The Magnificent Seven (2016) – Film Review

After taking-on a number of exciting action flicks in recent years such as: ‘Training Day’, ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ and ‘The Equalizer’, director Antonie Fuqua brings this remake of the original 1960 ensemble western to the silver screen. Combining a superb cast with some explosive moments of action and plenty of highly-detailed costumes and sets, ‘The Magnificent Seven’ manages to remain an entertaining remake of the beloved classic despite its few faults.

In 1897, seven gunmen from a variety of different backgrounds are brought together by a vengeful young widow in order to protect her hometown of: ‘Rose Creek’ from the private army of a destructive industrialist.

Other than a few changes to the names of its characters, the remake of: ‘The Magnificent Seven’ follows a very similar storyline to the original film, which was essentially just a retelling of the iconic Japenese film: ‘Seven Samurai’ but now set in the Wild West. As the remake avoids making-any definite changes to the narrative in favour of simply just updating the story for a more modern-audience, meaning the film has much faster-pacing and more of a focus-on creating thrilling action set-pieces than the original, which is both a good and a bad thing. As whilst the film does still pay homage to many classic westerns, the film occasionally also adopts many of the issues that plague plenty of modern blockbusters today, the most notable of which being the film’s overabundance of cheesy/predictable dialogue.

Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawk, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier all give splendid performances as the line-up of: ‘The Seven’, each portraying a different personality and skillset between them. But of course, similar to many other films lead by a group of characters rather than just a single protagonist. ‘The Magnificent Seven’ suffers from a lack of equal development for its cast as a result of Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt as ‘Chisolm’ and ‘Josh Faraday’ hogging most of the screen-time, with the film’s antagonist: ‘Bartholomew Bogue’ portrayed by Peter Sarsgaard, also having a deficient intimidating presence when on-screen due to this.

Whilst the film’s cinematography never falls into the category of being exceedingly bland, the cinematography by Mauro Fiore is only above-average overall. As although the film does feature an array of attractive close-ups and wide-shots alongside its many suitably barren locations, the film also has quite a heavy overreliance on shot-reverse-shot during many of the conversations between characters. However, a smaller detail that I felt added to the film’s visual appeal (and realism) is definitely its use of nature surrounding/within its various locations, as the film’s main setting of: ‘Rose Creek’ is littered with trees and tall grass rather than just continuous desert similar to many other westerns, with some areas of Baton Rouge, Louisiana (where filming took place) even having to be relandscaped to further resemble the Old West.

Being the last film Horner worked-on as a composer before he sadly passed away in 2015, the original score by him and Simon Franglen does suitably feel like the score of a traditional western for the majority of the film’s runtime. Although there are still a few tracks that feel fairly generic, the soundtrack redeems itself through the great tracks: ‘Rose Creek Oppression’ and ‘Seven Riders’, in addition to also bringing back the original film’s theme composed by the late Elmer Bernstein for its end credits.

As the remake of: ‘The Magnificent Seven’ focuses more-on action over anything else (with the entire final act of the film essentially being one long action sequence) a lot of pressure lies-on the film to live-up to this intent, which thankfully, it does. As all of the stirring moments throughout the film make fantastic use of their impressive stunt work and subtle CGI effects. That being said, nearly-all of the action scenes are also distinctly missing an element of both grittiness and violence, which can be fairly distracting. As despite many of: ‘Bartholomew Bogue’s guns-for-hire being shot, stabbed and blown-up, blood is barely ever-seen, and whilst I understand classic westerns also didn’t really revel in violence, I’ve always seen that as more of a restriction of the time-period rather than just a skimp to lower the film’s age rating.

In conclusion, while ‘The Magnificent Seven’ may not fully deliver-on the ‘Magnificent’ part of its title, the film is still is an enjoyable throwback to the westerns of old with plenty of exhilarating action set-pieces to boot. As even when taking-into account all of the remake’s issues and general lack of memorability, I’d still say the film is on the better side of reimagined classics in recent memory and is worth a watch if you’re a true western enthusiast or perhaps just desire to see a remake that doesn’t attempt to simply recreate the original shot-for-shot. A 7/10 overall.

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Hidden Figures (2016) – Film Review

Based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, the film adaptation of: ‘Hidden Figures’ serves as compelling and entertaining delve into the past as it tells the true story of the mostly unknown women who helped push-forward the space program. Through its brilliant performances from Taraji P. Henson and Kevin Costner (among the rest of the cast) alongside its magnificent writing, the film manages to keep its audience constantly invested in spite of its occasionally bland filmmaking.

Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three brilliant African-American women working at NASA in the 1960s cross all gender and race barriers within their workplace to follow their dreams and inspire generations, serving as the brain-force to help send astronaut John Glenn into Earth’s orbit.

Despite focusing on three separate stories of three separate characters, ‘Hidden Figures’ never feels unfocused, as each of the three protagonists receive a decent amount of development as well as at least one or more memorable scenes between them. As the film displays its main theme of female and black empowerment proudly, without ever becoming overly cliché as it avoids many of the over-done tropes that other films built-around the racist barriers of the 60s can begin to rely-on. For example, the film’s opening scene in which the trio of women are confronted by a white police officer, as this moment could’ve easily felt like overly-familiar ground should it have been handled-poorly, yet aside from some inappropriate stereotyping at first, the scene actually results in the three of them heading to NASA without any horrific racial ridiculing.

The three protagonists portrayed by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe are all excellent throughout the film, as each of them remain determined and outgoing despite the world’s many attempts to drag them down, always fighting against the unfair judgement of them simply for the way they look, repeatedly with a lack of preachy dialogue. Alongside them, the supporting cast of Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kristen Dunst and Mahershala Ali are all great even if some of their characters are a little under-utilised within the narrative. One of the reasons the performances within the film are as accurate as they are is due to some of the cast actually having the opportunity to meet with the story’s icons before production began. Most notably Taraji P. Henson, who met with the real Katherine Johnson (who was ninety-eight-years-old at the time) after she signed-on for the role.

The cinematography by Mandy Walker is serviceable overall, as while the film features a good number of attractive shots, they are dragged-down by its many mundane ones. However, ‘Hidden Figures’ does actually make effective yet subtle use of colour throughout its runtime. As the film’s colour palette constantly reflects the mood within each scene, with the many of the sets at NASA where calculations and preparations take-place utilising mostly sterile whites, greys, and silvers, which creates a sharp contrast to the warm/inviting colours of the ladies’ homes.

Hanz Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch handle the original score for the film, which is an incredibly mixed-bag overall. As whilst the film does have some decent tracks such as: ‘Katherine’, ‘Mission Control’ and ‘Hidden Figures’, the soundtrack also features a number of pop-songs by Pharrell Willaims, which don’t remotely fit the tone of the film or the story’s time-period. Usually resulting in it feeling very forced and sometimes even takes-away from the film’s dramatic moments. This is most likely a result of Pharrell Willaims overseeing all aspects of the film’s soundtrack, which I personally feel is a huge misstep as his style of music really isn’t suited for a drama.

In addition to portraying the female heroes of the real-life story as accurately as possible, the film also makes substantial use of its time-period. As to keep the viewer up-to-date with what knowledge that the American public had at the time, ‘Hidden Figures’ occasionally cuts-away to stock footage of rocket testings or president John F. Kennedy making public announcements, both which are surprisingly effective despite not being used continuously. Personally however, I still would’ve preferred a bigger presence of songs from the 1960s rather than the constant barrage of pop-songs the film contains, as mentioned previously.

In conclusion, I feel ‘Hidden Figures’ is an important film many should experience. As whilst there has been an array of films based around the misogynistic/racist nature of the 1950s/1960s, ‘Hidden Figures’ is for sure a stand-out through its engaging and thought-provoking narrative. Although films like ‘Do the Right Thing’ and ‘BlacKkKlansman’ may be slightly more powerful with their message(s), I feel ‘Hidden Figures’ is fairly underrated when it comes to historical dramas, as the film is simultaneously both informing and touching. Overall, a high 7/10.

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Nocturnal Animals (2016) – Film Review

Part thriller, part drama and part art-house film, ‘Nocturnal Animals’ may not appeal to every-viewer, but those it will, it will certainly leave an impression. As this extremely underrated thriller lead by some excellent performances from Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal is incredibly dark and compelling from start-to-finish. Directed by former fashion-designer turned director Tom Ford (A Single Man) and based on the novel: ‘Tony and Susan’ by Austin Wright. ‘Nocturnal Animals’ may not be flawless in its execution, but it is definitely worth a watch.

An unhappy and lamenting art curator (Susan Morrow) begins to imagine herself within the pages of a novel manuscript sent to her by her former husband, whose negative associations of their relationship takes-on a fictionalized violent direction in a symbolic revenge tale.

