Love And Friendship Review

Jane Austen is a landmark of literature, with her books selling millions and being adapted over thirty times throughout their time. I sadly missed the newest (unofficial) adaptation earlier this year, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, but here comes another Austen adaptation, Love And Friendship.

 Love And Friendship stars Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, Xavier Samuel and Stephen Fry and is written and directed by Whit Stillman. Based on the short story Lady Susan by Jane Austen, the film follows Lady Susan (Beckinsale) as she tries to find a husband for herself and her daughter Frederica.

It’s rare that a film makes me smile from the very start. The opening of the film is just a credits roll, but just the way it was presented, with classical music playing in the background, it reminded me of the old English films from the 1940-50s, where they would present all of the cast before the film started. Love And Friendship is obviously tapping into that old style of filmmaking with its presentation.

However, the film has some wonderful post-modern additions, which supply a lot of the laughs in this romantic-comedy. Since the story is all about families and how they relate to each other, we get a family portrait of the characters, with their name and their role in the story, such as, Reginald De Courcy: A Young and Handsome Man. It’s almost a bit like Deadpool’s opening, where it cuts down the characters down to their stock types. The post modern influences keep coming, such as an extended sequence of reading a letter, punctuation and all, appearing on screen as text. Most of the jokes are these farcical moments, which have led the film to achieve a U certificate, since there is nothing rude, but it’s still bitingly funny.

Most of that comes down to the actors, who know how ridiculous the set up is and are relishing being able to chew the scenery with over-the-top performances. Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan shows off her ability as a comic performer, helming most of the jokes with perfect comedic timing.

The film feels almost like a play in many respects. There are only a few sets, the film containing the story to one manor house and then a few London streets. The original story was written in the form of letters, so it’s a big jump to move from that to a fully fleshed out story. It does take a while for the story to get going and understand what everyone’s role is, but it feels just like a classic Jane Austen work, with the themes, character and of course, ending with not one, but two weddings.

I did have a problem with the character drop at the beginning though. We are introduced to around four different families at the beginning, each with around four to five people in them and all intricately entwined with each other through marriages and siblings. I was confused for a good twenty minutes afterwards trying to figure out who is connected to who. It’s also a bit annoying that some characters, such as Stephen Fry’s Mr. Johnson are mentioned in the character drop but have about ninety seconds of screen time despite being mentioned as a main character.

The script might also be something that might throw off audiences. In the style of Austen, it’s all flowery dialogue, the type that uses forty words where ten would do fine. That’s part of the aesthetic, but some audiences members won’t get the jokes hidden beneath the heaps of “thou’s”, “thee’s” and “thy’s.”

In summary, Love And Friendship is an old school period piece that despite being over 200 years old is still incredibly funny. If you are a fan of Jane Austen you will love it, and if you’re everyone else, it’s a good recommendation.

Score: 7/10 Great performances and a witty script.

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Money Monster Review

Jodie Foster is well known for her work as an actress, but has many directorial roles under her belt. After three films and a couple of television episodes (notably Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards), she’s back with her new film, Money Monster.

Money Monster star George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell and is directed by Jodie Foster. Lee Gates (Clooney) hosts the Wall Street consumer advice show Money Monster. After his advice means delivery man Kyle (O’Connell) loses all his money, he is taken hostage by Kyle on live television.

George Clooney plays totally against type as Wall Street expert Lee Gates. Clooney is known for playing the suave, charismatic type, but Gates is more of a slimy character than usual. He got to where he is by his quick wits and ability to not let his emotions get in his way. His bravado soon come crashing down when Kyle bursts in, placing a pistol to the back of his head. It’s similar to his role from Up In The Air, but he’s much more in the thick of the action rather than flying from place to place.

