Bumblebee (2018) – Film Review

Serving as both a prequel to Michael Bay’s iconic ‘Transformers’ franchise as well as a kind of soft-reboot for the film series as a whole, ‘Bumblebee’ is a fresh take on the sci-fi/action film series. But going-off the back of its outstanding reviews and director Travis Scott’s other film: ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ on my initial watch, I was expecting a little more.

Plot Summary: On the run from his alien home-world of: ‘Cybertron’ in 1987, ‘Bumblebee’ manages to find refuge through a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Where ‘Charlie,’ on the edge of turning eighteen and trying to find her place in the world, discovers him, battle-scarred and broken.

Whilst the film is definitely an improvement over Michael Bay’s other various attempts at the shape-shifting machines, ‘Bumblebee’ isn’t overall anything outstanding. Mostly been a very comedic sci-fi action-adventure with a few emotional moments thrown in. This version almost seems to be leaning more towards the iconic cartoon series from 1984 to 1987, as many of the ‘Transformer’s designs are ripped straight from the beloved TV show, even featuring a few cameos from classic characters.

Hailee Steinfeld and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. both portray young characters who attempt to help ‘Bumblebee’ finish his mission throughout the film, and while their characters: ‘Charlie’ and ‘Memo’ only really get a basic amount of development. They are likeable and serve their purpose within the story. A member of the cast I wasn’t aware of at first however, was the infamous John Cena. Who actually portrays one of the main antagonists of the film, aside from the ‘Decepticons’ themselves, and despite his mostly decent performance throughout the film, I simply just couldn’t take seriously. Mostly due to his ‘meme’ status and internet reputation.

Luckily the colourful visuals throughout the film definitely add to the cinematography by Enrique Chediak, as although the cinematography isn’t bad by any means, the cinematography is mostly generic for an action flick like this. But due to the great lighting and colour palette, ‘Bumblebee’ is easily the most visually appealing entry in the blockbuster franchise, ditching the ugly Michael Bay blue and orange colour palette in exchange for more of a summer-like feel for nearly the entirety of its runtime.

The original score by Dario Marianelli is your generic score for an action flick, with some heroic tones alongside it. The soundtrack isn’t really anything memorable, and despite also not being anything amazing, I think I still prefer the original score for the 2007 ‘Transformers’ film by Steve Jablonsky, which has since gone down in film as the main theme for the ‘Transformers.’

The action throughout the film is fun for the most part, not simply being another constant barrage of explosions and actually trying to utilize the various ‘Transformers’ abilities in different ways. However, it still doesn’t quite reach the level of fun the original cartoon series had, always feeling a little toned down. One compliment I can give the film however, is the comedy. As again whilst not landing every joke, the film does have it’s fair share of funny moments, which did give me a short chuckle at times, and not simply just a sigh or a cringe as many of Michael Bay’s extremely poor attempts at humour did.

It’s definitely a pleasant surprise to have an entry in the ‘Transformers’ franchise that isn’t just explosions and loud noises from start-to-finish, with a great visual appeal and plenty of humour throughout, I could see most having a lot of fun with this film, especially families. However, it might be that I simply don’t have a huge love for these characters, but I although I found it enjoyable whilst watching, it wasn’t super memorable for me personally. Final Rating: 6/10.

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Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) – Film Review

A weird, violent and very unpredictable film, Dan Gilroy director of one of my all-time favourite films: ‘Nightcrawler’, works all his charm and creativity into this horror/drama/mystery/dark comedy? It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly what the genre of this film is. Alongside this, similar to some other films I’ve reviewed, I’d say this is definitely not a film for everyone. But for those who it will appeal to, you will surely enjoy yourself.

Plot Summary: Following the discovery of a series of foreboding paintings by an unknown artist, a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art…

The film is mostly built around the shocking deaths throughout the film, as various characters get killed off in different ways. Leaving the rest of the characters in a state of confusion and panic, this allows the film to delve into bits and pieces of characterisation (granted not a lot) in addition to exploring various ideas of what ‘art’ actually is and we criticise and commercialise it, and despite the film not going incredibly in-depth with these ideas, I did still find many of them and the themes of greed and ego interesting.

