Dredd (2012) – Film Review

A considerably overlooked film when it comes to the sci-fi genre, ‘Dredd,’ written by Alex Garland and directed by Pete Travis (Vantage Point, Endgame, City of Tiny Lights), focuses on said character, whose comic strip in the science fiction anthology series: ‘2000 AD’ was one of the longest-running in the magazine’s history, being featured since it’s second issue in 1977. Merging futurism with law enforcement, ‘Dredd’ and his fellow ‘Judges’ are empowered to arrest, sentence and even execute criminals on the spot, and this modern film adaptation, fuelled by much of the same bombastic violence and sci-fi imagery, does a remarkable job of capturing its source material’s gritty spirit.

Plot Summary: In a dystopian future on the American East Coast, lies the overpopulated and crime-ridden metropolis known as ‘Mega-City One,’ where police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner. Within this city, one of these officers, the resolute: ‘Judge Dredd,’ is assigned to assess rookie: ‘Cassandra Anderson’ as the two are ordered to reach the top of an apartment complex and stop ‘Ma-Ma’ and her clan from manufacturing and distributing narcotics. But when the pair enter the complex, they find themselves ensnared as ‘Ma-Ma’ locks down the building, forcing ‘Dredd’ and his newfangled partner to fight their way out, one level at a time…

Technically a reboot following the character’s first cinematic interpretation with 1995’s ‘Judge Dredd,’ which featured Sylvester Stallone as the titular character. ‘Dredd’ is a far more faithful adaption, as while Stallone may have looked the part, it was clear that the film itself thoroughly misunderstood the source material. ‘Dredd,’ however, immediately thrusts its audience into a riveting and intense story, which considering how self-contained it is, also manages to fit a surprising amount of world-building in-between, hinting towards the many other districts of: ‘Mega-City One’ we could’ve seen should ‘Dredd’ have been a box-office success rather than the commercial disappointment it sadly was, earning a little over £41 million on a budget of £45 million.

Speaking only when necessary and never giving even the slightest hint of emotion, Karl Urban portrays the film’s protagonist: ‘Judge Dredd’ with extreme accuracy. Displaying Urban’s clear understanding of the role as ‘Dredd,’ just as he does in the comic strips, never breaks or goes through a character-arc, but instead, is just an incorruptible officer with no time for low-life criminals, and Urban nails this portrayal, even with half his head being obscured by a helmet for the entirety of the runtime. ‘Dredd’s partner: ‘Cassandra Anderson,’ portrayed by Olivia Thirlby, is also a compelling character, demonstrating a level of skill far below her superior, yet possessing psychic abilities which make her too valuable to dismiss. Lastly, there is ‘Ma-Ma,’ the film’s antagonist who was originally written as an elderly woman before Lena Headey convinced Alex Garland to make her a middle-aged misandrist. And although there isn’t the same depth to her character as ‘Dredd’ or his rookie partner, ‘Ma-Ma’ is still a convincing felon, as Headey portrays a ruthless individual living in an equally ruthless world.

Playing into the idea of this post-apocalyptic world being in constant disarray, the ‘Dredd’s grimy set-design along with its murky brown colour palette present ‘Mega-City One’ (a.k.a. Johannesburg with some CG enhancements) as a rundown metropolis with similarly rundown technology, as the filthy hallways of the apartment complex: ‘Peach Trees’ are continuously permeated with litter and spraypainted walls. Moreover, the film is given a great sense of style through the energetic camerawork by Anthony Dod Mantle and smooth integration of CG effects, which outside of a few scenes where the film fully indulges in graphic violence by having blood flung towards the camera, have aged admirably.

As you’d expect from a pessimistic sci-fi film, the original score by Paul Leonard-Morgan is both rousing and brooding, with tracks such as: ‘Mega-City One’ and ‘You Look Ready’ all perfectly accompanying what’s on-screen through their heady mix of guitar riffs and thumping electronic beats. Making for a score that even with twenty-two distinct tracks, has no real filler, as every piece flawlessly correlates with the film’s fast-paced action.

Continuing to be true to the original comic strip, ‘Dredd’s primary form of transportation; the ‘Lawmaster’ motorcycle, is faithfully recreated for the film, as the production team created a series of functional bikes for filming. They achieved this by having the chassis of normal bikes extended and then adding custom fairings, as well as fitting the bikes with larger tires so they could remain operable. In a similar sense, ‘Dredd’s iconic outfit is also recreated, only being modified slightly to give the suit a sleeker, more modernised look.

In summary, though many may see this sci-fi action-thriller as pure style-over-substance and nothing else, ‘Dredd’ is a film deeply committed to the genres it’s trying to represent. With thrilling action sequences, substantial world-building and impressive visual effects all rooted in deadpan humour, ‘Dredd’ is a more than entertaining ride. And in a world full of compromised adaptations, this film is something of a triumph, as ‘Dredd’ avoids the common misstep adaptations tend to take where the final product ends-up bearing little resemblance to its source material aside from the title, as self-indulgent screenwriters/directors make whatever changes they desire without much thought or consideration. Final Rating: low 8/10.

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The Mummy (2017) – Film Review

When Universal Pictures first announced their plans to build a cinematic universe based around their gallery of iconic monsters, general audiences seemed to roll their eyes at the idea, seeing the forthcoming franchise as nothing more than a shameless attempt to copy and paste the formula of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the hopes of making the same box-office returns. Nevertheless, Universal continued with their plan, releasing the first instalment of the series in 2017 with ‘The Mummy,’ a film which even with the star-power of Tom Cruise, failed miserably both critically and commercially, instantly destroying any plans for the future of the franchise and embarrassingly leaving the Dark Universe with a single film to its name.

