Rango (2011) – Film Review

From the director of: ‘The Ring’ and the first three entries in ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ series, Gore Verbinski. Comes ‘Rango,’ an animated-western featuring a bizarre cast of comedically-grotesque animals, and although that strange concept may not sound as if it couldn’t possibly work, ‘Rango’ is without a doubt one of my favourite animated films in recent memory. As the film’s entertaining story and classic western visuals make the film an incredibly fun watch, regardless of your age.

Plot Summary: When ‘Rango,’ an ordinary pet chameleon accidentally winds-up in the small town of: ‘Dirt’ following a car accident, he begins to realise the dry, lawless outpost is in desperate need of a new sheriff. Being the talented actor that he is, ‘Rango’ poses as the answer to their problems.

Whilst ‘Rango’ is front and foremost a family flick, ‘Rango’ also serves a pretty successful throwback to classic westerns, balancing plenty of hilarious moments with more serious scenes and even some exciting action sequences throughout its story. The film even features a reference to the icon of the western-era himself, that being Clint Eastwood as ‘The Spirit of the West’, which I really appreciated as a fan of the genre. However, the character himself isn’t actually portrayed by Clint Eastwood, which I did feel slightly took away from the scene he appears in despite its short length.

Although all the supporting cast of Isa Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Alfred Molina and Ned Beatty are all fantastic as the residents of the small town of: ‘Dirt.’ Each having a western accent which sometimes even makes their voice unrecognisable in Isla Fisher’s case. Johnny Depp as the protagonist: ‘Rango’ is truly some flawless casting. As Depp always portrays ‘Rango’ as likeable and funny, yet cowardly, with plenty of humourous lines throughout the runtime. The film’s antagonist: ‘Rattlesnake Jake’ is also worth mentioning, as Bill Nighy lends his voice to this gigantic menacing gunslinger, actually mirroring the two actor’s characters within ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ series, whether intentional or not.

‘Rango’ is also one of the rare animated films which actually has some pretty stunning cinematography, as all of the film’s animated cinematography is very reminiscent of classic westerns. From extreme close-ups of character’s faces during stand-offs, to wide-shots of the barren desert, to even close-ups of hanging broken bottles on a porch, every-shot really adds to the narrative, whilst also displaying the film’s large variety of distinct locations. Truly utilising the limitless potential of animated cinematography. Legendary cinematographer, Roger Deakins, who worked on iconic films like ‘The Shawshank Redemption,’ ‘No Country for Old Men’ and ‘Skyfall’ in the past, was even consulted when it came to the film’s cinematography.

Iconic composer Hanz Zimmer returns to the work once again with director Gore Verbinski, and once again with another magnificent original score. This time replicating classic western scores without taking-away from the film’s adventurous tone. Making fantastic use of both electric and acoustic guitars, tracks such as: ‘Rango and Beans’ and ‘Rango Returns’ feel as if they were ripped straight-out of the golden age of film. The soundtrack even includes a unique western-esque version of the orchestral classic: ‘Ride of the Valkyries,’ which backs-up what is already a pretty memorable action sequence.

The animation itself is wonderful throughout the film, as ‘Rango’ takes a more daring and unique route when it comes to its animation. As rather than being overly colourful and cartoonishly attractive similar to films like ‘Toy Story,’ ‘Frozen’ or ‘Despicable Me’. ‘Rango’ focuses far more on being rather realistic and dirty, with each location always feeling very old and rustic. The character designs themselves also reflect this, as every piece of clothing and every object is coaked in scratches and dirt, giving the film an overall unpleasant yet not unattractive look. This animation style also continues to the film’s colour palette, as the pale beiges and browns give the film a true western feel. Due to ‘Rango’s reliance on this highly-detailed kind of animation however, there is the occasional shot where the animation looks slightly dated by today’s standards.

Packed with plenty of great comedic moments, attractive visuals, a great original score and of course, its marvellous cast. ‘Rango’ stands as one of the best modern animated films to date, as this western adventure truly does anything it can to make itself stand-out. As despite the film’s few fourth-wall-breaking moments (which come-off as slightly cheesy) and the film’s sometimes overly fast-pacing, ‘Rango’ still remains an enthralling ride. Although this animated flick may seem pretty unusual when compared to many other films the family can enjoy together, this true oddball of a film is sure to please those who decide to give it a chance. Final Rating: 8/10.

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After Earth (2013) – Film Review

‘After Earth’ attempts to be a thrilling sci-fi adventure following a father and son as they crash on a hostile planet, surviving together, and bonding every step of the way, and with real-life father and son Will and Jaden Smith as the main two cast members, the film should be a recipe for success. However, with some awful CG visuals along with plenty unexplored story ideas and even some surprisingly poor performances, ‘After Earth’ is far more of a comedy than it is the exciting science fiction flick it set-out to be.

Plot Summary: In the far future, a crash landing leaves ‘Kitai Raige’ and his father: ‘Cypher’ stranded on Earth, a millennium after catastrophic events forced humanity to abandon the planet, with ‘Cypher’ injured, ‘Kitai’ must embark on a perilous journey alone to signal for help. Little do they know, ‘Kitai’ is being hunted by a deadly creature every step of the way…

Directed by the once great M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs), ‘After Earth’ is just another one of the many duds Shyamalan has directed in recent memory. As while many scenes throughout ‘The Sixth Sense’ will always be iconic and beautifully crafted alongside some of his other work, many feel that this director has simply had his day. As aside from the semi-sequel to ‘Unbreakable,’ ‘Split’ back in 2016. Shyamalan has directed nothing but dreadful attempts at horrors and thrillers, before now turning his eye towards the sci-fi genre.

