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   

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

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) – Honest Review

A number of us are familiar with The Lonely Island, they’re the spoof-pop trio that brought us such songs as “Jizzed in My Pants”, “I’m On A Boat” and “We Like Sportz”. But few knew the group were capable of even making a film, let alone this laugh-out-loud musical mockumentary.

I was going into this film as a sceptic, most of the comedy that makes its way onto the big screen is either the generic Adam Sandler tripe, or Dirty Grandpa-esque attempted shock-fests, more concerned on how many putrid sex-puns and mentions of genitalia they can get into 90 minutes than actually making the audience laugh. However I was pleasantly surprised at the unique musical humour on display in the film.

I have always been a fan of mockumentaries, and this one was a perfect, twisted impression of the world of pop music today. Andy Samberg (Cuckoo, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) takes the lead as Conner, a somewhat failing pop star, who was a former member of boy-band The Style Boys, and he plays the role hilariously.

There were odd moments of disgusting humour, which I will leave unmentioned to those who have not seen the film, but there were also a lot of interesting and hilarious cameos from musical personalities such as Ringo Star, Simon Cowell, Usher, Michael Bolton, Paul McCartney, 50 Cent, and more that more than overshadowed the very few negatives.

There’s not all that much more I could say about this movie, as it does not serve a glorious purpose, it’s a short laugh fest, good for viewing with friends, but will not be remembered as a classic, but does that really matter? The film serves it’s purpose, to keep the viewer laughing, and draw them into the story.

I rate this film: 7.5/10

Nerve (2016) – Honest Review

Modern day thrillers are often dull, boring affairs that contradict their very purpose, with many of them being re-hashed ideas that have been done dozens of times in the past. This one was an imaginative breath of fresh air.

The adventure based on Jeanne Ryan’s novel of the same title, centres around a high school senior named Vee, played by Emma Roberts (Scream Queens, American Horror Story) as she finds herself immersed in an illegal game of truth or dare, in order to push her limits and make some money while doing it. However, Vee soon learns that there is more than money at stake as she is drawn deeper and deeper into the twisted game.

While I won’t spoil any key points in the story-line, what I can say is that it is very well thought out and almost bone-chillingly realistic. Seriously, you can actually picture the game from the film being used by the youth of your local city. Think of it as Pokémon Go, except instead of Pokémon, it’s filled with chances to get yourself into an early grave.

The camera work and style of film making used by director Jessica Sharzer is very eye-catching, and the constant use of neon in the lighting fits the tone of the film very well. Circling back to the camera work though, some of the more intense, heart-pounding thrill scenes are shot to perfection, with a real sense of impending doom looming throughout them, honestly, the thrills in this movie will have you covering your eyes on the edge of your seat.

Let’s talk about the acting performances, as I have previously mentioned, Emma Roberts has the lead, and she is accompanied by Dave Franco (Now You See Me, Bad Neighbours) as the mysterious thrill-seeker Ian. Both provide good performances, however, their scenes can sometimes be a little on the cringe-worthy side, though direction and screenplay may be more to blame for this. Singer Machine Gun Kelly also makes his big-budget picture debut, as deranged, leather-clad, Nerve-player, Ty, and to be fair to “MGK” (whose real name is Colson Baker) he did pull the roll of quite convincingly. There aren’t many faults with the performances of any of the supporting cast members either, each of them doing their job by ensuring the plot moves forward at an entertaining an reasonable pace.

My one fault, as I have mentioned, is that some scenes involving Roberts and Franco can becoming cringe-worthy on occasion. Some of the lines and actions of certain characters can come across this way throughout the film, either because they were unrealistic, or did not fit the actor portraying the character. This is a very small fault though, and it does not really effect the film, in fact it will be all-but unnoticeable to those who do not cringe easily.

In conclusion, I would say that while Nerve can be slightly cringe-worthy at certain points, this is overshadowed by the fresh, interesting concept, gripping story-line, and chest-thumping thrill scenes.

I rate this film: 8/10

The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case (2016) – Honest Review 

New horror films hardly ever receive praise with even the best modern instalments getting mixed reviews at best, but this all changed in 2013 when horror fans around the world were treated to the modern classic that is The Conjuring, which showed new horror in a new light to the critics.

