Wednesday, 16 August 2017

'A Ghost Story' Review

Casey Affleck under a bed sheet as a ghost, a quiet film with little dialogue and not a clear story, 'A Ghost Story' won't be for everyone but it is certainly the most unique film of the year.

A passionate young couple are about to move home when tragedy strikes. This loss takes the ghost of the victim on a journey about time, life, loss, and love.

Production company A24 has really made a name for themselves by creating unique stories in the sub genre of 'post-horror'. Films like 'It Comes At Night' and now 'A Ghost Story' are looking at existential dread rather than the usual techniques used within the horror genre. Due to this, it is moving away from the expectations of a horror film which is causing critics to love the film but the general audiences to feel like they're missing out on something. These types of films are becoming incredibly divisive and most certainly aren't for everyone - this was most evident as many people walked out of the cinema during the screening. It all seems to depend on what you would like to watch a film for. If you want something that will really make you think during the film and once you leave with the focus on a deeper meaning rather than on story, then 'A Ghost Story' is for you. If you're just looking for a normal horror that uses traditional scares, then it's probably best to stay away from this one.

'A Ghost Story' starts off with us being introduced to an unnamed loving couple played by Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. Soon after, tragedy strikes as Affleck's character is killed in a car accident, leaving Mara to deal with the loss. Whilst at the autopsy Affleck rises but under a bed sheet with two holes cut through in what is a budget ghost costume for Halloween. At first, this does seem incredibly silly but it does the job perfectly picturing a supernatural presence. From here we go from the current time, into the future and back to the past in this very unconventional tale.

Director David Lowery uses imagery almost fully to tell the story of this film as dialogue is fairly scarce. The film is eerily silent throughout the majority of the runtime as its imagery looks to explore several different issues such as dealing with the passage of time and with loss. This is all except for one particular scene where there is a fairly large monologue where a character basically reaffirms everything that has been shown so far but audibly hammers the concept of the film into you.

 'A Ghost Story' takes the viewpoint of the ghost rather than those who he is following or haunting as the film mixes time travel and loops into the story. We see the immediate aftermath with the ghost keeping an eye on the widowed Mara as she deals with the loss. There is a great deal of emotion in these scenes as we see the struggle of dealing with loss but also how heartbreaking it is that the ghost is there and unable to act or help out. As time goes on, Mara's character moves on with her life and due to this, it leaves an impact as she tries to move on from her husband, all the meantime while he is spiritually still there. Again, there isn't much dialogue and you can't even see the facial reactions from the ghost. Yet, this is so incredibly powerful as you have seen the loving bond between the two and how sad it would be to have that stripped away from you all of a sudden.

This unconventional story is also filmed different, being shot in 4:3 ration with rounded edges like Pulp's 'Disco 2000' music video. The screen is shrunk down which gives a more intimate frame which makes each shot more tightly constructed. The cinematography is also breathtaking as the film uses slow pans and stills very effectively in maintaining emotion, the journey home for the ghost is a great example for this. The film as a whole is incredibly beautiful and is backed up by a powerful score and soundtrack. The slow music adds so much impact to the film as does the original song from Dark Rooms. There is a scene where we see Mara reflecting over the loss whilst listening to her late partner's song in what is one of the best and most emotional moments of the year. The performances, music, and editing all combine magnificently, creating a powerful beautiful scene.

The performances alone deserve great praise, especially for Rooney Mara who mainly acts with the ghost watching over her. With the lack of dialogue, Mara has to use her reactions and facial expressions and she does so masterfully as she continues to show that she is one of the finest actresses of her generation. A scene which features Mara eating a whole pie in a 4-minute unedited sequence shows her grief in an eerily silent, unique, and incredibly effective way. The scene is also a good gauge for whether or not you will like this film as this is when the seven people left my screening. To me, it was one of the film's most powerful moments. Casey Affleck spends most of his time under a bed sheet yet leaves an impact. The film plays with some tropes of the horror genre such as why paranormal things may happen such as moving objects and random noises. The film looks at this being something deeper with frustrations of those lost being the reason which allows Affleck to really leave his mark.

'A Ghost Story' really is something truly unique and special there isn't really anything like it. The story doesn't try to horrify you but it will leave an everlasting impact as you leave questioning so many elements of life and time. Emotional daring and beautiful, 'A Ghost Story' is a slow burning emotional rollercoaster that will have you thinking about the film for a long time afterwards.

