The Thing (1982) – Film Review

One of John Carpenter’s many horror classics, and one of my all-time favourites. ‘The Thing’ is a violent, eerie and creative sci-fi body horror icon. I personally this is one of Carpenter’s best films, as the film always uses isolation and paranoia to it’s best extent, never failing to keep you on edge and invested throughout the entirety of it’s story and run-time.

The story focuses on a research team in Antarctica when they discover a lost dog traveling across the snowy plains, only to soon find themselves hunted by a deadly shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of it’s unfortunate victims.

With the film actually being a remake of the classic: ‘The Thing from Another World’ from 1957, I would actually say this is one of the rare times that a remake is better than the original. Very similar to film’s such as: ‘Alien’ or ‘The Fly’, ‘The Thing’ also has a slow beginning, using it’s opening to build tension and character before the film descends into the gory chaos.

Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, David Clennon and the rest of the cast are all decent, while Kurt Russel’s character: ‘MacReady’ is easily my favourite simply due to his charisma, non of the cast are terrible by any means. However, I do feel there are too many characters within the story, as it can get confusing at many points as to which character is wrapped up within their large fluffy coats. I understand we need a high-body count for a film like this (which is the reason for the lack of development for many of the characters) but I simply just find it a little too easy to get lost at points.

As the film takes place in an extremely isolated location and features a creature that can morph into any character, the film never fails to keep the viewer on constant edge. Alongside the setting, one of the best elements of the film is the paranoia the film builds up. As any of the characters could be infected with the creature, we never known who is going to be the unfortunate victim, and who is the killer. John Carpenter didn’t even tell the actors on whilst set during filming.

All of the creature effects throughout the film are completely practical, giving the amazing creature designs true life by many of them being puppets or costumes rather than CGI like most modern-day films. These effects truly create some very memorable scenes, as make-up artist Rob Bottin (Robocop, Innerspace, Total Recall), truly did some of his best work on ‘The Thing’. The cinematography by Dean Cundey is decent but nothing amazing, placing more of an emphasis on the practical effects. However, many of the still camera shots due help with the building of tension and isolation of the location.

The original score (surprisingly not composed by John Carpenter himself) is by Ennio Morricone, but suitably does feel like a traditional Carpenter soundtrack and builds and tension filled atmosphere as soon as the opening begins. While maybe not as iconic as other Carpenter scores such as: ‘Halloween’ or ‘The Fog’ etc. The score is still brilliant in it’s own right, and truly sets the tone for the film.

All together ‘The Thing’ is a phenomenal entry into the genres of science fiction and horror, truly being an iconic staple of what to expect from an alien film from then on. From it’s building of tension to the outstanding phenomenal practical effects as well as the constant threat we feel whilst watching, almost placing us into the shoes of the characters themselves. Soon going on to be a true sci-fi/horror classic and becoming one of the best remakes to ever grace the sliver screen. A solid 9/10 overall.

The Thing (1982) Original

Advertisements

Man of Steel (2013) – Film Review

One of the most iconic and beloved superheroes of all-time, ‘Superman’ comes to life on the sliver screen once again. This time from director Zach Synder, a director I’m not particularly fond of due to his weak focus on storytelling and over-reliance of action and attractive visuals. Unfortunately, ‘Man of Steel’ is still no exception to this.

This retold origin story focuses on ‘Clark Kent’ (Superman), an alien who as a child was evacuated from his dying world: ‘Krypton’ and soon arrived on Earth, where he begin living as a normal human under his newly found parents. But when survivors of his alien homeworld invade the planet, he must reveal himself to the world.

The main issue that I have with this film is that the filmmakers seem to not understand the character of ‘Superman’, as the entire film is extremely bleak, dull and boring. As well as there actually being very little heroic acts throughout run-time. Almost the complete opposite of the original ‘Superman’ film from the 1970s. This is even seen in the colour grading, as the film mostly uses a dark blue and grey colour palette. When your superhero protagonist is supposed to be a symbol of hope and heroism, this is definitely not the way to go.

However, the film’s action also doesn’t help. As the action in the film ranges from extremely entertaining at points, as the superpowered characters battle brutally for the fate of the planet. To sometimes be incredibly overwhelming, with constant explosions going off and CGI buildings being destroyed left and right. Many of these action scenes don’t even feel real due to the enormous barrage of CGI visuals we get within them.

Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and Russel Crowe all give decent performances throughout the film, but sadly they never really elevate to anything above acceptable. Henry Cavill is likable enough as the protagonist but I always found Michael Shannon‘s villain: ‘Zod’ far more interesting. As he does a great job giving his character a motivation despite how sinister it may seem, as well as making him extremely menacing, very similar to his character in ‘The Shape of Water’ in many ways.

The cinematography by Amir Mokri is very generic cinematography for a blockbuster action film. Having far too much hand-held camera at points as well as shaking around constantly and utilizing many quick cuts during the action scenes, making them even more difficult to follow. The film also uses many artificial zooms when ‘Superman’ is flying through the sky, which I personally think looks terrible. 

The original score by Hanz Zimmer is easily my personal favourite element of the film, while being nothing new for this composer. Hanz Zimmer really brings his ‘A’ game here, and creates an exciting and up-lifting score which sometimes really makes-up for the lack of heroism and use of bright colours in the film. I would say this soundtrack is up there as one of my favourite scores by Hanz Zimmer for sure, even playing over my favourite scene in the film, when ‘Clark Kent’ learns to fly as ‘Superman’ for the first time.

‘Man of Steel’ is a bit of a mess of a superhero film, it almost feels more like a ‘Batman’ flick for most of it’s run-time. Relying very heavily on a dark colour palette and a bleak more ‘realistic’ feel. Alongside the generic cinematography and bland acting. The original score, a few actions set pieces and the occasional attractive visual is really all the film has to offer to superhero fans. Hopefully this iconic superhero will have his chance to grace the skies with another outstanding instalment soon, as for ‘Man of Steel’? It’s a disappointing 4/10 overall.

man-of-steel-2013-16

Pyewacket (2018) – Film Review

From director: Adam MacDonald (Blackfoot Trail) ‘Pyewacket’ is a very character-focused indie horror. The film mostly being a small-scale narrative, having a very refreshing look and feel for a modern-horror, complete with an eerie location and a brilliantly tense atmosphere. Containing very little jump-scares or gore, more in favour of eerie silence and well-written dialogue.

For the most part I would say this approach to horror is very effective, the film flushes out it’s characters very well, with the story focusing entirely on a frustrated, angst-ridden teenage girl (Leah) as she awakens something in the forest near her home when she naively performs an evil ritual in an attempt to kill her mother.

Although I’m not a huge fan of jump-scares, and I do very much appreciate the film’s draw towards more creating atmosphere. I do feel one or two scattered throughout the film wouldn’t have done any harm, as I feel they would’ve done a great job of scaring the audience when they least expect it and would’ve broke up some scenes of tension nicely. The film does succed in creating tension in other ways however. As Adam MacDonald manages to incorporate darkness extremely well throughout the film, using dark lighting and colour grading to focus on the audience’s paranoia of what lurks in the dark corners of the screen. However, the scenes are never overly dark to the point of obscuring the audience’s view, and this works very effectively.

Nicole Muñoz portrays the main protagonist: ‘Leah’, as a mostly unknown actress, Nicole does a fantastic job of playing an angry teenager dealing with a broken family. Laurie Holden from ‘The Walking Dead’ is also surprisingly good as her mother. I never really cared for her character in that TV show, believing her to be very annoying and unlikable. But it’s clear to me now that this was mostly an issue with the writing and not with her performance, as here she really does a great job with her character.

Alongside the use of darkness and great performances, the film also has amazing cinematography by Christian Bielz. As the film always uses the camera to the best of it’s advantage to create fear and tension. One shot in particular was a fast-paced P.O.V. shot, which reminded me heavily of the classic ‘Evil Dead’ films, and really sent a shiver down my spine when it first encounters one of the characters. The original score by Lee Malia unfortunately is nothing too memorable, mostly being a cliché horror soundtrack with the odd emotional tone mixed in. 

My main issue with the film is the pacing, as the film is actually a slow-build, it can sometimes drag. The film mostly does a good job at keeping the audience invested with that brilliant horror atmosphere and great character drama. But some of the scenes set at ‘Leah’s’ high school can really feel very bland and drawn-out. Especially when you compare these scenes to the scenes in the forest surrounding ‘Leah’ and her mother’s home. As these are always brimming with tension and are incredibly fun to experience.

