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Sunday, 15 April 2018

Movie Review - A Quiet Place


Horror is certainly one of the most difficult genres to tackle in this day and age - genuinely scaring the audience without spamming repetitive jump scares or creating inadvertent giggles is tricker than it sounds, and so many horror flicks in modern cinema are consequently met with mixed results. However, every so often a rare gem comes along, one absorbing, narratively compelling, and equally thrilling; one such gem has now arrived in the form of A Quiet Place, at the hands of acclaimed actor and now rising director Josh Krasinski.

A Quiet Place doesn't go into it's premises backstory with extensive detail, which isn't perhaps hugely necessary but may yield mixed results for many; in 2020, humanity finds itself largely wiped out at the hands of a group of powerful monsters with remarkable hearing skills. The Abbott family finds themselves one of very few survivors in the wasteland around them, communicating through sign language and scavenging secretly for supplies to prevent detection from the creatures hunting them down.


Again, not a huge amount of backstory is explored, which will confuse and maybe frustrate some viewers, but in the end such unaddressed concepts don't prove too detrimental to the overall story. In fact, many other key factors are indeed explained through subtle methods, such as brief glances at newspaper headlines within the Abbott's home; a clever if sometimes incomplete method of storytelling. Such subtlety also helps the unsettling moments nicely prosper; A Quiet Place certainly earns it's place within the horror genre, crafting a gripping atmosphere that'll keep viewers on the edge of their seats, and restricting the jump scares to moments that are genuinely freaky, not just a cheap barrage of loud noises.

What helps such a thrilling vibe prosper even more is of course the efforts of the cast themselves; Krasinski stars at the Abott father, Lee, alongside Emily Blunt as mother Evelyn, Noah Jupe as son Marcus, and Millicent Simmonds as daughter Regan. Their chemistry and development is strongly managed, bringing to life a number of heartwarming and equally heartbreaking moments as the story slowly unfolds. As for our main villains, their disturbing design and limited visibility for most of the story arguably benefits their intimidating presence, but they thankfully remain just as outright terrifying when seen up close on several occasions; it's this coupled with the overall pale and sombre visual design of the ruined Earth that makes all the scares occurring within it even more fitting and effective. Such traits all in all render A Quiet Place one of the best horror films modern cinema has seen in a long time without a doubt, and one any fan of the genre must check out as soon as they can.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Movie Review - Pacific Rim Uprising


Hollywood loves it's sequels - but it seemed strange to many that Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim of all films earned itself a sequel five years after release, considering it's extremely weak domestic earnings and fairly average global earnings of $409 million, rendering it far from a commercial failure but not exactly record breaking considering it's naturally colossal budget. With it's US opening weekend set to barely reach $30 million, it seems this year's Pacific Rim Uprising will also be relying on international takings to being recouping it's beastly costs. Reviews have also been less inspired than the original; is such mediocre reception deserved?

Set in 2030, a decade after the original, Uprising focuses on Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of acclaimed war hero Stacker Pentecost, who earns a living selling Jaeger tech on the black market, which soon leads him to a hidden independently made Jaeger built at the hands of young orphan Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny). Both eventually find themselves captured by the authorities and escape prison with an alternative to join the Jaeger program itself, a familiar and unwanted sight for Jake, which finds itself thrown into action once again when a number of unexplained rogue Jaeger's begin to reek havoc, linking to even bigger threat that ignites the return of the menacing Kaiju monsters and their sinister goals for world domination.


Uprising of course isn't going to win any awards for it's story - probably an obvious claim for those who've even yet to see it. However, what's interesting is the path the narrative takes as things get going, becoming more than a simple rehash of the first movie. There's a decent level of heart to it, and while it's emotional moments are cliché for sure, the cast portray such moments with solid performances, notably Boyega and Spaeny in their lead roles, and the morals conveyed are relatively touching if somewhat uninspired. It's this that makes the story a decent skeleton to link each of the inevitably gripping action sequences, and while a number of contrivances and daft plot twists do certainly pop up out of the blue as we approach the climax, it's all still, again, just that bit more than a dull rehash of the first movie.

