Month: November 2016

December film preview

It’s almost December and seriously where has the year gone? It’s certainly flown by in what has been a…. well, less than stellar year for film in my opinion, though we’ve had some stands outs for sure – but enough on the past, we’re looking forward to the films to come for December and there are some notable ones on the way as we look on to the final weeks of 2016. (US release dates by default).

Jackie – released on the 2nd of December

Directed by Pablo Larrain

Starring: Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig, Peter Skaarsgard, Max Castella.

Biographical drama following the former first lady Jackie Kennedy, following the assassination of her husband John F Kennedy in 1963.

 

La La Land – released on the 9th of December

Directed by Damien Chazelle

Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons.

Musical comedy/drama set in Los Angeles, following a singer and an aspiring actress who meet and fall in love.

 

Rogue One – released on the 16th of December

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Starring: Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk.

The first ‘Star Wars story’ and prequel to A New Hope, set before the events of the film, the story follows a band of rebels as they work with Jyn Erso, daughter of the designer of the Death star in an effort to steal the secret designs of the superweapon.

 

Passengers – released on the 21st of December

Directed by Morten Tyldum

Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia.

Sci-fi drama set around two passengers of a generational ship in outer space, who wake up 90 years before they should originally have after a malfunction and can’t go back to sleep, they uncover other underlying problems with the ship as they grow closer to each other.

 

Assassins Creed – released on the 21st of December

Directed by Justin Kurzel

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillad, Essie Davis, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson.

Sci-fi drama based on the video game series of the same name as convict Callum Lynch is inducted into a program to re-live the past memories of his deceased ancestor Aguilar, gaining skills in the present day also as he discovers he is the descendant of a society and lineage of assassins.

 

Live By Night – released on the 25th of December (limited release)

Directed by Ben Affleck

Starring: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Chros Cooper

Crime drama set in 1920s and 1930s around Joe Coughlin, the son of a Boston cop, who becomes a bootlegger and eventually an infamous gangster.

Ranking 2016s' comic book films

2016 has been another year for the ever flourishing comic book sub-genre, with 6 films out this year alone, one of the highest amounts in a single year since the MCU took the world by storm in 2008 and 2017 isn’t about to buck the trend but that’s for another discussion entirely, anyway this year has had some of the biggest films in the sub-genre to date with both Marvel and DC brining out their big guns, to…. varying degrees of success. So I thought I’d rank the films I’ve seen from best to worst in what has been a fairly strong year for comic book films I feel.

Captain America: Civil War – 8.5/10

First choice is no real surprise, Marvel at its best’, a great ensemble cast based on one of the most popular Marvel comic book stories, Black Panther and Spiderman? And even if you put aside the stellar action, with some of the best action sequences in the entire MCU, you still get some surprisingly deep drama and well done emotional highs and lows, loss and real stakes for the characters in Marvels darkest film yet, where you finally see and feel the impact of the Avengers world saving adventure and how the world reacts to them, an intriguing concept for a superhero film. The cast does a great job and we get to really delve into what drives the Avengers as they align to one side or the other and of course, Spiderman, Tom Holland makes a great debut and showcase for his upcoming films and while he doesn’t steal the show per se, he’s a big highlight, as is Chadwick Bosemans’ Black Panther.

 

Doctor Strange – 7.5/10

The actual 4th film this year based on a Marvel property/character but second MCU film is of course, Doctor Strange, the origin story of the sorcerer supreme and how he became that, with some great casting choices and a great pick for Strange in Cumberbatch, who really captures his arrogance and intellect. Marvel brings it home with the origin story and tells an engaging, fun story with some trippy, fantastic visuals and with the introduction of a whole new element to the MCU in the form of magic. Magic or the mystical arts make for some mind bending action sequences, unlike anything we’ve seen in the MCU (though Thor and Thor The Dark World come sort of close) and it’s a breath of fresh air in all honesty, while there’s a great peppering of humour through the story to keep things fun and tempered in what is otherwise a somewhat dark story.