Alongside this, without ruining anything, the ending of the film is also very memorable. As the film truly leaves the audience on a dark and shocking note, which is sure to stick with you long after the credits have rolled, and genuinely helps the film become far more of a standout when compared to similar film’s in it’s genre.

‘Pyewacket’ is probably not one of my favourite all-time horror flicks, however it is one I would recommend to most. Although the slow-pace and lack of jump-scares may frustrate some viewers, the film does build up an amazing atmosphere, with great performances from the small cast and some decent dialogue to back it up. The film isn’t perfect but it does mostly contain what I personally desire from a modern-horror film. A 7/10 overall, I think ‘Pyewacket’ is a great watch for a ‘different’ kind of horror fan.

pyewacket_xxlg

Hell or High Water (2016) – Film Review

From the writer of ‘Sicario’ and the director of ‘Starred Up’. ‘Hell or High Water’ is a tense crime film which feels like more a traditional western on a first watch, mostly through it’s great use of music, fantastic original score and classic setting. The film being a heavy slow-burn for the most part, the story builds up for most of it’s run-time, eventually leading to it’s climax. Which despite being short, does feel satisfying to watch. The entire film is truly a brilliant example of a ‘modern-day western’.

The story focuses on a divorced father and his ex-con older brother as they resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas. Robbing as many banks as they can all across the county, while remaining one step-ahead of the authorities that are hunting them down.

On my first viewing, the film felt very similar to the Coen Brother’s ‘No Country for Old Men’ (which the film seems to be heavily inspired by). As the story is very engaging and surprisingly also has a nice blend of dark comedy mixed in with a lot of the drama and tension. Not really focusing on action, the film spends more time building up tension and atmosphere. Near the end of the film however, we do see some action. Which is relativity well done and does feel very grounded.

Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gill Birmingham all give fantastic performances here, and keep the audience engaged throughout the run-time. Which is even more impressive when you look further into their characters. As I personally feel their characters could’ve done with a little more development, as they do get bits and pieces but nothing really major, and the lack of any kind of character ark for Chris Pine’s character: ‘Toby Howard’ really irritated me. However, the rest of the writing here is pretty great for the majority of the film.

The cinematography by Giles Nuttgens is one of the better aspects of the film, really utilizing the location of Texas for it’s isolation and beauty. Usually then switching to more chaotic hand-held camera movement during the few action scenes, which I think works effectively.

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are responsible for the original score, which is possibly my favourite element of the film, really adding to the modern western feel the film is going for. As well as backing up many of the more emotional or tense scenes. The soundtrack here is definitely one of my favourites elements of the film, the film however also makes great use of actual music. Having many different country songs play over various scenes, setting the tone and atmosphere very quickly, as well as establishing the location near the start of the film.

‘Hell or High Water’ is an effective crime thriller and modern-day western, for any classic western fan I would say this is a definite watch. As for more causal viewers, I could see the slow burning pace being a bit of a turn off, despite it being used to build tension effectively. Backed up by it’s great cinematography and original score, the film makes up for it’s lack of character depth and exciting action in the long run. I’m gonna give ‘Hell or Highwater’ a solid 8/10.

hell-or-high-water-poster

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) – Film Review

Only five years after the previous ‘Spider-Man’ franchise ended, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ attempts to be a fresh and slightly darker retelling of the superhero’s classic origin story, yet sadly falls pretty flat. Feeling too similar to the previous franchise as well as never really perfecting any of the interesting ideas the film introduces.

Focusing on the classic narrative of ‘Peter Parker’ being bitten by a genetically altered spider, he gains newfound spider-like powers and ventures out to solve the mystery of his parent’s mysterious death. Meanwhile encountering a menacing new threat in the dark streets of New York City.

Aside from the new focus on his lost parents, the story is far too similar to what we have seen before. Featuring all the classic scenes of ‘Peter’ beating up criminals, making his iconic costume (which now has an unpleasant redesign) and of course, witnessing his ‘Uncle Ben’s death. This can make the story feel very bland and predictable for the majority of it’s run-time, if the film was to come out many years after ‘Spider-Man 3’, then perhaps it wouldn’t have been as bad. But of course, Sony wanted to keep the rights to the Marvel character, and so had to rush a new remake out.

