Edge of Tomorrow (2014) – Film Review

Exceeding expectations in more ways than one and combining the star-power of both Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ is an explosive summer blockbuster which re-imagines the comedy classic: ‘Groundhog Day’ into a thrilling sci-fi flick to fantastic results. Directed by Doug Liman (Swingers, The Bourne Identity, American Made) and based-on the Japanese manga: ‘All You Need is Kill’ by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ or ‘Live Die Repeat’ as its now more commonly referred, manages to succeed in nearly every aspect an exciting science fiction film would need to.

When an alien race invades Earth and releases an unrelenting assault unbeatable by any military unit in the world. ‘Major William Cage’, an officer who has never seen a day of combat, is unceremoniously dropped into the front line. Getting killed within minutes, ‘Cage’ now finds himself inexplicably thrown into a time-loop forcing him to live out the same battle over and over. But with each reset, ‘Cage’ soon learns to defend himself with the help of Special Forces soldier: ‘Rita Vrataski’, who together, hatch a plan to defeat the creatures, permanently.

Taking inspiration from sci-fi war epics such as: ‘Aliens’, ‘Starship Troopers’, ‘Independence Day’ in addition to the previously mentioned: ‘Groundhog Day’. ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ may have initially had disappointing returns when it released in cinemas in 2014, but mostly through word-of-mouth, the film has since continued-on to become a modern science fiction classic, keeping itself distinct through its signature ‘resetting the day’ idea and couple of amusing moments in between its action-packed story.

For a large majority of the film Tom Cruise plays against his usual type, as ‘Major William Cage’ is essentially the complete opposite of his character: ‘Ethan Hunt’ from the ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise, with most of the character’s screen-time being spent dying continuously in horrific (yet also somewhat comedic) ways, alongside his genuinely cowardly and untrained demeanour. Cruise also bounces-off his co-star Emily Blunt very well throughout the film, with Blunt portraying the complete opposite of Cruise’s character as ‘Rita Vrataski’, a hard-as-nails solider who is a skilled as they come.

Although the cinematography by Dion Beebe does rely heavily on hand-held camerawork, this hand-held approach does remarkably add to many scenes within the film. Replicating the chaos of the constant war that surrounds ‘Cage’ as he tries different tactics in an attempt to survive on the battlefront, not to say that the cinematography doesn’t still allow for the occasional attractive shot however. Much of the film’s CG visuals are also up-to-par, excluding the ‘Exo-Suits’ of course, which are actually practical costumes for the most part. This was done so the suits would appear more real to the audience, which does stop the film from feeling too CGI-heavy during many of the film’s action sequences, even if the suits did weigh between eighty-five to ninety pounds on-set.

The original score by Christophe Beck is certainly no where near as memorable as the film itself, being a mostly typical soundtrack for a action blockbuster with little charm or even a slight sci-fi twist to help the score stand-out. This unfortunately, even applies to the best track of the score: ‘Solo Flight’, which does at least utilise what sounds like metal clanging audio effect to add a little more impact wherever it can.

The film’s main issues mostly revolve around two particular areas, firstly, the designs of the alien creatures known as ‘Mimics’. As whilst the CG effects that bring the creatures to life do look superb, the creatures feel a little too similar to video game enemies, as their different breeds are only distinct by colour (being either red or blue), with the remainder of their design being almost identical. While this is slightly redeemed by their unique sound design, it can become difficult to even tell the creatures apart when they are in large groups. My other complaint with the film is with its final act, as whilst the narrative throughout most of the runtime remains engaging and rousing. The film’s final portion ends-up becoming a little more generic after losing its main time-looping concept.

Since even my first viewing of: ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ I’ve always been impressed by this science fiction flick, as while the film isn’t flawless and does still suffer from its cloned creature designs and weak final act. ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ is still a far more enjoyable and enthralling sci-fi than many may initially think. Even though the film didn’t thrive at the box office on its release, it seems with its change in marketing to ‘Live Die Repeat’ that many more science fiction fanatics have now stumbled across this underrated gem, and with a blockbuster as riveting and surprisingly clever as this one is, I feel it can always be praised further. Overall, a low 8/10.

