Thursday, 20 July 2017

War on Everyone (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written September 19th, 2016*

"War on taste"

War on Everyone is pathetic, vulgar, tasteless garbage that tries so hard to offend it's childish. Everything about this film is unlikable. This film was purely written to hate and offend everyone. If you're a man, woman, child, of a foreign ethnicity, transgender, gay, straight, overweight or just a human being. War on Everyone tries its very hardest to include a joke that offends you.
Directed by John Michael McDonagh (The Guard and Calvary. Two much better films), War on Everyone tells the incoherent story of two corrupt cops in New Mexico played by Michael Pena and Alexander Skarsgard. They get involved in a robbery where $1 million goes missing and they blackmail, beat and abuse their power in order to find the missing money. At least I think that was the story? The writing is so messy and scattershot that it made 2013's Filth look easy to follow.

Where War on Everyone easily fails the most is with its writing. Every line of dialogue is either an offensive insult or swearing. It was merciless to sit through. There's not a single thing to grasp onto to make this worth watching. Everything and everyone was just horrible. This is a film where we're meant to root for our two leads who are both racist, alcoholic, drug users all while on duty. There's no coherent story to follow either, it seemed to be a never ending montage of scenes where horrible characters do and say horrible things with no charm, heart or wit.
In a poor attempt to contrast with the leads, they make the cross-dressing villains of the film murderous paedophiles in what I can only assume is an attempt to get us on our "protagonists" side. These half thought out and misguided revelations are only discovered in the last 20 minutes, by then it was far too late to care what happens.
The few positives this film has is in terms of its music choices and the odd bit of visual flourish. The films closes to The Clash's 'I Fought the Law' which was nice, as I like that song, so I at least got to hear that. While most of the film and action is visually flat, there are one or two scenes where some actually unique direction comes into play. Also, for a film set in New Mexico, they really wasted some chances for beautifully cinematography. Look at the TV show Breaking Bad, if you want an example of how beautiful New Mexico can be.

There really is nothing to like about War on Everyone aside from the odd visually interesting shot. There is no chemistry between the leads,which is appalling considering this is a buddy-cop film, it's just pure trash. The worst and most vile buddy-cop film since Bad Boys 2. Hell, this might even be worse than Bad Boys 2. Yeah. It's that's bad.

2/10 Dans

War on Everyone is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Interstellar (2014) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written July 18th, 2017*

"Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here"

Interstellar is a film I've been saying repeatedly since 2014 that "I really need to rewatch Insterstellar", well I finally did it and I loved it even more. My biggest shame about Interstellar is that I sadly missed it in theaters, which would have been an experience. That said, even at home, it's a rich, emotional and beautiful film that kept me involved through its near 3 hour run time.

My only problem with Interstellar when I first watched it, is the how lost I was in the last act of the film. Things got confusing and complicated, which it still was, but a little less this time, so it didn't bother me overall. Despite my lack of entirely knowing what was going on, it was still an incredible experience.

All the minor problems are overcome with the emotional highs the film reaches. I have my problems with Nolan's previous work. Don't get me wrong. I love Inception, but I did find it a bit cold and filled with too much exposition. Nolan seems to have fixed that here with a film that puts characters first and lets its story flow without having to explain too much every second of the way.

The emotional highs are insane. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) having to leave his family in the first act is utterly devestating thanks to the film taking the time to build up the relationship between him and his daughter. The messages on his space voyage are also extremely effective thanks to McConaughey's fantastic performance.


Even on top of the strong story and character material, Interstellar is a technical masterpiece filled to the brim with cool, original and creative sci-fi ideas. This is easily the best looking of Nolan's work. It is a beautiful film with a crazy amount of unforgettable images. The aspect ratio thing was a little distracting, but it didn't happen too much. It was nowhere near as obnoxious as say Michael Bay's Transformers: The Last Knight.

The sound design is insane too, as is Hans Zimmer's incredibly rich organ filled score. I rarely like to listen to a film as loud as possible, but holy shit, the sound in this film needs it, probably the main reason I wanted to see this in cinemas.

I feel Interstellar is a film that will only get richer with every watch. There is so much detail that can't be seen with one watch. I forgot how much relevance the end had to minor things happening in the beginning. I can't wait to see it for again, because Interstellar is a an ambitious, beautiful and emotional masterpiece from Christopher Nolan.

