Wednesday, 30 November 2016

'Bad Santa 2' Review

It's that time of the year when Christmas movies are back on TV and on the big screen. A darker Christmas film that many enjoy is 2003's 'Bad Santa' and 13 years later, someone decided it was the right time to have a sequel. Good comedy sequels seem to be hard to come by recently and 'Bad Santa 2' wasn't a film that people were clamouring for. To no surprise, the film didn't really deliver.

Despite threatening to kill him last time, Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) teams up with Marcus (Tony Cox) to carry out another heist on Christmas Eve. Willie is yet to find out that his mother (Kathy Bates) would be joining them in which is not a happy reunion. Together, the three will look to pull off their biggest job yet.

Comedy sequels can often be criticised for trying to retrace the footsteps of the first film without many differences- see 'The Hangover 2' as an example. Surely if it worked the first time, it should work again? In some cases yes, but 'Bad Santa 2' is not one of them. The film retraces the same crude humour from the first with the jokes missing a lot of the time. Thornton and Cox's characters are basically doing the exact same schtick from the first film and if you are someone who wasn't blown away by the first one- like me- then this film won't seem that high in quality. The overall story feels very similar too with the same plot points happening like in the original. Due to it being the sequel, you know what these characters are like and what actions they are going to take. It doesn't help that they try to show you the same story yet again, but with a different location and a new cast member.

What is new is Kathy Bates and what a worthy addition she is to the film. Not the kind of actress that you would expect to appear in a dark comedy like this but she sure was the highlight of the film. With Bates came along some great cynical comedy as she targeted everyone with clever insults that genuinely were funny. I wish that the film carried this on throughout the whole film as it would have been different and a worthy sequel. Unfortunately, it reverts back to its old recycled humour which was overall disappointing. Brett Kelly returns as Thurman Merman who brings such an innocence to the film and some pretty good laughs as he is completely oblivious to the obscene things going on around him. The film seemed to do a good job with relating to this character's growth as he has gotten older, with jokes surrounding him being related to him now being a 21-year-old. The film clearly had some moments of quality, but just not enough to sustain the entire runtime.

Christina Hendricks is thrown in with other side characters who lack any interesting qualities. They are simply thrown in to add more crude humour and in Hendricks case, just as a sex object. It seems to be a complete waste of her talent in what will probably be a decent payday for the actress. There are other characters thrown in that make it seem like the film is trying to build a better story but nothing comes of it. For example, there seemed to be a good dynamic featuring a security guard trying to intercept Thornton and Hendricks characters which seemed to create some good comedy moments. However ass the film goes on the effort seems to disappear to the point where you forget these characters existed at all. It seemed as if the creators were going to try but then got halfway through and decided "Nah". 

There really isn't much more to say about this film. It's basically a retrace from the first film. If you really enjoyed the original, you may get a lot of joy from this one. However, I feel that the general consensus will find that 'Bad Santa 2' is fairly bad.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Bad Santa 2'? If so, what did you think of it? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film! Once again thank you for taking the time t read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

'Paterson' Review

Every once in a while, there will be a film that gains huge critical acclaim that I just don't understand why. Jim Jarmusch's latest film 'Paterson' is the latest film that has given me this feeling.

Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver who likes to write poetry in his spare time. The film shows his life in one week as he writes stories whilst dealing with day to day life.

'Paterson' currently sits at an astonishing 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. At this moment, it is higher than the likes of 'Se7en', 'The Shawshank Redemption' and 'Pulp Fiction' just to name a few. This shows how mad the critics are going for this film, holding it in such high regard, with many calling it one of, if not the best film of the year. I feel as if I have watched a completely different film as I did not get this feeling whatsoever.

'Paterson' is an incredibly dull, uneventful film which I can't get my head around. The film follows Adam Driver's character Paterson going through his week with nothing really extravagant happening. That's seven days when nothing really that interesting is happening. In fact, the film feels incredibly repetitive due to this as he mainly does the same thing with the same outcome. There isn't much that is different throughout the days which makes the film ultimately fairly boring. We see Paterson wake up, write a poem, drive his bus, go home, have small chat, take his dog out and go to a bar multiple times. There isn't anything that differentiates any of these events which made the film drag.

The main problem I feel for this film is that it seems to be doing many things on purpose but there is no payoff. The film includes many details like the use and appearance of twins throughout the movie which you expect to be a key part of the story. Paterson's girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) has an obsession with redecorating and taking up new skills. This could be a perfectly interesting quirky character, however, the film does not give her enough screen time and refers back to the boring character Paterson. The film ultimately lacks a story and due to this, nothing seems to come up with these blatant constant inclusions. To me, this just came off as pretentious as it ultimately didn't lead to anything.  The lack of a story doesn't really allow the film to progress and it doesn't. Don't get me wrong, there are tid bits that are quite entertaining and even humorous at times. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough for this to be a worthwhile watch.

Adam Driver has been getting a whole bunch of praise for his work in this film. Again, people have been saying that it's one of the best performances of the year. Driver is completely one note throughout this whole film as he is soft-spoken throughout the whole film showing very little change in emotion. Driver isn't bad in the film but I do not see what is so amazing about his performance at all. He isn't doing anything exquisite or really that impressive to deserve this high praise. Driver is just playing a normal down to earth person, which he seems to be off-screen anyway. To me, it just didn't seem that impressive. In fact, the film's best performer for me seemed to be from William Jackson Harper and Chasten Harmon as the on-off couple Everett and Marie . The two worked fantastically well together, bringing some true character to the film and some entertaining and funny scenes.