Since the film is about economics and stocks and data, it would be easy to compare Money Monster to The Big Short due to the similar subject matter. But instead of focussing on the money and traders, it keeps it all mostly on the television and the media, which is more tying in with Network. The film cuts away to several groups watching the drama unfold on their televisions, tweeting and vining ( is that how you write the verb “to vine”?) and other news outlets jumping in to say their piece on what and why it’s happening. The film is putting it’s politics into the media rather than onto the bankers, which is a different take on films that focus on the economic collapse. Sadly, the characters on the outside aren’t very likable; playing out certain events to make O’Connell’s Kyle step up his demands or general apathy, turning away from gunfire on the television back to a table football game. It went for it, but I think it might have worked better if they just stuck to a hostage rescue scenario. Sometimes the wider story, about corrupt businesses and strikes and external forces went a bit too paranoid for me, with some of it being totally confusing as to how it profited the bankers.

Most of the film takes place in the Money Monster set. This containment keeps all the tension in one place and our attention solely on Clooney, O’Donnell and Julia Roberts as Gates’ producer Patty. However, the story keeps moving on so that when we do finally leave the set for the streets of New York and then to Federal Hall it doesn’t lose that small-room tension. Monsey Monster keeps building it’s tension by adding more and more layers to the conspiracy at the centre and then suddenly pulling a stabilising part of the puzzle away, making Kyle become much more erratic after he had been calm for an extended period of time. The film is at its best when we are with the three leads, losing the tension and turning into more of a comedy when it moves to other characters. There is some dark humour displayed by Clooney and O’Connell but the film works better as a thriller.

In summary, Money Monster is a good tense film, dissecting how the media works and generates stories. It often seems a bit too upfront about it subject manner, it’s morals as well as sometimes being confusing and expositional but overall it’s enjoyable.

Score: 7/10 Good for 90 minutes but not essential viewing.

Captain America: Civil War Review

Another month, another bloody superhero film. But after the trainwreck of a film that was Batman Vs. Superman (I know some of you like it but you are wrong) fielded by DC, it falls back to Marvel to show us how superhero films are done? Is it another classic, or was BvS a signal of the beginning of the end for comic book films?

Captain America: Civil War stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan and introduces Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland and is directed by the Russo Brothers. The film follows on after Avengers: Age of Ultron, where the team clashes over whether to be regulated and registered after the destruction they have caused.

The Civil War storyline was the story that got me into Marvel. Heroes fighting heroes was interesting idea and I didn’t think a film could manage to get the whole story onto screen. The film deviates from the comic book a lot and sets up an overarching theme of revenge with a B story, but for me it didn’t work. I understand they needed to move away from the established storyline but their replacement felt a bit flat. It would have been better to just have friend vs. friend instead of linking it to a background character whose been following the Avengers for a while.

While the film is billed as a Captain America film, it feels more like an Avengers film. We have all of the side characters, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Vision and introduce new characters as well. Black Panther (my personal favourite superhero), played by Chadwick Boseman and the new Spiderman, played by Tom Holland are superb additions and honestly the best parts of the film. Holland get’s the character’s trademark quips and chatterbox attitude down which is fun to listen to, while Boseman nails being a brooding badass and handles himself well in the fight scenes. The film isn’t interested in keeping Cap as its main character, instead jumping to several different characters all over the world.

The action scenes are done mostly well, although a few devolve into close-in combat. We get some beautiful scenes, Black Panther’s entrance/first fight, which shows some lovely fight choreography, or the Pro and Anti-Registration teams showdown is another excellent action sequence, especially when team members powers get utilised. After that though, it all feels a bit worn. We’ve seen Iron Man blast people, we’ve seen Cap throw his shield, give us something new.

The film tries to juggle several things; the main story, a B side, new villains and a romance between two Avengers, but none of them are great, just good enough. It’s the old, great at nothing, good at everything idea. The romance in particular; Marvel have never really been able to pull it off (with Age of Ultron making a half-hearted attempt at something between two teammates). It would be nice to see some improvement.

And just like all the other superhero films recently, it doesn’t have a conclusive ending. Sure, we have a fitting final showdown, but the villains comeuppance feels rather anticlimactic and most of the character development that could have changed up the direction for the series for the better get’s washed aside. The ending that doesn’t fit in with the story that Civil War was trying to tell and feels like the Russo’s were told by Marvel to not rock the boat too much just in case the fifty billion sequels to Civil War wanted to play with some of the more side superheroes.