Split between two different storylines, one set in the real-world and one set within the pages of the fictional novel. ‘Nocturnal Animals’ definitely has some changes in tone, as every-scene with ‘Susan’ usually focuses on her broken marriage and current lifestyle, which feels very different when compared to the tense revenge story of the novel, and yet, neither of these stories ever feel dull, as they both are engaging for different reasons. Director Tom Ford also makes brilliant use of this structure, as for those more keen-eyed viewers, there are a variety of visual links between the two narratives, the most obvious of which being how ‘Susan’ imagines ex-husband: ‘Edward’ as the father character within the novel, meaning Jake Gyllenhaal takes on two separate roles.

The main cast of Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber and Armie Hammer are all brilliant throughout the film. As everyone one of the film’s characters gets plenty of development, usually all playing a crucial role within the film regardless of whichever storyline they are in. Although Jake Gyllenhaal does a pretty great job taking-on two separate roles, the plot of the novel mostly takes-place within the Texas desert, meaning the father character: ‘Tony Hastings’ does have a Texas accent, and whilst not terrible, it is a little inconsistent. This is easily redeemed by the stand-out performance by Aaron Taylor-Johnson as ‘Ray Marcus’ however, as this usually bland actor gives an amazing performance as a redneck delinquent who is just as intimidating as he is erratic.

Although the cinematography by Seamus McGarvey is nothing extraordinary overall, there are still plenty of attractive shots throughout the runtime. As the film uses its cinematography fairly effectively to create a contrast between the two stories, as the film uses an array of wide-shots when focusing on the story within the novel adding too many of its tense moments. Whereas the majority of the scenes within the real-world mostly uses a large number of close-ups and mid-shots to add to the film’s drama.

Without a doubt however, my personal favourite aspect of the film is the original score by Abel Korzeniowski. Utilizing an ensemble of violins, the score for: ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is very memorable and excellently builds tension throughout the film, as the soundtrack always remains very beautiful despite also feeling quite haunting. The original score even manages to capture the feeling of loneliness and sadness from ‘Susan’s storyline, with the tracks: ‘A Solitary Women’ and ‘City Lights’ fitting this idea perfectly, yet neither of these two tracks beat-out my personal favourite: ‘Revenge’. Referred to by most as the film’s signature track.

Throughout either of the two plots, the film is also filled with plenty of themes and underlining messages, many of which relate to the idea of expression through art, which does help distract slightly from the main issue I have with ‘Nocturnal Animals’, this being the editing. As although it may be intentional. At points, the editing throughout the film becomes very fast-paced, usually cutting between shots quite rapidly, sometimes even using jump-cuts during some of the more drawn-out shots. If this style of editing was present continuously throughout the film, then perhaps it wouldn’t have been as noticeable, but as it was only occasionally, I personally found it quite distracting.

‘Nocturnal Animals’ may not be a masterpiece, but I do believe this film is very overlooked when it comes to thrillers, as the outstanding performances from the cast mixed-in with the array of very tense moments and wonderful original score make for a genuinely gripping and interesting experience, and overall, an 8/10. Whilst some audience members may not completely understand the themes and messages behind the story. I do feel this film will leave an impact on those it does appeal to.

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The Nice Guys (2016) – Film Review

This 70s throwback to classic buddy-cop comedy films hits all the right marks, as the fantastic chemistry between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling alongside the film’s great visuals and hilarious comedic moments. All make ‘The Nice Guys’ certainly worth a watch whether are incredibly fond of action-comedies or not, as I feel this humorous flick definitely deserves more attention.

Set in 1970s Los Angeles, a mismatched pair of private eyes stumble upon a case of a missing girl and the mysterious death of a pornstar, initially alleged as a suicide.

Heavily inspired by action/comedy classics such as: ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ‘Rush Hour’, ‘The Nice Guys’ is directed by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3, The Predator) who clearly brings all his love for this genre to the forefront. As despite the film doing quite poorly in cinemas upon its initial release, the film is clearly a true passion project for Shane Black, being filled with the director’s usual style and classic witty dialogue from start-to-finish.

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling make an excellent paring as: ‘Jackson Healy’ and ‘Holland March’ throughout the film’s story. As both actors have an enormous amount of chemistry with each other and add plenty of humour into the plot through their interactions with their opposite, as well as ‘Holland’s daughter: ‘Holly March’ portrayed by Angourie Rice, who is very sarcastic and angsty towards many of the other characters (which can become a little irritating after a while). Matthew Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta and Keith David also have small roles within the film, and are all decent despite not being given much screen-time overall.

