Tuesday, 31 January 2017

'Hacksaw Ridge' Review

The Second World War is well underway and young men are signing up to help protect their country, including young Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield). Doss is like no other, though, he is a strong, devoted Christian who will not carry a weapon nevermind take a life. Doss is cleared to go onto the battlefield without a weapon, providing service as a medic, as he looks to save people in this time of mass killing.

Mel Gibson's fifth feature film as a director brings us a different kind of war film. Instead of focussing completely on the killing sacrificial side, Gibson opts to bring the true story of one of the war's greatest heroes who didn't take a single life.

Desmond Doss was a devoted, seventh day Adventist who had no problem at all with serving his country during the war. A kind spirit who only wanted to help those in need rather than to cause harm. Doss is portrayed wonderfully by Andrew Garfield who shines despite seeming overly quirky at the start of the film. This seems to be the case for the full film as Doss seems incredibly cheesy at first, as does his reason and actions leading to his strong beliefs. There is no worry as there is a clear progression through the story, becoming more serious and emotional, adding more information to resolve any previous gripes. Garfield has cemented himself as a genuine, top quality actor this year with great work in this years 'Silence' and of course for his Oscar-nominated performance in 'Hacksaw' which is fully deserved. 

The character Doss is a very intriguing and interesting one. You feel sorry for him simply due to him leaving those who he loves to go to the war. Once he gets to training, he's berated and called a coward due to his beliefs, leading to him getting some very harsh treatment from his comrades. Doss' determination and spirit doesn't crack one bit as he continues to strive to do what he signed up for and eventually, to prove everyone wrong about him. The spirit of Doss brings heart to the film and to a genre which is generally associated mainly with brutality. The film captures Doss' beliefs perfectly, bringing some truly incredible scenes that are uplifting and incredibly humane. The scene where Doss spends the night alone on Hacksaw single-handedly saving soldiers - both American and Japanese - is perfectly handled. The actions, cinematography and score all combine perfectly to create something special and although no words are said, the message is loud and clear. It's scenes like this that make you wish Gibson had made more movies by now as he has a clear talent for creating inspirational, impactful and emotional large scale movies.

As it is still a war movie, the casualties are still very high and Gibson is relentless with making the war seem as brutal as it was. From rat feasting on corpses to maggots infesting skulls, slit throats to headshots and stabbings to suicides, the cost of war isn't covered up or romanticised at all. The first action scenes show the brutality of the war perfectly and how it isn't giving any mercy to anyone as many men are gunned down instantly in brutal fashion. The action is second to none with large battlefields showing the amount of destruction caused in only a couple of minutes. Gibson's direction in these scenes is incredible as he draws out plenty of emotion whilst showcasing the sacrifice but in a truly terrifying way. 

Hugo Weaving finds himself very unlucky to find himself without an Academy Award nomination. As Doss' father and army veteran come drunk, Weaving is incredible in every scene he is in. Whether he is at the graves of his fallen friends, scowling his sons or being pivotal to Desmond's duty, Weaving steals the show. It is a travesty that he hasn't gained his first Oscar nomination for his role in 'Hacksaw Ridge'. Teresa Palmer was criminally underused in this film as Doss' wife Dorothy. The first act follows the building romance between the two before Doss signs up and then for a short time during his court trial. We never return to her again as the film misses a huge chance to create a powerful and emotional moment by reuniting the two. Vince Vaughn also shines as the Seargent troubled with training the new recruits. His first scene in the film is gold and allows Vaughn to showcase his abilities as a comic actor but in a very serious manner. This is Vaughn's best performance to date and was highly enjoyable to watch throughout his moments in the film.

'Hacksaw Ridge' is most definitely one of the best films of the year, drawing great performances and emotion from those involved. This is a special kind of story in a brutal genre that should be appreciated by all.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Saturday, 28 January 2017

'xXx: Return of Xander Cage' Review

A deadly weapon known as the Pandora Box has been discovered, which allows those who control it to manoeuvre and crash satellites that orbit the earth. To combat this, Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is brought back along with a team filled with thrill seekers to get this weapon before it is catastrophic.

The 'xXx' franchise returns after 12 years in a comeback that nobody was really clamouring for. The previous films have failed to create a huge impact in the action genre or in many people's memories. 'Return of Xander Cage' most definitely isn't a genre defining or revolutionary movie but it sure is a whole load of fun.

Vin Diesel returns to the franchise in a fairly similar role to that of his character in a fast-paced, ridiculous action series, Dominic Toretto (Fast & Furious franchise). Diesel's Xander Cage trades Toretto's morals about family for a group of lunatics with unique deadly skills. Diesel himself is the lead but similar to the 'Fast' series, he sees himself become lost in the pecking order due to more interesting, badass and entertaining characters. For the most part, Diesel is outshone by recent 'Rogue One' star Donnie Yen who outdoes Diesel in every aspect especially in the ass kicking and tongue in cheek lines. 

The film can boast some of the craziest and most obscene action scenes of not only the year but of all time. There's skiing in the jungle, surfing on a motorbike, fighting whilst floating in zero gravity and insane dives from high distances. The film is filled with crazy stunts and action that isn't realistic whatsoever but is it entertaining? Absolutely. If you can suspend your belief and just have sit back and enjoy these scenes then you will have fun for sure. Whether that's from the great spectacles or laughing at completely unbelievable events - you will for sure at a comeback within the film. The action scenes in 'xXx' are actually well shot, giving enough room to see what is happening without shaky cam and an unnecessary amount of cuts. This is most beneficial to the fight scenes which allow the likes of Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa to really show off their skills in some very well choreographed and executed scenes.