Plot Summary: Once destined to rule all of Egypt, the beautiful princess: ‘Ahmanet’ sees her birth-right stolen from her when her father begets an heir. Knowing this boy would be the Pharaoh’s new successor, ‘Ahmanet’ turns to a dark deity, selling her soul for an unholy power, for which, she is captured by the Pharaoh’s priests, mummified alive and buried in a tomb far from Egypt. Five thousand years later, opportunistic U.S. Army reconnaissance sergeant: ‘Nick Morton,’ accidentally discovers her tomb during a firefight in the Middle East, and once venturing inside, inadvertently sets her free…

According to a number of reports, Tom Cruise not only starred in ‘The Mummy,’ but also has an excessive amount of control over the film, having creative oversight on nearly every aspect of the production. So much so, that Cruise even had influence on the film’s screenplay, as it’s been stated that Cruise had his personal writing team rewrite certain scenes to give his character more screen-time and a more dramatic character-arc, and even though most Universal executives weren’t thrilled about the rewrite, feeling it was disjointed and insipid, they reluctantly agreed to keep Cruise on-board. Regardless, Universal Pictures soon saw the fallacy in their blind faith towards Cruise, as despite ‘The Mummy’ earning nearly £300 million worldwide, it was still considered a financial flop when taking into account its immense marketing campaign, which promoted the film purely as the franchise-vehicle it is as opposed to a riveting blockbuster.

Having both her design and gender altered to avoid any similarities with the titular villain of: ‘X-Men: Apocalypse,’ which released just a year prior, ‘The Mummy/Ahmanet’ herself portrayed by Sofia Boutella, is remarkably forgettable, never developing into a compelling or even threating antagonist, which should be nearly impossible considering ‘The Mummy’ fills over a quarter of its runtime with extensive exposition regarding her backstory and sinister motives. Likewise, the actual protagonist of the film: ‘Nick Morton,’ rarely benefits from Cruise’s natural charisma and wit, as ‘Nick’ is simply an unlikeable character, emerging as a foolish, self-centred adventurer and leaving in the exact same manner, in addition to being miraculously skilled with/in every type of firearm and hand-to-hand combat, of course.

When it comes to visuals, the film’s cinematography by Ben Seresin is generally visually pleasing, resulting in a fair share of alluring wide-shots, yet much of the film’s beauty is consequently hindered by its ghastly colour palette, which hardly ever strays away from greys, blacks and beiges, an issue that is only worsened by the prosaic setting of modern-day London. Furthermore, the film’s action sequences (which are less frequent than most would expect) are fairly unimpressive, with many of the story’s thrilling moments having an over-reliance on apace editing and CG creatures. That is, with the exception of the stunt work, which due to Cruise’s heavy input on the film, is mostly practical and just as awe-inspiring as the stunts in the ‘Mission Impossible’ series, no thanks to director Alex Kurtzman (People Like Us).

Built around two central themes with various less significant tracks cropping-up in-between, the film’s original score by Bryan Tyler is serviceable for the most part, balancing its two main tracks of: ‘The Mummy’ and ‘Nick’s Theme’ before then switching to far more dramatic orchestral tracks like ‘Sandstorm,’ ‘Enchantments’ and ‘World of Monsters’ for the film’s larger-scale set-pieces and handful of brief horror/dream sequences.

Interestingly, ‘The Mummy’ wasn’t actually Universal’s first venture into crafting a cinematic universe of monsters, as the company originally envisioned 2014’s reboot of the renowned vampire: ‘Dracula Untold’ as the first instalment in the series. There was even early talk of: ‘Dracula’ appearing in ‘The Mummy,’ but this idea was ultimately scrapped, and the film was eventually cited as non-canon. However, there are still several props alluding to other monsters within the film, as a vampire skull along with the ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’s hand can both be seen in ‘Dr. Jekyll’s headquarters.

In all honesty, I feel it’s easy to see why many avoided ‘The Mummy’ when it first released back in 2017, as this film was merely Universal’s first attempt at revitalising the many well-known creatures locked away in their vault by lazily repackaging them for a new generation. The issue being that general audiences had little interest in this concept, and those that did quickly lost their engrossment as the film failed to capture even a fraction of the adventurous spirit present throughout the ’90s reboot. Instead, it seems ‘The Mummy’ will simply be lost to time, unremembered and disregarded. Final Rating: low 3/10.

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Hellboy (2019) – Film Review

In mid 2012, actor Ron Perlman once again endured the four hour makeup routine required to transform him into his iconic character: ‘Hellboy’ and fulfil the Make-A-Wish request of a six-year-old boy with leukaemia. Director Guillermo del Toro was so touched by this event that it inspired him to start production on a third: ‘Hellboy’ instalment. But following a dispute between del Toro and producer Mike Mignola, the project was soon cancelled, and instead, Mignola and his team began work on a reboot of the franchise, which finally released in 2019 to truly abysmal results.

Plot Summary: Whilst working side-by-side with his adopted father for the ‘Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence.’ ‘Hellboy,’ a supernatural creature who came into our world in 1944 as a result of a demonic Nazi ritual, struggles to accept which world he belongs to, that being one of monsters, or one of men. All the while, an evil sorceress known as ‘The Blood Queen,’ returns to the modern world, eager to take her revenge on humanity for imprisoning her centuries ago…

According to producer Mike Mignola, the intention with this reboot was to replicant a style and tone closer to that of the original source material, as despite del Toro’s version of: ‘Hellboy’ often being light-hearted aside from one or two disturbing moments, the original comic series created by Mike Mignola is, in reality, far darker and more gruesome. And whilst this goal of wanting to make a ‘Hellboy’ film more horror/fantasy-oriented rather than just a typical superhero blockbuster is commendable, this reboot of the series continuously stumbles due to this tonal shift, even with talented director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers) overseeing the project. Yet this is only one of the film’s many problems, as it’s hard to sit through even a single viewing of: ‘Hellboy’ without noticing the film’s incredibly fast-pacing, awful comedic moments, and beyond messy plot, which for some reason draws from four separate comic book storylines.

