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Film Review: Halloween

“He Killed My Friends, And Now He’s Back To Finish What He Started, With Me. The One Person Who’s Ready To Stop Him…”

Acting as a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s influential 1978 horror classic and thus disregarding and retconning the many, many franchise films which followed, Halloween circa 2018 sees the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode for a reunion with the iconic figure of the knife wielding Michael Myers forty years after the infamous Haddonfield Murders in which a handful of teenagers were brutally murdered by the hand of the ghostly masked serial stalker on Halloween night. Brought back to the big screen by Stronger director David Gordon Green, Halloween acts as both a respectful and intelligent ode to the Carpenter classic whilst offering enough fresh and interesting levels of substance which puts it above and beyond the many failed attempts to reignite particular horror franchises in an age when studios constantly feel the need to regurgitate old ideas for the sake of a quick and meaningless buck. With a barnstorming central performance from Curtis and a brutal, terrifying central antagonist in the form of Myers, Green’s attempt at resurrecting one of horror’s most iconic franchises is a resounding success, mixing classic genre undertones with ferocious slasher violence within a movie which indeed treads over very well worn ground but does so with an element of style and outrageous levels of joyous fun.

Kicking off by introducing to the audience a Myers securely kept within the confines of a particularly creepy asylum for the insane, the opening quarter of the movie takes its’ time in developing characters both old and new, particularly that of the now expanded Strode family, where an isolated and aged Laurie channels her best Sarah Connor impression by having used the majority of her life to prepare for the return of her own personal “boogeyman” at the cost of rejecting the chance to be both a mother and grandmother to both Judy Greer (Ant-Man) and Andi Matichak’s (Orange Is The New Black) Karen and Allyson. Whilst the majority of the audience are astutely aware that particular characters are undoubtedly headed for the chopping block when the inevitability of death is sprung upon the town of Haddonfield once again, it is to the film’s credit that once Myers begins his murderous ascent, the brutal and bone crushing violence is genuinely horrifying and knowingly contrasting to Carpenter’s original in which on-screen gore is sparse and heavily implied, and with genuinely shocking characters deaths and an array of tense set pieces, Green fully embraces and understands the essence of what made Carpenter’s film so powerful and simply updates it for a contemporary audience with alarming success. With enough clever odes to the franchise to keep the hordes of horror fans dancing with glee, including very familiar yet inverted camera shots and knowing dialogue which brings to light particular plot threads throughout the Halloween series, Green’s movie is made all the better by the enigmatic presence of the wispy haired Curtis, whose outspoken perception of the film acting as metaphor for the #MeToo generation also adding an extra layer of substance to a movie which managed to hit all the right notes, particularly from the point of view of slasher fans who will lap Green’s movie up like Michael Myers in a knife shop.

Overall Score: 8/10

Film Review: The 15:17 to Paris

“Do You Ever Feel Life Is Pushing Us Towards A Greater Purpose…?”

Renowned for a distrust in the works of finesse and instead obeying the rule of one take, one hit when it comes to his particular brand of film-making, Hollywood stalwart, Clint Eastwood, returns after 2016’s Sully, with The 15:17 to Paris, a somewhat similar tale of heroism and the remarkable workings of the human spirit, and a movie which features as its’ seat-selling trump card, a trio of leading stars who each portray themselves in attempting to re-tell the widely covered events which occurred upon the titular train on 21 August, 2015. Whilst not exactly the type of character movie executives would tend to disagree with when it comes to the creation of a particular cinematic vision, Eastwood’s bold and brave decision to allow the real heroes of the story to re-enact their own history is one of interesting possibilities, and whilst the tale at the heart of the movie is one of staggering bravery in the face of mindless destruction, The 15:17 to Paris is unfortunately a wildly misjudged mess, a movie which attempts to landfill its’ runtime with elements of backstory and cliched character arcs without any degree of success, and even with a concluding set piece which is undeniably well executed, Eastwood’s latest is a strange case which begs the question whether it was really needed in the first place.