The main strength of this film really is that it doesn't take itself serious at all. With the action in it, it cannot afford to do so, otherwise, it just becomes hilarious the whole way through. The cast isn't made up of phenomenal actors who will deliver jaw-dropping performances. There are cheesy lines and humour that make this film feel like it would fit in with 80/90's action movies of the same style. The film's script, although not serious, isn't great with some of the one-liners not coming off well at all, making it incredibly cheesy at times. Nina Dobrev's character is the perfect example of this as the writing for her character at times is even too ridiculous for this movie. The script's writing of the female characters is fairly questionable at times as well. There are moments where the likes of Deepika Padukone and Ruby Rose seem like genuine badass characters but for every scene where it showcases that, there are two making women just object for men. The opportunity to create some female heroes is held back due to this which is a shame as it is an area they really could've capitalised on. Some of the crew also take a backseat especially the likes of Tony Jaa who could've been used to much better effect. In saying that, the film doesn't overdo it with its characters and doesn't try to give them all storylines. It keeps its story and focus fairly basic and sticks to it rather well.

At this time of the year when Oscar-bait films are filling up cinema schedules, it is nice to have a little change. Is 'xXx' a good movie? No, not really. But is it exciting and fun? Yes. Sometimes it's good to just go to the cinema and have a real good time and 'xXx' most definitely brings that. If you're looking for something to just switch off and enjoy watching, then this is worth checking out. As a form of entertainment, this most definitely succeeds. On technical aspects, not so much. 'xXx: Return of Xander Cage' is most definitely a guilty pleasure.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'xXx: Return of Xander Cage'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the movie and that you have a great time 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

Thursday, 26 January 2017

'Jackie' Review

After her husband was famously shot dead, Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) has an interview discussing her life since the assassination. During this, she recalls events before and straight after her world was turned upside down. 

In recent years, we have been treated to many great biopics with the likes of 'Steve Jobs' and 'Selma' being huge critical successes. Big strengths in these types of films are to create a charismatic figure that you want to know more about and that will really grab a hold of your attention. A biopic has to be interesting at least to keep its audience's attention whilst showing the life of a person or covering an event. In saying this, 'Jackie' is about as dull and boring as a biopic can be.

'Jackie' showcases the wife of former President of the United States John F. Kennedy. We get to see Jackie carry out an interview with the press weeks after the funeral, the immediate aftermath of JFK's death and a TV episode where cameras were invited personally into the White House. As the film bounces between these events, after about 20 minutes, you start to realise that there is nothing of interest within the film. The film is incredibly slow as we see Jackie mess around with the reporter, telling what he can report and what he can't. The aftermath is basically Jackie planning a funeral but she just can't decide what she wants the ceremony to be like, how interesting?! The tour that Jackie gives a TV network is equally as engaging and it doesn't get any better as the film goes on. There are some good details at times, mainly about Jackie thoughts about her late husband. Other than that, its secretive smoking and constantly changing her mind. A problem also lies in the fact that there is no clear story within this. There's not a build up to anything meaning no drama, no tension, no emotion and nothing of true significance. The conversations aren't interesting as are none of the events.

As far as actually teaching the audience about Jackie, the film fails so even in doing that. As the film draws to a close, Billy Crudup's journalist character speaks about how Jackie is a national treasure and that due to her actions after her husband's death, she was like a mother to the entire nation. The film wraps up as if it had just shown many great things that she did. The problem is, the film doesn't do so at all. There's nothing here that makes this character seem great or a big deal at all. She was a president's wife and that's about it according to this film. It shows her to be indecisive, unconfident and just plain. Combining the entertainment and educational aspects within a biopic, this really isn't any more entertaining than a documentary would be. A documentary would also offer a better and more in-depth look at the character, bringing an all round better experience.

Despite the clear problems with the monotonous story, credit must be given where credit is due. If it weren't for Natalie Portman, this film would have been a lot worse. Portman does well in her role and does shine at times, especially during the touring scenes. Jackie seems to be very timid in front of the camera and Portman is very consistent in showing this to a high level. Her accent doesn't seem to follow the same consistency but that may be down to the differences in the three separate parts of the film. Portman is the standout performance in the film, although it is questionable to whether it is Best Actress worthy especially with Amy Adams missing out entirely.

'Jackie' also gained nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Original Score. Had the film taken place in a few more different locations, then it may have easily picked up a nomination for Set Design too. 'Jackie' is a very aesthetically pleasing film, looking stunning in all aspects. The camera does capture some beautiful looking moments which allows Portman to showcase her talents without even having to say anything. There are no faults within the filmmaking as it jumps between looking classic to present at the time very smoothly. The score does really help elevate the film at times, especially that of the actual funeral where it is just haunting and crafted perfectly well. It does add a bit more to the dour and dull scenes, although the music is fairly depressing at times, leading to you becoming even more fed up with the film inadvertently.

There are many great biopics out there and 'Jackie' unfortunately does not add to them. This film is so dull and lacks anything remotely interesting or intriguing. Sure it is pleasing to the eye but underneath that is ultimately nothing. Very disappointing.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

'Lion' Review

5-year-old Indian child Saroo (Sunny Pawar) follows his older brother Guddu into Calcutta in order for Guddu to do some night work. This would be the last time he'd see his brother as the two are separated, with Saroo ending up on a train, travelling for days and taking him thousands of miles away from home. Twenty-Five years later, Saroo (Dev Patel) looks to find his way back home in hopes to find his family.

The trailers for this drama would suggest that Dev Patel is on a long and tireless search to be reunited with his family. The reality, though, is that that aspect only takes up about a third of the 2-hour runtime. Instead, the first hour is the story of a young Saroo, played magnificently by young actor Sunny Pawar. Pawar is a cute, innocent little boy who you wouldn't want anything bad happen to as he tries to help out his family in any way possible, despite being at such a young age. Director Garth Davis takes his time building up this young character as he doesn't rush any detail. The story is handled with care as we see how terrifying the streets of India must have been for the young Saroo, with dire conditions and kidnappings at every turn. To some, this may feel very slow but it is important to showcasing just how this event managed to happen.  It's not all doom and gloom as we are introduced to Nicole Kidman and David Wenham's characters who adopt young Saroo, practically saving the child. A great side of humanity is shown within the first encounters between Saroo and his new parents, as instant love is showcased very well. Kidman shows her quality as an actress, showing great compassion and care for her adopted children.

