Free Fire (2017) – Film Review

An interesting film for sure, ‘Free Fire’ directed by Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers, High-Rise), thrusts it’s audience straight into a world of blood, bullets and amusing quips. Setting the entire story in one single location, which truly helps the film in setting itself apart from other films within its genre, and I really do appreciate the effort that went into this film in order for it to be as entertaining as it is, and whilst not perfect, the film is still mostly entertaining and amusing throughout.

Plot Summary: In an abandoned Boston warehouse in 1978, a small-scale gun-deal goes awry, turning the warehouse into a chaotic fight for survival with bullets flying in every direction…

As the film is set in the 1970s, the film is littered with 70s style. Everything from the costumes, to the original score, to even the colour palette gives fit extremely well with the film’s tone. It’s clear from the style of the film and the witty dialogue that director Ben Wheatley was obviously inspired by early Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese films, which makes complete sense as crime seems to be his go-to genre for the most part.

The entire cast here are all doing a great job of fitting film’s tone, as although there are a few comedically dark moments, the film is mostly light-hearted. As the cast’s performances back-up this tone very well, giving the film an over-the-top and comedic outlook on the situation. I also enjoyed the sound design for the weapons in this picture, as I felt like each gunshot actually had an impact, not just that the actors were playing with props. I would say Armie Hammer as ‘Ord’ as well as Cillian Murphy as ‘Chris’ were easily my personal favourites of the cast, as I always found myself enjoying their very charismatic and cocky personas throughout the runtime.

Despite it being nothing amazing, the cinematography by Laurie Rose is decent enough throughout the majority of the film. Although I do believe there is a bit too much of a reliance of a hand-held camera at points, as I feel a still shot would be welcome more than a few times and as already mentioned, the original score by Geoff Barrow backs up that time-period very well. However, the soundtrack itself is pretty forgettable outside the rest of the film.

The best compliment I can give this film is without a doubt the writing. As although the characters get barley any development throughout the narrative (relying mostly on the actor’s charismatic performances) the writing never fails to implement humour, or extremely-tense scenarios nearing the end of the film. This is a shame however, as I do feel a character-arc would have worked very effectively for one of the greedy, egotistical characters on display.

Overall, I would say I enjoyed: ‘Free Fire,’ it definitely isn’t perfect due to its weak characterisation, overeliance on hand-held shots and maybe a few missed jokes here and there. But still an enjoyable watch, and a nice 1970s throwback nevertheless. Plus the original concept of the narrative always intrigued me, and must be appreciated for its creativity alone. Final Rating: 6/10.

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Wish Upon (2017) – Film Review

A hilariously awful attempt at horror, ‘Wish Upon’ comes to us from director John R. Leonetti. Mostly known for his cinematography on the first two ‘Insidious’ films as well as the first entry in ‘The Conjuring’ series. With him now recently delving his hand into directing, working on films such as: ‘Annabelle,’ ‘The Silence’ and obviously ‘Wish Upon.’ However, after watching all of these films, I think I would really rather he just stick to cinematography from now on.

Plot Summary: When a teenage girl (Clare Shannon) discovers an old music box that carries strange abilities and can grant her any wish she desires, she believes all her dreams have come true. That is until, she realises that there is a deadly price for each one…

Although the film’s plot does take inspiration from W.W. Jacobs’ iconic short story: ‘The Monkey Paw,’ ‘Wish Upon’ itself rarely feels like an actual horror film. Of course, the fact that the film has little-to-no atmosphere as well as an enormous amount of weak jump-scares throughout, it’s very clear that this film was clearly meant to pander towards horror-loving teenagers. ‘Wish Upon’ is truly one of the least tense horrors I’ve watched in a very long time, even being unintentionally hilarious at various points.

This is also one of the few films where I can safely say that every character in the film is not only poorly portrayed, but also incredibly stupid. As the entire cast of Ki Hong Lee, Sydney Park, Shannon Purser and of course Joey King as the protagonist: ‘Clare Shannon.’ All make ridiculous decisions throughout the entire runtime, in addition to never really acting very intensely to anything, no matter what it may be. The writing also doesn’t help however, as none of the characters in the film talk like actual teenagers, and the script is full of incredibly cringy, cliché and cheesy lines.

All of the cinematography throughout the film by Michael Galbraith is very bland and uninspired. Normally using just simple shots without any attempt to integrate any creepy elements into them. The lighting also doesn’t help however, as most of the film looks like a cheaply made for TV film due to being very bright and clear throughout.

The original score by ‘tomandandy’ is your usual horror affair, with nothing really interesting or particularly memorable of note about it. However, the choice of songs throughout the film is memorable however, for all the wrong reasons. As the film chooses to use terrible pop-music at various points during the film, which comes completely out of nowhere and ruins whatever little tension or atmosphere the film had up to that point, making the film feel almost like more of a teen comedy than a horror. Simply due to how distracting it is, this was easily the worst element of the film for me.