Reading my review back, it sounds rather bitter. I’m trying not to be, I rather enjoyed Captain America: Civil War, but every time I look back at it, I keep finding more and more flaws. We’ve had thirteen of these films now and apart from The Avengers (mainly due to how it brought all the characters together) we haven’t had anything really excellent. If you like Marvel, Civil War will do you fine, but I wish there was something more.

Score: 7/10 It’s another Marvel film, make of it what you will.

Silent Hill Double Review

Preface

As you might have gathered from my other forays of video games turned into movies (Hitman: Agent 47 and the Tomb Raider films) I love video games. And with one of my university courses this year focussing on horror, I recently got back into one of the most interesting game franchises ever, Silent Hill. And since it’s one of the many franchises that has been adapted, I thought I would take a break from actual work and bring you another double review, Silent Hill and Silent Hill: Revelation.

Review

Silent Hill

Silent Hill stars Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden and Jodelle Ferland and is directed by Christophe Gans. The film follows Rose (Mitchell) as she tries to find her daughter Sharon (Ferland), after she loses her in the town of Silent Hill.

Games like Hitman or Tomb Raider, while they have some semblance of story are not the most cinematic of games. Silent Hill however, is very focussed on narrative and that’s one of the films strongest points. It’s a straight adaptation of the first game’s story, with minor points from the rest of the series thrown in as little Easter eggs for the fans. The major change in the story is changing the main character from male to female. Gans says that he made this change as when he was writing the film, the main character’s emotions and dialogue had more in line with a woman than a man. To be fair, the main character from the game, Harry Mason, hardly had a personality to begin with, so Gans would have had to create a background for whoever the main character was and Radha Mitchell does great as terrified mother Rose.

Gans does a good job of capturing the iconography of the series; the radio static, the misshapen Freudian monsters and the beautiful detail as the haunted town peels away into the “Otherworld”. This is another one of the films strong points, with CGI blending seamlessly with the built sets, creating a flaking snowfall effect to both bring in and take away the dark world.

The film does have several problems however. A lot of the cast seem to be hamming up the script (despite the original Silent Hill already having a lot of camp in it), with Sean Bean’s atrocious American accent being the cherry on top. Along with this, the film is very American in its horror, meaning the horror is mostly all gore and blood with no deeper meaning. Silent Hill was created in Japan, and a lot of their horror stems from psychology, but here a lot of that has been stripped backed for a more in-your-face approach. And just as a fan, why is Pyramid Head here? He’s a (spoiler alert) Freudian/Jungian manifestation of the main character from Silent Hill 2, him being in the film is a total undermining of his symbolism. But in fairness it is pretty good visualisation of the infamous monster.

In conclusion, Silent Hill has a few slip ups, but overall, it manages to capture the atmosphere of the game very well.

Score: 7/10 A good enough example of a video game film done right.

 

Silent Hill: Revelation

Silent Hill: Revelation stars Adelaide Clemens, Sean Bean, Kit Harrington and Malcolm McDowell with directing duties being moved over to Michael J. Bassett. The plot follows Heather (Clemens) who on her eighteenth birthday is called back to Silent Hill, with the town holding dark secrets about her past.

You won’t find a good Silent Hill film here. You won’t find a scary horror film here. You won’t even find a good film here. What you will find, if you ever decide to watch Silent Hill: Revelation, is something that flips from being incredibly tedious to unintentionally hilarious.

Where to start? Well, at the beginning. The film just starts in the middle of a conversation, with no build up to introducing the main characters or back-story to get us up to speed from what happened since the last film. I rewound the film several times because I was sure I had missed a few minutes of the film before realising that the film just begins abruptly.