The film at times seems to try and be funny which does actually work. The side characters seem to do their job incredibly well, bringing some humour to the film which does really help it. It brings something entertaining to the film which it is missing throughout most of the runtime. I do wish that the film went further with the comedy aspects as this is where I got the most joy from. However and unfortunately, it reverts back to its dull lifeless self.

The film is obviously very well made and there are some qualities to it. Maybe it's just me but this film didn't work for me at all. This most definitely isn't the kind of film for me. If you enjoyed it, great, I'm glad that you could enjoy this movie. But for me, this was a tough, long boring watch that I wouldn't recommend to anyone.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Monday, 28 November 2016

'A United Kingdom' Review

Amma Asante is making a name for herself in the film industry with her latest film 'A United Kingdom' opening the 60th London Film Festival. Asante did a great job with 'Belle', a film that handled interaction between mixed races in a very powerful way, gaining nominations from all over the world. With her latest film 'A United Kingdom', she may have the same success.

Prince Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) shocks the world when he proposes to English white woman Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) who agrees to be his wife. This is met with outrage in the UK and also back in Seretse's home country where the people oppose him returning to be king. The two must fight for their right to wed and live happily together. 

Amma Asante brings us one of the most powerful films of the year which takes us back in time to a story that we may not be completely aware of. Racism is a big thing and is no stranger to the big screen, but Asante's adaptation of a true story stands up with some of the most impactful films of the year. The film certainly does its job in making the audience feel enraged by what seems like something so petty. It's baffling to look back and see how narrow-minded these people were as they tried their best to split up true love. What is also unfortunately true is that there is still behaviour like this to an extent and even worse in some cases. The film makes it so clear that there is no reason for both sets of people to get along and coincide with one another. Asante covers this conflict incredibly well, in which is a film that has low points but then highs with some great victories for society. In a world where people seem to be divided - see the recent UK and US elections - it is important for a film like this to come along and show that pointless bickering and differences shouldn't be put in the way of doing what is right. Although the content is slightly different, the film carries the same message of unity. 

Rosamund Pike seemed to have taken a mini hiatus since her fantastic performance in 2014's 'Gone Girl'. This time Pike is playing a completely different character, playing possibly one of the sweetest characters of the year. As Ruth, she is just a normal London girl with just a normal job and is as down to earth as one could be.This does contrast with David Oyelowo's Seretse Khama who is of course very wealthy due to his royalty back in Bechuanaland. Khama most certainly is humble and does not look down on anyone despite his importance back home, which leads to him falling in love with Ruth. The love feels fairly genuine although a bit rushed. You can see that they cherish each moment with each other as from the start of the relationship, they are being targeted by those around them. Both Pike and Oyelowo are great in their roles as we see the love they have for each other, but they also document the struggle the pair had to go through very well. There are many moments where you see them start to become fed up with society but continue to power on with a brave face to show that nothing will come between them. As a romance, this works very well as neither person will let anything stop them being together, not even the British Empire.

The film is strengthened due to the performances from the rest of its cast. Jack Davenport is a stand out as the ruthless Alistair Canning who looks to do anything to stop this marriage happening, He was a real unlikeable character at the helm of the government. You felt a hatred towards him due to the actions but also Davenport's performance helped back this up. The two families also play a big part in this film, with neither Ruth's or Seretse's being fully behind the marriage. The cast plays their roles very well in showing that it wasn't just strangers who opposed this but loved ones too. This adds to the struggle when it is made clear that the two are against literally everyone else in this scenario.

Although the film is filled with a strong message, it doesn't provide for an entertaining watch the whole way through. The film progresses and the majority of it seems to come in the form of meetings and negotiations that aren't engaging, emotional or entertaining enough to keep the audience completely interested. This does make the film drag on a bit as you want it to move on to something more entertaining which unfortunately does not come. It seems to lose some of its charm due to this as we're stuck in bleak offices watching Seretse be declined yet again and again. This is effective in showing the struggle and how hard it must have been for the couple but for an intriguing watch, not so much.

'A United Kingdom' is a good film about a historical event that many may not know about. We've seen and heard stories similar to these issues but 'A United Kingdom' does a great job at showing racism from both sides and the oppression from two different lands. An important film that you should check out for sure.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

'Allied' Review

Robert Zemeckis has brought us many great films over the year including Oscar winner 'Forrest Gump' and the timeless 'Back To The Future'. His latest film 'Allied' looks to add to the impressive filmography but would it be a worthy addition to his list of work?

Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is sent to Casablanca to partner up in an attempt to assassinate a leader in the Nazi regime. There he meets Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) who will accompany him and help carry out their mission, with both not giving each other much information about themselves. After spending time with each other, the pair decides to move to London where they will be married and eventually have a daughter. Everything seems to be perfect until Max is informed that his wife may be a German spy. Max will now look to take matters into his own hands to find out the truth before the government does and potentially kill her.

