PREVIEW: March 2018

We are already two months into 2018, and I am already six months into my Master’s Degree…I am trying to let that reality sink in, but I simply cannot.

February was a month in which I got a small variety of reviews posted, and due to it being a busy one in my university life, my church life and my personal life, it was a month where I did not get quite as many reviews published as I had intended. That being said, I am content with what was published, and now it is time for me to look ahead to March 2018…

There are a number of films getting their UK cinema release in March, which I intend to watch and review. Those films include: Red SparrowGame NightGringo, Mom and DadWalk like a PantherYou were Never Really HerePacific Rim: UprisingA Wrinkle in Time, Wonder WheelTomb RaiderReady Player One and Blockers. I hope to get reviews for all of these films up, but there are some other reviews I intend to publish on top of these…

…it was around this time in 2008 that I was signing on dotted lines to study A-Level Film Studies at Richmond upon Thames College (now that is a scary thought). To commemorate a decade since I signed on to study Film, I am going to review ten films from the year 2008. That is right – ten. And those ten in alphabetical order are…

  1. Bronson
  2. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
  3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  4. The Dark Knight
  5. The Happening
  6. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  7. Iron Man
  8. The Reader
  9. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  10. WALL-E

As always, thank you ever so much for coming to visit this blog, I love being able to bring you content on this platform, and for the month ahead I wish you all the best, and Happy Reading!

FILM: Father Figures (2017, Lawrence Sher)

Father Figures (2017 film).png

Father Figures is a road trip comedy film, which is distributed by Warner Bros. Fraternal twin brothers Pete (Ed Helms) and Kyle (Owen Wilson) are in their early-40s, and are left shocked when their mother (Glenn Close) finally admits that she is not certain who their father is, due to having been promiscuous during the 1970s. The two brothers then go on a road trip, following every clue that comes their way in order to find their biological father.

CONS

  • There is not a single funny gag in this film, which is the worst thing that can happen in a comedy film. It starts with a joke where a man has a set of keys removed from his anus, and it does not get any more clever or sophisticated from there.
  • An incredibly predictable narrative for the most part, while the film ends with an attempt at emotional resonance, which completely fails to get the viewer in the feels, not least as we could not care less for the characters by this point.
  • A unanimously bad cast, with all of the actors playing to type, which stopped being funny years ago in the cases of Owen Wilson and Ed Helms. This more disappointing, given that the supporting cast includes Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, J.K. Simmons and Ving Rhames, all of whom have proved themselves to be talented over the years.
  • Lawrence Sher’s direction feels uncertain, as the narrative is rushed through, the events underdeveloped, and more serious moments falling completely flat.
  • Screenwriter Justin Malen did not write any funny gags, or emotional resonance. He gives us a rushed narrative, and he gives us unanimously dislikeable characters.

PROS

  • The film is competently shot and edited. It is nothing special, but at the same time it is not bad at all.

VERDICT: 1/10

FILM: Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (2017, Anthony C. Ferrante)

Image result for sharknado 5

Another year, another SyFy Channel original disaster film. This time, Fin (Ian Ziering), April (Tara Reid) and Nova (Cassandra Scerbo) are shocked to discover that Sharknados are happening all around the globe, which they must now stop. And to top it all off, Fin and April’s young son Gil (Billy Barratt) has been sucked into one that keeps opening wormholes.

CONS

  • I mean do you really need me to say it again!?! This brilliantly stupid concept has now been milked to death, and another film that is appalling technically, and features an atrocious cast, and a ridiculous screenplay has come to be.
  • All of the above (as expected), plus they really scraped the bottom of the barrel where cameos are concerned, the cameos this time including Luisa Zissman and Katie Price. Am I the only one who wants Samuel L. Jackson or Patrick Stewart to cameo in this franchise, just for the banter?

PROS

  • There are some interior scenes that are competently shot…not for long, but they are there…

VERDICT: 1/10

LITERATURE: The Woman in Black (Susan Hill, 1983)

WomanInBlack.jpg

Originally published by Hamish Hamilton, The Woman in Black is a British ghost story. Set in the early 1900s, the novel follows Arthur Kipps, a young London lawyer, who travels to the village of Crythin Gifford in order to attend the funeral of Alice Drablow, an elderly client of his firm, and then sort out her estate. At Alice’s funeral Arthur sees a mysterious woman in black, but when he enquires about her to the locals the response is fear and horror. Can Arthur discover the truth about this woman? And can he do it without losing his sanity?