Sean Bean’s American accent appears again and is terrible, but Bean is only the start of a selection of bad performances. Adelaide Clemens as Heather does nothing but scream and pout and Kit Harrington once again shows that the only good performance he can give is in Game of Thrones. Malcolm McDowell shows up for a couple of minutes in a dress and overacts his heart out. Sure, the script doesn’t help, with endless exposition and dialogue so wooden is basically a tree.

Quite a few of the monsters are done practically, but the effects are so poor you can tell it’s a guy in a mask. The rest of the monsters are created with cartoon levels of CGI which just adds to the “so-bad-it’s-good” quality of the film. Pyramid Head shows up again for no reason, becoming a good guy and helping the protagonists out at the end, which makes no sense.

The film was made for 3D viewing, so there are lots of moments when stuff is meant to be jumping at the camera. Since all I’ve seen is the normal version of the film, the spectacle of a blade being jabbed at the screen or blood flying at me doesn’t work and just makes the viewing experience worse.

It’s not like the film doesn’t try. There are a few moments when the snow is falling in the streets and enough of the plot and characters from Silent Hill 3 that it feels like a film that everyone involved thought it could be a good film. The fact that it tried and failed is fascinating to watch.

The ending is what really got me though. The film has the gall, the sheer temerity to not have one, but three sequel baits, with several characters from the series turning up. A sequel will never be made, which is good but also sad. This is one of the best series to adapt, but the people making it don’t know anything about Silent Hill.

In conclusion, Silent Hill: Revelation is one of the best comedies I’ve seen in a while. That sounds like praise, but then you remember that it was meant to be a horror film.

Score: 1/10 A slow-motion trainwreck of a movie.

Hail, Caesar! Review

The Coen Brothers are probably the most multi-talented duo in Hollywood at the moment. Both Joel and Ethan have produced, written and directed films for over thirty years, recently working on the script of Bridge Of Spies. Now, their new film, Hail, Caesar! is in cinemas.

Hail, Caesar! stars Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johannson and Alden Ehrenreich and is directed by Joel and Ethan Cohen. The films follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Brolin), a “fixer” for a major Hollywood studio during the 1950s.

The film is set in the Golden Age of Hollywood and there are several jokes and references to the films of yesteryear, the film is basically a love letter to Hollywood. We see behind the scenes of the films such as in the cutting room and the board meetings, with funny scenes at every turn. It reminds me of Singin’ In The Rain to an extent. We jump from movie lot to movie lot, seeing snippets of biblical epics, westerns and musicals. The film also moves between several genres of film, with parts being mystery, noir, romance and comedy. Unfortunately, this was one of my problems with it, as the film didn’t feel consistent with its tone. The film also changes aspect ratio whenever it goes into one of its film-within-a-film moments, which also annoyed me a little.

With the Coen Brother’s also writing the script as well as directing, the jokes come thick and fast. The Coen’s know how to construct farcical scenes well and hide little jokes in the margins for the more eagle-eyed viewers. My favourite from Hail, Caesar! is an extended back-and-forth between Alden Ehrenreich and Ralph Fiennes (the first of several cameos in the film) over pronunciation of a line of dialogue.

The film is littered with cameos from actors and actresses, each one bringing their all to the film. Tilda Swinton (in two roles), Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, Michael Gambon and Channing Tatum all fill out the side space well. Channing Tatum, who leads the best scene in the film, a highly choreographed tap dance/Broadway song is brilliant, but is in the film for less than ten minutes. It’s nice to see all these talented actors, but ether they don’t feature enough or bog down the narrative with added weight. Michael Gambon does some voice over but it comes out of nowhere at has no narrative cohesion. It doesn’t open and close the story, it just pops in whenever it feels like it.

Watching the trailer, you would think that Hail, Caesar! is a crime comedy about George Clooney being kidnapped and Josh Brolin has to go out and find him. In all honesty, that story is only around a third of the film. The Coen’s add side-story on top of side-story, smothering the main plot with additional characters and stories that are either never resolved or end too quick. When we do get back to the main plot, it potters around for a good while before being resolved far too quickly. This blurring of stories is what the Coen’s do in a lot of their films, but it makes Hail, Caesar! feel very disjointed.

