Halloween (2018) – Film Review

A direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original 1978 classic: ‘Halloween’, this sequel ignores all the other entries in the franchise in favour of a new story set forty years later. As Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the iconic character of: ‘Laurie Strode’, now much older and wiser, and while definitely a decent attempt at continuing the ‘Halloween’ series, the film is still far from perfect.

‘Laurie Strode’ confronts her long-time foe: ‘Michael Myers’ once again, as the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago, now begins a new massacre after his recent prison escape. Although the film’s narrative does have some interesting ideas, the film always felt a little too familiar to me, as I usually found myself correctly predicting what was around the next corner.

The film is directed by David Gordon Green, mostly known for his drama: ‘Stronger’. A film I did quite enjoy, and although you can tell he does have a passion for this original ‘Halloween’ whilst watching (as he clearly has an understanding of what made the original work so well) I still feel a better director could’ve been chosen. As at points the direction in the narrative does seem to be slightly lacking, and with his previous work in mind, it’s clear that he doesn’t specialise in horror.

It is great however to see Jamie Lee Curtis back as her classic character once again, as she really excels in showing how ‘Laurie Strode’ has been effected by those horrific events many years ago. Alongside the rest of the decent cast of Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton and especially Haluk Bilginer as: ‘Dr. Sartain’. Who I was initially concerned would be nothing but another ‘Dr. Loomis’ type character, but character did actually end-up going in a very different direction.

The cinematography by Michael Simmonds is nothing outstanding for the majority of the film, however it is decent when combined with the dark lighting throughout, especially anytime ‘Michael’ is on-screen. Another strong element of the film is the wonderful original score by John Carpenter, his son Cody Carpenter and Daniel A. Davies. As although the soundtrack does slightly rely on tracks from the original film, there is plenty of new score here as well. Proving John Carpenter is brilliant at his craft once again, with the tracks: ‘The Shape Hunts Allyson’ and ‘The Shape Burns’ being some of Carpenter’s best work for a long-time in my opinion.

One of the strongest elements of the film for me are definitely the kills, as it’s clear the filmmakers got very creative with the ways ‘Michael Myers’ deposes of his victims, usually creating very memorable scenes with some fantastic practical gore effects included. I also felt the film represented the iconic slasher very well, as ‘Michael Myers’ is always intimidating through his movements, ‘Michael’ even manages to steal the film for me by being the main focus of my personal favourite scene of the film, as ‘The Shape’ stalks his way through Haddonfield’ with sinister intentions, all completed within a single take.

As the film is produced by Blumhouse productions, we unfortunately also get the usual pandering to younger audiences you’d come to expect by now. As the film is littered with jump-scares throughout the run-time, with little attempt to build an eerie atmosphere or large amounts of tension. In addition to this, the writing throughout the film is decent when it comes to characters, however the film also attempts comedy at a few points. Usually resulting in many cringy lines of dialogue and many out-of-place jokes, including one scene with a babysitter in particular, which goes on for far too long.

In conclusion, ‘Halloween’ is mostly enjoyable, but with a lack of originality, some cheesy lines and forced comedy (not to mention it’s reliance on jump-scares) the film is more than likely a low 7/10. I do hold the original film in high regard of course, it being one of my personal favourite horrors, but the film is definitely on the higher end of classic horror sequels for me.

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The Conjuring (2013) – Film Review

From director James Wan (Saw, Dead Silence, Insidious) comes another modern-horror based on real-life events, this time focusing on one of the many cases of: ‘The Warrens’ set in the year of 1971, and while the film does succeed more so than many other modern-horrors (soon leading the ‘The Conjuring’ to become an enormous horror franchise). The original film still does suffer from a variety of issues, which leads it to become more forgettable than anything else by the end of it’s run-time.

The story focuses on paranormal investigators: ‘Ed’ and ‘Lorraine Warren’ as they attempt to help a family who are bring terrorized night after night by a dark presence within their farmhouse, but soon the abnormities begin to increase as: ‘The Warrens’ investigate the sinister history behind the family’s new home.

While more enjoyable than a large number of other modern-horrors as already mentioned, I wasn’t overly invested in the film’s story. As although the film is effective in some areas, in others the film simply doesn’t stick the landing. Feeling mostly like your standard horror story without ever delving too deep into the characters or time-period. As despite a few thrilling scenes with the sprits themselves, I always felt a slightly more character driven narrative would’ve benefitted the film overall.