Of course action and visual effects is where Uprising does stand out in an impressive fashion. The Jaeger's pummelling each other in many epic bust ups, mercilessly trashing every environment that surrounds them, equates to some superb set pieces that naturally make for the film's best moments. Some may certainly feel dragged out, and perhaps a little repetitive, but if you come to see the film it's arguably these scenes you're here to focus on, and they surely won't disappoint most fans. It's all brought to life, as with the original, some remarkable visual effects; Jaeger's not only look fantastic, but are animated just as superbly - and of course, IMAX is definitely how the film was meant to be viewed, as may seem obvious. It's story may be second rate to many, but at least there's a fairly decent amount of effort put into it, and, as I've made quite clear by now, the set pieces we're treated to alone will make Uprising worth watching for fans of such stuff.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Movie Review - Game Night


A premise I was certainly excited to see unfold when the first trailers came to my attention, Game Night sees a group of friends whose most recent weekly, well, game night, becomes something much more dramatic when a staged murder mystery soon evolves into one quite the opposite; with lives at stake and major criminals behind the scenes, it's now down to said friends to piece together exactly what is going on and put a stop to it before major repercussions soon come to fruition.

Leads Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams helm most of the story, supported by a lineup of similarly talented actors - Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons, and many more. Said well chosen cast help bring many of the film's best moments to life without a doubt, particularly Chandler and Bateman as long lasting sibling rivals. Whilst I'd love to of course say the same about McAdams given her role as Bateman's wife, it's hard to remain as interested in her persona at times given her occasionally excessive, hyperactive nature, rendering her an irritating listen in many scenes.


Whilst the overall cast is certainly decent and visibly talented, and all perform their roles without any major flaws, it's only really our aforementioned leads Bateman, McAdams (when not bellowing every comedic line), Chandler, and Plemons that stand out for the majority of the story. Of course supporting roles don't require as strong a focus on development, but the outright lack of it in areas also leaves some of the other characters extremely forgettable and somewhat bland at first. Similar flaws also extend into the overall story, which arguably drags a little during it's opening moments, courtesy of a sluggish pace and somewhat repetitive humour; it comes and goes without an awful lot of charm, but thankfully such standout flaws largely brush off as we venture into the meat of the story...

While I struggled to find the overall viewing as much of a consistent gem like many others did, it's certainly the second half where the story becomes just that little bit more involving, presenting us with many cleverly structured plot twists and balancing witty humour with some genuine thrills as the climax approaches - this is of course where our cast, despite their flaws, really pull off their best efforts, thus perfectly bringing a well structured finale to life. Of course one doesn't expect the introductory moments of the film to be in a similar category of excitement, but it's a shame Game Night isn't really as interesting when it begins as it is when it ends - for the most part, it starts off samey and boring, morphing into something far more engaging as it progresses, thus making it a fairly decent if unbalanced viewing for the most part.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Movie Review - Black Panther


The MCU continues to grow as each year passes; we now approach it's ten year anniversary with Iron Man hitting cinemas as far back as May 2008, and with each year since more and more heroes have hit the big screen to renowned success and widespread acclaim. Yet another example arrives in the form of Black Panther - far from the most well known hero to the general public, but one whose opening box office takings would make you assume quite the opposite.

The story branches away from the meat of the MCU narrative, taking us into the fictional nation of Wakanda, home to a number of supernatural tribes powered by the rich material known as Vibranium. Using said material to devise advanced technology, the Wakandans segment themselves from the main world, their actions directed by the Black Panther leader. Said role is soon assumed by newest king T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) - who then finds himself on a quest to prevent Vibranium from falling into the wrong hands following the malevolent actions of vengeful soldier N'Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan).


It's a narrative with a lot of depth and branches to it, so summing it up is quite difficult - those who haven't read the comic books may find themselves a little confused at times, though it does it's best to establish characters and their motivations in the best possible way, blending such development with a number of entertaining, beautifully filmed set pieces. Black Panther adopts a rich, stylishly dark visual style that makes it's briskly paced fight scenes superb to watch, and certainly leads to a lot of absorbing tension during it's more atmospheric moments. Thankfully this isn't just a mindless blend of action, however; the film does it's best to develop a cast of strong characters and mix them into the suitably complex story. The traditions of the Wakandan tribes are nicely captured without becoming too excessive, helping to establish the world around us as we head through each phase of the plot.

