever with what she does as well as not being afraid to take action against the blind man. The character of Alex played by Dylan Minnettee seems to have a very fast recovery throughout the movie as he takes a whole load of damage. At times it seems odd that he gets up and moves around as if nothing had happened. This does get a little annoying throughout the movie as its like he's not selling his injuries at all. It does pose a problem for the film and hinders the performance which was fairly solid.

There is a big twist in the film that is very effective but also at the same time puzzling. I won't go into too much detail about it as it may ruin the experience for you but you will be thinking to yourself how it was possible. There isn't much context given to it with no reason to how it happened and that there were no repercussions. It does seem odd that something so significant would go unnoticed with no questioning whatsoever. The lack of explanation seems quite lazy in all honesty as they just skip over it entirely.

Overall, 'Don't Breathe' has continued the good run of horror movies in 2016. A very effective film that does seem scarily realistic and does not seem that far-fetched. That really adds to the film making it that more horrifying. It is worth seeing but if you are squeamish, there will be some parts that will unsettle you.

'Don't Breathe' Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Don't Breathe'? If so what did you think of it? I hope that you enjoyed reading this review and hope it helped you decide to see this film or not. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Thursday, 15 September 2016

'Anthropoid' Review

The story behind the assassination of Nazi Officer Reynhard Heydrich is yet again getting the big screen attention. An event that is vital to the war that doesn't get as much attention makes for an interesting premise for a movie. Unfortunately, despite glimpses of greatness, they execution wasn't there in 'Anthropoid'.

In December 1941, two Czech soldiers (Jamie Dornan, Cillian Murphy) parachute into their Nazi occupied homeland. They have a mission to assassinate one of the highest ranking Nazi officers Reynhard Heydrich. With help from other members of the Czech resistance, they will attempt this attack to aid their country against Nazi oppression.

The biggest problem with 'Anthropoid' is with its drama or lack therof. There isn't anything that is emotional, that is gripping and unfortunately, nothing that interesting in the dramatic parts of the film. It falls completely short with the drama as the film doesn't really do anything in the first hour to get you really invested in the story and the characters. In fact the film starts off very brightly with the parachutists arriving into the country and almost immediately are tattled on to the Nazi's. It starts off bright and you hope that the film continues this but it fails to do anything afterwards to carry on this good start.

Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan lead a cast of dull, expressionless characters who spend most of their time sitting around speaking quietly. The characters don't get much to show off their talents as everything is so boring to the extent where it seems like the actors themselves are bored. And that reflects on the audience as well as it is hard to remain interested in this movie when very little happens leading to not a very entertaining build up. It's a shame to see talented actors being stuck with uninteresting characters who haven't really been built up which doesn't allow them to do much in their roles. 

Often with true stories like these, they have to add more plot lines into it to make it more theatrical. For 'Anthropoid', they add in a couple of love interests for Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) and it really doesn't add anything that interesting to the film. The problem with this is that it is a lazy attempt at creating a level of romance as it never really dives into the relationships that much. It all seems to move very quickly as well without showing any time passing which makes it seem very rushed. They didn't take the time to make them feel like genuine couples and it was probably something that the film could have done without. If they weren't going to put the effort into the characters, then they simply should not have included them.

The bizarre thing with this film is that it gets a whole lot better after the events of the attempted assassination. After that, the film springs into life as the Nazi's look for those involved and it holds some impactful scenes such as interrogation scenes. Two in particular are really brutal and show the ruthless nature of the Nazi's with some moments that are genuinely hard to watch. Then there is the magnificent scene within the church where if you know your history, the Czech resistance try to hold as the Nazi's try to capture them. This action scene is phenomenal and is so far away from the start of the film in terms of quality. The last act of this film is everything the drama should have been: gripping and tense. There is so much excitement in this finale and it will most definitely have you on the edge of your seat. It's a shame the rest of the film could not support it.

Overall, 'Anthropoid' is mostly a very forgettable movie. If you wanted to learn about this event, you'd be much better watching a documentary, it would be much more entertaining. However you should check out the last half n hour or so of this movie as it does pick up. Unfortunately this is the only worthwhile part of the film in what is a dull disappointment. 

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Anthropoid'? If so what did you think of it? 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

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

'Ben-Hur' (2016) Review

Out of all the films being remade, did the 11 time Academy Award winner need to be created again? The 1959 version was indeed a remake of a silent film so it made sense to why it happened and you wouldn't look back at it and say it was a bad decision. When you look to remake a film that was so succesful, it's hard to build on it and make the film worthwhile. Unfortunately, this is another case of a movie being remade just for the money.

Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell) are very close until Messala decides to join the Roman Empire. After asking Judah for help to make sure Pontius Pilate makes it through Jerusalem safely, things turn south as Messala accuses Judah of helping to try kill the Roman general. Judah is now sent to be a slave in a ship, rowing all day. After a battle, Judah is fortunate to be free and is saved by Sheik Ilderim (Morgan Freeman). Now the opportunity has risen for Judah to get his revenge in an epic and deadly chariot race against his adopted brother. 

Now this remake is far from the worst ever made. The biggest problem with this remake is that it doesn't build anything upon the original. To simply put it, you should just watch the 1959 version as it is the best form of the movie. I know some of the main goals are to modernise the film but in a historical drama like this, it really isn't needed. It is a shame as there isn't really anything terrible about this movie but at the same time, there's nothing new or anything that really stands out.

To give the film some credit, they did handle the relationship of the two brothers fairly well. They showcase the closeness between the two as they spend a lot of time together, from racing to partying with each other. You can really feel the brotherly bond that they have for each other and you care for them early on. It was good to see that they took the time to do this right as it is vital to the film and makes the betrayal much more impactful. Toby Kebbell and Jack Huston also deserve credit for this as they also did fairly well as the two leads and combined very well throughout the film. From the moments of brotherly love to the moments of conflict, the pair did well.

Morgan Freeman appears in a ridiculous looking role with large grey dreadlocks and is referred to as 'The African' throughout the movie. He doesn't dazzle and seems to be another standard performance that we have seen from him in recent years. Nizanin Boniadi does a great job as Esther, a servant and love interest to Judah. Boniadi does very well in the scenes where the couple have troubles with their relationship considering their roles in society. I had only ever seen in her 'How I Met Your Mother' beforehand and I was impressed with her work overall. Rodrigo Santoro is also a standout as Jesus who carries the message of being compassionate throughout the film. His appearances are dotted around at random where you kind of forget about him at times but this does not take anything away from Santoro's solid performance.

The action throughout the movie is kind of a mixed bag for me. The scene with the warships is very good as we see it from the point of view of Judah. It is very well crafted and shot scene that is probably the highlight of the film. You see how brutal the conditions are for the slaves as well as the hard-hitting action as the ships crash into each other. This is the first piece of real action we see as well and at that point, you feel as if the movie is going to really kick on. We all know that a big part of the film is the chariot race at the end which didn't quite grab me like I wanted it to. I never really felt on the edge of my seat in the finale as it doesn't show a lot of the two brothers going at it. Instead, we get a whole bunch of disposable characters who are taken out through out the race until the last lap. Then the two brothers face off and it doesn't really deliver to the full extent and it seems to be over fairly quickly. It builds up for this epic conclusion that seems a bit lacklustre, not packing as much of a punch as you'd hoped.

The ending for this film is also very weak. It does carry the ever-present message of taking action to show compassion towards anyone, even those who have wronged you. However, with everything that has happened and the hell that Messala has put his family through, there is no gripe at all and everything goes back to normal. At the start, it shows Messala and his mother not having a great relationship but by the end and after all the pain he has caused her, they seem to have a better relationship. This really hurt the film as it just seemed too ridiculous and very unrealistic.

Overall, 'Ben-Hur' at the very least is watchable. The performances really help this one but unfortunately, it cannot step out of the enormous shadow of the 1959 version. Not the worst remake but still doesn't do anything to merit the remake happening. I'd recommend just watching the 1959 version as it is still superior on multiple levels. 

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

'Hell or High Water' Review

After a tragic summer movie season, 'Hell or High Water' looks to be here to get everything back on track. From the director of 'Sicario' comes yet another American thriller that looks to be one of the highlights of the year. With Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine starring, 'Hell or High Water' is one of the best films of the year and one you should be rushing to see.

Toby (Chris Pine) looks to create a better life for his son who lives with his ex-wife. He looks for the help of his short tempered, ex-convict brother Tanner (Ben Foster) as the pair set out to carry out a series of heists against the banks that are about to foreclose their families ranch. Standing in their way is Marcus (Jeff Bridges), a Texas Ranger who is close to retirement but is still looking for that last top case. As the brothers set out to carry out the final heist, they will have to come against the law like never before as Marcus isn't ready to bow out just yet.