Unfortunately, the majority of the performances throughout ‘After Earth’ range from very bland to simply laughable, as although not quite as bad as some of the unintentionally hilarious performances in director M. Night Shyamalan’s other film: ‘The Happening,’ the film isn’t far off this standard, with one scene in particular where ‘Kitai’ is bitten by a poisonous insect coming-off as purely comedic. What makes this so surprising however, is that this acting duo have worked well together previously in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness.’ Yet this time around, the two seem to have very little chemistry with each other throughout most of the film’s runtime in addition to feeling very miscast in their respective roles. As Will Smith who is usually known for being incredibly charismatic and funny portrays: ‘Cypher Raige’ as a cold, emotionless warrior. Going completely against his best qualities as an actor.

Throughout ‘After Earth,’ the cinematography by Peter Suschitzky is simply just decent. As whilst the film doesn’t really contain many inventive or memorable shots, the cinematography does make great use of many of the film’s spectacular natural locations. As the large variety of wide-shots do effectively display the true scale of the newly-formed forests, waterfalls and mountains that now inhabit this new-era of Earth.

The original score by James Newton Howard is another dull aspect of the film, as the film’s score is barely recognisable from any other action or sci-fi film despite this composer actually crafting many wonderful soundtracks in the past, including the original score for: ‘The Sixth Sense.’ The film’s problems even extend into its narrative structure, as during the early stages of the film, ‘After Earth’ bombards the audience with information on this sci-fi world, cutting rapidly between an enormous array of different clips, usually leaving a viewer with far more questions than answers as the film forces its exposition down the audience’s throat in one overly-long scene.

The film’s CG effects sadly don’t show much improvement either, as the huge variety of creatures within the story ranging from tigers to birds, to savage monkeys, all look less than mediocre. However, to give the film credit, the film’s main antagonist known as the ‘Ursa,’ does have a pretty interesting design. As although the creature does share some weak CG visuals similar to many of the other creatures, the ‘Ursa’ simply has more of a presence within the film, and does feel somewhat intimidating and unique despite barley being utilised or developed. The film’s underdeveloped ideas are even more bizarre considering originally, the film wasn’t even supposed to be a sci-fi. As Will Smith’s first concept for the film focused on a farther and son on a camping trip in modern-day, which I personally think sounds far more interesting and enjoyable as opposed to viciously-morphing the project into a science fiction story.

Overall, ‘After Earth’ is a complete disaster of a science fiction blockbuster, as the film’s terrible performances alongside its abysmal CG effects and mostly bland filmmaking, all result in the film being extremely boring and even sometimes laughably bad. Another unfortunate flop for director M. Night Shyamalan, and definitely a huge dint in Jaden Smith’s acting career, as the young actor hasn’t appeared on-screen since. Despite some great ideas here and there, ‘After Earth’ is certainly a low-point in Will Smith’s film catalogue, Final Rating: high 2/10.

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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 viewer 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 film’s best aspects, and most likely the main thing most viewers will gravitate towards when it comes to ‘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 overreliance 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.

Overall, ‘Kong Skull Island’ is pretty enjoyable, as whilst filled with a variety 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 undeniably in need of some improvement, I feel you can still get something out of this creature-feature. Final Rating: low 7/10.

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This Year in Film (2019) – Film List

Personally, I feel this year in film has been a bit of a mixed-bag, as while I do feel we’ve had our fair share of great films this year, I also feel we’ve had plenty of disappointing entries as well. Obviously, I haven’t had the chance to see every film this year, and I will most likely update this list as time goes on. But for now, in no particular order, here are my thoughts on a variety of films I saw this year…

Us

Beginning the year in quite a disappointing fashion, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his 2017 smash-hit: ‘Get Out’ was a far-cry from excellent for me. As despite its brilliant reviews, I personally found the film’s story to be bloated with unexplained ideas and ridiculous scenes alike, equalling to a horror flick that places far more emphasis on it’s themes than it’s actual narrative, alongside being incredibly inconsistent with its tone.

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Joker

One of my favourite films of the year, ‘Joker’ directed by Todd Philips, is an interesting take on the comic book genre. Focusing more on being an engaging character piece with themes of untreated metal illness rather than your usual barrage of CG action and explosions, all shown through some beautiful cinematography and an eerie original score.

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Knives Out

Director Rian Johnson proves himself a talented filmmaker once again after his smash-hit: ‘Looper,’ as although I personally wasn’t an enormous fan of: ‘Star Wars – Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.’ I knew this director had skill elsewhere, and this was proven to me by ‘Knives Out.’ A hilarious and clever twist on the classic murder mystery, with some great performances from the huge cast, plenty of plot twists and a well-written narrative. I feel you’d struggle to not enjoy ‘Knives Out.’

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In the Tall Grass

One of many Steven King adaptations from this year, ‘In the Tall Grass’ comes to us from ‘Cube’ director Vincenzo Natali, and with that sci-fi classic being a personal favourite of mine, I had high-hopes for this Netflix thriller despite its somewhat weak source material. However, as the runtime continued on, I soon realised the film was far more interested in attempting to explain its bizarre and messy plot rather than experiment with any of its unique ideas.

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Marriage Story

Standing-out mostly for the fantastic performances from the all-star cast of Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, director Noah Baumbach takes on this wonderful story of a couple broken apart by relationship troubles and long distances, which, despite not being anything outstanding in regards to filmmaking, still manages to be entertaining, emotional and very enjoyable from start-to-finish.