Hail, Caesar! is a very quirky film. If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson’s work then you might find enjoyment here. If you’re a real film history buff then you’ll get all the nods and jokes to the 50s production, but to the average movie-goer, those same jokes will fall flat. It’s not for everyone, but for those who get it, you’ll find several laughs within.

Score: 7/10 Baffling and a bit odd, but still very funny.

Halo Legends Review

Preface

Halo is probably one of the most played video games series in the world. I have played several instalments but I never really was too interested in them (although I do think the “Don’t make a girl a promise” quote is great). Film is what I’m more interested in and after learning there was an anime film about the Halo universe produced I thought I would track it down and watch it.

Review

Halo Legends stars Shelley Calene-Black, David Wald and John Gremillion and is directed by Toshiyuki Kanno, Hiroshi Yamazaki, Koji Sawai, Tomoki Kyoda and Yasushi Muraki. The film follows seven different stories in the Halo universe, based on several characters over thousands of years.

Instead of a single story based on the video game (which has apparently been in development for several years, once with Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg as directors), Halo Legends decides to be an anthology series, swapping between four different anime houses. There’s Production I.G. (creator of Ghost In The Shell), Studio 4C (who created The Animatrix) BONES (Full Metal Alchemist), Casio Entertainment and probably the most well known, Toei Animation (Dragonball Z). It’s a mix of art styles and keeps the visuals changing from story to story.

The most visually striking segment is The Duel, a samurai/ronin style film, featuring the alien species, The Elites. It’s created with CGI, but then retrofitted with a watercolour feature, making it look like an in-motion painting. It looks beautiful during the sweeping shots of the battle, but looks a bit odd during dialogue sequences. There is traditional anime in Homecoming with Prototype, Origins and The Babysitter being more broad in their animation styles. Odd One Out, created by Toei, is very reminiscent of their Dragonball series and The Package is CGI, looking like an overlong cutscene.

While the stories take different characters and situations, most descend into action sequences. If you have no interest in violence then Halo Legends will not be for you. While certain stories (like Odd One Out) are over-the-top comedy violence, others like The Duel are filled with blood. Sure, the blood is green and purple, but it’s still very graphic. All the rest of the sections are filled with machine guns and rockets and is your standard action/war film.

Despite being violent, the sections do have some good storytelling. Homecoming brings up the ethics of torture and taking children to become soldiers and the opening to Prototype discusses ideas of survivor guilt, but loses a bit of sparkle during the second half. The Duel is standard samurai affair, and The Babysitter and The Package are very generic in their story, despite The Babysitter being one of my favourite segments. Origins, narrated by series female AI Cortana, is a re-cap of the entire Halo back-story. Even to someone like me who doesn’t really like Halo, it was interesting and is another favourite section. It actually makes me want to go back and play, but then I remember that there is literally no story in the video game.

Odd One Out is probably my least favourite section. This section is the only out of canon in the anthology, and the influences of Toei’s Dragonball Z don’t really mesh with the Halo Universe. There are martial art students, three orphans, a T-Rex and an gorilla who can control electricity. It feels out of place, and the comedy is very forced.

The music from the game, by Michael Salvatori and Martin O’Donnell, is reused in Halo Legends, and despite the change in the medium it fits very well into the stories. There are remixes and new scores created by Tetsuya Takahashi, Naoyuki Hiroko and Yasuharu Takanashi, mainly for The Duel, and despite radical changes it still feels thematically similar to Salvatori and O’Donnell’s work.

In conclusion, Halo Legends is a well-executed experiment. It will appeal to Halo fans, as well as general sci-fans and anime/animation fanatics. If you don’t fall into one of those categories then maybe this will be one to miss.

Score: 7/10 A fun sci-fi romp that is visually stunning.

Triple 9 Review

We’re in the dead zone of cinema at the time of writing. All the Oscar/BAFTA/Golden Globes nominations have come and gone through the theatres and now we’ve got a hard slog until the middle of March (March is when the releases start getting good again). But, as I always try and get a film reviewed once a week, here is the film that interested me the most. I give you Triple 9.