The second half of the film jumps 25 years ahead to when we see Dev Patel take over as Saroo, preparing to go to university. Patel is fantastic in his role but the second half's story doesn't match the performances or emotional pull. Saroo starts off his semester and meets his classmates including Rooney Mara's Lucy who becomes a love interest. Everything seems to be going great until Saroo notices a food from his past that completely kicks his mind into gear, sending him into a frenzy where all he can think about is that short period of time as a kid. This is the weakest part of the film as the reason doesn't seem to justify the reaction. Saroo now becomes rather self-centred, blocking any form of help from loved ones when it is needed. This most definitely seems to be for added drama but it was fairly far fetched within this true story. It made it clear that you were watching a film rather than natural actions. 

As Saroo starts to distance himself from his family, he then starts to calculate the distance he travelled that day, using old train records and Google Earth. The search, in fact, is shown to be fairly short but the emotion is kept within. This is where Patel shines as his drive and determination are clearly visible up until he finds out where his family may be. Patel then goes from strength to strength, showing great emotional acting whilst trying to repair relationships with those he has recently distanced himself away from. This creates a fantastic, emotional ending, bringing heart to this humane story. Again, Davis and screenwriter Luke Davis deserve credit for handling this true story very well, getting the most emotion out of it as possible.

'Lion' has ended up with an impressive 6 nominations for the 2017 Oscars. Within those is Greig Fraser for Best Cinematography which is fully deserved. Due to the film being set in India and within Australia, Fraser is able to work with beautiful locations and gets the best out of his shots. Early on, we are treated to glorious images such as a young Saroo looking into a field of Moths, that is one of the best shots of the year. The rest of nominations include a Best Picture nod, as well as nominations for Adapted Screenplay, Original Score and for Best Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman). However, the most likely winner is indeed Dev Patel for Best Supporting Actor. If Patel fell into the Best Actor he may have had a tougher time but with a weaker category, we may well see the English-born actor win the prize. The nominations show that 'Lion' is a well-made film. Whether it takes home most of these awards is probably unlikely but that is no harsh criticism on this film.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

'Sing' Review

Koala Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) runs a theatre that is haemorrhaging money. In order to pay his debts, Moon sets up a singing competition. After a misprint about the prize money, Moon sees animals of all kinds come forward to showcase their singing talents.

The animated film industry seems to be going mad right now for worlds inhabited by animals. Last year saw 'Zootopia/Zootropolis' and 'The Secret Life of Pets' take their shot at building a film starring animals, not humans. The latter saw Illumination Studios make a lofty $875 million worldwide, proving to be a huge success at the box office. It is to no surprise then that the company have returned to an animal story, this time where no humans exist, much like 'Zootropolis'. This effort also sees Illumination using bigger talents in an effort to outdo previous efforts.

In doing so, though, 'Sing' does look to fall back on cliches within the animation and musical genres. Whether that be from its characters - the likes of there being a German pig and Russian bears - or using pop songs instead of making genuine jokes. The latter will indeed please its target audience as the songs are well known with the characters performing them, are charming enough for it to be enjoyable. Like most films, if the cliche is done well, then it can work. And for 'Sing', it does, for the most part. Illumination are known for their films to be mainly child orientated - see 'Minions' as a clear example - and that is the case yet again. This transcends to the rest of the film, being apparent in the humour as it features childish slapstick comedy and jokes about the different animals. If you're looking for this to be similar to a Disney or Pixar film that delivers both to adults and kids, then you will be disappointed when you do not get that complete experience.

The main story features a music talent show being introduced to make a lot of money, which very much reflects today's television. The aspect of a musical talent show ala 'The X Factor' or 'American Idol' is handled well, as it creates a replica of what these shows are like. You have your dreamers, the ones with a backstory, the arrogant ones, the trainwrecks and of course, the diamonds in the rough which leads into the main storyline. Here we get to see the lucky contenders look to wow the audience but also balance their day to day life whilst doing so. This provides interesting looks at different families, one where Johnny (Taron Egerton) is thought less of due to his choice to sing and  Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), having to divide her time up between her responsibilities as a mother and also for chasing her dream to name a few. These storylines bring a sort of realism to the story as there is probably something relatable within one of the characters stories, even if it's simply not being confident enough. 'Sing's message from here is then very clear, that you should do what you like and not let anything stand in your way. It's not going to be easy but if you at least try and are driven and passionate enough about it, then you should have no regrets.

Of course the music is a main part of the film but early on it is mainly dominated by pop tracks playing constantly after one another. The muic of Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and others may put many off but as it is aimed at kids, its clear to see why they done so. Thankfully, as this movie moves on, we see some more of the cast members start to stand out. Fans of Seth McFarlane will already know about his singing chops, showcasing them very well in 'Family Guy' and 'Ted'. McFarlane excels with his Sinatra-esque vocals which can be appreciated all across the board. Former American Idol contestant and Grammy Award nominee Tori Kelly also shines bringing beautiful vocals to great songs like 'Hallelujah' and 'Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing'. Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton and the other cast members bring their own renditions to other well known songs, showcasing more of their talents than we were aware of. Matthew McConaughey shines as Buster Moon, the Koala mastermind behind the theatres talent show. McConaughey isn't recognisable in his voice unlike some of the other cast members and does a great job holding this film up.

