Friday, 19 January 2018

Darkest Hour (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*January 19th, 2017*

Darkest Hour doesn't feel like a film. It feels like a desperate display of everything wrong with biopic films in hopes of winning that sweet, sweet Oscar. Painfully dull, ugly and overlong, Darkest Hour makes me question why I even like films.

There's nothing genuine or sincere about this film, it's a collection of scenes following Winston Churchill's first days as Prime Minister during World War 2 and leading up to the evacuation of Dunkirk. I appreciated trying to focus on a small time period of Churchill's time in office, but there was never any urgency or anything grab you. For a film about a larger than life character, it's a painful chore to get through.

There's a lot of talk about Gary Oldman's performance and potential Oscar gold. Which is a great shame, I'm not saying his performance was bad at all, the complete opposite, he's the only thing that makes this tedious bore worth sitting through to an extent, it's that he's delivered much better performances in much better films, so if he bags an Oscar for this, then that is everything wrong with film awards. 

Oldman is definitely committed to his role, there's no denying that. The job on the prosthetics make Oldman near unrecognisable in the role. He brings a lot of humour to the even out the dryness of the film too, I was surprised at some of the funnier moments that actually made me laugh. I will say that Oldman's performance does get a little much at times, to the point he was borderline Anime if you know what I mean.


While I'm sure most of the smaller details of the film are based on real life accounts, I could not help but cringe at some of the more laughably bad and embarrassing scenes. In particular, one at the end involving Churchill on the tube is some of the most brutal and pathetic displays of audience pleasing patriotism I've ever seen. 

What's disappointing is just how little there is to this film is how little there is to digest here aside from Oldman's performance. The supporting cast are wasted, especially Lily James, who is reduced to such a pointless role that could have been played by anyone. Ben Mendelssohn is also wasted with his brief few scenes in the film.

I know this is set in London in WW2 too, but did it have to be so drab and ugly? Joe Wright's direction is bland and by the numbers, leaving no kind of distinctive visual style. It felt like a BBC miniseries at some points, just with a bigger actor in the lead role. This might have worked better as a miniseries actually, and a better writer too in all honesty. 


Darkest Hour might bag Gary Oldman his first Oscar, it's just a shame that it would be for this, a bland, forgettable and boring war time drama that's more obsessed with winning awards than telling an involving and interesting story. Cinema is dead.

4/10 Dans

Darkest Hour is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:


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Requiem for a Dream (2000) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written June 3rd, 2016*

This is the first time watching this since I saw it on TV late one night when I was about 7. Yeah.... I was way too young to have watched something like this, but hey, whatever, that was my childhood, a mismatch of images I remember from films far too graphic. At least a lot of Requiem for a Dream stuck with me for 12 years now, the disturbing imagery, the ass-to-ass dildo scene, the arm being cut off. It all stayed in my brain for many, many years.

I'm not sure what took me so long to rewatch this, it's something I've wanted to watch as an adult for a long time now and for whatever reason I never got round to buying the Blu-ray (still haven't), but I saw it was added on Netflix and knew it was time.

This interwoven tale of 4 different drug addicts is harsh, brutal and really not for the faint of heart. Honestly, I was a little disappointed, while effective and disturbing, it kinda came off as the worlds longest anti-drug advert. It feels very heavy handed at times, kinda like what 'Flight' did for alcohol.

 I was interesting in exploring some of Jared Leto's earlier acting roles as his debut as The Joker in 'Suicide Squad' gets closer and closer. He is pretty damn good here, his character is probably the most unlikable out of the four leads, but he's good.


Darren Aronofsky (A director I really admire) creates a dirty, disgusting world where all these characters go on a journey into the heart of darkness. This is one of the bleakest films I've ever seen, not a single character ends up in a good place by the end of this. Strangely enough, the editing style of this is something that Edgar Wright later uses in his films, which took my by surprise. It's filmed in that grimy '90s music video aesthetic that works and makes for a visually unique film. 