Then the franchise sort of lost the aforementioned new light with its dreadful prequel/spin-off Annabelle.

So when The Conjuring 2 was released it was seen as an opportunity for the series to regain its credibility and I am happy to announce that it does just that.

First of all let me start by saying that this film is utterly terrifying, relying surprisingly little on jump scares and rather the suspense of the jump scare fake-out. Often the reliance on intensity is a welcome breath of fresh air to the boring rut of jump-scare based horror films. The make-up and costume department are also to be heavily commended on the simply terrifying appearance of the films main antagonist, Valak, a demon that for the most part of the film to appears as a nun for the purposes of blasphemy.

The writing staff must also be praised for not only the terrifying demon, but for creating a whole host of terrifying characters for the film, as well as the previously mentioned Valak, we were also treated to the terrifying, beyond-the-grave pensioner Bill Wilkins, and the nursery rhyme inspired, child’s toy dwelling Crooked Man. The creation of characters in this film is not the only example of the excellent writing on display here; there are also two great stories that come together with a pretty good plot twist/connective to draw everything to a close. The only problem I can see with the writing is a slightly convoluted ending with the demon being defeated by Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) who merely says its name to send it running scared. Now I know this is what people genuinely believed got rid of demons, but this is not the biggest issue I have, but rather how Lorraine managed to know the demons name, the answer to that question is, it told her. That seems like the laziest kind of writing in my option, it also made no sense, but other than that, this was a solidly written picture.

As far as acting performances go, there was nobody in this film that did not give a good performance, if I had to pick a standout I would have to go with Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren, showing a lot more care and diversity to the character. This is not to take credit away from anyone in this film though, as I’ve previously mentioned, there were no faults in the acting, I cannot stress this enough.

To summarise, I think this film was a welcome, redeeming addition to its series, and even though the writing got a little bit lazy at the very end it was not enough to overshadow this film which was a triumph in the horror genre.

I rate this film: 7.5/10

WWE: Money In The Bank (2016) – Honest Review

Whilst WWE were trying to market this as the greatest Money In The Bank pay-per-view of all time, in what felt like an attempt to erase the 2011 instalment from the memories of fans, it was most certainly not the greatest. But that’s not saying that it was not a fairly decent show with some truly memorable moments. In this review I shall go through each match individually, in order to deliver a realistic verdict on the show as a whole.

And no, I won’t be reviewing the pre-show.

WWE Tag Team Championship Fatal-4-Way Match – The New Day(C) Vs The Club Vs The Vaudevillians Vs Enzo Amore & Collin Cassidy

This match got off to an impressive start, though the overall idea of a four-way tag match seemed like the recipe for a botch-fest. There were a few interesting moments, most notably from Enzo and Cass who, as they always do, steal the show. The problems in this match did manage to over-shadow anything good though, firstly The Club looked so out-of-place here, I’m not sure why that was, they looked just as comically ridiculous as the other three teams involved. There was some sort of stand-off between Big E and Big Cass with a fight that didn’t happen; this was confusing as it was hardly a much-anticipated showdown to begin with. Not to mention that the build-up to this four way confrontation had little to no story behind it, other than all the teams wanted the titles. But I think the worst part of the match by far was the ending in which Anderson, who was the legal man at the time, was taken down by The New Day, yet Aiden English was the man who was pinned for The New Day to pick up the victory. This was a terrible ending to a very mediocre contest.

Baron Corbin Vs Dolph Ziggler

In the 957th confrontation between these two, you really have to wonder, who really cares about this feud? Nobody is the answer you’re looking for.  Although, nobody cared about it to begin with so sun rise, sun set I suppose. Corbin got the win.

Charlotte & Dana Brooke Vs Natalya & Becky Lynch

There’s not much to say on this one either, other than the fact that Charlotte and Dana picked up the win. It also helped us learn that Becky Lynch is the stupidest woman in the WWE. Why, you may ask? Because this marked the third time in the space of a year that a trusted friend and tag team partner has turned on her. This was dreadful news, as not only are there very few face competitors left in the women’s division, but also because we now have to suffer through another horrific Natalya heel run, just adding to the list of reasons not to watch Raw on a Monday night.