Final Verdict:

So have you seen 'A Ghost Story'? 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, 14 August 2017

'Atomic Blonde' Review

Everybody moans that every action or big budget film now is a sequel, reboot or part of a franchise in some way. Despite being based on a graphic novel, 'Atomic Blonde' looks to offer a new, fresh and vibrant story to the action genre whilst kicking a lot of ass along the way. With Charlize Theron on board, the film certainly fulfills the latter.

Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is a secret agent working for the MI6 who is willing to use any skill or weapon to stay alive during any mission. With the Berlin Wall about to fall, Lorraine must travel to the German capital to retrieve a priceless dossier that is vital to the government. With a few allies, Lorraine must do whatever it takes in order to succeed and survive in her latest mission.

Based on the graphic novel 'The Coldest City', 'Atomic Blonde' is the solo directorial debut from former stuntman and stunt coordinator David Leitch. Leitch has come into fame in recent years with his work in 'John Wick' that has received many plaudits for its sleek look and tremendous action scenes. It comes to no surprise that 'Atomic Blonde' at times seems like what the female version of 'John Wick' would look like.

Leitch's background working with stunt work is yet again clear as 'Atomic Blonde' is filled with many brutal yet brilliant action scenes. Leitch clearly knows how action should be shot, using long continuous takes to make everything seem as realistic as possible whilst maintaining that the viewer can easily see everything that is going on. These techniques were highly successful in the 'Wick' series so far and that has transcended into 'Atomic Blonde'. This is most evident in the truly brilliant stairwell scene where the editing helps keep up this illusion of one continuous shot in what is the best action scene of the year. The action is brutal and inventive as the characters use any object available to them to get the upper hand whilst keeping a feel of realism during the fight scenes. 

There is a slight noir feeling to this film as it the settings are mainly kept bleak whilst occasionally being lit up with neon colours. This gives the film a really sleek look which helps give the film an identity to stand out from many others. From a visual stand point, the film is a joy to look at and everything from the cast, costume, and lighting really helps make this possible. The film has a real sexy vibe to it that adds another layer to the film. Charlize Theron is completely enigmatic in her role where she truly glows which helps bring a new dimension to another action film. Her physical acting in the action scenes is to be admired as it always makes a difference seeing the real actor/actress involved in the big action scenes. Theron certainly will have picked up some injuries from her work as she truly commits to her role.

Although there are some great points and moments about this film, the problems lay heavily with the script. The story is convoluted and filled to the brim with plot points that are all over the place. The film clearly has the ambition to try to be this clever, intricate story that ultimately misses the mark. There is simply too much information and plot lines that the film tries to show and convey which become all muddled up throughout the 115-minute runtime. Due to this, you often forget about most of these elements as they are briefly mentioned or introduced but are then not talked not about again for a long period. There is some decent conflict within the film with the shady nature of the characters leading to some unpredictability in their actions. But there isn't enough of this as the film bounces between different plots surrounding different characters which are simply too complicated within the short time they are given.

It doesn't help that there is an abundance of characters that lack any quality that makes them remotely interesting. As previously mentioned, Theron is fantastic as his her co-star James McAvoy who plays a sleazy untrustworthy ally whose character and relationship should have been explored more to create a greater conflict. With there being so many characters, there is a great lack of emotion or feeling to them. Apart from Theron, you don't really root for any of the allies as you don't know anything about them. There also isn't a villain to detest which would lead to an intriguing yet entertaining climax to the film. Instead, it's just a lot of random faces that you are not invested in at all. Sofia Boutella's character Delphine seems to be the exception as there is development with her character and you actually care about how she progresses as the film goes on. We see a human side to her which makes you take an interest in her which shows that the scriptwriters were more than capable of creating interesting characters that you will care for. Unfortunately, this only happened a few times.

The soundtrack features many great 80s hits from the likes of Eurythmics, Nena and Depeche Mode that do install an 80s feeling to the film. However, the track list does seem very out of place at times, especially in regard to the tone of the film. The likes of 'I Ran' from A Flock of Seagulls felt very out of place during a car chase in what seemed to be a dramatic and serious part of the movie. The tones certainly didn't mix well which made some of the songs feel entirely out of place. With the recent successes of films such as 'Guardians' and 'Baby Driver', it seems like the film felt the best way to get success out of some action scenes was to blare a recognisable pop song alongside it. 'Atomic Blonde' is very different to these in regards to tone so it is no wonder that this same use of music was not nearly as successful.

