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Film Review: Anna

“It’s Quite The Fairytale You Got Going On Here. From Top Flight Model In Moscow To Rubbing Shoulders With The Elite…”

After successfully managing to hit the grand old age of sixty, French filmmaker, Luc Besson, seems to have become slightly nostalgic in his old age as he returns to the type of feminine-led action flick which made him renowned across the world at the beginning of his career during the early 1990’s. With Besson sort of losing the plot in recent years with the simply awful, Lucy, and the woefully titled, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a film which begins equally as bad but then grew into some sort of guilty pleasure come the final credits, the Frenchman returns to the subject matter he knows best in the form of Anna, a clear modern-day incarnation of Besson’s own 1990 action piece, Nikita, and a movie which sees the relatively unknown Sasha Luss as the titular beauty who shifts from street-living junkie to globe-trotting deadly assassin within the confines of a screenplay which is as aggravating as it is enjoyably ludicrous.

With a narrative structure which jumps back and forth through different time zones more often than Back to the Future, Besson’s movie does begin in interesting fashion, with the opening hour utilising a particularly glossy sheen of smoke and mirrors as it introduces Luss’ titular leading heroine, a top KGB assassin working under the wing of Helen Mirren’s creaky, nicotine loving Olga, as she works her way through a number of high profile assassinations. As the movie soldiers on in a semi-effective, genre-literate fashion, the introduction of both the dodgy accented Luke Evans and cheekbone enthusiast, Cillian Murphy, as opposing geographical ends of a conflicted love triangle is where the film ultimately shows its’ rather annoying hand, utilising flashback after flashback in order to highlight just how clever Besson thinks he is. On the contrary, such diversions from what should be a generic, B-movie storyline ultimately makes it more aggravating the more it goes on, and even with an abundance of decent, John Wick inspired action set pieces, Anna is at least better than similar movies of recent years including Red Sparrow and Atomic Blonde, but too a movie which lacks that sense of cult-heavy wackiness which the early Besson movies stored in abundance.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Ma

“What You Did To Me, It Never Goes Away…”

With Blumhouse Productions essentially proclaiming themselves as the second reincarnation of Hammer Horror Studios, the likes of the excellent, Get Out, and the financially successful, Happy Death Day, have allowed the company to pretty much make anything they want with a guaranteed box office reward. Enter Ma, a completely barmy, over-the-top stalker horror which takes hints from pretty much every single B-movie ever, one which sees Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water, Instant Family) as the titular mother figure, Sue Ann, a lonely veterinary technician who soon begins a middling friendship with town newcomer, Maggie Thompson, as played by rising star, Diane Silvers,(Booksmart) and her own freshly found group of friends who quickly become attracted to Sue Ann’s willingness to both provide an abundance of alcohol and a safe place to party. Directed by the steady hand of Tate Taylor, a filmmaker who reunites with Spencer after their work together on the Academy Award winning, The Help, Ma is a solid and well made addition into the Blumhouse repertoire which just happens to have a particularly talented actress in the lead role of a genuinely unnerving and creepy genuine psychopath.

Bearing a very similar narrative to that of Greta earlier this year, a stalker movie which too featured a prominent and well regarded actor/actress in the lead role of a movie which was undoubtedly too schlocky and mad for mainstream audiences, Ma basically swaps Isabelle Huppert for Spencer and Chloe Grace Moretz for Silvers whilst adding a slightly more audience-friendly filmic texture. Whilst the movie never really evokes any sense of longing dread or threat to our laddish, alcohol and sex obsessed leading group of rebellious teenages, Ma instead balances nicely the absurdity of its’ narrative with a hefty streak of black comedy as you giggle your way through a ninety minute picture which allows Spencer to not only chew the scenery, but devour it. With the most menacing on-screen haircut since Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men and a personality which mixes Annie Wilkes from Misery with Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Spencer is undoubtedly the star turn within the movie, and with a couple of truly nasty, sadistic and memorable set pieces, Ma is not exactly groundbreaking, but with enough positive elements to make genre fans happy, the latest Blumhouse chapter is cheap, giggle-inducing fun.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Beauty and the Beast