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The Silence

Easily one of the worst films I’ve seen this year, ‘The Silence’ directed by John R. Leonetti, mostly known for the awful ‘Conjuring’ prequel: ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Wish Upon.’ Is another generic horror with weak performances, dreadful CG effects and a plot which feels as if it’s been ripped straight from ‘A Quiet Place’ released back in 2018.

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Haunt

Although the plot of a group of teens heading into a haunted house on Halloween only to get more than they bargained for may initially sound incredibly over-done, ‘Haunt’ is actually one of the hidden gems of the year in my opinion. Utilising some visually impressive sets and lighting in addition to an array of tense moments and creative ideas, the film is certainly one of the better horrors/thrillers from this year despite its issues.

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Le Mans ’66 (Ford v Ferrari)

After directing one of my favourite films of 2017: ‘Logan,’ director James Mangold now takes on the real-life story of the creation of one of the fastest race cars ever built in order to win the iconic: ‘Le Mans ’66.’ Featuring some excellent performances from the main cast in addition to some great cinematography and high-fueled racing scenes, ‘Le Mans ’66’ is a true thrill-ride of a film.

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Toy Story 4

‘Toy Story 4’ is definitely one of the most disappointing films of the year for me, as the original ‘Toy Story’ trilogy is (in my opinion) near perfect, and this film seems to do nothing but continue the story for the sake of it. As although the animation is incredible throughout the film, and the performances and original score are also pretty great, the narrative and character-arcs simply let the film down and make it the weakest of the ‘Toy Story’ series for me.

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I Am Mother

This slick science fiction thriller had me excited for quite some-time leading up to its release. However, when I eventually watched ‘I Am Mother’ I found myself a little disappointed. As the beautiful visuals and solid sci-fi soundtrack are sadly let down by a drawn-out and sometimes bland story. As while not boring by any means, I felt the film was a bit of wasted potential overall.

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It: Chapter 2

Director Andy Muschietti returns to bring the demonic clown: ‘Pennywise’ back to life in this sequel to the ‘It’ remake from 2017. This time around however, I personally found the film to be a bit of a letdown. As although there were plenty of entertaining scenes and great character moments throughout the film’s extremely long runtime, there were also plenty of ridiculous moments alongside the barrage of enormous CG monsters.

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Crawl

Going-off the initial reviews, I originally had high hopes for: ‘Crawl,’ hoping it would be an extremely tense, edge-of-your-seat kind of experience. But unfortunately, the film felt like a mostly standard thriller by the end of its runtime. Having nothing more than a few tense scenes and a couple of effective jump-scares to make up for its mediocre CG effects and mostly dull characters.

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Yesterday

Whilst definitely not on the same level as many of the others films from director Danny Boyle’s catalogue, ‘Yesterday’ was still a pretty entertaining feel-good comedy which I felt had an enjoyable upbeat tone, and enough likeable characters to carry it through many of its cheesy moments and sometimes overly predictable story.

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The Platform

Definitely a futuristic thriller fans of: ‘The Belko Experiment’ should check-out, ‘The Platform’ is just as violent as it is suspenseful, as this Spanish sci-fi thriller deals with a variety of dark themes and ideas, all whilst keeping the viewer engaged through its interesting plot, decent performances and surprising turns.

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Aladdin

This year’s first entry from the usual barrage of pointless live-action Disney remakes, ‘Aladdin’ is exactly what I expected it to be. The classic story most know and love but incredibly dulled-down, trying to capture the adventure of the original film through an enormous amount of CG visuals, nostalgia and a new cast lead by Will Smith which are all rather bland.

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The Hustle

Although I may not have been the target audience for: ‘The Hustle,’ judging by the dreadful reviews from critics and audiences alike, it seems as if I wasn’t alone in finding this comedy just as bland as it was unfunny, with many of the jokes feeling extremely lazy as the film takes all the obvious hits anyone would expect at Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson without attempting much else in terms of humour.

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Velvet Buzzsaw

Despite ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ not quite being the hilarious, gory and extremely weird horror/comedy I was initially hoping for, in addition to going-off the back of director Dan Gilroy’s other film: ‘Nightcrawler’ (which is one of my all-time favourites). I still found the film interesting enough throughout its story to keep me watching, despite it not being overly memorable in its entirety.

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Avengers: Endgame

Marvel finally bring their enormous franchise of superhero flicks to an end (for now that is) with ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ a blockbuster spectacular which gives many viewers the conclusion they’ve been desiring for many years, and although it isn’t one of my personal favourite Marvel films, I enjoyed: ‘Avengers Endgame’ for what it was. As the film provides some endings for characters alongside plenty of comedic moments, fan service and thrilling action set-pieces.

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Dolemite Is My Name

Based on the real-life story of Rudy Ray Moore, Eddie Murphy makes his awaited return to film after a long break. As this brilliant comedy/drama makes all the right moves to keep its audience engaged within its story through plenty of humour, style and emotion throughout its runtime.

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Jumanji: The Next Level

A sequel to ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ from 2017, as well as the original: ‘Jumanji’ from 1995. ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ is very similar to the previous instalment in regards to its tone and story (with some elements mixed-up of course) and despite some humour and story moments going a little too over-the-top for my taste. The film is still enjoyable enough for those seeking another fun family adventure from this franchise.

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Unable to actually decide what I thought of the film initially, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ is a true mixed-bag of a blockbuster, having some fantastic monster action with flawless CG effects and a surprisingly ranged colour palette be completely bogged-down by weak characters, cheesy moments and at points, a very messy story.

