The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) – Film Review

Dealing with heavy themes of loneliness, mental health and suicide, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ may not astonish when it comes to its visuals. But through its strong performances, heartfelt story and well-written script (aside from one or two cliché lines), the film soon becomes a very sincere and captivating adaptation of the acclaimed coming-of-age novel many grew-up with when it released in 1999, now being seen as one of the best teenage dramas in recent years.

Plot Summary: Fifteen-year-old: ‘Charlie’ is a socially-awkward teenager heading into his first year of high-school, used to watching life from the sidelines, ‘Charlie’ soon discovers the joys of friendship, love and music as the free-spirited: ‘Sam’ and her stepbrother: ‘Patrick’, open his eyes to the real-world. But when his friends prepare to leave for college after graduating high-school, ‘Charlie’s inner-sadness threatens to shatter his newly-found confidence.

In a rare scenario, the film adaptation of: ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is not only based on the novel of the same name by Steven Chbosky, but is actually written and directed by Chbosky himself. As originally, beloved writer/director John Hughes, the comic genius behind: ‘The Breakfast Club’ and ‘Sixteen Candles’ amongst many other 80s teen flicks, was intended to direct the adaptation, initially wanting to make the film into more of a dark comedy with Shia LaBeouf set to play ‘Charlie’, Kirsten Dunst as ‘Sam’, and Patrick Fugit as ‘Patrick’. But with Hughes sudden-death in 2009 stalling the project, his script was eventually scrapped as he’d not completed it before his passing, leaving Chbosky to take the reins.

Throughout the entirety of the film, the main trio of friends are portrayed wonderfully by Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson, in one of her first roles following the end of the ‘Harry Potter’ series. As each member of the young cast display plenty of range with their respective characters receiving an almost-absurd amount of characterisation alongside, resulting in all three of the central protagonists soon forming a real bond with the audience through their lovable yet realistic portrayals of high-school teenagers. Well-known comedy actor Paul Rudd also appears within the film as ‘Mr. Anderson’, using his natural charisma to portray a genuinely kind-hearted teacher, guiding ‘Charlie’ to what he believes is his future career as a writer.

The film’s cinematography by Andrew Dunn is noticeably where the filmmaking dips in quality, as despite the camerawork occasionally allowing for some interesting framing, such as when ‘Charlie’ is framed alone with only bare walls surrounding him, visually presenting him as an outcast due to his anxiety when interacting with others. Most of the film’s cinematography feels fairly mundane, with the colour palette in particular, seeming very confined, always utilising quite warm/calming colours regardless of what’s happening within the narrative. However, with that said, near the end of the runtime, the film does manage to impress with its editing as ‘Charlie’ begins to suffer from a panic-attack, represented through the film cutting rapidly between an array of previous scenes, ensuring a feeling of being overwhelmed within any viewer whilst watching. 

From iconic songs such as: ‘Heroes’ and ‘Come on Eileen’, to the beautifully somber original score by Micheal Brook. The entire soundtrack for: ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is both graceful and immensely under-appreciated, capturing the film’s many alternating tones, whether that’s its unrelenting isolation, or its upbeat bliss. But my personal two favourite tracks have to be ‘Charlie’s First Kiss’ and ‘Shard’, a pair of tracks that are both truly touching pieces of music, invoking emotion in any listener in spite of their simplicity.

Another aspect of the film I adore is how it represents high-school, as while many coming-of-age flicks usually lean into the idea of high-school being an often chaotic but satisfying experience. ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ never glorifies school, refusing to represent it as either a positive or negative place. This all backed-up of course, by the story’s interesting themes which the film handles with care, never overemphasising it’s concepts in a similar fashion to the source material. Also in-line with the original novel is the film’s apparent 1990s setting. Yet with the exception of the numerous mix-tapes the characters listen to, you’d be forgiven for being unaware that the film even takes-place within this time-period, as its neither mentioned nor plays-into the film’s style in any-way.

Overall, a well-deserved 8/10 for: ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’. While the film’s cinematography does leave room for improvement, for a directorial-debut, Stephen Chbosky really knocks-it out of the park here. Bolstered by its brilliant performances and very underrated original score, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is truly an adaptation to be admired, as regardless of whatever time-period its story is set within, many of its themes/messages are timeless, and I personally believe this is what any other films focusing on troubled teenage characters should strive to be.

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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 as many other Netflix original 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 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 loves: ‘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.

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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Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) – Film Review

An unexpectedly memorable romantic-comedy from 2011, ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ tells an engaging and touching story of a selection of good-hearted people finding love in their lives and experiencing the many hardships that come along with it, and although romance has always been one of the lesser-interesting genres of film for me personally, ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ almost acknowledges what kind of film it is. Always taking a simple yet effective approach to its filmmaking and placing its well-written characters and narrative before anything else.

Plot Summary: When a middle-aged husband (Cal Weaver) discovers his wife has had a recent affair with one of her co-workers, his perfect life quickly begins to unravel. But after encountering the handsome womaniser: ‘Jacob’ in a bar, ‘Cal’ is soon taken-on as his wingman and protégé as ‘Jacob’ opens his eyes to the many new opportunities that lie before him.

Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris, Focus, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) and written by Dan Fogelman, ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ actually has a fairly strong script for a rom-com, and although this shouldn’t be too surprising considering Fogelman has written a number of superb animated Disney flicks in the past such as: ‘Bolt’, ‘Cars’ and ‘Tangled’, before later moving-on to more adult-focused comedies with ‘Last Vegas’ and ‘The Guilt Trip’. ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ only features a handful of characters, with every-one of them receiving a decent amount of characterisation and becoming quite likeable over the course of the runtime. The film even manages to feature a couple of unexpected reveals later-on within the story, which only further elevates the script.

The all-star cast of Ryan Gosling, Julianna Moore, Emma Stone and Marisa Tomei are all brilliant in their respective roles, but of course, with three Oscar-winners as well as two Oscar-nominees among them, this isn’t much of a shock. Its the film’s protagonist: ‘Cal’ portrayed by Steve Carell that is the obvious stand-out though, as ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ was actually one of the first films that Carell put aside his usual goofball schtick in exchange for a more grounded-character, as he portrays a miserable divorcee now with little direction in his life, before his eventual transformation into an ego-driven womaniser similar to ‘Jason’ himself. However, on the opposite side of this, Kevin Bacon as ‘David Lindhagen’ (aka. the romantic rival) is the obvious weak link of the cast, as aside from only two shorts scenes, his character and the threat that he poses to ‘Cal’s ruptured marriage is barely explored, making him feel incredibly under-utilised.

The cinematography by Andrew Dunn never displays anything that will leave its audience in awe, yet does still feel like a slight step-up from the usual bland camera work of many other romantic-comedies. The cinematography truly reaches its peak in the scene: ‘Great Dress’ however, in which, ‘Cal’ (now with his newly-found manhood) flirts with various different women on a number of different nights, all the while the camera gently glides through the bar displaying the passage of time through ‘Cal’s large wardrobe of stylish outfits.

Christophe Beck and Nick Urata take-on the original score for the film, which for the most part, does suitably back-up the film’s story and displays a large amount of range in regards to instruments that are used, despite the score overall being far from astonishing. Yet bizarrely, the film’s soundtrack was never officially released by production company Warner Brothers, resulting in many fans of the film having to create their own playlists to combine the film’s many recognisable songs once again.

Although ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ does primarily focus-on its aspects of romance and comedy, the film also handles its drama fairly well. Never interrupting any of its more-serious moments with scenes of over-the-top humour, most of which usually coming from the film’s main subplot which focuses-on ‘Cal’s son: ‘Robbie’ as he lusts after his older babysitter. Occasionally, the film also indulges in a variety of more self-aware jokes, as the film references some of the many over-done clichés that infest films like ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Love Actually’ through its dialogue, e.g. an immediate rainstorm after a heartbreaking argument/break-up.

In my opinion, ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ is more than successful in its attempt to craft an emotional and amusing story even in spite of the little innovation the film displays when it comes to its cinematography or original score. As the film’s upbeat approach to its tight plot leaves it an enjoyable flick that fully embraces what genre it’s only a small-piece of, serving as somewhat of a homage alongside remaining quite a leisurely watch itself. A low 8/10 altogether. Whether you usually drift towards this genre or not, I feel most viewers would struggle to dislike ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’, as simply put, the film is just a delightful experience to sit through.

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Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – Film Review

Although it may not quite reach the heights of some of his other work, director Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Grand Budapest Hotel) crafts another wonderful story with ‘Moonrise Kingdom’. As throughout its tight runtime, the film is filled with plenty of heartfelt moments and mature humour all backed-up by an effective original score by Alexandre Desplat. Resulting in a very enjoyable comedy/drama, despite Anderson not utilising his style to its best extent.

Plot Summary: On a small island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, a young boy-scout and the eldest daughter of unhappy household fall in love after a few weeks of back and forward letters. Soon inspiring them to run away together, leading various factions of the island to mobilise in search of them.

The story itself is definitely one of the best aspects of: ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, as although the film is brimming with plenty of the usual Wes Anderson style. The film’s story is always so enjoyable to watch, as the film’s two protagonists carry the narrative with great comedic charm and an almost child-like innocence. The dialogue throughout the film is also very well-written, as every character is usually extremely specific about everything they say, leading to many quirky moments.

Initially, the thought of a film lead by two very young actors did concern me, as there has been plenty of films throughout history that have been severely let-down when it comes to child actors in important roles. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ is certainly an exception to this however, as Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are both brilliant as the young couple: ‘Sam’ and ‘Suzy’. As the two have excellent chemistry and perfectly fit the hilarious awkwardness of usual Wes Anderson stories. In addition to the two leads, the supporting cast of Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman are all fantastic within their various roles. Yet even with these brilliant performances, the film still does suffer from a mostly pointless adultery subplot, whilst this does provide some characterisation at points, it felt mostly meaningless to me by the time the film’s credits rolled.

The cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman is your standard affair for a Wes Anderon film, having the usual array of very appealing shots, most of which make great use of some of the beautiful natural locations the film’s story takes place-in. Also featuring a variety of panning shots and perfect symmetry wherever possible, the cinematography even manages to make an ordinary room look far more interesting purely through it’s framing and use of colour. In spite of this however, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ did actually have a smaller-budget than some of Anderson’s other flicks, which does result in the film feeling slightly held-back from taking its visuals all of the way.

Whilst fairly simplistic when compared to some of his other scores, the original score by Alexandre Desplat is somewhat unique and does suitably fit the tone of the film pretty well. As ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ attempts to add a more scout-troop feel to further add to the film’s narrative. In particular, with the track: ‘The Heroic Weather-Conditions of the Universe Parts 4-6: Thunder, Lightning and Rain’ (what a mouthful that is). As this track uses trumpets and horns throughout, almost reflecting how the scouts are woken-up by their scout-master each morning.

One of the most striking elements of: ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ certainly has to be it’s bright colour palette, as the film is constantly dripping with beautifully bright colours. From greens to yellows, to blues, the film is always incredibly vibrant and extremely visually appealing to the eye, and of course, as the film’s tone is already fairly fun and light-hearted, the colour palette doesn’t feel even remotely out-of-place. However, I do feel the film could’ve indulged further into the 1960s time-period, as aside from the occasional mention of the date, or piece of technology, the film never really makes use of the 60s era its set within.

In my opinion, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ is definitely an underappreciated gem in director Wes Anderson’s collection, as although the film does have phenomenal reviews from critics and audiences alike. I can’t help but the feel the film never gets talked about enough, as ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ has all the unique style of Anderson’s other films alongside a heartfelt story and plenty of memorable scenes/dialogue. Overall, an 8/10. Despite not being my personal favourite film from Wes Anderson, the film is undeniably worth a watch if you’re a fan of this talented director.

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Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) – Film Review

Based on the romantic novels by E. L. James, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ was the first instalment of the now enormous franchise, as despite myself definitely not being the film’s target audience, the film itself is a near-complete disaster in regards to both it’s writing, acting and filmmaking. As unless you’re looking for a weak romantic story with bland performances, uninteresting characters and one of Danny Elfman’s weakest original scores to date, this is not the film for you.

Plot Summary: When literature student: ‘Anastasia Steele’ goes to interview billionaire: ‘Christian Grey’, she discovers an attractive yet troubled man, soon leading her to reveal more of herself, as she later desires to be with him, despite his stalker-like tendencies.

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is one of those few films that turned itself into a successful series purely though pulling in its specific type of audience. As the film doesn’t really have s as nothing to offer besides the occasional sex scene or mundane romantic moment, which really left me pondering what many viewers actually got out of the overall experience, as take those elements away, and the film truly has very little left, and I can’t really say I feel compelled in any-way to continue-on with the series after watching the first instalment.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan portray the main couple of the film: ‘Anastasia Steele’ and ‘Christian Grey’, with the supporting cast of Eloise Mumford, Jennifer Ehle and Victor Rasuk. All of which give very dull performances throughout, especially with the lack of characterisation between them other than ‘Christian’s (overly dramatic) backstory. This is also where one of my biggest issues with the film comes into play, as Jamie Dornan as ‘Christian Grey’ could easily be seen as a dangerous psychopath throughout the film, as his performance genuinely gave me a feeling of unease whenever he is on-screen. Unfortunately however, I don’t feel this is what the filmmakers intended, and I couldn’t help but think of the huge shift in tone if ‘Christian Grey’ was older and less attractive.

Seamus McGarvey handles the cinematography throughout the film, which despite not being anything incredibly impressive, the film does have the occasional pleasing shot throughout its runtime, this also applies to the lighting throughout the film. However, this doesn’t improve the film much overall, as the writing within ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is without a doubt one of it’s worst aspects. Resulting in many scenes becoming unintentionally hilarious or extremely cheesy, especially when the film is attempting to catch the viewer off-guard with its dialogue. Interestingly, during the filming of the film’s various sex scenes, remote-controlled were utilised so that the set could be more private for the actors, which is actually quite a creative way around the problem of the cast feeling incredibly awkward due to the huge number of film crew watching nearby.

Despite being a composer I usually adore, the original score by Danny Elfman is also very bland, as the score throughout the film always feels out-of-place and isn’t memorable in the slightest. The film also uses a variety of songs throughout its story, many of which being remixes of modern pop-songs, which again, usually don’t fit the tone of the film even remotely. The direction throughout the film is quite minimal regardless however, as director Sam Taylor-Johnson hasn’t actually directed a feature-length film before this one, yet she would eventually go-on to direct the indie drama: ‘A Million Little Pieces’ in 2019.

Although only a small element, one slightly redeeming aspect of the film I actually did enjoy is the film’s colour palette, as throughout the narrative a variety of locations are given grey walls and floors, with ‘Christen Grey’ also wearing grey clothes alongside some other grey-coloured furniture within his apartment. All of which plays into the theme of: ‘Christian Grey’ being in constant control. But going by the rest of the film, this was more than likely accidental.

In conclusion, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a film that will only appeal to the audience that has most likely already seen the entire trilogy, as the direful performances, awful writing and forgettable original score all leave the film with very little to offer. As the constant sex scenes and sufficient cinematography/lighting simply aren’t enough to carry the story through, resulting in a film that soon doesn’t even understand what its purpose was to begin with. Overall, a 2/10. Definitely give this one a miss, as this boring experience simply isn’t worth its your time.

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This Year in Film (2019) – Film List

Personally, I feel this year in film has been a bit of a mixed-bag, as while I do feel we’ve had our fair share of great films this year, I also feel we’ve had plenty of disappointing entries as well. Obviously, I haven’t had the chance to see every film this year, and I will most likely update this list as time goes on. But for now, in no particular order, here are my thoughts on a variety of films I saw this year…

Joker

Without a doubt one of my favourite films of the year, ‘Joker’ directed by Todd Philips (The Hangover, Old School, War Dogs) is an interesting take on the comic book genre. Focusing more on being an engaging character piece with themes of untreated metal illness rather than your usual barrage of CG action and explosions, all shown through some beautiful cinematography and an eerie original score.

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Knives Out

Director Rian Johnson proves himself a brilliant filmmaker once again after his smash-hit: ‘Looper’, as although I personally wasn’t an enormous fan of: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’. I knew this director had talent elsewhere, and this was proven to me by ‘Knives Out’. A hilarious and clever twist on the classic murder mystery, with some great performances from the huge cast, plenty of plot twists and a well-written narrative. I feel you’d struggle not to enjoy ‘Knives Out’.

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In the Tall Grass

One of many Steven King adaptations from this year, ‘In the Tall Grass’ comes to us from ‘Cube’ director Vincenzo Natali, and with that sci-fi classic being a personal favourite of mine, I had high-hopes for this Netflix thriller despite its somewhat weak source material. However, as the runtime continued on, I soon realised the film was far more interested in attempting to explain its bizarre and messy plot rather than experiment with any of its unique ideas.

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Marriage Story

Standing out mostly for the fantastic performances from the all-star cast of Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, director Noah Baumbach takes on this wonderful story of a couple broken apart by relationship troubles and long distances, which, despite not being anything outstanding in regards to filmmaking, still manages to be entertaining, emotional and very enjoyable from start-to-finish.

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The Silence

Easily one of the worst films I’ve seen this year, ‘The Silence’ directed by John R. Leonetti, mostly known for the awful: ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Wish Upon’. Is another generic horror with weak performances, dreadful CG effects and a plot which feels as if it’s been ripped straight from: ‘A Quiet Place’ released back in 2018.

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Haunt

Although the plot of a group of teens heading into a haunted house on Halloween only to get more than they bargained for may initially sound incredibly over-done, ‘Haunt’ is actually one of the hidden gems of the year in my opinion. Utilising some visually impressive sets and lighting in addition to an array of tense moments and creative ideas, the film is certainly one of the better horrors/thrillers from this year despite its issues.

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Le Mans ’66 (Ford v Ferrari)

After directing one of my favourite films of 2017: ‘Logan’, director James Mangold now takes on the real-life story of the creation of one of the fastest race cars ever built in order to win the iconic: ‘Le Mans ’66’. Featuring some excellent performances from the main cast in addition to some great cinematography and high-fueled racing scenes, ‘Le Mans ’66’ is a true thrill-ride of a film.

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Toy Story 4

‘Toy Story 4’ is definitely one of the most disappointing films of the year for me, as the original ‘Toy Story’ trilogy is (in my opinion) near perfect, and this film seems to do nothing but continue the story for the sake of it. As although the animation is incredible throughout the film, and the performances and original score are also pretty great, the narrative and character-arcs simply let the film down and make it the weakest of the ‘Toy Story’ series for me.

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I Am Mother

This slick science fiction thriller had me excited for quite some-time leading up to its release. However, when I eventually watched: ‘I Am Mother’ I found myself a little disappointed. As the beautiful visuals and solid sci-fi soundtrack are sadly let down by a drawn-out and sometimes bland story. As while not boring by any means, I felt the film was a bit of wasted potential overall.

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It: Chapter 2

Director Andy Muschietti returns to once again bring the demonic clown: ‘Pennywise’ to life in this sequel to the ‘It’ remake from 2017. This time around however, I personally found the film to be a bit of a letdown. As although there were plenty of entertaining scenes and great character moments throughout the film’s extremely long runtime, there were also plenty of ridiculous moments alongside the barrage of enormous CG monsters.

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Crawl

Going off the initial reviews, I originally had high hopes for: ‘Crawl’, hoping it would be an extremely tense, edge of your seat kind of experience. But unfortunately, the film felt like a mostly standard thriller by the end of its runtime. Having nothing more than a few tense scenes and a couple of effective jump-scares to make up for its mediocre CG effects and mostly dull characters.

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Yesterday

Whilst definitely not on the same level as many of the others films from director Danny Boyle’s catalogue, ‘Yesterday’ was still a pretty entertaining feel-good comedy which I felt had an enjoyable upbeat tone, and enough likeable characters to carry it through many of its cheesy moments and sometimes overly predictable story.

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The Platform

Definitely a futuristic thriller fans of: ‘The Belko Experiment’ should check out, ‘The Platform’ is just as violent as it is suspenseful, as this Spanish sci-fi thriller deals with a variety of dark themes and ideas, all whilst keeping the viewer engaged through its interesting plot, decent performances and surprising turns.

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Aladdin

This year’s first entry from the usual barrage of pointless live-action Disney remakes: ‘Aladdin’ is exactly what I expected it to be. The classic story most know and love but incredibly dulled-down, trying to capture the adventure of the original film through an enormous amount of CG visuals, nostalgia and a new cast lead by Will Smith which are all rather bland.

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The Hustle

Although I may not have been the target audience for: ‘The Hustle’, judging by the dreadful reviews from critics and audiences alike, it seems as if I wasn’t alone in finding this comedy just as bland as it was unfunny, with many of the jokes feeling extremely lazy as the film takes all the obvious hits anyone would expect at Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson without attempting much else in terms of humour.

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Velvet Buzzsaw

Despite ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ not quite being the hilarious, gory and extremely weird horror/comedy I was initially hoping for, in addition to going off the back of director Dan Gilroy’s other film: ‘Nightcrawler’ (which is one of my all-time favourites). I still found the film interesting enough throughout its story to keep me watching, despite it not being overly memorable in its entirety.

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Avengers: Endgame

Marvel finally bring their enormous franchise of superhero flicks to an end (for now that is) with ‘Avengers: Endgame’, a blockbuster spectacular which gives many viewers the conclusion they’ve been desiring for many years, and although it isn’t one of my personal favourite Marvel films, I enjoyed: ‘Avengers Endgame’ for what it was. As the film provides some endings for characters alongside plenty of comedic moments, fan service and thrilling action set-pieces.

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Dolemite Is My Name

Based on the real-life story of Rudy Ray Moore, Eddie Murphy makes his awaited return to film after a long break. As this brilliant comedy/drama makes all the right moves to keep its audience engaged within its story through plenty of humour, style and emotion throughout its runtime.

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Jumanji: The Next Level

A sequel to ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ from 2017, as well as the original: ‘Jumanji’ from 1995. ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ is very similar to the previous instalment in regards to its tone and story (with some elements mixed-up of course) and despite some humour and story moments going a little too over-the-top for my taste. The film is still enjoyable enough for those seeking another fun family adventure from this franchise.

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Unable to actually decide what I thought of the film initially, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ is a true mixed-bag of a blockbuster, having some fantastic monster action with flawless CG effects and a surprisingly ranged colour palette be completely bogged down by weak characters, cheesy moments and at points, a very messy story.

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Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Director Quentin Tarantino returns to the silver screen once again with ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood’. Bringing us a slight subversion of some of his usual film tropes, to focus more on a story of a man seeking his return to fame in Hollywood, all shown through some beautiful cinematography and an excellent 1960s soundtrack.

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Terminator: Dark Fate

Of all the franchises dragging themselves out in an attempt to drawn-in whatever loose profits still remain, ‘Terminator’ has been by far the worst, with ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ only further proving this. Being extremely bland and cliché throughout, this time-travelling sci-fi series truly feels as if it’s got nothing more to offer, even with a talented director at the helm and James Cameron back on-board as a producer, this franchise is now really just a shadow of its former-self.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

In another one of this year’s biggest disappointments, ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ is the third entry in the ‘John Wick’ series, which sadly, leaves a lot to be desired. As many of the trilling and well-executed action scenes are dragged down by a messy and uninteresting story, as well as a variety of extremely out-of-place comedic moments.

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Star Wars – Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Arguably the most disappointing film of the year for many, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ attempted to close the enormous legacy of the ‘Star Wars’ saga, which unfortunately failed quite miserably. As overly fast-pacing and an extremely messy (and unsatisfying) narrative really dragged the film down despite its fun moments and exciting action scenes, further proving that this franchise needs a long-rest before it’s inevitable return.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home

Most likely my favourite Marvel film of this year, ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ hardly breaks new ground when it comes to superhero flicks. But the main cast’s great performances mixed with plenty of exciting action and a surprisingly interesting antagonist, leave ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ an enjoyable and mostly faithful comic book adventure for the iconic web-head.

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The Lion King

The second of this year’s live-action Disney remakes: ‘The Lion King’ directed by Jon Favreau, is definitely one of the worst in my opinion, as although the film’s CG visuals are nearly flawless, the film simply lacks any of the charm, heart and overall personality of the original film. Resulting in the remake being nothing more than an overall boring experience.

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Little Monsters

Although the film is help-up by some strong performances and some interesting ideas, ‘Little Monsters’ never manages to break the structure of your usual zombie film. Coming-off as an occasionally fun yet mostly bland horror/comedy, which is just as predictable as it is dull, despite many of its decent comedic moments.

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Serenity

Whilst I personally didn’t dislike ‘Serenity’ as much as many others, the film still suffers from a variety of issues. As director Steven Knight attempted to achieve something very different with this film, which at some points works quite well, and at others doesn’t work at all. As many of the unusual performances and can really drag down the film’s great cinematography and editing.

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Fractured

Overly predictable and formulaic, ‘Fractured’ focuses on the potentially compelling narrative of a father’s family mysteriously disappearing within the walls of a hospital, yet despite its few effective scenes, ‘Fractured’ soon ends-up feeling like a path nearly every-viewer has been down before. Resulting in the film becoming just another forgettable Netflix Original.

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The Lighthouse

Despite my dislike of director Robert Egger’s other film: ‘The Witch’ back in 2016, ‘The Lighthouse’ had me gripped to the screen throughout its runtime. As the film’s black and white colour palette along with it’s eerie original score and intriguing story, leave the ‘The Lighthouse’ a film that’s just an interesting to discuss as it is to watch.

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Parasite

I went to experience Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Parasite’ mostly due to its outstanding reviews rather than due to its trailers (which I personally found quite poor). But yet, with some absolutely gorgeous cinematography and brilliant performances, ‘Parasite’ is now definitely up-there with some of my personal favourite foreign flicks such as: ‘Oldboy’, ‘Veronica’ and ‘The Host’, in addition to possibly being my favourite release of this year.

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Captain Marvel

One of the blandest Marvel films I’ve seen for a while, ‘Captain Marvel’ focuses far too much on pushing on themes of strong female empowerment that it forgets to actually create a likeable protagonist or an interesting origin story, making the film overall feel simply forgettable more than anything else.

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Zombieland: Double Tap

Surprisingly, Zombieland: Double Tap’ was more enjoyable than I was initially expecting. As while far from as memorable or as enjoyable as the original for me, there were more than a few moments of humour between the cast that had me laughing, despite the film’s tone going even more over-the-top than before.

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The Irishman

Iconic director Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street) returns to bring us another tale of crime and regret with ‘The Irishman’, and while the over three-hour-long runtime can definitely make the film drag at points, the brilliant performances and phenomenal filmmaking are sure to keep those paying attention engaged for the majority of the film’s runtime.

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Us

Director Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his 2017 smash-hit: ‘Get Out’, was a far-cry from excellent for me. As despite the brilliant reviews, I personally found the film’s story to be bloated with rushed ideas and ridiculous scenes, all adding up to a horror flick that placed more focus it’s themes than it’s narrative. Resulting in a film which was just as inconsistent with its tone as it was with its story.

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Hellboy

The latest superhero to get his own remake is the iconic: ‘Hellboy’, with the remake this time falling far, far from the mark. As a ridiculously messy story mixed-with poor CGI effects and dreadful comedic moments, leave the film pleasing no-one, despite David Harbour’s decent performance as the horned anti-hero.

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1917

Made to appear as if it was filmed entirely within one shot, ‘1917’ is a brutal, gripping and engaging story involving two soldiers who set-off in a race against time to save thousands of men from a doomed battle, and while not flawless, the film is definitely impressive for both it’s narrative and filmmaking.

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Fighting with My Family

Directed by actor and comedian Stephen Merchant, ‘Fighting with My Family’ is a light-hearted British comedy-drama based on the true story of WWE wrestler: ‘Paige’ portrayed extremely-well throughout the film by Florence Pugh, and despite a few cringy scenes, ‘Fighting with My Famly’ was a huge surprise for me. As a very investing story and some brilliant moments of humour leave the film a genuinely enjoyable experience that seemingly went under most people’s radars upon its intial release.

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Jojo Rabbit

Heartfelt, emotional and brimming with comedic charm, ‘Jojo Rabbit’ is another one of my favourites from this year. Being a completely different take on the war genre by giving the audience a new view of the events of the Second World War through the eyes of a child. All under the excellent direction of Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok).

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Missing Link

From Lakia animation studio, the production company that brought to life many of my favourite stop-motion animated films, such as: ‘Coraline’ and ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ comes another fun family adventure. Shame this one couldn’t have done better at the box office, as the film is wonderfully put together, featuring plenty of humorous moments alongside the great voice acting and beautiful animation.

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Ready or Not

One of the most surprising films of the year for me, ‘Ready or Not’ may have your usual cliché plot for a modern horror, but somehow the film manages to carry it through. Managing to be extremely funny, gory and fun throughout nearly the entirety of its runtime.

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Doctor Sleep

The long-awaited sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic: ‘The Shining’, ‘Doctor Sleep’ attempts to continue the story of the ‘Overlook Hotel’, and does so with mixed results. As although the film does pay plenty of the respect to the original film, I couldn’t help but feel the film doesn’t stand on its own very well, having a mostly predictable story with some pretty bland characters within its nearly three-hour runtime.

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Child’s Play

From the producers of the ‘It’ remake from 2017, this reimaging of the horror classic: ‘Child’s Play’ does have some great elements, such as some hilarious scenes of dark comedy, gory and creative death scenes and even a pretty memorable voice performance by Mark Hamill as the iconic killer doll: ‘Chucky’, and yet, the film never quite manages to escape its remake roots and goofy original idea, usually feeling more unnecessary than anything else.

