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   

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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)

the-santa-clause

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)

harry-potter

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)

muppet-christmas-carol

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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Bending The Rules (2012) – Honest Review

Every so often I partake in the viewing of some of the worst disasters in cinema in an attempt to determine whether or not they truly deserve their awful reputation, some aren’t too bad but most are sickening. I call this Bad Movie Night.

Grading works in three categories: Not So Bad (Highest) – Pretty Bad (Middle) – Truly Bad (Lowest)

For the first Bad Movie Night Review – “Bending The Rules” (2012)

The tragic career ending injury of Adam Copeland (WWE Superstar Edge) led to perhaps one of the most tragic pieces of cinema ever produced. Of course I am talking about Bending The Rules.

In this monumental wishing well of wasted ideas and lost potential, we see some relatively well-known stars, the aforementioned Adam Copeland (WWE), Jamie Kennedy (Scream), Jessica Walter (Arrested Development) & Phillip Baker Hall (Modern Family) doing their very best to add comedic substance to a script that has very little.

Now I think about it, it does not really have very much of anything, while the dialogue is admittedly okay at times, the films general narrative seems lost, failing to follow a plot and failing even more so to establish any real themes.

Everything starts off promising when we meet Nick Blades (Copeland), a somewhat renegade police officer operating out of New Orleans, the character is interesting and Copeland is the perfect fit for the zany detective. We then go on to meet the second central character of this film, lawyer  Theo Gold, portrayed by Hollywood down-and-out and former Razzie Award nominee Jamie Kennedy.

Theo (Kennedy) has fallen on hard times with family, and work troubles as he tries to get Blades prosecuted for “Bending The Rules” too much in his position of authority. He is then victimized by his wife and angry police alike.

This is where the understandable narrative for this film ends. Somehow Blades and Gold end up working together, in order to find a stolen car and perhaps solve another mystery? I don’t know, honestly, it was not clear.

Throughout the course of this film the storyline becomes even more unclear with a ridiculously ludicrous and completely unexplainable plot twist regarding the previously mentioned stolen car. There is an impactful death scene in which Theo Gold’s father, played by Phillip Baker Hall passes away, there is emotion here, but most of it is taken away by the fact that the characters are not developed enough for us as the audience to truly feel their pain.

The acting is as good as it can be with the horrific and unstructured material that the performers were given to work with, aside from the truly repugnant and cringe-worthy performance of Jennifer Esposito as female police officer Garcia. Her acting is so bad that it would make low-budget 70’s porn look like The Shawshank Redemption in comparison.

So, in summary, this was a film that had a few likeable characters, and some genuinely funny moments but was let down by an honestly abysmal script. Adding to a long list of WWE Studios train wrecks, that attempt, and fail to present themselves as movies.

I give this car wreck (see the film and you’ll get that pun):

VERDICT – Truly Bad

And that’s generous.