The cast is definitely one of the film’s better aspects, as Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga do have a decent amount of chemistry together as the married paranormal investigators: ‘The Warrens’. Lili Taylor also does a decent job as the family’s concerned mother, especially further into the film as the story becomes more intense. Unfortunately however, Ronald Livingston who portrays the farther of the family, is easily the weakest actor within the film, as he never really seems overly panicked or scared of these paranormal events, regardless of the scene (which becomes especially clear nearing the end of the film).

The cinematography by John R. Leonetti is definitely an improvement over his previous work on the ‘Insidious’ series, as the film does have a few appealing shots here and there despite never really being anything exceptional. The film does however make great use of P.O.V. shots during some of the tense scenes at night, placing the audience in the position of the characters themselves, which I personally found very effective.

Although not quite as memorable as some other modern-horror soundtracks, the original score by Joseph Bishara isn’t completely forgettable. As the score does help to build tension during quite a few scenes, as well as also back-up some of the emotional moments between characters (as short as they may be).

I was also surprised to learn that the film doesn’t entirely rely on jump-scares, as although they are present within the film, ‘The Conjuring’ does feel more focused on creating an eerie atmosphere and having many creepy visuals throughout. Rather than the usual bombardment of jump-scares, which was definitely a breath of fresh air. One element I thought was a little weaker than some of James Wan’s other films was the design of the ghosts themselves, as the design of the sprit haunting family’s farmhouse is one of the most generic and dull designs you could think of when it comes to creating a horror antagonist. Especially when compared to the very memorable designs of the ‘Insidious’ franchise.

While ‘The Conjuring’ does have some great elements, and at least attempts to create something different from typical horror. I never really felt the film exceled in any particular area, as the majority of the film felt mostly very bland to me despite it’s decent cast and creepy atmosphere in some scenes. Overall, a 5/10 for ‘The Conjuring’, as while there are definitely worse modern-horrors, I feel there is also much better out there.

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ParaNorman (2012) – Film Review

From Lakia animation studios, the production company behind many beautifully animated stop-motion flicks such as: ‘Coraline’, ‘The Boxtrolls’ and ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ to name a few, comes another mostly enjoyable creepy family adventure, thanks mostly to some fantastic stop-motion animation as well as it’s great cast. Even if the film may not be as entertaining as some other films from Lakia’s animated line-up.

Norman Babcock’ is a misunderstood boy who can speak to the dead, but when ‘Norman’s estranged uncle tells him of an important ritual he must perform in order to protect his home town: ‘Blithe Hollow’ from a centuries-old witch’s curse. He must take on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups in order to stop the curse from destroying everything he’s ever known.

The weakest element of the film for me is unfortunately the story, as although the idea of having a young boy who can see ghosts is a decent idea in itself, almost serving as: ‘The Sixth Sense’ for families in a way. The rest of the narrative never reaches the eerie tone of: ‘Coraline’ or the fun of: ‘Missing Link’, with the film even attempting to have a few emotional scenes, but most of them fall a little flat, mostly due to never truly having the impact they need. The humour throughout the film is mostly decent however, as whilst not every joke lands, the majority of them do, and the film usually has comedy for all ages, despite a few jokes going on for far too long.

Kodi Smit-McPhee does a pretty solid job as: ‘Norman Babcock’, as well as Tucker Albrizzi, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and John Goodman. However, my personal favourites of the cast have to be Anna Kendrick and Casey Affleck as: ‘Courtney’ and ‘Mitch’ without a doubt. As the two of them portray two weak-minded teenagers helping ‘Norman’ on his paranormal adventure, with ‘Courtney’ clearly having an interest in ‘Mitch’ which he is completely oblivious too.

Tristan Oliver handles the cinematography throughout ‘ParaNorman’, which is definitely a weaker element of the film, as the cinematography simply backs-up the animation rather than doing anything incredibly interesting with the shots, there still is the occasional pleasing shot however, and the cinematography does display many of the miniature sets very well.