Triple 9 stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Kate Winslet and Woody Harrelson and is directed by John Hillcoat. The films follows a group of dirty cops who to pull off an impossible heist, decide to commit a Triple 9, the radio call for an “officer down” to distract the police force.

While the script is pretty poor, the cast list is pretty good. As well as the four big names mentioned above, the supporting roles are also filled with great actors and actresses. Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul, Cilfton Collins Jr. and Gal Gadot all do their best with what is a weak script. There is no lines that stick in my mind, but all the actors manage to perform well.

The film starts with a heist and it has some great tracking shots through the bank. While it might never reach the heights of Heat or Public Enemies (both directed superbly by Michael Mann) it still manages to be tense and adrenalin-fuelled. The climax of the scene is an escape on the freeway, while red clouds of smoke (from tainted bills swiped during the robbery) billow out of the escape vehicle. It’s a great opening to the film and captures the feel of the film in a few minutes.

While the film is generally a thriller, the rest of the action is of merit. A raid on a drug-dealers house that eventually spills out into a running gun battle through the streets is exciting, with gunshots coming from all around. The police officers are confused from where they are being shot from and so are we. Another more downbeat action scene, which involves Casey Affleck’s straight cop Chris trying to track Anthony Mackie’s dirty cop Gabe through a dilapidated housing project, despite there not being much action on screen is still very enjoyable to watch. It feels almost like a horror film, as we jump at shadows that could be a violent end for our protagonist.

One thing I did like about Triple 9 was that the film was set in Atlanta. Originally it was to be set in Los Angeles but I’m glad it wasn’t. We’ve seen L.A. in so many films before (it’s also the setting for Heat, just to keep the comparisons coming), it gets kind of repetitive. We see several different locations throughout the film and all of them are varied. The abandoned housing complex is really well visualised and is unlike anything I’ve seen in a similar film. It’s just a light touch to change the setting but it pays dividends.

The film has its faults. I already talked about the weak script, but in general the story is your average heist affair, with nothing really standout. The crooked cops might have been a fresh take, but the film never explains how or why they started robbing banks, which would have added some character to the rather bland protagonists. And as a final point, the film runs for a lot longer than it needs to. The film is brushing at two hours, when really it could have been fine at closer to ninety minutes. I checked my watch a few times in the final half hour and could see a good deal that could have been cut.

In summary, Triple 9 is your average thriller. It doesn’t get to heights of films such as End Of Watch or Sicario, but in a month of slow releases, it’s a fine choice.

Score: 7/10 Nothing new, but still enjoyable.

Deadpool Review

The first superhero film of a year saturated with superhero films. We’ve got Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Captain America: Civil War also coming out this year. But first, we must start with this week’s Marvel property, Deadpool.

Deadpool, stars Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein and TJ Miller and is directed by Tim Miller. The film follows mercenary Wade Wilson (Reynolds) as he acquires mutant abilities, transforming him into Deadpool. He then goes after the men who ruined his life and tries to save his ex-girlfriend.

Deadpool as a comic book character is known for being very post-modernist. He regularly breaks the forth wall, or referencing the comic book writers or other characters, he even uses the comic book panel layout to fight his enemies. It’s his signature style, and thankfully, the script writers, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have got it down perfectly.

The jokes start from the very start, where instead of a credit sequence, vaguely insulting descriptions pop up e.g. “A Shameless Cameo” (Stan Lee) or “An Overpaid Idiot”, (the director, Tim Miller). It’s the first time a Marvel film has gone into full-blown comedy mode, and nearly every joke hits it’s mark. Near the middle of the film, once the spark of the opening has worn off, a fair few of the jokes become very hit-and-miss, sometimes just being profane for the sake of it. It does turn just far enough back around for the ending, but it never really recaptures the excellent comedy of the first half an hour. There are even a few “jokes” to try and win over fanboys (involving the last two superhero characters Reynolds infamously played) that repeat so often it feels a bit tiring.

