Monday, 31 July 2017

'47 Metres Down' Review

Twist endings can either make or break a film. For the careers of the likes of M Night Shyamalan, it can make and even rejuvenate a career as seen earlier this year with 'Split'. On the downside, if executed poorly or if the twist simply isn't good enough, it can destroy the good work throughout the rest of the film. '47 Metres Down' comes under the latter with an insultingly bad twist ending.

Sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) are on holiday in Mexico for some much-needed fun. Lisa wants to prove to her ex-boyfriend that she isn't boring and ends up being convinced to go cage diving with sharks to prove this. Everything is going great on this once in a lifetime experience until the cage breaks away from the boat, sending the sisters 47 meters below the surface. With sharks infesting the open water, the sisters only have a limited amount of time before their oxygen runs out to get back to safety.

It's quite hard to talk about this film due to its twist so this review will be verging on spoiler territory. If you want to avoid this information then it'd be best to leave now and watch the movie first. However, I wouldn't say that this film is worthy of your time.

'47 Metres Down' gets off to a dreadful start as we are introduced to our main characters Lisa and Kate whose personalities are told to us immediately. We are told that Lisa is the boring one and that Kate is the fun one who everyone wants to be around. There isn't anything to back this up for either of them who both seem alike other than Lisa is easily convinced by her sister. This is proceeded by the reason for these sisters going on holiday and it is to impress an ex-boyfriend of Lisa's and prove that she really is fun. Immediately there seems to be a conflict of interests. Lisa wants to get her ex back yet soon after we learn this motivation, she is in the arms of another man who she would like to be romantic with. This would be fine if the story were to drop the ex-boyfriend angle but no, it is still very much the reason for doing activities and the cage diving in particular. To top it off, this is to be done with the guys met from the previous night. This is an abysmal start which shows some weakness to the script early on. At this point, the film looks to be a complete disaster.

Shortly after, we get to the main part of the story where the cage diving experience happens. In usual fashion, all is going well with the characters having the times of their lives before disaster strikes. It may seem cliched the way these events unfold but the film wastes no time and handles the situation fairly well. For the most part, the film succeeds in creating a tension filled atmosphere for most of the runtime.

As made clear by the title, the film based 47 metres below the surface in what to some, including myself, is an absolute nightmare. To be trapped in the deepest darkest depths of the ocean with sharks is the stuff of nightmares and for me, I can't think of many worse situations to be in. To give the film credit, it utilises its setting very well, making the sea mysterious and terrifying by showcasing the terrifying nature of the ocean. There is a magnificently well-done scene involving Lisa trying to retrieve a flashlight where the location is used to great effect. These moments are the highlights of the film as it doesn't feel like a gimmick like the shark aspects do. Instead, it feels real and that aspect makes everything much scarier and thrilling than any shark attack could.

Unfortunately, the weaknesses in the script reappear as the story progresses with some terrible and quite frankly annoying dialogue. By the end of the runtime, you'll have heard the characters shout each other's names about 100 times each in what becomes mind numbing and makes the characters hard to listen to. There's a lot of times where something has happened very clearly but the characters will say the action as if commentating alongside with it. The actors aren't given much to work with here but do manage to maintain a feeling of fear whilst in this situation. The acting is far from Oscar worthy but also not laughably bad to make the characters insufferable. Moore and Holt aren't given much to work with their characters as the story is about the two trying to survive. The film does seem to provide some development in Lisa getting over her fears but the twist goes and completely ruins that.