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The Purge: Anarchy (2014) – Film Review

This sequel to the original: ‘Purge’ film released just a year earlier is a slight improvement over the first, yet still doesn’t fare much better overall. As while ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ does deliver more-on what its initial film set-up, now focusing-on a small group of characters attempting to survive the night of chaos and murder out on the abandoned streets of Los Angeles. ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ doesn’t do enough with this new perspective, and it soon becomes quite evident that it isn’t going to be enough to save the film from its return to weak filmmaking and storytelling.

As another year’s ‘Purge Night’ commences, two groups of survivors unintentionally intertwine after being rescued by a mysterious stranger out on a mission. Now stranded and in desperate need of a vehicle, the group agree to stick together in order to survive against the many ‘Purgers’ out for blood.

Once again directed by James DeMonaco, it’s clear from the large scale that ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ is aiming for that the film is trying to please the audience that were dissatisfied with the first entry in the franchise, ditching the small-scale home-invasion story in favour of becoming more of an action-focused thriller that further explores its disturbing world. Yet even with the many themes of: ‘The Purge’ series still present, ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ manages to feel like a bigger waste of potential than the first film. As in spite of the fact we get to see how many different Americans spend their murderous night, the film still feels quite restrained, never delving enough into each baleful group of: ‘Purgers’ or their violent deeds.

Frank Grillo leads the cast this time around as a character only known as ‘The Sergeant’, who has easily become the most beloved character in the series since ‘The Purge: Anarchy’s initial release, soon becoming the only character to return in a later ‘Purge’ film. However, whilst I understand why most viewers resonate with his character, I did feel much of his characterisation was lost as a result of a large amount of his dialogue (including his backstory) being cut during post-production. The sequel’s cast also includes Carmen Ejogo and Zoë Soul who both give decent performances, as well as the other two cast members of Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez, who are both about as irritating and dim-witted as horror characters come, having nothing but scene-after-scene of the two making moronic decisions after plenty of panicking.

Unfortunately, returning cinematographer Jacques Jouffret doesn’t innovate much on his style of cinematography from the first film, relying very heavily on hand-held camerawork now just with slightly better lighting due to the many street lights above the character’s heads. Although there are still a few interesting shots, the only real aspect of the film that manages to stand-out stylistically is the film’s end credit sequence, which combines footage from both of the ‘Purge’ film released at the time in addition to shots of fire, blood and the American flag, all key visuals of the series.

Nathan Whitehead’s original score is very similar to that of the first film, mostly consisting of a series of tracks that lack anything overly-distinctive about them, being utilised mostly within the film to help build tension. That is with the exception of the track: ‘Commencement’ however, being without a doubt the best track of the entire score, this impactful and brooding track plays when ‘The Purge’ first begins, making for one of the film’s most memorable scenes.

Whilst this was also an issue in the original: ‘Purge’ film, ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ carries-over the same problem, suffering repeatedly throughout the runtime as a result of its many awful CG effects. Most notably, the heavy overreliance on CG blood, which looks dreadful in nearly every shot it’s featured in. That being said, ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ does also take-on one of the previous film’s best elements, that being the many frightening (and occasionally also iconic) masks. From skulls, to blood-stained hockey masks to even a simple white bag, nearly all of the masks seen during ‘The Purge’ franchise manage to add a little personality and character to each film’s signature psychopaths.