There’s no surprise with how good the performances are though with the calibre of actors present and Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tilda Swinton are brilliant, bringing gravitas and a grounded approach to one of Marvels stronger origin stories on film.

 

Deadpool – 7.5/10

Love him or hate him, Deadpool is kind of a character you can’t really ignore, he’s hilarious, self referential/aware and perfectly cast with Ryan Reynolds in the role, who’s basically kinda Deadpool in real life anyway, the film was a triumph on so many levels and a huge 180 from the abomination from the X-Men Origins: Wolverine character, with some genuinely well done humour, great comedic timing and a basic but engaging love story essentially. The action’s also quite well done and it’s great to see some X-Men cameo with Colossus and Nega Sonic Teenage Warhead who only add to the humour and make things more interesting, Reynolds nails Deadpools’ persona, which makes the film a joy to watch.

 

Suicide Squad – 7/10

Possibly the most divisive film on the list and honestly it’s a toss up between this and BvS, I’ll say it again – I enjoyed Suicide Squad, despite the critics evisceration of it and the hoo-hah around that, it’s just a fun, crazy film that knows how silly it is but still relishes in it, it’s got a great cast, with the stand outs being Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto of course, who are all great in their roles but there’s surprising depth to characters, which makes for some interesting interactions and moments. The action’s great with some well done set pieces but honestly the interaction between the squad is what really made the film fun for me, they’re so different and incompatible that it makes their journey enjoyable, that and the fact that they’re criminals or mercenaries and not by any means good, makes for an interesting set up.

Understandably, Joker didn’t get enough screen time which was a shame and the final third falls into generic action film territory but there’s surprising heart to the story and it’s a film I’d happily re-watch.

 

X-Men: Apocalypse – 7/10

One of the lesser liked comic book films of the year is also one of my most liked ones, I don’t love Apocalypse by any means but it’s still a fun ride, the X-Men are such a great bunch of characters that I was ready and willing to go back into that universe, with re-introduced, younger characters of course and the behemoth that is Apocalypse, the result is admittedly pretty by the numbers plot wise but I enjoyed it, the returning cast from First Class and Days of Future Past also contribute in making the film fun. The younger X-Men are great fits for their roles and are fairly promising in my opinion and while we didn’t get much of them interacting with themselves, seeing them come together to face Apocalypse was cool, as were the Four Horsemen, especially a troubled Magneto played fantastically by Michael Fassbender, Apocalypse himself is passable, such a larger than life character isn’t easy to portray but Oscar Isaac does a decent job.

While the film isn’t mind blowing, not the best drama or action film, it’s still enjoyable and a decent entry in the X-Men franchise, an interesting way to start off a potential new cycle of films.

 

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – 6.5/10

BVS is a film I’ve actually liked more upon re-watching it but of course it’s easily one of the most divisive films of the year, with many critics tearing it to shreds for its scattered plot which crammed a few to many things into it for some, lack of focus on the two titular characters actually fighting and with the film being too much of a set up/prelude to upcoming films – all fair criticisms but I feel people were a bit too harsh on Snyders’ latest comic book film. While not perfect, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had to see Batman and Superman on screen together in live action, finally, the casting is generally pretty solid and Gal Gadot, for the little she’s in, makes for a great Wonder Woman, throw in some great visuals and stellar set pieces – particularly involving Batman, e.g. the Warehouse fight and you have an overall decent film.

And while there’s a lot to unpack with the film but to summarise, I don’t think the film is terrible and it’s actually a good watch, despite the rather dark themes and tones presented.

Honestly it’s been a pretty OK film for comic book films in my opinion, in a generally disappointing year for films, we’ve had some great films out, some okay-decent ones but nothing truly terrible to the level that some critics would have most people believe, or so I think, do you have any strong thoughts and or opinions on the films present? Hate BVS with a passion? Feel free to comment.

The Neon Demon review

The Neon Demon is a thriller by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and follows aspiring 16 year old model Jesse as she moves to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams, the film stars Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Belle Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves.