Jake Gyllenhaal is essentially the main protagonist of the film: ‘Morf Vandewalt’ a very eccentric and strange character who seems to be a parody of over-the-top art critics. Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer and John Malkovich also all lend their talents to the film. Along with the decent writing, their great performances really help give each character a distinct personality. Unexpectedly however, Zawe Ashton is a true standout of the film for me, only really knowing her from Channel 4’s ‘Fresh Meat,’ here she portrays a very different character than ones before.

The cinematography by Robert Elswit also gives the film a very clean look, utilising many different shots throughout. I still do think the film could’ve done more with the camera work though, especially when compared to Dan Gilroy’s previous films. The does also combine cinematography well with the beautiful sets and locations, giving the film a great visual appeal overall. The original score by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders also lends it’s hand to the creepy atmosphere at multiple points throughout the film, yet can also change to more calming or light-hearted when it needs to. 

Although the tone can really vary throughout the film, it never comes-off as unbalanced. Comedy is used at points during the story but never to the point of ruining the eerie atmosphere or character moments. When the film does shift into full horror however, we get easily my favourite moments of the film, as it’s these moments we get some very cool CG effects and unique visuals. As well as a great build-up of intrigue and tension, with the eventual death at the end of the scene usually being very creative, despite not always being very gory.

My main two issues with the film resolve mostly around the pacing of the film, as the film can come off as very slow and can really drag the story down at points. As well as the use of John Malkovich’s character: ‘Piers,’ as this character appears in the very first scene of the film and then again later into the runtime. However, he doesn’t really have any impact on the overall narrative, and really felt to me like the film was just using his bland character to fill-up screen-time.

In conclusion, I couldn’t decide as to what I thought of: ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ upon my initial viewing of the film, and I’m still not entirely sure now. As whilst the film does suffer from a fair amount of problems and isn’t the incredibly entertaining piece of gory fun I was hoping it would be. But I still enjoyed myself through its weird atmosphere and interesting ideas, and it is a film I could maybe see myself returning too at some point. Final Rating: 6/10.

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Interstellar (2014) – Film Review

Critically-acclaimed director Christopher Nolan (Inception, Memento, The Dark Knight) tries his hand at the sci-fi genre for the first time with ‘Interstellar.’ As the beautiful cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema and an incredible score by Hans Zimmer all lend themselves to this story of mankind venturing to another galaxy in search of a new world for our species, and although not perfect, the film is pretty entertaining overall.

Plot Summary: When Earth’s future is being riddled with disasters, famines, and droughts. There is only one way to ensure mankind’s survival, interstellar travel. As a newly discovered wormhole in the far reaches of our solar system allows a small crew to venture where no one has gone before…

Nearly every visual throughout the film is stunning, as along with the gorgeous cinematography, lighting and CG effects. The film really nails the shots within space perfectly, making many scenes look as if a majority of their shots had been taken straight from a NASA satellite, even integrating a great blend of colour and darkness. Many of the planets the crew visit throughout the narrative however, although very cinematic, never really looked ‘other-worldly.’ Usually looking more like an attractive screen-saver, and although colours are used, it’s definitely a very contained colour palette when it comes to the planets. Many of the interior spaceship sets are also very striking in their appearance, hitting a great mix of modern-day and futuristic/high-tech technology.

Matthew McConaughey portrays: ‘Cooper’ the main protagonist of the film, and as per usual, he does a great job within the film as a father who wants nothing but a great future for his children, and although none of the characters get much development throughout the story, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine (and even Matt Damon with his short appearance) all raise the bar high for the level of acting on-display.

As already mentioned, the cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema is fantastic throughout, having slow-panning shots along with a variety of still shots for character scenes. All of this is being backed-up by the unbelievable score by Hans Zimmer, legendary composer for films such as: ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ ‘Gladiator’ and ‘The Lion King’ as well as a few other Christopher Nolan films alongside this one. His calming, unique and very science fiction-like soundtrack really lend themselves to many of the impressive shots within space. In particular, the track: ‘Cornfield Chase,’ a wonderful track which has since become one of the composer’s most beloved pieces of work.

