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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The Shape of Water (2017) – Film Review

Without question one of my favourite films from director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak), this strange story of a woman falling in love with an other-worldly fish creature really pushes the limits on both attractive visuals and storytelling. Combing outstanding some cinematography and great make-up effects alongside some memorable performances by Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones, with Michael Shannon also stepping-in as the menacing antagonist. For one truly incredible cinematic experience.

Plot Summary: Inside a hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely ‘Elisa’ is trapped in a life of silence and isolation. But ‘Elisa’s life is soon changed forever when she and her co-worker: ‘Zelda’ discover a secret classified experiment lurking behind large closed-doors…

This completely bazaar plot is no doubt an instant turn-off for some viewers, but I personally feel director Guillermo del Toro truly brings all his charm and passion to this project. As the film is an absolute pleasure to watch from beginning-to-end, which is even more impressive considering both of the film’s protagonists: ‘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 screenplay was the fact that, by letting the main couple be mute, most of the dialogue comes from a black woman and a closeted gay man. Who would have both experienced real-world 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.

Alongside the phenomenal cinematography by Dan Laustsen, which contains an enormous amount of beautiful shots throughout the narrative (with the dark blue colour palette also helping to add to the film’s visuals). In addition to this, the wonderful original score by Alexandre Desplat also adds another outstanding soundtrack to his already overflowing catalogue. As this beautiful (yet unusual) romantic score with an almost French-like 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.

As well as the marvellous cast, the writing throughout the film is also fantastic, as del Toro writes the script almost like poetry at points. Forming a romantic bond between the two main protagonists as the film progresses, alongside this the film has plenty of subtle commentary on the time-period, backing-up the film’s overall theme of the things that make us different, whether that be because we are deaf, blind, or possibly even some kind of weird fish-creature, which I personally found very compelling.

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 used very effectivity, amplifying many of the effects around the creature rather than distracting from them. On my initial watch, I also couldn’t help but think that this is definitely a Guillermo del Toro film through and through, as with another director at the helm, I could definitely see this film not working, but del Toro truly brings his ‘A’ game here.

In conclusion, I honestly believe ‘The Shape of Water’ may be one of my all-time favourite films, and definitely one of favourite films of 2017. As the relationship between the two protagonists and the journey they go on is 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 everyone, it is an extremely well-made film regardless. Final Rating: 9/10.

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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, love and 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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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 lighthearted. 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, over-reliance 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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