‘Peter Parker’ is this time portrayed by Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, Hacksaw Ridge), and overall I think he does a decent job here. While this version of the character isn’t super memorable, he does portray the character as a nervous and awkward yet still likeable teenager, despite looking a little too old for the character’s actual age. The rest of the cast are also fine, Emma Stone, Sally Field and Rhys Ifans all do a decent job, but are never really given anything interesting to do within the story.

The writing however isn’t up to par here, as the film is full of cheesy lines and cliché moments throughout. My main issue with the film however, is the badly written villain: ‘The Lizard’. As his motivations from start-to-finish are very messy, combining this with his convoluted evil plan and ugly appearance. The film really portrays this classic comic book villain in a bad light for his new found cinema audience.

The action scenes in the film is once again nothing really incredible of note, however they are entertaining for what they are. My particular favourite here being the action scene in the high-school, as this scene utilizes the location very well and contains various small quips and visual gags similar to classic ‘Spider-Man’ comics and cartoons. It’s also here when we get a great look at many different CGI effects, and I feel they don’t look too bad overall.

The cinematography by John Schwartzman is nothing outstanding, but it does stay at a decent level throughout the film. However, this is easily redeemed by the great chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, with Emma portraying ‘Gwen Stacey’ (‘Peter Parker’s first love interest), all of their scenes together are very funny and very charming. These scenes really reminded me of director Mark Webb’s other film: ‘(500) Days of Summer’.

The original score by James Horner is again nothing amazing, but it does fit the film’s style. Feeling like a classic superhero score, mixed with some more emotional sounding elements, this score equals to a decently varied soundtrack in the end. The film in total seems to have many different aspects I enjoy, but none of them ever seem to pass the level of ‘decent’ or ‘good’. Which is a real shame, as I think this director and cast have some great potential. But this simply wasn’t the film for it.

Although I initially gave this film a lower rating, the actual filmmaking on display here isn’t terrible, and what the film does well such as: the great chemistry between the lead actors, ‘Spider-Man’s P.O.V. shots and the occasional entertaining action scene, I simply can’t ignore. Overall a 5/10, check this one out if you’re a huge fan of the character. If not though, your not missing out on anything.

amazing-spider-man-final-poster

Truth or Dare (2018) – Film Review

Blumhouse Productions is a famous horror film production company, they mainly focus on producing cheap horror flicks that appeal to a younger audience. Although there is the occasional gem in their collection such as: ‘Get Out’ or ‘Split’. It’s definitely few and far between. ‘Truth or Dare’ is one of their most recent entries… and easily one of their worst to date.

This film has very little redeeming factors at all, with the story focusing entirely on a group of young friends as they play a harmless game of truth or dare. That is until the game turns deadly when someone (or something) begins to punish those who tell a lie or refuse to do the dare they are given.

This bland concept has been seen a thousand times before, choosing to use the evil game storyline very similar to films such as: ‘Oujia’. The story plays out very similar to how you may expect, making it extremely predictable. The film is also one of Blumhouse’s least scary entries to date. Focusing entirely on jump-scares without any attempt to build tension or create an eerie atmosphere. The film also uses this ‘terrifying’ CGI effect on the character’s faces to replicate them being possessed, and due to the low-budget this effect looks laughably awful.

Unfortunately the characters are no better than the cliché narrative, as the entire cast of characters is as bland as they are unlikable. The stiff acting from the cast of models that are brought in, doesn’t benefit the film at all. Lucy Hale as ‘Olivia’ being the standout here, most likely this is why she was cast as the main protagonist.

One character in particular I despised was ‘Brad’ portrayed by Hayden Szeto. I dislike this character due to the way he is represented. As ‘Brad’ is a gay character, the issue here being that this is his entire character. ‘Brad’ gets barley any further development other than just being homosexual, this could not only be seen as pandering, but is also just awful writing. As being gay isn’t a character’s personality, I shouldn’t really have to even explain this, but many writers still seem to write characters this way for some reason.

