How to Train Your Dragon (2010) – Film Review

One of the highest-regarded films from DreamWorks Animation, 2010’s ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ is successful in nearly every regard as an animated feature, making many changes to its original source material (all of which for the better), to excel as a brilliant piece of family-focused storytelling. With plenty of memorable characters, exhilarating action sequences and an outstanding original score by John Powell, ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ would soon go on to become one of DreamWorks’ most recognisable and profitable franchises for good reason.

Plot Summary: On the island of: ‘Berk’, ‘Hiccup’, the frail son of the Viking Chief, aspires to hunt dragons and keep his home safe like the rest of his clan, earning the respect of his fellow Vikings. But after inuring a ‘Night Fury’, one of the rarest and most powerful dragons known to exist, ‘Hiccup’ forms an unlikely friendship with the creature, soon realising that dragons aren’t at all what Vikings believe them to be.

The first film to be directed by duo Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois since the Disney classic: ‘Lilo and Stitch’ in 2002. The film adaptation of: ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ makes many alterations to the story seen in the original children’s book. As firstly, ‘Hiccup’ does not have a love interest, and the now-iconic DreamWorks character: ‘Toothless’ is about the size of the ‘Terrible Terror’ dragon breed, his skin is also green and red, not black. Furthermore, ‘Toothless’ gets his name when ‘Hiccup’ first finds him with no teeth. But the film’s producers decided, with the approval of author Cressida Cowell, that it would be more cinematic to make ‘Toothless’ large enough to be ridden as a flying mount. As such, ‘Toothless’ was completely redesigned as a rare ‘Night Fury’, a highly intelligent breed of dragon evolved for speed and stealth with teeth that retract into their jaw when shooting a fiery-pulse.

Protagonist: ‘Hiccup’ is portrayed by Jay Baruchel, a fairly under-the-radar actor. But similar to his character in ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ from 2011, Baruuchel suits a nervous character like ‘Hiccup’ extremely well due to his naturally-anxious voice, making for a likeable yet never vexatious protagonist. Gerard Butler as ‘Hiccup’s father: ‘Stoick’ is another member of the cast who naturally fits his character, as Butler’s rough Scottish voice melds with the hefty Viking leader’s design perfectly. The film also features a great ensemble cast for the other young dragon recruits through America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller and Kristen Wiig, who together provide many of the film’s comedic moments.

The animated cinematography throughout ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ is superior to a number of other animated flicks when put in comparison, as the film continuously features beautiful visuals. The most obvious being within the scene: ‘First Flight’, in which, ‘Hiccup’ hops aboard ‘Toothless’ for the first-time as they soar across the stunning land of: ‘Berk’, breezing over acres of forest and past/through cliffs all while being tracked by the camera. Interestingly, many of these dragon-flying moments are also inspired by combat and aerobatic aircrafts, as ‘Toothless’ performs many aerobatic maneuvers such as a ‘Loop and Snap’.

Nominated for an Oscar at one point-in-time, the original score by John Powell is truly sensational, a majestic score that occasionally even utilises bag-pipes in order to further fit with the film’s Scottish setting (which is alluded to by the many Scottish accents). And while Powell has always been known for creating phenomenal scores for animated flicks, with ‘Ice Age’, ‘Kung Fu Panda’ and ‘Horton Hears a Who!’ being just some of his sublime work, the soundtrack for: ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ is by far some of his best, with the tracks: ‘This is Berk’ and ‘Forbidden Friendship’ becoming some of the most notable tracks in all animation.

The animation itself has begun to show its age in a handful of shots since the film’s initial release, but as a result of the film’s many wonderful designs, usually in relation to its dragons, which display different abilities, colours, horns and skin-tones for each breed, the film manages to redeem any shot that feels at all dated. These pleasant designs also help distract from the film’s overly-fast-pacing, as whilst I understand that younger viewers may have shorter attention-spans, the film can sometimes feel as if its rushing through one scene to quickly get to the next.