Apollo Crews Vs Sheamus

The third dud in a row, Apollo went over as he should have but it seems as though we have Corbin/Ziggler version two on the horizon here, and that is a truly sickening prospect to the average wrestling fan.

 Aj Styles Vs John Cena

This match was the redeemer of the evening so far. After three boring affairs we were treated to this absolute gem as WWE’s top man and TNA’s top man battled in what was probably the most anticipated clash of the last decade. Both men wrestled well, although Styles lived up to his claim and eventually began to wrestle rings around Cena. There was a seemingly dangerous moment though, as Cena came inches from a broken neck in a very narrowly avoided botch of Styles’ signature Styles Clash. This aside, the match proved that WWE really does have the potential to be taken seriously as a technical promotion, or at least it would’ve been if it hadn’t been for the ending. WWE refusing to let Aj Styles go over clean, The Club had to interfere and take Cena down for him. This let the whole match down in my opinion, but still, Styles went over, every cloud, eh?

Money In The Bank Ladder Match – Cesaro Vs Kevin Owens Vs Sami Zayn Vs Alberto Del Rio Vs Chris Jericho Vs Dean Ambrose

The ladder match was defiantly the match of the night, all the men involved performed very well. The best of which being Alberto Del Rio, who in my opinion was pulling out all the stops to portray himself as a big time, main event worthy player, his double foot stomp off the ladder was a thing of beauty and he seemed to me to be the strongest performer in the match.
As all ladder matches do, this match had many spots, including an absolute treat from Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens in which Owens’ back was buckled over a ladder in a moment so realistic my own spine actually began to ache. Eventually, it would come to pass that Dean Ambrose would capture the briefcase, guaranteeing him an opportunity for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, any time, any place, it felt like this was a long time coming for Dean Ambrose and it was rewarding to see him capture the case.

United States Championship Match – Rusev(C) Vs Titus O’Neil

There was not a great deal to say about this, going into the match it was un-realistic that Titus had any chance whatsoever of winning, considering that WWE are only just starting to re-establish Rusev as a major, unstoppable heel once again. That being said, they were also trying desperately trying to legitimise Titus as a serious singles competitor having him stand up to Rusev relatively well, but ultimately being put away by the Bulgarian Brute. This match felt like it was stretched out to fill space more than anything and it was an easily forgettable affair.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match – Roman Reigns(C) Vs Seth Rollins

Let me start by saying that the pre-match video package was sublime and it outlined the roots of the rivalry excellently, really helping to re-enforce the fact that this match was two years in the making. However, the match got off to a very slow start, with neither man seeming to want to make the first move. It did get a little more interesting as time went on but the match was hardly anything to rave about, there was an interesting spot in which Roman took a hard bump against the crowd barrier but as far as spots go that was pretty much it. The interesting thing about this match was that Rollins, for the most part wrestled face whilst Reigns seemed to be wrestling heel, WWE had the potential to pull off the legendary double turn, but alas it will go down as a wasted opportunity. The match had a superb ending to save it from its mediocrity, as Rollins countered the spear into the pedigree, eventually going over clean, this came as a surprise as Roman is widely considered to be one of the most protected performers in the company today. Rollins victory was not cut and dry though, as Dean Ambrose’ music hits and fakes out Rollins, coming from behind, clocking Seth in the back of the head with the case and proceeding to cash it in.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match – Seth Rollins(C) Vs Dean Ambrose

This one was over quick, Ambrose hits dirty deeds and puts Rollins down for the one, two, three, and just like that Dean Ambrose’ career comes full circle in a superb booking choice, having all three former Shield members hold the WWE’s most prestigious championship in the same night. Ambrose has deserved this title reign for so long and nobody can deny that this victory was long overdue.

Verdict:

While this pay-per-view had some undeniably great moments, it also had just as many bad moments, meaning that its overall rating is limited. Based on this, my overall rating for this pay-per-view is: 7/10