'Sing' is a perfectly harmless family movie that does bring some good moments through its musical numbers. The humour is targeted towards a younger demographic but the message within the story is clear and understandable for all. A step back in the right direction of quality for Illumination after 'Minions' and 'The Secret Life of Pets' for sure.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Sing'? 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

Sunday, 22 January 2017

'Split' Review

Kevin (James McAvoy) has 23 personalities with each of them vying to get an equal share of controlling the body they live within. Kevin abducts three young girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula) to a windowless, locked up basement. They are told that them being there will be for a reason as a 24th personality known as 'The Beast' look set to come to life.

2015 saw the return to the big screen for M Night Shyamalan after two years, his last film being sci-fi flop 'After Earth' with Will and Jaden Smith. By this point, Shyamalan had become a bit of a laughing stock with the most recent part of his filmography being universally panned. The world of film relentlessly mocked the Indian-American director/writer/producer for his involvement in 'The Happening' and 'The Last Airbender' to name a few.

Due to this, the world seemed to forget about Shyamalan's early work or wrote them off as flukes or as a lucky run.  Shyamalan shocked the world with 'The Sixth Sense' and 'Unbreakable' as his ability to create a creepy atmosphere combined with great storytelling made for some great movies. The twist ending also became synonymous with his work and became a trademark that he carried with him through his career. 'Split' is no different to this but mot importantly, it shows that Shyamalan is capable of the quality he produced early on. After the success of his early films, Shyamalan was tipped for greatness- even being described as 'The Next Spielberg' in an issue of 'Newsweek' magazine.

 With such high praise, it may have been easy for it to have gone straight to the former Academy Award nominee's head. It seemingly did just that as his filmography became plagued with bomb after bomb until 2015 where he ended that bad run with the dark comedy 'The Visit'. The film gave hope to fans over the world as maybe, just maybe Shyamalan was getting back to his best form. 'Split' only further cements this as the Shyamalan that we loved looks to have returned.

Shyamalan brings us the same feelings as he did in the like of 'The Sixth Sense'- an eery, intriguing story with dark humour sprinkled throughout the film. There are many moments that feel like an early Shyamalan film, especially due to the twist that comes late on in the film. Shyamalan's ability to craft a story where every detail matters are apparent yet again in this film as there are moments where you think something is unnecessary but it then creeps up on you, later on, bringing a startling revelation along with it. The film isn't perfect as there are some of the poorer Shyamalanisms- some clunky lines of dialogue and placing himself in yet another role helpful to the protagonists but neither are nearly as bad as what we've endured from him before. 

What returns is also a beautifully shot and edited film with Shyamalan working well with cinematographer Mike Gioulakis and editor Luke Franco Ciarrocchi. From the get go, the audience is treated to a wonderful opening credits scene- split into 23 for each of the personalities in the film - as the cast members and directors names come up in bold white block text. The main story takes place mainly in one room and the camera work creates a true claustrophobic feeling as you feel trapped within the confines of this small area. Quite similar to last year's 'Room', on a slightly bigger scale to similar effect. 

James McAvoy gives a career best performance in 'Split' has is given the opportunity to showcase all areas of his acting range. As Kevin who suffers from DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), he has many different personalities, all different to one another. McAvoy bounces between Barrie; a camp fashion designer, Patricia; a well-spoken British woman and Hedwig; a nine-year-old child to name a few. McAvoy excels in a role that would be an actors dream as he shows hi chops in comedy, drama and horror, and all to a very high standard. It's a real shame that the Scotsman isn't getting any nominations this award season as he fully deserves so. It's very harsh that he is being shunned due to the type of film this is as some of the nominees won't be half as good as McAvoy was in 'Split'.

Anya Taylor-Joy cements herself as one of Hollywood's best young talents in her role as Casey, one of the kidnapped girls who has a cool head about her despite what is going on. The character is written extremely well, giving her a very dark past - the most sickening revelation of the whole film - which allows Taylor-Joy to show off her acting range. Taylor-Joy has been a revelation since bursting onto the scene with 2016's 'The Witch'. If the young actress continues making great choices with her roles and continues performing like she is, we may be looking at the next big thing. Taylor-Joy is accompanied by Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula who lend a helping hand in showing the torture and torment from McAvoy's characters. Acting veteran Betty Buckley adds an interesting character as Kevin's therapist who specialises in those who suffer from DID. Buckley brings a calm performance that allows the audience to understand just what the condition is and how it is allowing Kevin to do such things. Again, the character benefits from some strong screenwriting from Shyamalan. 

'Split' is a great return to form for Shyamalan. He really deserves credit for his work in this film as he has gone back to his roots and meticulously planned out and executed an extremely clever story. This modern exploitation film is deeply layered and more is as everything is loosely connected, creating something that we've missed from Shyamalan. A tense thriller throughout with excellent performances, 'Split' is a great watch with plenty to get out of.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

'The Bye Bye Man' Review

'The Bye Bye Man' is the latest horror film that looks to frighten the life out of cinema goers. With a ridiculous title like that, you'd maybe think that this would be a hilariously bad attempt at a horror movie. In saying that, 'The Bye Bye Man' is a lot worse than its title would suggest.

The Bye Bye Man is a mysterious entity that forces many people to do unthinkable things including murder. If you hear his name he comes after you. If you think about him, he grows stronger. Unluckily for three college students, their new house contains a nightstand that unleashes The Bye Bye Man, bringing terror to the three young adults.