Based on The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Soldiers, a true account of events by each of the famous heroes and Jeffrey E. Stern, the movie begins with a somewhat swift and overly jarring diversion into Boyhood-esque territory in which we see the childhood lives of Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler intertwine through tales of school-time shenanigans and dreams of joining the US Military. Whilst the narrative decision to give backstory to each of the heroes may have seemed crucial in understanding at a deeper level the events which take place, the first hour is instead utterly pointless, with the acting abilities and on-screen charisma of both Skarlatos and Sadler completely devoid of any positivity whatsoever, a outcome rather unsurprising when considering the lack of acting experience between them. With this in mind, the obvious decision to allow Stone to be the leading figure of the film does allow some form of success, with his likeable and openly flawed demeanour the main access point for audience involvement, but when the movie does eventually come to its’ taut and tense concluding set piece which brings together each strands of the story set in place, it is unfortunately too late, and for a movie to have only ten minutes of greatness within a runtime of just over ninety minutes, the wait really isn’t worth it at all.

Overall Score: 3/10

Film Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

“I Did Not Start This War. I Offered You Peace. I Showed You Mercy. But Now You’re Here. To Finish Us Off. For Good…”

Although the original Planet of the Apes movies are films in which I can apologetically state I have never, ever seen, with not even the woefully panned, Mark Wahlberg starring Tim Burton version being at the forefront of my mind in terms of movie catch-up, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a thrillingly satisfactory reinvention of the famous franchise, using the motion performance mastery of Andy Serkis in creating arguably the most effective digital character of the 21st century in Caesar, (Yes, I know, Gollum is probably more iconic) resulting in a duo hit rate of success with both critics and audiences and ultimately leading to where we are today. After continuing the success of Rise with the Matt Reeves directed, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, an adventurous, if rather flawed blockbuster sequel, Reeves returns this week with War for the Planet of the Apes, a third instalment of the Apes franchise before setting out and directing that film about that geezer in a cape who likes bats. With spectacle in abundance and an emotional yet wholly bleak narrative at its’ core, War is the best of the 21st century Apes franchise so far, combining perfect and sometimes staggering motion capture with top-notch performances and an array of cinematic nods which result in Matt Reeves offering the most effective slice of blockbuster brilliance so far this year.

Following on from the events of Dawn in which the Human/Ape battle is entirely in full swing due to the actions of the treacherous Koba, War begins with a particularly spectacular opening set piece, one which sets the dark and violent tone for the narrative ahead and one which builds the foundations of Caesar’s decision making in his battle against the psychopath figure of Woody Harrelson’s The Colonel. Whilst the 12A rating will open the film up to an extended audience, including the possibility of kids, War is no means a completely joyous ride, with the narrative undeniably melancholic and sometimes masochistic in its’ portrayal of the conflict between the two opposing sides, whilst the death count on-screen rivals pretty much any top-end blockbuster release within recent years or so, yet with so much darkness and dread encompassing the story, the concluding act feels almost like a substantial reward for an audience who feels every inch of the pain our leading ape has to go through in order to save both his family and his race. With winking nods to films such as The Great Escape and Apocalypse Now, with the latter’s influence clearly stated halfway through the action, War is boosted by the quite brilliant digital effects, effects which completely have you believing in the fictional characters on-screen and effects which showcase once again Andy Serkis for the genius he undeniably is. Grimy, grungy and gargantuan in scale, War is an excellent example of a character-based blockbuster and a movie which is made with such care and intelligence, you leave the cinema only wanting more.

Overall Score: 8/10

Duo Review – Ant-Man – The Small Packs a Punch!

DAN – With the release of Peyton Reed’s Ant Man this week, the mammoth of a machine that Ant-Manis Marvel continues to ever-grow and seemingly swallow everything in its’ path, regardless of the competition at hand. With Comic Con last week seemingly handing the hype trophy over to DC due in part to the explosion of Batman and TV related goodness, cast interviews and movie trailers, particularly that of the eagerly anticipated Suicide Squad, it seems obvious that DC are staging an attempt to sway the Marvel machine off its’ course for the time being even though they still hold the award for best comic-related movie ever in the form of The Dark Knight. So with DC winning the hype-race at Comic Con, Marvel have seemingly decided to take a seat back from the fire-fight for the time being and allow us to revel in the formation of a new Avenger in the form of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, the incarcerated criminal who unwillingly undertakes the role of Ant Man under the guidance of Micheal Douglas’s Hank Pym, a retired former S.H.I.E.L.D agent who had once previously been the occupier of the famous Ant Man suit. Where before Marvel films have seemed to undertake a very similar, formulaic layout, Ant Man points more towards the spectrum of Guardians of the Galaxy, particularly in terms of its’ high comedic value, something of which makes Ant Man one of the most enjoyable Marvel entries so far, and ultimately concludes Phase Two of the MCU in a rather cool and collective fashion.