This is your last chance if you want to avoid spoilers about the twist. So the story progresses with the two main characters making their plan to try and escape with their lives. Throughout the story, the pair has communication with those still on the boat somehow and at one point, one of the characters, Taylor, on the boat warns them about Nitrogen Narcosis. Taylor then proceeds to tell them that this an effect of certain gases at high pressure which has many effects including hallucinations. This is the point where you should just stop watching the film. The next half n hour is all a hallucination so none of it even matters at all in context to the film. It even does a fairly decent job at creating a tense finale utilising the information that has been given previously. Unfortunately, all the good work that had been done to make a satisfying finale is completely erased as it did not happen at all. There are about 20-30 minutes of footage in this 90-minute feature that is all a hallucination. It is such an insult to the waste the viewers time like this. If this was only a small aspect earlier in the film, was resolved and then proceeded to give us the real, tense finale that it should. Instead, we get nothing as once it's revealed to be a hallucination, the character is easily retrieved with no problem whatsoever. This is the worst ending to a film this year as it adds nothing good at all. I went into this film not expecting a lot and it actually surprised me with how well it did at points. But the ending is so awful and leaves such a bad taste in your mouth that I cannot possibly recommend this film. Twist endings when used correctly can make you view the film in a completely different way than before and make you really think everything over. '47 Metres Down's twist ruins everything and doesn't add anything new or dramatic, making it all a complete waste of time. I don't think I've ever left the cinema as angry as I did with this film as it is so insulting to those who have taken the time to go and see it. Don't see this film, it doesn't deserve your time or your money.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen '47 Metres Down'? 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 or not, which I recommend that you stay away from. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Thursday, 27 July 2017

'Dunkirk' Review

Christopher Nolan is a special kind of director whose films create a special kind of buzz as if they are one of a kind. His stellar filmography is hugely impressive as he produces hit after hit with his ability to craft unique interesting stories. His ability to create awe inspiring, large scale films are second to none, especially in the last decade of his work. With his latest project 'Dunkirk', Nolan's bold choice for a war story may be his most immersive yet.

In May 1940, the Second World War is underway with German troops advancing into France which has pushed and trapped the allied forces on the beaches of Dunkirk. Whilst under attack, the forces will look to bring back the hundreds of thousands of soldiers by any means possible, even using civilian vessels. This is the tale of the brave attempt to bring over 300,000 back home.

'Dunkirk' looks at three perspectives during the mass evacuation of troops from the beaches of Dunkirk at the start of the second World War. The first is on the beaches, with soldiers waiting on to be retrieved and brought back home whilst still under air attack from the Germans. The second, from the sea, where Mark Rylance takes his own boat to try to retrieve British soldiers. And the third follows Tom Hardy as a pilot who looks to aid the effort from the sky. The three follow the same story loosely, with the stories overlapping but not all at once.

The film doesn't have a clear protagonist as survival is the focus, not solely on any specific character. To some, this may not satisfy as they look for that extra something from the characters to make you care about them which is a criticism that can be made. It does pose a problem that you don't really build a connection with the characters which gives you that extra incentive to root for them or to see them succeed. However, the film looks at a true event and tries to create as realistic a story as possible for the viewer for maximum impact. The fact that these characters are looking scared and unsure about what is going on is accurate and does make it clear that they are in constant peril. This story is about being in the moment of this event and does a fantastic job of recreating the feeling of what it was like on that miraculous day.

This constant peril is helped massively due to the production and use of real effects. The film utilises real boats, planes, locations and hundreds of extras to make this seem even more realistic. The action is made to look brutal as real ships are blown up using pyrotechnics to create something visibly real, rather than something that has been made up on a computer. Nolan's use of these real effects, transports, and people make this film feel huge and truly epic. This is something quite simple but it makes a huge difference as it helps produce something lifelike as if you were actually there. Seeing how this event would really look really helps immerse you which is only helped by the gripping action.

As previously mentioned, the action contains many scenes where boats and planes are being attacked with pyrotechnics going off rather than using digital effects. This helps create this authentic feeling as everything looks like it is actually happening. The ships are really sinking, there's no dramatic use of transport being taken out, there are no unnecessarily large explosions which create a feeling of realism. The air aspect is a great example as there are many dogfights that aren't over the top. It doesn't feel staged or hugely cinematic, it's just a simple battle that immerses you as you are unsure of what the outcome will be and you are put into the pilot's seat. Nolan masterfully brings you into the film by being up close to the characters in these tense situations. The audience is taken inside the cockpits and the ships as these attacks are going on making you feel right in amongst the action. With this, you see the true terror that these people are facing as well as the horrifying expressions on the victim's faces in these moments. This is essentially a huge battle where the characters are under constant threat and barrage and Nolan does a truly incredible job of bringing those moments in 1940 onto the big screen.