'Allied' takes a large chunk of time building up the relationship between Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard's characters Max and Marianne. We see their relationship from the first interaction, with us seeing them putting an act on, and that feeling seems to be the same throughout the film. The story doesn't convey these two characters as being in love, with the two not showing much affection for each other until it then rushes them into becoming lovers. Once that happens, it seems to fast forward to them suddenly being married and then having a child. I'd like to compare this to another recent film 'The Light Between Oceans'. Both films look to take a lot of time to establish the love relationship between its main characters but TLBO does so much better. In 'Allied', the relationship doesn't feel nearly as genuine as it simply isn't handled as well. You could say that this is intentional due to the subject matter, but as the film doesn't create a genuine feeling of love, ultimately the story is predictable.

One of the main stories that came out of this film actually had to do with Pitt's recent divorce with Angelina Jolie which had people thinking he'd been cheating with a co-star yet again, with Marion Cotillard being targeted due to this. With these stories seeming so be completely false, it seems unfair that this is overshadowing Cotillard's brilliant performance. Cotillard is the stand out in this film as she shows great range throughout the film, showcasing multiple dialects along the way. She is undoubtedly one of the best actresses in the world right now and this performance only seems to back it up. Her performance is powerful which in the end makes you want to root for her as the story unfolds. Cotillard seems to do the majority of the acting with co-star Brad Pitt seeming to be one note throughout most of the film. There were opportunities for Pitt to showcase some range, but it jut did not seem to happen. Pitt's character Max seems to let a lot of his actions speak for him, though showcasing that he is very talented at a number of things. Due to this, Pitt does seem inferior to his co-star but his performance is far from a bad one. 

One great plaudit for this film that it is very beautiful. Zemeckis has carefully crafted a stunning looking film with a key eye for detail. From the sets to costume to the actors, everything looks magnificent. The streets if Casablanca, to the fancy headquarters over the world look authentic adding a key sense of realism to the film. Costume designer Joanna Johnston has a field day as she not only creates authentic military uniforms but fantastic clothes for the main characters day to day life. There is a truly classic style which is helped by Cotillard's stunning looks which bring a very glamourous feel to the film. I'd be very surprised if Johnston wasn't on the receiving end of an Academy Award nomination in what is her seventh collaboration with director Robert Zemeckis.

One of the key strengths of the film is how Zemeckis sprinkles details of the story. The film doesn't give everything away all at once and uses tension fairly effectively throughout the film. Although you can probably guess the outcome, there are some good moments throughout the film that may have you doubting your thoughts. There are many twists and turns that Zemeckis uses well in the lead up to the finale. However, the film did seem to rush its ending, with Max travelling to war-torn France and back very quickly to interrogate Marianne. In saying that, I would be lying if I said that the ending didn't pack an emotional punch, in what was one of the films strong points. Zemeckis really nailed the ending on this one, with Cotillard playing a big role in its success.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Sunday, 20 November 2016

'Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them' Review

Prequels are a very tough thing to create, just ask George Lucas. Giving the backstory or expanding the lore can be a very tough task wth huge pressure coming from critics and fanboys alike. 'Fantastic Beasts' looks to explore the wizarding world created in one of the most successful books and film franchises, 'Harry Potter'. Trying to replicate the magic after 8 movies is a tough task and with David Yates - director of the last 4 Potter movies- at the helm 'Fantastic Beasts' just about maintains the same level of quality

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is travelling to the US to seek and document magical creatures that he cannot find in the UK. Whilst in New York, one of Mr Scamander' creatures escapes which lead to him mixing up his magic suitcase with one from a no-maj (muggle for us Brits). This mixup leads to more of the creatures escaping, which could be a big problem for the magic and muggle worlds.

J.K Rowling invites you back into her wonderful mind with another magical tale. As character Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) says in the film 'I don't think I'm dreaming....I ain't got the brains to make this up', which is a shout out to the wonderful Rowling who continues to dazzle audiences with her creations. This being most evident with the beasts themselves with some great CGI bringing them to life. There are some of the creatures that get more screentime than the others which allows them to shine more than others. After watching this movie, you will be putting the charming and humorous Niffler on your Christmas list. The creatures are fun which brings some great entertaining moments to the film. Although that is the case, there are some that do linger on and also feel very childish. As a family film, you can clearly see the moments that are targeted to younger children.

Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne is the new face of the wizarding world as magizoologist Newt Scamander. Scamander is not a people person and finds comfort in learning and spending his time with magical creatures. As he is someone who lacks social skills, he isn't the most charismatic lead character but that is not a problem. Redmayne's portrayal of the character is tremendous as he comes off seeming slightly weird but always with good intentions. In many ways, it is a character that many can relate to despite his magical abilities. Scamander is a likeable, interesting character and we're lucky to have a great actor like Eddie Redmayne portraying him. 'Fantastic Beasts' has succeeded in creating a character that you care about and will look forward to seeing more of in the future. 

