FILM: The Commuter (2018, Jaume Collet-Serra)

The Commuter film poster.jpg

Distributed in UK cinemas by StudioCanal, The Commuter is another action film which sees director Jaume Collet-Serra work together with leading man Liam Neeson. Neeson plays Michael, an ex-cop who is on his usual commuter train home after being made redundant. He is approached by Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who offers him $100,000 to determine a passenger who does not belong there. What Michael does not foresee is the trail of death and destruction that this could and will lead to.

PROS

  • You know what you are getting yourself into when you sit down to watch this film, as Liam Neeson plays well a stoic action hero character for some fun action sequences.
  • There is next to no shaky cam in the well shot action sequences, which are edited together well by Nicolas de Toth to make for fun, at times exciting, action sequences.
  • A consistent pace and tone to the narrative, which does not hesitate to comment on how unfair life can seemingly be, and how mundane commuting can be.

CONS

  • This really is a conveyor belt type film, which ultimately lacks substance and does nothing really different to the other films of this ilk.
  • Due to this being a fourth collaboration between director and star in the 2010s, this film is very predictable, despite the fact that it is fun.
  • A supporting cast who are altogether quite underused, notable examples including Dean-Charles Chapman, Sam Neill and Colin McFarlane.

VERDICT: 5/10

FILM: Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018, Wes Ball)

MazeRunnerDeathCureFinalPoster.jpeg

Adapted from the young adult novel The Death Cure, this film concludes The Maze Runner trilogy, and is distributed by 20th Century Fox. Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his friends are now fugitives, and have to work together with former peer Gally (Will Poulter) in order to find a way to rescue Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and the other children that are being held prisoner by WCKD. At their headquarters, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) is working on the team that are trying to find a cure for the Flare virus.

PROS

  • Wes Ball once again proves that he can direct action well, the action sequences for the most part being exciting scenes, which are well edited by Dan Zimmerman.
  • Dylan O’Brien proves himself to be a confident, focused actor once again, and is well supported by Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter.
  • Very good make-up gives real shock value and graphic detail, both to the wounds sustained in action sequences, and especially to the effects of the Flare virus.

CONS

  • The screenplay is convoluted and lacking in real substance, with clunky dialogue, plus the fact that The Death Cure is a mere subplot is at best perplexing.
  • Wes Ball does not direct the dialogue heavy sequences well, which have a pretty sloppy pace in comparison to the action sequences.
  • Kaya Scodelario gives a weak turn, while Barry Pepper and Walton Goggins are underused, and Aidan Gillen cannot hide his native Irish accent to save his life.

VERDICT: 5/10

PREVIEW: February 2018

Well, we are now thirty days into 2018, which has somewhat flown by. This month saw a number of films (among other things) reviewed, and there are still some new releases that I have seen but am yet to review. In my defence, I saw them later than intended, as a stomach bug knocked both myself and my plan for last week for six, so watch this space!

Looking ahead to next month, there are many new releases in UK cinemas, a number of which came out in the USA towards the end of 2017, and a fair few of which I intend to see in cinemas. These films include (in alphabetical order): AnnihilationBlack Panther, Dark RiverDen of ThievesFather FiguresI, TonyaJourney’s EndLady BirdPhantom ThreadRoman J. Israel, Esq.The Shape of Water and Winchester.

I will endeavour to get reviews of these films up as quickly as I can, although I may be less active in the latter weeks of this month as I have to write a proposal for my MA Thesis. I cannot guarantee whether I will be able to get up any more content than what I have outlined here, but I will do what I can. So, for the month ahead, I wish you all the best and, as ever, Happy Reading!

THOUGHTS: Nominees for the 90th Academy Awards

Academy Award trophy.jpg

A week ago today, the nominees for the 90th Academy Awards were unveiled to the world. In the seven days since then I have mulled over all of them, and for the most part I am happy with the nominees. As ever though, I do have some thoughts that I wish to share, including thoughts on what should have been (or at the very least could have been) different. It should also be noted that I have so far only seen six out of nine Best Picture nominees, not out of choice, but because Lady BirdPhantom Thread and The Shape of Water do not get UK releases until next month. While this will not be the usual list of Pros and Cons, this list will be bullet points, to keep in with the way that I do things on this blog, so here we go…

  • Where the Best Picture nominees are concerned, I am for the most part happy. In particular, I am happy that the Academy recognised Get Out (see my review here) as being so much more than just a horror film, and resultantly are giving it the recognition that it deserves. However, I am shocked that The Florida Project (see my review here) did not get a nod, yet The Post did. The Post is a good film, but there are a number of films more deserving of this nod, such as The Killing of a Sacred Deer,  Molly’s Game and The Florida Project.
  • In the Best Actor category, the lack of nomination for James Franco reflects that the Academy are taking the allegations against him seriously, otherwise he would almost certainly have been nominated for The Disaster Artist. I cannot help but feel a little saddened though by the fact that this is the last time that Daniel Day-Lewis will be getting a nomination.
  • In the Best Actress category, we were once again reminded that Meryl Streep is Academy royalty. Her performance in The Post is good, but I am not sure that I would even put it in my top fifteen performances by her, and given that The Post was an ensemble film I feel that a Best Supporting Actress nod, if anything, would have been more suitable. Rather than Streep, I feel that Bria Vinaite and Brooklynn Prince were both equally worthy of a nomination for The Florida Project. They both gave captivating performances in their cinematic debuts, despite not having had formal training, and should both be taken seriously as big future talents.
  • I am sorry, but I simply cannot get my head around how The Boss Baby (see my review here) was more deserving of a nod for Best Animated Feature than The Lego Batman Movie (see my review here). It is like the lack of love for The Lego Movie three years ago all over again.