Sadly, ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ is another lackluster entry within ‘The Purge’ series, even though I do feel a similar plot to this one could be executed well, ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ somehow manages to feel more disappointing as it tries to be more ambitious. Whilst the film is perhaps the best entry in the current series (which isn’t really a compliment), mostly due to Frank Grillo’s engaging performance alongside the film’s feeling of rush as the group attempt to live through this yearly night of violence, ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ does still rely far too heavily on its central concept to carry-it through its narrative. All in all, a 4/10.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – Film Review

The second outing of the revamped: ‘Planet of the Apes’ series and in my opinion, the best of the most-recent trilogy. ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ takes-place a decade after the previous film, now taking the story into an apocalyptic world where humans and intelligent apes co-exist. Featuring another spectacular performance from Andy Serkis as ‘Caesar’ as well as a much larger role for the vicious ape: ‘Koba’ this time around (now portrayed Toby Kebbell), this thrilling and propulsive sci-fi blockbuster is sure to keep most viewers gripped to the screen.

Many years after ‘Caesar’s escape from captivity and the outbreak of: ‘Simian Flu’ that followed, the clan of intelligent apes and chimps now resident within the Muir Woods just outside a derelict San Francisco. Living a peaceful existence amongst themselves until a group of human survivors journey into their territory in order to find a solution to their colony’s lack of power, soon leading both sides to consider the possibility of war.

Now giving directorial control over to Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), Reeves would write/direct both this film and the following entry in the series: ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’, allowing Reeves to really give a sense of continuity within the story and style (not to say the sequel doesn’t retain continuity from the first film). Yet what makes this sequel stand-out when placed against the first entry in the trilogy is its narrative focus, as ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ continuously builds tension throughout its runtime, with much of the film leaning-on the two species as they balance-on the brink of a war that could desolate both parties.

Andy Serkis leads the motion-capture cast of apes once again as ‘Caesar‘, developing his character even further after the first film as ‘Caesar‘ now cares for the clan of apes alongside his newly-found family, and just like the first film, Serkis once again manages to make an animalistic ape a far more interesting and likeable character than would initially seem possible. Its the criminally underrated actor Toby Kebbell who shines most within the film however, as the sequel provides the war-mongering ape: ‘Koba’ with a much larger role, having the ape serve as the film’s main antagonist. In addition to the apes, the film also features a number of human characters portrayed by Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and Gary Oldman, who are all great in spite of their limited screen-time.

Whilst ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ did feature plenty of attractive shots, Michael Seresin’s cinematography is actually an improvement over the previous entry, as the sequel manages to utilise its dim lighting and overgrown/dilapidated cityscape of San Francisco to fantastic results. The cinematography also helps add too much of the film’s action, as despite the film only containing two action set-pieces, both scenes manage to feel like an excellent pay-off to the large amount of build-up before them. Yet personally, I believe one of the most impressive aspects of the film has to be its practical sets, from the overcrowded ‘Human Colony’ to the decrepit streets of San Francisco, nearly all of the film’s sets are breathtaking in both size and detail, with the ‘Ape Village’ being the clearest example of this superb craftsmanship.

Capturing the bleak and ominous tone of the story flawlessly, the original score by Michael Giacchino is also continuously brilliant, and in my opinion, very underrated. As immediately from the stylish opening sequence which informs the audience of all of the events that have taken-place prior to this film, the backing-track titled: ‘Level Plaguing Field’ really elevates the scene’s overall emotional impact, with later tracks like ‘Past Their Primates’ and ‘Along Simian Lines’ continuing this trend. 

Although it could go without saying, the visual effects throughout are the film are fantastic, while still perhaps not as pristine as ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’s effects, the CG visuals do still hold-up very well since 2014 and contain an immense amount of detail in areas. In fact, the company that created the apes, Weta Digital, were even brought-back to bring-to-life a variety of other animals for the film including: deers, horses and a grizzly bear, each sharing the same high-level of detail.

To conclude, ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ is another remarkable instalment in this new series, upping the stakes and visuals from the previous film alongside continuing the story in a meaningful and entertaining fashion. This science fiction sequel is certainly worth a high 8/10, and whilst I would recommend watching the entire trilogy in order to experience the full story of: ‘Caesar’ as a character, if you have limited time or perhaps don’t usually enjoy sci-fi, then I’d say the middle chapter of this trilogy is truly the most exciting/memorable of the three.