PROS

  • Author Susan Hill has a very good, descriptive writing style, which makes it easy for the reader to picture what is happening in their mind’s eye.
  • The use of Arthur as a first-person narrator aids the sense of suspense, as it increases the picture of how unsettling, how nerve wracking these events are.
  • Susan Hill cleverly plays on man’s fear of the unknown, man’s fear of what cannot be explained and/or rationalised, which is emphasised further by Arthur’s first-person narration.
  • The narrative ultimately presents a puzzle that needs to be pieced together, which is done successfully over its course, as we see how Arthur is able to piece it altogether with the aid of local landowner Samuel Daily.

CONS

  • The final chapter (which is ultimately an epilogue) is quite predictable, and lacks the suspense of the bulk of the novel.

VERDICT: 9/10

FILM: The Mercy (2018, James Marsh)

The Mercy.png

The Mercy is a biopic that is distributed in cinemas by StudioCanal. The film tells the true story of Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth), an inventor who builds a boat in order to partake in the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. He hopes to break world records, but when his boat experiences irreparable damage, he is caught between a rock and a hard place, as going around the world could prove fatal, but returning to England will leave him and his family in financial ruin.

PROS

  • This is a beautifully shot film by cinematographer Éric Gautier, who juxtaposes well the close-up shots that make this journey feel intimate and personal, with wide shots that capture the stunning beauties and terrifying dangers of the open ocean.
  • Colin Firth gives a nuanced turn as Donald, and is supported particularly well by Rachel Weisz (who plays his wife Clare), with whom he has good chemistry.
  • The film does convey well just how much pride can lead to a man’s downfall, as well as the dangers that isolation can pose to an individual’s mind.

CONS

  • Of an ensemble of supporting cast members, the only ones to have significant screen time are David Thewlis and Ken Stott (who are good, to be fair).
  • While Donald’s descent into insanity does convey the dangers that isolation pose to a man’s mind, it feels quite restrained, never reaching the depths that it has potential to, which stems from the fact that the screenplay is quite speculative.
  • The final (and crucial) third of the film bobs along far more than the rest of the film, and lacks any real emotional impact.

VERDICT: 6/10

LITERATURE: Russian Roulette (Anthony Horowitz, 2013)

Russian Roulette (Alex Rider novel).jpeg

Russian Roulette is a British adventure novel, originally published by Penguin Books, and is a spin-off to author Anthony Horowitz’s bestselling Alex Rider series. Following the events of Stormbreaker, assassin Yassen Gregorovitch decides to write his memoir, telling the story of how he went from a naive teenager in a remote Russian village, to becoming a top assassin for Scorpia.

PROS

  • Anthony Horowitz once again proves himself to be an author who believes in meticulous detail, his thorough research and passion for this material shining through the words that he has written on the pages.
  • Yassen Gregorovitch was one of the most intriguing characters from the Alex Rider novels, so to learn more about him and be given a complex tale about him, filled with twists and turns, was a good idea and an engaging read.
  • Anthony Horowitz is careful to ensure that it is never as simple as hero versus villain, giving different sides and even moments of vulnerability to even the most despicable of characters (in this case Russian gangster Vladimir Sharkovsky).

CONS

  • The novel lacks suspense (which Anthony Horowitz is very good at crafting usually) as the prologue makes it clear that Yassen is writing his memoirs, thereby no matter what happens we know that he will survive and be a success.
  • An altogether predictable narrative, made more so by the uninspired incorporation of the idea of a politically corrupt and broken Russia.
  • At times the narrative does feel quite rushed, as the bulk of it covers six years of Yassen’s life, opening up the potential for an entire trilogy of novels.

VERDICT: 6/10

FILM: The Shape of Water (2017, Guillermo del Toro)

The Shape of Water (film).png

Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, following its premiere at the 2017 Venice International Film Festival, The Shape of Water is a fantasy-romance film. Mute cleaner Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaner for secret government laboratory in 1962. There she comes across a humanoid-amphibian creature (Doug Jones) that has been brought in from South America. The two begin to bond, and soon their relationship goes beyond the platonic.

PROS

  • Guillermo del Toro is truly in his element here as a director and screenwriter, crafting a clear vision that is bold and beautiful, dark and touching, haunting and emotional, with a relevant social message about acceptance and equality.
  • The cinematography and mise-en-scene is flawless, this is a visually stunning film, with each frame feeling like a painting that has been meticulously crafted within Guillermo del Toro’s brilliant imagination; and it is accompanied by a lovely score by Alexandre Desplat.
  • The character design for the creature is magnificent, a beautifully detailed creature that one cannot take their eyes off of when it is on screen, and (like with everything else) the visual effects team did a magnificent job with it.
  • The central characters are all given clear personalities and emotional arcs, which drive the course of the narrative more than anything else.
  • Supported by great turns from Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg, Sally Hawkins gives a career best performance, pushing herself out of her comfort zone, mastering sign language and emoting beautifully. She also realises a lovely bond with Doug Jones very well, the latter embodying the creature magnificently.

