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 small-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 CGI 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 utilizes 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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Ex_Machina (2014) – Film Review

One of my all-time favourite films, and a truly incredible science fiction story, ‘Ex_Machina’ is directed by Alex Garland, the director of: ‘Annihilation’ another sci-fi film that I absolutely love. As the film combines some stunning cinematography and visual effects alongside a smart, original and thought-provoking story that any film fan is sure to adore from beginning to end.

When a young programmer (Caleb) is invited to participate in a ground-breaking experiment involving artificial intelligence, by evaluating human qualities as the subject. Yet when he arrives at the home of the A.I’s creator, not everything is as clear as it first appears to be.

The majority of the film takes place within ‘Nathan’s home, and the film uses this to its best advantage, as every-set for each room of the house always feel as if it’s attempting to be comforting, yet always feels very isolated, cold and sleek at the same-time. The entire film also has a great flair for feeling futuristic yet still grounded. However, easily one of the best elements of the film for me has to be the visual effects, as the film actually won an Oscar for its effects back in 2016, and it’s easy to see why. As there are so many amazing shots within the film that are very well-crafted, combining real visuals with CGI effects and blending it brilliantly.

Whilst all the style is great throughout the film, it shouldn’t take your attention from the excellent performances on display here, as Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and especially Oscar Isacc, all bring their ‘A’ game to the film. As the entire cast has a lot of chemistry with each other, and their performances only elevate the tension-filled scenes throughout the film, not to mention their characters are given a decent amount of depth or though they definitely could be explored further.

The beautiful cinematography by Rob Hardy makes use of a variety of different shots, having the camera constantly in motion at various points throughout the runtime. Always being quite slow yet still very appealing to the eye, with the original score by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury also contributing to the film, as the score manages to be both extremely eerie yet also very beautiful, all whilst sticking to a classic science fiction type of soundtrack.

The writing is also another element of the film that cannot be ignored, as each line of dialogue feels both real and fits the film perfectly. Without ever losing the audience along the way, if I had to give any criticisms of the film however, as already mentioned it would be the character writing. As although the characters do get some development as the film goes on, we are never given anything that truly makes us invested in them, only bits and pieces. If the characters were developed further throughout the story, I do feel this would’ve made the film a little more engaging.

All in all, I still love ‘Ex_Machina’, the film is gorgeous to look at, as well as being a smart sci-fi thriller, which really isn’t afraid to delve further into the world of A.I. no matter how dark it may become. If I had to express my criticisms with the film, it’s simply the overall lack of characterisation, and perhaps the conclusion to the film (although this may be just my personal opinion) as I personally found it slightly unsatisfying and a little out of character for some of them. But overall, I highly recommend this one, and I really can’t wait to see what Alex Garland does for his next project. A solid 9/10, honestly couldn’t recommend this one more, definitely give it a watch if you’re interested.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – Film Review

Wes Anderson’s visually spectacular tale of murder, elegance and crime is far more light-hearted than I was initially expecting. Utilizing a bright colour palette, unique cinematography and a wonderful score by Alexandre Desplat. The film brings all the usual elements of Wes Anderson’s style that I adore, especially coming straight off the back of his two previous films that I have seen (Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs).

‘Gustave H’, a concierge of the legendary ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’, alongside his new lobby boy: ‘Zero’. Embark on a dangerous journey following a mysterious murder and the disappearance of a priceless Renaissance painting, soon leading them into the middle of a feud over an enormous family fortune.

The film definitely does have a particular artistic flair which his animated flicks do not carry, as in nearly every wide-shot in the film we are greeted with what almost looks like a painting. These paintings are almost used as backdrops throughout the film, and blend seamlessly with the bright pale colour palette of the film. Even with this colour palette and mostly up-beat tone however, the film is not afraid to dive into darker territory if needed in order to serve the story. This is definitely a change from his previous flicks, ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ mostly in mind here, but it was a welcome one regardless.

In addition to his style, Anderson also does a brilliant job when it comes to the writing, as the film is gushing with hilarious and memorable lines throughout. Many of the comedic lines caught me completely off-guard, with some of the humour being extremely dark. But with a cast this large and talented, you’re almost guaranteed to get comedic gold. In particular, I really enjoyed the performances by Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe, who you could really tell they enjoyed their time on set.

Robert D. Yeoman handles the cinematography within the film, which is of course brilliant. As not only does it contain the usual style expected from Anderson, but the cinematography even backs up the narrative of the film, as many characters within the story feel isolated, and as a result are framed completely alone. But pretty much all the cinematography throughout the runtime is fantastic of course. The original score by Alexandre Desplat is also a great aspect of the film, as he creates a very memorable soundtrack here which fits the tone of the film perfectly and really backs up many of the comedic scenes, with the tracks: ‘Mr. Moustafa’ and ‘The Cold-Blooded Murder of Deputy Vilmos Kovacs’ being my personal favourites.

For the most part, the protagonists of the film are well-written, we understand who they are within the early stages of the story. Yet as the story continues along, we continue to learn more about them. However, if I had to point out a flaw in the film it’s definitely the antagonists of the film, William Dafoe does an excellent job as the deadly hitman, whilst Adrien Brody also does a decent job as his boss. Beyond that however, the characters are very flat and are given little to no development throughout the film.

Director Wes Anderson once again also pays serious attention to detail, as in many shots there’s always small hidden gags or visual references hidden away to spot. The filmmaking itself is also used for a lot of visual storytelling e.g. the lonely characters and their framing within the shots as already mentioned.

In conclusion, I was very impressed with ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, as aside from the issue I have with the antagonists of the narrative, the film succeeds in nearly every category for me, and was a very enjoyable watch throughout. Combining Wes Anderson’s great visual style with a brilliant main and supporting cast as well as many comedic moments. The film is definitely worth a watch, and definitely worth a 9/10. It’s fair to say Wes Anderson will always have a viewer from me going forward.

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