Joining Redmayne in the wizarding world is Katherine Waterston who play the no-nonsense Tina, who looks to work her way back into her workplace after recently being let go. Waterston's character is a fairly basic character who doesn't do a lot to dazzle you throughout the film as she is the most grounded character. However, she is joined by sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) who is the opposite of her sister as she is very outgoing with a bubbly personality. Queenie is awestruck at the non maj Jacob, growing to admire him a lot, saying that he is different to everyone else she's ever known. Jacob is a vital part of the film as he is the comic relief, bringing a lot of the laughs to the film. Not only does he do this very well, but he is like us so he does not understand the magic terms or history which allows the film to fill us in with the details that we are missing. Dan Fogler does a great job in this role, doing everything that a supporting character should do.

With the aim to build a successful franchise, you have to make the characters likeable and most importantly, make you become attached to them. Thankfully, the film nails this with moments throughout the film hitting the emotional spots. They didn't overdo it either, leaving room for more work to build upon this in future sequels. The ending surrounding muggle Jacob is fantastic and really is quite powerful. It's good to see that Ayers is picking up from where he left off and succeeded in making us care for this new batch of characters. 

If you are familiar with the world of Harry Potter, you will be no stranger to the fact that the story has dark themes within it. In the 8 Potter movies, this was handled very well. In this film, not as much. The film does have some tone issues as it jumps from big fun moments to serious dark moments very quickly which do feel out of place. The dark moments mainly surround Ezra Miller's character Credence and Colin Farrell's character Percival Graves. The storytelling with these two characters is not subtle at all with the setups and the way the scenes are filmed, especially its use of light, make it clear that the two are involved. This does make the film very predictable as it doesn't really make you contemplate whether they are good or not, and when the reveals come, they aren't surprising at all. In saying this, both actors do very well, especially Miller who plays the very troubled Credence, whose performance makes you sympathise with the abused character.

I guess that it is unfair to continuously compare 'Fantastic Beasts' to the Harry Potter series as they are fairly separate due to the time gap. But this is actually something that works in the films favour. This is a brand new tale that allows those who haven't seen the Potter films to be introduced to the magical world and not feel out of place. Although I'd argue that this film isn't better than any of the Potter films, 'Fantastic Beasts' stands alone perfectly well. Many prequels rely too much on their predecessors but not this film. Sure there are some nods to the wider universe but it isn't overdone. It's simple, harmless fan service which will make the die hard fans very happy, even if it is just the mention of an iconic character's name. 

One of the more interesting aspects of this film was the aspect of seeing the American version of the wizarding world. We already got to see the UK version through eight films and this not only showed a different culture but a deeper look at normal wizard life. From how they talk and think about muggles differently to just what wizards do with their abilities was very intriguing and most definitely a strong point. We've grown to know many characters who do the same thing in the wizarding world due to the setting and 'Fantastic Beasts' improves on this. Hopefully, this will continue in the sequels as this series looks to explore the world furthermore.

If you enjoy these types of films, then you will enjoy 'Fantastic Beasts'. There is a lot to like and a lot of fun to be had with this film in which is a fairly solid first episode for this new story. Not as good as the Potter films but a worthwhile viewing nonetheless which will have you looking forward to the next instalment.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them'? If so, what did you think of it? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the movie which I do recommend. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Monday, 14 November 2016

'Arrival' Review

'Arrival' is now out in cinemas and is a film that everyone seems to be talking about. This alien invasion flick is not like many others as Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) looks to have created yet another fantastic film. This intelligent sci-fi feature is filled with intrigue, creating one of 2016's best films.

12 humongous spaceships land in 12 different locations, sending planet Earth into a panic. Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads a team of investigators as they try to figure out what is inside the UFO's and also, what do they want. As tensions rise, global war seems imminent as Banks and her team must find a way to communicate with these extraterrestrials before it is too late.

'Arrival' is different to many alien invasion films so I guess that it is important to know what you are getting into. This isn't whimsical like an E.T and it most certainly isn't action-packed like an Independence Day. Instead, it is more like a 'Close Encounters Of The Third Kind', where the story is a slowly built up, yet filled with mystery and intrigue. The film has strangely marketed itself by asking the question 'Why are they here?', with some of the trailer hinting at there being some action within the film. You must be warned to not expect that when you go to see this, as it is not that type of film. 'Arrival' is a film that is going to make you think about everything that happens with its delicate and thoughtful storytelling. 

Denis Villeneuve is one of the best directors at the moment with films like 'Prisoners' and 'Sicario' gaining him critical acclaim. Villeneuve is a very talented director who takes a style of film that we are used to and does someone very fresh with it. With 'Prisoners' it was a take on kidnap thriller. 'Sicario' featured a real thought provoking take alongside a very effective action thriller. Now with 'Arrival', Villeneuve provides an alien invasion film, but with the powerful message of how we must work together and communicate with one another to ensure that the world is a better place. 'Arrival' feels very fresh to the viewer as Villeneuve adapts the Nebula Award-winning short story 'Story of Your Life' very effectively.

Villeneuve works with award winning cinematographer Bradford Young to create some jaw dropping scenes. This film features some of the best cinematography of the year with the continuous shot of the humongous vessel hovering above the ground being a highlight of the film. This a gorgeous piece of cinema and looks destined to be a classic shot. This is only one of many as the film showcases the 12 ships around the world in beautiful fashion. Villeneuve's 'Sicario' was praised for its cinematography last year, even earning an Academy Award nomination. 'Arrival' looks certain to follow suit and maybe even go one step further.