CONS

  • While the themes surrounding race are dealt with very well, a bit more time could have been spent on the political side of the film, as well as the theme of homophobia, both of which have a somewhat surface level depth.

VERDICT: 9/10

FILM: Black Panther (2018, Ryan Coogler)

Black Panther film poster.jpg

Superhero film Black Panther is the eighteenth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) becomes the King of Wakanda. However, he is challenged for his throne, and for his status as the Black Panther, by Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who wants to weaponise Wakanda’s vibranium supplies in order to take over the world by force.

PROS

  • Ryan Coogler directs this project with passion and a clear vision, and co-ordinates the action sequences (which are very well edited by Michael P. Shawver and Claudia Castello) with vigour and creativity.
  • This is the most original, fresh feeling Marvel film, as this film celebrates African culture and values respectfully, and makes valid social commentary, while also being an exciting superhero film.
  • A terrific cast, with a confident leading turn by Chadwick Boseman, and most memorable support from Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya and Martin Freeman in particular.
  • Nothing in the film is as stunning as the intricately designed, wonderfully coloured costumes that the various tribes wear.

CONS

  • Some of the worst visual effects to date in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – those CGI rhinoceroses…need I say more!?!
  • While their performances are good, several supporting cast members (including Winston Duke and John Kani) could have done with a bit more screen time.

VERDICT: 8/10

FILM: Den of Thieves (2018, Christian Gudegast)

Den of Thieves poster.jpg

Den of Thieves is a crime film, which is distributed by STXfilms. “Big Nick” (Gerard Butler) leads an elite group of County Sheriff Deputies. They are currently working to stop a gang of thieves, led by Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber), who are planning to rob the Federal Reserve in Los Angeles.

CONS

  • Director and screenwriter Christian Gudegast has created a film that is a blatant rip-off of Heat, in so many ways – the premise, the narrative arc, the shots, the sound mixing and the score, just to name a few things.
  • Very one-sided, uninteresting characters, who do not carry this film, due to the fact that they are not compelling characters that we the viewers can get behind.
  • This film is a real drag, with many unnecessary scenes that were thrown in in a misguided attempt at comic relief, and overly long, dragged out action sequences, plus a twist ending that is simply awful.
  • An overall poor cast, who unfortunately are given very little to work with where their characters are concerned, ergo they are unengaging and lack charisma.

PROS

  • The shoot-out sequences, while overly long, are well framed by cinematographer Terry Stacey, and Joel Cox edits them well.
  • O’Shea Jackson Jr. is an enjoyable presence in most of his scenes, and he plays his part with a cool confidence.

VERDICT: 2/10

FILM: The 15:17 to Paris (2018, Clint Eastwood)

The 15.17 to Paris.png

The 15:17 to Paris is a biographical drama, which is distributed cinematically by Warner Bros. The film tells the true story of how Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos (all three being played by themselves) – three American backpackers touring Europe – acted impulsively to stop a massacre on a cross-continent train to Paris in 2015. The film not only recreates the incident, but looks at the events that led to the three friends being there, starting with when they first became friends as school children.

CONS

  • Having the real-life heroes play themselves rather than consult on-set was a mistake, as they are being forced to recreate their own lives, and none of them can act, which is no surprise as they have no training to do so. At the end of the day, these chaps are heroes, who prevented hundreds from being murdered, so they should not have been put into a position where (if nothing else) people are going to be talking about how they cannot act.
  • The supporting cast are unanimously bad, which is especially frustrating, given that Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer (who play Spencer and Alek’s respective mothers) have proven themselves as competent talents before.
  • Clint Eastwood’s somewhat hands-off approach to directing does not work here, as the final result is a film that feels clunky and uncertain, and real-life heroes with no acting experience are visibly left feeling uncertain and in need of guidance.
  • An appalling screenplay by Dorothy Blyskal, as the incident itself only takes up a total of about five minutes, while the first half of the film is dull, unnecessary backstory, and the second half (leading up to the train incident) is slow recreations of the Europe trip. On top of this the dialogue is very clunky and does not have any natural flow to it.
  • There is nothing good or memorable about the cinematography or production design, and to top it off the production design has one MASSIVE mistake, that stands out above the rest. In scenes set in 2005, the teenage Spencer (William Jennings) has a Letters from Iwo Jima poster in his bedroom…the poster for a Clint Eastwood film that came out in 2006.

PROS

  • It may not be tense, but the prevention of the massacre does incorporate some quite vivid, graphic work by the make-up department.

VERDICT: 1/10