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Wounds

Regardless of its atrocious reviews from both critics and audiences, I actually quite enjoyed: ‘Wounds’. As although this psychological horror may have some bland cinematography and an overreliance on jump-scares at points, the film’s weirdly unique narrative and main performance by Armie Hammer simply won me over by its end, despite the film being nothing that memorable in the long-run.

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Pet Sematary

In this new remake of Steven King’s classic novel, Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz portray: ‘Louis’ and ‘Rachel Creed’ a couple who move to rural Maine only to soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden within the woods near their new home, and aside from the dark and interesting plot the film provides. ‘Pet Sematary’ is nothing more than a bland jump-scare fest with little focus on building character or atmosphere.

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I Lost My Body

This unique animated French film co-written by the writer of the beloved: ‘Amélie’, is very charming and beautifully crafted throughout the entirety of its tight runtime, with a variety of stunning shots and plenty of creative ideas, ‘I Lost My Body’ is certainly worth a watch despite being overshadowed by many other films released this year.

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Uncut Gems

After many poor attempts at comedies in recent days, Adam Sandler gives one of his best performances in years with ‘Uncut Gems’, portraying a shady jeweller who’s actions and consequences carry the film brilliantly from start-to-finish, despite the film’s shaky cinematography and bizarre original score being a little distracting at points.

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Midsommar

Although I quite enjoyed: ‘Hereditary’, director Ari Aster’s first film from 2017, ‘Midsommar’ was most certainly not for me. Feeling far too pretentious at points with a slow-paced narrative and weak characters, the film’s unique ideas and attractive visuals simply couldn’t save from becoming the boring experience it eventually ended-up being for me, with the exception of another excellent performance by Florence Pugh from this year.

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Unicorn Store

Led by a mediocre and sometimes irritating performance by Brie Larson, ‘Unicorn Store’ attempts to be a fun, colourful and heartwarming tale of a grown woman letting-go of her childhood. Yet unfortunately, the film falls far off the mark for most of these goals, as ‘Unicorn Store’ is more dull and forgettable than the whimsical tale it set-out to be.

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Whilst I definitely would’ve preferred an anthology-type structure when it comes to an adaptation of the ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ book series, this Guillermo del Toro produced horror does still have some entertainment value, and I could see the film being very appealing to younger viewers desiring a gateway into the genre.

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The Kid Who Would Be King

A decent fantasy adventure for families, ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ directed by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) definitely has some areas in need of improvement. As the film is brimming with cheesy moments and a very out-of-place original score. Despite this however, the film still manages to utilise its fun story and exciting action scenes to the best of its advantage, resulting in an entertaining if not perfect family flick.

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Beautiful Shots in Film – Film List

There are many beautiful shots in film, combing amazing cinematography, with an attractive colour palette and some excellent lighting. Many shots can become truly iconic on themselves, even telling the story of a specific character or location purely through the visual itself. Here are a few of my personal favourites…

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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The Matrix (1999)

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Pulp Fiction (1994)

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Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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Psycho (1960)

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The Revenant (2016)

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Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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Don’t Breathe (2016)

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American Beauty (1999)

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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Annihilation (2018)

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Scream (1996)

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Interstellar (2014)

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The Shape of Water (2017)

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Jaws (1975)

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American Psycho (2000)

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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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The Road (2009)

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Life of Pi (2012)

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Fight Club (1999)

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The Shining (1980)

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

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Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

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Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

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Adventureland (2009) – Film Review

This comedy/drama from 2009 is an underrated classic in my opinion, as director Greg Mottola (Superbad, Paul, Keeping Up with the Joneses) brings-us a simple yet effective story of two young people from different worlds meeting over one memorable summer, and while it may not be as hilarious as some of his other films. I do feel Mottola has brought-us a much more emotional story this time around, with the comedy not too far behind.

Plot Summary: In the summer of 1987, a young college graduate (James Brennan) takes a ‘nowhere’ job at his local amusement park as he awaits to leave his home town. Only for him to soon find it’s the perfect course to get him prepared for the real-world, meeting new friends and sending him down a different life path.

For a film like this, it’s crucial that the characters are likeable and are given plenty of development, as in my opinion, drama really only works within film if the characters are developed enough to be invested-in. Luckily, the film does succeed here, crafting some very funny and (mostly) realistic characters within only a short amount of time. As the film doesn’t waste screen-time setting up it’s narrative and characters, but always does so in a way that doesn’t feel too fast-paced.

All of the cast are also pretty great here, as Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Kristen Wiig and Ryan Reynolds all have decent chemistry with each other, and don’t simply treat their characters as joke machines. Despite Bill Hader as the park manager: ‘Bobby’ definitely being my personal favourite however, purely through his hilarious dialogue leading to many brilliant moments throughout the runtime.

Being set in an amusement park local to the home of the protagonist, this is where the cinematography by Terry Stacey really shines. As the film really uses the different rides, games and attractions as well as the colourful lighting as a beautiful backdrop for many great scenes, as the film is always very inventive with the different locations of the park, exploring new areas in each scene, with some locations even being used to reflect a character’s personality. The film also uses a bright orange, yellow and blue colour palette throughout the story, which really helps to enhance the film’s visuals, and meshes perfectly with the film’s more light-hearted tone.