It's been a stellar week for Amy Adams as she had 'Nocturnal Animals' come out last week to high praise. In my review for that film, I said that she may be lucky to find herself nominated for her role. 'Arrival' has cemented the fact that Adams should be nominated as she is fantastic in her role as linguistics professor Louise Banks. Adams is featured the most throughout the film and it is her experience that is the main focus of the film, even more so than the alien invaders herself. Unlike in 'Nocturnal Animals', Adams character is the main protagonist of the film as she works to communicate with these aliens. Adams quality really shows throughout this film, proving to be one of the finest actresses of her generation.

Jeremy Renner accompanies Adams as her co-star and pretty much a kind of sidekick. Renner does very well at providing some more light-hearted moments with some quick witted outbursts and comments. However, for most of the film, he does seem to be in the background as Adams' character goes to work and makes the groundbreaking discoveries. There are moments where he is dotted in which is clearly used to make him feel like a worthwhile member but like in Marvel Cinematic Universe, Renner seems to be the less important supporting character. That doesn't take anything away from his performance as like in those films, he plays the role very well.

The film follows Adams' Louise Banks and Jeremy Renner try to communicate with these aliens in what turns out to be fairly entertaining. The approach to doing this is very lifelike as they do not skip over much and make sure that they are detailed with what they are teaching. Language is a very complicated thing and this is made clear throughout the film. This is shown perfectly as Banks breaks down the complexity of one simple sentence and shows an impatient leader that a lot needs to be taught. This was much more entertaining than it may sound as you enjoy watching these characters make breakthroughs. There is mystery held throughout the whole time as the intentions of these creatures are not clear, as are their capabilities. Uniquely intriguing throughout, which never felt slow or boring, just perfectly executed.

The runtime for this film is just under 2 hours which I do feel is a hindrance to the film. There are moments where you feel like points could be fleshed out a bit more and I feel this is most evident near the end of the film. The ending seems a bit rushed, as does what happens with these extraterrestrials which did seem a bit odd. This film could have easily been longer adding yet more detail to key moments, again especially the ending. This is the one part of the film that I feel dipped in quality. There was such a high standard and slow build throughout the film which didn't help the ending for me. It felt out of place as everything seemed to be perfectly crafted whilst the film seemed to rush in the end.

Once you leave the cinema, you will be intrigued to rewatch this immediately. There is a startling revelation near the end of the film which makes you rethink what you have just seen. This was done incredibly well as you will surely be continuously thinking about this movie once it is finished. That's the true beauty of this film. It is incredibly thought provoking as it respects its audience's intelligence. It encourages you to think, it encourages you to create discussion.  'Arrival' truly is one of the best films of the year which you should be rushing to see.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

'The Light Between Oceans' Review

 Due to her great work in 'Ex_Machina' and 'The Danish Girl', Alicia Vikander has made herself my favourite actress in the world. Being perfectly honest, I'm actually kind of obsessed with her too. Alongside Vikander is Michael Fassbender, one of Hollywood's best and another one of my favourites. So with this power couple in the film, you'd probably assume that I'd love it. Yeh, that's pretty much true.

Tom (Michael Fassbender) is a World War 1 veteran who returns home to take up a job working in a lighthouse on a remote island. When preparing to take up the job, he meets Isabel (Alicia Vikander) who instantly falls in love and moves to the lighthouse with him. The couple is desperate to have a baby and after some unsuccessful attempts, they find a baby in a rowboat that has washed up on the shore. Tom thinks it is best to report the missing child to the authorities but Isabel refuses and looks to raise the child as her own. Fate comes into play as years later, the couple meet the biological mother (Rachel Weisz). Now they must make a decision that will affect all of their lives.

As award season draws nearer and nearer, there's gonna be a lot more films that are going to be linked with the likes of the Oscar's. In 'The Light Between Oceans', that is most certainly the case. 
  Real life couple Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander play the lead characters Tom and Isabel and their performances are a large part of the films success. The roles come naturally to the two as they easily show their love for one another through simple things like the way the look at each other. There is a believable bond between the two which is vital for getting the audience to care about the protagonists. The performances are at their best through the first half of the film as the connection has to be built up.

 We see the couple get together very quickly, so the film takes a chunk of time to showcase their feelings for one another. This is an aspect of the film that is handled incredibly well as it fleshes out the characters whilst showing their growing admiration for each other, as well as some of their struggles. It can be a little slow but the film makes sure that it nails the story of Tom and Isabel before the baby shows up. This really helps the performances as they have plenty of time and material to work with that really allows them to shine. It may be too soon to guarantee them nominations for the prestigious acting awards but the pair should both be in the discussion.

Likewise, cinematographer Adam Arkapaw may also find himself lucky enough to end up nominated as he does some fine work in the film. Arkapaw does a magnificent job throughout the film, creating some incredibly beautiful shots. With this movie being filmed in New Zealand and Australia - which has been home to the Lord of the Rings and Narnia to name a few - the landscapes allow Arkapaw to go all out and produce world class work.