The entire reason for why Guardians of the Galaxy succeeded so well last year was the unexpected turn it took from the rather similar and over-used Marvel film blueprint for almost all entries in the MCU up to its’ release, with it combining a underlying comedic element and self-mockery to the fundamental questionable concept of a team of heroes that combined a tree and a talking raccoon. Add in a scorching soundtrack and a well-chosen cast, Guardians of the Galaxy truly was one of the highlights of last year, let alone in its’ own expandable universe, and Ant Man swiftly follows suit by once again being another Marvel related success which combines a huge riff of comedy, due in part to the influence of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish who left half-way through production, and a wonderful cast, strongly spearheaded by the one-two of both Rudd and Douglas. Compared to the spectacle of most MCU-related movies, it was actually quite refreshing to see Ant Man take more of a low-key approach, with the action only really taking place in the final act of the film after some interesting and highly enjoyable character development in the first two-thirds, with scenes in which the miniaturisation was used in a hugely comical manner being one of the many highlights of the film.

Other highlights of the film included Ant Man’s accidental meeting with a fully-formed Avenger and the way the film included Easter Eggs and references to the MCU, particularly its’ attempt to signify its’ move away from the Avengers with Pym’s statement of them being busy “toppling a city somewhere”, rather tongue-in-cheek at the destruction caused in Age of Ultron. Such levels of destruction thankfully cannot be attributed to Ant Man however with the biggest moment of chaos being caused by an enlargement of Thomas the Tank Engine in a scene with produced chuckles from the entire screening audience. In terms of the problems, Ant Man does seem to bear resemblance to Guardians a bit too much resulting in a lack of freshness from Marvel’s POV, particularly when the latter was only released last year, whilst the plot thread of the Quantum Realm seemed a bit too rushed and jack-hammered in to be truly interesting. All in all however, Ant Man succeeds in being a rather entertaining and much welcomed entry into the MCU, and in my opinion beats Age of Ultron for best Marvel film so far this year. Up next, Fantastic Four. What a time to be alive. Ant-man GIF

Dan’s Score: 8/10

 

PETE – Dan has hit the nail on the head. Ant-Man was another one of the MCU’s films that honestly looked a bit naff. The trailers were lacking and it felt like the whole movie was pretty much summed up within them, yet like Guardians of the Galaxy, it was a huge surprise. The journey of an ex-con turned superhero was fantastic. Instead of dropping you into a story with characters who know their powers, their limits and strengths, we actually see a someone become a hero who doesn’t have infinite wealth or training to begin with.

The story was great fun. Ant-Man always seemed a but dull to me but Marvel have the uncanny ability to create characters that are so likeable and fun that make me want to run down to the comic store and dig into the back catalogue for a little more. Now as I haven’t seen anything involving Ant-Man, I can only say that I enjoyed the portrayal I saw, whether it is accurate or not. Paul Rudd simply doesn’t age and I’m sure for many years to come we could see him playing this role because he was great fun. His comedic wrap sheet means that he can execute lines on a whim and be extremely convincing doing so. Its the character that he can embody. Yet, considering Ant-Man is supposed to have a master degree, we really don’t see much about this at all but hopefully we can see it in his next outing.

It makes me wonder how people become evil in the Marvel world. The claims of righteous acts aren’t enough to justify it for me. When you watch a massive city/town lifted into the sky and the Avengers destroying this giant threat, why would you honestly think that your squishy body has any sort of chance. The ending for said villain was rather quick and honestly it felt a little rushed. The sequence was fantastic fun but it was to short compared to the entirety of the movie but nevertheless, it isn’t the typical way we see Marvel villains go and is rather liberating to see it so.

Marvel are great when it comes to visuals but it does feel as if Ant-Man’s budget was a little smaller in the CGI department as all the backgrounds in the miniature scenes lacked fidelity as looked very fuzzy. As for the rest, the ants look awesome and the giant scenes tended to uphold the general trend set by Marvel. The music was on point and the action was explosive and funny all at once. Is it better than Guardians? No. Is it worth your time? Hell yes. Its great and I really can’t wait until he makes an appearance in other instalments and we get a lot more cameos. PS – That SHIELD cameo was pretty damn epic! 8/10!

Overall Score – 8/10

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Triple Whammy – Jurassic World – Does it have enough teeth?