The original score by Jon Brion is very reminiscent of classic 1980’s horror flicks, which is suitable considering the film’s opening scene has the protagonist ‘Norman’ watching a classic zombie film, and while the soundtrack isn’t incredibly memorable on itself, it works well enough in the film to increase some of the comedy and atmosphere when it can.

Unsurprisingly, the stop-motion animation is phenomenal throughout the film. As every character and miniature set looks incredible, having a creepy and exaggerated yet still appealing look. All with smooth motion similar to any other animated story, CGI or not. In the few short instances were CGI is used within the film however, it’s normally used to great effect, usually to simply improve the visuals rather than taking the emphasis away from the animation itself.

So despite the film not quite managing to have an incredibly memorable story for the majority of it’s run-time, I would say I enjoyed myself. As although ‘ParaNorman’ still isn’t my favourite of Lakia’s film line-up, as I personally feel there isn’t many areas the film overly succeeds in. The film is decently entertaining for the most part, and I’d say it’s probably a low 7/10 overall.

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Ready Player One (2018) – Film Review

A triumphant return back to the sliver screen for iconic director Steven Spielberg, this time taking on an adaptation of the science fiction novel: ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline. The film manages to capture that classic Spielberg atmosphere, alongside some fun visuals and action scenes. As well as many, many appearances and references from/to beloved characters and properties from all types of media, the film overall building-up to being a mostly entertaining family adventure.

When the original creator of a virtual reality world called the: ‘OASIS’ dies, he makes a posthumous challenge to all ‘OASIS’ users to find his golden easter egg, which will give the lucky finder his entire fortune as well as complete control of his virtual world.

With the film being set half in the real world and half set within virtual reality, I was initially concerned that I would get dragged out of the film due to an overuse of CGI effects. However, the film proved me wrong here, creating computer generated characters that could emote nearly as much as the actors portraying them. As the CGI and the over-the-top character designs creates an intentional clear difference between the two realties through it’s visuals, insuring the audience doesn’t become confused (which is actually played with later-on in the film’s narrative).

Mostly known as: ‘Cyclops’ in the new incarnation of the ‘X-Men’ series, Tye Sheridan does a decent job at portraying the likeable protagonist: ‘Wade Watts’. Alongside Olivia Cooke as his love interest: ‘Samantha’ as well as Simon Pegg as: ‘Ogden Morrow’ with Ben Mendelsohn and T.J. Miller as the antagonists. With every member of the cast doing pretty decent job considering their extremely weak characters, as every character we meet throughout the run-time is mostly one note. Being nothing more than your traditional hero or villain etc. But this might still be enough for some.

Although an enormous amount of the cinematography by Janusz Kaminski is very impressive, having a large amount of moving shots soaring through the breathtaking world of the ‘OASIS’, It’s difficult to judge it in it’s entirety. As the majority of the camera work is obviously CGI, due to a large amount of the film’s story being set within the computer generated world, as when we cut back to ‘Wade’s true reality, the cinematography is mostly quite bland. I do appreciate the dark colour palette however for when the film takes places in the real world, as it contrasts extremely well with the incredibly colourful visuals of the ‘Oasis’.

Despite the original score by Alan Silvestri not being one of his best, as the soundtrack isn’t nowhere near as memorable as: ‘Forrest Gump’, ‘Predator’ or ‘Back to the Future’ (which there is actually a little audio throwback to) the score is still decently effective, and does sound subtlety classic Steven Spielberg.

The main element I take issue with throughout the film is the some of the weak writing throughout, as although not awful, in addition to the weak characters. The film is also full of cheesy moments and clichés. Many have also taken issue with the enormous amount of characters from other media thrown into the film, with most seeing it as pandering and meaningless. However, I personally don’t agree with this, as this aspect is also in the original novel and adds to the idea that truly anything is possible within the virtual world. Personally, I feel these flaws are definitely most made-up for by the brilliant action throughout the film, as every action set piece from the opening race scene through to the ending battle is all pretty creative, and very enjoyable to watch.

‘Ready Player One’ definitely has it’s faults, but I’d say the film is still a decent addition to Steven Spielberg’s line-up of family flicks, as while not on the level of: ‘E.T’ for example, I did find the film mostly enjoyable from start-to-finish. As aside from some weak characterisation and some cheesy scenes, I’d recommend a trip into the ‘OASIS’ for this exciting sci-fi/fantasy odyssey. In conclusion, a decent 7/10.

