Saturday, 12 January 2019

Best Films of 2018


This list is chosen from films released in the U.K. between the 1st of January 2018 and the 31st of December 2018, and is based on the initial viewing. Primarily this list is based on my overall enjoyment, engagement and feelings whilst watching the film.

10.) A Quiet Place

Rarely has an audience sat so still whilst watching a film. But that was the effect of A Quiet Place, where it felt like everyone in the screening was holding their breath so as not to make a sound themselves. This horror film’s clever use of both sound and a lack of sound felt fresh and unique, but the strong family element meant that A Quiet Place also felt familiar and relatable. With a great cast and strong direction - A Quiet Place was definitely one of the best horror films of the year.

9.) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

I think that this superhero film took a lot of people by surprise and I was no different. With there already having been a number of Spider-Man films and an abundance of 2018 superhero films, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was in danger of feeling superfluous. And yet it turned out to be one of the best superhero films of the year. Funny, meta, engaging and visually striking, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was brilliant fun and really enjoyable.

8.) Isle of Dogs

As I watch hundreds of films a year, I don’t mind admitting that sometimes the films can blur into one another. So any film that stands out amongst hundreds of other films is always going to catch my eye. That’s exactly what Isle of Dogs did. This film was quirky, colourful and really unique. And the stop animation was stunning. Although many in the screening struggled to get on board with the film’s kookiness, I loved it.

7.) BlackkKlansman

This film may be set in the 70s but unfortunately it still felt very current and relatable. Whilst at times it was comedic and fun to watch, it’s overall impact was hard hitting and thought provoking and I left the cinema affected by what I’d seen. A great cast elevates the film further and BlackkKlansman feels like a film that should be mandatory viewing.

6.) The Shape Of Water

A worthy winner of the Best Picture Academy Award, The Shape Of Water combined excellent filmmaking aspects with a uniquely dark fantasy story. I loved its unconventionality and its originality, and how it felt like an adult fairytale. Guillermo Del Toro is at his best when combining fantasy elements with the complex darkness of humanity, and The Shape Of Water May be his best yet.

5.) Upgrade

I was a latecomer to this film, only watching it towards the latter half of December. And I am so gutted that I didn't get to see it at the cinema because I loved it. This action sci-fi film may not have the same credentials as other films on this list - it is low budget and has a lesser known cast. But is was so engaging and watchable, and there was just something about it that was so appealing to a sci-fi fan. Most of all though, the action scenes were phenomenal. The camera work and editing was brilliant, even causing me to exclaim "awesome!" Any film that gets that kind of reaction from me is a film worthy of a place on this list.

4.) Mission Impossible: Fallout

Without a doubt the best action film of the year. I went to see Mission Impossible: Fallout with reasonably low expectations and ended up being blown away. It is action packed, thrilling and just non stop entertainment. The set pieces are amazing and the long running time feels halved because the pacing is great and there are no lulls or drags. The cast is great and Tom Cruise should be highly commended for throwing himself into every stunt and action sequence fully. Overall, Mission Impossible: Fallout was definitely one of my favourite film experiences from 2018.

3.) Searching

Another film that stood out for being different, turned out to be another one of my favourite films of the year. Searching takes place entirely from the perspective of a computer screen and although it is not the first film to use this technique, it still felt fresh and unique. Regardless of that though, Searching is a brilliant thriller. I was on tenterhooks the entire time and I didn't guess any of the twists and turns, which made it a really exciting film to watch. Searching was a brilliant cinema experience and certainly kept me thrilled throughout.

2.) Avengers: Infinity War

I loved this film so much that I saw it three times in the cinema. A culmination of its eighteen predecessors, Infinity War felt like a huge film and it more than lived up to the hype. It was action packed, fun and visually awesome. It felt like a real treat for Marvel fans and looked incredible on the big screen. I cannot wait for the next instalment.

1.) A Star is Born

Even now I find it hard to describe how deeply this film affected me. I had read a bit about this film, I knew it was going to be the directorial debut of Bradley Cooper and that Lady Gaga would be starring in it and I knew that I would probably go and see it - but I wasn't overly excited for it. It was just another film to watch and another film that I may or may not end up liking. And sure enough, although I was enjoying the first act of the film, I wasn't particularly blown away.