Sleek, sexy and full of great action, yet 'Atomic Blonde' doesn't reach its full potential, meaning that the film will only be remembered as simply a decent action flick.

Final Verdict: 

So have you seen 'Atomic Blonde'? 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, 7 August 2017

'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets' Review

With a budget coming in at around $200 million, 'Valerian' is one of the most expensive films of the summer despite being mainly independently produced. Director Luc Besson has had the thought to adapt the comic book series for years, trying to find a way to make this adaptation possible ever since 'The Fifth Element'. Unfortunately, this project will go down as one of the biggest flops in summer movie history.

In the 28th Century, Valerian (Dane De Haan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) work together as special operatives who look to maintain order throughout the human territories. On a mission, the pair are assigned to Alpha, a striving community that hosts thousands of different and diverse species, each learning off of one another. As a mysterious force looks to disrupt the harmony of the community, it is up to Valerian and Laureline to stop them before it is too late.

'Valerian' looks set to join the miserable fate of films such as 'Jupiter Ascending' and 'Sucker Punch' by flopping tremendously at the box office. It is being reported that with the $200 million production budget, the film would have to make $350-400 million to make the film a success and merit further films. However, 'Valerian' doesn't deserve to be in the same category as those films in terms of quality. 'Valerian' isn't a good movie but it's nowhere near the terrible standards of those aforementioned. The biggest problem is that 'Valerian' provides an overall feeling of 'meh'.

The main story of 'Valerian' is a mystery surrounding a planet that was recorded as being uninhabited and was destroyed.  Simply enough, it is up to Valerian and Laureline to undercover what really happened and what is currently underway within 'Alpha'. Now make this makes for an easily understandable and fun adventure for the characters to go on. Unfortunately, the film is bogged down heavily by many sub plots that just weigh it down completely. The film's runtime comes in at 2 hours and 17 minutes long which feels closer to 3 hours due to its long drawn out story. There are many unmemorable sub plots that the film really could do without as the film really drags throughout each individual short story. None of these stories are enthralling or compelling at all as the film lacks that special something.

What doesn't help the film in any way is the script written by Luc Besson. The script is a tonal mess as it switches from serious to cheesy to comical before it establishes any form of identity or tone. Besson seems to have looked at the most recent sci-fi hits like 'Guardians of the Galaxy' and even 'The Force Awakens' and looked to use the quippy dialogue that will help build character whilst making interesting and fun conversations. To the dismay of the film, this does not work at all as the jokes and quips fall flat and when the story gets serious, it is tediously dull. There are some decent interactions between characters in the film but really nothing to get overly excited about. Again, the sub plots do not help this at all as we jump back and forth between many different situations and none are that exciting to demand your attention. Ideally, the film could've focused on fewer sub plots and dedicated the time to make them worthwhile rather than fitting as much in as possible.

'Valerian' is led by the duo of talented actor Dane De Haan and model-come-actress Cara Delevingne who seem to be horribly miscast. I believe that De Haan is a great talent, having loved his performance in 'Chronicle' as well as other serious roles in 'A Cure For Wellness' and 'Kill Your Darlings'. However, his character is meant to be a badass, cocky playboy which he is not believable as. De Haan isn't awful but he doesn't possess that wit or seem like a womanizer which are main traits of this character. Delevingne isn't terrible as Laureline but the character is much more level headed than Valerian. The two actually seem better suited for each others roles in terms of the characters traits which do not receive much development throughout the story. Rihanna also makes a brief appearance in what seems to be no more than a publicity stunt as her weak acting ability takes away from a moment that could've been more powerful.

If you have seen the trailer, you will know that this is a truly beautiful looking film, with a wide palette of colours providing stunning settings. The huge budget has been put to good use in this aspect as the world is incredibly detailed, with the use of different elements creating many interesting locations. With this aspect being handled so well, it makes you want to really explore this world and get to know the different species and the many stories that go along with it. It doesn't look like this will happen due to this film bombing which in itself is a real missed opportunity. The opportunities with this world are endless and make it even more frustrating that the filmmakers were unable to capitalise and start the building blocks for a new world we haven't seen on the big screen.