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Whiplash (2014) – Film Review

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle (La La Land, First Man). This indie drama appeared almost out of nowhere to incredible reviews from both critics and audiences alike in 2014, featuring some unbelievable performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons alongside an engaging narrative and well-written script. ‘Whiplash’ truly raises the bar for quality when it comes to the independent film sector and small-budget filmmaking in general.

A promising young drummer (Andrew) attending a prestigious music academy finds himself under the wing of the most respected professor the academy has to offer who has gained an infamous reputation over-time due to his constant abuse towards students who aren’t reaching their full potential.

Being shot in only nineteen days, ‘Whiplash’ feels a true passion project for director Damien Chazelle, with large portions of the film even being based-on Chazelle’s own experiences of being part of a band during his high school days. Despite this promising inspiration, to even receive funding for: ‘Whiplash’ Chazelle actually had to turn a small portion of the script into a short film, which he then submitted to numerous different short film festivals. In which, J.K. Simmons played the same character whilst Miles Teller’s character was originally known as ‘Johnny Simmons’ before later being changed.

Miles Teller (who has actually played the drums since he was fifteen) portrays the film’s protagonist: ‘Andrew’ very well. Presenting ‘Andrew’ as a likeable and talented drummer who soon becomes incredibly self-righteous as he begins to dismantle his own life after becoming more and more obsessed with trying to perfect his musical talent. However, its the criminally underrated J.K. Simmons who truly steals the film. Portraying ‘Andrew’s tutor: ‘Fletcher’ as a strict and sometimes even intimidating presence, usually resulting in ‘Andrew’ (as well as his many other students) being eager to impress him despite his constant ridiculing of them, a large amount of which the writing actually manages to make quite humourous without taking-away from the film’s drama. Melissa Benoist also makes a short appearance within the film as ‘Nicole’, a young girl who ‘Andrew’ has an affection for, yet despite her decent performance, ‘Nicole’ ends-up feeling very under-utilised due to her extremely short screen-time.

The cinematography by Sharone Meir is fairly solid throughout the film, while nothing overly extraordinary. The film’s various close-ups of the different drum kit pieces (as well as many other instruments) really gives the film an element of style, in addition to making for a number of memorable and visually pleasing shots. Alongside this is also the film’s colour palette, which mostly consists of dirty yellows and oranges, giving the film an almost rustic appeal, not too dissimilar to a drum kit cymbal itself.

Throughout the runtime, the original score by Justin Hurwitz is predominantly based around drums (obviously due to the story’s focus on-such) aside from a few tracks which utilize various trumpets and piano. Meaning all of the tracks feel very Jazz-like, which fits perfectly with the film as nearly every-song that is performed by ‘Andrew’ and his fellow band members is always within this genre of music. My personal favourite from this long list of impressive work is more than likely the signature track: ‘Overture’, simply due to the track’s enormous amount of range.

As previously mentioned, Miles Teller has played the drums since he was fifteen, and throughout the film, ‘Andrew’ receives numerous blisters on his hands due to his vigorous and unconventional style of jazz drumming. While most are aware of this, it may surprise some viewers to know that this style of drumming is Teller’s own. Meaning some of the blood that appears on his hands and drumsticks within the film’s more intense scenes is actually real. Despite this commitment however, ‘Whiplash’ still suffers from one major flaw, this being the film’s overly fast-pacing. As due to the film’s tight runtime, ‘Whiplash’ does sprint through its story without much hesitation. Although it doesn’t feel rushed per-say, the film’s fast-pacing does begin to make certain aspects of its story feel undeveloped as a result, e.g. ‘Andrew’s various relationships and his life outside of music.

‘Whiplash’ may be a low-budget indie flick, but through its marvellous performances, brilliant writing and attractive cinematography. Chazelle manages to craft a very entertaining film focused around music that isn’t simply an adaptation of a classic theatre performance. Whilst it may not feature the vibrant and varied colour palette of: ‘La La Land’ or the stunning CG visuals of: ‘First Man’, Damien Chazelle’s directorial debut is certainty an astounding effort and a memorable musical experience to say the least. Overall, very a well-deserved 8/10.