While many people were angry about Ryan Reynolds being Deadpool (my Twitter feed was full of comic fans spitting in 140 characters), he brings a huge amount of energy to the role. TJ Miller (who was in Disney’s kids Marvel film, Big Hero 6) as his friend Weasel is good in the nerdy sidekick role, with some great lines. There is a small role for famous singer Leslie Uggams as Deadpool’s elderly blind roommate, whose arguments with Deadpool over furniture are hilariously absurd. My favourite character though is Colossus, played by both Stefan Kapičić and Andre Tricoteux. He should be a massive bruiser, but Kapičić’s (excellent Russian) voice, mixed with Tricoteux’s motion-capture create a character who does everything to not hurt his enemies. There is even a bit during a fight where he helps an enemy back to their feet before engaging them again.

The licensed soundtrack is magnificently overdone and entertaining. Keeping with the post-modernist flourishes, the soundtrack is all 80s to early 90s, featuring Juice Newton’s “Angel In The Morning” (which accompanies the opening credit sequence), Salt-n-Pepa, several instances of George Michael and Wham! and DMX’s “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” (which is the background to a brilliantly over-the-top slow-motion walk). They’re all toe-tapping songs, and fit perfectly into the messed-up mind of Deadpool’s character.

The story flips back and forth through time, which personally got rather annoying for me. We start the film with Deadpool on the tail of the man who ruined his life, before jumping back to before he acquired his superpowers, and then back to the present. The film does this several times and by the third or fourth time it became tiresome. The starting story was the most interesting and it took a long time to come back to this plot thread, instead just adding baggage to his earlier life. Once he gets his powers though, the story picks back up again and we get some gory and blood-soaked fights.

In the end, Deadpool is a better than anything that came out under the Marvel banner last year. I don’t know if it stands up with the best of them (which I think everyone collectively agrees is the first Iron Man) but it will find an audience who want their superheroes to be more foul-mouthed and puerile. Watch at your own discretion, but you’ll definitely laugh with and at Deadpool.

Score: 7/10 Funny, gory and gloriously dumb.

13 Hours Review

I’ve always been a defendant of Michael Bay. I seem to be the only person in the medium of film reviews who can say that, but he does take some interesting film topics under his wing and adapts them onto the big screen for our enjoyment. I was a fan of his last non-Transformers film, Pain And Gain, so does his new film, 13 Hours, stand up with that?

13 Hours stars John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, Max Martini, Dominic Furmusa and David Denman and is directed by Michael Bay. Based on the true story of the 2012 Benghazi attacks, the film follows at team of US security personnel, as they try to keep both themselves and the diplomats they work for alive from advancing militia forces.

First off, I want to establish that Michael Bay is a formalist. For those unsure of what that means, Formalism is creating something (cinema, music, arts) by sticking to the set rules of the genre. For example, we all can think of how a rom-com will pan out, they all follow the same plot points. 13 Hours is no different, it fits the mould of an action film to the beat, but in a world of Marvel and reboots, sometimes you need to get back to basics, and 13 Hours is a good enough place to start.

The chemistry between the men is a really good point of the film. While they don’t have to act much, the downtime between the sprawling gunfights is actually quite entertaining. The jokes they make to each other, even in the darkest moments of the film, are fun and it’s almost endearing watching them trying to make each other laugh and smile while faced with overwhelming odds.

The gunfights are the meat of the film and they don’t disappoint. The film obviously has it’s Michael Bay moments (explosions and slow-motion are littered throughout) but it fits the setting and the story. The gunfights happen for several minutes at a time and for the entirety you are on the edge of your seat. It feels similar to films such as Black Hawk Down or something like the opening to Saving Private Ryan. Gunfire is going off, bombs are dropping all around and the camerawork conveys it very well. It’s not obnoxious shaky-cam for the sake of shaky-cam, it feels more like a documentary with several moments of steady shot in between the explosions going off.

