Thursday, 30 March 2017

'Life' Review

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are close to a ground-breaking discovery- the first finding of life beyond Earth. As the crew begin their research on the extraterrestrial life form, it grows and becomes smarter before eventually breaking free from quarantine. The crew must do whatever it takes to stop this creature from reaching Earth.

Looking like a cross between 'The Thing' and of course, 'Alien', 'Life' looked to face a struggle as it looked to create a new sci-fi/horror film in space. With claims that it was just 'Alien' but updated, many have been put off of the film. There is no denying that the trailer may seem similar but it is unfair to brandish this film as being exactly the same due to an alien attacking in outer space. As long as there are new, fresh ideas within this genre, there is no problem. And that is the case with 'Life'. Is it as good as 'Alien'? No. But it is most definitely a competent and effective film within its genre.

'Life' brings a much more realistic look to a horror/sci-fi film as it simply looks at what would happen if we found life beyond Earth and if it wasn't friendly at all. There isn't anything elaborate with the plot. There's no invasion, no real conflict to begin with and not even that much exploration that we get with space movies. Instead, the film focuses on making this film feel claustrophobic by keeping it in tight settings with characters not having loads of room to roam around in. The characters are also moving in zero gravity throughout the whole film, making it even harder for our protagonists to move around. Small details like this really changed the look of the film, giving it its own identity whilst showcasing films that it has been inspired by at the same time. 

The cast although fairly small for a feature length is made up some great talent that really elevates the film. The A-list stars Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal shine with Reynolds bringing great wit, whilst Gyllenhaal is the more focused character who as it at the centre of what is going on. The film also brings great diversity within its cast, none of the actors featured are from the same country with three different continents on show at the same time. The supporting characters such as Hiroyuki Sanada and Ariyon Bakare are excellent in their roles but it is Rebecca Ferguson who yet again steals the show. Ferguson is fantastic throughout the whole film, reacting great with wonder early on and then terror as the film progresses. Ferguson is a star who deserves more roles as she makes everything that she is in instantly better. What I really enjoyed about the characters in this film was that they weren't making stupid decisions that were brainless. This is a trope well known in horror so it was refreshing these incredibly smart characters not act stupidly and try to do the best thing in order for their crew to survive. Whenever someone is vanquished, it's due to the evolution of the creature, not by luck and stupidity from the characters.

As the horror elements go, 'Life' succeeds a creating a horrifying situation. The idea of being in space with something that cannot be controlled is a terrifying situation. For me, being stranded at sea is scary enough but being trapped in space in claustrophobic conditions seems much worse, nevermind with a creature hunting you down to grow stronger. The film does a great job handling the creature - known as Calvin - throughout the film. We see a clear progression with the creature as it not only grows but becomes smarter as the film goes on. This aspect was handled very well as the creature seemed like a true threat that only got more powerful, rather than it just happening all of a sudden. There is time dedicated to showcasing this but it would be safe to say that some of the characters could have done with more focus on them at the same time. The environment allows for an easy eery and creepy setting to be created and director Daniel Espinosa deserves credit for achieving this.

In a film like this, where the backdrop is outer space and there is a CGI main character - the creature Calvin -, the special effects have to be on point. Once again, the film cannot be criticised for how it looks. This is a beautiful looking film with the special effects working very well. The background of outer space is beautiful but yet carries that fear the film looks to bring. The creature also looks unique and frightening as the film progresses. The set design also is fantastic as the film looks to bring that claustrophobic feeling to the film. Without this, the film may not have been nearly as effective.

Lastly, the ending of this film is really great. The intensity is raised to the highest throughout the whole film as the film really pays off. There is great drama and horror that combine incredibly well with pounding music that makes a very effective ending. Some say that it may be predictable but it is an effective and perfect way to end the film. 'Life' isn't a game changing film and yes, you can see inspiration from other films. But there's definitely a lot more to this film than just an 'Alien' rip-off. This film deserves a lot more credit and it's a shame to see an original film like this get an unfair rep. For fans of the genre, 'Life' is worth seeing as it is an effective, tense movie with some great performances. Go into this film with a clear mind and don't look to compare it to other films with similar ideas. It's not a carbon copy and deserves more acknowledgement than that. 