Ah Neon Demon, you’re a film that I really, really wanted to like but you make it pretty impossible to for me, anyway the story goes as predictably as any small town girl moving to the big city with aspirations goes but with a twist…. a twist you’ll need to sit through almost the entirety of the film to find out and boy what a surprise it is. It’s hard to dissect and even review the film because there’s so little to it, I don’t want to say and almost never say a film is pretentious but it really seemed like Winding Refn was aiming for something profound with the film but shot way wide of the mark.

But hey, let’s try to go over some positives first, the cinematography, there are some decent shots present, Winding Refn showcases his surrealist style with some… interesting imagery and his signature lingering shots of characters staring blankly into nothing as nothing happens in the plot and Elle Fanning…. she’s okay in it, believable as the plucky, enthusiastic 16 year old wannabe model in a film with some pretty terrible acting. For shame Jena Malone, you’re so much better than a film like this. I’ve already started the bad but yeah, the acting is really bad, with some probably deliberately bad acting to highlight how vacuous models are but anyway you cut it, it’s bad acting, Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcote in particular are pretty embarrassingly wooden, showcasing some awful dialogue that reads like a script made by a 17 year old.

The plot is practically non-existent, things play from the initial premise as Jesse aspires to be a model, goes to modelling shoots and makes a model friend…. I’ve just told you about 90% of the story, seriously this is one of the weakest stories in any film from 2016 and pretty shameful from Winding Refn, who at the least can tell an engaging and interesting story, for better or for worse. I get that the director was probably trying to use Jesse as a conduit for his story, making the film more theme driven than character driven but ironically the film as shallow and insipid as the industry it puts on display, it’s so badly put together that it’s inexcusable, with zero impact on me, next to no suspense and despite some good looking shots and any artistic vibes you may get from the film, the result is a classic case of style over substance.

4/10

. Terrible acting, paper thin characters

. Shallow message present, makes almost no impact

. Almost non-eventful story

The Girl On The Train review

Tate Taylor directs The Girl On The Train, a cerebral drama following the troubled, recovering alcoholic Rachel who becomes involved in a missing persons case as she tries to put together the pieces as best as she can, the film stars Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney.

Girl on The Train is a bit of an odd story, a mystery thriller that works or doesn’t work depending on your investment and how engaged you are as the viewer, which does put a lot of weight on immersion alone, kicking off with a pretty non-linear set up, as if we’re looking back on Rachels’ day to day experiences as she recovers form alcoholism, she’s divorced from her husband Tom after marital problems and she’s trying to get her life back together. Noticing a couple from a train that she took into New York several days in a week and that the lady in that couple seemed to disappear, she and you as the viewer wonder what’s real, what’s the truth in relation to the events you watch. However the main problem with the story for me was that it just wasn’t that engaging or interesting – which makes the film fall apart and if you don’t pay close attention you will easily find yourself lost and drifting off, I struggled to really emotionally invest in the characters, even in Rachel played by the consistently great Emily blunt.

The story is deliberately a bit confusing and plays out in a way to confuse you , with Rachel being an unreliable narrator as the main character as we find out everything she recalls may not be as it seems but the non-linear nature of the plot doesn’t help at all and just makes the story more confusing, things happen out of order and time and as things aren’t really put together in any cohesive way, it made it hard for me to really invest myself in what was happening with frequent time jumps between the past and present. That being said, some of the performances are okay, Emily Blunt is great in pretty much everything and this role is no exception, she makes for a great sympathetic character and someone that you want to recover and generally believe, while Tom (Justin Theroux) makes for an initially interesting character but ultimately none of the characters aside from Rachel and Anna are particularly interesting or fleshed out and bar Rachel are as shallow as the story itself ultimately is which is a shame.

It’s a shame because the potential for a pretty good mystery thriller was evident but the execution was poor, with disengaging storytelling, dull characters and an even duller story, there just isn’t that much to The Girl on The Train, despite a strong performance from Blunt and an intriguing premise, I struggle to even call this a thriller with barely an ounce of excitement in the story and this is easily one of the most boring films of the year.