I did like the balance of all the characters and the journey they do all go on, each going to different and horrific places. One losing their arm to infection, another ending up in prison, another ending up selling her body to pay for drugs in the sleaziest orgies imaginable and finally one ending up in a mental facility. 

I guess that's why this is a hard watch for a lot of people and a hard films to recommend to anybody. While I did like it and it does work as a great anti-drugs films that should probably be played in schools. It does at times feel like a 100 minute equivalent of Mr. Mackey from South Park telling you "Drugs are bad. M'kay?"


For better or worse, Requiem for a Dream is a powerful, depressing and stylish look at the effects of drugs and an important film, but it's heavy-handed message keeps it from truly being amazing.

7/10 Dans

Requiem for a Dream is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written October 21st, 2016*

Wow. That was not good. While the first Jack Reacher is hardly a masterpiece, it was at least fun, had some decent action and an engaging story. Never Go Back has none of that. It's a bland, boring and forgettable thriller that barely goes above the level of straight-to-DVD fodder.

Nothing about this film is above mediocre. Sure, Tom Cruise does his usual thing, but something feels off about his performance. He's nowhere near as commanding as he was in the first. All the detective work and mystery elements are gone in a favour of a boring "Go here, fight people" loop until the story fizzled out and ended. 

I really expect more from Edward Zwick, who has made some really great stuff, but this feels like it was a made by anybody. None of the action had any lasting effect. I saw this an hour ago and I honestly cannot recall any of the action.



The story is pretty straight-forward, lacking any real surprises compared to the twisty fun of the first. There's also a completely tacked on sub-plot involving Jack Reacher's maybe daughter that could have been cut completely. It felt long and boring at 2 hours, maybe cutting out this 20 minutes could have improved things. I'm not sure what the point of her was, especially considering the ending.

Werner Herzog might not have been an amazing villain, but he at least had a memorable presence. No one here had an impact. There was a guy from Prison Break and some henchman who seems to have a complete hatred for Reacher and I'm not entirely sure why?


The biggest problem with Never Go Back is that it just feels formulaic. If Jack Reacher was a TV show, then Never Go Back would be a forgettable episode that you won't remember after you watch it. A complete shame and the probable nail in the coffin for the potential Jack Reacher franchise, but then again, who knows. Maybe this'll do big business at the box-office and we get a director who does something interesting for a third.

4/10 Dans

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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House of the Dead (2003) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written December 7th, 2016*

Uwe Boll is a director I can only describe as "Pure autism" or "Puretism" for short. Every single one of his films is a pure trainwreck in every regard. But what makes this worse is just what a self-indulgent hack Boll is as a person.

This talentless twat thinks his films are actually smart art, better than filmmakers like Michael Bay or Eli Roth. I'm not a fan of either of those filmmakers, but they are a hell of a lot better than Boll. The best work Boll ever produced was the 'Rampage' trilogy, which was self-important and ultra-violent drivel with grade-school nihilism with its opinions on society.

House of the Dead on the other hand is just pure garbage. A lame barrage of early 2000's post-Matrix special effects. It is brutal. Not a single thing about this film works. It's filled with weird creative decisions, laughable acting, an atrocious script and poor direction.

Do you remember the live-action opening cut-scene of Resident Evil on PS1 back in 1996? That campy and cheesy attempt to make the opening of a game cinematic. It was charming, but in all honesty atrocious. House of the Dead feels like that, but stretched out to a 86 minute run-time, with none of the charm.

Every character is an obnoxious dick. Everyone is so self-obsessed. There's a character who gets a little chemical burn on his face and sees himself as a monster, so he gets to nobly sacrifice himself because there was no way he could live with a scar on his face. What a terrible message. 

The female characters are also a disaster. They are all reduced to either topless roles or cleavage. Honestly, each of them either get topless at some point or spent the whole film in a revealing outfit. It was pervy, weird and just disgusting. 