Although I share the quite controversial opinion of disliking the sequels to ‘How to Train Your Dragon’, as I personally find them much more generic and paint-by-numbers in terms of plot. The original film is still one of DreamWorks Animation’s best efforts, and I’d even argue is on the level of beating-out their previous fantasy franchise: ‘Shrek’ when it comes to its characters and world-building. So even if you don’t enjoy animated/family films, perhaps ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ will sway you into the genre just as it does with its wonderous story. Overall, a low 8/10.

how-to-train-dragon-poster1

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010) – Film Review

Co-written/produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by Troy Nixey, ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ embraces many of the same elements as del Toro’s other films, crafting a narrative which combines both traditional gothic horror and childlike fantasy. But sadly, unlike a usual del Toro project, there is a noticeable absence in everything from captivating characters to memorising practical effects/creatures, resulting in a film that feels like a mostly copy-and-paste effort beyond a few interesting ideas.

Plot Summary: After being sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend at their recently-renovated manor, the previous home of the long-missing painter: ‘Emerson Blackwood’. Young ‘Sally’ begins to hear ominous voices emanating from the basement’s ash-pit, soon leading her to discover the cause of the painter’s disappearance…

Taking heavy inspiration from the classic H.P. Lovecraft short story: ‘The Rats in the Walls’. ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ is actually a remake of a low-budget 1973 TV film, as the now-iconic director Guillermo del Toro has stated in the past that he was terrified of the film when he first watched it as a child, later inspiring him to reimagine the mostly-unknown horror flick. Yet even with a much larger-budget and a more well-known cast, the film is still quite underwhelming when it comes to both its scares and story, as the film’s narrative follows a formula almost identical to many other modern horrors.

All of the performances throughout the film aren’t anything overly-impressive, as whilst Katie Holmes does try her best to portray a young girl witnessing sights that no one else believes. Her character: ‘Sally’ (similar to the rest of the film’s characters) receives very limited characterisation, which does make many of the scenes revolving around the family-dynamic far less entertaining. Then there is also ‘Sally’s father and his girlfriend: ‘Kim’ portrayed by Guy Pearce and Bailee Madison respectively, and although Madison gives a serviceable performance, Pearce may give one of the weakest performances of his career here. As ‘Sally’s father: ‘Alex’ always shows little concern or remorse when it comes to his daughter, making the character immensely difficult to resonate with.

The cinematography by Oliver Stapleton is very grand in its execution, allowing for a large number of wide-shots, some of which even flow smootly-around the various rooms of the manor. But it’s the film’s colour palette which is most worth noting, as the film utilises much more red and yellow than many other modern horrors, which is a pleasant change in terms of visuals as the more vibrant colours reflect the manor’s elegant design, which is probably one of the most visually-striking ‘haunted houses’ in recent memory, with even the manor’s front entrance having a beautiful carving of an old oak tree merged into the multi-coloured glass.

Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders provide the original score for the film, which similar to the film’s cinematography, gives the story a much more ‘epic’ feel. As the heavy-orchestral score could’ve easily been taken from any classic gothic horror, lending itself effectively to many scenes aside from a couple of generic tracks. The film often also features some fantastically-creepy sound design, as the film’s creatures continuously speak to ‘Sally’ using their ghostly whispering voices, which seemingly echo throughout the usually-empty corridors of the manor.

Although many of del Toro’s other outings do provide plenty of wonderful practical effects to gaze at, usually creating an array of unsettling/memorable creatures, ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ takes another (less-appealing) route to its monsters. As the film’s creatures are brought-to-life almost entirely though CG effects, which not only makes some shots appear slightly dated, but also manages to take-away from nearly all of the film’s tense moments. Additionally, the film’s creature designs aren’t all that menacing, as despite the idea of evil fairytale monsters being quite unique (as the creatures are later revealed to be a sinister incarnation of tooth-fairies). The creature’s extremely small-size does make them feel very unthreatening even if it is a nice change-of-pace over having one large entity, as the film never does enough with its miniature antagonists regardless of what knives/tools they arm themselves with.

‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’ is regrettably a film that is just not worth its short runtime. As while I admire the effort to combine famed fairytale stories with a chilling atmosphere, the predominantly poor performances and numerous unexplored concepts leave the film simply another bland horror flick with a surprisingly weak screenplay by del Toro to-boot, especially when compared to much of his other work. Still, with all that said, I feel that Troy Nixey does deserve another shot in the director’s chair someday, as since this film’s initial release, he actually hasn’t worked on any other projects, which is unfortunate, as I do believe he does have some talent as a filmmaker when looking at this film’s merits. Overall, a high 3/10.

dont_be_afraid_of_the_dark_ver3_xlg

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010) – Film Review

Taking heavy inspiration from the smash-hit comedy: ‘The Hangover’ released a year prior, this 2010 comedy revels in its absurdist tone and nonsensical plot right from its earliest scenes. As despite featuring some very dull cinematography and a completely forgettable original score to-boot, ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ does manage to escape some of its flaws due to the original story and amusing moments its ludicrous title would imply.

Plot Summary: When a group of friends impulsively decide to take their low-life pal: ‘Lou’ back to the ‘Kodiak Valley Ski Resort’ after a potential suicide attempt, a place that was once their hotspot for thriving party-filled weekends. The group soon find themselves being sent back in time to 1986 after a drunken dip into their malfunctioning hot tub, allowing them to relive one of the best weekends of their entire lives.

Although comedy as a genre has always been quite divisive, ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ is a film that values its comedy over anything else, as the film continuously throws-in as many jokes and references as it possibly can throughout its runtime. Most of which do come at the expense of messing with the film’s overall structure and pacing (regardless of how comical some of them actually are). As the film goes about its narrative mostly by jumping from comedic scene to comedic scene with most of the character’s different shenanigans having minuscule impact on the others, resulting in the film feeling mostly like a collection of individual comedy skits with little connection.

At a first mention, John Cusack seems like a slightly odd choice for a straight comedy in my opinion, as the actor while talented (and even quite amusing at points during the film) usually specialises more in dramas, thrillers and occasionally even romance over comedies. Whereas the rest of the cast of Rob Corddry, Graig Robinson, Clark Duke, Chevy Chase are all very experienced within the realm of comedy, which is most likely why many of the film’s funniest moments belong to their characters. The film even features a short appearance from a young Sebastian Stan as the angsty teenager: ‘Blaine’, many years before his breakout role as ‘The Winter Soldier’ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Similar to many other modern comedies, ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ nearly always places far more of an emphasis on its comedic writing rather than its cinematography, usually resulting in a large majority of the film’s camerawork being fairly bland. In the case of: ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’s cinematography by Jack N. Green, this means having a variety of scenes shot through hand-held camera, in addition to a few moments where shots can make some of the rooms within the ski resort feel far more like sets than they should, usually leave a lot to be desired in terms of visuals.

The original score by Christophe Beck is immensely generic (even in spite of it barley being utilised throughout the film). Yet while the score’s lack of memorability is a missed opportunity, it certainly isn’t its biggest. As with the film being set within the 1980s, I felt it was a pretty obvious choice to have a synth/rock soundtrack which would meld perfectly with the long list of iconic 80s songs that also populate the film, the most notable of which definitely being: ‘Safety Dance’ when the gang first realise they have arrived in the past.

However, even if ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ doesn’t always make the most of its time-period, the film does at least have an interesting location on-itself, as the ‘Kodiak Valley Ski Resort’ temporary home of the music festival: ‘Winterfest 86’, allows for plenty of visually pleasing locations when covered in the snow and vibrant colours alike. Yet sadly, this still doesn’t manage to make-up for what is easily the film’s biggest misstep. As whilst I would say ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ lands more jokes than it misses, the film does overly-rely on gross-out humour for sure, having a number of scenes where simply having a character getting covered in urine/faeces (or something even worse) is the entirety of the joke, which obviously fails to do anything other than disgust its audience through its idea of comedy.