2016 was a great year for horror movies as we had the likes of 'The Witch' and Don't Breathe' bringing new, creative, interesting stories to the genre. 'The Bye Bye Man' actually looks to do the same, bringing a new mysterious paranormal entity to horror. The introduction of 'The Bye Bye Man' accompanied by his demonic dog who shows up once he has been mentioned - a la Candyman - could be an interesting new icon to the genre. Unfortunately, this villain is handled awfully in this movie. The film completely skips out on giving the entity any sort of backstory, leaving the audience clueless to the origin of the character and fails to make clear what The Bye Bye Man's abilities actually are. The film used the tagline 'Don't Think It, Don't Say It' a lot in the marketing showing that he comes into your life once his name is said or he is thought of. This is fine, except to start off the film breaks that rule. There's no reason for The Bye Bye Man to first start doing mischevious things as quite frankly, nobody knows he exists. By order of The Bye Bye Man's rules which include him getting stronger as he is thought of more, he shouldn't be able to do anything at all meaning that the film has a huge problem before the film gets into the main story. 

What doesn't help is that the character has an abundance of abilities that are rather odd and unexplained. 'The Bye Bye Man' is able to be in multiple places at once, cause hallucinations, spread disease, make you want to murder, make you want to say his name and even interact with you himself by touching you with his long pointy fingers although the effects on these abilities differ. The character himself is portrayed by Doug Jones who has done fantastic character work in the past, with highlights being his association to Guillermo Del Toro movies 'Pans Labyrinth' and 'Hellboy'. Jones has displayed great work in the past and knows how to get the best out of a character. Unfortunately for him, the writing in this film is so laughably bad that not only does it affect him and the rest of the cast but the entire movie too.

The writing in this film ultimately gives the film very little chance of succeeding. Not only is the concept handled poorly, but the story and dialogue are too. Like in many terrible horror movies, the decisions made by our protagonists are stupid as the characters are made to be unlikeable, giving you absolutely no reason to care about them or want them to succeed. There's also a scene where Elliot is driving along and suddenly starts screaming a song on the radio for reason unknown - maybe it's another Bye Bye Man power. Again, this provides the film with another comedy moment. Problem is, this isn't a comedy and Smith is left looking like a complete fool. There are many scenes like this throughout the film where it is hard to believe that it made it into the film. You will be thinking to yourself about what went on at the studio meetings when talking about the script and how nobody thought some of these scenes would be completely wrong and awful for any movie in general. As for the dialogue, there are many moments when a shot will be showing you exactly what is going on, yet the character will still look to narrate his/her actions out loud. The dialogue is simply not how people would speak to one another which once again leads to moments where you can't help but laugh. The writer of the film Jonathan Penner even puts himself into the film as a florist named Mr Daizy. Yes, this is the standard of writing in this film.

Now a lot of blame in this movie can be placed on the cast in this film as well. The three college students are simply awful in this movie, there's no denying it. Douglas Smith plays the lead character Elliot in what will definitely be one of the year's worst performances with his facial expressions and reactions to the ongoings being so bad it was hard not to laugh at.  Fortunately for Smith, he was accompanied by Lucien Laviscount and Cressida Bonas who chip with equally terrible performances. Bonas' fake sneezes were a particular highlight in the film which will bring you a chuckle, a cringe or an eye roll. There are many hilarious moments in this film that simply come from the performances alone as the cast will hope to not be associated with this feature for years to come. This can only be a learning step for these young actors who will certainly need to redeem themselves after this atrocity to film. Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway are sadly in this movie too but thankfully they aren't in the film enough for it to do too much damage to their reputations.

To top it all off, as a horror film, 'The Bye Bye Man' does everything wrong when it comes to a horror film. The film doesn't try to use anything other than jump scares and loud noises to try and scare the viewer in one of the laziest examples of horror filmmaking in recent years. Due to this, the film simply isn't scary at all. The film fails to create tense atmosphere's where you can feel a scare about to come. However, it is so by the numbers and predictable that nothing exciting or remotely scary happens. This is a big problem with horror movies as no creativity went into 'The Bye Bye Man' whatsoever. And that is the most disappointing and infuriating part of the movie. This is a clear example of putting a terrible movie together in hope to make a quick easy money.

'The Bye Bye Man' truly is an awful movie. It's only January but this will be a contender for the worst film of the year. The film fails on all aspects, the directing, script, acting and effects are all laughably bad. There are no good scares as this film is funnier than it is scary. This is a film that you could watch with a group of friends and have a laugh with. This isn't something that you should waste your money on seeing at the cinema as you will just be disappointed. Don't think it, Don't see it.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Sunday, 15 January 2017

'Underworld: Blood Wars' Review

The film sequel that we were all waiting for is finally here! No, not 'Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol 2'. No, not 'War for the Planet of the Apes' either. Of course, I'm talking about 'Underworld: Blood Wars'!

The war between the Lycan's and the vampires is still ongoing as a new Lycan leader Marius (Tobias Menzies) looks to have made the clan more powerful than ever. The vampires look to bring back Selene (Kate Beckinsale) in order to help the vampire cause. Betrayals look to stand in the way of the vampires battle against the Lycans that could cost them their entire existence.

Believe it or not, this is the fourth film in the 'Underworld' franchise that is seemingly only continuing in order for Kate Beckinsale to have work. Producer Len Wiseman must have some pull around the film studio to continue getting these films made, which may finally come to an end due to the couple's recent divorce.

'Underworld: Blood Wars' is simply everything that is wrong with a lot of modern action movies. The list of problems is endless in this truly awful blend of horror and action that just creates a gothic nightmare. The film is a crime against action filmmaking as its shaky, quick cut style is unbearable to watch. Whilst watching this film, you won't be able to keep up with the action or will just end up with a sore head from trying to do so. The style of action does not fit this style of filming as this spoils any chance of good action sequences happening in the film. If you were to see this in 3D, I can't imagine you leaving the cinema without a migraine for days. If the mind-numbing action doesn't give you a headache then the sound effects most definitely will. Every punch, kick or form of contact is accompanied by a loud, ear-bursting blaring noise that makes the action scenes completely unenjoyable. The sound effects are overused in 'Blood Wars' as someone seemingly went overboard with them. 