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Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Director Quentin Tarantino returns to the silver screen once again with ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.’ Bringing-us a subversion of some of his usual film tropes, to focus more on a story of a man seeking his return to fame in Hollywood, all shown through some beautiful cinematography and an excellent 1960s soundtrack.

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Terminator: Dark Fate

Of all the franchises dragging themselves out in an attempt to drawn-in whatever loose profits still remain, ‘Terminator’ has been by far the worst, with ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ only further proving this. Being extremely bland and cliché throughout, this time-travelling sci-fi series truly feels as if it’s got nothing more to offer, even with a talented director at the helm and James Cameron back on-board as a producer, this franchise is now really just a shadow of its former-self.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

In another one of this year’s biggest disappointments, ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ is the third entry in the ‘John Wick’ series, which sadly, leaves a lot to be desired. As many of the trilling and well-executed action scenes are dragged down by a messy and uninteresting story, as well as a variety of extremely out-of-place comedic moments.

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Star Wars – Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Arguably the most disappointing film of the year for many, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ attempted to close the enormous legacy of the ‘Star Wars’ saga, which unfortunately failed quite miserably. As overly fast-pacing and an extremely messy (and unsatisfying) narrative really dragged the film down despite its fun moments and exciting action scenes, further proving that this franchise needs a long-rest before it’s inevitable return.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home

Most likely my favourite Marvel film of this year, ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ hardly breaks new ground when it comes to superhero flicks. But the main cast’s great performances mixed with plenty of exciting action and a surprisingly interesting antagonist, leave ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ an enjoyable and mostly faithful comic book adventure for the iconic web-head.

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The Lion King

The second of this year’s live-action Disney remakes, ‘The Lion King’ directed by Jon Favreau, is definitely one of the worst in my opinion, as although the film’s CG visuals are nearly flawless, the film simply lacks any of the charm, heart and overall personality of the original film. Resulting in the remake being nothing more than an overall boring experience.

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Little Monsters

Although the film is help-up by some strong performances and some interesting ideas, ‘Little Monsters’ never manages to break the structure of your usual zombie film. Coming-off as an occasionally fun yet mostly bland horror/comedy, which is just as predictable as it is dull, despite many of its decent comedic moments.

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Serenity

Whilst I personally didn’t dislike ‘Serenity’ as much as many others, the film still suffers from a variety of issues. As director Steven Knight attempted to achieve something very different with this film, which at some points works quite well, and at others doesn’t work at all. As many of the unusual performances and can really drag down the film’s great cinematography and editing.

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Fractured

Overly predictable and formulaic, ‘Fractured’ focuses on the potentially compelling narrative of a father’s family mysteriously disappearing within the walls of a hospital, yet despite its few effective scenes, ‘Fractured’ soon ends-up feeling like a path nearly every viewer has been down before. Resulting in the film becoming just another forgettable Netflix Original.

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The Lighthouse

Despite my dislike of director Robert Egger’s other film: ‘The Witch’ back in 2016, ‘The Lighthouse’ had me gripped to the screen throughout its runtime. As the film’s black and white colour palette along with it’s eerie original score and intriguing story, leave the ‘The Lighthouse’ a film that’s just an interesting to discuss as it is to watch.

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Parasite

I went to experience Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Parasite’ mostly due to its outstanding reviews rather than due to its trailers (which I personally found quite poor). But yet, with some absolutely gorgeous cinematography and brilliant performances, ‘Parasite’ is now definitely up-there with some of my personal favourite foreign flicks such as: ‘Oldboy,’ ‘Veronica’ and ‘The Host’, in addition to possibly being my favourite release of this year.

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Captain Marvel

One of the blandest Marvel films I’ve seen for a while, ‘Captain Marvel’ focuses far too much on pushing on themes of strong female empowerment that it forgets to actually create a likeable protagonist or an interesting origin story, making the film overall feel simply forgettable more than anything else.

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Zombieland: Double Tap

Surprisingly, Zombieland: Double Tap’ was more enjoyable than I was initially expecting. As while far from as memorable or as enjoyable as the original for me, there were more than a few moments of humour between the cast that had me laughing, despite the film’s tone going even more over-the-top than before.

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The Irishman

Incredibly iconic director Martin Scorsese returns to bring-us another tale of crime and regret with ‘The Irishman,’ and while the over three-hour-long runtime can definitely make the film drag at points, the brilliant performances and phenomenal filmmaking are sure to keep those paying attention engaged for the majority of the film’s runtime.

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Hellboy

The latest superhero to get his own remake is the iconic: ‘Hellboy,’ with the remake this time falling far, far from the mark. As a ridiculously messy story mixed with poor CG effects and dreadful comedic moments, leave the film pleasing no one, despite David Harbour’s serviceable performance as the horned anti-hero.

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1917

Made to appear as if it was filmed entirely within one shot, ‘1917’ is a brutal, gripping and engaging story involving two soldiers who set-off in a race against time to save thousands of men from a doomed battle, and while not flawless, the film is definitely impressive for both it’s narrative and filmmaking.

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Fighting with My Family

Directed by actor and comedian Stephen Merchant, ‘Fighting with My Family’ is a light-hearted British comedy-drama based on the true story of WWE wrestler: ‘Paige’ portrayed extremely well throughout the film by Florence Pugh, and despite a few cringy scenes, ‘Fighting with My Family’ was a huge surprise for me. As a very investing story and some brilliant moments of humour leave the film a genuinely enjoyable experience that seemingly went under most people’s radars upon its initial release.

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Jojo Rabbit

Heartfelt, emotional and brimming with comedic charm, ‘Jojo Rabbit’ is another one of my favourites from this year. Being a completely different take on the war genre by giving the audience a new view of the events of the Second World War through the eyes of a child. All under the excellent direction of Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok).