“Think Of The One Thing That You’ve Always Wanted. See It In Your Mind’s Eye And Feel It In Your Heart…”

As per the norm of a well-spent 1990’s childhood, Disney movies were indeed the go-to method of escapism for a younger version of myself in which films like The Lion King and Fantasia were at the forefront of what was all and sacred in the world at that specific moment in time, and whilst the original 1991 animated Disney classic adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s famous fairy tale wasn’t exactly the top of my list of favourite animations as a young child, Beauty and the Beast has always been arguably one of the most iconic Disney movies to have ever been released, due mainly to the even more iconic soundtrack which even to this day is immediately quotable and enviously recognisable. Following on from the one-two success of both 2015’s Cinderella and Jon Favreau’s adaptation of The Jungle Book, this year’s Disney remake is indeed the famous tale of beauty and beast, this time portrayed by Emma Watson and Legion’s Dan Stevens respectively whilst being helmed by director Bill Condon whose previous directorial credits include the good, (Mr. Holmes) the bad, (Candyman 2) and the ugly (Twilight: Breaking Dawn), and whilst this latest version of the classic tale shines brightly in a wide range of different areas, the lack of originality and complete absence of threat reduce it to a movie which is solid but not exactly spectacular.

Whilst last year’s The Jungle Book was a movie which although was aware of the classic songs which encompassed the original Disney classic animation, it too was a film which instead of just rehashing them into a live-action scenario, developed and alternated them enough to both seem wholly organic yet still held a warm sense of appeal for those who loved the original so dearly. With Beauty and the Beast however, Condon’s decision to simply cordon the classic songs into his own adaptation does ultimately seem a slight cop out alongside a narrative which note-for-note follows the blueprint of the 1991 animation without ever having the nerve to swerve off-course and offer something utterly different. In the leading role of Belle, Emma Watson does ultimately seem the correct choice for the part, with her innocent and natural beaming sense of joy the epitome of a Disney princess’s genetic makeup yet the real fun of the movie is to be had with Luke Evan’s Gaston, the egotistic and arrogant killer who makes it his life’s duty to take Belle’s hand in marriage. Whilst the cast is impressive and the effects are magical in places, this adaptation of the famous tale is indeed beaming with beauty but ultimately lacking in substantial bite.

Overall Score: 6/10 

Film Review: The Girl On The Train

“What Happened That Night In The Tunnel?”

Much like the unreliable UK train service in out current state of affairs, this review comes somewhat a little late to proceedings in contrast to our usual disciplined services, due in part to my reluctance at seeing the big screen adaptation of The Girl on the Train, the ridiculously popular novel published last year and written by author Paula Hawkins, a novel in which I came to thinking it was something completely different, a novel which was indeed gripping in places but ultimately felt like a jumped up Midsummer Murders with an added slice of spice in order to fit in with the literary era of a novel such as Fifty Shades of Grey. Although book reviews aren’t a speciality of Black Ribbon just yet, Tate Taylor’s cinematic adaptation was somewhat something of a mystery on the face of it. Coming to the movie being well aware of the plot, it could have been an utter bore, yet with a cast that boasts pedigree left, right and centre, The Girl on the Train isn’t exactly remarkable, it’s just straightforwardly solid, featuring a stand out performance from Emily Blunt and sticking so close to the source material of which had the inherent problems the film contracts onto the big screen.

Where the film succeeds is in the casting of Blunt in the lead role of Rachel, who takes to the challenge of giving her all to the max, swaying in a drunken mess throughout most of the movie, unaware of her actions and the consequences that are the cornerstone of the movies’ mystery, whilst The Magnificent Seven’s Haley Bennett also deserves a mention for the conflicted Megan Hipwell. Aside from the movies’ two leading ladies, The Girl on the Train features a rafter of one-dimensional male characters, with Luke Evans and Justin Theroux being portrayed as sex/power hungry misogynist pigs, a cold portrayal of humanity in a film similarly cold and lifeless without much dramatic effect to keep it entertaining. Aside from characterisation, The Girl on the Train suffers from having the same problem as the novel; it’s just not that groundbreaking. Sure, as a two-part ITV drama it may have succeeded, yet on the big screen, Tate Taylor’s latest isn’t anything apart from good and for a film with such a cast list, I expected more.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: High-Rise