‘Hellboy,’ or particularly, David Harbour’s performance as the titular character, is possibly the film’s finest aspect, as rather than just lazily mimicking Perlman’s beloved version of the character, Harbour displays a less mature interpretation of the superhero. Portraying the horned hero as a conflicted character, younger and stronger than Perlman’s version, but unsure as to if he is a real hero, which is an interesting internal conflict to explore and about the only element of the film that is consistent. Then there is Ian McShane as ‘Hellboy’s father figure, who is serviceable in his role alongside Milla Jovovich as the villainous: ‘Blood Queen,’ who unfortunately, gives one of the most over-the-top performances of her entire career here.

Aside from the small detail of the filmmakers ensuring the colour red is never present in the same scenes as ‘Hellboy’ himself (excluding scenes where blood is shed, of course), the cinematography by Lorenzo Senatore is your usual affair for a superhero flick, having a handful of pleasant shots scattered amongst the plethora of bland hand-held camerawork utilised for action scenes and grand moments of destruction. But regardless of how impressive the cinematography may or may not be, there is no distracting from the film’s unappealing CG effects, as in spite of the creature department clearly trying their best with the detailed costumes and prosthetic make-up on display, nearly all of the CG effects throughout ‘Hellboy’ appear instantly dated.

The original score by Benjamin Wallfisch is a peculiar concoction, being an odd mish-mash of orchestral and electronic tracks which only succeed in making the soundtrack feel quite dull when it’s not overly loud and irritating. Or at least, that’s the score before mentioning it’s use of electric guitars, which try desperately to present the soundtrack as something ‘awesome,’ but only emerges as annoying at best, with the film’s signature track: ‘Big Red’ being the biggest offender for this.

However, an aspect of the film that is more in line with del Toro’s previous ‘Hellboy’ adaptation is its creatures, as although the effects that bring them to life aren’t impeccable, the actual creature designs are truly something be admired, with the ‘Hellboy’ comics clearly providing the filmmakers with plenty of visual influence. Even ‘Hellboy’s redesign was inspired by David Harbour’s own features, with the effects team adding a larger jaw and a heavier brow to further fit with Harbour’s facial structure.

To conclude, while I can appreciate the effort that went into ‘Hellboy’ in some areas, the film’s flaws are just so evident its nearly impossible to ignore them. From its convoluted and overstuffed story to its dreadful CG effects, ‘Hellboy’s thrilling moments of action or amusing dark humour are minor when compared to its faults. Yet by far the most frustrating part of this reboot is that it stripped away our final chance of seeing a third entry in the original: ‘Hellboy’ series, an instalment myself and many other fans of this beloved character had been wanting to see for quite some time. Instead, we’re now stuck with this disappointing reboot, which failed miserably to reignite the spark of excitement in this superhero franchise. Final Rating: low 3/10.

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This Year in Film (2020) – Film List

Due to COVID-19, the film industry (much like the world itself) has deeply suffered this year, with many films be pushed-back or even put on-hold indefinitely. And while I obviously agree with all of the new precautions introduced for the safety of both the cast and crew for films currently in production, I’m also truly hoping that the film industry can recover by next year. Regardless, in no particular order, here’s my thoughts on what few films I did manage to see this year, which I will update in time as I get around to seeing any other films I may have missed.

Soul

A return to form for Pixar Animation, Pixar’s ‘Soul’ not only features the usual gorgeous animation the company is known for, but also delivers on an original and unique story with many fascinating ideas melded within. Although some of its concepts may be a little difficult for younger viewers to understand, ‘Soul’ is still a wonderful mixture of heart and creativity, and is such a breath of fresh air for both the animated genre and Pixar themselves.

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Mank

Capturing the look and feel of a 1940s film, the sharply written and brilliantly performed: ‘Mank,’ peers behind-the-scenes of one of the greatest films ever made, that being: ‘Citizen Kane,’ to tell an old Hollywood tale that is just as engaging as it is well crafted. And while I don’t believe the film will end-up becoming a classic in its own right, as I could see general audiences finding the film quite dull, cinephiles will surely get a kick out of this remarkable drama.

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Tenet

Thrilling and distinctive yet very flawed in terms of its writing, ‘Tenet’ is nowhere near as compelling as many of Christopher Nolan’s other blockbusters, suffering from an incredibly undeveloped protagonist and antagonist as well as a handful of moments that feel like spectacle-over-substance. But through its impressive CG effects and exciting action sequences, ‘Tenet’ does certainly have plenty of entertainment value even if it’s screenplay was in need of some refinement.

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Mulan

Another of Disney’s live-action reimaginings of their beloved classics, the new incarnation of: ‘Mulan’ is beyond lacklustre, with its unlikeable protagonist, dull filmmaking, and a more historically accurate yet uninteresting story all being far less enjoyable than the original animated adventure. And with this film flopping at the box-office due to its purchasable release on Disney+, we can only hope that ‘Mulan’ is one of the last remakes Disney decides to force upon its viewers, but after looking at their current release schedule, this does seem unlikely.

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Scoob!