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Missing Link

From Lakia animation studio, the production company that brought to life many of my favourite stop-motion animated films, such as: ‘Coraline’ and ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ comes another fun family adventure. Shame this one couldn’t have done better at the box-office, as the film is wonderfully put together, featuring plenty of humorous moments alongside the great voice acting and beautiful animation.

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Ready or Not

One of the most surprising films of the year for me, ‘Ready or Not’ may have your usual cliché plot for a modern horror, but somehow the film manages to carry it through. Managing to be extremely funny, gory and fun throughout nearly the entirety of its runtime.

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Doctor Sleep

The long-awaited sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic: ‘The Shining,’ ‘Doctor Sleep’ attempts to continue the story of the ‘Overlook Hotel,’ and does so with mixed results. As although the film does pay plenty of the respect to the original film, I couldn’t help but feel the film doesn’t stand on its own very well, having a mostly predictable story with some pretty bland characters within its nearly three-hour runtime.

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Child’s Play

From the producers of the ‘It’ remake from 2017, this reimaging of the horror classic: ‘Child’s Play’ does have some great elements, such as some hilarious scenes of dark comedy, gory and creative death scenes and even a pretty memorable voice performance by Mark Hamill as the iconic killer doll: ‘Chucky,’ and yet, the film never quite manages to escape its remake roots and goofy original idea, usually feeling more unnecessary than anything else.

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Wounds

Regardless of its atrocious reviews from both critics and audiences, I actually quite enjoyed ‘Wounds.’ As although this psychological horror may have some bland cinematography and an overreliance on jump-scares at points, the film’s weirdly unique narrative and main performance by Armie Hammer simply won me over by its end, despite the film being nothing that memorable in the long-run.

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Pet Sematary

In this new remake of Steven King’s classic novel, Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz portray: ‘Louis’ and ‘Rachel Creed’ a couple who move to rural Maine only to soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden within the woods near their new home, and aside from the dark and interesting plot the film provides. ‘Pet Sematary’ is nothing more than a bland jump-scare fest with little focus on building character or atmosphere.

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I Lost My Body

This unique animated French film co-written by the writer of the beloved: ‘Amélie,’ is very charming and beautifully crafted throughout the entirety of its tight runtime, with a variety of stunning shots and plenty of creative ideas, ‘I Lost My Body’ is certainly worth a watch despite being overshadowed by many other films released this year.

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Uncut Gems

After many poor attempts at comedies in recent days, Adam Sandler gives one of his best performances in years with ‘Uncut Gems,’ portraying a shady jeweller who’s actions and consequences carry the film brilliantly from start-to-finish, despite the film’s shaky cinematography and bizarre original score being a little distracting at points.

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Midsommar

Although I quite enjoyed ‘Hereditary,’ director Ari Aster’s first film from 2017, ‘Midsommar’ was most certainly not for me. Feeling far too pretentious at points with a slow-paced narrative and weak characters, the film’s unique ideas and attractive visuals simply couldn’t save from becoming the boring experience it eventually ended-up being for me, with the exception of another excellent performance by Florence Pugh from this year.

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Unicorn Store

Led by a mediocre and sometimes irritating performance from Brie Larson, ‘Unicorn Store’ attempts to be a fun, colourful and heartwarming tale of a grown woman letting-go of her childhood. Yet unfortunately, the film passes the mark for most of its goals, as ‘Unicorn Store’ is far more dull and forgettable than the whimsical and uplifting tale its story attempts to be.

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Whilst I definitely would’ve preferred an anthology-type structure when it comes to an adaptation of the ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ book series, this Guillermo del Toro produced horror does still have some entertainment value, and I could see the film being very appealing to younger viewers desiring a gateway into the genre.

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The Kid Who Would Be King

A decent fantasy adventure for families, ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ directed by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) definitely has some areas in need of improvement. As the film is brimming with cheesy moments and a very out-of-place original score. Despite this however, the film still manages to utilise its fun story and exciting action scenes to the best of its advantage, resulting in an entertaining if not perfect family flick.

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Clash of the Titans (2010) – Film Review

In this modern remake of the 1981 classic, ‘Perseus’ takes on a variety of gods and monsters in this somewhat fun, yet still very generic and sometimes even over-the-top recreation of the original story. As this time around, director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk, Now You See Me) focuses more on action set-pieces and enormous CG spectacle than ever before.

Plot Summary: When ‘Perseus’ the demi-god son of: ‘Zeus’ finds himself caught in the middle of a war between gods and mortals, in which his mortal family are killed. He gathers a war band to help him conquer the mighty: ‘Kraken,’ ‘Medusa’ and ‘Hades,’ the sinister God of the underworld.

Going-off the negative reviews from both critics and audiences, I wasn’t expecting much from ‘Clash of the Titans’ on my initial watch. However, I was surprised to find the film is mostly entertaining, as although there isn’t much substance to this remake, I still find it to be a somewhat exciting action flick, having plenty of creatures and adventure throughout its runtime despite its various flaws. But this may also be due to my fondness for Greek mythology, as I’ve had an interest in this area of fantastical legends/history since I was very young.

Although there aren’t any particular stand-outs when it comes to the cast, Gemma Arterton, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Mads Mikkelsen and Jason Flemyng all do a decent job throughout the film. However, Sam Worthington who portrays the protagonist: ‘Perseus’ I personally found to be one of the weakest elements of the film, as despite him having a number of large roles in huge blockbusters such as: ‘Avatar’ and ‘Terminator: Salvation’ in the past, he has always seemed extremely bland to me, never really coming-off as anything other than a generic action hero with little charisma, and ‘Clash of the Titans’ is unfortunately, no exception to this. 

