Hotel Artemis (2018) – Film Review

Easily one of the most overlooked and commercially-underwhelming films of 2018, ‘Hotel Artemis’ is one of those rare releases that feels very unsuited to the genre its actually a part of. As whilst this enclosed story set within the walls of an illegal hospital is certainly interesting, ‘Hotel Artemis’ also bizarrely serves as a science fiction flick. Boasting plenty of futuristic technology alongside its snappy dialogue, charismatic performances and gorgeously-designed central location. Its just a shame the film doesn’t always know what to do with any of the above.

Plot Summary: In the riot-torn, near-future of Los Angeles, 2028. Disgruntled thieves and criminals make their way to ‘Hotel Artemis’, a secret members-only hospital operated by ‘The Nurse’, a no-nonsense doctor who tends to their injuries under the condition that anyone who enters the hotel sticks to the set-rules. But after ‘The Nurse’ receives word the notorious crime lord: ‘The Wolf King’ is in-bound with a gunshot wound, ‘The Nurse’ is forced to break her own rules as the hotel is thrown into violent chaos.

Written and directed by Drew Pearce, ‘Hotel Artemis’ is actually Pearce’s directorial debut, as before this film Pearce had exclusively worked as a screenwriter, writing blockbusters such as: ‘Iron Man 3’ and ‘Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation’ as well as the ‘Fast and Furious’ spin-off: ‘Hobbs and Shaw’ later down the line. This might explain why ‘Hotel Artemis’ is as compellingly-written as it is, as in spite of its quick-pacing and very limited number of locations, the script manages to squeeze a fair amount into its extremely tight runtime. As the film explores some of world outside of the hotel in addition to developing many of the hotel’s criminal inhabitants, all the while the film remains tense as a result of the interactions between the characters and the impending arrive of: ‘The Wolf King’.

Jodie Foster leads the cast as ‘The Nurse’, her first acting role since the sci-fi film: ‘Elysium’ in 2013. And her all too-rare screen-presence is a pleasure to see again, as she gives a convincingly mournful performance, portraying ‘The Nurse’ as an elderly women refined to the sanctuary of her work following the tragic death of her son. Then there are also the criminals, assassins and thieves (and hotel security) portrayed by Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Charlie Day, Zachary Quinto and Jeff Goldblum, who are all enjoyable to watch as the various scum of the futuristic Los Angles, and all receive a fair amount of development although many characters don’t receive the payoff they truly deserve.

The film’s greatest strength is without a doubt its setting, as the penthouse floor of: ‘The Artemis’ is rich with atmosphere as the hotel’s design is incredibly reminiscent of the Art Deco-style of 1930s hotels, almost giving the impression its a building from days past. From the velvet cushions to the green slightly-teared wallpaper, ‘Hotel Artemis’ is a very memorable location, its just unfortunate the film attempts to weave-in sci-fi wires and screens etc. The cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung also greatly adds to the film’s visuals, as the film keeps its shots and colourful lighting as diverse as possible and avoids utilising too-much hand-held camerawork.

Cliff Martinez’s original score is another superb element of the film, as the soundtrack features plenty of noteworthy tracks like ‘It Smells Like Somebody Died in Here’, ‘Hands Off the Gooch’, ‘I Only Kill Important People’ and ‘Don’t Cross My Line’, all of which elevate both the tension and style of the film. ‘Hotel Artemis’ also integrates a few songs from the 1970s such as: ‘California Dreamin’ and ‘Helpless’, which whilst catchy, further adds to the idea of the film seeming out-of-place as a science fiction flick, but then I suppose without the link to that genre we wouldn’t have the rest of this fantastically-computerised score.

As mentioned many times, the biggest flaw of: ‘Hotel Artemis’ for me is its near-future setting, as due to many of the film’s characters feeling like modern-day criminals in their actions and personalities, it soon becomes clear that with just a few small alterations the entire narrative could really be switched to fit within a modern time-period, making the sci-fi aspects ultimately pointless. However, with the idea of a hotel for criminals already being explored with the ‘Continental Hotel’ in the ‘John Wick’ series, its possible that these characteristics were introduced as a way of avoiding too-many similarities with that franchise.

So whilst some characters may not quite get the resolution they deserve and a number of concepts do feel undercooked, ‘Hotel Artemis’ is still a tense and engaging story with many exciting moments of action in-between. Although I personally would only recommend the film to audiences who specifically adore sci-fi-thrillers, it is a pity ‘Hotel Artemis’ received lukewarm reviews and was an utter box-office failure, because there is clearly a level of effort put into the film, and I do feel its worth a watch should it seem appealing. Final Rating: low 7/10.

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The Grinch (2018) – Film Review

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as his pen-name: ‘Dr. Seuss’, is recognised today as one of the best authors in children’s literature. Through his whimsical writing, memorable characters and surreal illustrations, many of Geisel’s stories have become truly timeless as a result of how original they were compared to other children’s books released around the same-period. So of course, it would only be a matter of time till Geisel’s various characters began making their way to the silver screen, with one of his most villainous characters: ‘The Grinch’, receiving many adaptations, the most recent of which possibly being the worst to-date.