When it comes to the filmmaking, sadly there’s no improvements here either, each shot from cinematographer Jacques Jouffret is boring and uninspired. The editing is quick and messy at points and the original score by Matthew Margeson is your usual bland horror soundtrack. The composer being the most surprising there, considering he has contributed to great scores such as: ‘Kingsman: ‘The Secret Service’ in the past. 

Another issue I have with the film is the extreme lack of violence, due to the low age rating. The film constantly shines away from graphic violence, always cutting to another shot to avoid showing barely any blood or gore. This is a huge mistake for a horror film like this, as although sometimes implying violence can be more effective. In a film about a group of unlikable teenagers getting killed off, at least having some interesting deaths is a great way to satisfy the audience. One final note, the ending of the film is sure to leave a bad taste in your mouth if the film hadn’t already. As our protagonist makes a choice that not only goes against what development she had, but also what likeability she had as well.

Overall ‘Truth or Dare’ is one of the worst films of 2018 for me, this overdone plot with annoying characters has little charm or entertainment to offer. Bland execution along with coming off like a complete cash-grab for Blumhouse Productions, the film really goes down as one of the most boring horror flicks of the past few years. Definitely a 1/10, honestly believe you’d find paint drying a more enjoyable experience than this one.

truth_or_dare_xxlg

Chappie (2015) – Film Review

Neil Blomkamp has always been a director I’ve admired, famous for his smash-hit: ‘District 9’ in 2012, shortly then followed by his second film: ‘Elysium’ which split many sci-fi fans down the middle. He’s always managed to impress me through his incredible use of CGI and explosive action set pieces. However I’ve always found his stories to be very lack-luster, and this is where the main issue lies with his third film: ‘Chappie’.

The story begins in the near future, as crime is patrolled by a mechanized police force. When one police droid: ‘Chappie’, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. ‘Chappie’ then begins to explore and fully realize the chaotic world he has now become a part of.

I find the initial idea very interesting, coming off as kind of a mixture between ‘Robocop’ and ‘Short Circuit’ and I think the film could’ve been very entertaining if they would’ve chose to explore these ideas of synthetic life vs. actual living consciousness. Unfortunately, the direction the film actually goes is far from it. As we see ‘Chappie’ enter the world of crime alongside an unlikable criminal gang, making the film less like an interesting sci-fi film and more along the lines of a straight crime thriller. Now with a less-likable protagonist.

Sharlto Coply, Deon Wilson, Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver all give decent performances in the film, and while I would’ve preferred Sigourney Weaver to have a bigger role in the overall narrative. I feel Sharlto Coply as ‘Chappie’ and Hugh Jackman as the villain of the film: ‘Vincent Moore’ were both great in their respective roles. However, in easily one of the worst decisions in the film. The band: Die Antwoord portray some of the main protagonists (with their own names for some reason), and aside from their poor acting here, they also come off as very unlikable throughout. Insuring the audience roots for the criminal gang even less than they already did.

Trent Opaloch handles the cinematography in the film, which is pretty good for the most part, however as similar to the rest of Blomkamp’s films, there is far too much use of hand-held camera. When in the action scenes I find this fine, when it comes to some of the dialogue heavy scenes or crucial story moments, I find it very distracting. The CGI effects are also georgous here, every effect having weight to it and truly feeling like a part of the scene flawlessly. This is especially clear with the CGI on ‘Chappie’ himself.

The original score by Hanz Zimmer is phenomenal as per usual, combing a typical sci-fi soundtrack alongside a more gritty crime score. Fitting the film perfectly, and really adding tension to many of the scenes throughout the run-time. I also like the sound design in this film, most sci-fi flicks usually have decent sound design. But here I feel it’s very well done.

More than likely just a personal thing, but I also feel the song choices in the film were very poor. Using much of the music of the band: Die Antwoord, it simply doesn’t fit with the pace or tone the film is going for. Plus the fact their characters share their own names as already mentioned, just makes the entire thing very confusing.

I’m still not entirely sure what I think of ‘Chappie’. While it definitely has many flaws, and is easily Neil Blomkamp’s worst film in my opinion. The film still has certain elements I still really enjoy, some of the cinematography, action scenes and CGI effects still impress me to this day, and truly show that Blomkamp still has an eye for visuals. But his storytelling really does need to show improvement, and I hope he gets another shot at directing again at some-point. Unfortunately this one is a 4/10 for now.

chappie_ver4_xxlg