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Chef (2014) – Film Review

Even after working in blockbuster franchises such as: ‘Star Wars’ and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, director Jon Favreau (Zathura, Iron Man, The Lion King) crafts one of his best films to date with this clear passion project. Being obsessed with food and cooking in his spare-time, Favreau puts his kitchen knowledge to perfect use as his film ‘Chef’ focuses on the story of a middle-age man taking his wonderful tastes across America, and whilst fairly simplistic, this indie flick still manages to remain a pretty charming comedy/drama from beginning-to-end.

‘Carl Casper’ is an acclaimed chef with a family life that seems as decaying as his artistic freedom. But after being fired from his restaurant job due to an aggressive confrontation with a snarky food critic, ‘Carl’ decides to travel across America selling his own dishes in a second-hand taco truck.

Although not directly based on a true story per-say, ‘Chef’ does take inspiration from plenty of real-world figures in addition to Jon Favreau’s own history in cuisine. The main source of inspiration for the film however, was the professional food truck chef Roy Choi. Who actually agreed to give Favreau further chef training for the film under the exception he agreed to present a truly authentic portrayal of the life of a chef, and considering the film’s focus on ‘Carl’s struggling funds and the impact the cynical words of food critics can have, I feel the director certainly succeded.

Jon Favreau portrays ‘Carl’ superbly throughout the film, giving the protagonist a decent amount of range despite him never receiving an enormous amount of characterisation. The rest of the cast of John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony and Sofía Vergara, as well as Scarlett Johansson and Dustin Hoffman for a short period, are all decent within their respective roles, with Robert Downey Jr. also making a short appearance in the film as ‘Marvin’, which interestingly he agreed to do for free as a favour to Favreau for the decision he made to cast him as ‘Tony Stark/Iron Man’ years earlier, which most now believe to be his most iconic role.

While ‘Chef’ does have a fairly bright colour palette, the cinematography by Kramer Morgenthau is ultimately nothing above-average. As while the film does have some interesting shots, they’re fairly infrequent throughout. However, this is with the exception of the many close-ups of the food itself, as ‘Chef’ does a superb job at making the viewer’s mouth-water through the delicious food it presents. As the film features a variety of both very creative and very tasty-looking dishes. The film even manages to contain a little stylistic flair with Twitter being represented by animated bluebirds which fly off into the sky whenever a character tweets, which actually plays into the story quite well.

The original score by Lyle Workman isn’t anything overly memorable, but the soundtrack’s Mexican feel does back-up the film’s story effectively and really fits with many of the locations the food truck stops-off at as ‘Carl’ travels across the states of America. ‘Chef’ also utilises a huge range of iconic songs throughout its runtime, most of which also stick to the film’s Mexican aesthetic. From: ‘I Like It Like That’ to ‘Lucky Man’ and even ‘Sexual Healing’, the film’s long list of songs really add to its mostly upbeat tone.

Unfortunately, ‘Chef’ is mostly dragged-down by its overall emotional depth, as although the film is usually entertaining and engaging throughout, the film sometimes lacks the real emotional weight a drama needs, as ‘Carl’s rough relationship with his ex-wife receives little-to-no development, with most of the narrative’s focus being placed-on ‘Carl’ reconnecting with his son: ‘Percy’, which mostly makes for amusing and somewhat relatable scenes rather than any real dramatic moments. Whilst it doesn’t hurt the film really, some characters throughout ‘Chef’ also seem to disappear without a trace, in particular, the character: ‘Jen’ portrayed by Amy Sedaris, who only appears in a single scene and has virtually no impact on the plot, which can come-off as a little odd.

