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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It Follows (2015) – Film Review

‘It Follows’ is easily one of my favourite modern-horrors to date, as the film utilizes some amazing cinematography by Mike Gioulakis, alongside an extremely eerie atmosphere and some decent performances, all tied together with an original and engaging story. Overall resulting in a film that’s both very memorable, and very tense throughout.

After a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, teenager ‘Jay’ finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone (or something) is following her. Faced with this burden, ‘Jay’ and her friends must find a way to escape the nightmare, that seems to always be a few steps behind.

Mostly due to the direction by David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover, Under the Sliver Lake) the film feels very polished throughout, as every scene usually plays out very slowly, always using the screen-time to build more tension, which I quite enjoyed. I also found the underlining themes of the film very interesting, as the film’s narrative subtly explores ideas of sexual diseases through it’s unique plot. However, one element of David’s direction I personally don’t like is the lack of any specific time-period for the film’s setting. As although the majority of the film does feel like a classic 1980s monster flick, the film constantly shows many modern devices and cars, in addition to a variety of old films on ‘Jay’s TV. Making the film feel very inconsistent with itself, despite this being an intentional decision.

As a cast of mostly unknown actors, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Lili Sepe and Olivia Luccardi all give decent performances here, as while nothing truly phenomenal of note, all the characters do feel as if they have chemistry with each other. With Maika Monroe being the obvious stand-out of course, as although her character doesn’t get much development, she portrays ‘Jay’ quite well, coming off as a mostly innocent and likeable teenager.

The cinematography by Mike Gioulakis is nothing short of brilliant, especially in regards to many other horrors. As aside from a few too many hand-held shots, the film constantly uses the camera to build tension and paranoia throughout entirety of it’s run-time. As in addition to using the a variety of different shots (many of which contain large amounts of movement) the film also uses the plenty of P.O.V. shots to see though ‘Jay’s eyes, placing the audience in the terrifying position of the protagonist themselves.

One of my favourite aspects of the film is definitely the original score by Disasterpeace, as this synth score really lends itself well to the eerie atmosphere, creating an original soundtrack which is just as tense and chaotic as it is memorable. However, this does fall back on the problem of the film not being set within the 80s, as this original score would fit in perfectly, especially with the two tracks: ‘Heels’ and ‘Title’.

As appose to many other modern-horrors, ‘It Follows’ has an noticeable lack of jump-scares, as the film is usually in favour of attempting to use simple yet creepy visuals hidden within the background of shots, which really gives the film a very fresh feel. ‘It Follows’ also separates itself from many other modern-horrors by having many of the scenes involving the creature take place during the daytime and/or in locations such as: a sandy beach or ‘Jay’s home, locations many would think to be safe.

I truly enjoy ‘It Follows’ from beginning to end, as the film is a genuine horror experience which takes risks and doesn’t simply feel like more of the same ideas we have seen before. As the fantastic cinematography and original score help create a film that we keep any horror fan engaged in this thrilling story. An 8/10 overall, as while the film may not be entirely flawless, I really do hope more films within this genre can succeeded as well as this one does.

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World War Z (2013) – Film Review

Very loosely based on the novel: ‘World War Z’ by Max Brooks, this film adaptation directed by Marc Forster attempts to tell an enormous globe trotting story of a spreading zombie virus, and although it does have a few entertaining elements here and there, I personally found the film to be extremely messy, and overall, pretty forgettable.

The story revolves around former United Nations employee: ‘Gerry Lane’, as he traverses the world in a race against time to stop a zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and soon threatening to destroy humanity itself.

Even with a pretty standard plot for a zombie flick, the film unfortunately is still brimming with plenty of cliché moments and jump-scares throughout, in addition of course to the film’s overall lack of style. Making the entire experience really struggle to stand on it’s own amongst the many other films within it’s genre, which I do feel can be mostly put down to the director, Marc Forster.

Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos both do a decent job as: ‘Gerry’ and ‘Karin Lane’ within the film, despite their characters having pretty much no characterisation outside of them being a loving family. Their children however, portrayed by Sterling Jerins and Abigail Hargrove. I found very irritating, as aside from their constant screaming and crying, their child performances weren’t very convincing to me at all. Strangely, Peter Capaldi also has a small role within the film, despite barley adding anything to the story.

Ben Seresin handles the cinematography throughout the film, and aside from a few scenes were hand-held camera is used to reflect the chaos we see during many of the zombie attacks, many of the visuals are extremely flat. As the cinematography is very bland and uninspired, usually sticking to very standard shots and never really experimenting with anything incredibly interesting. The CGI effects throughout the film’s run-time are also very inconsistent, as in some scenes the visual effects work perfectly fine. In others however, they look truly awful, with many of the zombies bouncing around as if they were made out of rubber. I do appreciate the various aerial shots which are used during many of these scenes however, as I felt they captured the enormous scale of the pandemic very well.

The film’s original score by Marco Beltrami is decent overall, it works within the film to increase what tension and drama there is on-screen. But outside of the film, it isn’t memorable in the slightest. Coming off as your standard blockbuster soundtrack with the occasional ‘Inception’ noise thrown-in for good measure, it is very possible the score was rushed however. As for those who may not know, ‘World War Z’ actually went though a very troubled production process, as multiple different directors, writers and producers were brought-on and then dropped-off constantly. This is mostly why the film sometimes feels very unconnected and messy (which also isn’t helped by it’s quick pacing). Taking this into account, the film definitely could’ve been far worse, but I still found it very noticeable.

With all that in mind however, the film still does have some other elements I enjoy. As it is simply fun to watch the madness ensue at various points during the film, as the hordes of zombies bring chaos to the streets of whatever city the film finds itself in. My favourite scene within the film is definitely near it’s ending, as the film takes a very different direction in choosing to focus on a small tension-filled scene, which I thought was pretty well executed for the most part.

In conclusion, ‘World War Z’ isn’t the worst big budget film you could spend your time watching, it definitely has a variety of problems. From the predictable and generic plot, to the boring characters and the mix of poor visual effects and writing. Which all insured that I wasn’t such a huge fan, but if you enjoy a mindless zombie blockbuster every so often, then there may be some enjoyment in this for you. But for me personally, it’s nothing more than a 3/10.

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Bird Box (2018) – Film Review

‘Bird Box’ is based on the novel of the same name by Josh Malerman, mostly aiming to be a dark thriller with an original and twisted story as well as a few other interesting aspects in regards to the filmmaking. Unfortunately however, the film soon falls into a pit of disappointment which it really struggles to escape from.

Set both during the initial incident as well as five years after an ominous unseen presence drives most of society to suicide, a mother and her two children make a desperate bid to reach safety as they head down a dangerous river aboard a boat.

With the film jumping back and forward between the two time-periods the film can quickly become very frustrating for many. As I personally found the initial chaotic event far more entertaining than the other time period within the narrative, however the film will continuously cut between the two at unusual points. The film also chooses to wrap the majority of it’s story in mystery, never really exploring what the monsters actually are, or how their abilities work. The film even chooses to never actually show the creatures on-screen at all throughout the run-time, and although I agree that not everything has to be explained within a story, the way ‘Bird Box’ presents it makes it noting but frustrating, as the film introduces questions without answers.

Sandra Bullock portrays a struggling mother alongside Danielle Macdonald, Trevante Rhodes and John Malkovich who all portray people attempting to survive in a brutal world, and they do their best considering the weak characters they had to work with. The majority of the supporting cast are also decent, with Sarah Paulson even having a short appearance within the film, however I found she was incredibly wasted in the small (and pretty pointless) role she had within the narrative.