Time will look back at 'Valerian' as being a huge missed opportunity to create something truly special. The film isn't that bad to be known as one of the biggest failures of all time, it's just unmemorable and lackluster. There are many worse films out there but when you spend around $200 million, you expose yourself to heavy criticism. 'Valerian' could have done with a whole lot more care and with a better focus on the story and characters, this could've easily succeeded. It wasn't meant to be this time for Luc Besson as 'Valerian' is one of the most underwhelming films of the year.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Valerian'? 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 tme to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor

Thursday, 3 August 2017

'Wish Upon' Review

How often do you go to the cinema and the audience is in complete unison in laughter at a truly awful film?

After being given an ancient Chinese wishing box from her father, Clare (Joey King) now possesses seven wishes to do as she pleases with. Unsure of its power, Clare starts to make wishes and slowly uses the box to better her own life. Once her wishes come true, a life is taken in return as close ones around her start to be killed off.

'Wish Upon' joins 'The Bye Bye Man' in competition for the most unintentionally funny horror movie of the year as this shameful movie fails on all levels. As far as horror goes, you may not find a more poorly executed film in the genre in recent times.

The film starts off with a short backstory about this wishing box before jumping forward to Clare being in high school. Less than 5 minutes into the film and you can already tell what kind of an experience this will be. We are introduced to a cringy high school environment where an incredibly cartoony bully starts to pick on Clare. Shortly after, the two end up in an incredibly embarrassing catfight which is quite hard to believe actually happened. This is really not helped by the over acting and terrible script that is only a taster of what is to come.

In horror films, it is absolutely essential to try and evoke feelings of fear and terror into the audience through its settings, atmosphere, and events. For the most part, horrors do succeed at creating a creepy atmosphere even if all else fails. This is usually ruined by an abrupt jump scare but some form of tension has been created. With 'Wish Upon', there is absolutely nothing remotely scary or tense at all. This is probably the least scary horror film I have ever seen as there is a complete failure in build up and execution of scares. The film is rated 15 in the U.K. and perhaps without the use of suicide, this probably could've made the 12A rating. The audience doesn't actually get to see the deaths that happen as quick cuts are used to signal that something is actually happening. Before you see what finally happens to kill off a victim, there will be many cuts as the camera zooms out on an image of a limp body next to their cause of death. This is indeed before we get some of the most unintentionally hilarious moments of the film. The deaths themselves happen in such predictable and overly dramatic ways that are just hard not to laugh at. The bath tub scene, in particular, is a highlight for this very reason as it takes itself seriously but the events are truly comical.

What really doesn't help is that the film really lacks any good, interesting or compelling characters. There isn't really much of a reason to like the main character Clare as she is a grumpy teen and she becomes more unbearable as the film goes on. Her motivations aren't very clear and her morals are very questionable as the story progresses as she suddenly becomes so attached to the box. It is not made clear why Clare is suddenly unable to live without the box but hey, the film opted out of trying to be scary so why would it bother putting effort into its characters? The rest of the cast is made up of completely disposable characters who are incredibly generic and bland. Take for instance the uncle of Clare is introduced only to shortly be killed off. Using family members in this event is a good way to bring out emotion as you see a bond between the two and feel some sort of sympathy for the character. But with this film, it just skips over building any form of relationship that may make you care about them. Due to this, when the deaths happen, it doesn't have any effect on you. 

It's hard to tell whether it is the actor's fault or if it is due to the director. There seems to be an incredible lack of reaction to these events from the main characters despite what is happening. When you see your own friends be killed right in front of you, you'd think that the characters would be an emotional wreck. But in this film, they don't seem to be too moved or traumatised at the time of the event. Joey King isn't a bad actress and has shown her capabilities in 'The Conjuring' and 'Going In Style' so I'd tend to look at the poor direction to be the reason why. Everything just doesn't seem natural at all as everybody acts so weird at all times. Again, the weak script is largely to blame for this. 

As if the laziness couldn't get worse, the score is basically none existent. In fact, it is mainly made up of current pop songs that don't help create a tense or creepy feeling at all. Even the simple addition of some orchestrated music would've helped these situations and you could at least appreciate that aspect for what it was. Instead. its pop songs and stock sound effects. On the topic of using stock, there is an overhead shot in which we get to see the city where this is located. The problem is, this footage is not in focus and is not at the same quality of picture as the rest of the film. This looks terrible and is very noticeable and only highlights the lack of effort that went into this film. This was embarrassing to see in a feature film with a $12 million budget and only seemed to highlight that there wasn't much care or effort in this project.