Altogether, a low 8/10 for: ‘Chef’. While there are definitely more memorable comedy/dramas out there, ‘Chef’ delivers-on exactly on what it sets-out to, featuring some likeable characters portrayed by its great cast, alongside its fantastic soundtrack and scrumptious-looking food, the film is truly a treat whether your an expert in the kitchen yourself or not. It is a shame the film’s more dramatic-side doesn’t fully deliver, as I do genuinely feel ‘Chef’ is a perfect example of Favreau’s filmmaking/acting talent outside any of franchise.

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Lucy (2014) – Film Review

Luc Besson, the iconic director behind: ‘Léon: The Professional’, ‘The Fifth Element’  and ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ returns to the sci-fi genre with ‘Lucy’, a very different and original science fiction thriller focusing on a young woman whose intellect begins to evolve after being kidnapped, eventually transforming her into something more than human. Although this interesting plot does feel like a departure from what we usually expect within this genre. I personally feel this doesn’t always work within the film’s favour.

When a young woman (Lucy) accidentally gets caught in a drug deal, she is captured and taken to the feet of a powerful drug lord. Before long, she finds herself a victim of illegal drug trafficking, in which an experimental synthetic drug is implanted inside her lower abdomen to transport it into Europe. But when the blue chemical leaks into her bloodstream, she turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless creature that has evolved beyond human logic.

Even though the narrative of: ‘Lucy’ is definitely a unique one, I personally feel the film doesn’t explore its various ideas and concepts as effectively as it could, as ‘Lucy’ introduces a number of interesting elements when it comes to human evolution, usually without ever fully releasing them. The film does still manage to contain plenty of amazing/colourful visuals as well as a few memorable scenes throughout its runtime, yet it simply isn’t enough to save the film from the issues that litter its story.

The film’s protagonist: ‘Lucy’ is portrayed fairly-well by Scarlett Johansson, as she gives a very robotic and cold performance throughout the film the more intelligent her character becomes. However, the character of: ‘Lucy’ is actually one of the film’s biggest missteps, as throughout the narrative, ‘Lucy’ always feels incredibly underdeveloped, as we barely spend any-time with her before she begins to evolve after being contaminated with the chemical. Meaning she quickly turns into a calculating killing machine without emotion. As a result of this, it’s extremely difficult to connect with her, or even like her, as we are given very little characterisation before her change. The supporting cast of Morgan Freeman, Amr Waked and Pilou Asbæk are all decent overall, with the exception of Min-sik Choi as the film’s antagonist: ‘Mr. Jang’, who actually gives the brutal drug lord an intimidating presence despite his limited screen-time.

Thierry Arbogast’s cinematography unfortunately, doesn’t really reflect the film’s many creative CGI effects, as although the film does contain the occasional pleasing shot, they are simply too few and far between, with a bit of an overreliance on shot-reverse-shot during many scenes. ‘Lucy’ also contains some fairly unusual editing, as the film constantly cuts-away to symbolic images of animals, nature, populated cities and cells materializing etc, and although this does give the film some style, it also makes some scenes come-off unintentionally comedic.

The original score by Eric Serra, plays very well into the film’s story, as this fitting techno score alters throughout the course of the film, with tracks such as: ‘First Cells’ and ‘Taipei Airport’ feeling very unique, not too different from the film’s story itself. My personal favourite track has to be ‘Flickering Through Time’ however, as this beautiful yet haunting piece plays over one of the film’s most memorable and effective scenes as ‘Lucy’ soars through time.

Although the CGI effects do range in quality over the course of the film, ‘Lucy’ does get very inventive with its visuals when it comes to its CGI, as the film features an array of colourful and trippy CGI visuals the further ‘Lucy’ evolves, which does help redeem ‘Lucy’s overall lack of scientific accuracy (which the film has actually been heavily criticised for since its release). As whilst I personally don’t feel being less-accurate to real-world science is a problem when it comes to science fiction. ‘Lucy’ rests a large amount of its story on the idea that humans only use ten-percent of their brains, which has actually been debunked by neurological scientists many times over, as humans typically use about ten-percent of their brains at a time.