The film bases it story on the fact that a new Lycan leader, Marius, has made the clan a great threat as they have shown more unity and teamwork than ever before. This is one of the laziest examples of screenwriting as rather than actually showing these qualities it just says so and doesn't back it up at all. In fact, the film does the opposite as we see more of the Lycans fighting and getting angry at each other more than working as a unit. The film doesn't even make Marius seem like something special either as he doesn't seem more powerful or wise than any other Lycan. The film doesn't really bother in developing its villain so there's no reason for the audience to care about or be invested in him at all.

Kate Beckinsale returns to the helm of the franchise and her character Selene poses a problem for the audience. In an action movie, you don't just want a hero who can do everything with ease or that you know will just end up coming back eventually. If the hero is like this, there are no stakes in the film and the tension is removed immediately. Again, it doesn't help that the villain up against our main hero was handled poorly. The vampires as a whole provide many terrible moments within the film. There's a side story where Lara Pulver's character rallies a betrayal against Selene. This causes some incredibly ridiculous scenes within the film, including some between Pulver and Bradley James' Varga. This story is so incredibly stupid and is so much of a burden to the vampires that you cannot believe they are carrying it out. Even for this film, this made no sense whatsoever and was hard to believe when watching the film.

There is very little to enjoy in this film for the general audience. If you like this franchise then you may enjoy this, likewise if you just like terribly shot, lazy action movies. There is an interesting story as the mythical side could work. However, those involved in creating this series are not adequate at putting in the effort to do so. This film is simply awful and its due to the lack of trying. This is the kind of film that annoys viewers as it so lazily executed.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Underworld: Blood Wars'? If so, what did you think of the movie? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the movie. I recommend that you stay as far away from this one as possible. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Saturday, 14 January 2017

'Live By Night' Review

Whatever Ben Affleck does nowadays, he is constantly linked to the rebooted 'Batman' and new 'Justice League' films. Due to this, some of Affleck's other works may get lost in the speculation. 'Live By Night' sees Affleck return to directing as he hoped to recreate the successes of the likes of 'Argo'. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be in Affleck's latest effort.

In the 1920's the prohibition is still in place but that doesn't stop the gangs spreading alcohol throughout the country. Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) is an outlaw after returning from the war and soon starts to work with leader Albert White (Robert Glenister) but finds trouble as he falls in love with White's girlfriend. Coughlin is beaten to the verge of death but is recovered by policemen who throw him into jail instead. After serving his sentence, Coughlin looks to White's rival Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone) for redemption and a chance to kill off White himself.

Ben Affleck takes up directing, writing and acting roles in this crime thriller but it is not another success for the new Batman. After great work with 'The Town' and the Academy Award-winning 'Argo', Affleck simply wasn't able to recreate something special in his latest film. A lot of this comes down to the problems with the story.

'Live By Night' starts off very well, with some exciting scenes and good setups of characters, especially Affleck's Coughlin and Glenister's Albert White. The start does grab your attention but the film ultimately fails to build on that. The story takes up many different angles with Coughlin's relationships to certain people and that's the main problem. There are far too many things going on with not all of them being equally as interesting. Due to this, the film tends to leave characters out of the film for a period of time which ultimately makes you forget about them, which then makes you surprised to see them return. The film doesn't pick one or two and follow them closely which is the ultimate downfall. Due to this, the film doesn't build any deep or interesting characters. Elle Fanning plays a born-again Christian in this film which had the potential to create an interesting angle. However, like most other characters, her part is short lived as it moves onto the next new or old character. The film also has Sienna Miller and Zoe Saldana portraying love interests of Coughlin's and that's all that they are. They don't have personalities, they aren't interesting, they are just tools really. With the talent on show, the film really didn't use anyone to their full potential. Brendan Gleeson does a great job as Coughlin's father but everyone else seems to just fall short, although the writing does not help with that.

What the film does do well is create exciting action scenes, none more so than the car chase at the beginning and then the finale. The film delivers on these aspects for a crime thriller when they come, however, there isn't enough of it within the film. When done, it is exciting and engaging but in between the action is a real slog of a story. A thriller can work when sprinkling action but in order to do so, the excitement must be continued or portrayed in a different way. This comes back to the writing as you can create tension through meetings or scenes with characters simply talking to each other. The film does not do that as it really drags due to uninteresting events and dialogue. This doesn't help as you've seen what the film can create early on but it simply cannot maintain that same level throughout the film. With its 2 hours, 9 minutes run time, the film seems even longer as there isn't much excitement within rum trade deals that plague the story.

The film is a fairly generic crime film as it looks and feels exactly like a crime film. The costumes and set designs bring that feeling to the film in what was the only consistent element within the film. 'Live By Night' is set in Florida which is a slight change but the feeling is still the same. The production quality is high nonetheless and is a highlight of the film for sure. However, there's only so much that this can do in a film and unfortunately, it can't solve any of the film's glaring problems. When it comes to a crime thriller, there is much better than this one. 'Live By Night' is an average film that you will certainly get enjoyment out of at certain moments. For a feature length film, it simply doesn't pack enough. A weak story and disposable characters cannot save this one in what is undoubtedly Affleck's weakest film behind the camera. 

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

'Manchester By The Sea' Review

Oscar season is well and truly ahead and Kenneth Lonergan's latest film 'Manchester By The Sea' is tipped by many to do well with nominations. Casey Affleck has been getting a lot of buzz for his role in this movie, leading to speculate that he may pick up the Best Actor award come February. After seeing the movie, he'd be a safe bet to do so.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a brooding, easily agitated loner who works in several Quincy apartment blocks as a handyman. One day at work, Lee is called to the hospital as his brother's heart has given out. Lee has to return to his hometown to take care of his 16-year-old nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). As he deals with his brother's death and taking care of his nephew, Lee is also forced to relive an unspeakable tragedy.