Overall, a 5/10 for: ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’. Even though I personally feel the film is far more problematic than many other modern comedies, I appreciate the film’s effort to scale-up the preposterous nature of many other comedies, taking its ridiculous story concept and managing to make it work better then many would initially think. But just like many other films within this genre, the bland filmmaking on-display and simply unnecessary amounts of gross-out humour leave it a very mixed-bag for me, with that said however, I could still see the film being enjoyable for anyone in search of a raunchy comedy for a Saturday night with friends.

hot_tub_time_machine_xlg

Tron: Legacy (2010) – Film Review

Although Disney has had more than enough success when it comes to its animated filmography, the iconic production company has seemingly always struggled with its live-action endeavours. As aside from ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise, many of Disney’s attempts to kick-off a live-action film series such as: ‘John Carter’, ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ and ‘Tomorrowland’ have all been relative flops (with the exception of their remakes of animated classics). ‘Tron: Legacy’, the action-packed sequel to the ground-breaking cult sci-fi: ‘Tron’ from 1982, is a slight improvement in this area, yet still results in a film more focused-on style-over-substance.

Plot Summary: After the tech-savvy ‘Sam Flynn’ begins looking into his father’s disappearance, he soon finds himself pulled into a digital world where his father has been trapped for over twenty years. Meanwhile, the malevolent program: ‘CLU’, who rules ‘The Grid’, plans to prevent the pair’s escape and take the real world for himself.

Being set in a virtual world, nearly every scene within ‘Tron: Legacy’ takes place in fully CG locations, and although most of the film’s CG effects do hold-up well and are visually appealing. The digital world of: ‘The Grid’ does begin to feel quite unvaried after a point, as whilst it may look unique at first glance, the illuminated buildings and vehicles throughout the city of: ‘Tron’ feel fairly repetitive despite the film’s variety of different locations. In fact, its the film’s CG visuals that actually made ‘Tron: Legacy’ the most expensive film ever made by a first-time director at the time of its release, with the costume budget alone costing over £10 million.

Garrett Hudlund portrays the film’s protagonist: ‘Sam’, alongside the supporting cast of Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde and also Michael Sheen in a small role. Who all give decent performances despite their dull characters, as ‘Tron: Legacy’s story and characters follow many of the same-beats as any-other sci-fi adventure. However, easily the worst element of the film when it comes to its characters is the film’s antagonist. Known only as ‘CLU’, a corrupt program created by Jeff Bridges’ character: ‘Kevin Flynn’ as a digital copy of himself, this villain not only suffers from a barley-developed motivation but also due to him being a program which doesn’t age, the film utilises CGI to make Jeff Bridges appear a similar age to that of his in the original film, which is one of the few CG effects that really hasn’t aged-well, appearing almost laughably-bad at points.

Claudio Miranda handles the cinematography throughout ‘Tron: Legacy’, and although the film definitely puts far more of an emphasis on its CG effects than its cinematography, there are still a fair amount of interesting shots including plenty of stunning wide-shots to display the true scale of the digital world. The cinematography also makes great use out of the film’s few sleek futuristic sets despite their very limited screen-time, most notably: ‘Flynn’s Safehouse’ located on the edge of: ‘The Grid’.

The original score for the film is actually composed by the techno band: ‘Daft Punk’, whose type of music does suitably fit the sci-fi genre, and whilst some tracks do feel a little too similar to an actual techno album in my opinion. For the most part, the soundtrack does back-up the film’s narrative and adventurous tone very effectively. ‘Daft Punk’ themselves even make a short cameo within the film as a pair of DJs in the ‘End of Line’ nightclub, wearing their iconic helmets as they play one of the film’s most memorable tracks.

