Children of Men (2006) – Film Review

An intelligent, dark, and grounded sci-fi film, with ‘Children of Men’ director Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Gravity, Roma) crafts a truly memorable experience. As the film’s fresh take on the science fiction genre combines some great performances, alongside decent writing and some absolutely incredible cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, all alongside many scenes throughout the film being done completely within one single take.

Plot Summary: In a world in which women have somehow become infertile, former activist: ‘Theo Faron,’ agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman across a war-ridden country out to a sanctuary at sea in order to save the human race…

Based on the acclaimed novel: ‘The Children of Men’ by P. D. James, the film adaptation begins its narrative in a similar fashion to its source material, as the story kicks off with a quick peek into the grim world of the film, as our protagonist ‘Theo’ makes his way into a small cafĂ© to grab a coffee. This soon leading onto a very shocking moment, which instantly establishes the tone of the film, and really helps give the audience a clear understanding of how these characters are coping with this reality. This soon leads onto the opening becoming very iconic in its own right (as well as my personal favourite scene of the film) and still feels very effective even today.

When it comes to the characters, all the performances throughout the film are pretty great, as every actor is really giving their all here regardless of the importance of their roles within the story. As Clive Owen, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Caine are all terrific. Julianne Moore as ‘Julian’ in particular, was a stand-out for me, however, having some very memorable moments within only a short amount of screen-time. This is also one of the few films where I must really praise the extras, as many of the continuous takes are done using enormous amounts of extras, and from the foreground through to the background, there isn’t one out-of-place extra.

Every piece of the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki throughout the film is nothing short of phenomenal, using hand-held shots to the best of their advantage. Many scenes are filmed from the perspective of the characters, placing the audience in their own tense scenarios. The dark grey colour palette of the film also lends itself well to the war-ridden country setting, as every location always feels rustic, dirty, and lived-in. The original score by John Tavener is also effective, despite being used very sparingly throughout the film to further add to the bleak atmosphere.

My only real criticisms with the film are related to the lack of character depth and the film’s overall pacing, as the pacing throughout the film is extremely slow, leading to many scenes feeling a little drawn-out at points. Despite this slow-pace sometimes adding to the building of tension, it feels mostly unnecessary for most of the film’s runtime. The lack of characterisation throughout the film is also a problem, as although a few characters do get some development, it’s usually few and far between, as I found myself finding more information about the characters online than within the film itself, luckily, however, the decent writing does save this from being a huge issue.

To conclude, ‘Children of Men’ is an exceptional piece of the sci-fi genre. Coming off as a very different approach than what you’d usually expect from a film such as this one, the film almost feels like more of an apocalyptic drama at points. But with a thought-provoking narrative, some amazing cinematography, and a fantastic cast, ‘Children of Men’ truly is a very captivating (if not a very bleak) piece of entertainment, which never fails to impress me every-time I revisit it. Final Rating: 8/10.

Monster House (2006) – Film Review

A personal childhood classic for me, ‘Monster House’ is one of those rare kids films that isn’t afraid to explore darker themes of death and grief. Whilst still managing to be a solid piece of entertainment for any family urging for a creepy adventure, as producers Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg jump on-board alongside Gil Kenan director of the ‘Poltergeist’ remake from 2015 in his directorial debut, this animated adventure is always a joy to return to for me.

Plot Summary: After their creepy old neighbour who lives across the street suffers from a heart attack and is taken to hospital, three teenagers discover that their neighbour’s house is really a living, breathing monster. Eventually leading them to devise a plan to destroy it and save their neighbourhood.

This simple, yet extremely strange plot is one of the best aspects of the film, as the director makes as much use out of this concept as possible. Usually getting extremely creative and even catching the audience by surprise at a few points, no matter their age. Having a great blend of both comedy and tame-horror, the film has a mostly light-hearted tone, aside from the occasional dark scene of course, which actually works quite well for the film’s story. The jokes throughout the film are also pretty decent, as despite some gags being a little too cheesy or immature at points. For the most part, the comedy throughout the film can get a laugh out of me.

The three main characters within the film are portrayed by Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner and Spencer Locke, who all provide likeable and varied personalities to each of their respective characters, while Steve Buscemi lends his voice to the creepy: ‘Old Man Nebbercracker,’ who actually turns out to a very interesting and even sympathetic character by the end of the film’s runtime.

The animated cinematography is overall nothing outstanding, but does lend itself well to creating some attractive shots and eerie visuals throughout the film. I also personally enjoyed how the film utilized more hand-held like camera movements during the more chaotic scenes of action or terror throughout the story. The film even blends its bright animation colour palette with a more dark/pale horror-esque palette, only a little detail, but I appreciated it regardless. The original score by Douglas Pipes is also another wonderful element of the film, combing the feel of a classic animated film with undertones of horror.

Although the animation can sometimes range in quality, the visual look of the almost stop-motion-like animation does give the film an overall creepy appeal. However, due to the film’s age, the film has definitely begun to show some cracks here and there, as various points in the narrative characters can begin to look a little clunky or unnatural with their movements. This is mostly due to the motion capture technology that was used very heavily throughout the film, long before films such as: ‘Avatar’ or ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ truly tested the limits of it.

Many of the character designs throughout the film are also quite memorable, especially with the character: ‘Bones’ in particular, who always comes to mind for me when thinking of this film. I also personally adore the design of the ‘Monster House’ itself, as the design is incredibly menacing and really feels like a true horror antagonist.

‘Monster House’ never fails to be entertaining for me, every-time I revisit it. As the film truly provides a creepy experience which most other family/animated films simply can’t, as films such as: ‘Hotel Transylvania’ or ‘Goosebumps’ always try to capture this tone, but usually fall short. It’s here ‘Monster House’ succeeds, as despite some clunky animation and cheesy dialogue at points, the film succeeds in being an eerie adventure with a fantastic cast, and effective original score that the entire family could enjoy. Maybe it’s nostalgia for me, but I personally believe the film is honestly a great choice when it comes to a Halloween night, or maybe just a rainy day. Final Rating: 7/10.