The cinematography by Peter Menzies Jr. is also quite bland, as although I do appreciate the lack of incredibly shaky hand-held shots during many of the action scenes. Many of the shots throughout the film are usually very standard, as the cinematography never really attempts to enhance the visuals or make use of the story’s impressive and unique locations (aside from the occasional wide shot).

One very bizarre element of the film is definitely the original score by Ramin Djawadi, as although some tracks sound perfect for a fantasy epic such as this one. Other tracks almost sound as if they’ve been performed by a rock band, making them feel incredibly out-of-place within the film’s time-period. Yet the film’s soundtrack actually does work quite well in my personal favourite scene of the film, as the scene set within ‘Medusa’s lair uses the score to build tension and atmosphere surprisingly well.

The CG effects throughout ‘Clash of the Titans’ are definitely one of the film’s better aspects, as regardless of whether it’s being used for creatures, gods or locations, the visual effects always look great. However, this is also partially due to the designs of many of the creatures within the film, as the designs manage to perfectly blend the appearance of modern-day monsters mixed with classic Greek mythology. This also lends itself effectively to many of the various action scenes throughout the film (this obviously being the film’s main draw) as the action throughout the narrative is mostly pretty solid, making great use of the various different creatures abilities and always placing ‘Perseus’ in different dangerous scenarios.

To conclude, I personally found ‘Clash of the Titans’ fairly entertaining for what it was, which is essentially is nothing more than your usual action blockbuster with some Greek mythology thrown-in for good measure. As while the film is successful for what it sets out to do, the film does fall flat in many other areas, from Sam Worthington’s dull performance, to some of the weak writing and occasionally unusual original score, I feel only people truly interested in Greek mythology could get something out of this one. But with all that in mind, ‘Clash of the Titans’ still isn’t the worst remake I’ve ever seen. Final Rating: low 5/10.

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Jurassic Park (1993) – Film Review

One of Steven Spielberg’s most iconic and beloved films of all-time, ‘Jurassic Park’ based on the science fiction novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, is a classic from many people’s childhoods including my own. From it’s incredible practical and CG effects which still hold-up today, through to its memorable characters and beautiful original score by John Williams. The film has made a gigantic impact on cinematic pop-culture and is a true joy to experience for all ages.

Plot Summary: On the tropical island of: ‘Isla Nublar,’ three-hundred and sixty-five miles off the coast of Costa Rica. Billionaire ‘John Hammond’ has become the first man in history to bring back an extinct species with genetically engineered dinosaurs. But when a tropical storm wipes-out the island’s main security systems, his newly invited guests are thrown into peril amongst the prehistoric creatures.

Not only does ‘Jurassic Park’ have an extremely fun and original narrative when compared to many films before it, but the film is also very important when it comes to CG effects, as Spielberg and his team we some of the earliest filmmakers to explore the idea of computer-generated imagery and implement it into film. As Spielberg initially wasn’t impressed with many of the stop-motion effects which had been shown to him up to that point, and surprisingly, many of the visual effects throughout the film are still quite impressive, even by today’s standards for CG effects.

The entire cast of: ‘Jurassic Park’ are truly brilliant, as Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck and of course, the outstanding Jeff Goldblum who portrays: ‘Dr. Ian Malcom’ (possibly his most popular character) are all excellent in their respective roles, and despite each character not getting an enormous amount of development throughout the story, all the characters still manage to feel very varied and memorable. However, my only real issue with the film does relate to the characters, as there has always been a few scenes throughout the film where characters seem to make ridiculous decisions for no apparent reason, and while this isn’t a major problem, it can be a little irritating on rewatches.

The cinematography by Dean Cundey is unfortunately, one of the weaker aspects of the film, as although the film isn’t lacking in attractive or iconic shots. The cinematography is mostly very average for the majority of the film’s runtime, with many of the film’s most memorable shots being mostly due to the film’s practical dinosaur effects. However, the film also makes excellent use of its sets, as every location from the iconic: ‘Visitor Centre’ through to the ‘T-Rex Paddock’ is always very eccentric and memorable.

Probably one of the most recognisable soundtracks in history for film fans, the original score by John Williams is simply incredible throughout the entire film. Having a great blend of beautiful calming tracks in addition to many tracks that help build tension, the soundtrack is truly something to be admired, with the tracks: ‘Welcome to Jurassic Park,’ ‘Journey to the Island’ and ‘Hatching Baby Raptor’ being my personal favourites.

In addition to the CG visual effects, Stan Winston, most known for his work on iconic films such as: ‘Predator,’ ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ and ‘Aliens.’ Created a variety of practical effects for the film, as Spielberg wanted every close-up with the prehistoric creatures to be a practical animatronic, all of which of course are completely life-size and look outstanding, this is even more impressive when considering some of the issues the filmmakers ran into when it came to the rain during the scene: ‘The T-Rex Paddock’ (my personal favourite scene of the film). As the Tyrannosaurus Rex animatronic would constantly break-down due to the enormous amount of water it’s rubber skin absorbed, usually having to be wiped-down in-between takes.

Personally, I don’t have many issues when it comes to the original: ‘Jurassic Park,’ as the film is nearly perfect in many ways for me. As a few unbelievable character choices and some small plot holes don’t take away from what is still an exciting adventure filled with great performances, some fantastic practical and visual effects as well as so much more. ‘Jurassic Park’ is a film for the ages, and I definitely believe it deserves its place among the most iconic films of all-time. Final Rating: low 9/10.