Whilst I’m sure ‘Lucy’ had the potential to be an eccentric and original sci-fi flick at one point-in-time, the film’s cons simply out-way its pros in my opinion. From its cheesy dialogue through to its poor editing choices and flawed story, ‘Lucy’ feels almost as if it gets bogged down by itself, almost becoming a little too pretentious for its own good. While I do appreciate the film’s more out-there story and great original score, I’d recommend you stick to ‘The Fifth Element’ for your fill of a Luc Besson sci-fi. Overall, a 4/10.

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Snowpiercer (2014) – Film Review

One of my favourite sci-fi films from this past decade, ‘Snowpiercer’ is constantly gripping, exciting and very dark throughout its original plot and exploration of the interesting world its story takes place-in. As the film chooses to explore the worst of humanity through some gorgeous cinematography by Kyung-pyo Hong and some truly brilliant writing. Making ‘Snowpiercer’ overall, a superb science fiction thriller, all under the genius hand of director Bong Joon-Ho, who recently gained a large amount of traction through his Oscar-winning film: ‘Parasite’.

In a future where a failed climate-change experiment has killed all life except for the lucky few who boarded the ‘Snowpiercer’, a train that travels around the globe, a new class system begins to emerge on-board as ‘Curtis’ leads a revolution with the train’s lower-class citizens.

Despite director Bong Joon-Ho (Memories of Murder, The Host, Okja) usually sticking to this style, the very bleak tone of: ‘Snowpiercer’ may leave many audience members in a depressing mindset long after their initial viewing, as the film deals with a variety of themes such as: poverty, social class and survivalism, all portrayed in a dark and negative fashion. However, in spite of this, the film never fails to still be very entertaining and thrilling, mostly as a result of its fairly quick-pacing and exhilarating action scenes. Although it may surprise many, ‘Snowpiercer’ also takes heavy inspiration from the French graphic novel: ‘Le Transperceneige’ by Jacques Lob, with the two stories sharing many similarities and many differences throughout their respective mediums.

Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Song Kang-ho, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt and Ed Harris are all fantastic throughout the film within their various roles, especially Tilda Swinton as the villainous and oppressive: ‘Manson’ (who completely nails many of the film’s most memorable lines). In addition to this, the film’s characters also get plenty of development throughout the narrative, to be specific, the film’s protagonist: ‘Curtis’, as this character becomes far more tragic nearing the end of the film, eventually leading him to devolve from what we would usually expect to see from our main character.

The cinematography by Kyung-pyo Hong is pretty creative and visually impressive throughout the majority of the runtime, as the film’s cinematography backs-up it’s story and drama very effectively. The film’s colour palette also plays into this, as the dirty greys, greens and blacks of the train’s tail all further display the contrast between the wealth of the different people on-board. Of course, due to the film also being packed with a large number of action scenes, the cinematography does become slightly shakier during many of these moments, yet it is still clear what is happening throughout. One of these scenes in particular, known as: ‘The Tunnel’, I found extremely inventive, as this entire scene takes place in total darkness, with night-vision being utilized exceptionally-well. This scene was also filmed without any additional lighting according to director Bong Joon-Ho.

Although a little uninspired during some of the action scenes, the original score by Marco Beltrami does fit the story perfectly throughout most of the film. Especially when it comes to tracks such as: ‘This is the End’ or ‘Yona’s Theme’, as the soundtrack matches the bleak tone of the film extremely well. The score also helps to add more impact to many of the more shocking moments within the story, as at multiple points during the narrative, the film reveals certain aspects of this twisted train society which really deepens film’s world.

As the film is set entirely within the futuristic train, the film does do a surprisingly excellent job of the keeping the film’s set-pieces unique through the sheer variety of sets on display, as the film takes the audience from the dirty tail of the train, through to a classroom, a nightclub, and eventually even a spar, further emphasising ‘Snowpiercer’s themes of social class. Another element of the film I adore is Joon-Ho’s focus on small details, as the film always alludes to smaller aspects of the story or characters which aren’t fully delved-into, only hinted at. Despite all of this however, ‘Snowpiercer’ isn’t totally flawless, as the film does become a little cheesy at points, mostly due to the occasional editing choice or line of dialogue, but this is very rare.