As the film takes its time to set everything up before the baby finally arrives, it only makes it even more effective. Of course, you side with Fassbender's Tom in the fact that they should alert the authorities of the baby showing up, in case there was a very worried mother out there mourning for no reason. However, we see the pain that Isabel has been through and can understand why she wants to keep the baby, as it has seemed impossible for the couple to bear a child. This is where Fassbender's performance is most effective as he is caught in between doing the right thing for the mother or the right thing for his wife. This creates a fascinating dilemma as we see Tom try to deal with this awkward situation.

Rachel Weisz joins the film to keep the ball rolling and adds to the drama as the mother of the child enters the scene. Weisz is heartbroken in her scenes as she interacts with Tom, Isabel and Lucy, the daughter she does not know is hers. The characters are all oblivious to this except Tom who now has to deal with facing the mother of the child, which makes him reconsider things after seeing her pain. This is very complex as Tom has to decide between ending this woman's distraught and reunite her with her baby, or continue to allow his wife be happy with the child that she has raised. 

The film succeeds due to its ability to really play with your emotions. You feel happy for the young, in love couple as they start their life together. However, you are then left heartbroken as you realise that they cannot have their own child, where Vikander excels at showing Isabel's misery. Once the child shows up, you feel a bit of happiness as the couple finally have what they wanted, although you know that it is fairly wrong morally. The introduction of Weisz then adds, even more, power as the film bounces between Tom & Isabel and Weisz's Hannah. As Tom takes things into his own hands, you are overpowered with emotions until the end of the film. With the child being taken away from our protagonists to the child Lucy rejecting her biological mother, you are taken on an emotional rollercoaster, with a lot bringing sadness.  There are moments of redemption that try to balance it out, but overall there are so many moments that do leave a powerful but sad effect on the audience. Tears may be shed throughout this film and at times, it is hard to blame anyone for doing so. 

The ending of the film seems to play out as you expect most romance dramas to do so. Everything seems to miraculously fall into place, where everyone is redeemed and forgiven for what has happened. It's very predictable in the end which does hurt the film but nothing too drastic. The ending overall does work but it seems to be rushed, which makes it feel a bit too coincidental as these events all happen at the same time. Some may find this film fairly slow and uneventful, and if you don't like this kind of film, then it probably isn't for you. If you want a tragic story that will really play with your emotions, then this is the film for you.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Monday, 7 November 2016

'Nocturnal Animals' Review

Tom Ford has finally returned to directing a feature length film after 7 years. His last film, 'A Single Man', earned great critical claim as well as a nomination for it's leading actor Colin Firth at the Academy Awards. Despite almost a decade going by, Ford has created another fantastic feature that may have the same result for some its cast members.

Susan (Amy Adams) is a successful LA art gallery owner, who seems to have a perfect life with a handsome young husband (Armie Hammer). However, not everything is perfect as people do not see what truly bothers her. When her husband is away, she is sent a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). The script features a dark tale of a family vacation going very wrong. As Susan continues to read, she is forced to confront her past and some dark truths.

'Nocturnal Animals' is by far one of the most interesting films in terms of style this year. Director Tom Ford uses his background as a fashion designer to create a beautiful, sleek looking movie that is a pleasure to view. Ford's creation can only be defined as art as he creates something truly remarkable. Ford's use of parallels work beautifully within the story as Edward's novel reflects Susan's current life situation in a way that words could not. It's Nicolas Winding Refn like at times as there is minimal dialogue during certain scenes as the visuals tell the story on their own. Each scene is perfectly crafted with a key eye for detail clearly overlooking it. Ford does a fantastic job with this film and I wouldn't be surprised to see his name mentioned during award season.

Ford manages to make this an emotional rollercoaster but not in a way that you would particularly like. The film is horrifying and heartbreaking as the film demands your attention. You are gripped into this film and are taken on a thrill ride with unexpected twists and turns that will make you feel everything from fear to anger to relief.

The plot has Amy Adams' character Susan reading the manuscript of her ex-husband with that story being brought to life in the film at the same time. This was very intriguing and unique to see in a sort of fictional inception with stories happening within stories. It seems to be a very risky technique that Ford went with as you run the risk of their being one story that completely overshadows the other. However, the stories are both very interesting which keeps you glued to the screen. I won't lie and say that I didn't prefer one to the other but it cannot be denied that both aspects are equally as intriguing. Both parts could even feature alone in their own movie but together, they create a masterpiece.

The story that Tony sends Susan seems to resonate deeply with Susan as she notices a pattern in some of the events. Tony dedicates his brutal, revenge-driven tale to his ex-wife with moments of the novel reflecting the relationship the two previously had. In many ways, this is Tony's revenge on his ex-wife who betrayed him in a time of struggle that is shown in some great flashbacks. This is made even more evident in the very effective finale which I won't go into too much detail about. The book creates a reflective period for Susan as she looks at past actions, making her feel guilty, as her life seems to be getting worse as the film progresses.

As award season gets closer and closer, I'd be very disappointed if none of the talented actors/actresses starring in this film is not nominated. Amy Adams is a contender with her performance as the emotionally effected Susan who seems to have a great life, but deep inside is hurting. It's another great performance from Adams which just seems to be expected nowadays. The biggest contender has to be Jake Gyllenhaal who plays two characters in the film; the real life Edward and the protagonist of the manuscript Tony. Gyllenhaal is marvellous yet again as the two characters, especially as Tony where he shows great range and excelling with the emotional moments. It's about time that he is recognised for his work in recent years after being snubbed when it was more than deserved *cough* 'Nightcrawler' *cough*. 