Plot Summary: In the town of: ‘Whoville’, the residents known as ‘Whos’ excitedly await the arrival of Christmas Day. But just north of: ‘Whoville’, on the top of: ‘Mount Crumpit’, the cantankerous and green-furred: ‘Grinch’ begins to hatch a plan with his pet-dog: ‘Max’, crafting a scheme to steal Christmas from the ‘Whos’ in an attempt to silence their irritating holiday cheer once and for all.

This 2018 readaptation of: ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’ is animated by Illumination Animation, the animation company behind modern family flicks like ‘Despicable Me’, ‘Sing’ and ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ in addition to a previous ‘Dr. Seuss’ adaptation: ‘The Lorax’ in 2012. This isn’t surprising of course, as Illumination Animation have truly exploded in popularity since 2010, mostly due to their creation of: ‘The Minions’. And whilst I personally don’t despise the company as a whole as I feel many of their films are entertaining-enough for younger viewers, its fair to say their film catalogue is spotty at best, with many of their films bosting extremely predicable humour and usually attractive yet repetitive-looking animation, and ‘The Grinch’ is unfortunately no exception.

Benedict Cumberbatch portrays the title character, and although Cumberbatch is usually an actor I adore, having given an array of brilliant performances throughout his career. ‘The Grinch’ is without a doubt one of his weakest, as his performance somehow manages to feel both minimum effort and also far too cartoonish. Resulting in this version of the nefarious characters becoming instantly forgettable, especially when put in comparison with Jim Carrey’s beloved performance. Then there is also Cameron Seely and Rashida Jones who portray ‘Cindy-Lou Who’ and her mother: ‘Donna’, who this time around have their own subplot mostly unrelated to ‘The Grinch’s scheme, which serves little purpose aside from one particular scene. And finally there is Pharrell Williams as the story’s narrator, which is some of the most bizarre casting I’ve ever seen, as his typical American-accent doesn’t remotely fit the role of a traditional storyteller.

Similar to the rest of Illumination Animation’s films, ‘The Grinch’ is visually-impressive at a first-glance, as the film’s animated cinematography and extremely vibrant colour palette is likely to catch any viewer’s eye. Yet also in-line with their other films, Illumination Animation’s style does feel very repetitive after so long, as each character/location does little to make itself stand-out. A perfect example of this is ‘The Grinch’ himself, as while ‘The Grinch’ is implied to have very poor hygiene similar to other adaptations of the story, neither ‘The Grinch’ nor his home within ‘Mount Crumpit’ are ever displayed as unpleasant, even though ‘The Grinch’s home being dark and filthy serves as an extension of his vile personality.

Aside from ‘Tyler the Creator’s abysmal new rendition of: ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’, the original score by Danny Elfman is completely unremarkable. From ‘A Wonderful Awful Idea’ to ‘Stealing Christmas’, all of the film’s tracks lack both memorability and charm, barley embracing the fantastical nature of: ‘Dr. Seuss’ stories or the festive season itself, with the rest of the film’s soundtrack just relying on other modern renditions of classic Christmas songs.

Undoubtedly the most disappointing aspect of this readaptation however, is the actual animation style. As one obvious benefit that this new adaptation has over the live-action adaptation of: ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas!’ is simply being animated, as this allows the film’s designs to greatly lean-into the wonderful illustrations of: ‘Dr. Seuss’, as his sketches are incredibly difficult to recreate in real-life as result of their harsh curves and gravity-defying arictecture. But strangely, the film doesn’t take advantage of this, with many designs only having a slight ‘Seuss’ influence in spite of the clearly-inspired rhyming dialogue.

Overall, ‘The Grinch’ is a worst-case scenario for a readaptation, as I feel this animated film falls-flat in most areas, never reaching the emotional or comedic heights of: ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ from 2000, or even matching-up to the delightful hand-drawn animation seen in the original 1966 short. So whilst its visuals may appear pleasant at first, it quickly becomes apparent something is missing. As this new adaptation gives the impression it was made by a team of producers rather than just one director, and as a result, fails to breathe new life into this age-old Christmas tale. Final Rating: 3/10.

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018) – Film Review

Based on the novel of the same name by Jenny Han and releasing around the same time-frame as many other Netflix teen rom-coms such as: ‘The Kissing Booth’ and ‘Sarah Burgess is a Loser’. ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ may have a fairly formulaic structure in addition to feeling a little cliché at points as it closely follows its source material, but mostly through its charm and great cast, this light-hearted teenage romantic-comedy manages to retain some entertainment value for any admirers of the genre.

Plot Summary: Since she was young, ‘Lara Jean’ has always lacked the confidence to tell any of the boys she liked her true feelings, choosing instead to write them down within individual letters for her eyes only. Until one day, the letters meant for her alone are publicly released, throwing her life into chaos as her foregoing loves confront her one-by-one.