Chris Pine and Ben Foster shine as The Howard Brothers who look to make the bank pay for their unfair debts set by the banks themselves. Pine plays the younger brother Toby who looks to create a better life for his son and sees this as the best way possible. He is a lot calmer than his hot head brother as well as much smarter which allows him to carefully plan their attacks on the bank. Foster plays Tanner, an ex-convict and is much more of a loose cannon compared to his brother. Tanner is ruthless and will use fear to get the job done at any means necessary. The pair are perfect for each other as they compliment each others weaknesses, allowing them to be a very effective duo. The relationship between the two is shown incredibly well as at times they might not like what they are doing and judge each others actions, but overall understand that it was for the best intentions. There is a true bond you feel between the two as Pine and Foster show this phenomenally well. 

Jeff Bridges stands in the way of the troublesome duo as Marcus, a near retiree who looks to crack one last case before riding out into the sunset. Alongside him is his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) who is often the butt of Marcus' jokes as we get a sense of comradery as they stand for what is right. Bridges stands out showing why he is still considered as one of Hollywood's best as he looks to try to think one step ahead to anticipate the next move of their targets. A lot of his work consists of Bridges just talking but the dialogue is solid throughout allowing him to excel. There are only four main characters throughout the movie but all of the supporting characters do incredibly well. Everyone plays their part and even to the smallest of characters, they really deliver. This all combines to make the feeling even more realistic.

The art of dialogue is most definitely on show here as it combines with the terrific performances to create an authentic Western feeling. The dialogue doesn't seem generic or cheesy as those involved deliver them very well. Through a lot of the film, it is a lot of talking which may put some people off. However, the dialogue is so intriguing and relevant to either the story or characters that it grabs your attention at all times. Everything said is either entertaining or useful to what is going on or learning about the intriguing characters. The writing is very clever with how it sprays out humour in the film as well in what turns out to be surprisingly funny. It never goes overboard but the relationship between the brothers and partners allows there to be funny moments spread throughout the movie, adding to the feeling of comradery once again. 

With the film setting up two tag teams against each other, you'd be surprised to see that only Pine and Bridges interact with each other at the very end of the film. This may seem odd but it works perfectly as the relationships and the cat and mouse chase makes the finale much more impactful. If you're looking for close encounters between the two sets then you will be disappointed but the film delivers on so many levels that it does not need to do so. It's Coen Brothers esque with the likes of 'No Country For Old Men' baring close similarities to how this film is set up and it really delivers. The film is beautifully structured as it showcases what the brothers are up to early on and builds up slowly but effictively.

The story overall is fairly morally complex. You know that what the Howard brothers are doing is wrong and that they shouldn't be able to carry out these acts. However, I feel a lot of people could relate to the fact that they are scrambling to make funds and with an added incentive against the bank, you kinda root for them to succeed. Toby clearly wants to create a better life for his family which adds onto it as well. Tanner doesn't really have much of a reasoning other than the adrenaline but there's just something about him that you respect and what him to succeed as well. However, you are never against Marcus as the lawman looks to bow out with one last victory. His partnership with Alberto as well as his near retirement make you want to root for him as well. This all combines fantastically to the final act which is full of tension where you don't know what is going to happen.

Overall, 'Hell or High Water' really deserves all of the praise that it is receiving. One of the best movies of the year which you should check out immediately. The story was expertly executed as the performances are all fantastic. You don't want to miss this one and I really hope it gets more recognition, potentially even around Oscar season.

Final Verdict =

So have you seen 'Hell or High Water'? If so what did you think of it? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the movie! I cannot stress enough that you should go out and see this one! Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Sunday, 11 September 2016

'Morgan' Review

Last year, 'Ex_Machina' hit the big screen and its story featuring Artificial Intelligence was one of the best of the year. This year 'Morgan' looks to take a slightly different look at this sci fi sub genre whilst looking to make a similar impact. It's safe to say that 'Morgan' is no 'Ex_Machina', but it is still an effective thriller in its own right.

Morgan (Anya Taylor Joy) is a bioengineered child who exceeded the expectations of her creators by learning and adapting to the world in her first few years. However, Morgan has a very aggressive side to her and when she attacks one of her handlers, corporate risk assessor Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) is sent to the facility to make a decision on whether she is safe to keep alive or not. Things turn south as Morgan breaks free and now the staff and Weathers have to deal with a murderous synthetic human.