“You Are Definitely The Best Amenity In The Building…”

Everywhere I seem to look at the moment, the grand and overly eye-catching figure of one Tom Hiddleston seems to be there, from gracing the small screen in the BBC’s adaptation of John le Carre’s The Night Manager to being plastered on the front cover of my monthly cinematic refresher in the form of Sight & Sound magazine in which he speaks about his latest venture away from his most recognisable role as Loki in the MCU in Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, the long awaited adaptation of the controversial J.G. Ballard novel released way back in 1975. Being a life-long fan of Wheatley, with Kill List being one of the best cinematic experiences I can recall in the past few years, and featuring a cast including Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Jeremy Irons and of course, Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Laing, I ventured into High-Rise with a steeping sense of anticipation, anticipation that was swayed by the fundamental strangeness of Wheatley’s latest with High-Rise being an interesting case of a film that may need to be seen more than once in order to fully understand it.

Beginning with a pitch black sensibility, one that encompasses many of Wheatley’s movies such as Sightseers and Down Terrace, High-Rise welcomes us into the world of Hiddleston’s Dr. Robert Laing, months into his move into the titular high-rise where a certain turn of events have turned the structure into a world of sheer madness, a world where eating a pet dog is the norm and paint pots are the most luxurious item to get hold of amongst the death and destruction that is tearing the world inside the high-rise apart. The film then flicks back three months and paints a picturesque view of the titular high-rise, a rather obvious metaphor for the class war system in society, with the lower classes, formed of nuclear families and the less well-off living at the bottom of the structure whilst the ruling classes enjoy debauchery and excess way up at the top, with Jeremy Irons’ Anthony Royal, the architect of the structure, living life in the penthouse with his estranged wife Ann, played in full-on cabin fever style by Keeley Hawes. An interesting concept indeed, and one that Wheatley fully understands, resulting in a film that breaks boundaries of socialistic ideas and ideals whilst consciously showing a sheer bonkers concept of one outcome of class wars within society.

Where the film does indeed falter is in its’ rather bloated attempt to showcase a dystopian 1970’s world in which our hero Dr. Laing, presides in, both inside the high-rise as a laughing stock of the ruling class but a figure of interest to the lower levels, and outside in his role as a doctor, a role in which Lain eventually leaves behind to the feral nature of the high-rise. Cut perhaps 20 minutes and the film would have been much less of a drag at times, with endless scenes of excess and carnage eventually becoming tiresome towards the latter stages of the film, whilst the inevitable change from normal to mayhem happens way too quickly and without any sense of depth and true reason. That aside, High-Rise is indeed an interesting and captivating black-drama, one that suits Wheatley’s eye for the strange and the jet-black satirical humour. Not Kill List but a real win indeed, High-Rise should be next on your cinematic watch-list.

Overall Score: 8/10

Dracula Untold – No sparkly shit for Luke Evans today! – Review – SPOILERS

Dracula UntoldConsidering that pretty much every film that involves vampires recently has been dominated by the gay, teen angst, sparkly shit, it is a blessing that Dracula Untold got funding. Something that portrays the king of vampires as a real monster rather than a sex symbol is a good start in my book and hell, I’d hope it would be in everyone else’s. Rather than drag on about how much I hate modern vampire culture in media of recent, I shall simply sum it up in a small little section. Twilight is the scourge of modern media and its butchering of vampires actions infuriates me. As for True Blood, I find it piss poor. With some rather shocking motion blur and the constant barrage of sex, it leaves me begging for the return of Buffy and Angel.