On a technical level, as expected with a Christopher Nolan movie, you will struggle to find many better-executed movies. 'Dunkirk' is visually stunning with great overhead shots showing the grand scale alongside many perfect shots utilising the stunning locations in the background. The cinematography is exceptional and we can expect to see Hoyte van Hoytema be nominated at the next Academy Awards. The standard of film making is next level and on the big screen, it is simply breathtaking. There's been a lot of talk recently about how to see this new release which I have to urge you to see at the cinema and if possible, in IMAX. This is the sort of film that is made for the big screen as it is a complete experience. The visuals alone make for seeing this on as large a screen as possible a must. What puts this over the edge is the sound design and the score. As far as sound mixing and editing go, 'Dunkirk' is a complete masterpiece. The sounds of the battles, whether it be gunfire, airplanes or the destruction of boats, everything sounds brutally real. Again, the action is improved due to the magnificent quality of sound. To go back to the point of seeing this in IMAX, the sound is a large selling point for this. With the epic and loud speakers around the theatre, you feel every single shot whizz past you and feel the shots coming from all directions. You are completely immersed as this is more than a film, it's an experience.

A Christopher Nolan master class would not be complete if it wasn't accompanied by a great score from the legendary Hanz Zimmer. Much like with Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy, and Interstellar, the film has a pulsating score that adds that extra bit of emotion and tension to each and every scene. This is one of the best scores of the year as it is incredibly powerful whilst making your hair stand up during the film's finest moments.

Nolan uses regulars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy yet again in what is an odd ensemble cast that features the likes of Oscar winner Mark Rylance to pop sensation Harry Styles. The majority of the cast are not given that much dialogue, especially those in the beaches and the pilots are mainly talking about their attacks and planning each move. This leaves for a lot more silent moments, leaving the actors expressions to do a lot of the work to get their emotions and feelings across. Fionn Whitehead is the main protagonist on the beaches and barely says a word throughout the first act, yet his performance is very powerful. The film doesn't require its actors to provide a long inspirational speech to rally everyone together. The performances are a lot more quiet and subtle that makes you really focus on their facial expressions to know what the characters are feeling and going through.

As expected with the genre, there are many highs and lows, with this, in particular, edging more towards the lows. The film is brutal as every little chance the allies get to evacuate is under threat creating a constant state of fear and anxiety to what will happen. This is carried on with the characters being timid to do what failed previously creating a lack of trust at times. This creates great continuity making the characters feel real and intelligent too.  Whenever it seems like there's a small victory, danger is never far as Nolan creates tension in every scene, no matter what aspect of the film is being followed.

Christopher Nolan has yet again crafted another incredible, unique film. The decision to look at the event itself rather than the characters is a decision that may and has put people off the film but it works incredibly well. All the technical aspects fall into piece and make something truly remarkable. Everything seems so realistic in this truly epic war film that will have you experiencing all kinds of emotion. This is one of the year's finest pictures and you can expect to see a lot of buzz come award season despite us being very much in the summer season. Nolan again shows how a blockbuster can still be art as it provides many great moments whilst being aesthetically pleasing. Make sure to see this one in a cinema as it is an experience you do not want to miss out on.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Dunkirk'? 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 highly recommend that you do! Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Saturday, 8 July 2017

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Review

Spider-Man is finally within the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Sony's latest attempt at building a universe around the character failed 3 years ago. Fans were thrilled with the news and the character's appearance in 2016's 'Captain America: Civil War' was a highlight for many. However, with this being the third different incarnation of the character in 15 years, many are still skeptical about this edition. If 'Homecoming' is anything to go by, we may be on our way to having the best representation of the web-slinger on screen.