Dan – In terms of childhood memories, particularly those of a cinematic pedigree, the Jurassic Park series was one that I never wholly took to and thus never really had a set place in my heart like other childhood films such as Back to the Future, Star Wars and even Lord of the Rings, a trilogy of movies that did, and still does, have a secure place in my love of cinema. Sure, I recall watching Jurassic Park and even remember watching Jurassic Park III in the cinema as a child, but the sheer wow factor of the “dinosaur dystopia” in which Spielberg and co. had created never really excited me in ways that other films did. I recently watched the trilogy once again after years of them being in the category of just “seen it”, in order to discover whether my childhood had in fact been a complete disgrace, yet my feelings still remain the same. From a a much more mature and critical standpoint also, it was clear to see that the first Jurassic Park was clearly the best out of the trilogy, with it to this day still having moments of pure excitement and tension, but it then all being spoilt by its’ predecessors The Lost World and Jurassic Park III which were, let’s just say, nowhere near as good. So now, 22 years after the original movie, we have Jurassic World starring Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), Bryce Dallas Howard (Spider-Man 3), Vincent D’Onofrio (Daredevil) whilst being directed and partly written by Colin Trevorrow of Safety Not Guaranteed fame. Before entering my local multiplex, I was cautious of Jurassic World maybe carrying on the torch of another mediocre dinosaur film but as soon as the credits rolled it was clear to see this was definitely not the case. In fact, its’ almost as good as the original. Almost.

When scientists at the world famous Jurassic World theme park, located on the Isla Nublar, disobey rules clearly laid out in the first three Jurassic Park films such as DON’T MESS WITH DINO DNA, their new creation, the aptly named Indominus Rex, decides to go AWOL, leading to mass panic and mass murder on the island, forcing park manager Claire (Dallas Howard) and trainer Owen (Pratt) into finding a solution to prevent the death of not only themselves, but the 20,000 tourists stuck on the island with them. Seems like a pretty straightforward Jurassic Park style plot doesn’t it? And it most definitely is, but one of the things that I loved about Jurassic World was that it didn’t stop long enough for you to really care about the weakness of its’ plot with it constantly ramming up the dinosaur action up to eleven, leaving you continuously with a sense of breathlessness and feelings I probably should have felt when I watched the first film as a child. Not only does the tension hit home due to the surprising amount of bloodshed and death on-screen throughout, but also due to the expertly crafted dinosaurs that we are faced with. Each and every scene in which a dinosaur appeared was genuinely jaw-dropping and deserves a round of applause for the amount of precise detail that those tasked with the creation of such have adhered to. Top marks.

Of course, the film does have weaknesses, and weaknesses that have been current in the franchise from the start such as having quite a few incidental characters whom are used simply as cannon fodder for death-by-dinosaur on screen, and having an annoying tendency for making human beings seem actually quite stupid in the line of fire, but these weaknesses are glossed over by the sheer spectacle that is presented, with likable leading characters in the form of Pratt and Howard also doing well in solidifying Jurassic World as one of the forerunners in the 2015 blockbuster race. In a nutshell then? Miles better than the two previous Jurassic Park entries but maybe just below the original in terms of quality, Jurassic World is a bigger, bolder and cooler entry into an inevitably ever-growing canon of movies. Jurassic World, you have my endorsement.

Dan’s Score – 8/10

 

Josh – When I first watched the trailer for Jurassic world I was psyched. I had a lot of hopes for this film. Little did I know that what I was watching was the bloody highlights of the film!  Which did partially spoil the film. Yes this is done so often nowadays and I will always rant about it.Jurassic World

Yes being a Jurassic park film you can immediately tell the plot of the film, dinosaurs get loose, people get eaten, as the cast try to escape the island. That’s just what the films are about fair enough it’s good, however when it gets to the point you can tell who is going to get eaten  and by what it just loses all of the thrill and almost horror side which made the previous films all so enjoyable.

You would think after all the deaths and accidents from the previous films they would make more safety precautions to deal with the protection of guests. nearly all the way through the film I was face palming, if there was a desk I would be slamming my face into it I mean the stupidity of  characters its like they don’t realise that the dinosaurs eat people! Yes I can see them lowering the intelligence of the human characters in an attempt to make the “indominus rex” and the Raptors seem smarter but not like this! Also they know clearly state that the “indominus rex” can see thermal heat yet they still try hiding 2 inches away from it *face palm*. Also, little side note, Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, Beth somehow manages to cross all terrain from muddy grasslands to concrete while running faster then a T-Rex in high heels now I don’t wear high heels (in public) but I’m quite sure this is actually impossible. There are a lot more weird plot holes but I weld be here all day to mention them all.