Serving as what was intended to be the first film in an animated Hanna-Barbara cinematic universe, ‘Scoob!’ is an enormous missed opportunity for a reboot of: ‘Mystery Inc.’ As the film quickly becomes distracted by its singular goal of setting-up this interconnected universe and as a result, forgets to tell the entertaining and charming origin story its trailers promised, or even a classic spooky adventure more in line with the original animated show.

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Onward

An intriguing idea/story quickly spoiled by its overly fast-pacing and overstuffed world, before ‘Soul’ came along and redeemed their streak, ‘Onward’ simply felt like another disappointing film in the long list of underwhelming Pixar flicks released in recent years. Whilst the modern fantasy world the film takes place within does take its opportunities to be amusing or charming, it also isn’t very memorable in the long-run.

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The Hunt

While the political commentary throughout ‘The Hunt’ is quite easy to ignore if you only desire to see some dark comedy and intense violence. ‘The Hunt’ still somehow managed to be one of the most controversial yet also most neglected films of the year, eventually leading Blumhouse Pictures to use the film’s controversy to market the film, which really displays the company’s lack of faith in the film itself, which is nothing short of a slightly more comedic but just as bland ‘Purge’ flick.

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Possessor

From the son of David Cronenberg, Brandon Cronenberg. ‘Possessor’ may not be quite as groundbreaking as sci-fi-horror classics like ‘The Fly’ or ‘Scanners,’ but this original and intriguing narrative is only complimented by its compelling themes and exceptional filmmaking, and serves as a brilliant second outing for this iconic director’s son, who I personally can’t wait to see more from.

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Extraction

Although ‘Extraction’ is very loose on story and characterisation alike, the film’s exciting action set-pieces will be more than enough to satisfy action fanatics. As Chris Hemsworth fittingly places all of his training and gruff exterior to the forefront for the film’s many violent, exhilarating, and occasionally even over-the-top moments.

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His House

A low-budget British horror with some intriguing themes, ‘His House’ is a terrifying and eye-opening look at the specters of the refugee experience. Directed by first time filmmaker Remi Weekes, the film is certainly not for everyone, as it avoids many common horror clichés in favour of aggressively playing into its central concept, which usually works quite well aside from one or two moments where it can feel a little heavy-handed.

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Underwater

A fantastic throwback to 80s creature-features, ‘Underwater’ was undoubtedly one of the most overlooked entries into the sci-if genre this year. And although it’s story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, this simplistic yet flashy flick will surely please any fans of cult horrors and science fiction stories, having heavy inspirations of both H.P. Lovecraft and even the 1979 classic: ‘Alien.’

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The Gentlemen

Going back to his ‘Snatch’ roots, ‘The Gentlemen’ directed by the brilliant Guy Richie is simultaneously stylish, well crafted, and hilarious. Whilst I personally feel ‘Snatch’ still has a slight edge over Richie’s latest feature, it’s still a very enjoyable ride, nevertheless, and is more than likely one of my favourite releases of the year.

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The Midnight Sky

Iconic actor George Clooney returned to the directing chair this year with the sci-fi Netflix Original: ‘The Midnight Sky,’ and even though it lacks the dramatic heft to match its narrative scale, its flaws are often balanced by its thoughtful themes and poignant performances from both Felicity Jones and Clooney himself.

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The Invisible Man

Another one of my personal favourites from this year, this remake of the classic 1930s monster flick: ‘The Invisible Man,’ is a refreshing and very well directed take on the iconic character. Remaining tense and entertaining throughout its mostly original storyline, all the while continuing to impress with its excellent performances, effective cinematography, and impactful original score.

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We Can Be Heroes

Attempting to capture both the imagination of younger viewers as well as the nostalgia of older audiences who grew-up with colourful family flicks like ‘SpyKids’ and ‘The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl,’ ‘We Can Be Heroes’ had an opportunity to interject some light-hearted fun into this challenging year. But with its predictable and overly marketed focus on superheroes, not to mention its clearly inexperienced young cast, abysmal CG effects, and costume design, ‘We Can Be Heroes’ winded-up being just as irritating as it was corny, lacking any of the charm those older films had for all their problems.

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Color Out of Space

A wonderful slice of cosmic-horror, ‘Color Out of Space’ explores this subgenre and its weirdly fascinating story remarkably well, as although I personally adore cosmic-horror, this subgenre has always received little attention in modern-day cinema. Yet this adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s novel of the same name is just as creative and disturbing as it’s source material, sometimes even more so despite a few moments of robotic dialogue and weak acting, resulting in a strange yet truly captivating experience.

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The New Mutants

Finally, after years and years of waiting, the horror-esque superhero flick: ‘The New Mutants’ was released in 2020. And it’s fair to say it made its way into cinemas with little applause, missing its train of anticipation by years at this point, and as a result, ‘The New Mutants’ seemed to have just gone unwatched by most, and for those who did see the film such as myself, simply experienced a dull, cheesy, and messy film which felt unsure of what it even wanted to be by the runtime’s end.

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Sonic the Hedgehog

Jim Carrey makes his long-awaited return to the silver screen in this adaptation of the iconic video-game character: ‘Sonic the Hedgehog,’ delivering an expectedly over-the-top performance as the film’s antagonist: ‘Dr. Robotnik.’ And while the film follows the usual formula many family films stick to, never really doing anything unexpected or overly impressive, it does remain enjoyable enough for children and fans of the video-game series alike throughout its simplistic story.

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The Devil All the Time

Gripping, tense, and dramatic, ‘The Devil All the Time’s descent into darkness may be harrowing to the point of unwatchability for some, and isn’t a film I’d recommend to general audiences. Having a devilish mix of neo-noir intrigue and gothic horror based on William Hjortsberg’s page-turning novel, the film is a compelling feature only elevated by the strong work from its all-star cast.