After his encounter with the Avengers, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns home but is still looking to make an impact on the world and catch the eye of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr). Peter now has to combine responsibilities - as a superhero and also going to school at the same time - as he wants to be more than a friendly neighbourhood hero. The emergence of a supervillain The Vulture (Michael Keaton) will put Peter's abilities to the test as he looks to prove himself worthy.

A large criticism that the superhero genre as a whole has garnered recently is a feeling that they all feel the exact same. It must be said, though, that 2017 has looked to change this, with each superhero film being different from one another- 'Logan' as a road trip/drama, 'Guardians 2' as another space comedy. 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' is no different here as it takes the superhero genre to where it hasn't really been before - high school. 

The latest edition of everyone's favourite web-slinger sees him as a 15-year-old going through the challenges that life is throwing at him in what seems like the closest thing to a John Hughes superhero film that we'll ever see. 'Homecoming' provides a unique superhero story that does double duty as a coming of age story, as our protagonist matures and deals with the normalities of high school. Director Tom Watts looks to create a realistic, modern look at high school life, with no over the top jock bullies and snobby popular girls. This film shows that it's inspired by previous works from Hughes but creates its own modern feeling, adapting to the times whilst maintaining some of the usual tropes. 

As known with coming of age films, interesting characters is a must. Otherwise, you simply don't care about what they are going through. Luckily for 'Homecoming', the main character is a beloved hero whose stories have spanned decades. However, the film doesn't just rely on this to get the character by as Peter Parker is made to be relatable, interesting and entertaining, leading to you wanting to see more of him. The biggest task faced was trying to create the perfect Spider-Man, something that many believe hasn't been represented on screen. Tobey Maguire is thought to have been great as the geeky Peter Parker but didn't excel as the witty Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield had a similar fate, just with the roles reversed with him suiting the cocky, quick-wittedness of Spider-Man. Tom Holland handles the awkward geeky side of Peter Parker very well, seeming shy, unconfident and fairly awkward during his day to day life. As Spider-Man, he is a completely different person - witty, full of confidence and charisma. The Peter Parker/Spider-Man combo has never been handled equally as well. Holland succeeds in both aspects, more so than his predecessors. Due to this, no matter how nostalgic the previous actors make you feel, Tom Holland is undoubtedly the best representation of Spider-Man ever seen on the big screen.

Peter's high school experience brings us some new interesting and fun characters to the series as well. Jacob Batalon provides comic relief as Peter's best friend Ned, who is even geekier and awkward leading to some outbursts that are hilarious. Batalon is great as he himself has to deal with knowing that his best friend is a famous hero and has to try his best to not let it slip. Eugene 'Flash' Thompson returns in the form of Tony Revolori who is a much different version of the character, being much more of an arrogant, vocal bully rather than one that's athletically inclined. Revolori does well as not a completely serious bully, acting immature with silly insults and actions to make others look bad. There is plenty of comeuppance for Thompson in what is the most attention the character has ever been given in any film before. However, it is Zendaya who seems to steal the show as Michelle Jones, a tribute to MJ from previous Spider-Man comics and films. Michelle is clearly inspired by Ally Sheedy's Allison Reynolds from 'The Breakfast Club'. The character is a loner who spends most of the time by herself and doesn't really seem to fit in with others. She is clever, quick witted, weird and incredibly cool. Zendaya steals every scene that she is in, with her cleverness and humour providing many great moments. Michelle has one of the coolest personalities in film this year and will have you wanting to see more of her in the future.

'Homecoming' is still undoubtedly very much so an MCU film, with the superhero part still being the main focus. We get to skip the origin story of Spider-Man and jump straight into the character dealing with his new responsibilities. Here we get the rare chance to see superheroes handle smaller situations, as the masked man stops car thieves and helps give people directions. Due to this, he feels human and like every other person. We rarely see the superheroes doing tasks that aren't just normal helpful tasks. We do of course get the bigger scale action throughout the story as Spider-Man looks to find larger opportunities to prove himself.