Casey Affleck delivers a career-best performance as he leads 'Manchester By The Sea' to greatness. Affleck is often overshadowed by bigger brother Ben but in 'Manchester', Casey shows that he is capable of equally as good a performance. Affleck plays Lee, an unsociable handyman who isn't afraid to speak his mind which gets him into trouble, especially if he's had a drink. Lee is a very conflicted and troubled character as he has to deal with his own problems that are shocking to see when they unfold. Affleck shows great range as there are plenty of emotional moments that allow him to shine but the character is also very quick witted and his honesty leads to some surprisingly funny moments.

As the film was released in America weeks before its UK release, you hear the verdict from their press and media first. Not only were the reviews overwhelmingly positive but the general consensus was that this was a very emotional film. If you had wondered into this film without seeing any trailers for the film, the start of the film wouldn't lead you to think this at all. The film is surprisingly funny throughout the whole film as the Chandler family all carry the same quick-wittedness. Between Affleck, Kyle Chandler and Lucas Hedges, the Bostonian family are all hilarious without really meaning to be, it's just who they are and this is conveyed perfectly by the performances. The film doesn't set up loads of jokes like a comedy would but you can be sure that you will be chuckling a lot during this film, which is very odd considering how serious and emotional it is at the same time.

As previously mentioned, the reports of the early releases of this film came back saying that it was very emotional and they weren't wrong. As the plot surrounds death and Lee's struggle with taking over the care of Lucas, we also see Lee's background in the form of flashbacks. This is where the emotional side kicks in as the story reveals a shocking, heartbreaking backstory which really makes you sympathise with Lee and his ex-wife Randi played by Michelle Williams. Affleck, to reiterate is phenomenal as he aims to gain his first Oscar. Williams as well is fantastic with one scene late on driving the emotional side home. Although Williams isn't in the film as much as the likes of Affleck and Hedges, she does more than enough to make a memorable and effective performance. A star seems to have been born in Lucas Hedges in a breakout role. He plays Patrick who has an abundance of talents and a seemingly good and exciting life. Hedges does well as the teenager who mainly likes to hide his emotions but when he lets loose, he really breaks down. Hedges excels at showing great range, handling both emotional and humorous scenes very well.

Kenneth Lonergan deserves huge credit for the success of this film. As both director and writer of this film, he was the creative driving force behind this film. The way Lonergan crafts a script that combines good humour and powerful, emotional scenes is something to marvel at, especially if you are a film student. Lonergan handles this film so incredibly well and is well worthy of an Academy Award nomination for both Screenplay and Director. Credit is also due to Cinematographer Jody Lee Jones who does a lot of great work in this film. Jones uses the working class environment of Manchester-By-The-Sea to great effect, as she makes the small town look beautiful. This wasn't something that I had seen much of in American film before as it felt quite British with the seaside towns. When you think of places by the water in America, it is usually with sunshine and beaches. This was a small but very appreciated aspect as it felt fairly fresh and close to home for me despite being across the pond. 'Manchester By The Sea' is a stunning, well-crafted film from start to almost the finish. The only real gripe with this film is its abrupt ending. This may be due to how invested the audience is into the film as you want to see more of the story but it just suddenly ends leaving you a bit bewildered for the time being. It doesn't completely round off the film that well which was the only real problem, otherwise, no complaints.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor

Monday, 9 January 2017

'La La Land' Review

Sometimes a film gathers so much hype and praise that it simply doesn't reach expectations. This is most definitely not the case with 'La La Land'.

Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress who crosses paths with Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling pianist who wants to open his own Jazz club. Living in Los Angeles, the two grow close together and have to make a choice between focussing on their love life or their biggest dreams.

We're only 4 films into the year but we may have the best film of the year decided already. Damien Chazelle brings yet another great movie based around music after his success with 2014's 'Whiplash' but he goes one step further this time by creating a full-scale musical. From the opening credits, Chazelle makes you feel as if you are watching a classic musical with the opening featuring how the film will be presented on screen. Although the film is set in the present day, you have that feeling of watching a classic. However, that is the case, just that it is a modern classic. You know the saying 'they don't make films like this anymore'?. 'La La Land' proves that this is not the case as it stands up there with the best of the best.

The film starts off with a beautiful one shot lasting over 5 minutes as the song 'Another Day Of Sun' plays out on a bridge with all those stuck in traffic participating. This was a very fun scene which also showcased Chazelle' skills as a very talented director. This opening scene was just a taster of what was to come throughout the rest of the film. 

To start off, 'La La Land' is a musical, a comedy and a drama all at the same time. Usually, when a film comes out that handles different genres, usually one overshadows the others. Not the case for 'La La Land' as all three play equally strong parts in this marvellous film.

It is no surprise to me that 'La La Land' picked up awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song (City Of Stars) at the Golden Globes and it would be a safe bet to back them for the Oscars too. The film is filled to the brim with great songs with composer Justin Hurwitz doing a great job creating catchy tunes and setting the mood perfectly. This is one of these films that you are going to be humming for weeks to come, especially the likes of 'Another Day Of Sun' and 'City Of Stars'. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone both lend their talents to the music in this film making it seem like there is nothing that these two can't do. This is backed up further once you see the pair dancing, with many different styles on showcase within the film. The musical side of this film really is perfect as the music, performances and choreography all come together to create some truly magical scenes. Chazelle is also able to work well with the backdrop of Hollywood in these scenes making the film look superb in the meantime.