Another great aspect of: ‘Tron: Legacy’ is certainly its action set-pieces, as although many of the action scenes throughout the film aren’t anything incredibly inventive. The original: ‘Tron’ did introduce the creative concepts of: ‘Identity/Light Disks’ and ‘Light Cycles’, both of which return in the sequel and result in plenty of thrilling and fast-paced action sequences as ‘Sam’ is thrown-into an array of gladiator-esque challenges near the beginning of the film. The various costumes worn by the characters who live within ‘The Grid’ are also worth a quick mention, as most of the characters wear a ‘Light Suit’, which usually feature fluorescent-like glowing strips that illuminate each suit in a range of colours, which never fails to be visually-striking.

‘Tron: Legacy’ is by no means a terrible film, when it comes to Disney’s other ventures into live-action, ‘Tron: Legacy’ could even be seen as a success for some. But with its fairly paint-by-numbers story, bland characters and onslaught of over-done clichés, this sci-fi sequel ends-up becoming more of a display for its impressive CG visuals and electronic original score rather than an exhilarating sci-fi odyssey. A low 6/10 from me. If you’re a fan of the original: ‘Tron’ I feel you will surely enjoy this follow-up, if not, maybe look elsewhere for your fill of original science fiction.

tron_legacy_ver11_xxlg

Tangled (2010) – Film Review

Disney’s first CG animated fairytale is both incredibly funny and heartwarming. As ‘Tangled’ brings to life the well-known fairy princess: ‘Rapunzel’, now-updated for a new generation of children. Through some beautiful animation, wonderful original songs and an incredibly vibrant colour palette. ‘Tangled’ feels almost as if it’s an enchanting classic restored from Disney’s golden age of animation, despite its few small problems here and there.

Plot Summary: When the ‘Kingdom of Corona’s most-wanted and most charming bandit: ‘Flynn Rider’ hides-out in a mysterious tower, he’s taken hostage by ‘Rapunzel’, a feisty tower-bound teen with magical golden hair. Eventually leading the two of them to strike a deal so ‘Rapunzel’ can achieve her long-desired dream of seeing the annual release of the kingdom’s lanterns.

Heavily praised since its release, ‘Tangled’ was created by Walt Disney Animation Studios, which have produced a variety of fantastic animated films in recent days. Releasing films such as: ‘Bolt’, ‘Zootropolis’, ‘Wreck-It Ralph’, ‘Moana’ and of course, the mega smash-hit: ‘Frozen’ in 2013. Many of which even beginning to surpass Disney’s other animation company over-time, this obviously being Pixar, who now seem to be far more focused-on creating constant sequels, prequels and spin-offs rather than original stories.

Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi bounce extremely well-off each other as ‘Rapunzel’ and ‘Flynn Rider’, with both the characters having plenty of amusing moments in addition to some surprisingly great chemistry (considering they are fully animated). The cast also features Donna Murphy as ‘Mother Gothel’ and Ron Perlman as one of the ‘Stabbington Brothers’ aka. the antagonists of the film, and although neither of these two villains ever become quite as memorable or as iconic as some other Disney antagonists. They do serve their roles within the story effectively and are intimidating enough. During the story, ‘Rapunzel’ also receives a character-arc, growing as a character to become more confident and independent as the runtime continues-on, which I feel is not only executed well but also gets across an important message for children.

Featuring an array of stunning wide-shots, the animated cinematography throughout ‘Tangled’ is decent overall. While nothing overly imaginative, the animated cinematography works really well for many of the film’s fast-paced action sequences. The animated cinematography is also improved by the film’s incredibly colourful visuals, as many scenes throughout the film are dripping with bright colours and magnificent lighting. Some of the colouring of character’s clothing even reflect their personalities, as ‘Rapunzel’ wears purple, a colour often associated with royalty and ‘Flynn’ wears blue and white, colours that often stand for goodness. Whereas ‘Mother Gothel’ wears red, a colour that usually symbolises evil.

The original score by Alan Menken is certainly the weakest element of the film, as ignoring the actual songs within the film, most notably: ‘When Will My Life Begin’ and ‘I See the Light’. The score is mostly generic and little bland at points when it comes to animated flicks, as I feel the soundtrack could’ve been greatly improved if the score would’ve embraced the more fantasy-esque aspects of its narrative. Occasionally, the film can also over-rely on musical cues, as during a number of scenes the film feels the need to accompany every action or piece of humour with a trumpet cue, which feels nothing but unnecessary throughout.