As I say, for the most part I am happy with the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards, and looking ahead to March, I look forward to seeing what the final results be. I say it every year, but this could be an interesting year for the Academy Awards…

THOUGHTS: Nominees for the 38th Golden Raspberry Awards

Golden Raspberry Award.jpg

Six days ago, the nominees for the 38th Golden Raspberry Awards were announced, and after six days of mulling them over I have some thoughts that I would like to share on them. While I will not do these thoughts in the form of lists of Pros and Cons, I will make this a bullet point list, so here we go…

  • Of the five nominees for Worst Picture, I have seen three. I refuse to watch any instalment of the Fifty Shades franchise (although if Fifty Sheds of Grey ever gets an adaptation then I am there), and I will wait until The Emoji Movie is on Netflix before I subject myself to such torment. Nevertheless, assuming that The Emoji Movie is as bad as everyone says, then I am glad that it has been nominated, as the fact that it is an animation should not give it immunity. However, while Baywatch is by no means a good film (see my review here), it is not an awful film, and there are many films more deserving of a nomination – including GeostormThe HouseThe SnowmanSnatched and Suburbicon.
  • How did mother! get three nominations, while Snatched only got one!?! mother! was the most divisive film of 2017, granted, but director Darren Aronofsky and lead actress Jennifer Lawrence gave it their all and were very gutsy with this avant-garde film (see my review here), so they do not deserve nominations. Snatched, on the other hand was a truly poor comedy, which is a “favourite” for Golden Raspberry nominations, so how did it get away with only a Worst Supporting Actress nod for Goldie Hawn?
  • Javier Bardem did not deserve a Worst Supporting Actor nomination for Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (UK title) and mother! They were by no means his best performances, but John Lithgow was more deserving of a nomination for Daddy’s Home 2 and Pitch Perfect 3. Coupled with Darren Aronofsky getting a nomination for Worst Director, I do feel like the Golden Raspberry Foundation are deliberately trying to be a little controversial.

Those are my thoughts, and ultimately some of my key criticisms, but for the most part I am happy with the nominations this year, and will be interested to see what the final results are.

FILM: The Post (2017, Steven Spielberg)

The Post (film).png

Drama film The Post is distributed internationally by Universal Pictures. The film tells the true story of how, in the early 1970s, State secrets were leaked from The White House, which revealed the truth behind the Vietnam War, secrets which ultimately showed that the government knew that it was a lost war, but never admitted defeat for fear of losing face. Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), who owns The Washington Post, must now decide whether to do what is legal (return the leaked papers to the government), or what is moral (publishing the truth, even at the risk of going to prison).

PROS

  • A meticulously detailed screenplay with dark undertones, which explores just how tough an industry journalism can be, especially where legalities and serious issues such as political corruption are concerned.
  • Very good production design, with real attention to detail in the sets, props and costumes, giving this film a very authentic feel of the 1970s.
  • A good ensemble cast, headed by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks (who plays editor in chief Ben Bradlee) giving passionate, engaging turns.
  • A handsomely framed piece of cinema, which really brings the viewer into the heart of these situations, thanks not least to well used close ups and tracking shots.

CONS

  • An opening scene in the Vietnam War feels quite restrained, and is part of an opening thirty minutes that can be quite exposition heavy.
  • At times the serious tone of the narrative feels quite heavy-handed.
  • While the ensemble cast are good, several members feel quite underused, including Sarah Paulson, Alison Brie and David Cross.

VERDICT: 7/10

FILM: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017, Martin McDonagh)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.png

Following its premiere at the 2017 Venice International Film Festival, drama film Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is distributed theatrically by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Several months after her daughter Angela (Kathryn Newton) was raped and killed, Ebbing resident Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is frustrated by the fact that the Police investigation has been fruitless. She hires three billboards on the road that leads into town, and has signs that challenge Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) on the lack of results.

PROS

  • Director and screenwriter Martin McDonagh proves himself once again to be a master of dialogue, which is a cleverly written balance of drama and humour, with lots of nuanced detail, and some very serious themes.
  • Martin McDonagh’s direction is very sharp and well executed, conveying very well a consistent vision that he clearly feels passion for.
  • Very well written characters, whose relationships are well realised both by Martin McDonagh’s screenplay and by the ensemble cast. McDonagh also cleverly crafts character arcs for many of them that are well realised and consistently engaging.
  • A handsomely framed film, which visually depicts the dark attributes and bleakness that underpin both the basic premise and the narrative as a whole.
  • A terrific ensemble cast, with a powerful, career-best turn from Frances McDormand, who proves again to be a truly captivating star. Of the excellent supporting cast, the best are Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, both of whom give nuanced, moving turns, the latter giving a career-best performance.