'La La Land' also took home the award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, with Ryan Gosling winning Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy and Emma Stone doing likewise in the Actress category. The pair's chemistry works tremendously well in this film, especially in the comedy moments. The two play off of each other's reactions very well early on in the film as they are fairly cynical to one another as they first meet. This leads to one of the best scenes of the year as the pair looks for Stone's character Mia's car, where the two show their talents in comedy. As the film goes on, there are more jokes that are very cleverly crafted, more so than most comedies nowadays. Stone first burst onto the scene in comedies like 'Superbad', 'Zombieland' and 'Easy A' and that experience in the genre is evident here. Gosling as well shows his talents coming off of the criminally underseen 'The Nice Guys', where he continues to show that he is one of the best talents Hollywood has right now. The comedy combined with the upbeat music makes you have a constant smile on your face as you just want to see more of these characters interacting with one another as it is glorious.

As effective as the music and comedy aspects are within the film, 'La La Land' also delivers on the dramatic level. The story basically follows two young dreamers, Sebastian who wants to open a bar to play real Jazz and Mia who wants to become an actress. The film highlights the struggles of people following their dreams and shows that it's not an easy journey. More so on Mia's side, we see the characters doubt their dreams, even to the extent of possibly giving up on them. Sebastian also goes through tough moments as he lets his dreams slip by doing something that he doesn't particularly want to that also visibly changes his characteristics. This leads to the film showing the pair having to make a decision between going all out for their dreams or the love and companionship of each other for life. This is very complicated for the duo but that's life, especially in those industries. This brings the fun down a level as it gets serious with Stone and Gosling excelling, showing tremendous range in this film. The finale of this film is extremely well done, I won't spoil it for you but it is emotional and a great ending to a truly great film.

It is hard to believe that director Damien Chazelle is only 31 as he handles film like a veteran. Chazelle creates a truly beautiful film, setting up many shots that are breathtaking. Whether it's on the streets of California, movie sets or anywhere, the movie looks fantastic at all times. The camerawork and long takes are a pleasure to watch as Chazelle pulls them off to great effect. Again, his win at the Golden Globes was very much deserved. The film's beauty is also backed up by the beautiful set and costume designs in this film. The characters are sharply dresses which also brings back a classic feeling to the film as from start to finish, the film is gorgeous.

It's not very often that a film like this comes along. A film that is as equally exciting and entertaining as it is artistic. 'La La Land' is a modern classic and a film that we will look back on in awe. A truly special film that deserves every single bit of attention that it is getting. Expect to hear a lot about this film at the Oscars after it just broke the record for a number of wins at the Golden Globes.
 'La La Land' is a must see.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'La La Land'? 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 which I cannot recommend highly enough. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Friday, 6 January 2017

'A Monster Calls' Review

Adapting books is never an easy thing, especially with source material that brings out a wide range of emotion. J.A Bayona not only looks to do so with 'A Monster Calls', but succeeds, making one of the most emotional films of recent times.

12-year old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is going through a tough time in his life, dealing with bullies and also with his mother's illness. To help deal with his problems, a tree-like monster (Liam Neeson) comes to Conor to tell him stories that will help Conor deal with the problems of life.

J.A Bayona cements himself as one of the best talents in Film right now with his magical, emotional film 'A Monster Calls'. Bayona adapts the novel in a very unique way, with real life and imagination intertwining with live action mixed with effects and even water colour art style animation. 'A Monster Calls' is a very unique film that showcases an abundance of creativity throughout many aspects. For one, the relationship between the monster and young Conor is done magnificently well, as the Groot combined with the BFG like creature helps Conor deal with issues in his life. The monster voiced by Liam Neeson tells Conor of fantastical stories with crafty witches and dragons as well as having themes of betrayal and things may not be what they seem to like. The monster helps Conor see that not everything is black and white, happy or sad and even good or bad. This leads to the emotional parts of the film very well. The film is gaining some buzz around award season and for good reason. J.A Bayona is deserving of high praise for this film as he combines so many aspects so incredibly well. This is a superbly directed film as Bayona showcases his talent very well. Fans of the 'Jurassic' franchise can very much look forward to the 'Jurassic World' as Bayona shows how he can use effects for a monster whilst creating an engaging, emotional and interesting story.

If you are one who is prone to tearing up at the cinema then make sure to bring your tissues. 'A Monster Calls' deals with some very serious issues, none more so than the illness of Conor's mother, played by Rogue One's Felicity Jones. It's truly heartbreaking at times as the emotion builds up throughout the film, climaxing to devastating effect. The performances help carry this, especially from Sigourney Weaver as the grandmother and Lewis MacDougall as her son Conor. MacDougall is great throughout the film, showing emotion at all the right times as he brings a very powerful performance. You feel for Conor throughout the whole film as we see everything through his eyes, with him struggling at school with bullies and at home with his family issues. Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver both provide great support in these emotional scenes too with their experience being very apparent. You feel a true relationship between Conor, his mother and grandmother, although it is conflicted at times. MacDougall does very well for someone so young with his facial expressions alone showcasing the character's emotions better than words could. The performance really helps make the movie as you need to feel the pain of the character to get the full effect. Thankfully, MacDougall brings a very strong performance to the table.

The film is visually stunning as it succeeds on a number of levels. In a fantastical film like this, sometimes the effects aren't up to standard and may look clunky. However, for the Monster, there can be no complaints. The Monster is intricately and beautifully designed and one of the best uses of CGI in recent times. Not only does the CGI look magnificent but the way the stories are told are too. The use of animation but through as if it was being painted using watercolours was breathtaking. This was so unique and could've easily failed as it may not have got the message across. However, the beautiful artwork combined with Neeson's narration created some fantastic scenes, unlike any other I had seen before. This is a visual masterpiece and it will be a huge surprise if this film doesn't gain some nominations at least for its Visual Effects.

'A Monster Calls' is a very magical yet heartbreaking tale. It's fantasy elements do bring a lot of enjoyment but this is a film that will most definitely pull on your heartstrings. This is a special film that deserves its buzz around award season and one that audiences worldwide should be checking out.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor