Hacksaw Ridge (2016) – Honest Review

Mel Gibson returns to directorial greatness with this phenomenal war epic, with a perfect combination of hope, violence, and religion.

Many years have passed thing Mel Gibson first took home the Oscar for Best Achievement in Directing, and although his efforts with Apocalypto were at best decent, it is with Hacksaw Ridge that his old talents return.

Depicting the heart-warming true story of former soldier Desmond Doss, Hacksaw Ridge was, in my opinion, the greatest film of 2016.

Starting with the performances, Andrew Garfield is simply wonderful as Doss, and conveys excellently the gentle soul that the World War II legend was renowned for, his Oscar nomination here is just as the performance may well be the best of his entire career. The films other standout performance comes from a rather unusual place, Vince Vaughn. For a man who has spent the majority of his career starring in bad remakes, cringe-worthy Christmas films, and sub-par comedies, Vaughn can only be praised here for his tough and hilarious portrayal of Sgt Howell, a man who delivers some of the film’s most quotable lines. Hugo Weaving also shines as Tom Doss, a tragic former solider trying desperately to overcome his personal demons.

As previously mentioned, Mel Gibson’s direction is outstanding, controlling battle sequences of that magnitude are no small task, and here Gibson rose to the occasion unquestionably, producing some of the best battle sequences to ever grace the big screen. Though the effects and make-up departments must also receive praise for this.

The battle sequences in Hacksaw Ridge would’ve been nothing, however without the top class editing work of John Gilbert, who received a very well deserved Academy Award for his troubles, most likely for the intensity and peril that his edits so gloriously amplified.

The film also picked up an Oscar for its sound mixing, and the department are to be commended greatly here for their creation of some fabulously visceral diegetic effects.

In conclusion, Hacksaw Ridge is a masterpiece. It delivers some great performances, some stunning visuals, and some simply wonderful sound effects, couple that with a decent screenplay and some undeniably outstanding direction and you have the formula for, as I have mentioned previously, the best film of 2016.

I rate this film: 10/10

Split (2016) – Honest Review

James McAvoy and M. Night Shyamalan team up to create a unique, gripping, and at times, terrifying horror film.

I had a bad feeling about Split when I learned of the involvement of BlumHouse, as the studio is very hit-or-miss in recent years, but Split has proved to be a certified hit, both at the box office and with audiences.

When James McAvoy’s performance is witnessed, it is not hard to see why this film is so highly regarded. Very few actors could do what he did in Split, he can switch seamlessly between characters in an almost chameleon-like state, and it is simply intoxicating to watch. At some points, you can actually see McAvoy losing himself to the character of the beast, perhaps shown most prominently in the build to the climax, which includes a highly intense and wholeheartedly creepy chase. It is a shame that the young Scotsman will likely not be remembered when Oscar season rolls around next year, because his performance here would not be out of place in any year’s Best Leading Actor category.

I particularly enjoyed the camerawork on display in this film, it really gives the viewer a sense of claustrophobia, a sense of real captivity, which allows audiences to sympathise further still with the three victims of the film.

Another area of greatness in Split is its script. M. Night Shyamalan has written something special with this one, cementing his rise from the depth of cinematic doom. It is arguable that his last film, The Visit, had more in the way of scares, but the concept behind Split is certainly one that gets you thinking, without overdoing it in the way of complexity. The film also deals with some real problems, psychological trauma, child abuse, and mental disorder, which is immensely effective in the emotive filmmaking process.

On a lighter note, the end scene and Bruce Willis cameo, implying a shared universe with Unbreakable, was Shyamalan’s own unique take on fan service, and the possibilities that may come with this are frankly mouth-watering.

There are problems with the film though, because even though I can praise the screenplay for its emotional effectiveness and thought provoking originality, Shyamalan still seems to have a little bit of trouble breaking bad habits. In this case, the heavy-handedness of his storytelling, this at times does rob the film of its class.

To conclude, Split is certainly one to see for horror fans, and for Unbreakable fans, who will not be left wanting after this spine-chiller gets its 23 pairs of hands on their psyche, and takes them on a disturbingly fractured journey, the likes of which Shyamalan has rarely achieved in his career.