One of the strongest parts of the film comes in the performance from Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Taylor-Johnson usually plays a likeable character that you root for but he completely transforms in this role. I couldn't believe that this was the same guy from 'Kick-Ass' as he was so relentlessly evil as Ray. He plays a huge role in the manuscript side of the story as his actions in the story really grip you and make you want to know more immediately. This performance surprised me so much as I did not expect to see him as this sort of character but he nailed it. This is a performance where you don't see an actor but a real person. One of the most effective performances in a film this year as he was so despicable. Fantastic work and I hope that it is recognised with some nominations.

Michael Shannon almost guarantees a solid performance and he delivers yet again. As the sheriff who helps out Gyllenhaal's Tony, he is a perfect contrast to the character. Shannon is brutally honest with a tough demeanour as he looks to help the broken Tony. Both are suffering in different ways and reacting to those circumstances differently, with Shannon's character not letting his sickness get in the way of his job. Laura Linney also appears as Susan's mother and her class is ever as evident. She is only in a handful of scenes but her presence is well known as her and Adams knock it out of the park. This works very effectively further on in the film as we see Susan reflect her mother, despite her wishing for that to never end up happening to her.

Patience is a key factor in this film as it really doesn't rush to make its point. This is evident throughout the whole film but most effective in the first part of Susan reading the manuscript. As the story shows Tony and Ray's first encounter, you expect that something bad is going to happen and the film tricks you a few times into expecting it. This adds an incredible amount of tension to the film as it slowly builds up and then delivers an incredible outcome which makes you want more. This is a key feature in the film and is very effective throughout the runtime.

Overall, 'Nocturnal Animals' is one of the best films that you will see this year. This film is intense, gripping and shocking creating a fantastic viewing. I can't recommend this film enough as it showcases everything great about cinema. Tom Ford deserves huge credit as does his talented cast, whom hopefully will be snooping around during awards season.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Sunday, 6 November 2016

'The Accountant' Review

Ben Affleck's career is one of the most interesting in the film industry. From bursting onto the scene and winning an Academy Award for Best Screenplay for 'Good Will Hunting', Affleck seemed to be destined for greatness. A couple of stinkers later saw Affleck vilified, with his reputation taking a  beating. Going further ahead, Affleck seems to have everyone back on his side, with another Oscar win for 'Argo' and of course, now being the Batman. Up next for Affleck is 'The Accountant' and his run of form seems to have continued.

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is an autistic, math whizz who has been working as a freelance accountant for criminal organisations all over the world. Wolff takes on a job from a robotics company to take a look at their books. As he starts to discover what has happened to millions of lost dollars, he becomes a target and needs to take out whoever he must, to ensure his own safety.

The film creates an incredibly interesting character in Christian Wolff. Autism is something that people may be afraid to not only use in their film but even discuss in real life. The film shows this condition to help enhance Wolff, even making a big deal at how, although he is different, he is very gifted. Wolff shows incredible intelligence and focus throughout the film, as well as showing conditions of autism throughout. The film nails some of the aspects such as struggling in social situations and with some movements that he does without even thinking. Affleck does a great job playing this character as he continues to show that the days of 'Daredevil' and 'Gigli' are far behind him.

Wolff is made out to seem like some sort of superhero due to his incredible accuracy and deadliness when in combat. The story uses flashbacks to when he was a child that creates an origin story kind of feel. The story shows Wolff's mother leaving and then his father looking to expose him to all of his fears in order to make him better. This leads to some fairly effective scenes that show some of the harsh trials that Wolff and his younger brother had to go through. It felt like something that you would see in the first instalment of a superhero series and with Wolff's abilities, it seemed like that at times. However, this does impose a negative effect within the action scenes of the movie. The first piece of action we see is Wolff easily dispose of two trained hitmen and then again takes out another 4 or 5 when saving Anna Kendrick's character Dana. We don't see Wolff break sweat or struggle at all, making the action very predictable. Although it is filmed very well, it doesn't seem as if there are any stakes as we know Wolff will easily come out on top, like he does each and every time. 

The most enjoyable part of this film seemed to be whenever Affleck and co-star Anna Kendrick were together in scenes. The two play completely different characters- Affleck emotionless, blunt and quiet; whilst Kendrick is upbeat and talkative. There is great chemistry between the two as they bounce off one another which works very well throughout the film, bringing some comedy to the film as well. The casting seems perfect as Affleck is great at playing the emotionless Wolff. It also seems very likely that if you needed someone likeable to bring someone out of their shell, someone like Anna Kendrick would be more than capable of doing so. Kendrick is then taken out of the film until the end and her absence is notable. Kendrick brings a real personality to the film and is a good contrast to everyone being so gloom.

As we move on from Affleck and Kendrick's relationship, we are soon accompanied by J.K Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson in a deep monologue and this is where I felt the film was at its weakest. The film really slows down as Simmons tells Addai-Robinson of his past experience with Wolff. It doesn't really add anything to the current story and takes up a fair chunk of time. This also takes us away from Wolff being on the run from those who want to take him out. It felt oddly placed as the film started to go down the action route but seemed to completely halt this. Simmons does show his acting chops throughout this, but it did seem to kill some of the films momenta.