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Children of Men (2006) – Film Review

A clever, dark and very grounded sci-fi film, with ‘Children of Men’ director Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Gravity, Roma) creates a truly memorable experience. As the film’s fresh take on the science fiction genre combines some great performances, alongside decent writing and some absolutely incredible cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, all alongside many scenes throughout the film being done completely within one single take.

The film takes place in the year 2027, in a world in which women have somehow become infertile, as former activist (Theo Faron) agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman across a war-ridden country out to a sanctuary at sea in order to save the human-race.

The narrative begins with a short peek into the grim world of the film, as our protagonist ‘Theo’ makes his way into a small café to grab a coffee. This soon leading onto a very shocking moment, which instantly establishes the tone of the film, and really helps give the audience a clear understanding of how these characters are coping with this reality. This soon lead onto the opening becoming very iconic in it’s own right (as well as my personal favourite scene of the film) and still feels very effective even today.

When it comes to the characters, all the performances throughout the film are pretty great, as every actor is really giving their all here regardless of the importance of their roles within the story. As Clive Owen, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Caine, are all terrific. Julianne Moore as: ‘Julian’ in particular was a stand-out for me however, having some very memorable moments within only a short amount of screen-time. This is also one of the few films where I must really praise the extras, as many of the continuous takes are done using enormous amounts of extras, and from the foreground through to the background, there isn’t one out-of-place extra.

Every piece of the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki throughout the film is nothing short of phenomenal, using hand-held camera to the best of it’s advantage. Many scenes are filmed from the perspective of the characters, placing the audience in their own tense scenarios. The dark grey colour palette of the film also lends itself well to the war-ridden country setting, as every location always feels rustic, dirty and lived-in. The original score by John Tavener is also effective, despite being used very sparingly throughout the film to further add to bleak atmosphere.

My only real criticisms with the film are related to the lack of character depth and the film’s overall pacing, as the pacing throughout the film is extremely slow, leading to many scenes feeling a little drawn-out at points. Despite this slow-pace sometimes adding to the building of tension, it feel mostly unnecessary for most of the film’s run-time. The lack of characterisation throughout the film is also a problem, as although a few characters do get some development, it’s usually few and far between, as I found myself finding more information about the characters online than within the film, luckily however, the decent writing does save this from being a huge issue.

Overall, ‘Children of Men’ is an exceptional piece of the sci-fi genre. Coming off as a very different approach than what you’d usually expect from a film such as this one, the film almost feels like more of an apocalyptic drama at points. But with a thought-provoking narrative, some amazing cinematography and fantastic cast, ‘Children of Men’ truly is a very enjoyable (if not a very bleak) piece of entertainment. An 8/10 for me, this film never fails to impress me every-time I revisit it.

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Nightcrawler (2014) – Film Review

Held-up by an incredible performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, ‘Nightcrawler’ is a visually beautiful and very tense thriller from director Dan Gilroy. Focusing on the life of a freelance journalist who ends up falling deeper and deeper into a world of greed and accomplishment, as the film is gripping from start-to-finish (as well as being one of my personal all-time favourite films) and overall ends-up being an amazing experience any film fan is sure to enjoy.

When ‘Louis Bloom’, a con-man desperate for work, muscles his way into the world of Los Angeles crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story, determined to rise to the top regardless of competition or even morals.

The film does a brilliant job of blending a narrative of what the life for a freelance journalist is actually like, as well as focusing on the more personal story of ‘Louis’ at the same time, with both of them fitting the dark tone of the film extremely well. This alongside the exploration of the city of Los Angeles gives the film a great personality, as the film explores every seedy corner of the city, always using real locations over any visual effects unlike many other modern flicks.

Jake Gyllenhaal also gives one of the best performances of his career here, coming off as a creepy, sly and selfish character who excels at his work, yet despite being mostly unlikable. He still manages to be an engaging protagonist mostly through his charisma and intelligence, even as he descends further and further down the line. Riz Ahmed also portrays ‘Rick’ within the film, ‘Louis’ underpaid and underappreciated partner who is almost his complete opposite in many ways. These two alongside the supporting cast of Rene Russolate and the late Bill Paxton are all brilliant.