I rate this film: 8/10   

Logan (2017) – Honest Review

Hugh Jackman’s emotional farewell is the hard hitting, blood pumping, violent thrill ride that the iconic character has always deserved.

The popularity of this film is no secret. It is a high earner, and has been received very well by fans and critics alike, and after seeing it, it is hard to say otherwise.

Fox have had a knack for producing R-Rated Marvel films as of late, as they seem to have cracked the formula for success in the world of the adult comic book movie. This studio cannot be faulted in the slightest for taking a chance on the language, violence, and harsh realities that go hand in hand with the certificate, as it has clearly paid off.

All the main praise for the film simply has to go to the actors, who deliver some of the most heart-felt performances the superhero sub-genre has ever seen. Hugh Jackman is the best he has ever been, showing a side of Logan we’ve seldom seen, a human side. Jackman has made Wolverine his own during his tenure in the X-Men universe, and at this point, I cannot possibly imagine another actor portraying the character. But if a new actor must be chosen, it can only be one person, and that person is Dafne Keen, the actress behind the films female lead, Laura. She embodied everything that is essential to Wolverine, and gave a raw performance at a high calibre, something rarely seen in child stars, and personally I would welcome her ascension into the now vacant role. Other high notes include the always reliable Patrick Stewart as Professor X, and Stephan Merchant as the tragically sympathetic Caliban, who delivers the films only laughs.

On that topic, I will admit that the film lacks humour, but it does not need any humour, in fact I believe it would’ve spoiled the overall tone of the film. There is not a single truly happy moment in this film, and in my opinion this is a good thing. Why? Because the message the filmmakers are trying to put across is a harrowing one. We are looking at the last of the mutants, they are on deaths door, but they still fight for what they believe, this allows the protagonists to engage more deeply with active audiences, which is always a positive thing.

To round off, I would like to offer Logan one more piece of praise, as quite often in these extended film universes, it is vital that the viewer has seen previous instalments, but Logan differs. It works as part of the X-Men universe, or it works as a standalone, it has that rare adaptable quality, which will in itself lead to a considerably broader appeal.

To conclude, Logan is a great film, true to Jackman, true to the X-Men, true to its certificate, and true to the character of Wolverine. I sincerely hope that we see more R-Rated comic book movies in the near future, and who knows, we may even see Jackman reprise the role one more time, I for one would certainly not object.

I rate this film: 8.5/10

La La Land (2016) – Honest Review

La La Land is something truly special, a film like this comes along once in a lifetime and it will have film lovers talking from now until the bitter end.

What can I say about this masterpiece that hasn’t already been said? Simply put, this is without a doubt the greatest musical ever produced for the screen, and with it Damien Chazelle maintains his spotless directorial record.

There are so many things to praise in this film, but I’ll start with its songs. There is not a bad song in this entire film, which is a rare thing in the world of musical cinema. The standouts are definitely the opening song “Another Day of Sun”, Emma Stone’s enchanting “Audition”, and the Oscar winning “City of Stars”. All are brilliantly written, and exquisitely performed by all those involved.

Then there’s the acting, here, the main praise goes to the two leads, Ryan Gosling is strangely charming as piano-man Sebastian, and Emma Stone’s portrayal of Mia is without a doubt the greatest of her career, earning her the much deserved recognition at the Academy Awards. The two have excellent chemistry, and the romance between them is incredible, all the while maintaining a safe distance from any deep emotional connections. While this has been criticised, I feel it adds depth to the characters, who are striving for their own goals, and it is this individual focus that is imperative to the story-telling process.

The direction too is something truly magnificent, and Chazelle’s beautiful, and tragic vision is clear throughout, with all roads leading elegantly to the films brutally real, and stunningly effective climax, which comes across as his own love letter to classic Hollywood.

In conclusion, La La Land is a must see, it is, simply put, magnificent, and I urge anyone with a passion for great story-telling to watch it immediately. This will forever be remembered as a film for those who love film, and no truer words than that were ever spoken.