Although definitely not a must-see for Netflix subscribers, ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ does feel like a slight improvement over the other previously mentioned attempts Netflix has made within the realm of romantic flicks. As while the story is far from original, the film’s basic concept of a teenage girl locking-away her thoughts and feelings only for them to eventually be released, is at the very least, a plot that entices some interest into how things will turn-out for her in the end, and interestingly, all of the letters seen throughout the film were physically written by Lana Condor herself whilst on-set, with the actress writing a total of seven copies for each letter, as ‘Lara’ later tears them-up.

This leads-in to the best aspect of the film for me, Lana Condor’s portrayal of the film’s protagonist: ‘Lara Jean’, as much of the film’s overall charm is really owed to Condor’s lead performance, as the actress excellently balances ‘Lara’s timidity with her likability without much issue. Noah Centineo also shares quite a large role within the film as ‘Peter’, one of: ‘Lara’s earliest loves, and while Centineo does give a decent performance throughout the film, he does ultimately play the same character he has portrayed countless times before in other rom-coms both before and after, the same also goes for Israel Broussard as another of the ‘Lara’s past love interests: ‘Josh’.

The cinematography by Michael Fimognari is serviceable overall, with the film’s thought-out editing usually making-up for the large number of bland shots through its clever cutting from past to present. The film also tries to implement a little style into its filmmaking by having text/emojis appear on-screen whenever ‘Lara’ is texting, which unfortunately, is executed a little sloppily. As whilst I understand what the filmmakers were going for, the final design they chose is quite odd, as rather than having ‘Lara’s phone screen appear beside her, or have text bubbles appear above her head, the text is simply displayed in the same font as the film’s opening titles, which I feel is both distracting and confusing. Bizarrely, the film also contains a few shots of Subway product-placement, which are very distracting even if they are fairly minimal.

Expectedly, the original score by Jon Wong is quite forgettable, but does still serve the film’s narrative well. Its the huge variety of modern pop-songs that rule over most of the soundtrack however, with next-to-nearly every scene featuring at least one or two different songs, and whilst some scenes do benefit from this, a large majority of the time it does feel as if there is an overabundance of songs thrown into a singular scene.

Yet the most obvious flaw the film suffers from is the way it utilises its supporting characters, as although the film does remain focused on the life of: ‘Lara Jean’ for the most part, the film also places emphasis on many of: ‘Lara’s friends and family, and even though the film tries its best to convince its audience otherwise, many of the supporting characters serve very little purpose to the story, and by the end of the film, are virtually forgotten as most are given no conclusive scene with ‘Lara’. But its ‘Lara’s sister and father who I personally found the most obnoxious, as these two characters deliver a large portion of the film’s occasionally cheesy dialogue and cringy humour, as sadly the film does feature plenty of awkward comedic moments in-between its few successful jokes.

So while certainly not as diverting or as original as many other reviews may lead you to believe, ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ does still have some value, as the film retains many of the novel’s faults as well as its merits, and in spite of many of its problems, I imagine most fans of upbeat romantic-comedy/dramas will be satisfied with the film by its end. If you don’t usually drift towards rom-coms however, I’d probably suggest you check-out some of the other original films Netflix has to offer. A high 5/10 overall.

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Venom (2018) – Film Review

Directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad, Zombieland: Double Tap), ‘Venom’ follows in the footsteps of many other mature superhero flicks before it such as: ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Kiss-Ass’. Attempting to focus more-on the story of an anti-hero than the usual heroically noble protagonist we expect from this genre, all alongside some dark comedy and plenty of action scenes for good measure. However, just from the first half an hour alone, it’s clear that ‘Venom’ bites-off far more than it can chew.

Plot Summary: When investigative journalist: ‘Eddie Brock’ attempts a comeback by investigating recent illegal experiments in San Francisco, he soon end-ups accidentally becoming the host of an alien symbiote that gives him a violent super alter-ego known as ‘Venom’. But after a shadowy organisation begins looking for a symbiote of their own, ‘Eddie’ must use his newfound powers to protect his planet.

Although it may surprise many, ‘Venom’ has actually an age rating of twelve in the United Kingdom, which is very bizarre as the film clearly tries to appeal to an older audience throughout its runtime, with ‘Venom’ constantly committing horrific acts like biting people’s heads-off, yet of course, in a completely bloodless manor. As ‘Venom’ has always been one of: ‘Spider-Man’s most violent and sinister villains, the film feels incredibly inconsistent as a result of this rating.

Tom Hardy sadly gives one of his weakest performances to date here, as throughout nearly the entirety of the film, Tom Hardy’s portrayal of: ‘Eddie’ is very over-the-top, with his overly-nervous reactions becoming a little obnoxious after a while. This is also due in part to the large amount of improvising Tom Hardy did on-set, usually from items he noticed in various filming locations, including the now infamous: ‘Lobster Tank’ scene, in which ‘Eddie’ publicly climbs into a restaurant’s lobster aquarium after claiming he’s burning-up from a fever. The cast also features Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed as the film’s antagonist, who also give fairly underwhelming performances. Unfortunately, the characterisation isn’t much of an improvement either, as every-character is nothing more than a cardboard cut-out, with the antagonist: ‘Carlton Drake’ in particular having a confusing and undeveloped motivation for his malevolent scheme.

The cinematography by Matthew Libatique is actually quite chaotic during a number of scenes, as the shots attempt to keep-up with ‘Venom’ as he tears his way through various buildings and enemies, yet when the film goes back to its more character-focused scenes, the cinematography is relatively bland, mostly relying on shot-reverse-shot for the majority of these moments. The writing throughout the narrative is also severely lacking, as aside from a couple of humorous conversations between ‘Eddie’ and ‘Venom’, the film is truly dripping with line-after-line of cheesy dialogue, much of which has been heard time-and-again in other superhero flicks.

Although there are a number of forgettable superhero scores out-there, the original score by Ludwig Göransson is pretty dull overall. As aside from working decently during some of the more heroic moments within the story, the soundtrack is really nothing more than a straight-forward superhero affair with a few inclines horror thrown-in to fit more with the character of: ‘Venom’. A few of these tracks do back-up the film’s action scenes well however, as ‘Venom’ does have its fair share of exciting moments despite its predictable story, many of which make great use of: ‘Venom’s unique symbiote abilities.

Without a doubt, the worst aspect of: ‘Venom’ is it’s CG effects, as throughout the film both ‘Venom’ and his symbiote antagonist: ‘Riot’ are far too shiny and continuously bounce around the screen as if they are animated cartoon characters, with nearly every visual effect feeling as if it has virtually no weight or density. Although it could probably go without saying, the lack of any kind appearance/reference from/to: ‘Spider-Man’ himself is also quite distracting, as Sony didn’t actually obtain the rights to use the character within this film, nor have this film take-place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite the company’s many attempts at tricking its viewers into believing it does.

While ‘Venom’ is nowhere near as awful as some other superhero blockbusters, with ‘Catwomen’, ‘Fantastic Four’ and ‘Suicide Squad’ all being far worse in terms of filmmaking. ‘Venom’ is simply a decent idea ruined by its poor execution, as aside from the film’s accuracy to the comic books its based-on as well as it’s memorable action set-pieces, the film feels like nothing more than a cliché superhero story we’ve seen many times before, and I personally don’t feel it deserves the huge amount of praise it’s received from most audiences. Overall, a 3/10 for: ‘Venom’. Unless you’re an enormous fan of this iconic anti-hero, I’d probably recommend you give this character’s first individual outing a miss.

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The Open House (2018) – Film Review

Netflix has always enormously ranged in quality when it comes to their original films and the horror genre, as despite films such as: ‘The Ritual’ and ‘Gerald’s Game’ displaying some great promise for the streaming service, many horror duds like ‘Cam’, ‘Eli’, ‘The Silence’ and ‘Rattlesnake’ just to name a few, leave ‘The Open House’ feeling like just another bland and (sometimes even moronic) entry into this ongoing trend.

Plot Summary: Following a recent family tragedy, an athletic teenager and his mother find themselves besieged by a threatening force when they temporarily move into a new house currently-up for sale.

By far the worst element of: ‘The Open House’ is its writing, as in addition to the film’s extremely dim-witted characters and bizarre misdirections. ‘The Open House’ almost feels as if it has a disconnect from reality at points, as the main antagonist of the film, ‘The Man in Black’, lurks within the mother and son’s home unbeknown to them, usually hiding in their basement. Yet somehow, also manages to navigate through the house without ever being seen, even going-up and down the single staircase to the basement constantly. The closest ‘The Man in Black’ ever comes to being found is through the noises he makes at night, and although these moments do give ‘The Man in Black’ the perfect opportunity to depose of his victims, he never does for reasons that go unexplained.

Dylan Minnette and Piercey Dalton portray the main duo of the film: ‘Logan’ and ‘Naomi Wallace’, a mother and son broken apart by the recent death of their father/husband, and although neither of the two actors give a truly bad performance throughout the film, none of the characters ever really feel that likeable or interesting, this even continues-on to the supporting cast of Sharif Atkins, Patricia Bethune, Paul Rae and Aaron Abrams. Who all attempt to give each one of the small-town residents a distinct and out-of-touch personality, which usually fall quite flat. ‘Logan’ and ‘Naomi’ also suffer from one of the biggest issues for horror characters, that being their nonsensical decisions. As during many points within the story, the characters don’t react to situations how most people realistically would, sometimes even missing very obvious signs of danger.