Even though ‘Snowpiercer’ isn’t the best modern sci-fi to date, I personally don’t think the film is far off, from its creative ideas through to its beautiful cinematography and great original score. The film easily overcomes its few cheesy moments and slightly dated CGI here and there. Overall, a high 8/10, with a few tiny changes, I honestly believe that this exciting sci-fi flick could be up there with the likes of: ‘Arrival’, ‘Ex_Machina’ and ‘Moon’ when it comes to modern science fiction.

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Nightcrawler (2014) – Film Review

Held-up by an incredible performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, ‘Nightcrawler’ is a visually beautiful and very tense thriller from director Dan Gilroy (Roman J. Israel Esq, Velvet Buzzsaw). Focusing on the life of a freelance journalist who ends-up falling deeper and deeper into a world of greed and accomplishment, as the film is gripping from start-to-finish (as well as being one of my personal all-time favourite films) and overall ends-up being an amazing experience any film fan is sure to enjoy.

When ‘Louis Bloom’, a con-man desperate for work, muscles his way into the world of Los Angeles crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story, determined to rise to the top regardless of competition or even morals.

The film does a brilliant job of blending a narrative of what the life for a freelance journalist is actually like, as well as focusing on the more personal story of: ‘Louis’ at the same time, with both of them fitting the dark tone of the film extremely well. This alongside the exploration of the city of Los Angeles gives the film a great personality, as the film explores every seedy corner of the city, always using real locations over any visual effects, unlike many other films nowadays.

Jake Gyllenhaal also gives one of the best performances of his career here, coming off as a creepy, sly and selfish character who excels at his work, yet despite being mostly unlikable. He still manages to be an engaging protagonist mostly through his charisma and intelligence, even as he descends further and further down the line. Riz Ahmed also portrays: ‘Rick’ within the film, ‘Louis’ underpaid and underappreciated partner who is almost his complete opposite in many ways. These two alongside the supporting cast of Rene Russolate and the late Bill Paxton are all brilliant.

The cinematography by Robert Elswit is some of the best cinematography I’ve seen in a film in a long-time, utilizing an enormous amount of varied shots, including a large amount of wide and mid shots, which are always a joy to see, with the film always using its cinematography to increase the amount of tension or drama that’s on-screen. The film also makes great use of it’s dark blue and orange colour palette as well as large amounts of street lighting, which both definitely help give the film a distinct visual flair and make many of the bright colours stand-out amongst the darkness of Los Angeles at night.

This is also backed-up by the calming and yet also eerie original score by James Newton Howard, and while perhaps not incredibly memorable on itself, I do like this composer for much of his previous work (The Sixth Sense, King Kong, I Am Legend) and the soundtrack here does back-up the film pretty well for the majority of its runtime, aside from the occasional track which can come off as slightly cliché.

Another element of the film I really enjoy is it’s grasp on realism, as although I’m no expert in regards to the world of crime journalism. The film never really seems to go beyond believability within its story, even when the story begins to enter more dangerous territory for its characters. One element of the film that didn’t really exceed my expectations however, was the film’s editing. As although the editing throughout the film is decent, I was never overly impressed by it, as I always felt it was one of the few areas of the film which could’ve been slightly improved.

In conclusion, ‘Nightcrawler’ still retains it’s spot on my favourites list, with its amazing cinematography in addition to the pretty fantastic original score and performances throughout. The film has a lot to offer, and I’m still thrilled the film came out as well as I did. Easily a 9/10 for this one, both for its filmmaking and it’s appeal, I’d absolutely recommend you give ‘Nightcrawler’ a watch or two.

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Godzilla (2014) – Film Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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 CGI 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 pay off 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.

Personally, 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. I’d give ‘Interstellar’ a high 6/10, hopefully, next time it’ll be higher.

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