Philippe Rousselot handles the cinematography throughout ‘The Nice Guys’, and although attractive throughout most of the runtime, the variety of shots is probably the weakest aspect of the film just down to elimination. Still, the cinematography does back-up the story very effectively, never taking the viewer’s attention away from the mystery unravelling throughout the narrative. I also feel the film’s colour palette could’ve really added to the film’s visual flair more, as the colour palette doesn’t really delve much into the 1970s style aside from the occasional vibrant shot. However, the film does integrate 70s style in its opening titles which I appreciated, as the Warner Brothers logo seen in the beginning of the film is the actual Warner Brothers used during the 1970s.

The original score by John Ottman and David Buckley fits the film’s style and time-period perfectly, as the soundtrack attempts to replicate the music of the time through its use of trumpets and a drumkit to add to many of the comedic moments and establishing shots, with the tracks: ‘Cars That Drive Themselves’ and ‘P.I. Life’ being my two personal favourites (in addition to the film’s main theme). Many of the film’s action scenes do slightly weaken the score however, as anytime the screen is filled with bullets and fistfights, the original score suddenly becomes a lot more generic.

The majority of the jokes throughout the film do land very successfully in my opinion, as ‘The Nice Guys’ has a pretty wide-range of humour throughout its runtime. From the hilarious and quippy dialogue between the two main protagonists to the parodying of classic action tropes and even a little bit of slapstick thrown-in for good measure. All of the comedy throughout the film is pretty inventive and ensures that the film is filled with humour for every-kind of viewer.

Despite the film’s main focus being its humour however, the action throughout the film is actually very well-executed, from a high-speed car chase through to chaotic shoot-outs and bare-fist scuffles. ‘The Nice Guys’ nails it’s action scenes just as well as it’s jokes, as each action set-piece is always exciting and brilliantly choreographed. My only real criticism of the film is probably it’s length, as I feel the film does go on for slightly too-long nearing end of its story.

Overall, it’s a real shame many that audiences had no interest in ‘The Nice Guys’, as although many would consider buddy-cop action flicks a dead genre similar to westerns. I personally feel we need more films like this, as bringing back these old kinds of stories really makes the film stand-out amongst the complete onslaught of modern superhero blockbusters and generic horror scare-fests. A solid 8/10 when it comes to ‘The Nice Guys’, although I feel a sequel with these characters sometime in the future is unlikely, the mere mention of one as even a possibility still gets me excited to this day.

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Hacksaw Ridge (2016) – Film Review

Serving as both an intense war film as well as the real-life biography of Desmon T. Dos, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is a respected Oscar-nominated film which deserves much of the praise it receives. As through the stand-out performance by Andrew Garfield alongside the attractive cinematography by Simon Duggan and array of tense moments, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ soon becomes a very emotional and memorable experience for any viewer, whether overly familiar with the war genre or not.

Based on the real-life story of World War II American Army Medic Desmon T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa and refused to kill anyone despite push-back from his superiors. Doss soon became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a single shot on the battlefield.

Directed by Mel Gibson (Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto). ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is most effective when displaying war at it’s most brutal, never turning away from displaying the graphic violence and horrific destruction World War II inflicted on many people’s lives, and while the film can sometimes go a little too far when it comes to its gore (feeling a little tasteless and over-the-top at points). I did find ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ more engaging than many similar films within the war genre, and the grim atmosphere the film presents is sure to keep any audience member constantly on the edge-of-their-seat.

The main cast of Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths and Luke Bracey are all phenomenal, with Andrew Garfield in particular, giving a fantastic performance as Desmon T. Dos. Never failing to portray him as a likeable and brave man thrown-into the dark world of war, despite a huge amount of scenes being left on the cutting-room floor as a result of time, which I feel is a shame, as the film isn’t overly long and could’ve benefitted from a few more moments of characterisation. However, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ also features some extremely peculiar choices when it comes to the supporting cast, as Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington both portray strict war-camp generals early-on in the story, which in spite of them both giving fairly decent performances within their roles, I couldn’t help but feel their characters could’ve been better cast.

Although the cinematography by Simon Duggan isn’t anything overly incredible throughout the runtime, the film does have a number of visually pleasing shots, in addition to the film utilizing an array of hand-held shots to further the film’s presentation of the uncontrollable chaos of war. Unfortunately, despite not being used very heavily throughout the film, the shots involving CGI that we do see could definitely do with some improvement. As the CGI effects for the film’s enormous battleships and fiery explosions do look a little unusual when compared to the film’s time-period accurate battlefront.