What I also found equally enjoyable about Black Panther is how it's almost entirely absent of any scene that contributes to building the MCU franchise and little more. Many recent films in the franchise that I've admittedly still enjoyed have had their fair share of forgettable moments that, again, simply exist to just merge other characters in the series together - Black Panther lacks such stuff, making it a well focused and consistently engaging story that doesn't branch away at any point to simply build the franchise around it and awkwardly link it into other MCU flicks. All these perks, coupled with some excellent performances, notably Boseman and Jordan in their lead opposing roles, make for a gripping superhero hit from start to finish; sure, the story, fab as it is, may be a little puzzling at times, and perhaps some moments do drag, but we're still left with a fine entry to the MCU that even non comic book fans can enjoy.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Best and Worst of 2017 - Best Five Films


I've already covered the worst cinematic efforts of last year, and my list of the finest is late to say the least - sadly Disney decided to release Pixar's latest product Coco two months later here in the UK and considering it's outstanding acclaim upon debut in the US, I decided to wait and check it out before listing my favourites of the past 12 months. Perhaps I've also been a bit lazy in recent times...so, with Coco reviewed a few weeks back, let's finally commence with a long overdue ranking of the best films of 2017...

#5 - It


First brought to life as a television flick starring Tim Curry in 1990, Stephen King's arguably most renowned novel made it's way to cinema screens for the first time last September to rather outstanding results, scooping up $700 million in global earnings to rank as the horror genres highest grossing effort. Such accolades don't go undeserved - thanks to a superb script, haunting visuals, and a fantastic lead performance by Bill Skarsgård, It ranks as a terrifying yet thoughtful tale, far from afraid to censor the novel's key thrills whilst also never forgetting the complex story behind it all. Certainly one of the best horror films I've seen in quite a long time, and one fans of the genre must make checking out a huge priority.

#4 - The Disaster Artist


Tommy Wiseau's masterpiece of bad filmmaking The Room remains an icon to many - and so a film based on it's development, in turn adapted from the 2013 memoir of the same name, was inevitable for sure. James Franco finds himself helming and starring in this retelling of Wiseau's adventures throughout his films' bizarre production stages, and while Franco's own re-enactment of some of The Room's most infamous scenes are not always as faithful as one would hope, his overall effort in capturing the detail and depth to each character in such a story is inspiring for sure. Ranking as a humourous yet surprisingly deep story, The Disaster Artist is also an admirable and reasonably faithful effort to retell a strangely iconic part of film history.

#3 - Paddington 2


Paddington, released back in 2014, raised initial concerns of being a beloved childhood character being forced into a silly modern, pop culture riddled story simply to cash in on the appeal and earn a quick buck for needy film studios. Thankfully, the final product was a loveable and superbly told family adventure, and this all carries over into the sequel with equally fantastic results. With our titular hero once again brought to life with superb visual effects and rich voice work from Ben Wishaw, what also makes this another loveable watch is of course the superb blend of tender emotions and big laughs - we're left once again with a film apt for wide range of audiences in almost every way, only building upon the many successful merits of it's predecessor.

#2 - Coco


Again, I had to see this first before making this list - it may have not even made it on, but based on it's overwhelming critical success, I had a major feeling it simply would. Alas, Coco certainly stands tall as one of Pixar's very best efforts, let alone one of the best films of last year, showing how the studio has yet to lose their touch when it comes to crafting beautifully original stories that help prove animation still has the potential for complexity and emotional depth - not just ranking as colourful silliness to keep the kids quiet. It succeeds in pretty much every key category for sure - it looks gorgeous, has a handful of memorable songs, and a rich narrative that has the courage to explore deep themes in an approachable manner, leaving it a heartwarming masterpiece for all age groups.

#1 - War for the Planet of the Apes


The Planet of the Apes series recovered from a downward spiral with it's 2011 reboot, which revitalised the central story with a well told origin tale featuring some of the most exceptional motion capture CGI effects seen in a modern blockbuster. Last year's War for the Planet of the Apes brought the central trilogy to a close, despite potential for more sequels, and everything you'd expect from a closing installment is met in this emotionally stirring yet still suitably epic sci-fi hit. Alongside remarkable special effects, it's the lineup of fine performances that also help bring a well structured story to life in the best way possible, notably Serkis as ape leader Caesar once more and Woody Harrelson as our intimidating villain, simply known as the Colonel, who lacks the amount of screentime one may expect from a major foe but this somehow doesn't prevent him from remaining a thrilling antagonist. All this coupled with gripping yet never overly excessive set pieces leave this a superb finale to a fantastic story, maintaining all the positives of the previous entries and treating us to a lot more to boot.

Apologies once again for the major delay with this post, but there you have it - now let's see how this year's lineup of films compare...


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