The original score by Yo La Tengo also helps add to the 1980s atmosphere, being mostly subtle yet still effective in many scenes in spite of its lack of memorability overall. Various songs from the 80s are also used throughout the film, everything from iconic classics to more unknown songs get a short appearance, with all of it eventually adding-up to a pretty fantastic soundtrack, as well as another link back to the time-period.

The main issue with the film for me is it’s comedy, as already mentioned, as although the film does have plenty of comedic moments throughout. I simply feel the film has far more in regards to drama than comedy, as the majority of it’s memorable moments are for more emotional purposes. There was also a subplot between two characters which I personally felt was a little rushed over, but as this was near the ending of the film, this may have been done to avoid a lack of focus and conclusion.

Although ‘Adventureland’ is nothing incredible in regards to its filmmaking, I personally really enjoy the film. As I’ll always find myself turning back to it when in need of a more upbeat comedy/drama, as with a unique location and a great cast of characters, there isn’t really much to dislike here. As although some of the film’s comedy could be improved, I wouldn’t say this drags the entire film down, and overall, I’d say this one is an 8/10. Definitely check this one out if you can, I feel it really deserves more attention from audiences.

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) – Film Review

One of my all-time favourite films, my favourite Edgar Wright film, and a film I’d always recommend to any film fan. ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ is a super stylised, incredibly-fun action-comedy, utilising some great CG effects along with brilliant editing and writing, I honestly can’t see anyone not enjoying this well-crafted piece of filmmaking.

Plot Summary: ‘Scott Pilgrim’ is an unemployed twenty-three-year-old gamer in a going-nowhere garage rock band, while dating an underage seventeen-year-old high school girl: ‘Knives Chau’. He comes across the girl of his dreams… that is until he discovers that he must defeat her seven evil exes in order to win her heart.

This over-the-top concept for a narrative is taken from the comic book series of the same name, and provides an insanely fun, hilarious and surprisingly emotional story. Edgar Wright truly directs the film with all his creativity and charm, using the ‘comic book nature’ of the story to its full advantage, with every scene usually containing many visual jokes or comic book like effects, mostly inspired by ‘Scott’s internal love for video games, music and comic books.

Speaking of: ‘Scott Pilgrim’, he is portrayed expertly here by Michael Cera. Always coming off as awkward, funny and charismatic from beginning to end. The rest of the cast are also fantastic however, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Kyle Culkin, Ellen Wong and Jason Schwartzman all being great within their roles. Truly giving life to their characters, and bringing Edgar Wright’s dialogue to another level. I also personally enjoyed Chris Evans as: ‘Lucas Lee’ (the second evil ex) as he always manages to get an enormous laugh out of me every watch, but this isn’t to say all of the evil exes aren’t given their own distinct personalities and fighting styles.

The cinematography by Bill Pope is very well done throughout the film’s run-time and really backs up the already effective editing. Once again similar to the CG effects, the cinematography and editing are also used for comedy many times throughout the film. Many techniques like these really help the film feel fresh and really fit with the tone. The film also has the usual bright colour palette to be expected from this director, this also backs up the tone very well and feels reminiscent of the comic book series in a few shots.

Although the original score by Nigel Godrich is heavily overshadowed by a great choice of songs, very similar to Edgar Wright’s other film: ‘Baby Driver’. Every piece of music whether created by the band within the story or not, always seems to fit the scene very well and backs up ‘Scott’s passion for music.

The action scenes are also extremely well-done throughout the film, utilising stunts very well mixed in with some nice effects. All alongside the interesting locations used throughout the film. The film also does a great job of combining music with the visuals throughout, both within and out of the various action scenes during the runtime.

If I had to give any criticism of this film it would most likely be the reincorporation throughout the story, as some characters/ideas do sometimes appear and then never appear again within the story, can make the film feel a little jolted at times. This along with the pretty quick pacing, the film can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. However, as the story is based-on multiple different comic book issues with a similar story structure, I wouldn’t say it’s an enormous problem and can be overlooked.

‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ is the pinnacle of a stylized film in my opinion, making great use of all elements of filmmaking to create a truly incredible experience. Along with the enjoyable story and likeable developed characters, there really isn’t much to dislike about ‘Scott Pilgrim’. Personally, I adore this film to pieces and would always recommend giving it a watch. No doubt in my mind this one is a 9/10, great job Edgar Wright. Keep-up the good work.

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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 people, 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 in real-life, would both have experienced 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 tone, is very impactful in many moments throughout the film. In particular 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.

I honestly believe ‘The Shape of Water’ may be one of my all-time favourite films, and definitely one of favourite modern films. As the relationship between the two protagonists and the journey they go on is memorizing from start-to-finish. Backed-up by some amazing cinematography, a great original score as well as the make-up and CG effects, the film is easily a 9/10 for me. Whilst perhaps not a film for everyone, it’s an extremely well-made film regardless.

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