Final Verdict =

So have you seen 'Life'? 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

Monday, 20 March 2017

'Beauty and The Beast' Review

Belle (Emma Watson) is an intelligent young woman who lives with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline). One day when Maurice goes out to sell goods, he is taken prisoner by a Beast (Dan Stevens) who mistakes Maurice as an intruder. Belle takes her father's place as the Beast's prisoner. It soon becomes known that the Beast is a prince who has been transformed due to his inability to love someone. As time goes on, Belle becomes closer to the Beast as he looks to finally break the curse.

Tale as old as time, the 'Beauty and The Beast' live action remake is finally here! After the great successes from live action remakes of 'Cinderella' and 'The Jungle Book', nothing seems to be safe from being brought to life. As someone who enjoyed both films, I was fairly excited as this news as there is plenty within 'Beauty and The Beast' which could be brought to life with that special Disney magic. Although it is fair to consider these remakes unnecessary, there is plenty to enjoy and marvel at in this live-action version of the first ever Best Picture nominated animated film.

With these live action remakes, there are many important aspects that the film has to succeed with in order for it to be a success. For one, you have to make sure that you do the characters justice, especially those who are beloved by fans. Emma Watson is great as Belle in what is a near perfect casting. Watson is known to be a clever young woman and this transcends into her performance, there's just more singing involved for her. The supporting characters like Kevin Kline as Maurice and Josh Gad as LeFou were both great with Kline bringing emotion to the film and Gad bringing humour with some quippy lines. The one character that could have been done better is Gaston, portrayed by Luke Evans. In no ways is this a bad performance, it's just that Gaston as a character is very cartoony. Gaston is over the top with his arrogance which may be hard to replicate within the film. Evans never really comes across as a truly despicable human who is as self-centred as the original portrayal was. In saying that, there are many moments where Evans shines, especially during his self-titled song and during the finale of the film. Just a little more of that Gaston arrogance would've really nailed this portrayal of a very memorable Disney character.

The non-human characters in the film have a similar fate as for the most part, they are handled and performed exceptionally well. This was perhaps the biggest challenge as it is easier to bring human characters to life as you simply use actors that resemble them. Much like in 'The Jungle Book', CGI characters are made up for the likes of Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) and Mrs Potts (Emma Thompson). The fun, cartoon characters are replaced to look like realistic objects to tremendous results. The characters look great and the vocals are great throughout, both in dialogue and in song. The only one problem with the CGI characters, unfortunately, is with the Beast himself. The Beast is not up to the same standard as everything else in the film, looking clearly animated and out of place at times. This is fairly disappointing as Disney had done so well with the creatures in 'The Jungle Book' but they weren't able to replicate the same results yet again.

The original film's runtime is 84 minutes with this remake changing that to a longer run time of 130 minutes. With this, you would maybe feel inclined that there is a lot more that has been included in the film. In reality, there isn't much changed from the original film but with some more details added in. There's nothing game-changing in the new version but there are some good moments where the film ties up some loose ends, like what happened to Belle's mother. The story is handled very well as it doesn't mess around with the elements that made the original so great. The magic and message are still ever as apparent in this remake which is the main goal for these films. Although it is the same story and message redone, there is no denying that this is handled with the utmost care. The newest version of the tale is one that families and younger children will definitely love.

There are new songs introduced in this film but what will be stuck in your head are the classics you remember from the 1991 version. The new versions of 'Gaston', 'Be Our Guest' and the titular song are all great and even more magical as they are brought to life. The songs are still ever as catchy but the choreography, settings and costume all help to make these moments extremely enjoyable. The musical moments of the film are great to watch although the newer songs don't hit the mark nearly as much. In saying that, it is a complete joy to see these moments brought to life. The animated version is still great to watch but it is something else seeing these sequences be brought to life. There is a high appreciation for the effort gone into these moments. Claims that this film is lazy can be rubbished entirely due to moments like the Gaston song where you can see costume designers, set designers, actors and the director all coming together to make something that is not only special, but a pleasure to watch.