 And that's the worst thing about the film. It thinks it can get by with its premise, simply being a horror and because it has a young up and coming star in it. The film knows people will go and see it so there wasn't a need to try. That makes this not only a truly terrible film but an insulting one as well. This deserves to be in worst of the year lists as it fails on all level. A truly awful horror that should be avoided like the plague.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Wish Upon'? If so, what did you think of this movie? 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, 1 August 2017

'Girls Trip' Review

It's safe to say that as a white Scottish male, I am definitely not the targeted audience for the latest all female comedy 'Girls Trip'. In all honesty, I wasn't looking forward to seeing this film and didn't really expect anything from it. By the time the credits were rolling, I could happily say that this was time well spent as 'Girls Trip' is one of the biggest surprises for me this year. 

Best friends from college Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Dina (Tiffany Haddish) reunite on a weekend trip to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival. On this trip, the four will rekindle their friendship on a weekend filled with partying and dealing with problems old and new.

In what seemed like yet another comedy featuring reckless partying with little consequence has surprisingly - to me - become one of the years best comedies. A simple premise that features four best friends reuniting seems like one that has been done to death but with 'Girls Trip', it feels like a breath of fresh air. The film combines raunchy humour with wild antics whilst developing personal issues that spill into the group incredibly well, creating a hilarious comedy in the meantime.

'Girls Trip's runtime comes in at just over 2 hours long which seems to be longer than your normal comedy film, especially one of this nature. You wouldn't think this however as the 2-hour runtime flies past in a flash. Despite a slow start regarding its comedy, the film soon becomes enthralling as the group is reunited. The four actresses involved possess fantastic chemistry that is absolutely essential for a film like this. The banter has to seem authentic and truly genuine which is executed perfectly by the way the cast bounce off of one another.

Gross out humour doesn't usually work for me as the use of body parts for laughs seems too predictable and not funny as a punchline on its own. In saying this, in the instances where this humour is used in 'Girls Trip', it is used to great effect. The moments are truly shocking and catch you off guard that you can't help but react with laughter. By building up a joke and using this kind of humour throughout the process makes the eventual punchline that much funnier. The film's humour is a bit immature at times but for the most part, it is well thought out and executed. It's refreshing to see a comedy that doesn't feel lazy and takes easy ways out to get cheap laughs. There is proper build up, progression and continuation to make sure that the film gets as many laughs as possible which is succeeds massively with.

The group dynamic isn't something that we haven't seen done with the characters possessing similar cliched personalities from comedies in the past. You have the wild one who doesn't care about what she does and doesn't think about consequence (Tiffany Haddish). There's the one settled with a family who needs to let loose after all these years (Jada Pinkett Smith). There's one who seems to be having some sort of crisis who requires help from another member of the group (Queen Latifah). And last of all, there's the one with the seemingly perfect life that doesn't turn out to be so perfect (Regina Hall). This dynamic isn't completely original but there is no problem with cliches as long as they are done well.

 These aspects all combine together to not only make a hilarious comedy but also do a great job with its more serious moments. With each of these personalities, you can see the conflicts of interest and this pans out very well in the story. The tension slowly rises between members of the group with personal issues of Ryan playing a huge part in the story that creates this rift. There is progression throughout the whole film with twists providing new information and effective drama that lead to an expected blow off at the end. And of course, with this being a film targeted towards groups of women, the main message is about sticking with your friends. This aspect is also handled incredibly well by not becoming overly cheesy. All that is needed is a speech that allows Hall to show off some of her acting chops to help bring an effective ending to this story.

This isn't a family comedy by any means and you shouldn't watch this with a parent by any means. But this film is perfect for a group of friends to watch together as it is incredibly funny with a great story and an assuring message that will satisfy its audience. 'Girls Trip' shows that I shouldn't judge a book - film in this case - by its cover as it surprised the heck out of me. This is the best female driven comedy since 2011's 'Bridesmaids' and I'm glad to see that this film is doing so well at the box office. A great summer comedy that is an all round good time.

Final Verdict =

So have you seen 'Girls Trip'? 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