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The King of Staten Island

This comedy-drama from director Judd Apatow isn’t one of the director’s best films to-date, as ‘The King of Staten Island’s uncertain tone and indulgent length stop this coming-of-age dramedy’s ability to find itself, but Pete Davidson’s soulful performance and the director’s usual flair for comedy do manage to keep the film afloat.

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The Babysitter: Killer Queen

Whilst this sequel to 2017’s ‘The Babysitter’ does delve more into the supernatural aspects only hinted at in the first film, ‘The Babysitter: Killer Queen’ is worse than it’s predecessor when it comes to both its comedy and it’s pacing. Ending-up as a mostly straight-forward and drawn-out chase sequence similar to the original film, only this time without the amusing jokes or clever horror satire to hold it up.

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The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run

Aside from its attractive animation and extremely vibrant colour palette, the third major film focusing on the iconic cartoon character: ‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’ contains barley any story or hilarious moments. Instead, relying on bizarre celebrity cameos and strange dream sequences to fill it’s short runtime, which is sure to do nothing other than leave children bored, adults confused, and fans of the beloved animated show immensely disappointed.

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It (2017) – Film Review

Finally, after many years of waiting, horror and literature fans alike got their wishes granted in mid 2015 as director Andy Muschietti (Mama, It: Chapter Two) signed on to direct a reboot (or readaptation) of one of Steven King’s most iconic and beloved horror stories, this, of course, being: ‘It.’ And due to its excellent cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung and incredibly memorable performance from Bill Skarsgård as the demonic clown ‘Pennywise,’ ‘It’ is certainly one of the better Steven King adaptations in recent years, even with the array issues the film still suffers from.

Plot Summary: In the summer of 1989, a group of unpopular kids known as ‘The Losers’ Club,’ band together in order to destroy a shapeshifting monster known only as ‘Pennywise,’ a creature which has been terrorising their home town of: ‘Derry’ for decades and can disguise itself as whatever it’s victim fears most…

Following the film’s incredibly successful release in 2017, ‘Pennywise’ has quickly become a modern horror icon despite only having about four minutes of dialogue in the entire film. But its easy to see why this is, as not only does ‘It’ share the familiar fun tone of classic films of the 1980s such as: ‘The Goonies,’ ‘The Gate’ and ‘The Monster Squad,’ yet ‘It’ also manages to adapt the novel’s antagonist: ‘Pennywise’ fairly closely from the original source material, resulting in a mostly entertaining novel-to-screen transition.

The main cast of: ‘The Losers’ Club’ features Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs and Wyatt Oleff who all share pretty great chemistry with each other, as alongside the film’s terrific writing, the children truly feel like an actual group of kids, with the group constantly cursing and sharing in plenty of quippy banter with each other. In addition to the younger cast, ‘Pennywise’ is this time around portrayed by Bill Skarsgård, and while I have always loved Tim Curry’s cheesy yet menacing portrayal of the iconic clown. Bill Skarsgård is a stand-out aspect of the film for sure. Capturing the eerie qualities of the character as well as his unworldly nature perfectly, truly embracing the idea that ‘Pennywise’ isn’t just a psychotic murderer dressed as a clown, but something far stranger…

The cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung is surprisingly brilliant for a modern horror, featuring a number of attractive shots which blend extremely well with the film’s story. The film does have one recurring shot which is quite irritating, however, as during many of the scenes where ‘Pennywise’ appears to his victims, the film utilises a shot in which the sinister clown approaches the camera straight on, sprinting directly towards the screen, and while I understand what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish with this shot, I feel it only comes off as fatuous and appears extremely out-of-place when compared to the rest of the film’s visually enthralling camerawork.

Admirable yet flawed, the original score by Benjamin Wallfisch ranges from being your typical horror soundtrack to eventually becoming more emotional for the more character-focused scenes. The main issue I take with the original score are some of the tracks which feature deep bass-like sounds, as I feel these tracks really don’t fit with the film’s tone or time-period. Regardless, the tracks: ‘Paper Boat’ and ‘Derry’ do serve the film’s story delightfully well, with one of the film’s final tracks: ‘Blood Oath,’ also being a beautiful send-off for these characters before their inevitable return.

From ‘Pennywise’s uncanny appearance to the abandoned house ‘It’ lives within on ‘Neibolt Street,’ many of the film’s designs are also pretty memorable despite their limited screen-time. These fantastic designs are dragged down by the film’s poor CG effects, however, as the film always seems to resort to CG visuals during many of its more tense moments, which can take away from their impact. This is also where ‘It’s most substantial problem comes into play, as ‘It’ has really split audiences down the middle when it comes to its focus on horror, as while the film does have a few eerie scenes and creepy visuals, this adaptation seems to be more focused on being the coming-of-age story the novel mostly is. Although some viewers may be disappointed by this, desiring a narrative based more around the story’s darker elements, I feel the film’s distracting CG effects and constant barrage of jump-scares are made-up for by its interesting delve into its themes of childhood fears and growing-up.

In my opinion, 2017’s ‘It’ is a solid Steven King adaptation, as while certainly let down by its weak CG visuals, over-reliance on jump-scares and occasionally inconsistent tone, the film still is a pretty enjoyable watch throughout its two hour runtime, mostly due to the film’s great performances and general memorability, and with ‘It: Chapter Two’ turning-out to be an underwhelming experience for most. I’d say it further proves that this film is the direction to go when it comes to adapting King’s work. Final Rating: 7/10.