The cinematography by Robert Elswit is some of the best cinematography I’ve seen in a film in a long-time, utilizing an enormous amount of varied shots, including a large amount of wide and mid shots, which are always a joy to see, with the film always using it’s cinematography to increase the amount of tension or drama that’s on-screen. The film also makes great use of it’s dark blue and orange colour palette as well as large amounts of street lighting, which both definitely help give the film a distinct visual flare and make many of the bright colours stand-out amongst the darkness of Los Angeles at night.

This is also backed-up by the calming and yet also still eerie original score by James Newton Howard, and while perhaps not incredibly memorable on itself, I do like this composer for much of his previous work (The Sixth Sense, King Kong, I Am Legend) and the soundtrack here does back-up the film pretty well for the majority of it’s run-time, aside from the occasional track which can come off as slightly cliché.

Another element of the film I really enjoy is it’s grasp on realism, as although I’m no expert in regards to the world of crime journalism. The film never really seems to go beyond believability within it’s story, even when the story begins to enter more dangerous territory for it’s characters. One element of the film that didn’t really exceed my expectations however, was the film’s editing. As although the editing throughout the film is decent, I was never overly impressed by it, as I always felt it was one of the few areas of the film which could’ve been slightly improved.

In conclusion, ‘Nightcrawler’ still retains it’s spot on my favorites list, with it’s amazing cinematography in addition to the pretty fantastic original score and performances throughout. The film has a lot to offer, and I’m still thrilled the film came out as well as I did. Easily a 9/10 for this one, both for it’s filmmaking and it’s appeal, I’d recommend you’d give ‘Nightcrawler’ a watch or two without a doubt.

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Geostorm (2017) – Film Review

Directed by Dean Devlin, most known for producing the original: ‘Independence Day’ as well as: ‘Godzilla’ from 1998. This time taking on a more traditional disaster film for his directorial debut, attempting to capture the usual scale and destruction associated with the genre, along with a few elements of international terrorism and science fiction thrown-in for good measure. Unfortunately however, this isn’t enough to save the film overall.

When a network of satellites designed to control the global climate begin to attack Earth, it’s a race against time for it’s original creator to uncover the real threat before a worldwide ‘Geostorm’ wipes out everything, and everyone.

From the first scene all the way to the last, the film felt incredibly cliché to me, as the film definitely follows a very similar structure to the majority of other disaster flicks, as well as also carrying over much of the cheesiness and terrible comedy from many of them. As although the film does have a few exciting action scenes and some entertaining weather-related chaos throughout it’s run-time, the film never really manages to break-out of it’s predictability.

Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish are all decent throughout the film, as while they still suffer from having the usual generic characters for a blockbuster. They do the best they can to keep the audience engaged throughout the story (for the most part). However, the film also has a few side characters which left we more than often questioning their inclusion in the film, as most of them added very little to the plot and only appeared in a few short scenes.

Roberto Schaefer handles the cinematography within ‘Geostorm’, which aside from the occasional attractive shot is mostly bland and uninspired. With many scenes throughout the film also seeming to have far too many different shots, as a simple scene of two people talking could have anywhere from three to seven different shots. The CGI within the film is also another unusual aspect, as although it’s decent throughout most of the film, there are quite a few shots where I felt it dipped massively in quality.

There are also multiple points where the film attempts to be very emotional and dramatic, but usually falls completely flat. With the film putting a large amount of focus on the original score by Lorne Balfe, which is your standard action film score, coming off as an almost entirely forgettable and bland soundtrack.

Whilst watching the film I also couldn’t help but think that there were many missed opportunities throughout, as due to the film’s mostly serious and grounded tone, the film never takes any of it’s weather attacks to any truly creative places. With the film usually just going for a decently entertaining, if not very experimental set piece. Although I understand the lack of disaster films in modern-day is a great to make the film stand-out more, I do still feel a more absurdist tone with very over-the-top action could’ve at the very least, made the film more memorable and unique.

I didn’t really have high exceptions when I first sat down to watch ‘Geostorm’, going off the mostly unexperienced director and the poor reviews from both critics and audiences alike, and although I’ve definitely seen worse in the past. I’d say the film isn’t really worth a watch, being a mostly bland and boring disaster flick despite some original aspects. There is the odd entertaining action scene or interesting visual for any massive fans of this genre, but for me it’s a low 3/10.

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