Being many years-on from the film’s initial release, it’s inevitable that the film’s animation would begin to age. However, although a couple of the close-ups on character’s faces may look a little out-dated. ‘Tangled’s animation predominantly holds-up well since 2010. In particular, the CG effects on ‘Rapunzel’s long-hair, which still look marvellous even today. The film’s humour is also fairly excellent, as the film has a large amount of range when it comes to its jokes, usually having plenty of comedic moments that will appeal to older viewers as well as young children. ‘Tangled’ also gets some great comedic moments out of its horse character: ‘Maximus’, who quickly ends-up becoming one of the film’s greatest characters through his constant drive to catch ‘Flynn Rider’, with many of his movements being presented as if he is a large dog or even a human.

Although it may not be one of Disney’s best, ‘Tangled’ is still very enjoyable from start-to-finish. Despite its sometimes overly fast-pacing and slightly dated animation. The film has more than enough to please families, with some likeable protagonists, plenty of memorable songs and an overall joyful and adventurous tone. ‘Tangled’ is in my opinion, on the higher-level of fantastical family films, and whilst some may feel the film is aimed more towards one gender with its story being based around a fairy princess, I’d argue otherwise. A low 8/10 in total.

tangled_ver3_xxlg

Buried (2010) – Film Review

Ryan Reynolds impressively carries an entire film on his shoulders with ‘Buried’, as this fast-paced and extremely tense thriller focuses entirely-on a single character trapped within an enclosed space, building-up a tension-filled atmosphere and displaying constant filmmaking talent throughout (especially since the film was shot in only seven days). ‘Buried’ manages to keep its audience on constant-edge as we experience this terrifying event right alongside our protagonist.

Plot Summary: ‘Paul Conroy’, a US truck driver currently working in Iraq, wakes-up to find he is buried alive inside a wooden coffin after being attacked by terrorists, with only a cigarette lighter and a phone by his side, it’s a race against time for him to contact whoever he can and escape before its too late…

In concept, ‘Buried’ is truly a brilliant idea for a low-budget film, as the entire film takes-place within a single location with only the protagonist ever being psychically seen on-screen, the film never breaks from its tension or narrative, with not even a single shot outside of the coffin itself, and yet, the film never fails at keeping those watching glued to the screen. As after the admittedly fairly cheesy opening title sequence, the film never seems to slows-down, almost refusing to give the viewer a moment to breathe as ‘Paul’ is faced with one difficult task after the next.

As already mentioned, Ryan Reynolds is the only member of the cast to physically appear on-screen, meaning he has the monumental task of delivering a very emotional and gripping performance to keep the audience engaged, which thankfully, he does a phenomenal job of. As throughout the film’s tight runtime the actor going against his usual comedic casting to mostly excellent results. ‘Buried’ even manages to give the protagonist some characterisation through his various phone conversations with the other characters, adding the film’s compelling story even further. The various characters who appear as voices through ‘Paul’s phone consist of his wife: ‘Linda Conroy’ portrayed by Samantha Mathis alongside José Luis García Pérez, Ivana Miño, Robert Paterson and Stephen Tobolowsky, who give the best performances possible even with their limiting roles.

The cinematography by Eduard Grau has a surprising amount of range despite the extremely restrictive location, as the majority of shots get uncomfortably close to ‘Paul’s face, almost placing the viewer in the position of the protagonist themselves, pretty much ensuring a feeling of claustrophobia by the film’s end. The film’s dim lighting also adds to its uncomfortable nature, as ‘Paul’ only has a cigarette lighter and small glowstick by his side, the film consists entirely of bright orange and green colour palette, alongside the occasional glow of blue from ‘Paul’s phone. That is, at least when the screen isn’t covered in complete darkness. Another small detail I appreciate about ‘Buried’ is how ‘Paul’ being underground is displayed. As when shots pull-outwards from ‘Paul’ within the coffin, nothing but total blackness is shown around him, really emphasising the true loneliness and desperation he feels in this situation.