As far as these Disney remakes go, this is my favourite so far. Is this a perfect remake? No. But does it still carry that all important message that it is what inside that counts with a person? Absolutely. Is it still a highly entertaining musical that will leave you humming the songs for days? Yes. Is the magic still there? Yes. This film succeeds on many levels and is sure to bring great enjoyment to those who see it.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Beauty and The Beast'? 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

Friday, 10 March 2017

'Kong: Skull Island' Review

In the final days of the Vietnam War, a military organisation and some scientists jet off to an uncharted territory that is unknown to the rest of the world. In their search for civilisation, they find an island covered and ruled by monsters, none bigger than oversized ape and king, Kong.

The last time we saw the iconic, colossal ape was in Peter Jackson's 'King Kong' in 2005. That film was very successful, both financially and critically, even winning 3 Academy Awards. However, 'Kong: Skull Island' looks to take a different approach, looking to make the film a complete action movie. The 'beauty that killed the beast' story is swapped for more larger than life creatures. In a period where reboots are criticised for offering very little new content to the series, 'Kong: Skull Island' does look to do something fairly new with the character. With eyes looking towards a new 'MonsterVerse', 'Kong' brings something new to the table, bringing new creatures alongside it. Unfortunately, other than good action, there isn't much to rave about this version of 'Kong'.

In essence, 'Kong' very much is a blockbuster that you would really expect to see during the summertime, with huge creatures and explosions dominating the screen. This, of course, leads to the film being predominantly action based, featuring CGI monsters battling it out. The 2005 'King Kong' was highly praised for its special effects and that praise can be carried on into this movie. Not only does the main character Kong look incredible but so do the other creatures in the film. Now, it is expected for the creatures to look great in a high budget film like this, but it is still incredible to see lifelike creatures. As someone who's favourite film features large creatures, I'm a sucker for seeing an epic brawl between two behemoths and 'Kong' definitely delivers that. Due to this, the two-hour runtime does go past quickly as you can really sit back and just enjoy the spectacle. That only really goes for the action, however, as the quality of the rest of the film really lets it down.

'Kong: Skull Island' is ultimately undone by a very, very weak script. The script looks to balance brutal and hard hitting action with an abundance of humour. The dialogue feels incredibly out of place as the tones clash to make something fairly terrible. You will be rolling your eyes as jokes are seemingly forced in to try and make the film funny. There's no reason for this to be the case. This film should've been tension filled and even scary as these people look to stay alive on an island where everything wants to kill them. In fact, this even detriment the action aspect as something brutal will be about to or happen and then you get some cheesy joke. When you're showing the brutality of these creatures, you do not need the characters making a mockery of it. The humour is so out of place at times and it simply isn't funny. In fact, the funniest parts of the film are unintentional.

What helps make 'Kong' more enjoyable is the amount of absurdity within the film that you cannot help but laugh at. To some, these may be too hard to bear and will simply hate it. For me, I couldn't help but laugh at these moments which did actually bring enjoyment to the film, not necessarily in the best way. When you're trying to make an emotional death, you can't have a character be picked off in a brutal and ridiculous way. When you create a rule within an area or scenario, you have to maintain it. There are so many ridiculous moments in this film that are baffling. It really makes you question the studio's decision making as you can't imagine how some of these moments snuck into the final cut of the film. Again, these moments show just how much of a mess was made with the tone in this film which ultimately is its downfall.

When you look at the cast of this film on paper, you have an incredible ensemble on your hands. You have recent Oscar winner Brie Larson, Marvel fan favourite Tom Hiddleston, the always incredible John Goodman and highest grossing actor ever in Samuel L Jackson all starring in this movie. After seeing such an impressive cast, you'd be very disappointed to know that the film does not use any of them to their full potential. You could've used any actors in these roles as there was simply nothing to the characters. They are very one dimensional and you aren't given a lot of time to really relate, care or even like most of the characters. Any sort of development is completely rushed, especially the minuscule relationship between Larson's Weaver and Kong himself. It seemed as if they wanted to try to create a bond between the two but it was very half-hearted, only using two scenes to try to make it impactful. You're probably thinking, why would you go see a film like this if you are looking for strong, deep characters? Well, the film tries to make many emotional moments that pander to the audience to try and be more than just a dumb action film. Also, if the film is about those people trying to survive on this island, should you not want to root for them? Should you not want a reason for them to survive other than it's just a certain actor? The cast could have been utilised so much better, even if this was just another action film. 