But then there was a subtle shift and all of a sudden I was completely and wholly invested in the story and the characters. I was rooting for Ally and Jackson with every fibre of my being, I was holding my breath, my palms were sweating. And at some point, I actually felt a great wrench in my chest - like my heart had broken. And I could not stop the tears from falling.

I cried my eyes out. And even after I left the cinema, I thought about the characters. I cried in the foyer, I cried in the car on the way home, I cried to my other half when I got home and even now when I hear songs from the film on the radio, I feel like I might cry. This film evoked an incredible reaction in me, which is something that I can never forget. Perhaps I will watch A Star is Born again and not be as deeply affected. But in that moment, in the quiet stillness of the screening - A Star is Born floored me and reminded of a belief that I always carry in my heart - the absolute power of film.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Ralph Breaks the Internet Review

Certificate: PG
Running time: 112 minutes 
Directed by: Rich Moore and Phil Johnston.

What’s it about: The sequel to 2012’s Wreck It Ralph sees Ralph and Vanellope risk it all by travelling to the World Wide Web in search of a replacement part that will save Vanellope’s video game ‘Sugar Rush.’

The verdict: I loved Wreck It Ralph so I was really looking forward to seeing this sequel. And for me, Ralph Breaks the Internet definitely didn’t disappoint. Ralph Breaks the Internet is a colourful, fun and really watchable film and fans of the previous film will love it. 

The film reunites all the previous film’s characters and as before, the cast is great. The story feels really current and relevant but what I really liked was how much this is a film about friendship. It’s about having a best friend and how special that relationship is. It also explores how hard it can be to let someone go and how it’s important not to let friendships turn toxic. In this way I felt that the film had a good, worthwhile message as well as being highly enjoyable. 

The film is packed full of Easter eggs which makes it endlessly engaging and I am already looking forward to watching it again to look for the ones that I missed. There are some great in jokes and let’s just say that Vanellope meeting the Disney Princesses is absolutely brilliant and so inspired. This meeting leads to some awesome scenes. 

For me there weren’t any major negatives that impacted my enjoyment of the film. My only thought was that the film was probably slightly too long. However, I do think that there will be a large number of people that will be turned off by the brand names and product placement. Obviously given  the storyline there are lots of recognisable names and companies - Google, Amazon, eBay, Twitter
 etc. This didn’t bother me at all, I actually liked it because it felt more relatable and it was quite fun spotting the different brands. But I know how this can bother other people. There is no escaping it - you will see a lot of branding.

The only other possible downside is that Ralph Breaks the Internet does feel like a sequel, so if you haven’t seen the first film or are not a fan of the first film then I’m not sure how well this will play to you. But overall, I throughly enjoyed Ralph Breaks the Internet.

Should you watch this film? Yes. Ralph Breaks the Internet looks great on the big screen. It’s a film that will appeal to lots of people. And if you can - go see it with your best friend as it’s a film that should really be watched with your bestie. Don’t forget to stay until the very end, there’s more than one post credits scene! 

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald Review

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 133 minutes 
Directed by: David Yates.

What’s it about: The second instalment in the Fantastic Beasts film series sees Albus Dumbledore enlist the help of Newt Scamander to help thwart dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald’s plans to subjugate all non-magical beings.

The verdict: As a disclaimer, before I start this review, I feel that I should point out that I am a massive Potterhead. Thus I will primarily be reviewing this film as a fan. However I will try to consider the film from a non fan’s perspective as well. So with that being said, did I enjoy Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald? I can tell you that the answer is an resounding YES!

Interestingly, just before I went into the cinema, I read some less than complimentary headlines about the film. With that in mind, and my massive expectations, I have to admit that my hopes weren’t overly high. But from the opening scene to the closing credits, I was utterly enthralled and engaged. This is mostly due to the incredible world building of J.K Rowling and how brilliantly this has been translated to the screen. The sets are stunning, the costumes are beautiful and there is so much to capture your imagination. For a fan of the wizarding world, seeing more of it brought to life on an enormous screen - well it’s just mind blowing.