The original score by Rupert Gregson-Williams is one of the stronger elements of the film however, as the soundtrack helps to build tension throughout the story in addition to being surprisingly memorable. Although in my opinion, I always felt the score never quite managed to build tension as well as the score for: ‘Dunkirk’, or had the huge emotional impact as the original score from one of the definitive war films: ‘Saving Private Ryan’, which stopped the soundtrack from reaching the heights it truly could. That being said, the late James Horner was initially attached to the film after being the composer for much of Gibson’s other work. But after Horner’s untimely death, another composer was brought-on before Rupert Gregson-Williams was eventually finalized-on, so the film’s soundtrack has been through a very rough-road of development.

One area of the film I feel is fairly underappreciated is the make-up and costume design, as every-horrific injury seen throughout the film always appears realistic and looks extremely painful, whilst every-costume also feels very accurate to the film’s time-period, almost making the film appear as if the production actually took-place during World War II itself. These elements also help make-up for some of the weak writing early-on in the film. As whilst the film’s writing isn’t awful by any means, a large amount of the dialogue could be seen as a little cheesy/cliché when it comes to developing the film’s characters.

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is one of those rare films that is both entertaining and distressing, whilst it isn’t quite perfect in its execution, mostly due to its few small issues in regards to its writing, excessive violence and supporting cast. I still feel all of these problems are mostly minor when compared to the remainder of the film. As ‘Hacksaw Ridge’s brilliant war-torn visuals and tense atmosphere on-top of the memorable and charismatic performance by Andrew Garfield, leave ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ a film I feel many should see at least once, and is a solid 8/10 overall.

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The Belko Experiment (2016) – Film Review

An intense thriller with elements of dark comedy thrown-in for good measure, ‘The Belko Experiment’ is written by ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ director James Gunn, and directed by: ‘Wolf Creek’ and ‘Rogue’ director Greg McLean. A strange combination which works surprisingly well in my opinion, as it results in a tense, unique and very fast-paced film.

In a twisted social experiment, eighty American employees are locked in their high-rise corporate office building in Bogotá, Colombia, and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed. Throwing every employee of the company into a state of panic, and a question of morals.

As you can probably tell from the plot, the film doesn’t hold back from throwing the audience straight into the gory chaos after only about ten to fifteen minutes of screen-time. From here, the film continues to build tension and a dreading atmosphere throughout the remainder of the film.

John Gallagher Jr and Adria Arjona are the main two protagonists of the film, as well as Tony Goldwyn and John C. McGinley as the antagonists. Who are all great in their varied roles, due to there being an entire building worth of employees involved in the main story however, there’s an enormous amount of characters, which of course means barley any of characterisation for most of them aside from a couple of lines or the occasional scene.

Whilst the cinematography by Luis David Sansans isn’t any overly impressive, it is decently pleasing throughout the runtime and does manage to show off many of the practical gore effects within the film to their best extent. The same can not be said for the CGI throughout the film however, as despite not always being noticeable, there are a few moments where the CGI becomes extremely obvious due to the film’s smaller budget and can take the viewer out of the film for a moment or two. In addition to this, the original score by Tyler Bates is not very memorable or unique despite doing a decent job of building tension throughout the film, as the soundtrack rises and changes over-time to fit the more tense and chaotic feel of the narrative. However, the score can also feel a little out-of-place when some of the more comedic scenes come into play, but this issue is also noticeable when it comes to the tone of the film, as despite much of the comedy actually working fairly well, the film sometimes changes from horrific imagery to humour a little too quickly.

One of the main elements of the film is obviously the gory deaths, as the story resolves pretty much completely around the deaths of the various characters, and while the film does have a few memorable moments and kills. I was a little dissatisfied with the variety, as the majority of the characters seem to die simply from gunshots, rather than the film getting creative and making better use of the office location it’s set-in, perhaps by having characters use office/everyday equipment and supplies as improvised weapons.

As you may also expect with a violent set-up such as this one, ‘The Belko Experiment’ also delivers on plenty of underlining themes and messages. Focusing mostly on how we react as humans to traumatic events and give-in to our most primal instincts and selfish desires, and while I do wish these ideas were delved into a little further. They are present throughout the film regardless, and I did find the way the film explored the ideas of human survival pretty interesting. Even my personal favourite scene within the film (which takes place in the main reception of the building) excels at expressing these themes in pretty a brutal way.