I don't have much of a memory of The House of Dead games. I know the cinema I go to used to have the light-gun arcade game, but I remember nothing about the story, so I can't exactly compare. I will say this film is called 'House of the Dead', yet takes place on an island? What a misleading and false title.

There are some amazing and spectacular creative decisions that have to be seen to be believed. Transition shots between scenes insert brief clips of the video game. What on Earth were they thinking? They also used a hell of a lot of lame freeze-framing rotational cameras during the action scenes. It was outdated horrificness. When characters die, the camera pans around them as the screen flashes red. See what I mean when I describe Uwe Boll's direction as "Pure autism"?


House of the Dead is a complete failure on every level. Awful characters, lame direction, stupid creative choices, a terrible story, poor action. There is nothing to recommend with this. One of the worst films I've ever seen. The only good thing I have to say about it is that the poster is at least good.

1/10 Dans

House of the Dead is out now on DVD in the UK
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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Taken (2008) - Film Review



Review:

*Originally written May 5th, 2015*


Taken is a straight-forward action film from 2008 and Liam Neeson's first fully fledged foray into action films after brief appearances in films like Batman Begins and The Phantom Menace.

Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, an ex CIA whose daughter is kidnapped in France while following around U2 on a European tour. That's basically the story, and while it takes a good half an hour of the film to get here, after that it is all non-stop chaos and balls out the bath action.

Liam Neeson really proves here that he is capable of carrying action films, which obviously paid off as he's doing about an average of 2-3 action films a year at the moment, even if the results are hit and miss. He commands the screen with his presence and handles action scenes extremely well. His character here is completely no-nonsense and executes bad-guys mid sentence.


The violence here is brutal and gritty and goes to places like the sex-slave trade, which is a pretty dark subject for action films these days and it's a shame that the sequels completely neuter the violence and tone for a more silly and toned down family friendly appeal.

One of the best things about Taken aside from it's brutal violence and Liam Neeson, is the fact it's length is barely 90 minutes. Which gives way to a very breezy watch, even if the first 30 minutes are a bit of a drag to get through and makes a change from action films these days that have a habit of being about 140 minutes plus.

A minor criticism of Taken is the lack of a compelling villain. The bad-guys on display are all faceless Albanians who are nothing but bullet bait for Liam Neeson. Although, I'm not sure if they a big overlooking villain would have worked for the narrative, as the big bad guy at the end does not even get introduced till the final action scene 80-minutes in.

7/10 Dans

Taken is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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The Shape of Water (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Original written January 18th, 2018*

I have a strange history when it comes to Del Toro and his films, I tend to like his work a lot, but never truly love it (Aside from Pans Labyrinth). I really had no idea what to expect with The Shape of Water, I knew it would be weird for sure, the concept is bonkers and original, but I never expected to love it as much as I did. For me, this was by far Del Toro's most effective work.

It's a truly original, quirky and whimsical fairy tale like romance. A mute cleaner Elisa (Sally Hawkins) falls in love with a humanoid like sea creature (Doug Jones) that has been kept prisoner in the lab she cleans. Once psychotic colonel Richard (Micheal Shannon) gets orders to kill the creature for dissection, Elisa tries to free the sea creature.

I really have to give the film credit for being original and for a studio to release a film this weird and out there, it's going to be interesting to see how this resonates with mainstream audiences, but I have a hard time imagining they'd accept it. What's craziest about The Shape of Water is just how well all this works, it comes together for an emotional and highly touching film about love and acceptance in the backdrop of the cold war in the 1960's.  

This feels like the perfect love story in film that we need right now and while I had some minor pacing issues with it (It's something I find with all of Del Toro's films), everything made up for it. The relationship between Elisa and the creature is truly touching and sweet, going to some really interesting places that I'd heard about, but still didn't expect. 