The comparison to other films is abundant throughout. There is even a moment when the film uses the same point-of-view shot of the bomb from Pearl Harbor, but the film does carve out some of its own unique shots. There are some lovely moments of camerawork, ranging from helicopter sweeps of the city to intense close-ups of the men, or of white bedsheets stained red from the night’s fighting, each one reminding the audience that Michael Bay isn’t just here to create mindless action.

Some people have been quick to politicise the film, but even Bay himself said it’s not a political film. The story sticks very close to the members of the security detail, staying with them instead of exploring the outside context. I think this actually helps the film, we see the situation from their eyes, they don’t know why things are happening and neither do we. We just have to sit tight and let the film play out. It’s almost like a horror film, there is a great sense of claustrophobia within the compound that the men hole up in, with militia closing in on all sides and no-one in the outside world is coming to help.

In the end, I think 13 Hours might be Michael Bay’s best film. While some might think that’s not a long list, that shouldn’t dismiss 13 Hours action credentials. If you like war films, or even things like the Call of Duty or Medal of Honor series, 13 Hours will suit you fine.

Score: 7/10 Good for a couple of hours of fun.

Spotlight Review

Another week and one more film that’s nominated for Best Picture has been watched. Spotlight wasn’t one I had heard of much before its release, only hearing of it when it crept up on the nominations list. I had already made my mind up that The Big Short should take home the prize this year, but does Spotlight make me change my mind?

Spotlight stars Michael Keaton, Rachael McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James and Liev Schreiber and is directed by Tom McCarthy. Based on a true story, the film follows the reporters for The Boston Globe as they investigated priests accused of molestation that had been covered up by the Catholic Church.

Spotlight is a film made on the performances. Everyone already listed are bringing their A-game, with most of the roles being skilfully understated. Their all trying to be good reporters and stick to the facts, but sometimes they break and all their pent-up emotion and anger comes pouring out. These moments are when Spotlight shines, such as a shouting match between Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton, as well as a wordless-but-emotional run through the middle of the night by Brian d’Arcy James. These are my favourite moments of the film, but I think it helps that there aren’t too many of them. If there had been more than a couple then the film would have been seen to have been trying to pull heartstrings and it would have diluted it’s end message.

Despite having several high-status actors in the main roles, Spotlight has a very impressive supporting cast. Actors like John Slattery, Stanley Tucci and Paul Guilfoyle all help out and bring their best performances in a long time.

One of the things I like about Spotlight is that it manages to take a serious topic and doesn’t water it down. Films have taken the accusations before and spun their own films and stories around them (the one that I can think of right now is Calvary, one of the films that got me into Film Studies) but Spotlight is just like it’s protagonists, it’s only interested in the facts and abut printing every single detail on the page (or in this case, screen) in an attempt into shocking us into a response, instead of giving us something which could have been more filmic. In that sense, it reminded me a lot of a documentary, it tells story through the bare essential facts. But that feeling of documentary is also it’s curse. The film looks very flat and muted. There is nothing that standouts visually, it’s rather perfunctory. I’m trying to think of one mis-en-scene that clearly standouts and I’m drawing a blank every time.

The film’s structure though, is a point I will give in its favour. The film doesn’t give the audience help like many other big-budget films. We only find out the truth behind the accusations and how widespread they are at the same time as the characters, making the screen become more like a mirror, as we almost reflect the characters gasps of astonishment. It all culminates in a final listing of all the cases not just in America but across the world and it shockingly goes on for longer than you would ever think.

I do have problems with Spotlight. The main one I had with the film is that it looks like it’s going to bring up some interesting sub-plots but they never get fully flushed out. The trailer showed the reporters getting ominous phone calls and being followed by shady individuals but I never got a sense of this being an overarching theme. I can’t even remember if it was in the film.

In the end, Spotlight looks very normal, but the story it weaves is incredible. The feeling it leaves reminds me of Sicario, it pulls at your stomach and almost makes you sick, but it reminds you enough that it’s a great film.

Score: 7/10 Exeptional story, even if everything else is flat.