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Kong: Skull Island (2017) – Film Review

Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs his first major film with ‘Kong: Skull Island,’ another reboot of the iconic monster this time set within a different time-period and featuring plenty of vibrant visuals. Resulting in ‘Kong: Skull Island’ being a pretty entertaining monster flick overall, despite the film still being plagued with a range of issues throughout its two hour runtime.

Plot Summary: Shortly after the Vietnam war in 1973, a team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, without knowing it, they soon venture into the domain of the mighty: ‘King Kong,’ and must fight their way through an onslaught of dangerous creatures to escape the deadly: ‘Skull Island.’

Just from a quick glance at the film, it’s obvious that the film takes heavy inspiration from the war epic: ‘Apocalypse Now’ when it comes to its visuals, which is by no means a bad thing, as ‘Kong: Skull Island’ really embraces its 1970s time-period. Making every set, costume, and piece of military equipment fit well within the world the film builds on, which really gives some style to what could’ve just been your standard action blockbuster.

The all-star cast of Thomas Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Tian Jing, Thomas Mann, Toby Kebbell and my personal favourite, John C. Reilly, are all decent in their respective roles despite their characters not being given much depth beyond a few short scenes, as due to the enormous size of the cast, many characters end-up becoming nothing more than clichés through their rushed introductions. Aside from Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly as ‘Preston Packard’ and ‘Hank Marlow,’ however, as both of their characters receive the most development and play into the film’s main theme of the damage war can have on the mind, which I personally found very interesting and wish the film explored further. Rather than focusing so much on many of the awful comedic moments the film crams into the story, which aside from a few improvised lines from John C. Reilly, fall mostly flat.

The cinematography by Larry Fong is fairly creative throughout the film, as in addition the film’s very ranged colour palette. ‘Kong: Skull Island’ does have an array of visually interesting shots, many of which contain plenty of movement and give the audience some stunning views of: ‘Skull Island.’ The cinematography also lacks many of the shots that made the ‘Godzilla’ remake from 2014 so impressive as a creature-feature, that being shots that display the true scale of: ‘Kong,’ yet the lack of these shots may also be due to the ‘Kong’s ever-changing size, which did begin to irritate me after a while, despite ‘Kong’ still managing to feel pretty imposing and powerful throughout the film.

The original score by Henry Jackman does help to make-up for this, however, it being of his better scores, in my opinion. As throughout the narrative, the soundtrack always adds to the adventurous tone of the film, utilising large tribal drums to give each character’s confrontation with ‘Kong’ genuine weight. The film also uses a number of classic songs from the ’70s to further push the film’s time-period, and whilst this does sometimes work effectively, with an early helicopter scene featuring the iconic: ‘Fortunate Son’ being the most memorable. It can also feel very forced at points, mostly due to the sheer amount of songs featured within the film.

One of the best aspects of: ‘Kong: Skull Island’ is its action scenes. As throughout the story, the film constantly throws its characters into plenty of intense encounters with the terrifying (and equalling unique) creatures of the island, and whilst the film does have a few too many scenes which feel overly cheesy due to an over-reliance on slow-motion. Each action set-piece is entertaining in its own way, usually making effective use of each monster’s various abilities and their surrounding locations. My personal favourite definitely being the sinister and brilliantly designed: ‘Skullcrawlers,’ ‘Kong’s main adversaries. All of these creatures are obviously displayed through the film’s CG effects, which are decent enough throughout the runtime, yet certainly aren’t flawless.

To conclude, ‘Kong: Skull Island’ is enjoyable, as whilst the film is undeniably filled with a number of problems, mainly in regards to the film’s weak characterisation and fairly simplistic story, the film still manages to be exciting through its fantastic use of CG effects and thrilling action scenes, all backed-up by a great original score and a constructive use of the 1970s time-period. So, although its in need of some improvements, I feel you can still get something out of this creature-feature. Final Rating: low 7/10.

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Halloween (2018) – Film Review

Confusingly titled: ‘Halloween’ despite not being a remake, this direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic ignores all the other entries in the franchise in favour of telling a completely new story set forty years later, with Jamie Lee Curtis even returning to her iconic character of: ‘Laurie Strode,’ now much older and much wiser. Yet while definitely a decent attempt at continuing the ‘Halloween’ series, the film is still far from perfect.

Plot Summary: ‘Laurie Strode’ confronts her long-time foe: ‘Michael Myers’ once again, as the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago, now begins a new massacre after his recent prison escape…

Although the film’s narrative does have some interesting ideas, the film always felt a little too familiar to me, as I usually found myself correctly predicting what was around the next corner, leaving little to be surprised by. Under the direction of David Gordon Green, best known for his drama: ‘Stronger’ from 2017. The film does pay plenty of respect to the original film, as can always tell whilst watching that Green does have a passion for this horror franchise (as he clearly understands what made the original work so well). I still feel a better director could’ve been chosen. As at points, the story does seem to be slightly lacking in direction, and with his previous work in mind, it’s clear that he doesn’t specialise in horror.

It is great, however, to see Jamie Lee Curtis back as her classic character once again, as she really excels in showing how ‘Laurie Strode’ has been affected by those horrific events many years ago. Alongside the rest of the great cast of Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton and especially Haluk Bilginer as ‘Dr. Sartain,’ who I was initially concerned would be nothing more than another ‘Dr. Loomis’ type character, but did actually end-up going in a very different direction.