Victor Reyes handles the original score for the film, and whilst the soundtrack is decent is some scenes where it is used quite subtly, the score is sadly one of the film’s worst aspects. As the original score for: ‘Buried’ is usually very generic and feels almost a little too over-the-top for a film as subdued and relentless as this one. Personally, I actually think the film would’ve been improved if more focus was placed on the film’s great sound design rather than its weak soundtrack.

The film also has some strange editing choices during its runtime, as although not present continuously throughout the film. Many scenes do have short moments where the editing becomes rather erratic, sometimes having shots which quickly close-in on ‘Paul’s face as he looks upwards, and whilst I understand this may have been done to add to the film’s tension-building, I feel it only really takes away from it in the long-run.

To conclude, I feel ‘Buried’ is a film you can truly immerse yourself in, as this film makes such outstanding use out of its simplistic yet effective script and small-budget. Although the film does suffer from an excessive original score and some bizarre editing choices, the remainder of film’s execution alongside Ryan Reynold’s tremendous performance is really something to admire, making an already compelling story even more interesting. A solid 8/10 for: ‘Buried’. If you’re a fan of thrillers in particular, then I’m sure you’ll thoroughly enjoy this inventive indie flick.

buried_xlg

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’, 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. This may also be due to my fondness for Greek mythology however, as I’ve had an interest in this element of fantasy/history since I was 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. The soundtrack actually does work quite well in my personal favourite scene of the film however, 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.

Overall, I found ‘Clash of the Titans’ decently 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, and is most likely a low 5/10.

clash_of_the_titans_ver4_xxlg

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) – Film Review

One of my all-time favourite films, my favourite Edgar Wright film, and a film I’d always recommend to any film fan. ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ is a super stylised, incredibly-fun action-comedy, utilising some great CG effects along with brilliant editing and writing, I honestly can’t see anyone not enjoying this well-crafted piece of filmmaking.

Plot Summary: ‘Scott Pilgrim’ is an unemployed twenty-three-year-old gamer in a going-nowhere garage rock band, while dating an underage seventeen-year-old high school girl: ‘Knives Chau’. He comes across the girl of his dreams… that is until he discovers that he must defeat her seven evil exes in order to win her heart.

This over-the-top concept for a narrative is taken from the comic book series of the same name, and provides an insanely fun, hilarious and surprisingly emotional story. Edgar Wright truly directs the film with all his creativity and charm, using the ‘comic book nature’ of the story to its full advantage, with every scene usually containing many visual jokes or comic book like effects, mostly inspired by ‘Scott’s internal love for video games, music and comic books.

Speaking of: ‘Scott Pilgrim’, he is portrayed expertly here by Michael Cera. Always coming off as awkward, funny and charismatic from beginning to end. The rest of the cast are also fantastic however, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Kyle Culkin, Ellen Wong and Jason Schwartzman all being great within their roles. Truly giving life to their characters, and bringing Edgar Wright’s dialogue to another level. I also personally enjoyed Chris Evans as: ‘Lucas Lee’ (the second evil ex) as he always manages to get an enormous laugh out of me every watch, but this isn’t to say all of the evil exes aren’t given their own distinct personalities and fighting styles.

The cinematography by Bill Pope is very well done throughout the film’s run-time and really backs up the already effective editing. Once again similar to the CG effects, the cinematography and editing are also used for comedy many times throughout the film. Many techniques like these really help the film feel fresh and really fit with the tone. The film also has the usual bright colour palette to be expected from this director, this also backs up the tone very well and feels reminiscent of the comic book series in a few shots.

Although the original score by Nigel Godrich is heavily overshadowed by a great choice of songs, very similar to Edgar Wright’s other film: ‘Baby Driver’. Every piece of music whether created by the band within the story or not, always seems to fit the scene very well and backs up ‘Scott’s passion for music.