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Ready Player One (2018) – Film Review

A triumphant return back to the silver screen for legendary director Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Raiders of the Lost Ark), this time taking on an adaptation of a beloved science fiction novel by Ernest Cline. 2018’s ‘Ready Player One’ not only manages to capture that classic Spielberg whimsy all these years later, along with having plenty of breathtaking visuals and thrilling action sequences to-boot. But through its many, many references and appearances to/from iconic properties and characters from all types of media, ‘Ready Player One’ soon becomes a sweetly-nostalgic adventure for any age.

Plot Summary: In the dystopian future of 2045, humanity spends their days inside ‘The OASIS,’ a virtual world where the only limits are your own imagination. Until on his death bed, the original creator of: ‘The OASIS’ makes a posthumous challenge, promising his entire fortune as well as complete control over his virtual world to the lucky ‘OASIS’ user that finds his ‘Golden Easter Egg.’

As its story may imply, ‘Ready Player One’ follows its novel counter-part closely by structuring its narrative half in the real-world, and half within ‘The OASIS.’ Having all of the scenes set within the virtual world be comprised entirely of CGI, whilst reality is presented through live-action. While many viewers may initially be quite cautious of this (myself included), fearing a barrage of phoney-looking CG set-pieces, Spielberg actually pulls this idea off very well, as the film never feels as if its CG visuals are being overused despite them taking-up most of the runtime. Interestingly, Spielberg teamed-up with effects company Industrial Light and Magic for most of: ‘Ready Player One’s visuals, the company that previously worked with him for the first ‘Jurassic Park,’ so the Tyrannosaurus Rex that appears in the film is recreated using the same base-model made for the original film.

Best known as ‘Cyclops’ in the new incarnation of the ‘X-Men’ series, Tye Sheridan does a decent job at portraying the film’s likeable protagonist: ‘Wade Watts.’ Alongside Sheridan, Olivia Cooke as ‘Wade’s love interest: ‘Samantha,’ as well as Mark Rylance as ‘Halliday’ and Ben Mendelsohn and T.J. Miller as the film’s antagonists are all fine throughout the film. Yet whilst every member of the cast is trying here, the performances in ‘Ready Player One’ are made more impressive considering the film’s extremely weak characters. As unfortunately, nearly every character we meet within the story is mostly one-note, being nothing more than your traditional hero, companion or villain etc.

Although an enormous amount of the cinematography by Janusz Kaminski is visually-striking, having a large number of moving shots where the camera soars through the limitless world of: ‘The OASIS.’ It’s difficult to judge it in its entirety, as a good majority of the camerawork is obviously CG due to half of the film’s story being set within a virtual world, and whenever we cut back to reality, the cinematography usually feels quite bland. However, I do appreciate the gloomy colour palette that’s utilised when the film returns to the real-world, as it contrasts well against the incredibly colourful visuals of: ‘The OASIS.’

Even though the film’s original score by Alan Silvestri is a serviceable and uplifting score in its own right, sounding subtlety like a Steven Spielberg classic. The film’s score was originally going to be composed by longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams, but as a result of a scheduling conflict with another Spielberg film, Williams left the project to Alan Silvestri. Making ‘Ready Player One’ only the third film where Spielberg didn’t collaborate with Williams.

Many of the main problems I find hard to ignore with ‘Ready Player One’ mostly revolve-around its weak writing, as although not continually noticeable, the film has a number of cheesy moments/clichés scattered throughout its story, in addition to many moments of humour which fall completely flat. Some viewers have also taken-issue with the enormous amount of characters from other media appearing in the film, seeing it as pandering and meaningless. I don’t agree with this criticism however, as the original novel is full of many of its own (unique) references. Personally, I also feel many of the film’s flaws are made-up for by its brilliant action scenes, from the opening race to the explosive final battle, to even a scene where the characters travel into the classic horror film: ‘The Shining,’ every set-piece is both creative, and enjoyable to watch.

Overall, ‘Ready Player One’ definitely has its faults, in particular, when it comes to its screenplay. But even with its problematic writing in mind, I’d still say the film is a great addition to Spielberg’s huge line-up of family flicks. As while it may not be on the same level of classics like ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ or ‘Hook’ for example, ‘Ready Player One’ overcomes its weak characterisation and occasional corny dialogue to become an exciting sci-fi/fantasy odyssey, and a film I’d recommend a trip into ‘The OASIS’ for. Final Rating: high 7/10.

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Goosebumps (2015) – Film Review

Based on the iconic children’s book series by R. L. Stine, the film adaptation of: ‘Goosebumps’ actually takes a very different approach to its source material. By this time actually having the book series itself play a part in the story, allowing for multiple different monsters from the classic series to appear, alongside Jack Black’s extreme portrayal of: ‘Goosebumps’ original author R. L. Stine of course. This all leading to a somewhat fun but overall flawed adventure.

Plot Summary: When an angsty teenager (Zach) moves in next door to the children’s horror author R.L. Stine and his teenage daughter, as he soon finds himself in a strange scenario. As the writer’s own monsters are brought-to-life from their own stories to inflict chaos onto their small town.

Rob Letterman (Shark Tale, Monsters vs. Aliens, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu) directs the film with a fun Halloween-like atmosphere, bringing together many different monsters and creatures ripped straight from their own books, with most of the designs of the monsters being recreated perfectly based on their original designs, despite many of them only getting a few seconds of screen-time, with the haunted dummy: ‘Slappy,’ being the leader of the monsters, and the main focus of the narrative, portrayed as an almost more sinister side of R.L. Stine himself. But as I’ve always been a huge fan of the original: ‘Goosebumps’ show on Cartoon Network, the film’s lack of scares is quite frustrating. As sadly, ‘Goosebumps’ chooses to focus far more on comedy than light-horror to appeal to a new generation of kids, which I personally think is a huge mistake.