The cast were great. I loved the new additions and Eddie Redmayne is again perfect as Newt. I have to mention Jude Law’s casting as Dumbledore, which is possibly one of my favourite castings of all time. He was fantastic, and really encapsulated all of Dumbledore’s characteristics. I think I may even be a little bit in love with him now. Before the film was released, there was a little bit of controversy surrounding Dumbledore’s sexuality and how that might play out. I won’t go into my thoughts about the ridiculousness of that being an issue for anyone, but I will say that I think they got it right in the film.

I think that the story leads on well from the first film, and you can really start to see the connections to the Harry Potter series coming through. This is awesome for fans and I can guarantee you that if you’re a fan, you will gasp aloud at certain moments. There is also a wonderful moment where the two worlds collide. I could feel a collective love emanating around the cinema at that point, which was wonderful. It’s made me really excited for the next film. I don’t want to wait!

From a technical perspective, the film definitely scores high. The effects are great and the score is beautiful. I think they’ve tried to be a bit more experimental with some of the shot choices, which was interesting to see.

However as much as I loved Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald, it wasn’t completely flawless. I do think that they lost a bit of the great character dynamic from the first film. Some of the characters who worked so well together previously had less screen time together and there was definitely not enough of Dumbledore. There were also some aspects of the film that made it feel like it was building up to later instalments rather than shining as a stand-alone film. I do think that if you’re not familiar with the wizarding world, or you’re not a fan of it, then there may not be much for you in this film. The joy and amazement of this film is definitely in the familiarity of the previous films and the books. The film works as a fantasy film but there are so many references that you won’t get the most out of if you’re a newcomer.

Overall though, I throughly enjoyed this film. I smiled, I laughed, I had goosebumps and it made me excited for the next instalment - which is always a good sign. I would still very much call myself a Potterhead!

Should you watch this film? Yes. An absolute must for wizarding world fans, and definitely a film to enjoy on the big screen.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Halloween Review

Certificate: 18
Running time: 104 minutes 
Directed by: David Gordon Green.

What’s it about: Forty years after Laurie Strode survived a vicious attack by crazed serial killer Michael Myers, Strode finds herself confronting Myers once again after he escapes from a prison bus crash.

The verdict: So it should be made clear from the start that I have, prior to watching this film, only ever seen one other Halloween film - Halloween H20. And by seen, I mean I hid during most of it. So I use the word ‘seen’ loosely. I do however have a good knowledge of the franchise, but obviously this has probably had an impact on my viewing of the film. With Halloween, I think it needs to be evaluated in two ways - its merit as a horror film and its merit as a sequel. 

So firstly, let’s address its merit as a horror film. And when doing that, I have to say that I found Halloween sub-par. I really liked the first act but the consequent acts went downhill for me. When broken down into its simplest formula, Halloween is a traditional slasher film about a crazed serial killer and one of his surviving victims who fantasises about killing him. There is nothing particularly interesting or new about this formula. And so it follows that there is nothing that Halloween brings that is particularly new or interesting - in terms of creative or narrative choices. Michael Myers stalks through different locations, stabbing and slicing and dismembering, and it’s gory and it’s violent. And it feels so predictable and pointless. And Michael kills so many people that the tension starts to lessen. In the first act, the tension is high - you know that Michael is going to escape but you don’t know what he’s going to do. But as the film goes on, that tension dispels. 

I also felt that Halloween went from being reasonably smart to incredibly dumb. Again, the first act has some really good elements. In particular, two journalists who visit Michael in an institution is an interesting plot point. But what really started to annoy me, and to feel very unbelievable, was Michael’s almost superhuman abilities. Without giving too much away, Michael does not remain unscathed throughout the film and yet he manages to display super strength. Surely someone of a certain age who has just spent forty years in incarceration would be beginning to show signs of weakness? The film does throw in a line about inmates being allowed daily exercise and eating healthily, but that still doesn’t explain it. Also the characters made some appallingly stupid decisions. I understand that when facing a life or death situation and fearing for your life, you’re not exactly in the best frame of mind. But if a film is set in the modern world in true to life settings, then I feel that there needs to be a sense of realism. 