The design of the creature is wonderful and unique, it's not weird enough to be freaky, but is human enough to connect with it easily. There's some obvious inspiration from The Creature from the Black Lagoon here and a little bit of Hellboy's Abe Sapien (There were outrageous rumours that this was a secret prequel to Hellboy. It's not.) Jones performance was wonderful too, the creatures starts off with a childlike sense of confusion and fear before it adapts to its surroundings. There's also some moments of dark humour to be found with the creature's naivety, that cat scene I won't forget in a while.

While the creature sure is a main point of the film, the real star here is a Sally Hawkins, who is absolutely wonderful as the mute cleaner who falls in love with the creature. It was great to see a film where the lead character has to communicate a lot with sign language and just facial expressions, it just felt really fresh and seeing two people who couldn't talk develop a relationship based on their mutual interests was so sweet to watch. Some of my favourite moments were just Hawkins feeding the creature boiled eggs and playing him old vinyls. I was fully invested by this thing, which is very rare for me.

Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer also provide solid support. Jenkins probably having the most developed arc of the supporting characters, playing a repressed gay man in 1960's America was an interesting choice, but made for a compelling side story. Shannon does a great job, but he is in danger of being typecast as mentally unhinged Christian lawmen in period dramas, he's more or less playing his character from Boardwalk Empire here.

Being a Del Toro film, I was not disappointed by the visual style, even his worst films look great, The Shape of Water is no different. From the opening shot to the beautiful ending, this is a feast for the eyes. The sets are gorgeous and realised, and the idea of setting it in the '60s during the backdrop of the Cold War was an inspired choice. 


The Shape of Water is already looking to be one of my favourite films of the year, and it's only January. Please support original films like this. This is a beautiful work of art that is unique and there won't be anything like this for a while. God bless you Del Toro, this might just be your magnum opus.

10/10 Dans

The Shape of Water opens February 14th in theaters in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Sully (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written December 2nd, 2016*

Much like every film Clint Eastwood has directed in the past ten years, Sully left me cold with its flat and lifeless direction of a true life story. It truly was a fascinating true story, but thanks to Eastwood, it all just felt very pedestrian.

Tom Hanks bring some life to Sully, the titular pilot of the film who landed the fated flight into the Hudson river and saved everyone on board. The problem was that Sully just wasn't an interesting person, at all. He's such a bland, straight-laced person. Which I suppose might be the point, but it doesn't make for a very compelling lead character. Either way, it's just impossible to hate Tom Hanks.

The narrative is told through a very weird and non-linear timeline. We jump from pre-crash, to crash. to post-crash in a very messy way with no sense of pace. In the middle of the film we get a half hour flashback to the actual plane crash, which comes out of nowhere. Sully's sitting in a bar, then we get a scene that takes about a third of the film. None of it flowed well at all. Reminded me a little of Batman V Superman.

Aaron Eckhart really does steal the show with his magnificent moustache. It really was a wonder to look at. He gets some of the films funniest lines and brings levity to the situations, although he does have the last line of the film, which was one of the weirdest and most abrupt ending I've seen all year. It ends on this weird punchline and everyone erupts into laughter for what seems like an eternity, like it's the funniest thing they've ever heard, then it just quickly fades to black and ends. It was bizarre.


At the very least, the actual landing scene carries a certain tension and feels real. Although a lot of the passengers were annoying. This was the closest Sully got to the something great, but then they ruin it by showing the crash twice in two separate sequences. It was meant to show one scene from the cockpits point of view and then the passengers, but showing it twice really dragged things out and it lost all its impact the second time. I feel it was only done to drag out the very short 90 minute run-time.


There really is nothing special about Sully, it's not without its moments and Tom Hanks gives a usually reliable performance, but it just felt like another one of those flatly directed, bland and Oscar baity biopics.

5/10 Dans

Sully is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Darkest Hour (2017) - Film Review

Review: *January 19th, 2017* Darkest Hour doesn't feel like a film. It feels like a desperate display of everything wrong with bio...