If all you’re searching for on your Saturday night is a bit of gory, comedic excitement with a few underlining themes mixed-in good measure. Then ‘The Belko Experiment’ happily delivers, as the film is an enjoyable thrill-ride with some quick-pacing and practical gore effects, regardless of some of its weak characters, CGI visuals and relatively simplistic story. Although it may not appeal to all, for me, it’s a decent 7/10.

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Deadpool (2016) – Film Review

Extremely meta, violent and hilarious from start-to-finish, ‘Deadpool’s first on-screen appearance is exactly what hardcore fans of the character would want from their favourite potty-mouthed anti-hero. Despite being made on a lower-budget than the most superhero blockbusters, ‘Deadpool’ still manages to avoid the variety of issues that may come from this by having a ‘different’ kind of appeal for superhero fans.

Mostly focusing on setting-up ‘Deadpool’s origin story, the wisecracking ex-mercenary known as: ‘Wade Wilson’, volunteers for an experiment to save his life from cancer, only to soon become superpowered and immortal… but also very ugly, soon leading him to track down the man who ruined his good-looks, and execute his revenge.

Despite the narrative being very simplistic, the story is actually surprisingly engaging. Giving the audience plenty of exciting action scenes, whilst still delivering on a decent romantic subplot between ‘Deadpool’ and his girlfriend: ‘Venessa’, even managing to give the anti-hero a decent character-arc by the end of the runtime.

Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller and Stefan Kapicic are all decent in their respective roles, with Ryan Reynolds, who portrays the protagonist: ‘Deadpool’ extremely well, also having a hand in the production process, being a producer on the film as well as having a large impact on the script, and I definitely feel he is a big reason as to why the film works as well as it does. As it’s clear that Reynolds works very well with director Tim Miller, mostly known for his work on Netflix’s anthology series: ‘Love, Death and Robots’.

The cinematography by Ken Seng is nothing spectacular, but it does have it’s moments. In a similar way to the editing, the cinematography can even be used for a little gag at various points within the film. The original score by ‘Junkie XL’ or Thomas Holkenborg, mostly known for his work on: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ and ‘Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice’, really helps back up the exciting over-the-top tone of the film, combing a rock-like soundtrack with small almost dubstep elements, which works perfectly for many of the action scenes throughout the film.

The film also delivers on plenty of the meta jokes fans would expect from this character, having many references to Ryan Reynolds past career choices, other characters from the Marvel universe, and even past iterations of: ‘Deadpool’ himself which I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, due to the film’s smaller budget, the film can have some distractingly rough visuals. Having many action scenes with tons of CGI, along with plenty of explosions and gore effects. I found myself sometimes be taken out of the film through the overuse of these visual effects. However, on a more positive note, having a smaller budget than most superhero flicks is also often used for short gag by ‘Deadpool’ himself.

Of course, with a character as loud and over-the-top as ‘Deadpool’, it’s always possible that not everyone would find the character so likeable and funny. As sometimes the constant bombardment of humour can be overwhelming, and in large doses, I could definitely see ‘Deadpool’ becoming very irritating for some. This is really one of the only complaints I have with the film however, and after watching this film’s sequel: ‘Deadpool 2’. It’s fair to say I found myself missing the original, mostly for its originality and structure.

In conclusion, ‘Deadpool’ delivers on what everyone would expect to see from a film like this. It’s not perfect of course, but the film does always manage to be funny, gory and exciting throughout. Not landing every joke of course, but making the audience burst into tears with every joke that it does. Overall, a great comedy/comic book flick and a solid 8/10, I really hope films such as: ‘Deadpool’, ‘Logan’, and ‘The New Mutants’ (should it ever be released) continue to green-lit in upcoming years, as with how oversaturated the superhero genre is today, it could really do with some more variety now and then.

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Hell or High Water (2016) – Film Review

From the writer of: ‘Sicario’ and the director of: ‘Starred Up’, ‘Hell or High Water’ is a tense crime film which feels like more a traditional western on a first watch, mostly through its great use of its cast, fantastic original score and classic setting. The film being a heavy slow-burn for the most part, as the story builds-up for most of its runtime, eventually leading to its intense climax, which despite being short, does feel satisfying to watch, the entire film overall is truly a brilliant example of a ‘modern-day western’.

The story focuses on a divorced father and his ex-con older brother as they resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas. Robbing as many banks as they can all across the county, while remaining one-step-ahead of the authorities that are hunting them down.