Speaking of the characters leads on to the cast. The cast were good but no one stood out. If anything, I felt that Jamie Lee Curtis should have been given better dialogue and more screen time. The characters aren’t particularly likeable either. So even though they were in a terrifying situations, I wasn’t really rooting for anyone. 

So, overall as a stand-alone horror film, Halloween did nothing for me. This leads me to think that perhaps its merit lies in being an effective sequel. There are parts of this film that go out of their way to discount the other sequels and myths surrounding the films. And reading more into the original, apparently there are a lot of similar shots. I can see how as a fan of the films then this would be really appealing. It may be that Halloween is a film for fans of the franchise and not newcomers - which is fair enough.

That being said, Halloween is not a bad film. It just didn’t particularly appeal to me or impress me. I was engaged throughout and I suppose it is entertaining enough. Unfortunately it had a few too many weaker elements that meant that I can’t rate it too highly. I wanted a bit more from it. There is one plot twist that others might really enjoy, however as I’d worked it out about ten minutes into the film, it was yet another disappointing element for me.

Should you watch this film? Yes and no. Watch it at the cinema if you’re a Halloween super fan. For anyone else, you won’t be missing out if you wait for the dvd.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Venom Review

Certificate: 15
Running time: 112 minutes 
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer.

What’s it about: Whilst investigating experiments performed by the Life Foundation and its founder Carlton Drake,  journalist Eddie Brock gets more than he bargained for when he finds himself merged with alien symbiote Venom. 

The verdict: There was a press embargo on any reviews being published for Venom until the day before its release but rumours had already started to seep through that Venom did not meet expectations. And when the embargo was lifted, critics had throughly slated Venom - with some even going so far as to call it “the worst film of the year.” But is Venom as bad as the critics have made out? The answer is both yes and no. 

Let’s address the negatives first. For me, Venom’s biggest flaw was its tonal problems. It almost feels like Fleischer had so many films that he wanted to make that he decided he’d just make them all. At times Venom is a comedy, other times a sci-fi and then at points an outright horror. Venom wants to be dark but it also wants to be a Marvel film, it wants to be The Dark Knight but it also wants to be Deadpool. The result is a film that changes tone frequently and feels like it had several different directors. 

My other main issue was the complete lack of character development in every other character bar Tom Hardy’s Brock. Especially the absolutely magnificent Michelle Williams, who is so underused and miscast in this. If you took her role out then I don’t think it would make much difference, and her and Hardy have zero chemistry which is a shame given how charming both actors are. But saying that, the actors make the best of the material that they’v been given - Venom’s plot is pretty generic and the dialogue cringey at times. The big finale is a bit anticlimactic and rushed as well.

However, with all that being said - I can honestly say that I actually really enjoyed Venom. Firstly I think that I went in with incredibly low expectations, which meant that I could just sit back and let it unfold. Regardless of that though, I found it a very easy watch and I thought it was very entertaining. Yes it is a mishmash of tones, but in amongst the tonal mess were some really good moments. For example, some of the horror-esque moments were genuinely scary. And although not all the jokes landed, most of them did and I did laugh aloud several times. The soundtrack was pretty good too, and I would be interested in seeing a sequel. It is also interesting to note that the film was very well received in the cinema - there were lots of laughs and a good atmosphere.

So although Venom did miss the mark somewhat and certainly could’ve been done better, I don’t agree with the incredibly negative reviews. There is enough here to entertain and enjoy, even if it’s not going to blow your mind. Best film of the year? Nowhere close. But worst? Definitely not. And don’t forget to stay for two post credits scenes!

Should you watch this film? Yes. Give Venom a chance, as it’ll look best on the big screen. But if you have to wait for the dvd then you shouldn’t feel too hard done by.

Friday, 28 September 2018

A Star is Born Review

Certificate: 15
Running time: 135 minutes 
Directed by: Bradley Cooper.

What’s it about: Seasoned musician Jackson Maine helps struggling singer Ally launch her music career. But as they fall in love and Ally’s music career takes off, Jackson is fighting an ongoing battle with his personal demons.