Honestly I feel the whole kids characters to be slow and pointless and an attempt to copy the kids from the first movie. Also the character development was relatively poor to non-existent I mean the Nick Robinsons charter Zach’s whole thing with him staring at all the girls at the park was ridiculously boring and brought no plot development and if anything made him seem creepy. And the whole their parents getting divorced was already used in Jurassic park 3. It all just seems recycled. I will give it props to relating to the first movie at some parts to the film with the kids finding the old Jurassic park banner and driving the old Jeeps.

Though I do agree with Dan in that the first was by far the best out of the previous trilogy, however I would disagree with him in that Jurassic world is on par with the first. If anything I would say that Jurassic world has made Jurassic park look even better and they should have created more suspense in being hunted or made it seem more like a thriller.

So far I have been biting chunks out of this film, but I did enjoy it aside from all the plot holes and annoying characters it was good to watch. As mentioned by Dan when the dinosaurs were on the screen it was amazing to watch. The detail and action scenes were superb and thrilling to watch with impressive use of the surrounds such as the use of the holograms in stalling the Raptor. The magnitude of the dinosaurs are impressive and that’s exactly what I came to see, so much so I would actually like to watch it in 3D.

Josh’s Score – 6/10

 

Pete – Josh and Dan both bring very valid points to the table. I myself sit on the fence. As I was raised on these movies, they have a special place in my heart. They are so fondly remembered that I can’t help but watch them whenever they’re on. So perhaps my view of the latest is one of a spoilt critic with an expectation of greatness. Jurassic World lacked. It lacked the tension and the heart pumping excitement that made the classics, classic but it had throwbacks to the past that gave the sense of nostalgia. Yet here I am, with my ass on a white picket fence.

Jurassic World 1It lacked the tension for many reasons. The build was not long enough and the pay-off was a generic, predictable mess and happened instantaneously. It feels that the movie is a children’s one with an attempt to keep their minds focused on one thing for more than a few seconds without them pulling out their Iphones and playing Candy Crush. The need for the instant gratification ruins exactly what Jurassic Park is known for. Sure, the originals were PG but at the time, they were legitimate, scary thrillers. Now we have a 12A which sparks no fear or excitement. In many years time, I will show my kid(s) all of these movies and I could almost guarantee that the 4th will fade into their memory without a second glance. The only scene to really make me recoil was the abuse the kid’s guide got from a multitude of dinosaurs which was actually over zealous. Although the CGI was on point I would enjoy seeing more practical effects throughout.

Josh rightly pointed out the issue with the plot holes and this is really significant. Things are happening everywhere, but we never really finish anything up. No one talks about the women murdered by the Mosasaurus or the fucking owner of the park! The group that try to weaponise the creatures are whisked in and the need to classify information from the owner just confuses the plot even more. By claiming they have to use other creatures DNA to breed the dinosaurs, why is it that the hybrid has Raptor DNA? and why do I need to know about the childrens parents getting a divorce, how does that change anything and why is this child so fucking annoying? Among a host of continuity errors, I find myself mad that this happens so much and it was let out of the gate. Its either that the cut way to much, or more likely, they never finished. With production being back and forth for years, many ideas have floated about and some genius had the idea to smash them all into one and hope it did something. The general production suffers, not only the visuals but also the script and the music. With a script written by a child and music probably crafted prior to the film, nothing fits. Its all disjointed and doesn’t flow or create something magical and special.

I may be attacking this like a rabid dog but the reality is, this is a movie that has been created for the commercial reasons. They may claim its for the fans with a short appearance of the T-Rex but rather than targeting the original audience, you bombard them with more product placement than the Super Bowl ad break and pander to the child market so you can squeeze more money from the merchandise. Its feels cheap. As if they no longer value the franchise and want to abuse it like its into some sick dino BDSM.

There were parts I’m okay with. It was a blast to the past. It was something that I was raised on and the it has Chris Pratt in it. The rest is just a bit meh. Its one of those films that don’t stick. It lost its edge and for the love of god, stop using child actors whose character and acting suck. I feel too generous awarding it a 7 so I feel that a 6 is far more appropriate. Bring on the Lego game!

Pete’s Score – 6/10

Overall – 6.66/10

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