Surprisingly, the cinematography by Filip Vandewal does allow for a number of attractive shots. Whilst still fairly dull overall, usually not really adding much to any of the film’s tension-filled moments (what little there are) through the film’s heavy overreliance on its static shot-reverse-shot formula during many scenes. ‘The Open House’ does at least attempt to use a variety of wide-shots and focus-pulls to make effective use of its isolated yet beautiful location in the snowy mountains of Ohio, despite the story itself barely utilising this location aside from a scene nearing the end of the film.

The original score by Joseph Shirley is pretty much exactly what you’d expect, being the usual generic and sometimes even overbearing strings score composed for the majority of horror flicks. From the opening scene to the end of the film’s credits, every track is very forgettable and is barley distinct from each other. So much so that it seems that the soundtrack is barley even findable online, as it actually took me quite a while to locate the score afterwards.

Another poorly-executed aspect of the film is its many misdirections as already mentioned, as despite hinting at numerous different paranormal events throughout its runtime, ‘The Open House’ is actually a mostly grounded modern horror. As whilst the film constantly alludes to supernatural occurrences, the film then always undermines itself by completely ignoring them. This also isn’t just limited to the paranormal aspects however, as the film also introduces a variety of loose-ends which the film never ties-up, and whilst some could see this as setting-up a layer of mystery, I personally feel its just lazy writing and bad red-herrings. This is most notable when it comes to the character of: ‘Martha’ portrayed by Patricia Bethune, who repeatedly refers to her dead husband throughout the film and always acts very unusual. Yet nothing ever comes of his, and by the end of the narrative, her character is almost completely forgotten about.

In conclusion, ‘The Open House’ is a truly dismal Netflix Original, with some weak performances, a forgettable original score, atrocious writing and an enormous amount of clichés. Aside from the occasional piece of decent cinematography, ‘The Open House’ simply feels like a ‘nothing’ experience, as for me, these kinds of low-effort and low-budget horrors are only dragging the genre down further than it already has been in recent years. Overall, a definite 2/10.

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Game Night (2018) – Film Review

Going-in initially, I had very little expectations for: ‘Game Night’, as although I mostly enjoyed ‘Horrible Bosses’ (which was written by this film’s directors). I’ve always found most modern comedies to be very hit-or-miss. However, as the runtime continued-on, I soon realised ‘Game Night’ was far more than just your disposable comedy flick. As the great cinematography by Barry Peterson and the excellent original score by Cliff Martinez made the film just as stylish as it was entertaining.

Plot Summary: A group of friends who meet regularly for game nights, soon find themselves entangled in a real-life mystery when the shady brother of one of them is seemingly kidnapped by a group of dangerous criminals.

From the opening titles, which are displayed through various falling board game pieces, through to the end credits, which entirely cover a pinboard with names of both the cast and crew (as well as an array of jokes). ‘Game Night’ is constantly brimming with style throughout its story, despite first appearing as nothing more than a straightforward comedy. As the film uses its terrific editing to add to the humour at many different points, giving the impression that no corners were cut by the filmmakers when it comes to the filmmaking itself.

Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler as well as the large supporting cast are all fantastic within their roles, with each member of the cast having decent chemistry with each other and plenty of great comedic moments between them (which is most likely a result of the cast actually taking-part in their own game night prior to filming). Jesse Plemons has without a doubt the film’s best character in my opinion, as he portrays the game night obsessed police officer: ‘Gary’, who is just as creepy as he is hilarious every-time he is on-screen. Unlike most modern comedies, the characters throughout the film also get a surprising amount of characterisation. As there are plenty of scenes throughout the story in which the pacing slows-down to develop each one of the characters individually, which makes the film more engaging overall, and is a complete breath of fresh air after so many bland comedies with over-acted goofballs as their protagonists.

The cinematography by Barry Peterson is also very creative throughout the film, as in addition to a variety of visually appealing shots, ‘Game Night’ also frames many of its locations as if they are pieces on a game board, almost as if every-time the characters arrive at a building, it’s as if they are arriving at a stop whilst playing: ‘The Game of Life’, which is exceedingly inventive. As well as this, the film features a variety of interesting transitions between scenes and even a moment which is filmed entirely within a single-take, both of which I felt really added to the film’s overall visual presentation and enjoyable flow.

Although it doesn’t quite fit every scene, the original score by Cliff Martez is both unique and memorable, as the soundtrack uses a minimalist techno feel to mesh-well alongside the film’s stylistic editing and cinematography. Whether a light-hearted comedic scene or even one of the more tense moments nearing the end of the film, the score itself is brilliant. I’m too surprised by this however, as this composer has done some phenomenal scores in his past such as: ‘Drive’, ‘Contagion’ and ‘The Neon Demon’ just to name a few. So ‘Game Night’ is simply just another great soundtrack to add to his sublime catalogue of work.

The film really only has one major issue for me, which it’s the song choice. As although I understand the film is mostly light-hearted fun, the use of iconic songs such as: ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ and ‘Quando, Quando, Quando’ don’t really fit with the film’s tone, and can make the film feel a little cheesy at points. Of course, as the film is a comedy, there is also plenty of jokes that don’t quite hit the mark, but I’d say there are definitely far more that do than don’t in this case, as the film avoids the lazily-written gross-out jokes and shock humour that infests a large number of modern comedies.

It’s fair to say that ‘Game Night’ was definitely a pleasant surprise for me on my initial watch. As I never expected this comedy to be as memorable or as well-crafted as it actually is. As although it’s not perfect due to its unusual song choices and a couple of overly long jokes, ‘Game Night’ is possibly one of the best comedies of the last few years, and while there are better displays of great filmmaking out there, I do feel this film should be higher on many cinephile’s watchlists. Overall, a high 8/10.

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The Christmas Chronicles (2018) – Film Review

From director Clay Kaytis (The Angry Birds Movie) and producer Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) comes another Christmas family adventure with ‘The Christmas Chronicles’, and while the film may be nowhere near as memorable as many other festive classics. I can still see the film being a mostly entertaining ride for families and younger viewers alike.

Plot Summary: When brother and sister: ‘Teddy’ and ‘Kate Pierce’, are left alone on Christmas Eve, they devise a plan to catch ‘Santa Claus’ on camera, which soon turns into an unexpected journey that most children could only dream of. As they manage to hop aboard ‘Santa’s sleigh and join him on his task of delivering presents all over the world.

Although the two films do differ from each other in many ways, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this film and ‘The Santa Clause’ from 1994. As both Christmas flicks focus on characters going on a magical adventure with ‘Santa Clause’, with them usually having strong themes of family and belief throughout. However, ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ also seems to focus more on exciting action set-pieces.

Whilst Judah Lewis and Darby Camp portray the siblings decently well throughout the film (aside from the occasional line of dialogue) Kurt Russell is without a doubt the stand-out of the cast, as he brings his usual charisma and talent to create a fresh and memorable portrayal of Saint Nick himself. This is dragged down by the film’s characterisation however, as both of the siblings are pretty bland and dull from start-to-finish. As a pleasant little detail, ‘Santa’s list even includes several of Kurt Russell’s real-life grandchildren.

The cinematography by Don Burgess is also mostly generic throughout the film, usually serving its purpose without drawing the audience’s attention away from the action on-screen. Speaking of which, the action scenes throughout the film are handled surprisingly well. From the fast car chase through the streets of Chicago, to ‘Santa’s sleigh soaring through the night sky. The weak CGI throughout the film can detract from some these scenes however, with ‘Santa’s elves in particular having some very distracting visual effects at points.

The original score by Christophe Beck is decent overall, as while not incredibly memorable, and many could see it as slightly weaker when compared to many of his other soundtracks such as: ‘The Muppets’, ‘Frozen’ or ‘Ant-Man’, the score does have a festive and pretty up-beat tone throughout the film’s runtime. ‘The ChristmasChronicless’ even gives us a new spin on the classic song: ‘Santa Clause is Coming to Town’, as ‘Santa’ shows off some of his style as he sings: ‘Santa Claus is Back in Town’ in an attempt to add some cheer to those around him.

My main issue with the film is the film’s overall cheesiness, as although the film does avoid the occasional Christmas film cliché. The film is still brimming with cheesy lines and scenes throughout the film’s narrative. However, I found this to be a problem mostly around ‘Santa’s elves, as not only did these characters have an awful new redesign, but they seemed to be purely used for the sake of being cute. I also couldn’t help but think the film could’ve been improved if directed by Chris Columbus, as although director Clay Kaytis doesn’t do a terrible job by any means, I feel the director of: ‘Home Alone’ (a true classic for many) could’ve definitely made the film better for what it was.

Overall, ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ is a mostly fun adventure for a film night on Christmas Eve, as while the story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Kurt Russell’s memorable performance mixed with some entertaining action scenes and a very festive atmosphere all result in the film being a decent watch, as well as a low 7/10 all together. Check this one out if one year you’re in the need for a festive fantasy adventure.

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Halloween (2018) – Film Review

A direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original 1978 classic: ‘Halloween’, this sequel ignores all the other entries in the franchise in favour of a new story set forty-years later. As Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic character of: ‘Laurie Strode’, now much older and wiser, and while definitely a decent attempt at continuing the ‘Halloween’ series, the film is still far from perfect.

Plot Summary: ‘Laurie Strode’ confronts her long-time foe: ‘Michael Myers’ once again, as the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago, now begins a new massacre after his recent prison escape.

Although the film’s narrative does have some interesting ideas, the film always felt a little too familiar to me, as I usually found myself correctly predicting what was around the next corner, leaving little to be surprised by. Under the direction of David Gordon Green, mostly known for his drama: ‘Stronger’ from 2017. The film does pay plenty of respect to the original film, as can always tell whilst watching that Green does have a passion for this horror franchise (as he clearly understands what made the original work so well). I still feel a better director could’ve been chosen. As at points, the story does seem to be slightly lacking in direction, and with his previous work in mind, it’s clear that he doesn’t specialise in horror.

It is great however, to see Jamie Lee Curtis back as her classic character once again, as she really excels in showing how ‘Laurie Strode’ has been affected by those horrific events many years ago. Alongside the rest of the great cast of Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton and especially Haluk Bilginer as: ‘Dr. Sartain’, who I was initially concerned would be nothing more than another ‘Dr. Loomis’ type character, but did actually end-up going in a very different direction.

The cinematography by Michael Simmonds is nothing outstanding for the majority of the film, yet is still attractive when combined with the dark lighting throughout, especially anytime ‘Michael’ is on-screen. Another strong element of the film is the wonderful original score by John Carpenter, his son Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies. As although the soundtrack does slightly rely-on tracks from the original film, there is plenty of new score here as well. Proving John Carpenter is brilliant at his craft once again, with the tracks: ‘The Shape Hunts Allyson’ and ‘The Shape Burns’ being some of Carpenter’s best work for a long-time in my opinion.

One of the strongest elements of the film for me are definitely the kills, as it’s clear the filmmakers got very creative with the ways ‘Michael Myers’ disposes of his victims, usually creating very memorable scenes with some fantastic practical gore effects included. I also felt the film represented the iconic slasher very well, as ‘Michael Myers’ is always intimidating through his movements, ‘Michael’ even manages to steal the film for me by being the main focus of my personal favourite scene of the film, as ‘The Shape’ stalks his way through Haddonfield’ with sinister intentions, all completed within a single take.

As the film is produced by Blumhouse productions, we unfortunately, also get the usual pandering to younger audiences you’d come to expect by now. As the film is littered with jump-scares throughout the runtime, with little attempt to create an eerie atmosphere or build large amounts of tension. In addition to this, the writing throughout the film is decent when it comes to the characters, but usually is very lacking when the film attempts comedy. Resulting in many cringy lines of dialogue and plenty of out-of-place jokes, especially one scene in particular featuring a babysitter, which goes on for far too long in my opinion.

In conclusion, ‘Halloween’ is mostly enjoyable, but with a lack of originality, some cheesy lines and forced comedy (not to mention it’s reliance on jump-scares) the film is more than likely a low 7/10. I do hold the original film in high regard of course, it being one of my personal favourite horrors, but with plenty of entertaining moments throughout, this latest entry in the ‘Halloween’ series is definitely on the higher-end of classic horror sequels for me.

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Ready Player One (2018) – Film Review

A triumphant return back to the silver screen for legendary director Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Raiders of the Lost Ark), this time taking on an adaptation of a beloved science fiction novel by Ernest Cline. 2018’s ‘Ready Player One’ not only manages to capture that classic Spielberg whimsy all these years later, along with having plenty of breathtaking visuals and thrilling action sequences to-boot. But through its many, many references and appearances to/from iconic properties and characters from all types of media, ‘Ready Player One’ soon becomes a sweetly-nostalgic adventure for any age.

Plot Summary: In the dystopian future of 2045, humanity spends their days inside ‘The OASIS’, a virtual world where the only limits are your own imagination. Until on his death bed, the original creator of: ‘The OASIS’ makes a posthumous challenge, promising his entire fortune as well as complete control over his virtual world to the lucky ‘OASIS’ user that finds his ‘Golden Easter Egg’.

As its story may imply, ‘Ready Player One’ follows its novel counter-part closely by structuring its narrative half in the real-world, and half within ‘The OASIS’. Having all of the scenes set within the virtual world be comprised entirely of CGI, whilst reality is presented through live-action. While many viewers may initially be quite cautious of this (myself included), fearing a barrage of phoney-looking CG set-pieces, Spielberg actually pulls this idea off very well, as the film never feels as if its CG visuals are being overused despite them taking-up most of the runtime. Interestingly, Spielberg teamed-up with effects company Industrial Light and Magic for most of: ‘Ready Player One’s visuals, the company that previously worked with him for the first ‘Jurassic Park’, so the Tyrannosaurus Rex that appears in the film is recreated using the same base-model made for the original film.

Best known as ‘Cyclops’ in the new incarnation of the ‘X-Men’ series, Tye Sheridan does a decent job at portraying the film’s likeable protagonist: ‘Wade Watts’. Alongside Sheridan, Olivia Cooke as ‘Wade’s love interest: ‘Samantha’, as well as Mark Rylance as ‘Halliday’ and Ben Mendelsohn and T.J. Miller as the film’s antagonists are all fine throughout the film. Yet whilst every member of the cast is trying here, the performances in ‘Ready Player One’ are made more impressive considering the film’s extremely weak characters. As unfortunately, nearly every character we meet within the story is mostly one-note, being nothing more than your traditional hero or villain etc.