Easily the best scene of the film for me was near the ending, as it’s around the conclusion of the film that we get some of the most amazing visuals combined with an extremely emotional moment. As a character undergoes a realisation and the film goes full circle, connecting itself back to some of the film’s early scenes. This climax really gives us some payoff for everything we’ve watched, it doesn’t quite make up for the long runtime in my opinion, but it’s still somewhat satisfying.

One of my biggest issues with the story and the film in general really, is the extremely slow pacing, as although it’s not boring to watch it by any means. The film does move along at a very slow-pace. As I found in particular the first thirty minutes of the film can really drag on a first watch, as the story gets development only in small pieces. This is when the writing by Christopher Nolan and his brother is put to great display however, as we learn many small details about the characters and world of the film which come back into relevance later.

In conclusion, I wasn’t overly impressed with Christopher Nolan’s first sci-fi outing, although I was entertained for the most part whilst watching, and the visuals and music were a joy to experience. The long runtime and slow build-up stops the film from being super rewatchable for me. As it never becomes as memorable as ‘Inception,’ ‘The Prestige’ or ‘Dunkirk’ through its story and characters. The film was still very well made, and I do feel Nolan would benefit from a stronger story in the future should he chose to return to the sci-fi genre. Final Rating: high 6/10.

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Free Fire (2017) – Film Review

An interesting film for sure, ‘Free Fire’ directed by Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers, High-Rise), thrusts it’s audience straight into a world of blood, bullets and amusing quips. Setting the entire story in one single location, which truly helps the film in setting itself apart from other films within its genre, and I really do appreciate the effort that went into this film in order for it to be as entertaining as it is, and whilst not perfect, the film is still mostly entertaining and amusing throughout.

Plot Summary: In an abandoned Boston warehouse in 1978, a small-scale gun-deal goes awry, turning the warehouse into a chaotic fight for survival with bullets flying in every direction…

As the film is set in the 1970s, the film is littered with 70s style. Everything from the costumes, to the original score, to even the colour palette gives fit extremely well with the film’s tone. It’s clear from the style of the film and the witty dialogue that director Ben Wheatley was obviously inspired by early Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese films, which makes complete sense as crime seems to be his go-to-genre for the most part.

The entire cast here are all doing a great job of fitting film’s tone, as although there are a few comedically dark moments, the film is mostly lighthearted. As the cast’s performances back-up this tone very well, giving the film an over-the-top and comedic outlook on the situation. I also enjoyed the sound design for the weapons in this picture, as I felt like each gunshot actually had an impact, not just that the actors were playing with props. I would say Armie Hammer as ‘Ord’ as well as Cillian Murphy as ‘Chris’ were easily my personal favourites of the cast, as I always found myself enjoying their very charismatic and cocky personas throughout the runtime.

Despite it being nothing amazing, the cinematography by Laurie Rose is decent enough throughout the majority of the film. Although I do believe there is a bit too much of a reliance of a hand-held camera at points, as I feel a still shot would be welcome more than a few times and as already mentioned, the original score by Geoff Barrow backs up that time-period very well. However, the soundtrack itself is pretty forgettable outside the rest of the film.

The best compliment I can give this film is without a doubt the writing. As although the characters get barley any development throughout the narrative (relying mostly on the actor’s charismatic performances) the writing never fails to implement humour, or extremely-tense scenarios nearing the end of the film. This is a shame however, as I do feel a character-arc would have worked very effectively for one of the greedy, egotistical characters on display.

Overall, I would say I enjoyed: ‘Free Fire,’ it definitely isn’t perfect due to its weak characterisation, over-reliance on hand-held shots and maybe a few missed jokes here and there. But still an enjoyable watch, and a nice 1970s throwback nevertheless. Plus the original concept of the narrative always intrigued me, and must be appreciated for its creativity alone. Final Rating: 6/10.

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