An interesting aspect of the film is how Peter has to deal with this new suit that he has been given. As a young man with newly acquired powers, he is rather rash and even flashy when using them meaning he has to mature and use them responsibly. However, as he grows with the suit and realises its potential, he loses track of this and puts himself and others in further harm. There is a real character development through this as Peter realises how influential his actions really are and what can happen. The use of Robert Downey Jr and Jon Favreau as mentors for Peter really help this progress as well, as they stand in as sort of father figures, making restraints that Peter disobeys whilst looking out for his best interests. Downey Jr and Favreau's roles are minimal but effective nonetheless.

With these superhero movies, it always seems as if the film is about some person trying to destroy the entire world. 'Homecoming' is a lot more of a smaller story, dealing with a supervillain thief rather than someone determined on world domination. This again is a great change as it isn't the same story yet again, allowing the story to feel fresh and different from the others. This is what makes 'Homecoming' such a success, it feels fresh in a time where there are many superhero films. A difference in sub-genre, story elements, and fresh new characters really give this film life.

 In saying this, though, the main faults do come from the usual problems that the MCU as a whole has. Michael Keaton gives a good performance as Adrian Toomes/The Vulture but the problem is that he is severely underdeveloped. We see how he gains this equipment but there is a severe change in his psyche that makes him more of a supervillain. This lacked much character progression and just seemed to be a rushed effort to turn Toomes from a workman to suddenly an evil villain. The score as well is not very memorable and is weak despite including the animated series theme song early on. The film's runtime comes in at 133 minutes which does feel a bit too long. A good fifteen minutes could probably be cut as there is enough in the two hours to satisfy the audience.

The screenplay credits six people and usually, when there are multiple people working together on one script, it can cause problems. With different ideas and personalities, it could even destroy a film's chances of succeeding. However, with 'Homecoming', the script is actually very solid, combining the high school life of Peter with the action-packed life of Spider-Man. The script also delivers a lot of laughs as the usual MCU humour is turned up a notch. We get to see Spider-Man in his best form due to this as he is quippy during his fight scenes. But the film as a whole is incredibly funny through its whole runtime, with side characters doing their bit equally to provide some great comedic moments. The great Stan Lee is also involved in this with his latest and one of his most funny cameos yet.

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' combines elements of a high school, coming of age film and an action, superhero movie incredibly well. It has great characters, humour and action that will satisfy fans of the genre. In a year of great superhero films, 'Homecoming' does stand out, offering something that feels fresh and isn't a carbon copy of everything else. This is a highly enjoyable, fun film that fans of the MCU and of the character, in general, will surely enjoy.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'? 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

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

'Okja' Review

'Okja' was selected to be screened at the illustrious Cannes festival and as the screening started, it was met with boos from the crowd. This was due to the film being made from Netflix and an opinion was formed that the streaming service was killing cinema. However, once it had finished, it received a standing ovation, showing that Netflix is only helping the current state of cinema by providing a truly great film.

In 2007,  the Mirando cooperation set up a competition where 26 super pigs were sent to 26 different farmers all over the world. These pigs were to be farmed for 10 years before the winner was announced in New York. Mija (Seo-Hyeon Ahn) lives with her grandfather who has one of these pigs named Okja and she has grown up with the creature, growing to love and care for her. Once the 10 years have been completed, Mirando returns to collect Okja to the despair of Mija. Once Okja is taken away, an animal activist group reveal the true intentions of the company and with Mija, they look to rescue Okja and stop the Mirando cooperation from their evil doings.

The kerfuffle surrounding the film being released by Netflix is nothing but embarrassing. As film lovers, we should welcome all platforms that make original and quality content. That's exactly what they have done with their emotional latest project, 'Okja'.

As the film starts, it is fairly lighthearted. The wonderful Tilda Swinton starts it off by explaining the origin and concept of the competition for these pigs in an informative but also light-hearted way. After this, we get to see the sweetness of the creature as we are introduced to both Okja and Mija, with the pair spending their time exploring the woods and catching fish together. Okja is made to seem like a normal dog, just massively oversized with her tendencies whilst playing, sleeping and eating. These scenes of the two together really help build the relationship between the two, making you care for both of them which is helped by a scene where Okja saves Mija from death. Apart from this, the tone is kept rather fun as it develops its two main characters and the relationship early on.