The entire visual presentation of: ‘Bird Box’, is extremely dull, as the cinematography by Salvatore Totino and editing Ben Lester never really excel beyond ‘okay’. Usually having scenes consist of many boring shots which never really add much to the tension or atmosphere aside from the occasional moment, this of course also alongside the extremely bland grey colour palette. This is also the case when it comes to the original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, coming off as nothing more than your standard horror/thriller soundtrack.

Although the novel obviously came out before last year’s ‘A Quiet Place’, I couldn’t help but notice many similarities between the two films. Such as: the lack of a certain sense, the apocalyptic setting, a theme of family and the eerie atmosphere/tone (despite the idea of the monsters making you kill yourself being very original). I also couldn’t help but feel the film never made enough use of it’s concept of simply witnessing the creatures drives characters to suicide, as this is a terrifying idea, and could’ve provided some very gory and truly shocking moments.

‘Bird Box’ is one of those few films that gets a large amount of attention for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, as personally I thought the film was nothing but bland and forgettable in many aspects. Aside from perhaps the main performance by Sandra Bullock and the original idea of it’s story. There wasn’t much I enjoyed about this adaption, ‘Bird Box’ gets a 3/10 from me. Give it a watch if your really interested, but personally I feel there are many similar films with much better execution.

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Goosebumps (2015) – Film Review

Based on the iconic children’s book series by R. L. Stine, this film adaption actually takes a different approach to it’s source material. This time having the book series actually a part of the story itself, allowing for multiple different monsters from the classic series to appear, alongside Jack Black’s portrayal of author: ‘R. L. Stine’ as well as a few original characters.

The story begins when a teenager moves in next door to the children’s horror author ‘R. L. Stine’ and his teenage daughter, as he soon finds himself in a strange scenario. As the writer’s own monsters are brought to life from their own stories to inflict chaos onto their small town.

I was always a big fan of the ‘Goosebumps’ TV show on Cartoon Network when I was younger, as not only did I find the stories interesting and the monsters extremely creepy. But I truly loved how the show wasn’t afraid to be frightening despite being aimed at a younger audience. Sadly, this is where the film fails for me. Choosing to focus more on comedy than light-horror to appeal to it’s newer generation of kids, which I personally think is a huge mistake.

Most of the cast here give decent performances for a family flick, as Dylan Minnette and Odeya Rush portray a couple of teenagers thrown into this mad adventure. Alongside their friend: ‘Champ’ played by Ryan Lee, who I found very grating after a while, as well as Jack Black’s portrayal of: ‘R. L. Stine’ and ‘Slappy’. Who gives a performance a little too over-the-top for me, however it clear that he that he is having a blast as these characters.

The cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe is nothing amazing, being mostly bland and generic, but it does it’s job regardless. Danny Elfman also takes on the original score for the film, and again whilst not being anything super memorable, the score is a decent mixture between a creepy horror score alongside a more family film type soundtrack. The CGI effects however are one of the better aspects of the film for me, as while not outstanding they do succeed in bringing the various creatures to life, alongside many of the make-up effects and costumes, which I personally thought added to many of the action scenes throughout the run-time.

Rob Letterman (Shark Tale, Monsters vs. Aliens, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu) directs the film with a fun Halloween-like atmosphere, bringing together many different monsters and creatures ripped straight from their own books. With most of the designs of the monsters being spot on with the original designs, despite many of them only getting a few seconds of screen-time. With the creepy haunted dummy: ‘Slappy’ being the main focus of the narrative, being portrayed by Jack Black as almost a more sinister side of ‘R. L. Stine’ himself.

Although there are a few funny lines throughout the film, the writing here is one of the film’s biggest issues. As the somewhat original story is dragged down by some awful jokes and very cringy moments, which again falls back on why I would’ve preferred for the film to go for more of a creepy tone over a completely comedic one. The colourful end title sequence of the film is also a great throwback for classic ‘Goosebumps’ fans (despite not adding much to the film as a whole).