CONS

  • While their performances are very good, a number of the supporting cast, including rising stars Caleb Landry Jones and Lucas Hedges are noticeably underused.

VERDICT: 9/10

FILM: Insidious: The Last Key (2018, Adam Robitel)

InsidiousTheLastKey.jpg

The fourth and (presumably) final film in the supernatural horror franchise, Insidious: The Last Key is a prequel to the original, and is distributed by Universal. Elise (Lin Shaye) receives a call, asking her to investigate the supernatural happenings. However, she is forced to confront demons from her past as this job will take her back to her childhood home, where she first discovered her gifts.

PROS

  • A good performance from Lin Shaye, who gives an engaging, nuanced turn, reminding us why she is a “Scream Queen”.
  • Good cinematography by Toby Oliver, who utilises both shadows and point of view shots very well, giving the film a chilling visual quality.

CONS

  • A very cliched, predictable screenplay, that is overly reliant on jump scares, which really highlights this as a film that suffers from franchise fatigue.
  • Nothing at all memorable about the make-up or designs of the supernatural characters, with them really just being more of the same from the previous films.
  • A number of new characters are introduced – namely Elise’s family. None of them get much in the way of development or character arcs, with a lot of what is established about them being done with exposition-heavy dialogue.
  • Poor performances from the supporting cast members – old and new alike. Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell are again quite dull as Tucker and Specs, and serve only as comic relief…the main issue being that hardly any jokes are funny.

VERDICT: 3/10

TELEVISION: Revolting Rhymes (2016)

Image result for revolting rhymes bbc

Originally aired on BBC1 in the UK, this two-part animation is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. The Wolf (Dominic West) disguises himself as a babysitter and looks after the children (Dylan Issberner and Amelie Forester-Evans) of Red Riding Hood (Rose Leslie). Over the course of an evening he recounts the true stories of Red Riding Hood, Snow White (Gemma Chan) and the Three Little Pigs, all of which intertwine. He then tells the fictional tales of Cinderella (Bel Powley) and Jack (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and the beanstalk, both of which intertwine.

PROS

  • Charming animation, which boasts a rich colour palette and really captures the quirky style of Quentin Blake’s original illustrations.
  • The somewhat dark magic and quirky quality of Roald Dahl’s original writings is recreated very well for screen, making for charming, very amusing screenwriting, while the stories are intertwined very nicely.
  • Good quality television for all the family, as children will appreciate the quirky takes on their favourite fairy tales, while adults can appreciate the darker aspects of the humour.
  • A terrific voice casts, the real highlights of whom are Dominic West, Rob Brydon and David Walliams, each of whom voice multiple characters and make each individual one their own.

CONS

  • Jack’s story could have benefited from an extra couple of minutes.

VERDICT: 10/10

VIDEO GAMES: Pokémon Omega Ruby (2014, Game Freak), Pokémon Alpha Sapphire (2014, Game Freak)

Omega Ruby EN boxart.png Alpha Sapphire EN boxart.png

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire are role-playing games for the Nintendo 3DS, published by Nintendo, and are remakes of the third generation Pokémon games Ruby Version and Sapphire Version. In the game you are the playable character, who is just starting his Pokémon journey. For your journey you are given a starter Pokémon by Professor Birch, who tasks you with gathering data for the Pokédex. Upon capturing Pokémon, you train them in order for them to be used in battle against other trainers, the eight Gym Leaders of the Hoenn region, and eventually the Elite Four. This will not be easy, not least as all of this has to be done on top of also defeating the villainous Team Magma (Ruby)/Team Aqua (Sapphire).

PROS

  • A detailed overworld view of the Pokémon world, which is enhanced by the third dimension, and boasts very colourful graphics and intricate design.
  • Successful embracing of the fourth and fifth generation of Pokémon games, as well as the more recent and that kicked off the sixth generation, by incorporating Mega Evolution into the story well, and making it possible to obtain Pokémon from Generations four through six.
  • Good post-game content, meaning that  you feel motivated to continue playing your current game after completing the main storyline.
  • Like the rest of the games in the franchise, the movesets and typings of the various Pokémon encourage tactical gameplay, while the desire that is sparked in every player to complete the Pokédex encourages you to play with friends.

CONS

  • May/Brendan (depending on what gender your player character is) is a weak rival, and an irritating individual who poses no real challenge.
  • The EXP Share makes it too easy for your team to become tanks, meaning that battles are easier, which would not be such a con were it not for the fact that you are encouraged to use the EXP Share, meaning that the game is encouraging you to make it an easier gaming experience.

VERDICT: 8/10