What really holds 'Morgan' back from being a great movie as it seems to not know what it wants to be. At times, it shows potential to be a sort of Frankenstein like story as a creation has turned bad and is running amok. On other occasions, it showcases the film to be a very effective drama. The film continuously bounces between the two ideas and doesn't decide on one until late on, This does cause a problem with the film as it can't choose which way it wants to go and never settles on where it's going with its story.

However the films biggest strength does come with its drama which the talented cast have to take a lot of credit for. Kate Mara and Anya Taylor Joy are two of the standouts as they appear most in the film and play vital roles in the ever-growing tension and unpredictability that the film holds. The two do very well with Joy giving a chilling performance as Morgan and really gets to show her range of acting, all performed to a very high standard. In fact, the best part of this movie has Morgan come face to face with Paul Giamatti, as Giamatti interrogates her surrounding her recent behaviour and the consequences that may be a foot. This scene is fantastic as Giamatti shows just how good he is in an incredible scene. This is the highlight of the film by far and is one of my favourite scenes of the entire year.

As the film progresses, the tittle character becomes a ruthless killer and is on the loose. This leads to some very brutal scenes with Morgan acting like Hannibal Lecter and brutally clubbing one of her handlers to death with a handgun. Morgan was shown to be ruthless and showed no remorse but only towards those she considered "friends". This was very bizarre for me as she didn't keep this level of ruthlessness the whole way through which was clearly just to prolong the film. This hurts the film as you sit and are baffled by the fact that she was so clinical in some cases and nowhere near so in others.

The action film is very hard-hitting with some really good fight scenes, again with Joy and Mara standing out once again. The pair do fairly well with some tough fight scenes where they don't hold back and you can clearly see the effect that it is taking on each other, especially with Mara's face being bloody and broken by the end of the conflict. After coming out of the cinema, some of my friends were not impressed by how much of the action that they seen. To an extent, I agree with them as there is an abundance of cuts that does really hinder the action. At some points, it does work by not showing exactly what is happening. There are some moments that would probably be genuinely hard to look at and the film uses beautiful sound editing to make sure you know what is happening and what effect it is taking. The film really shows that action featuring female characters can be just as brutal and hard-hitting as they do with male and hopefully opens the door for more like it.

There is a pretty huge twist at the end which really is hit or miss. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't a huge fan of the twist. Looking back, I can recall a moment where it may hint at it but a second watching would be needed to fully see if it was hinted clearly throughout the movie. It seemed very abrupt and left me puzzled as it happened and I couldn't quite understand how it was possible. The film does explain it a little at the end but it just didn't fully impress me unfortunately.

Overall, 'Morgan' has some great moments, especially from its talented cast. Anya Taylor Joy builds on from the 'The Witch' to show that she is one of Hollywood's finest young actresses. Kate Mara also shines with Paul Giamatti doing fantastically well. Some problems such as undeciding on what story to go with and inconsistencies with the tittle character really hold this back from being a great movie. Entertaining throughout with an intriguing premise but the excecution wasn't quite perfect.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Morgan'? If so what did you think of it? 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

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Month in the Movies: August

Summer movie season is now finished and it has been very... meh. The blockbusters really didn't deliver in what was a disappointing summer season overall. However, August saw a better return at the movies for me as I enjoyed a lot more than I dislike and thought were average for the first time in months. The end month showed promise that will hopefully carry on into the fall. I was lucky enough to see 14 movies this month in what was a very mixed month.

If you aren't aware of this series, I pretty much go through the month and rank the movies that I saw that month based on a combination of quality and how much I enjoyed the film. So lets get into the list!

14. Nine Lives

Ugh. It really hurts me that I have to think about this movie again. One of the worst of the entire year. Not funny in the slightest with a terrible story. To Kevin Spacey, please make better decisions in the future. To everyone involved. You're much better than this.

Final Verdict = F

13. Bad Moms

Some people like this comedy. Unfortunately, I did not get the same experience in what added to the list of disappointing comedies this year. Mila Kunis does fairly well but I feel that she was let down by the rest of the cast. Every character seemed to be absolutely terrible people and with no laughs, that makes an unenjoyable viewing. I won't be rushing to see this again anytime soon or ever.