On my first viewing, the film felt very similar to the Coen Brother’s ‘No Country for Old Men’ (which the film seems to be heavily inspired by). As the story is very engaging and surprisingly also has a nice blend of dark comedy mixed-in with a lot of the drama and tension. Not really focusing on action, the film spends more time building up tension and atmosphere. Near the end of the film however, we do see some action, which is relativity well done and does feel very grounded.

Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gill Birmingham all give fantastic performances here, and keep the audience engaged throughout the runtime, which is even more impressive when you look further into their characters. As I personally feel their characters could’ve done with a little more development, as they do get bits and pieces but nothing really major, and the lack of any kind of character-arc for Chris Pine’s character: ‘Toby Howard’ really irritated me. However, the rest of the writing here is pretty great for the majority of the film.

The cinematography by Giles Nuttgens is one of the better aspects of the film, really utilizing the location of Texas for its isolation and beauty. Usually then switching to more chaotic hand-held camera movement during the few action scenes, which I think works effectively. However, I do feel the cinematography could be improved, as there weren’t a large number of shots I was incredibly impressed by throughout the film.

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are responsible for the original score, which is possibly my favourite element of the film, really adding to the modern western feel the film is going for, as well as backing up many of the more emotional or tense scenes. The soundtrack here is definitely one of my favourite elements of the film, the film however also makes great use of various songs. Having a variety of country songs play over different scenes throughout the film, setting the tone and atmosphere very quickly, as well as establishing the film’s setting early on.

‘Hell or High Water’ is an effective crime thriller and modern-day western, for any classic western fan I would say this is a definite watch. As for more casual viewers, I could see the slow-burning pace being a bit of a turn-off, despite it being used to build tension effectively. Backed up by its great cinematography and original score, the film makes up for its lack of character depth and exciting action in the long run. I’m gonna give ‘Hell or High Water’ a solid 8/10.

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The Girl with All the Gifts (2016) – Film Review

‘The Girl with All the Gifts’ is based on the novel of the same name by M. R. Carey, another zombie story, this time attempting to focus more on young children and how they would cope with an infection wiping out all of humanity. As well as leaning more towards the ‘fungus’ side of infections when it comes to some of the film’s visuals and ideas, and while I appreciate the attempt to turn this narrative into a film. I don’t think it was incredibly successful in the long-run.

In a dystopian future where humanity has been ravaged by a mysterious fungal disease, humanity’s only hope is a small group of hybrid children who crave human flesh while still retaining the ability to think and feel. But when their base is later attacked, a teacher, a scientist and a group of soldiers must embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named: ‘Melanie’.

Directed by Colm McCarthy, the idea of a group of characters going on a dangerous journey is a pretty standard outline for an apocalyptic story, sadly however, ‘The Girl with All the Gifts’ doesn’t manage to improve much on this structure. As many of the decisions throughout the film were pretty strange, to say the least, as the film flips back and forward between horror and drama rapidly within some scenes (sometimes even implementing comedy as well). As a result of this, the film’s tone is very inconsistent, and can really take the viewer out of the story at points. Even the name given to the zombie-like creatures within the film: ‘The Hungries’, I personally found a little too-ridiculous.

Sennia Nanua portrays the main character of the film: ‘Melanie’, a young girl with the abilities of: ‘The Hungries’ that still retains her human mind, and while I think her character is definitely interesting, I don’t feel her performance is up-to-par here. As she was only thirteen during filming, many of the emotional scenes with her feel very unbelievable. Alongside this, there are a variety of scenes with her character acting like a wild animal as her hunger continues to grow, most of which I found unintentionally hilarious. Perhaps if she was a little older when filming began this could’ve been avoided, although the weak writing also doesn’t help. The supporting cast do redeem this somewhat however, as Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close are all fairly excellent within their roles.

The cinematography by Simon Dennis is easily my favourite element of the film, as there are many stunning shots throughout the runtime. As every shot really lends itself to many of the film’s more impactful or beautiful scenes, with the brilliant make-up effects and great set design also adding toward this, which is especially surprising considering the film’s budget, which was actually a lot smaller than many other zombie flicks. This does unfortunately affect the CGI effects throughout the film however, as a variety of shots throughout the story have some very out-of-place looking CGI visuals.

The wonderful original score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer is another element of the film I also really enjoyed, as the soundtrack is very atmospheric and really adds to many of the tense scenes throughout the film, very similar to the composer’s other scores, with Channel 4’s ‘Utopia’ and Netflix’s ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ being some great examples, with the tracks: ‘Gifted’ and ‘Pandora’ being my personal favourites purely for how unique they sound. 