10/10 Dans

Interstellar is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Sunday, 16 July 2017

War of the Planet of the Apes (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written July 16th, 2017*

"Caesar is home"

War for the Planet of the Apes is not exactly what I expected, or even wanted from the third entry in the rebooted Planet of the Apes series, but is all the more better for it. While I expected a big war epic between apes and humans, what I got was something much more quiet, emotional and compelling, and it's also one of the best films of the year in an already incredible year for cinema.

War of the Apes takes place a few years after the events of Dawn and pits Caesar (Andy Serkis) in a personal battle against a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson) after he experiences devestating losses at the hands of the colonel.

This film is not what I expected at all. It's a much more personal and smaller film than the trailer and title led you to believe. There's not even a lot of action in this 140 minute film (There are two set-pieces that open and end the film), what we get instead is a brutal, harrowing and emotional end to Caesar's story. I won't spoil it, but War seems like a perfect place to end Caesar's journey we've followed since 2011.


Andy Serkis once again tops himself as he gives an Oscar worthy motion capture performance, there are so many subtle touches to Serkis' perfomance, he really brings this CGI creature to life, making him a more compelling protagonist than most blockbusters today. He is helped to no end by some of the best visual effects put on screen today.

The CGI and motion capture work here is some of the most realistic and beautiful looking imagery put to life. Not a single moment of CGI looked hokey or unconvinving. It truly is an astonishing landmark in how far technology has come in cinema. The film is gorgeous in terms of cinematography too, there are some incredible shots, making using of some stunning landscape shots of this now mostly abandoned world taken over by nature. There is also some fantastic visual references to war imagery and other war films (Especially Apocalypse Now).

The Apes films are always strongest when they focus on the apes rather than the humans, but Woody Harrelson's Colonel is a very strong protagonist with a compelling backstory. Harrelson's always a fantastic actor, I just wish his bad guy here had more screen-time, despite the fact we got some moments of him truly being evil.


This is a dark, violent and relentlessly bleak film (I really don't reccomend this for kids), but there are moments of levity in the new ape in the mix named 'Bad Ape'. He was comic-relief, which worried me for the most part, but he fit in fine with his sad backstory, while still managing to be funny without breaking the film tonally.

I said there isn't much action in War of the Apes, but that's a good thing. It made the action so much more impactful when it built to it. From the opening assault to the final prison escape, the action has weight and consequence that impact the characters and events, making way for an emotionally devestating finale that was as cathartic as it was thrilling.

As a trilogy ender, this really does feel like a perfect place to end the series, even if it does plant some of the seeds of the films future, and leading closer to the events of the original 1968 film, but for Caesar's story? Stop here. They've managed to make one of the best trilogies in recent memory. It's rare that a trilogy gets better with every film, but the modern Apes series has managed it.

War for the Planet of the Apes is a powerful, rich and emotional end to Caesar's story and one of the best trilogy enders of all-time and one of the best films of the year.

10/10 Dans

War for the Planet of the Apes is out now in cinemas in the UK
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Hacksaw Ridge (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written July 16th, 2017*

"War is Hell"

Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge is certainly one of the better World War 2 films I've seen recently, but it's not without its problems. While Gibson delivers one of the most visceral war experiences on screen since Saving Private Ryan, he sadly blows his load on over the top, patriotic cheesy bullshit the film spent so long trying to avoid until its ludicrous final 5 minutes.

When I say Gibson delivers a visceral World War 2 experience, I mean it. Once the second half kicks in as we hit the battlefield, Hacksaw Ridge becomes one of the most disturbing, horrifying and grotesque visions of war I've ever seen. Gibson pulls no punches. Men are torn in half, burnt and turned into mushy puddles of flesh in a harrowing prolonged scene that introduces us to war. Gibson directs all the war imagery with the utmost precision I would expect from such a talented director.

Where the film faulters however is the first half before we get to the war. I'm not saying the first half is bad, it's just full of odd moments that are at odds with its second half and Andrew Garfield's lead character can be frustratingly annoying at times.


For the most part Andrew Garfield is very good, but a few times he slips into his mentally challenged portrayal of Peter Parker from the Amazing Spider-Man series. It feels weird to say, but it's true. He becomes weird, stuttery and a little slow. He also gets a little creepy around his love interest, despite some genuinely sweet scenes between them.