That being said, the tone does change quite dramatically once Okja is to be taken back to the Mirando company. We see the heartbreak that Mija goes through once she realises what has happened to her best friend and she immediately fights with her grandfather and sets off to be reunited with Okja. This really helps solidify Mija who is played wonderfully by South Korean actress Seo-Hyeon Ahn as she is shown to be a strong and independent character despite being at such a young age. The threats to Okja are made even more clear with the introduction of the ALF (Animal Liberation Front), a group of animal activists who want to free Okja from the Mirando's grasps. The group unveils new knowledge about the Mirando's intentions, adding more drama and need for them to hurry in their quest. The film goes through many twists and turns, each with plenty of drama and emotion to keep you thoroughly engaged in the story.

The Mirando company by their motives do sound quite generic, their own personal greed powers them to do whatever they want to reach fame and wealth. However, that may be true, in this situation it works perfectly well. The evil co-operation Mirando look to use this super pig competition as an elaborate cover up what they are doing behind the scenes. Due to the kind of business that they look to use Okja and the other pigs for, it does draw them some easy heat as nobody is a fan of animals being treated unfairly. However, the film uses the business very well, using gruesome imagery to leave an effective mark on the viewer. If a cliche is done well, then it isn't a problem and that is the case in 'Okja'.

One of the film's key strengths is how well written the characters, their motivations and actions are. The protagonists Mija and Okja are made out to be completely innocent making you feel and care for them being stuck in such a horrible situation. The villains, portrayed by Swinton and Gyllenhaal are used well, being charismatic and interesting yet still making you dislike and root against them. But it is the ALF who have handled arguably the best. They are technically the heroes but they aren't perfect. The members of the group the complete good guys who do everything fair. In fact, there are many conflicting situations that make you question their morals to an extent. This happens none more so than in a scene involving Steven Yeun where he betrays the trust of many others. The good intentions are there, but the actions they take aren't always in the same bracket. 'Okja' creates one of the most interesting dynamics I've seen which helps bring a true harsh feeling of reality to the film. An added bonus is that the characters are all given distinctive looks that help them stand out and be even more memorable. Tilda Swinton has one of the most distinctive looks with a strange combo of braces and white hair. The ALF are given slick looks with small differences such as Paul Dano's slick suit look and Lily Collins' bright red hair. These characters are memorable and cool and may possibly be your new favourite characters.

That feeling of reality is also which makes it very emotional for the viewer. You can imagine these events taking place in real life, with there being many people to do what they can to make themselves look great when behind the scenes, there are much worse things going on. The finale is truly heartbreaking as we see the large production of these super pigs. The ending brings one of the most emotional and sad moments of the year, with the great use of CGI playing a key role in this. If you are a meat eater, you will definitely feel a bit guilty for being so after watching this film.

There are some clear weaknesses though and very surprisingly, it is from one of the more famous cast members. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the eccentric TV show host and face of the Mirando company  Dr. Johnny Wilcox who at first seems like quite a quirky villain. However, this schtick starts to become quite annoying at times and felt quite out of place in a film that was dealing with a serious storyline. Although Tilda Swinton's character had moments of humour, it was mainly through quick wit or remarks she made. Gyllenhaal seemed to be too cartoony which seemed like the wrong way to take the character. Another weak point comes again from the humour as the film relies on fart and poop jokes quite early on. These don't work too well yet are repeated and feel really out of place throughout the runtime.

Bong Joon-ho made a name for himself in the Western world with 'Snowpiercer' and he has only built on that with 'Okja'. This is a tremendously well-crafted story, filled with great performances, humour, and emotion. This is the kind of film people should be seeing as it will strike you on all levels, delivering high, enjoyable, entertaining moments as well as those that will have you fighting back the tears. There are great characters, the CGI is used very well and most importantly, the film has heart. This is one of the year's best films so far and is one that many should definitely seek out.

Final Verdict = 

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

By Angus McGregor