Overall, ‘Goosebumps’ was disappointing for me, as I was really expecting something more along the lines of: ‘Coraline’ or ‘Monster House’ on my initial viewing. A creepy family flick with plenty of eerie atmosphere, a few original ideas and plenty of throwbacks to the classic books. While I’m not completely against the idea of comedy in the story, unfortunately the film comes down to nothing but a very generic adventure with an over-reliance on poor jokes, with the only difference being the slapped on ‘Goosebumps’ name. Of course, I’m also not the film’s main audience, and I could definitely see some families enjoying this creepy adventure for what it is, a 4/10 for this one.

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Source Code (2011) – Film Review

Talented science fiction director Duncan Jones (Moon, Mute) brings us an original, engaging and fast-paced sci-fi flick. Combing futuristic technology, drama and a little bit of action for a pretty enjoyable experience overall. Which I believe still holds up today, aside from a few small issues here and there.

When a soldier wakes up in someone else’s body, he soon discovers he’s part of an experimental government program. Created in order to find the bomber of the commuter train he is aboard. A mission he has only eight short minutes to complete. Despite this time limit however, the film always manages to deliver it’s story very effectively (despite it’s simplicity at points) and builds up a decent layer of mystery and tension as to who is responsible for the bombing.

For me, the overall narrative and direction are the best elements of the film. As the original story is used to it’s best extent for the majority of the run-time, giving the film an almost mystery type structure alongside the science fiction elements. As we follow our protagonist: ‘Colter Stevens’ as he tries to find his bomber over the course of the film, finding many different suspects along the way.

The supporting cast of Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan and Jeffrey Wright all do a pretty great job within the film. However, Jake Gyllenhaal as: ‘Colter Stevens’ is obviously the stand-out, proving that he can hold as a leading hero, regardless of which genre he finds himself in. Unfortunately however, the characters in the film lack much development, as aside from a few short moments, the film never really seems interested in exploring the characters any further than we need to.

The cinematography by Don Burgess is decent for the most part, never really experimenting with anything incredibly interesting, but staying at an average level for the majority of the film. The original score by Chris Bacon is without a doubt the worst element of the film however, as I simply feel the score doesn’t suite this type of film at all. Feeling more like a soundtrack from a generic action film, rather than an original sci-fi such as this one. In addition to this, I’m personally not an enormous of the train set a large majority of the film takes place in. As although this is only a small issue that won’t bother most, I personally found the set to look and feel a little too fake at points.

The film also manages to blend it’s more outlandish sci-fi elements with the more grounded science fiction elements extremely well. Cutting between present day and the past at various points throughout the film, always utilizing the lighting as well as the sets very effectively as a great visual indicator for the audience. ‘Source Code’ also contained a surprising amount of comedic moments throughout which I wasn’t expecting, as ‘Colter’ experiences the strange reality he now finds himself in through his interactions with the various people on-board the train.

‘Source Code’ overall is pretty enjoyable, as while I personally find the film much more interesting for it’s story and ideas, as the visuals and original score throughout the film can be sometimes be very dull and uninspired, as well as the lack of characterisation for many. I find the majority of the filmmaking is decent, and results in a mostly entertaining sci-fi thriller, being easy to enjoy as a easy watch on a Saturday night, a 7/10 for this one.

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Beautiful Shots in Film – Film Lists

There are many beautiful shots in film, combing amazing cinematography, with great colour grading, lighting and visual storytelling. As many shots can become truly iconic on themselves, even telling the story of a certain character or location purely through the visual. Here are a few of my personal favourites…

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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The Matrix (1999)

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Pulp Fiction (1994)

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Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

24(855)

The Revenant (2016)

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Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

44(548)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

36(436)

Don’t Breathe (2016)

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American Beauty (1999)

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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Annihilation (2018)

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Interstellar (2014)

38(511)

Jaws (1975)

32(537)

American Psycho (2000)

59(64)

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

35(358)

The Road (2009)

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Life of Pi (2012)

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Fight Club (1999)

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Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

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Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (2014)

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