Now to the real question. Is Dracula Untold good? Yes, in fact it is brilliant. Origin stories can go drastically wrong, especially when the history behind it from decades of film and TV appearances have shaped generations of media. Dracula Untold is the origin story of the one and only Vlad The Impaler who was turned into Count Dracula by author Bram Stoker. In the movie, much like the described events of his life, Vlad was enslaved at a young age by the Ottoman empire who he later fought against when he regained his power. Although what happens in Dracula Untold is not exactly what happened according to the history records, the simplified “Ottomans stole him, used him for war and Vlad killing a load of them” was actually true. This time around, Vlad was given 2 options, give up 1000 children or face the wrath of the Ottoman empire. Vlad had no choice considering the fact that he had no army to fight alongside, he agrees but soon retaliates once they threaten to take his son along with the other 1000. This eventually leads to Vlad becoming the vampire we all know and love in his attempt to save his people and more importantly, his family. Many writers tend to simply ignore history when the create a story but this way its refreshing to see someone consider the history behind the man but also tweak it a little to bring in the element of fantasy.

So we have a good story. Do we have good acting? Meeeh. Its alright. As per usual we get a unrecognisable child with the likeability Kim Jong Un to his republic. Vlad’s wife spends more time looking clueless and vacant with absolutely no stage presence among the rest of the cast. As for the rest of the cast, it felt like they just didn’t exist. We didn’t particularly meet any of these but towards the end we are meeting a lot of people who are so anonymous, not even the NSA know who they are. I guess in reality, the movie wasn’t about these people. After all it is named after him. I’ve been waiting for a good Dracula since Blade 3 (Also the reason I like to go by the name Drake!). Luke Evans isn’t a man of incredible talent. Its safe to say that he is good, just good. In this, I feel he has actually managed to fill the role of a character that has a lot of heritage and actually make a character I would like to follow further. Now once again we meet Dominic Cooper. An actor who has appeared in many movies as of recently and typically plays the bad guy. Funnily enough, he still is playing the bad guy but now as the Ottoman leader. There’s not a lot to really say about Cooper. He just about suffices as an evil doer but I want someone I can really hate or someone who can scare the audience. The one that was actually able to do so was the one who gifts his power unto Dracula; Charles Dance.

Visually the movie had a lot of work to do to create good scenes look even better. Unfortunately a lo of the screen had very little depth and it was obvious that most of it, if not all of it was recorded on a green screen. Apart from that, the action was great fun. A lot of the time it didn’t appear very clear but it was very well choreographed considering some of the movements that would take place when Dracula would morph into different states to travel the battlefield. If you’re an action junkie, you will love it. The general action is an almost constant state of brutality which has me giggling with glee from the get-go.

Sure, we didn’t know many characters, those we did weren’t particularly well acted and the real villain wasn’t scary by any means. A little of the story didn’t mean anything and some things didn’t exactly work out correctly. However, its ending was something enjoyed. It left on a note that meant that we could be seeing a return of Luke Evans’ Dracula with the Master Vampire, Charles Dance. If real vampires are your thing, you will get jiggy with this. Many complain about Dracula not needing an origin, but in reality, what’s the point in just refreshing him without exploring something about him with a bit of history. I guess that’s what you get from the Daily Mail and its ilk. Its a movie of good fun, violence and real vampires. 7.5/10!

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The Hobbit, Desolation Of Smaug – Review – SPOILERS

The Hobbit 4Hello to anyone subscribed, checks back or any other form, I’d just like to say that I have been busy procrastinating a report of mine and lost a lot of motivation to do any work. If you’d hit one of the multiple links to around the page, you can get notifications of when I post new bits of just take a look into the incredibly mundane life of mine!

Moving on to the actual meat of this post. Finally, after a year, the next instalment in The Hobbit series has finally arrived. Pumped up with the exciting news of Legolas coming back and busting some Orc butts, I was thoroughly prepared for moments of badassery and witty commentary. However, that is for a little later. My hopes were high for this movie. I have even put off releasing a “Top 5 of 2013” list until this was released. Unfortunately, it was a wise decision. My expectations had clouded me and left me grasping for more meat on the apparently succulent bones.

Getting right too it, one of my annoyances was the year gap between the movies. If you don’t have the time to re-watch the previous films in a series, it’s no easy feat to remember where exactly it all left off. But ignoring this fact, it is very easy to get into the swing of things when the travellers didn’t actually get very far. Considering that the story is no considerable difference in the movie apart from them FINALLY making it to the mountain of the Dwarven kingdom and the introduction of a few new characters.