In conclusion, ‘The Girl with All the Gifts’ isn’t the worst zombie film I’ve ever seen. As the story does have some interesting elements and the cinematography and original score are pretty on point throughout the film, but sadly, the poor writing and laughable main performance combined really drag the film down for me. So I’m gonna give this one a 5/10 overall, although I was initially tempted to go lower, I believe this a fair grade based on the filmmaking.

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Don’t Breathe (2016) – Film Review

Truly a visual treat when it comes to the film’s lighting and attractive colour palette, ‘Don’t Breathe’ is the second big-screen outing for director Fede Alvarez after he took-on the extremely gory: ‘Evil Dead’ remake a few years prior. Through its original story, incredibly tense atmosphere, brilliant cast as well as iconic horror director Sam Rami on-board as a producer, ‘Don’t Breathe’ manages to constantly remain both entertaining and thrilling in spite of nearly all its runtime taking-place within a single location.

When a trio of thieves break into an elderly blind man’s home in an attempt to steal the loan given to him as a settlement for his daughter’s death. They soon begin to realise that the old man isn’t as helpless as first seems, leaving the group to find a way out before its too late.

This simple yet unique plot is truly ripe for creating tense moments, as the film utilizes its main location of the ‘Blind Man’s house to the best of its advantage. Having the trio of characters make their way through the house’s tight corridors and dark rooms with plenty of extremely close encounters with the blind old man. Even having to hold their breath at points so he can’t hear them breathe (as the title of the film implies). Alongside this, ‘The Blind Man’ also has a pet rottweiler, which lends itself to creating even more intense scenes as the characters get pursed by the vicious canine. Who was actually portrayed by three different dog actors on-set named: Athos, Astor, and Nomad respectively.

Stephan Lang, best known for his role as ‘Colonel Miles Quaritch’ in ‘Avatar’, portrays the film’s antagonist only ever-known as ‘The Blind Man’, and does a phenomenal job of it. Giving the audience an almost sympathetic view of the character through his innocent performance early-on before then quickly becoming far more unhinged and incredibly intimidating every-time he is on-screen. The rest of the cast of Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto also give remarkable performances as the young group of thieves, despite their characters only receiving a small amount of characterisation near the beginning of the film.

The cinematography by Pedro Luque is surprisingly inventive throughout, as in addition to the film’s array of visually pleasing shots. ‘Don’t Breathe’ actually uses its cinematography to allude to moments that come later within the narrative. In particular, in the scene where the trio first break into ‘The Blind Man’s house, as the camera glides through the various different rooms focusing on key objects or areas for reasons that are revealed later down the line. However, the real visual flair of the film is definitely the stunning lighting and colour palette as already mentioned, from dirty blues and greens to overly bright oranges. Each location (whether inside or out) is always given its own distinct appeal, sometimes even replicating what the audience should be feeling at that point, whether that is fear or relief.

Roque Baños, the same composer who previously worked with director Fede Alvarez on the ‘Evil Dead’ remake, returns to work alongside him once again. This time around crafting an original score which is both eerie and memorable, as the score uses metallic bangs and crashes to fit with the story’s location, giving the soundtrack a real personality similar to the film itself. ‘Don’t Breathe’ also uses its score very effectively, only placing it within more fast-paced moments after the tension has already risen, rather than overusing the original score in scenes where silence is mostly required.

When it comes to its runtime, ‘Don’t Breathe’ is actually quite short. As due to the film wanting to keep its viewer on-edge throughout nearly the entirety of its narrative, ‘Don’t Breathe’ is cautious not to overstay it’s welcome, an issue that many horror flicks have suffered from. As many horrors in the past have overplayed their concepts, eventually making them far less frighting/interesting by the time the credits roll. That being said however, I couldn’t help but feel a few more scenes with our protagonists wouldn’t have gone amiss, as there were actually a number of more character-focused scenes shot for the film before inevitably being cut.

In conclusion, I strongly enjoy ‘Don’t Breathe’, as this edge-of-the-seat horror/thriller is in my opinion, a genuine pleasure to watch every-time. As aside from desiring a little more characterisation for the protagonists, I have very few issues with this one. As Stephen Lang’s sensational performance, in addition to the film’s great visuals and large number of tension-filled moments, leave ‘Don’t Breathe’ one of the most memorable indie horrors made in quite some-time. A high 8/10 overall. Personally, I’m really looking forward to seeing what else this interesting director has-up his sleeve, horror or not.

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