Although an enormous amount of the cinematography by Janusz Kaminski is visually-striking, having a large number of moving shots where the camera soars through the limitless world of: ‘The OASIS’. It’s difficult to judge it in its entirety, as a good majority of the camerawork is obviously CG due to half of the film’s story being set within a virtual world, and whenever we cut back to reality, the cinematography usually feels quite bland. However, I do appreciate the gloomy colour palette that’s utilised when the film returns to the real-world, as it contrasts well against the incredibly colourful visuals of: ‘The OASIS’.

Even though the film’s original score by Alan Silvestri is a serviceable and uplifting score in its own right, sounding subtlety like a Steven Spielberg classic. The film’s score was originally going to be composed by longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams, but as a result of a scheduling conflict with another Spielberg film, Williams left the project to Alan Silvestri. Making ‘Ready Player One’ only the third film where Spielberg didn’t collaborate with Williams.

Many of the main problems I find hard to ignore with ‘Ready Player One’ mostly revolve-around its weak writing, as although not continually noticeable, the film has a number of cheesy moments/clichés scattered throughout its story, in addition to many moments of humour which fall completely flat. Some viewers have also taken-issue with the enormous amount of characters from other media appearing in the film, seeing it as pandering and meaningless. I don’t agree with this criticism however, as the original novel is full of many of its own (unique) references. Personally, I also feel many of the film’s flaws are made-up for by its brilliant action scenes, from the opening race to the explosive final battle, to even a scene where the characters travel into the classic horror film: ‘The Shining’, every set-piece is both creative, and enjoyable to watch.

Overall, ‘Ready Player One’ definitely has its faults, in particular, when it comes to its screenplay. But even with its problematic writing in mind, I’d still say the film is a great addition to Spielberg’s huge line-up of family flicks. As while it may not be on the same level of classics like ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ or ‘Hook’ for example, ‘Ready Player One’ overcomes its weak characterisation and occasional corny dialogue to become an exciting sci-fi/fantasy odyssey, and a film I’d recommend a trip into ‘The OASIS’ for. A high 7/10 in total.

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Bird Box (2018) – Film Review

‘Bird Box’ is based-on the novel of the same name by Josh Malerman, which mostly aims to be a dark horror/thriller with an original and twisted story as well as a few other interesting aspects in regards to its filmmaking. Unfortunately however, the film soon falls into a pit of disappointment which it really struggles to escape from, resulting in ‘Bird Box’ becoming nothing more than another generic Netflix fright-fest.

Plot Summary: Set both during the initial incident as well as five-years after an ominous unseen presence drives most of society to suicide, a mother and her two children make a desperate bid to reach safety as they head down a dangerous river aboard a boat.

As the film jumps back-and-forth between the two different time-periods, the film’s structure can become very frustrating at points. As I personally found the initial chaotic event far more entertaining than the other time-period the film provides, yet this was always cut short as the film continuously cuts between the two at unusual points. The film also chooses to wrap the majority of its story in mystery, never really exploring what the monsters actually are, or how their abilities work. The film even chooses to never actually show the creatures on-screen at all throughout the runtime, and although I agree that not everything has to be explained within a story, the way ‘Bird Box’ presents it makes it noting but frustrating, as the film introduces questions without answers.

Sandra Bullock portrays a struggling mother alongside Danielle Macdonald, Trevante Rhodes and John Malkovich who all portray people attempting to survive in a brutal world, and they do their best considering the weak characters they had to work with. The majority of the supporting cast are also decent, with Sarah Paulson even having a short appearance within the film. However, I actually found she was incredibly wasted in the small (and mostly pointless) role she had within the narrative.

The entire visual presentation of: ‘Bird Box’, is extremely dull, as the cinematography by Salvatore Totino and editing Ben Lester never really excel beyond ‘okay’. Usually having scenes consist of many boring shots which never really add much to the tension or atmosphere aside from the occasional moment, this of course also alongside the extremely bland grey colour palette. This is also the case when it comes to the original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, coming off as nothing more than your standard score for any modern-horror/thriller with a slight technological twist, which is very surprising, considering these composers did excellent work on the soundtrack for: ‘The Social Network’ back in 2010.

Although the novel obviously came out before last year’s ‘A Quiet Place’, I also couldn’t help but notice many similarities between the two films. Such as the lack of a certain sense, the apocalyptic setting, a theme of family and the eerie atmosphere/tone (despite the idea of the monsters making you kill yourself being very original). I also couldn’t help but feel the film never made enough use of its concept of simply witnessing the creatures drives characters to suicide, as this is a terrifying idea, and could’ve provided some very gory and truly shocking moments.

‘Bird Box’ is one of those few films that gets a large amount of attention for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, as personally, I thought the film was nothing but bland and forgettable in many aspects. Aside from perhaps the main performance by Sandra Bullock and the original idea of its story. There wasn’t much I enjoyed about this adaption, ‘Bird Box’ gets a 3/10 from me. Give it a watch if you’re really interested, but personally, I feel there are many similar films which explore this idea with a much better execution.

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