I rate this film: 10/10

Get Out (2017) – Honest Review

Believe the hype, Get Out is some serious next-level horror.

There’s a lot of critical praise heading the way of Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out, and for good reason. Ever since trailers hit the media in 2016 I was highly anticipating its release as horror has seen somewhat of a resurgence as of late. Needless to say, Get Out did not leave me wanting.

My main praise goes to Jordan Peele, both his screenwriting and his direction are very much on point here, but the screenwriting more-so. The writing is witty, imaginative, and utterly terrifying, with many of the characters forming their own unique personalities as the narrative unfolds, which is a trait that has been crucial in the aforementioned horror resurgence of recent years. Characters are not even the strongest element of the screenplay; however, as that title falls upon the various plot twists we are subject to in the films second, and third acts. We are kept guessing for the most part, and each twist comes as a storyline-bombshell of epic proportions, tying into earlier narrative devices excellently.

As far as scares go, the film is more than satisfactory, acting as more of a spine-chiller than an out-and-out jump fest, which is another element that has shaped the genre revival in recent years. The Armitage family and their party guests are wildly unnerving, and the film so well conveys a sense impending doom and heavy imprisonment for the films protagonist Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), so much so that the audience is as powerless as he is to avoid the stomach churning nervous-fear that the film will be so fondly remembered for.

The film is responsible for some good performances too, the previously mentioned Daniel Kaluuya can play both a helpless victim and an underdog hero incredibly well, and what’s even better is his ability to switch seamlessly between the two. LiRel Howery is also excellent as Chris’ best friend Rod, who provides a lot of the witty, and much needed humour. Howert’s delivery is so good that it instantly makes the sceptical best friend an audience favourite.

If I had to find one problem with this film though, it has to be the very end, which is a touch on the heavy handed side. While it may be considered a bit of a deus-ex machina, its issues are minimal, and after the suspense of the films climax it does come as somewhat of a welcome relief.

To conclude, Get Out is a near-perfect take on the horror genre, and will set Jordan Peele up for a strong, and prosperous directorial career, while also being remembered as a true modern classic in the genre.

I rate this film: 9/10

Kong: Skull Island (2017) – Honest Review

If you’re a fan of big monsters, big laughs, and big budgets, Kong: Skull Island delivers by the boat-load.

Let me start by saying that I didn’t go into the theatre expecting much, because in my mind, nothing could top Peter Jackson’s earlier take on the beast, but as the film progressed I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised.

To begin, I cannot praise the cinematography and special effects highly enough, every monster, every wide shot from a chopper, and every engulfing flourish of fire was excellently made and the films editing team should also be highly commended for their efforts. It may be too early to tell, but I’m predicting an Oscar nomination in 2018 for the special effects which are without a doubt the films magnum opus.

This is the largest King Kong we have ever seen on the big screen, and while its personality isn’t quite as loveable as Jackson’s version of the beast, its mannerisms perfectly capture that of the old-school original of 1933.

As far as performances go, the majority of actors are good, though they are nothing to write home about, but I will particularly commend Tom Hiddleston, for his stereotypical “brooding British guy”, and Samuel L. Jackson for being that character we just love to hate, a trait that has served him well throughout his cinematic tenure. If I had to choose a standout, it would be John C. Reilly, who not only provides spades of personality, but also undeniably delivers the funniest lines in the film.

The main issue with this film is that some of the characters lack the depth required to form any real audience investment, it is easy to become invested in Reilly’s Hank Marlow, with his tragic back-story and heart-warming character climax, and to a lesser extent Jackson’s Preston Packard, on his villainous quest for vengeance, but as far as the rest of the ensemble goes, Kong: Skull Island leaves much to be desired in the way of character development.

In conclusion, Kong: Skull Island does exactly what it says on the tin, it delivers heart-pounding action, rampaging beasts, and light-hearted laughter, and will be one to watch for creature feature fans for years to come.