Only a very small detail, but I feel the only aspect of the film I actually enjoyed is the music box itself, having a very creepy and unique ancient Chinese design. It’s clear the filmmakers were trying hard to make the item iconic in its own right. Whilst obviously not truly successful with this, I still like its design, and the eerie tune that it plays as a horrific event unfolds, the film also has a very surreal and entertaining end title sequence, but this obviously adds very little to the film overall.

‘Wish Upon’ is a true mess of a horror film, everything from the writing, to the cinematography, to the original score is either very poorly done or simply extremely dull and generic. Coming-off as an unintentionally hilarious experience sometimes and lacking in any eerie atmosphere and terrifying scenes, I really couldn’t dislike this film more personally. But at least the film does have plenty of memorable moments if you decided to watch it with some friends for a laugh. Final Rating: 1/10.

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Get Out (2017) – Film Review

Comedian and actor Jordan Peele tests his hand at directing for the first time with this intelligent thriller, as ‘Get Out’ utilises its original story and some great performances to become a definite step-up from Blumhouse Productions’ usual standard for films. However, although many viewers think this film is phenomenal throughout it’s most of it’s runtime, I personally don’t agree, as I actually feel there is more than a few areas in need of some improvement.

Plot Summary: When a young African-American man visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend, his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches an extreme boiling point. Leading ‘Chris’ to believe more sinister forces may be at work…

As already mentioned, the film’s narrative is original, and any regardless of quality, I always appreciate originality when it comes to storytelling. Despite ‘Get Out’ being initially pitched and advertised a horror however, the film is really anything but, as the film actually has many inclines of comedy mixed-in with some tension-filled moments here and there, and although the film is entertaining, ‘Get Out’ never really manages to build-up an eerie atmosphere or becomes particularly creepy, which is why I believe that the film is now classed as a thriller rather than a horror by most.

The best aspect of the film for me is by far the performances by the cast, as Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are all exceptional throughout, with Daniel Kaluuya as the protagonist: ‘Chris Washington’ in particular really keeping me engaged. As he gives a very ranged performance, managing to portray a very likeable and realistic character within only a short period of time. Unfortunately, not all of the supporting cast quite level-up to this standard.

The cinematography by Toby Oliver is a decent throughout the film, as although there are plenty of attractive shots (most of which make great use of the large open spaces the majority of the story takes-place in (especially in the opening scene of the film, which is executed perfectly). There are also a variety of fairly bland shots, this may also be due to the film’s colour palette however, as throughout the film the use of a very restrictive colour palette results in the film feeling a little visually dull, rather than using its colours to play into its story or genre.

Personally, the weakest element of the film for me is the original score by Michael Abels, as the entire soundtrack itself feels very unusual, and although unique, it usually comes-off as incredibly distracting throughout many scenes within the film. Using an orchestra as well as vocals, the score attempts to reflect some of the more surreal scenes nearing the end of the film, and although I appreciate the attempt, I simply don’t think it works, with the track: ‘Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga’ feeling particularly out-of-place as a result of its bizarre lyrics.

Although the original score may be lacking, the writing throughout the film is brilliant throughout. As writer and director Jordan Peele balances the screenplay’s comedy and horror, in addition to building-up an engaging mystery throughout the story, as every piece of dialogue contains many subtle clues and hidden meanings which come into play later in the narrative. Of course, with a plot such as this one, there is also an enormous amount of themes and social commentary underneath the story itself, and while I did find the majority of the film’s ideas very interesting and thought-provoking, I also found that some of the themes of racism and social issues can sometimes overshadow the film’s main story.

In conclusion, ‘Get Out’ is a decent thriller, as despite the fact that the performances and writing on-display throughout the film is definitely impressive, I still feel the lack of an eerie atmosphere in addition to a suitable original score for the film’s tone really hurt the film. Regardless of this, ‘Get Out’ is still a thriller will plenty of entertainment-value, while nothing absolutely amazing, the film definitely has it’s moments, and I would say the film is a solid watch if you enjoy the occasional thriller. Final Rating: 7/10.

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Colossal (2017) – Film Review

Definitely an unusual film that I can say with confidence isn’t for everyone, 2017’s ‘Colossal’ is a hilarious very original comedy-drama from director Nacho Vigalondo (Time Crimes, V/H/S: Viral – Segment: Parallel Monsters, Pooka!) combining some phenomenal performances by Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis and a great visual appeal. The film is very memorable, and one of my personal favourites in recent memory.