5/10

. Poor storytelling, struggles to really engage the viewer

. Confusing non-linear story doesn’t help in following events

. One dimensional, dull characters

2 years of Docthewho!

So yeah this is pretty impromptu (well I’ve been thinking about making this for a few weeks so not really) but yeah I thought I’d just commemorate me being on WordPress and doing this blogging thing for 2 years now, I started around this time in November 2014. And now it’s time for some clichés, the time really has flown by and it feels like just yesterday that I started…. But really it’s crazy to think that I started doing this just as a hobby. because I had a lot of spare time to be honest, because I love writing and because I love film and it’s just kept going, with some breaks in between and inactivity but I’m glad that I’ve generally kept on.

As it happens, there have been quite a few big films of note out in the least 2 years and some real quality ones, which have been a pleasure to review and I’e also enjoyed reviewing films from decades gone by.

Some highlights of mine on here over the past 2 years are the build up to The Force Awakens and my review, my 90s week and my sci-fi week of themed reviews from a while ago which was a fun and yeah I’m sure there are a lot of other things I’ve enjoyed but this isn’t an exhaustive list so I won’t put everything on here. Why do I keep on? My love of film of course and long may that drive me forward in writing and reviewing and well yeah, here’s to another 2, 3, 4 years and so forth and thanks to everyone that’s read, liked or commented on my posts!

Arrival review

Director Denis Villenuve directs Arrival, a mystery sci-fi drama about the arrival of 12 alien space craft around the world and the implications of that arrival as humanity responds to the inciting incident, the film stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg and Forest Whitaker.

Arrival is a different kind of sci-fi film, you may have heard it being likened to Contact and Close Encounters of The Third Kind and while such comparisons are fairly apt, the film also stands on its own in the quite unique way it both sets up and executes its premise, it’s a very character driven drama, maybe more so than you initially expect and Louise Banks – played by Amy Adams is at the centre of the story, with some pretty moving and emotional scenes, she does a great job, pulling off an empathetic linguist/lecturer. While the supporting cast is also good in their roles, Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly makes a great supporting character to play off of Louise, while Forest Whitaker brings up the rear as Colonel Weber, a gruff military colonel that wants answers and progress as he’s being pressured by higher ups but is also understanding of the situation.

The best types of sci-fi films exploit the human condition, aspects and traits of people with grand scenarios and premises, offering fantastical futures and settings to explore sides and potential sides of humanity and Arrival does a good job at this, the 11 nations affected by the 12 spacecraft (2 in Russia) react differently to their arrival and take it in differently, people panic and riot and don’t really know what to do. But I think that making the situation international rather than having one spacecraft in one country made things interesting, seeing snippets of how different countries and cultures react to and take in the alien presence and as you watch on, you could almost say that some nations represent certain aspects of human personality in the way they react, or at least that’s how I’ve read into it.

There are some strong elements to the film that contribute to a good overall final product, the soundtrack – atmospheric, grand and powerful, it’s brilliant in certain scenes with the aliens and goes hand in hand with some incredible sweeping and long shots of vistas, locales and of the spacecraft themselves, with no real technological look to them, they just look very alien, monolithic even and I’m sure that was the intention.

The plot progresses in an interesting and engaging way, starting off a bit slowly initially but developing to a fever pitch in typical Villenueve style, a director who’s becoming an expert of the slow burn drama in my opinion, he’s great at maintaining and ratcheting up tension in a story without telling the viewer all of the information, keeping certain things a mystery and that’s certainly evident in Arrival. And this may be frustrating for some, you definitely don’t get all the answers you want and elements of the plot may seem unexpected and a bit too far fetched but that being said, I feel like the story progressed in an engaging way that subverted the genre, while raising interesting philosophical and thought provoking questions. Importantly, once you’re immersed, the film does make you genuinely think, in what is an overall suspenseful and engaging experience with some great build up and a final third that may not satisfy everyone but I feel like it’s an intriguing, noteworthy one.