The new/returning characters are really good to see. They hold enough screen time to really illustrate their stories and build upon their roles. Hopefully, it will continue into the next instalment as some characters were unfortunately lost in the mix and easily forgotten when you’re jumping from 4 or 5 different locations. My personal favourite from the Lord Of The Rings series is and will always be Legolas. He is wise, courageous and generous to those around it. Surprisingly, he holds more of a grudge on the outside world and orcs. Appearing distasteful at the thought of dealing with matters that do not concern his people. Coldly indifferent and yet struck by love for Tauriel, of which she is not permitted to react to by his fathers orders.

I'm so high right now

I’m so high right now

The elements really do show a much darker side to him. Something a little more raw and interesting, especially when moments refer to Gimli (Having not met until the Fellowship of the Ring, Legolas makes a joke about one of the dwarves son who is Gimli!). Now obviously, Legolas is not at the forefront of the movie, although he is a bit of a gimmick to draw in more sales, we do see this for other characters. Smaug; the giant ass dragon that is reputedly voiced by none other than Cumberbatch. I use the term reputedly for many reasons, one being that they did so much work to his voice, it sounded NOTHING like him. Genuinely, I couldn’t tell it was him. If I had to pick out of a list, I would have picked the hulking great big dude with the awesome moustache, not the lanky, fairly intelligent (I presume) Mr Cumberbatch with the face of a babies ass. Ben, as I shall now call him, also voiced the Necromancer, who also sounded nothing like him! Once again, as we see with Legolas, he is very much a tool to draw in money to fund Peter Jackson’s need for overpriced cameras.

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On the topic of overpriced cameras, which I would like but can’t afford but would kindly take to any offer that chooses to come my way, WHY THE HELL ARE YOU USING GO PRO’S!? I shit you not, a sequence which involves a lot of water, some barrels and general chaos was plagued by disgusting shots that dives under the surface with a lacking resolution and quality compared to the rest of the entire film! A big budget movie can afford something far more advanced than a GoPro. Don’t let a boy do a man’s job. I’m also incredibly shocked by a lot of the CGI. At points, it was saddening to watch. Nothing fit into place and never reflected the light and surrounding effectively, thus making them obscure and vividly annoying. It’s easy pickings but could have been avoided easily. It’s almost as if they handed me a fish on a silver platter and begged me to slap them with it because they have some kinky fetish. The rest of the footage was half decent and the CGI that went into Smaug was fairly impressive. Shame it was never transferred equally.

Now to the cast! We have a really big range of stars that perform their roles brilliantly. No qualms can be brought against them. Although he held little screen time, Luke Evans (Bard/Giroin) was a possible favourite of mine. He maintains an air of mystery that I hope is explored in the next film. Stephen Fry pops in for a short role, completely juxtaposed to the Fry we know and love. A pig of a man, driven by greed with an unkempt moustache and wardrobe to boot. It’s great to see him play someone vile for a change compared to the typically nutty guy who is always on the good side. According to IMDB, even Stephen Colbert made an appearance as is rumoured for the next film too. The Hobbit 1

The question to be asked about the Lord Of The Rings franchise is what draws us too it? The magical world?, an exciting story?, or just pure action? Personally, I feel it’s always been the perfect combination between all points and the action was always something that excited me. Vast battlefields and skirmishes across middle earth. The brilliantly choreographed fights that built upon elements of light hearted humour in a dark world in some of the most aggressive wars. We still have elements of the epic fights and action with the comic relief within them but we also have to deal with much slower action. The cause, blame and my hatred falls upon 3D. Because fast images in 3D will cause motion sickness and can’t be viewed easily, the scenes have to be longer to counter this issue. This also causes another issue. I prefer 2D. I tend to despise gimmicks and my beloved Hobbit has been tainted by it, marginalising those who watch it in 2D who notice the loss in pace.

Finally, one last point. If another movie ends with a cliff hanger as big as this, then demands we wait a year until the next part, I may have to sue for emotional compensation. I think my overall score for it will be a 7/10. I didn’t want to be so brutal but I can’t agree with the IMDB public vote on this one. There were too many issues for me to simply ignore.

So, yeah. Tell me what you thought of it in the comment section and if you could subscribe or share this about, it would be much appreciated!

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