I know a lot of the film's themes surround faith and the compromises you need to make to help make a difference despite your beliefs, but Garfield's Desmond Doss annoyed me to a real extent. He's based on a real person, I understand, but the film hit breaking level points of my toleration for him. Doss refuses to even touch a weapon as he is a pacifist, which was just infuriating. He wants to be a medic and save people rather than take lives, but the way he goes about it with his overly humble sense of superiority made me want to punch him.


There are at least some more memorable characters that came off better. Vince Vaughn was surprisingly good as the hilarious commanding officer who stole every scene he was in, as was Hugo Weaving as Doss's alcoholic father who adds a lot to why Doss is why he is.

It's also a shame that Gibson decided to go full cringy "America, fuck yeah!" in the closing scenes, as the film avoided that for almost the entire runtime. The last scenes are a monstrosity of slow-motion American pandering and silly stuff like Garfield slapping a grenade in mid-air in slow-motion (I did not make that up) while the Japanese are easily defeated in a way I can only describe as "Gratuitous" and possibly offensive.

I feel like I'm talking pretty negatively about Hacksaw Ridge, but I actually liked it quite a lot. Mel Gibson is one of the few actors turned directors that can deliver excellent films with a gorgeous visual style and Andrew Garfield is a very good despite my complains. Hacksaw Ridge is one of the most graphic and visceral depictions of war made so far, I'd say it's worth checking out, especially if you're into war films.

8/10 Dans

Hacksaw Ridge is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Thursday, 13 July 2017

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written July 13th, 2017*
 
"Fuck destiny"

Believe it or not, but Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was the first Terminator film I'd ever seen after recording it onto a VHS tape off channel 5 when I was around 10 years old. I then did the same with 2 and 1. Yes, I watched the original Terminator trilogy in the order 3,2,1. I took what I could get as a kid.

Anyway, Terminator 3 is nowhere near as good as it used to, in fact, it's pretty poor for the most part, but it still holds a small place in my heart as I get a lot enjoyment out of it.

The biggest problem with T3 is its lack of freshness. James Cameron himself said the story was finished with T2, and I'd have to agree, it finished things beautifully on a note that still makes grown men cry to this day. Arnie and Linda Hamilton refused to be apart of this sequel, but Cameron eventually convinced Arnie that the character was as much Arnie's as it was Cameron's, so he took the biggest fee he could get and went with it.

Arnie is still wonderful as the Terminator, although some of jokes he's forced to due are pretty lame at times and extremely unfunny, but the Elton John sunglasses scene is still gold and him walking naked through a womens night at a bar to the tune of Village People's 'Macho Man' is equally as amazing.


Nick Stahl is sadly extremely irritating as John Connor. He plays the whole film as a whiny little bitch, making me wish he really did kill himself at a scene towards the end. Edward Furlong obviously couldn't reprise his role because he was another washed up and fucked up child star grown up at the time, but shit, he would have been better than this.

I always forget Claire Danes was in this, she's fine I guess. She does that annoying scream every now and then, while we also get a brief hint at her scrawny crying face she's known for in Homeland these days (She's great in Homeland though, but just an observation).

Despite being the first 12 rated film in the UK for the Terminator franchise, there is some pretty spectacular set-pieces, including an excellent car chase towards the end of the first act and I'm amazed they managed to get away with some of the grizzly scenes we get here. The TX punching her hand through a cops stomach and steering a wheel is not the image of a family friendly film. It surprises me that a film this violent can be rated the same as the much tamer 4th and 5th films in this series. What a flawed rating system the UK has.


I wasn't a huge fan of Kristanna Loken's TX (Terminatrix), her performance was weird and all over the place, it's more the writings fault than hers, as her emotionless robot for some reason, displays needless emotion for no reason. She smiles at her own satisfaction and makes weird orgasm noises when she finds out John Connor is nearby. The design of her character also lacks the charm of the simple Terminator or the T1000 of the previous film.

I do enjoy Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but there is no denying the whole exercise is pretty stale overall as they cover the same ground the previous film did, but without the heart at the core of it or James Cameron's mastery of action. The ending is excellent though.

  
6/10 Dans

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

It Comes at Night (2017) - Film Review

Review:

"The last of us"

*Originally written July 12th, 2017*

I'm having trouble calculating my thoughts towards It Comes at Night. On one hand it's a wonderfully shot and atmospheric piece, while on the other it's a frustrating exercise that left me feeling really cold.