I'd be lying if I said that the latest Kong film wasn't entertaining. Sometimes this was due to some great fights and moments of action - despite some Michael Bay-esque slow-motion scenes. However, a lot of the enjoyment comes from this being one of the most ridiculous films with unintentionally funny moments. A better script and utilisation of characters could've seen this become a great monster movie. Unfortunately, these aspects caused more damage than Kong ever could.

Final Verdict =

So have you seen 'Kong: Skull Island'? 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

Friday, 3 March 2017

'A Cure For Wellness' Review

A large financial firm needs a signature from its CEO who has seemingly lost his mind after going to Switzerland. The company send Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) to bring him back in time for the deal to completed. When he arrives in Switzerland, he finds a strange institute where people are looking for the 'cure'. During his time there, Lockhart starts to realise that this wellness centre may not be what they say they are.

Gore Verbinski's latest film sees the director take a much different approach to a film, spending most of his career making family films like the 'Pirates of the Carribean' franchise, 'Rango' and 'The Lone Ranger'. 'A Cure For Wellness' most definitely is not an addition to a fairly family friendly filmography.

Here in the UK, there aren't many films released each year that gain an '18' rating. It takes a whole lot of nudity or gruesome acts to enable a film to receive the highest rating certificate in the UK. 'A Cure For Wellness' has both, utilising the two as a shock factor and to provide some uncomfortable and disturbing imagery. For those looking for a thriller that will give you an unsettling feeling, then you can expect this film to do so. To some, it will be off putting which is expected from the content and there are moments that do seem to be used just to unsettle the audience - see the dental scene as an example. There are a couple of times in the film where something obscene will happen and then the film jumps into something unrelated which will make you feel a little lost for a second. However, for the most part, these moments are handled well and are adequate in providing some shocks for this thriller. If there is something to praise this film for, it is the fact that it went all out, not holding back to please the majority of audiences. The film doesn't play it safe or take any easy routes which is something that this original idea deserves credit for.

The plot for this film certainly is an intriguing one and has shown to be successful, with likes of 'Shutter Island' doing something similar very well. The problem is, though, this leads the film to fall on tropes, making it very predictable throughout most of the film. The story doesn't have many shocks within it as everything that happens is fairly conventional and expected. As previously mentioned, it seems that the imagery was used as the shock factor but the film could've blended the shocks into the film's story better. What doesn't help the film is that it is filled with a lot of foreshadowing which takes away a lot of the surprises in the film. From the first few clues, you can see exactly how the film will play out. There is no problem with a film foreshadowing future events but when it is this obvious, it seriously harms the film. With a film that is almost 2 and a half hours long, there needs to be more content that feels fresh or unexpected.

However, it would be harsh to say that the film is ever boring or uninteresting. The film somehow manages to keep your attention due to the good plot, despite it being fairly predictable. The story although similar to others is still a good watch, in many ways due to its weirdness. This film very much is different to everything else that has come out in recent years and is a film that people who want to see original ideas should be checking out. Other than that, gorgeous visuals and set designs to make this a very beautiful film to watch. Verbinski frames every shot to perfection, using a wide range of shots to fit as much detail into the setting of every scene. Nothing is wasted as Verbinski utilises lighting to the sets, creating creepy atmospheres. 'A Cure For Wellness' is one of the most beautiful looking films that you will see this year as it is flawless with its technical aspects. The film is also helped by some good performances, especially from Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth and Jason Isaacs, the three main roles within the film.

The finale of the film is also quite questionable as the film reaches its climax of absurdity. The general reaction to this film's ending is that it went too ridiculous, even compared to some of the events previously in the film. As someone who was onboard for the full film, it did feel like it overstepped the line with the craziness. This was disappointing and I can see why others will hate it due to the long build up. The payoff isn't nearly as good as the rest of the film which does leave it finishing quite poorly.

The best way to describe this film is by saying it's like a darker, more stylised 'Shutter Island' but with a poorer executed story. This film most definitely won't be for everyone but there are most definitely things to marvel at in this film. In no way is this a great film but it most definitely isn't a bad one. If you want to see a different, weird, original movie compared to everything else showing right now, then give this film a watch. If you are easily put off or squeamish, then stay away from this one.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'A Cure For Wellness'? 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

Thursday, 2 March 2017

'Logan' Review

The year is 2029 and mutants seemed to have been wiped out entirely. Hiding in the desert are Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who look to survive in this newly evolved world. A young mutant girl crosses the path of the former X-Men which brings trouble as a new threat looks to use young mutants as weapons. Together, Logan and Charles will travel across the country in order to keep the child Laura (Dafne Keen) safe.