Overall, 'The Accountant' is a very interesting film with some great performances. Affleck is fantastic as are co-stars Anna Kendrick and J.K Simmons. The film does well with its action but can be accused of being very predictable as the film goes on. The film does really slow down as well at points which really does hinder the film. An entertaining watch nonetheless.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Month at the Movies: October

September got us back on the right track in terms of movie quality so I was hoping that October would only continue that. At times, October matched the quality with some real quality films. Unfortunately, there were some stinkers within the month too. I was fortunate enough to see 11 different films this October in what was a 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! 

11. Keeping Up With The Joneses

We start the list off with the action-comedy 'Keeping Up With The Joneses'. This films writing was ultimately the downfall as the comedy wasn't funny and there wasn't enough good action to make this viewing worthwhile. The cast tries their best but they can't save this film from falling short. There aren't many highlights to this film and it most certainly isn't one that you should be rushing to see.

Final Verdict = D+

10. Inferno

Boy, was this a dull film. A film which takes our protagonist all over the world to solve clues before the end of the world should be very exciting. 'Inferno' most definitely was not that. Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones do well in their roles and the film looks great, as it showcases some beautiful places in the world. However, the story is not handled well at all, with twists that make no sense. I'm really surprised that a big budget film like this, with the talent on board, was as bad as it was. Hopefully, they take more care next time if they continue the Robert Langdon series.

Final Verdict = D+

9. The Girl On The Train

Much like the first two films on this list, the cast isn't the problem with the film. Much like 'Inferno', this is another case of a fairly big budget film failing. The film based off of the successful book had the claim of 'The thriller that shook the world' being associated with its advertising. The film was anything but that as its messy story failed to deliver big time. Emily Blunt does a good job as does the rest of the case, but in the case of 'The Girl On The Train', you should probably just stick to the book.

Final Verdict = C-

8. Trolls

They'll make a movie out of anything you remember as a child it seems. Unfortunately, 'Trolls' is very much targeted towards children, leaving very little entertainment for adults. A decent soundtrack with Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick doing well in their roles were the highlights but that is as good as it got. Kids will surely love this one and if you are looking for something to entertain little ones, then this film should fit the bill.

Final Verdict = C

Check out my review of 'Trolls' here

7. Blood Father

Mel Gibson is back yet again acting and he is back kicking ass! Gibson is great in his role as a father that you definitely don't want to be messing with. The film very much reflects Gibson's return to film after a few shaky, problematic years and to good effect. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast don't deliver as well as he does and neither does the action. Hopefully, Gibson can continue to improve and partake in better films in the future as he is a true talent.

Final Verdict = C+

6. Queen of Katwe

One of the most uplifting films of the year comes in the form of 'Queen of Katwe'. The true story is a remarkable tale and will make you cherish everything you have as well as make you realise how lucky you are. Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo both do incredible jobs in their roles whilst working with a lot of first-time actors. However, the film does linger on a bit at the end and the film can be accused of having too many subplots, that makes it lose focus at times. I can't see myself watching this film again, but it is more than worthwhile to see at least once.

Final Verdict = B

5. Ouija: Origin of Evil

'Ouija: Origin of Evil' is a huge step up from the first film in the series 'Ouija'. A fantastic build up with the character Doris being one of the creepiest characters from a horror movie that I have ever seen. There are some very effective scares in this film that was much better than it looked. It provided a great late 60's/early 70's feel that really helped elevate the film. However, the film loses a bit of control in the final act where ridiculous things start to happen. The small budget does start to show as things start to look poor in the end. 

Final Verdict = B

4. Doctor Strange

Marvel's latest instalment was yet another fun, great superhero movie. The film looks fantastic, showing a different look than other Marvel films. It does follow the same sort of formula, but once again, it works. Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton shine in their roles, adding more great characters to the MCU. Like other Marvel films, the movie's villain is very weak. They didn't use Mads Mikkelsen to his full potential which was very disappointing. Overall, an entertaining film and if you like superhero movies, you should enjoy this one!

Final Verdict = B+

3. I, Daniel Blake

One of the most powerful and realistic films of the year is 'I, Daniel Blake'. The film is brutally honest with how some of the systems are run here in the UK. Ken Loach does a fantastic job with this film that will surely make you angry. A film that is creating discussion, although those with the ability to change things are too ignorant to look into it. The film is a bit dull at times and repetitive with what it does which does effect it at times. Also, another film that I can't see myself watching again, however, it was more than powerful enough once.

Final Verdict = A-

Check out my review of 'I, Daniel Blake' here

2. Storks

Although I gave this a lower rating in quality than 'I, Daniel Blake', I am giving 'Storks' the edge due to how much I enjoyed it. I was so shocked by this film as it is genuinely one of the funniest films I have seen this year. The jokes are so clever, such as the scenes involving the wolves. It does a great job at handling family aspects and the cast is great. Andy Samberg and Stephen Kramer Glickman are fantastic in their roles, with Glickman's 'Pigeon Toady' being one of the highlights of the film. One of my favourite animated movies of the year and one that you should give a chance.

Final Verdict = B+