Final Verdict = D

12. Suicide Squad

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the year for me. I really rooted for this movie but it just flopped. Not as fun as I hoped as the film disappointed on many fronts, especially with how they used the Joker. Margot Robbie, Viola Davis and Will Smith were highlights of the film but not enough to save this one. It also brought us one of the most comic book villains on the big screen with the Enchantress who was terrible in this movie. DC went two for two this year, unfortunately both failing in quality.

Final Verdict = C-

11. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

This film is perfect for you if you love raunchy comedies. However it didn't quite hit for me but that doesn't mean that it isn't funny. It has its moments and the four main characters do fairy well in their roles, especially Anna Kendrick and Zac Efron. Not the best comedy of the year but definitely not the worst either.

Final Verdict = C

10. The Purge: Election Year

If you had told me at the start of the year that I would prefer 'The Purge: Election Year' to 'Suicide Squad', I would have laughed and also feel a little sad. Yet that's what I found this month as 'The Purge' seemed to deliver more on the chaos side of things that it had promised in the first two. The best of the franchise but still not a masterpiece. I found this to be an enjoyable viewing as the film didn't take itself too serious.

Final Verdict = C

9. Pete's Dragon

Up next is the remake of 'Pete's Dragon'. The film featured great performances from all of the cast with Karl Urban really standing out for me. I wish that there was more of an adventure to this movie which would have made it much more fun but it didn't really deliver as well as I had hoped. However the film is still enjoyable as it was my first exposure to the story of 'Pete's Dragon'.

Final Verdict = B

8. Finding Dory

Sadly, I was fairly disappointed with 'Finding Dory'. I don't know if it was due to the quality of 'Nemo' or just Pixar films in general but 'Finding Dory' just seemed to be lacking that special something. One of the biggest problems I felt was with the new supporting characters who weren't nearly as good as the ones in 'Nemo'. In saying that, this is far from a bad movie and is a fairly fun family movie that you will still enjoy to an extent. A beautiful looking film as well which we have come to expect from Pixar.

Final Verdict = B

7. War Dogs

If the quality of 'War Dogs' was the same as the quality of performance from its two leads, it would probably be number 1 on this list. Jonah Hill in particular is magnificent and the film is worth seeing for his performance alone. A fairly interesting premise with some good humour does create an enjoyable viewing. Some minor problems do hinder the film such as the character of Iz but nothing that massively impacts the quality of the film.

Final Verdict = B

6. The Shallows

The second best shark movie after Jaws I like to call it, not that there is much going up against it. 'The Shallows' was a very enjoyable, tense film that kept your attention for its shorter run time of 97 minutes. Blake Lively was excellent in her role which had her on her lonesome for a lot of the movie. I was looking forward to this one and was impressed with this survival movie which I feel really delivered.

Final Verdict = B

5. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

The Lonely Island did a phenomenal job with 'Popstar' as they created one of the best comedies of the year. With Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer directing and Andy Samberg starring, you could see their comedy style throughout the movie. The mockumentary was incredibly funny but a bit inconsistent at times. The humour isn't at the same level the whole way through but there is plenty to enjoy with this one.

Final Verdict = B

4. Sausage Party

Perhaps the most anticipated comedy of the year is finally here and 'Sausage Party' delivered the goods. Wickedly funny despite some jokes and puns feeling lazy and repetitive. This has opened the door for more animated adult comedies and if they can follow in the footsteps of 'Sausage Party', I am all for it. The film also carries a deeper message that surprised me a lot as it handled a serious situation and commented on it incredibly well. The final act is completely bonkers as well so be ready for that if you choose to see it.

Final Verdict = B

3. Nerve

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie and I did so much that I went to see it for a second time. 'Nerve' is a very fun movie as it starts with some harmless dares as Emma Roberts and Dave Franco compete together. The pair show great chemistry together and I really enjoyed their performances. Despite the fun of it, the movie is scarily realistic with how people on the internet act and it actually doesn't seem as far fetched as you'd think. It does then progress to become very tense and has you on the edge of your seat. One of my favourites of the summer.

Final Verdict = B+

2. Lights Out

I've been really impressed with the horror movies in 2016 and 'Lights Out' is up there with the best. A great premise based on the short film created by David Sandberg who got to direct the feature length version. Scary and tense throughout as 'Lights Out' fully delivered for me as I really enjoyed this movie. The performances in this were great especially Maria Bello who played the unhinged mother. The effects were also incredible throughout the film as 'Lights Out' really impressed me.

Final Verdict = B+