7/10

. Has some strong perfromances, especially Amy Adams

. Brilliant soundtrack, great visuals

. Thought provoking sci-fi

. Plot points later on may unravel the film for some

Don't Breathe review

Don’t Breathe, is a thriller directed by Fede Alvarez of 2013s’ Evil Dead remake fame and is centred around 3 friends devising a heist to better their lives with a proposed huge fortune by stealing from a blind army veteran, though things aren’t quite as easy as they would have hoped, the film stars Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette.

Tense and taut come to mind straight away with Don’t Breathe, a thriller in every sense of the word that goes from 0 to 100 in terms of its plot and plot events, you get your basic set up and premise and when things get going, they move at a fairly breakneck speed – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the plot is engaging pretty much all the way through. And I have to commend the premise itself, giving the perspective of criminals, thieves for example is nothing new in a thriller or drama, just ask Mr Tarantino… but the plot gives a spin on things, putting the ‘bad guys’ in such a gut wrenching scenario that you might just sympathise with them, despite their intentions. Well told stories can make you switch your views or empathise with characters you initially don’t want to and this element of good storytelling is evident here.

The plot definitely progresses along more interesting routes as it goes along, which is to be expected and it makes for expansion on what is a pretty basic premise, a premise that is executed fairly well I might add, with some great acting, though the cast is quite small, Stephen Lang is brilliant as the blind man – aptly named, he’s imposing and brutal and you genuinely believe he can take out just about anyone, one on one. And Jane Levy is awesome as Rocky, she has great dramatic range but I think she’s got talent as a scream queen, being very believable in her role with a very genuine feel to how she plays the character. Though with the good acting comes some bad, Rockys gangster wannabe boyfriend is particularly bad with some cliché lines and all of the characters bar Rocky do feel a tad one dimensional, though you can possibly excuse that for a film with an 80 minute run time.  The acting goes a long way to help suspend disbelief with plot events that may feel a bit far fetched, as the intruders all seem to be pretty terrified of the blind man for example and this plays out in several tense, hair raising scenes.

Sensuality, with hearing and sight is played around with in a few scenes and it only adds to the tension, knowing every sound to the blind man is dead give away to a characters location, things can and do escalate very quickly and there’s a real intensity to the action that makes it feel very gritty and impactful. I also like that events unfold in a visceral, unpredictable way as the plot goes on and there are some definite surprises along the way, the result of which, is a fairly engaging thriller with nice execution of a pretty bare bones premise that expands on its ideas quite well.

7/10

. Brilliant performances from Lang and Levy

. Fast moving plot, engaging throughout

. Some one dimensional characters

Ghost in the shell official trailer

So the controversial Western live action adaptation of Ghost In The Shell now has its’ first official trailer and for some of the negative talk has been surrounding the film, people seem to generally be looking forward to it and are excited to see how it turns out. I am familiar with GITS tangentially, being a pretty big anime fan though I’ll admit I’ve never really watched any of the films or series, the concept always intrigued me and a bit of Cyberpunk never hurt anyone, I find the fact that this film exists pretty fascinating in general, a big Hollywood studio wanting to take the plunge on a famous anime and who knows where it could lead to for other potential big films based on anime.

Scarlett Johansson is the lead as Major as you may know (the source of the controversy) but everything being said, I think she could be a great fit for the role but anyway onto the trailer, we see Major in her role as a sort of cyber detective/cop, showing off her superior skills with firearms, being part cyborg, part human in a futuristic part of Japan with nearly everything being connected technologically. We hear that Major was dying and was brought back from the brink, connected with robotics to serve a further purpose and to help others, the trailer seems quite visual heavy, with emphasis on certain aesthetics, the look of the futuristic city setting from afar, holograms inside buildings, Majors’ cloaking suit and overall the visuals look pretty great.

And near the end of the trailer, we hear the voice of someone from an opposing point of view, telling Major how her life was stolen rather than saved, I’m assuming this may be the antagonist, someone who goes against Majors’ intentions and the people that pull her strings. We also get to see a fair bit of action in the form of a few shoot outs, to give a taste of things to come, though Ghost in The Shell as a series isn’t as action oriented as the trailer may lead you to think, with some more philosophical themes and ideas floating around, though we get hints at this with Major asking who she is and seemingly questioning the world she lives in.