The verdict: I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until after seeing this film and reading about it that I realised that A Star is Born (2018) is actually the second remake of the original film. But embarrassment aside, I am glad that I knew nothing about the story going into it. I think it was so much more impactful that way. So if you’re like me and not familiar with the 1937 or 1976 version, then don’t read or research anything about this film before you see it.

A Star is Born marks the directorial debut for Bradley Cooper and the film debut for Lady Gaga. And I would say that it is a stunning debut for both of them. Firstly Cooper’s direction shows that he definitely has skill as a filmmaker and it’ll be great to see what his next directing project is. And Lady Gaga actually kind of shocked me. At first I was quite aware of her performance, obviously because being more familiar with her as her Lady Gaga personna, I think I was almost expecting her to be a bit subpar. But she was amazing. Cooper was also amazing, and together they had brilliant chemistry. They both put in powerhouse performances, and I would not be at all surprised if they end up with Oscar nominations.

I also really liked the cinematography. In some parts it felt quite raw, the camera was more fluid and free. And in other parts it felt really thought out and deliberate. There are shots that feel really well composed and meaningful. And the overall look of the film is constant throughout - and it is both engaging and visually appealing.

As this is a film about music, it only makes sense to mention the soundtrack and score. And this is another way in which A Star is Born shines. In particular, the song ‘Shallow’ performed by Copper and Lady Gaga will get into your head, and possibly your heart. The soundtrack elevates the film and the songs performed are all great.

Moving away from the more technical aspects of the film, what I loved most about A Star is Born is how it made me feel. A Star is Born got right under my skin in a way that shocked me. Throughout the first act I was enjoying the film and I certainly thought it was good, but it wasn’t blowing my mind in any particular way. But then something shifted and I realised that I was so incredibly invested in the story and the characters. I was rooting for Jackson and Ally with every fibre of my being. This film got to me so much that I think I actually felt my heart break at some point, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I bawled my eyes out! And with my above feelings in mind, no amount of flaws or technical aspects mattered anymore. If a film can make me feel like A Star is Born made me feel, then wow. Adding in the impact of the final shot, and it’s safe to say that A Star is Born is a film that I won’t soon forget.

Should you watch this film? Yes! A beautiful debut film that deserves to be watched on the big screen.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

The Meg Review

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 113 minutes 
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub

What’s it about: The members of a marine research team, who are carrying out a deep sea project, have a massive problem on their hands when a giant prehistoric shark begins terrorising them.

The verdict: I was terrified of Jaws as a child, so much so that I haven’t been able to watch it for over twenty years. With that in mind, I wondered if The Meg, albeit being a CGI blockbuster, could have the same effect for a whole new generation. After seeing it, I feel that I can safely say that this will not be the case. Let’s just get this out of the way and say that The Meg is a pretty bad film.

The characters are one dimensional stereotypes and typecast. The dialogue is cheesy, and the plot is highly predictable and obvious. I saw the so-called twist coming a mile off, which may or may not have been the point. But intelligent, this film is not. But most disappointingly was the lack of peril. Without giving too much away, I think one of the greatest and scariest things about Jaws was that everyone was too afraid to go into the water, both in the film and for the audience after watching it. The Meg lacks that feeling of menace and nail biting tension. A lot of this may be due to the shark being so incredibly CGI-ed. Although the CGI means that the shark can be of gargantuan proportions, I think it takes away from the feeling of realism which is what you need in certain monster films. At this point in the review, I think that some people may be thinking that this film isn’t meant to be clever. However I would disagree on that. Just because The Meg is a Jason Statham shark fighting blockbuster, it doesn’t mean that  it can’t be well-written and atmospheric.

However with all that being said, and although I was well aware of the film’s flaws as I watched it, I surprisingly did enjoy the film. In the moment, as you watch it, it is an entertaining film. It is the sort of film that you would watch on a Saturday night and would probably really enjoy. It’s an easy watch, and you don’t need to overly concentrate. And it’s a fun film to watch with company, you could definitely quote some of the cheesy lines afterwards.

Overall, The Meg is a massively flawed and silly blockbuster but if you do decide to watch it then it will more than likely amuse and entertain you for a few hours.

Should you watch this film? No. Although it could be argued that The Meg would be best watched on a big cinema screen, I think that you can save your money on this one and wait for the DVD.