Plot Summary: ‘Gloria’ is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in New York City and move back to her small home town. Whilst reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul in South Korea, as she gradually comes to the realisation that she is somehow connected to this strange phenomenon…

Although the narrative of the film leans heavily on the mystery of how the monster and ‘Gloria’ are connected. An element of the writing I enjoyed is that none of the characters are treated like a fool, it doesn’t take our protagonist long to figure out the truth nor does it take her long to convince other people of it. Every decision made by the characters is understandable and realistic within reason. Despite also being an unlikeable character for a large majority of the film, Anne Hathaway manages to keep her character interesting and likeable enough for the audience.

As mentioned previously, the performances here are outstanding, both from Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, and although he doesn’t appear much throughout the film Dan Stevens is also decent. All the cast have great comedic timing and genuinely excellent chemistry, and along with the film’s well-balanced tone can quickly change to very dramatic. Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowel also have small roles in the film, and despite also not having too much screen-time, they are very memorable as ‘Oscar’s close friends.

The cinematography by Eric Kress gives the film a nice visual appeal. Alongside the colour palette consisting mostly of dark blues, greens and purples. Alongside a few brighter blues and yellows. The film really just has a nice look overall, without being too colourful or obnoxious. Any scene containing the giant monster are obviously scenes which use large amounts of CGI, and despite not having a huge-budget. Every-one of these scenes is fantastic, truly showing-off the enormous scale of the creature and it’s trail of destruction to the fullest extent.

The weakest element of the film for me is the original score by Bear McCreary, although I usually enjoy this composer’s soundtracks. Creating such memorable scores such as: ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ and AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ (including the now-iconic opening theme). This score just feels somewhat lacking, while not particularly bad, the original score simply lacks any character or originality. Aside from sounding somewhat similar to a classic monster score at points similar to ‘Godzilla’ for example.

Overall, ‘Colossal’ is the perfect comedy-drama in my opinion, balancing great performances with an original story and some brilliantly executed emotional/funny scenes. The film is extremely enjoyable all the way through. The film keeps us a decent pace and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, yet still leaves the audience satisfied. The film really just has a great personality to it, and is filled with plenty of memorable scenes throughout its tight runtime. So I’d say definitely check this one out if it sounds like something you’d be interested in. Final Rating: 8/10.

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Baby Driver (2017) – Film Review

Beloved British action-comedy writer-director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) returns to the silver screen for another colourful and exciting masterpiece of filmmaking. As one of my all-time favourite directors, writes and directs another wonderfully crafted story, in this fast-paced and pretty thrilling crime flick.

Plot Summary: A talented young getaway driver (Baby), who uses music to drown-out the criminal world around him. Soon meets the girl of his dreams at a local diner, seeing it as his opportunity to ditch his criminal life and make a clean getaway. But he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, his love and his freedom…

As the story would imply, we spend a large portion of the film listening to our protagonist’s playlist just as he does. As nearly every scene with the playlist is timed exactly to the music, every tap, bang and screech. Whatever the location or character, the film never fails to make use of the catchy songs within the narrative, this is also where I have to mention the outstanding editing, as the film is always in sync with the songs, even through it’s cuts to other shots or scenes. The editing is always fast, fluid and perfectly on time, every-time.

The film never really fails at being engaging for the audience due to the combination of the brilliant writing and acting, with the main cast portrayed well by Ansel Elgort and Kevin Spacey. However, my personal favourite of the cast has to be John Hamm as ‘Buddy’ however, who was funny, charming and menacing throughout. This is unfortunately where my one criticisms of the film comes in however, as Lily James’ character: ‘Debora’ although likeable, is given little-to-no development throughout the story, and by the end of the film is nothing more than a bland love interest.

Feeling like a classic Edgar Wright project throughout the runtime, the film always uses a bright colour palette alongside the effective cinematography by Bill Pop, allowing the film to really leap-off the screen. This is also in credit to the brilliant stunts within the film however, as most of the driving in the film was done completely practically, with the main protagonist of the film: ‘Baby,’ even listening to the songs we as the audience hear during many of the scenes for the majority of his time on set.

As perfected as the editing felt whilst watching, the sound design was also extremely on-point. Nothing in regards to audio editing ever felt jolted or out-of-place, as each cut matches up perfectly with the last and works extremely well with the chosen songs. Each audio effect always fitting into the scene no matter the location. Usually not a thing of note in these reviews, but this film did it so well I had to mention it. In addition to this, despite not using an original score for the majority of the film due to the huge list of iconic songs chosen, the original score by Steven Price is decent despite not being very memorable.

In usual Edgar Wright fashion, the film is also crammed with various little hidden visual cues and jokes, many of these are just small things such as having the lyrics of the song ‘Baby’ is listening to spray-painted on the walls behind him. This may not seem like much, but the little details throughout clearly display that the director clearly has a deep passion for the film and has a keen-eye for attention to detail.