The action scenes are also extremely well-done throughout the film, utilising stunts very well mixed in with some nice effects. All alongside the interesting locations used throughout the film. The film also does a great job of combining music with the visuals throughout, both within and out of the various action scenes during the runtime.

If I had to give any criticism of this film it would most likely be the reincorporation throughout the story, as some characters/ideas do sometimes appear and then never appear again within the story, can make the film feel a little jolted at times. This along with the pretty quick pacing, the film can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. However, as the story is based-on multiple different comic book issues with a similar story structure, I wouldn’t say it’s an enormous problem and can be overlooked.

‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ is the pinnacle of a stylized film in my opinion, making great use of all elements of filmmaking to create a truly incredible experience. Along with the enjoyable story and likeable developed characters, there really isn’t much to dislike about ‘Scott Pilgrim’. Personally, I adore this film to pieces and would always recommend giving it a watch. No doubt in my mind this one is a 9/10, great job Edgar Wright. Keep-up the good work.

scott_pilgrim_vs_the_world_teaser_poster_01

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) – Film Review

This modern remake of the classic Wes Craven horror flick: ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, unfortunately lacks any of the charm or creativity of the original, as Samuel Bayer’s bland direction and Jackie Earle Haley’s eerie but not incredibly memorable portrayal of the beloved character leaves much to be desired.

Plot Summary: A group of suburban teenagers all share one common bond, they are all being stalked by ‘Freddy Krueger’, a horribly disfigured killer who hunts them in their dreams. As long as they stay awake, they stay alive.

Whilst the film definitely isn’t the worst remake I’ve seen in recent years, it most certainly is one of the most forgettable. As the film never really does anything super interesting of note to give a reason for its existence (other the production company wanting to make a large profit of course). As everything from the cinematography, to the acting, to even some of the CG effects, all really just come off as something from your standard low-budget slasher.

As mentioned earlier Jackie Earle Haley’s version of the ‘Freddy Kruger’ character is most certainly one of the better elements of the film, as although it definitely isn’t as memorable as the original (as Robert Englund will always be the true nightmare in my opinion). Jackie does a decent job at giving his own take on the iconic character, making him more menacing and extremely creepy when on-screen, he still does have the occasional quip every so often however. The rest of the cast aren’t fantastic, as due to their limited direction and weak characterisation as well as the poor writing. Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner and Katie Cassidy have very little to work with.

The cinematography throughout the film by Jeff Cutter is decent overall, as while not as impressive as his work on ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ for example, is it most certainly not terrible to look at through most of the runtime. One aspect of the film that is awful however, is the horrific colour palette the film goes for. As the film uses an over-saturated blue and orange colour palette very similar to a Michael Bay film, which not only doesn’t fit with the style of the film at all, but also simply gives the film a general ugly visual appeal.

Even the original score composed for the film by Steve Jablonsky, is a very bland horror soundtrack with nothing really interesting about it, even with the classic: ‘Elm Street Jingle’ in the background, the score really doesn’t add anything to the already boring atmosphere. The only element truly fresh to this remake, is the enormous amount of jump-scares throughout the narrative, which is pretty much to be expected from any modern-horror nowadays.

As technology and filmmaking techniques have greatly evolved since the release of the original: ‘Elm Street’ film in 1984, I was really expecting the film to get extremely creative with the ways ‘Freddy Kruger’ can invade people’s dreams and kill them. Similar to the way they did within the sequels to the original film over the years, but sadly the film pretty much recreates many of the iconic scenes from the original film almost exactly, without much thought or creative effort put into it. I did personally enjoy the new look for: ‘Freddy’ though if I had to focus on a positive element of the film.

Overall, I was very disappointed with this remake, even with going into it initially with very little expectations. As aside from a few interesting CG effects here and there, the film simply isn’t memorable in the slightest. Using the ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ title without understanding what actually makes it the popular and iconic franchise it is in the first place, so the film is simply a cash-grab, and nothing more than a high 2/10.

a-nightmare-on-elm-street-2010