In what looks to be the final appearances from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, 20th Century Fox finally gave in and gave the fans what they wanted to see. No, not Wolverine in that classic yellow suit from the comics - much to my dismay. 17 years after the character first appeared in 'X-Men' (2000), 'Logan' finally gives us the x-rated brutality that is associated with Wolverine's deadly abilities and it is glorious.

'Logan' follows fellow 20th Century Fox property 'Deadpool' (2016) in stepping up the violence and moves from a normal '12A' rating to a '15' here in the UK, showing that this film isn't going to be the same as the other family friendly superhero movies. If you are expecting bright costumes and hope from this movie, first of all, did you even watch the trailers? and secondly, you are not going to get that at all. 'Logan' is a bleak, dark film that will not have you leaving hopeful like others in the genre. 

To go back to the action within the film, we finally see the true brutality that Wolverine is capable of. The iconic character is ripping off limbs and faces as his claws go through skulls, torsos and anything to cause devastation. The film truly allows the fans to see Wolverine go berserk and showcase his rage in all its bloody glory. The change of rating allows audiences to see a new, much more gruesome side to what the character can do. This is handled exceptionally well and delivers exactly what you want to see from this character. The use of brutal action also works well with the character of Logan in this film. Previously, there has been some restraint but in this film, Logan is battered, old and fed up of life. Due to this, there is a reason to why he goes all out as he letting loose all of this pain and emotion that he has built up in a time of struggle. There is meaning behind the content and isn't just mindless to draw people into seeing a cool action movie. It is much more than that as it helps show what Logan has become.

Not only does the action differentiate from other superhero film's but the story itself does too. In many ways, the film has much more in common with a Western film. Not only does the setting play into this notion but the story is more about character development with outbursts of violence throughout the film. The story deals with loss, redemption and protection as Logan looks to take care of the young mutant Laura/X-23. The film doesn't focus entirely on the villain's scheme throughout the whole movie. Of course, it sets up the film but after we are introduced to the characters, the film takes more of a cross-country road trip feeling. This allows us to see the character development clearly, bringing a slow burn to the genre. This may put people off of the film as it is fairly unconventional within a superhero film. However, director James Mangold combines the elements very well, bringing a fresh superhero film that makes you really care and feel for the characters.

 Of course, by now you care for the characters who have been in previous 'X-Men' films but 'Logan' shows the characters struggling in new ways that bring more emotion to the film. This also allows Jackman and Stewart to showcase more range which may not appear in as many films in the genre. Due to this, the film can boast the best performances from both Jackman and Stewart as they excel in every way, showing both great emotion and humour whilst keeping the film grounded at the same time.

The film's problems seem to come in the form of its villain, no surprise for a Marvel related film. A new group of villains are introduced as people from an evil company 'Transigen'. Boyd Holbrook as introduced to be the film's main villain and does show promise early on as he goes toe to toe with Jackman early on. As the film goes on, Holbrook's character gets a little lost in the mix, stepping out the way for other characters who weren't nearly as effective or intriguing as himself. This does make the ending feel a little more like traditional Marvel films as you do get a load of faceless villains in a final showdown which in fairness, is one of the few superhero tropes it falls back on.

Saving the best thing for last, Dafne Keen shines as Laura/X-23, the child that Logan and Charles look to protect. Keen steals the show, showing great talent for someone so young. Keen doesn't say a word for the first half of the film, instead, she lets yells and her facial expressions show exactly what she is feeling. The character is truly remarkable as you have this seemingly cute and innocent little girl, who at the flip of a switch, can become an instant killing machine with no remorse. Keen holds her own very well alongside Jackman and Stewart and is equally at strong with her range. The finale is where she really succeeds as she does exceptionally well with the action and makes the ending even more emotional. This is a character we will want to see more of as Keen shines on her film debut.

If this is to be the last film for Jackman and Stewart, then there is no better way for the pair to go out. This is a very satisfying film which fans will surely love. There is great action, characters and emotion, making 'Logan' a worthy addition to the X-Men universe.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Logan'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was ueful 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