The cinematography by Michael Simmonds is nothing outstanding for the majority of the film, yet is still attractive when combined with the dark lighting throughout, particularly anytime ‘Michael’ is on-screen. Another strong element of the film is the wonderful original score by John Carpenter, his son Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies, as although the soundtrack does slightly rely on tracks from the original film, there is plenty of new score here as well. Proving John Carpenter is brilliant at his craft once again, with the tracks: ‘The Shape Hunts Allyson’ and ‘The Shape Burns’ being some of Carpenter’s best work in a long time, in my opinion, that is.

One of the strongest elements of the film for me are definitely the kills, as it’s clear the filmmakers got very creative with the ways ‘Michael Myers’ disposes of his victims, usually creating very memorable scenes with some fantastic practical gore effects included. I also felt the film represented the iconic slasher very well, as ‘Michael Myers’ is always intimidating through his movements, ‘Michael’ even manages to steal the film for me by being the main focus of my personal favourite scene of the film, as ‘The Shape’ stalks his way through Haddonfield’ with murderous intent, all completed within a single take.

Being produced by Blumhouse Pictures, ‘Halloween’ also unfortunately features the company’s usual pandering to younger audiences you’d come to expect by now, as the film is littered with jump-scares throughout the runtime, with little attempt to create an eerie atmosphere or build large amounts of tension. In addition to this, the writing throughout the film is decent when it comes to the characters, but usually is very lacking when the film attempts comedy. Resulting in many cringy lines of dialogue and plenty of out-of-place jokes.

In conclusion, 2018’s ‘Halloween’ is mostly enjoyable, but with a lack of originality, some cheesy lines and forced comedy (not to mention it’s over-reliance on jump-scares) the film doesn’t even come close to replicating the classic horror’s best qualities. I do hold the original film in high regard, of course, it being one of my personal favourite horrors, but with plenty of entertaining moments throughout, this latest entry in the ‘Halloween’ series is definitely on the higher end of classic horror sequels. Final Rating: low 7/10.

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The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) – Film Review

Only five years after the previous ‘Spider-Man’ franchise ended, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ attempts to be a fresh and slightly darker reboot of the superhero’s classic origin story, yet sadly falls pretty flat. Feeling too similar to the previous franchise as well as never really perfecting any of the interesting ideas the film introduces itself.

Plot Summary: When ‘Peter Parker’ is bitten by a genetically altered spider, he gains newfound spider-like powers and ventures-out to solve the mystery of his parent’s mysterious death. Meanwhile, a menacing new threat emerges in the dark streets of New York City…

Aside from the new focus on his lost parents, the story is far too similar to what we have seen before. Featuring all the classic scenes of: ‘Peter’ beating-up criminals, making his iconic costume (which now has an unpleasant redesign) and of course, witnessing his ‘Uncle Ben’s death. This can make the story feel very bland and predictable for the majority of its runtime, if the film was to come out many years after: ‘Spider-Man 3,’ then perhaps it wouldn’t have been as bad. But due to Sony wanting to keep the rights to the Marvel character, a new remake had to be rushed-out.

‘Peter Parker’ is this time portrayed by Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, Hacksaw Ridge), and overall I think he does a decent job here. As while this version of the character isn’t incredibly memorable, he does portray the character as a nervous and awkward yet still likeable teenager, despite looking a little too old for the character’s actual age. The rest of the cast of Emma Stone, Sally Field and Rhys Ifans also all do a decent job within the film, but are never really given anything interesting to do when it comes to the story.

The cinematography by John Schwartzman is nothing outstanding, as aside from the unique P.O.V. shots from ‘Spider-Man’s perspective, the cinematography mostly just stays at a decent level throughout the film. However, this is easily redeemed by one of the best elements of the film for me, the great chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. As Emma Stone portrays: ‘Gwen Stacey’ (Peter Parker’s first love interest) all of their scenes together are very funny and charming, reminding me very heavily of director Mark Webb’s first film: ‘500 Days of Summer.’

The original score by James Horner is once again nothing amazing, but it does fit the film’s style. Feeling like a classic superhero score, mixed with some more emotional elements, equalling to a pretty varied but not very memorable soundtrack. The majority of the film could be described in this way however, as many aspects of the film never seem to pass the level of ‘decent,’ which is a real shame, as I think this director and cast have some great potential. But this simply wasn’t the film for it.

The writing is definitely one of the weakest elements of the film for me, as the film is full of cheesy lines and cliché moments throughout the story. My main issue with the film however, is the film’s antagonist: ‘The Lizard.’ As his motivation, awful appearance and general lack of an intimidating presence really portray this classic comic book antagonist in a bad light.

The action scenes within the film are nothing really incredible of note, as although they are decently entertaining, none of them ever manage to become as memorable as anything from the original: ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy. My personal favourite most likely being the action scene set in ‘Peter’s high-school, as the scene utilises the location very well. It’s also here when we get a great look at the various different CG effects in bright lighting, and I feel overall they look decent.

Although I initially gave this film a lower rating, the actual filmmaking on display here isn’t terrible, and what the film does well such as great chemistry between the lead cast, ‘Spider-Man’s spectacular P.O.V. shots and the occasional entertaining action scene, I simply can’t ignore. Maybe check this one out if you’re a huge fan of the character, if not, you’re not missing-out on much. Final Rating: 5/10.

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Man of Steel (2013) – Film Review

Being one of the most iconic and beloved superheroes of all-time, it was inventible that ‘Superman’ would come to life on the silver screen once again. This time from director Zach Synder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch), a director I’m not particularly fond of due to his weak focus on storytelling and over-reliance on action and attractive visuals. And unfortunately, ‘Man of Steel’ is no exception to this.

Plot Summary: ‘Clark Kent,’ an alien who as a child was evacuated from his dying world of: ‘Krypton’ and soon arrived on Earth, where he began living as a normal human under his newly found parents. But when survivors of his alien home-world invade the planet, he must reveal himself to the world.