I have to give it credit for its minimalist approach to a post-apocalyptic America that has been ravaged by an unknown disease. There are clear influences from recent films and other media with the same premise, The Road and The Last of Us are the two that sprang to mind.


There's a story of paranoia somewhere as a new family are introduced early in the film to live with the main family in an attempt at surival. It's just a shame that there never give us a reason to care about any of these characters. Aside from the dog, I couldn't remember a name of a single character. We learn nothing about these characters, nor was there anything interesting about them to make them feel compelling at all. The performances are decent for the most part, Joel Edgerton is always great it seems, even if his character is completely cardboard.

It is beautifully shot at least, and the score is foreboding and unsettling. We also get some really disturbing and grotesque images that I wasn't expecting. The cinematography is gorgeous though, making use of the singular location setting without feeling repetitive at all. I loved the look and lighting of the whole film, everything felt and looked natural. It's just a shame the film ruins its tense moments by building it to an annoying jump-scare on several occassions.

While being 90 minutes long is usually a plus for me with a film, I wish they took more time to develop some of the stuff on screen and explain it. So much here is frustratingly ambigious, leaving far more questions than answers. That said, it really was a quick watch, it was over before I knew it as the film abruptly ends with an ending as frustrating as the rest of the film.


I wish I had more to say about It Comes at Night, but there just wasn't a lot here for me to say. I'll probably watch it again at some point, I'd like to after my initial thoughts have cleared, but for now, despite its pluses, I left the cinema frustrated and annoyed, which is a shame because I was so ready to love this.

5/10 Dans

It Comes at Night is out now in cinemas in the UK
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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Only God Forgives (2013) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 2nd, 2016*

"Time to meet the devil"

I have a weird history when it comes to "art" films. They either rub me the wrong way and I see them as pretentious nonsense, which is what happened that first time I watched this, then I rewatch them and end up liking them more.

I still don't love Only God Forgives, but in terms of art-house films, this is still one of the more simple and accessible ones. Sure, compared to Drive, it's a complete shock in terms of difference, but a lot of elements that made Drive great are still here.

Taking place in the hazy neon lit streets of Bangkok, Only God Forgives is about a family that run Thai boxing club which fronts as a drug smuggling operation. One of the sons decides to kill a young girl and a cop with supernatural powers lets the father of the daughter to get revenge. The brother isn't too upset about the death, seeing as he deserved it, but their mother decides that revenge must be taken.


The story is mostly fuelled by imagery. The dialogue is kept to a minimum. The lead character played by Ryan Gosling only speaks "17 lines" according to the internet, which is probably accurate. His performance was fine though, a lot of his emotion is conveyed through facial expressions, which works most of time, although it can get a bit frustrating.

I will say Kristen Scott Thomas's performance was excellent as the terrifying crime mother of the piece. She gets given the most vicious and horrible lines to say.

There's a lot of background to these deplorable characters that we get hints of through odd throwaway line. It's implied Ryan Gosling's mother and his brother had an incestuous relationship that he was jealous of and something happened that led to him beating his father to death and fleeing to Bangkok.
It's all so strange. The story is very straight forward, but told through such an abstract way. There honestly is not a lot of development out of these characters. The closest we get to this is a change of heart Gosling's character has at the end.

This feels more of a mood piece than an actual story led experience. It terms of visuals, this film utterly shines, we get the red neon lit streets of Bangkok and the backrooms of the city. Honestly, this is reddest film you will ever see, half the budget must have gone on red bulbs. Cliff Martinez' ambient score also bought a lot to the mood, with an almost fairy tale and unsettling soundtrack.

 
The biggest problem is I feel the film thinks it is more deep than it actual is. If you've ever seen an interview with Nicolas Winding Refn, you see he is one of the most pretentious pricks ever to grace this Earth and his filmmaking here shows. He likes to add weird imagery that seem to have some "deep" and hidden meaning, but it's all just actually really simple, just strangely told.

Only God Forgives is what it is. Certainly not for everyone, but if you take it for what it is, an abstract mood piece with a simple story and gorgeous visuals, it's just a bit full of itself.

7/10 Dans

Only God Forgives is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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War on Everyone (2016) - Film Review

Review: *Originally written September 19th, 2016* "War on taste" War on Everyone is pathetic, vulgar, tasteless garbage t...