Most of the cast here give decent performances for a family flick, as Dylan Minnette and Odeya Rush portray a couple of teenagers thrown into this mad adventure fairly. Alongside their friend: ‘Champ’ portrayed by Ryan Lee, who I found extremely grating after a while. All lead by Jack Black’s portrayal of R. L. Stine as previously mentioned, in addition to his portrayal of the film’s antagonist: ‘Slappy the Living Dummy.’ Who as both characters, gives a performance a little too over-the-top for me.

The cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe is overall nothing amazing, coming-off as mostly bland and generic throughout, but it does it’s job regardless. Danny Elfman also takes on the original score for the film, and again whilst not being anything super memorable, the score is a decent mixture between a spooky horror score alongside a more traditional family film soundtrack. The CG effects however, are actually one of the better aspects of the film for me, as while not outstanding they do succeed in bringing the various creatures to life, alongside many of the make-up effects and costumes, which I personally thought added to many of the action scenes throughout the runtime.

Although there are a few funny lines throughout the film, the writing here is one of the film’s biggest issues. As the somewhat original story is dragged down by some awful jokes and very cringy moments, which again falls back on why I would’ve preferred for the film to go for more of a creepy tone over a completely comedic one. The colourful end title sequence of the film is also a great throwback for classic ‘Goosebumps’ fans (despite not adding much to the film as a whole).

Overall, ‘Goosebumps’ was disappointing for me, as I was really expecting something more along the lines of: ‘Coraline’ or ‘Monster House’ on my initial viewing. A creepy family flick with plenty of eerie atmosphere, a few original ideas and plenty of throwbacks to the classic books. While I’m not completely against the idea of comedy within the story, the film simply comes down to nothing more than your standard family adventure with an over-reliance on goofy jokes, with the only difference being the slapped-on ‘Goosebumps’ name. Of course, I’m also not the film’s target audience, and I could definitely see some families enjoying this spooky adventure for what it is. Final Rating: 4/10.

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Rise of the Guardians (2012) – Film Review

Truly a very underrated DreamWorks flick in my opinion, ‘Rise of the Guardians’ is a very comedic and action-packed animated adventure. Feeling almost like an ‘Avengers’ blockbuster aimed towards a younger audience at points, filled with plenty of heart, emotion and a wonderful original score by Alexandre Desplat, the film is a genuinely an animated hidden gem.

Plot Summary: When an evil spirit known as ‘Pitch’ lays-down the gauntlet to take over the world, the immortal ‘Guardians,’ a.k.a. ‘Santa Clause,’ ‘The Easter Bunny,’ ‘The Tooth Fairy,’ ‘Sandman’ and ‘Jack Frost’ must join forces for the first-time in millennia to protect the hopes, beliefs, and imagination of children all over the world.

‘Rise of the Guardians’ takes a lot of inspiration from the children’s book series: ‘The Guardians of Childhood’ by William Joyce. As the film has a lot of fun with its plot, playing-into the over-the-top ideas of its story resulting in many interesting/unique locations and plenty of little jokes between the characters.

The entire cast of Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman and Isla Fisher, are all fantastic as their various characters. Each giving their character a likeable and amusing but not overly irritating personality, I particularly enjoyed Hugh Jackman and Alec Baldwin as ‘The Easter Bunny’ and ‘Santa Clause,’ as I feel these characters were definitely given many of the best jokes and moments throughout the film’s runtime, with the actors behind their voices clearly having a lot of fun of portraying them.

Throughout the film, the animated cinematography is fairly decent, as while by no means anything exceptional. The film does make use of many different moving shots, usually having the camera tracking or spinning around the characters/locations to make the film feel like a true spectacle. The original score by Alexandre Desplat is easily one of my favourite elements of the film however, as while this composer has worked on many other brilliant soundtracks in his past, such as: ‘The Imitation Game,’ ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ (Part I and II) and ‘The Shape of Water’ just to name a few. I feel this has to be one of his most underrated scores similar to the film itself, as the tone captures all the elements of wonder, amazement and excitement perfectly.

The animation within the film is stunning throughout, everything from the hairs on-top of the character’s heads, to the many sand effects for: ‘Sandman’s abilities, alongside ‘Jack Frost’s snow/ice effects all look phenomenal. The film is always very beautiful to look at and has a very diverse colour palette, ranging from light blues, to pale greens and dark blacks, making every shot look very appealing and always different from the last.

My main issues with the film mostly revolves around its cheesiness, as while the film isn’t only aimed at children and does manage to reach an adult audience most of the time. The film never quite catches the older audience like a Pixar film would for example. There is also a small group of child characters in the film who play a role in the narrative helping the guardians, unfortunately I found these characters quite irritating, as I felt the film played into their ‘childlike nature’ a little too much, luckily, these characters don’t receive too much screen-time.

Rise of the Guardians’ is one of those great family films that can entertain most children and a fair few adults, while by no means is it one of the best animated films. It’s certainly up there with some of DreamWorks’ other classics such as: ‘Shrek,’ ‘Kung Fu Panda,’ ‘Megamind’ or ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ for me. As although the film may not be winning an Oscar for best-animated film anytime soon, I still feel it’s still a great watch around Christmas, Easter, or maybe just your standard family film night. Final Rating: 7/10.

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