I can’t get into any real detail here due to me not being familiar with the anime itself but I sort of like that, not knowing fully what to expect myself story wise, I’ll find out as I watch and I’m pretty intrigued at this point, Ghost In The Shell is out in March 2017.

Happy election night, America

This is bit of a different post but it’s historical and it marks the conclusion and end to a pretty torturous albeit entertaining election campaign and an outrageous ones that, with its eventful and dramatic points, though I’m sure most Americans that have been following it are pretty glad it’s finally coming to end.

And hell, it’s such a momentous occasion that I feel like I simply have to comment on it, on this forum, this isn’t an overly political post or statement but I hope America votes logically and importantly that you guys go out and vote, not for that orange skinned buffoon of course but for someone with respect, intellect and actual plans for the future. It’s going to be a bit of a wild night but we’ll all get through it and hopefully we’ll be waking up to some good news tomorrow but until then.

Happy voting, I suppose!

Doctor Strange review

The juggernaut that is Marvel Studios sets out with its latest instalment about the origins of Steven Strange, sorcerer supreme, Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Michael Stuhlbarg.

You’ve got to love a new Marvel film release, right? Well not always but Doctor Strange definitely isn’t an exception to the rule, with it being well directed, entertaining and engaging, Marvel has clearly perfected its formula for engaging, humorous and engrossing films but they’ve also essentially perfected the art of the origin story for their characters in film. First of all, the casting, the film boasts a great cast with some really top class talent on display here, not strange (pun intended) for a Marvel film but they really nail it, Cumberbatch is a brilliant Steven Strange, adeptly displaying his initial arrogance, intellect and drive, while Ejiofor embodies the rigid and focused Mordo, while maybe not so surprisingly and despite controversy, Tilda Swinton is awesome as the ancient one.

The casting plays a big role in any comic book film adaptation as fans crave accurate, faithful depictions of their favourite characters and it works to the films credit that Marvel got it so right, they all work of each other really well, with Ejiofor and Cumberbatch really bringing their A-Game, elevating a few scenes to theatre like calibre with their intensity and experience. The chemistry is definitely there between Mordo and Strange and Wong at that, which makes for a fun almost buddy adventure type story, though that’s not strictly how things play out. The plot moves at a fairly fast pace once things get going and does jump around a fair but, which may be a bit annoying for some, as will be the familiar feeling to some plot events, Marvel has mastered their formula in origin films but predictably, parts do feel a bit formulaic but that being said, the story presents an easy to follow narrative which only gets more entertaining as it goes on.

Your traditional origin story is present with the tropes you’d expect – arrogant main character gets brought down to earth and sees the error of his ways (sort of with Strange) but there’s something different with Doctor Strange in the way it’s presented, with the mystical arts and magic for one of course, fully opening a new realm to the MCU and with the types of enemies and threats now facing Earth. The film is definitely a breath of fresh air, akin to Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of taking a tangent from Civil War and The Avengers in terms of plot and superhero antics. And with new territory comes new ideas, magic as it turns out bring some pretty trippy, mind bending effects which play out in some pretty exciting set pieces, from cities and buildings folding in on themselves to exploring astral and extra dimensional planes, some scenes are a visual feast based on the artwork of the characters creator – Steve Ditko and are brilliantly artistic and expressive on the screen.

That magical element adds to the action as well, making for some viscerally trippy action sequences, which do evoke scenes from Inception at times but again, feel uniquely like Doctor Strange, this isn’t necessarily an action film per se but the fight sequences are well done. Doctor Strange is a great origin story, well paced, entertaining and engrossing with some brilliant visuals, the casting is spot on and the story is told in a easy to follow manner which shows Marvels deft touch in making origin stories, while not Marvels best, it’s a strong new entry and represents the higher calibre that Marvel is working at now with the films.

7.5/10

. Great casting choices and performances

. Has some fantastic visuals

. Suffers form Marvels weak villain problem – though Kaecillius is arguably sympathetic