Saturday, February 18, 2017

Film Review - Jackie (2017)

Jackie is based off the life of Jacqueline Kennedy and is directed by Pablo Lerrain Jackie is played by Natalie Portman and this movie deals with the assassination of JFK from her perspective and her determination to preserve his legacy for future generations.

Jackie is very enjoyable and well directed by Mr Lerrain there isn't a lot of heavy editing in the film instead you get the feeling of the film being cut in the camera with a lot of long takes and close ups that are beautifully done and let you get a feeling for this woman and her headspace as she takes in the whirlwind of events going on around her whilst also trying to maintain her dignity and her grace.

Portman is also extremely good here and had it not been for Isabelle Huppert in Elle she would be the clear favourite to win Best Actress at the Academy Awards for a second time as she carries the film effortlessly even with the many close up shots throughout the film and she also manages to convey this while also doing the accent which was how the real Jackie spoke.

I also did get a little sad seeing the late great Sir John Hurt in this movie and he is good as well but it made me sad that he recently passed away we lost a great talent for sure be it in this film or the Elephant Man or the original Alien among his many films over the years.

And lastly I really loved the way the production footage blended with the archival footage it all feels very seamless and its clear that Mr Lerrain and his production design team took great care in making sure it all looked authentic to the time period and I was very impressed with their work here.

And so that was Jackie a very enjoyable film for those with an interest in history and it has great direction and a central performance, 3 and a half out of 5.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Film Review - Hidden Figures (2017)

Hidden Figures tells the true story of a group of 3 African American women played by Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson working at NASA during the Space Race of the early 1960s where the US and the Soviet Union but the early 1960s in the US was also the time of segregation which these 3 women sadly know all too well.

I really liked Hidden Figures I was surprised that I enjoyed this film as much as I did when it was over and the reason for that is that wonderful group of actresses who carry this film so well and so effortlessly that you would watch them do anything and it is set up well after the first scene you meet them in the opening of the film, I also really liked the performances by Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons and Kirsten Dunst and the ensemble of that group play off each other nicely.

But I also loved seeing Mahershala Ali in this movie he doesn't have a big role like he did as Colonel Boggs the head of security in District 13 in the Mockingjay movies but in both those films and in this one I thought to myself "This guy is the new Denzel" in that like Mr Washington he is a very stern screen presence but also one that is utterly charming, charismatic and likeable which were all the elements that made Denzel the star he is today so I hope that happens to Mahershala as well.

But I'll stop my gushing for him there and turn to what I most admire about this movie and that is while it is an upbeat Science Fiction story like the Dish or the Martian it also never shies away from the issue of Segregation which really held America back in the 60s these three women are the best at what they do and you see it plainly in this film but because of their skin colour they have to live like 2nd class citizens and it made me a little mad at times during the film that they were needlessly held back but happily we have made a lot of advances since then even though we still have a fair ways to go but progress is a long road but one worth travelling on.

And so that was Hidden Figures a film that I really liked and would recommend, 3 and a half out of 5.

Film Review - The Great Wall (2017)

The Great Wall marks the first genuine co-production between the United States and China and the story here concerns Matt Damon as a thief on the run until he comes across the great wall of China and the vast army that helps guard it from invaders (the Wall was built to keep the Mongols out though they weren't made to pay for it so that's a plus) but the attackers against the Wall are not human but are a lizard race called the Tao Tse and they will be hard to defeat.

I cannot lie I was very very disappointed in this movie and my hopes going in were not all that high but films can have bad previews but then turn out to be pretty good Miss Peregrine and Doctor Strange are just two examples from last year that I will name but unfortunately this turned out to be the latter where the previews weren't the best but the film itself feels even worse.

And the main reason for that is simply the storytelling it is very very thin and rather weak and this movie in many ways reminds me of how I felt about Warcraft from last year in that this is a very handsome production (to look at the film purely from a visual standpoint is gorgeous) but without an interesting story that pretty much rips off films like Aliens and Starship Troopers and even Independence Day Resurgence (I'm not joking though smh) I just sat there feeling bored and sleepy and there were a number of times where I did want to fall asleep.

And even the battle sequences were not that impressive there's a lot of CGI that looks okay but not great and Matt Damon wasn't that good either and I really like him as an actor but here just put on the MATT DAMON!! mode and snarled his way throughout most of the film as if he was bored with the material he was given at times.

And ironically enough this reminded me of the reception of the first major movie ever to shoot in China got and that film was Tai-Pan in 1986 which starred Bryan Brown and the review by Roger Ebert of that film is very fun and worth watching.

And so that was the Great Wall it is not a good film and frankly go see Split instead as that is good fun whereas this is boring, 1 out of 5.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Film Review - Patriots Day (2017)

Patriots Day is directed by Peter Berg and tells the true story of the 2013 Boston Bombings which killed 4 people and injured many others along with the manhunt that followed for the 2 men responsible.