The main issue that I have with this film is that the filmmakers seem to not understand the character of: ‘Superman’ very well, as the entire film is extremely bleak, dull and even somewhat dark. In addition to this, ‘Superman’ himself actually does very little heroic acts throughout the film’s runtime. Almost the complete opposite of the original: ‘Superman’ from 1978. This is even seen in the colour palette, as the film mostly uses a dark blue and grey colour palette. But when your superhero protagonist is supposed to be a symbol of hope and heroism, this is definitely not the way to go.

Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and Russel Crowe all give decent performances throughout the film, but sadly they never really elevate to anything above acceptable. Henry Cavill is likeable enough as the protagonist but I always found Michael Shannon‘s villainous incarnation of: ‘Zod’ far more interesting. As he does a great job giving his character a motivation despite how sinister it may seem, as well as making him extremely menacing, very similar to his character in ‘The Shape of Water’ in many ways.

Amir Mokri‘s cinematography throughout the film is mostly very generic cinematography for a blockbuster action film, having far too much hand-held camera at points as well as shaking around constantly and utilising many quick cuts during the action scenes, making them even more difficult to follow. The film also uses many artificial zooms when ‘Superman’ is soaring through the sky, which I personally think looks terrible. 

The original score by Hanz Zimmer is easily my personal favourite element of the film, while being nothing new for this composer. Zimmer really brings his ‘A’ game here, and creates an exciting and uplifting score which sometimes really makes-up for the lack of heroism and use of bright colours in the film. I would say this soundtrack is up there as one of my favourite scores by Hanz Zimmer for sure, even playing over my favourite scene in the film when ‘Clark Kent’ learns to fly as ‘Superman’ for the first time.

However, many of the film’s action scenes don’t help the film, as the action within the film ranges from extremely entertaining, as the superpowered characters battle brutally for the fate of the planet. To sometimes being incredibly overwhelming, with constant explosions going off and CG buildings being destroyed left and right. Many of these action scenes don’t even feel very real due to the enormous barrage of CG effects we get within them, or as ‘real’ as they can be anyway.

To conclude, ‘Man of Steel’ is a mess of a superhero film, as it almost feels like a ‘Batman’ sequel more than a ‘Superman’ film for most of its runtime. Relying very heavily on a dark colour palette and a bleak more ‘realistic’ feel. Alongside the generic cinematography and bland acting. The original score, a few actions set-pieces and the occasional attractive visual is really all the film has to offer to superhero fans. Hopefully, this iconic superhero will have his chance to grace the skies with another outstanding instalment soon, as for: ‘Man of Steel?’ It’s a disappointing superhero flick. Final Rating: low 4/10.

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Godzilla (2014) – Film Review

‘Godzilla’ has always been an interesting franchise to me, with the Japanese film series spanning over sixty years and introducing new directors, new production teams and new foes for the giant lizard to face time after time, with the franchise even devolving into more of a self-parody nearing the end of it’s run. ‘The King of Monsters’ was still (and probably always will be) very popular, so, of course, it was only a matter of time until America decided to try their hand at the iconic monster franchise.

Plot Summary: When scientists discover a giant ancient spore underneath the Philippines, they decide to preserve it for research for fifteen years until it eventually hatches. Now, with malevolent creatures from the inside threatening the existence of all of mankind, another ancient creature known only as ‘Godzilla,’ rises from the depths of the ocean to restore balance to nature once again…

America initially attempted a ‘Godzilla’ film back in 1998, with many feeling the film differed far too much from the original source material. Featuring an awful redesign for the classic monster and no actual antagonist for him to face. Now returning back to the classic formula but with a more grounded tone and some fresh creature designs, director Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) does a mostly solid job with this remake. Even if the film can sometimes focus far too much on the other creatures within the story then ‘Godzilla’ himself.

Although much of the narrative focuses on the ‘Ford’ family, portrayed by Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olson, Carson Bolde, Bryan Cranston, and Juliette Binoche. With all the cast doing a decent job (Bryan Cranston being the obvious stand-out with a few amazing scenes showcasing his true talent) their characters are given very little development. As although I do believe the human characters are an important element to break-up the constant chaos from the giant monsters, the entire family of characters could’ve definitely used more characterisation when it comes to the film’s story.

However, in addition to the fantastic use of CGI throughout the film, the cinematography by Seamus McGarvey is actually pretty great. As while there are a few bland shots throughout the film, the majority of the shots involving the giant creatures are used to great effect, with an enormous amount of wide shots showcasing the creature’s true scale. Whilst the original score by Alexandre Desplat is also pretty effective, as although it’s nothing incredibly memorable by itself, it’s still very effective. Backing-up both the film’s exciting action, as well as some of it’s more unnerving, eerie and emotional scenes.

My main issues are in relation to the film’s general-pacing and overall amount of action set-pieces throughout the story, as although I usually have no issue with story or character moments over action when it comes to your average blockbuster. The film does build-up a large amount of excitement towards the final battle between the monsters for a large portion of the runtime. Even cutting away from some action scenes to tease the audience early on in the film, and although the final confrontation is entertaining. I wouldn’t say it makes up for the amount of time it makes its audience wait.

Despite all that, I actually quite enjoy ‘Godzilla,’ as although it’s by no means perfect and I do hope the inevitable sequel improves upon many of its flaws. The film is still engaging enough throughout to keep it’s audience engaged, as despite it’s lack of action and weak characterisation. The film’s brilliant visuals and surprising grasp on realism during many scenes are probably enough to elevate this monster flick for most. Final Rating: 7/10.

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