While ‘Baby Driver’ has always hit me as a more upbeat version of: ‘Drive’ from 2011, Wright’s fast-paced crime flick is still an extremely well-executed film, having the usual creative flair we’ve come to expect from this director, in addition to an engaging story, fantastic editing and some brilliant songs chosen throughout. And with such high-fueled fun on display, how could you not love ‘Baby Driver?’ Final Rating: high 8/10.

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The Shape of Water (2017) – Film Review

Without question one of my favourite films from director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak), ‘The Shape of Water’ is for sure not a film that everyone will enjoy, but for those who do, this strange story of a woman falling in love with an other-worldly fish creature inspired by the horror classic: ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon,’ will truly push visuals and storytelling to their limits. Combining some outstanding cinematography with stunning make-up effects and plenty of absorbing performances from Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones and Michael Shannon, all equalling to one truly incredible cinematic experience.

Plot Summary: In the midst of the 1960s, inside a high-security government facility, a lonely cleaner named: ‘Elisa’ is trapped in a life of silence and isolation, stuck in a familiar and mundane routine. But when the facility she works within captures a mysterious fish creature in order to study its unique physiology, ‘Elisa’s life changes forever as she becomes more and more attached to the creature…

‘The Shape of Water’ is undoubtedly a Guillermo del Toro film through and through, as with another director at the helm, I could definitely see this film not working, as the completely bazaar plot is no doubt an instant turn-off for some viewers. But del Toro truly brings his ‘A’ game here, bringing every inch of his creativity and passion to the film. And as such, the film is an absolute pleasure to watch from beginning-to-end, which is even more impressive considering both of the film’s protagonists, a.k.a. ‘Elisa’ and ‘The Amphibian Man,’ are completely mute for the entirety of the runtime. In fact, one of Octavia Spencer’s favourite things about the film was that by the main couple being mute, most of the dialogue comes from a black woman and a closeted gay man, who would’ve both experienced real oppression during the 1960s setting of the film.

Despite actor Doug Jones being in heavy make-up prosthetics to portray ‘The Amphibian Man’ for all his screen-time, he actually is able to invoke a variety of emotions, and shares plenty of chemistry with his co-star Sally Hawkins as ‘Elisa,’ with the supporting cast of Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Lauren Lee Smith also being surprisingly excellent given their character’s limited time on-screen. As well as the marvellous cast, the writing throughout the film is also fantastic, as del Toro writes the screenplay almost like poetry. Forming a romantic bond between the two main protagonists as the film progresses, all the while integrating plenty of social commentary on the time-period, backing-up the film’s main theme of what makes us different, whether that be because we are deaf, blind or possibly, not even human, which I personally found very compelling.

The phenomenal cinematography by Dan Laustsen elevates ‘The Shape of Water’ drastically, which contains an unbelievable amount of beautiful shots throughout the narrative, with the film’s dark blue/green colour palette only helping to add to the film’s visuals. Furthermore, many shots within the film play into aspects of various characters, most notably, ‘Elisa’s isolated life, displaying the facility where she works as a cold, dirty and segregating place.

Additionally, ‘The Shape of Water’ adds another remarkable score to composer Alexandre Desplat’s already-overflowing catalogue of work, as this unusually-beautiful romantic score with an almost French-esque feel, is very impactful in many moments throughout the film. Particularly with the opening scene however, as the opening shot glides slowly through a flooded room set to the my personal favourite track of the film: ‘The Shape of Water,’ preparing the viewer for the strange story that lies ahead. Desplat also provided recordings of his own whistling to be featured in the soundtrack, as del Toro wanted the score to feature whistling so it could contrast with the film’s many scenes that feature water.

One of my personal favourite elements of the film is definitely the make-up and prosthetics, as every second of screen-time we get with ‘The Amphibian Man’ the make-up effects look completely flawless, with many aspects of the strange and original design being inspired by real animals. Which is nothing new to this director however, as del Toro has always been known for creating incredible creatures of dark fantasy, such as in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and the ‘Hellboy’ series. Although used less than what many may initially think, the CGI throughout the film is also very effective, amplifying many of the small effects around the creature rather than distracting from (or overpowering) them.

In conclusion, I honestly believe ‘The Shape of Water’ may be one of my all-time favourite films, and certainly one of favourite films of 2017, as the relationship between the two protagonists and the journey their relationship represents is truly memorising from start-to-finish. Backed-up by some amazing cinematography, a great original score as well as the make-up and CG effects, whilst perhaps not a film for every cinephile, it is an extremely well-made film regardless, and one that I would surely recommend. Final Rating: 9/10.

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