Patriots Day has some very strong moments in it but overall I just thought it was okay nothing bad at all but one that just didn't do all that much for me, I liked Berg's direction I thought it had some really nice flourishes to it in terms of the use of CCTV footage, handheld camerawork and good action scenes especially in the climax of the film and the cast equip themselves well with Mark Whalberg, Kevin Bacon and John Goodman being the real highlights.

But again I just thought it was okay a film that I saw and I thought was pretty good but one that I feel didn't really grab me in that special way that I feel that Split and Live by Night in particular have done at the beginning of this movie year (Edge of 17 is really good as well) in a way it feels like a lot of the meh movies I saw last year which weren't terrible at all but really nothing special.

And so that was Patriots Day a film I feel overall was just okay, 2 out of 5.

Film Review - Live by Night (2017)

Live by Night is adapted, directed and stars Ben Affleck as Joe Coughlin a former WW1 soldier who comes home and becomes an outlaw only to cross the wrong gangster after serving a prison sentence he then heads to Florida to head up a Rum operation the very type that could make him powerful.

I have been ridiculously excited to see this movie mainly because of Ben as I've been a big fan of him as a director (I think he's one of the best of his generation) and also his most recent film the Accountant was my favourite film of last year so could Ben continue his good run or do the unthinkable and let me down.

Happily he does the former as I really enjoyed this movie, I thought Ben once again did a great job as a director and he shows in this movie that he has a deep understanding of his craft, there is also some really nice cinematography by Robert Richardson, a great score by Harry Gregson-Williams, costumes by Jacqueline West and a slew of great performances especially by Elle Fanning, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson and Chris Messina.

I do have to say however that the films editing does at times feel a little choppy in terms of scenes feeling very undercut in terms of their impact and key plot points at times feel skipped over and pasted with a voiceover I wonder if this movie would have really benefited from a 2.5 to 3 hour running time like a lot of great Gangster films which like this movie were very ambitious but had the long runtime to really develop its storytelling hopefully this movie gets an Extended Edition for the DVD release as I feel it would really benefit from one.

So that was Live by Night which was well worth the wait and like Split and Edge of 17 kicks the year in films off very nicely, 4 out of 5.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Film Review - La La Land (2016)

La La Land is written and directed by Damien Chazelle and stars Emma Stone as Mia a young actress working on a studio lot in LA and trying to get her big break into the business one night at a bar she meets Seb (Ryan Gosling) a jazz enthusiast hoping to find his big break as well and the two fall in love though both may come to realise their dreams could come at a price.

La La Land for me feels very much like Arrival for me in that I am of 2 minds on it I think that Chazelle is a very talented man having also written the script for 10 Cloverfield Lane this year as well and he directs this film very well in terms of the production, the performances and the musical sequences even though his script does feel a little patchy at times.

But apart from that the film as a whole didn't really do that much for me though I can totally understand why it has woven such a spell over so many that have seen it it is a very romantic film, a very sweet film, a very nice film and it is very loving about Hollywood and the history it has in terms of its eras as well as the city of Los Angeles itself and Stone and Gosling are two very loveable leads but I don't really like nice and sweet films all that much I like the darker films the "blood in the water" you could say.

And one film that did that as well as look at that city was 1992's The Player directed by Robert Altman which was a much more cynical look at the industry and a film I consider a big favourite of mine and this movie as well made as it is (and it is a very handsome production) I just don't think is as good as that film is in the sense that it was much more in my tastes film wise than La La Land is.

And so that was La La Land, a film I have mixed feelings about even though I can see why it has won over so many, 2 and a half out of 5.

Film Review - Split (2017)

Split is written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and stars James McAvoy as Kevin a man with Multiple Personality Disorder who kidnaps 3 young girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Hayley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula) but the man who is holding them prisoner has multiple personalities some more dangerous than others.

Split is a hell of a lot of fun, dark and twisted yes but I like those kind of films and I had a big grin on my face throughout most of it, Taylor-Joy, Richardson and Sula all equip themselves very well as the young girls being held captive and while some of their scenes especially towards the end were a little uncomfortable for me to watch I never found myself bored when they were on screen.

But this is truly McAvoy's movie and I loved him as Professor Xavier in the recent X-Men trilogy but his performance here is nothing short of remarkable the way he changes his voice, his body posture, his body language, his physical presence it is amazing to see all of these different personalities come to life and whenever he was on screen I was just sitting there with this huge smile on my face and eating up every scene he has.

But this isn't also his movie it was also great to see M. Night Shyamalan enjoy making movies again like he did when he made the Sixth Sense and Unbreakable and Signs in the late 90s and early 2000s and while this film has the best and worst of him as a writer and director this feels like the most energetic and passionate work from him in what seems like a very long time.

And so that was Spilt and like Edge of 17 it really kicks off 2017 as a film year in a very nice fashion, hopefully this continues as the year goes on, 4 out of 5.