I rate this film: 8/10

6 Films That Are Perfect For Christmas Eve Viewing

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or so the songs says. Don’t get me wrong, it’s true, but not just for all that noise about “love & togetherness”, this is the one time of year when you can put on some of your cinematic festive favourites without care of judgement, and what better time to watch one than Christmas Eve?
Well with that in mind, here are six films that are guaranteed to put you in the festive spirit on the night before Christmas.

The Santa Clause (1994)

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If you were born in the 90’s, chances are you’ve seen this movie. I remember many a Christmas in primary school, the teachers would cram us all into a crowded classroom, sit us on the hard, uncomfortable floor and show us this film on a TV smaller than most phone screens today. Tim Allen plays the protagonist, Scott Calvin, who becomes Santa Claus after accidentally murdering the old one, which is the cornerstone of most family entertainment I suppose. Calvin spends the film struggling with the weight gain that goes hand in hand with the job, the facial hair that he just can’t get rid of, and the authorities who want to take him away from his son because they think he’s crazy. It’s packed to the brim with Christmas cheer and will certainly get you in the spirit of the season.

 Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (2007)

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While not strictly a Christmas film, Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is a holiday favourite of mine. Dustin Hoffman takes the helm as Mr Magorium himself, the ancient owner of a magical toy store. The film is heart warming, magical, and sweetly funny, and without spoiling it for you, you will cry, simple as that. But anyway, tears aside, this is a true classic in my opinion, and I urge anyone who has not yet seen it, to see it immediately, and with Christmas Eve just around the corner, you find yourselves with the perfect opportunity to enjoy this hidden gem.

Krampus (2015)

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One for the adults now, as Krampus and his twisted minions slither their way down your chimney. This holiday horror comes from the same mind that brought you Trick’R’Treat, and by all estimations it was supposed to fail. Initially set for a straight to DVD release, the film managed to earn a wide release and did wonderfully at the box office. Despite getting mixed reviews from critics, Krampus is a modern classic, following a disfunctional family, who are brought together when the Christmas demon is summoned to their house. There are laughs, scares, and a true family message all packed into this, and if you don’t mind getting a few chills on Christmas Eve, then this is the film for you.

The Polar Express (2004)

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Although it attained mixed reviews, The Polar Express is somewhat of a masterpiece. Coming to the big screen in 2004, the films stars Tom Hanks in a plethora of roles, and it centres around a group of kids on a magical train ride to the North Pole. Even though this film came out in 2004, the animation still looks incredible today. Not only that, but the film mixes intensity, subtle humour, and Christmas cheer in a way that’s so vitally seamless that anyone of any age can see this instant classic and enjoy it. The magic this film projects is the perfect thing to get the kids off to a sound sleep on Christmas Eve, and enough to rise that special warm feeling in the bellies of adults, a must watch for fans of animation and Christmas alike.

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (2001)

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Again, this is not strictly a Christmas film, but it is a staple of Christmas Eve in the UK. This may just be British bias talking, but a Christmas without the first instalment in this series just doesn’t feel like Christmas. While the film is far from perfect, it certainly is the most magical of the lot, with a snowy Christmas sequence that would put most actual holiday movies to shame. Any time is a good time to watch an epic fantasy series like Harry Potter, but the first film, in the eyes of some many British people, will have a special place on Christmas Eve.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

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We end this list with a true festive favourite of generations upon generations. No matter how old you are, you have to appreciate the quality of Brian Henson’s 1992 Muppet masterpiece. Probably my favourite adaption of the Dickens novel, the film follows Charles Dickens himself, played by Gonzo, as he tells his iconic story. Scrooge is played to perfection by Michael Caine, and the whole Muppet cast never fails to bring a smile to my face. With catchy songs, great set design, and wonderful puppeteer work, its not hard to see why I’ve included this film on the list. So gather round, put this on your TV, and I guarantee the whole family will be off to bed on Christmas Eve with smiles on their faces, and songs stuck in their heads.

Did I miss any out? Was your favourite Christmas Eve film left at the bottom of the sack? Have a list idea or a review request? Drop them in the comments section or go throught the blog’s contact page.

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