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)

bladerunner042

The Matrix (1999)

thematrix015

Pulp Fiction (1994)

untitled

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

24(855)

The Revenant (2016)

revenant018

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

44(548)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

36(436)

Don’t Breathe (2016)

dontbreathe033

American Beauty (1999)

original-7438-1438602110-3

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

original-9572-1438602103-3

Annihilation (2018)

annihilation017

Interstellar (2014)

38(511)

Jaws (1975)

32(537)

American Psycho (2000)

59(64)

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

35(358)

The Road (2009)

original-25656-1438603511-19

Life of Pi (2012)

original-26759-1438603218-4

Fight Club (1999)

original-26729-1438602891-17

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

50-most-beautiful-cinematic-shots-17jpg

Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (2014)

birdman-670x328

Advertisements

Toy Story 4: The Forgettable Epilogue – Film Dissection

So ‘Toy Story 4’ has finally hit cinemas, supposedly to be the ‘true’ conclusion to the animated saga. But does it live up to it?

From back in 2010 when I first watched ‘Toy Story 3’, I was blown away by the true greatness of this animated trilogy. Still to this day, I still honestly believe that the ‘Toy Story’ films are one of the best trilogies to ever be put to the sliver screen. Combing beautiful animation, with incredibly memorable and iconic characters, in addition to plenty of humour, excitement and surprisingly in-depth themes at points. The films felt like one big story, split into three parts purely for the audience’s easy enjoyment, and I (along with many others) was very happy with the way the third film ended, finishing the story in both a satisfying and emotional way. That is of course, until Pixar announced a fourth film to be released back in 2014.

So as I wasn’t really anticipating anymore sequels to the ‘Toy Story’ series (thinking this fourth entry was purely created to be a cash-grab) I wasn’t really looking forward to the film all that much. But after seeing all the fantastic reviews from both critics and audiences alike, I started to think that perhaps Pixar may have pulled off the impossible. So I went into the film with decent expectations, wanting to be pleased. Unfortunately however, although I don’t think the film is terrible by any means. The film is easily the weakest of the ‘Toy Story’ films for me, feeling almost like an additional adventure with the occasional memorable moment sprinkled in. Aside from the ending of the film of course, which seems to be the main element that is really winning people over.

Spoilers onwards: the film takes place a while after the third film, now focusing on the gang of toys living with their new owner: ‘Bonnie’. However, this is where my first issue with the film comes in, as although we don’t find out exactly how much time has passed. It seems to have been only a months going by ‘Bonnie’s age in film, yet during this time she has now grown out of ‘Woody’, now completely ignoring him in favour of all her other toys. While I understand children can grow out of their toys in time, this simply feels like too large of a shift to me, especially when compared to ‘Bonnie’s love for ‘Woody’ back in ‘Toy Story 3’. This also plays into the ending of the film that I already mentioned, as here we a difficult moment for ‘Woody’s previous owner: ‘Andy’ as he hands over his favourite toy intrusting it to ‘Bonnie’ with a promise, to which she now completely ignores when going onto the next film, making this beautiful moment now mostly pointless and making ‘Bonnie’ feel like a victim of some weak writing.

The main narrative continues on however, as ‘Woody’ follows ‘Bonnie’ as she nervously heads to her first day at kindergarten, where she creates her own toy out of pieces of rubbish which soon become a sentient toy. This eventually leads the entire gang on a road-trip with ‘Bonnie’s family as ‘Woody’ attempts to stop ‘Bonnie’s new creation: ‘Forky’ from throwing himself away, believing he is a piece of rubbish rather than a toy. This soon leads onto ‘Woody’ encountering his old flame: ‘Bo Peep’ as he finds her now a rouge toy living a free life. It’s around this point many more of my issues start to arise, as from this moment on, the becomes film entirely evolves around ‘Woody’ and his love interest. Ditching many of the classic ‘Toy Story’ characters such as: ‘Jessie’, ‘Rex’, ‘Ham’, and ‘Mr. Potato Head’ in favour of many new characters voiced by famous actors, and while many of these characters are mostly entertaining, it’s a shame none of the other characters get any kind of conclusion or even anytime to shine like in the previous film.

Even one of the main characters from the franchise: ‘Buzz Lightyear’ has a very reduced role in the film, making his relationship to ‘Woody’ barely even notable, despite it being a very heavy focus throughout the trilogy. It’s also due to this that the film’s conclusion lacks the emotional impact I feel it should have, as when ‘Woody’ eventually decides the leave the gang for good. He only shares a simple hug with many of his long-time friends, many of which he’s barley even shared any screen-time or even dialogue with throughout the film. Which I do believe there was time for, as many of the new characters took up a lot of the run-time with a few of them not even adding anything to the story, purely just there for comedic effect. Which is a true shame, as I feel if this scene was handled well, it could’ve been even more impactful than the ending of ‘Toy Story 3’.

My biggest issue with the film is also relevant to the ending, as personally I didn’t find ‘Woody’s decision to stay with ‘Bo’ within his character. While I have seen many people attempt to defend his decision, I simply don’t feel that fits in with the rest of the series. As the theme of sticking with your owner regardless of whether you get played with or not has always been at the centre of the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy and ‘Woody’s character overall. Obviously the film does attempt to give ‘Woody’ a character arc throughout the film, focusing on a toy’s need for more than just a owner, and the overall focus of self-worth. Which is interesting, but I simply feel with the film’s rushed pacing and very large character arc they are attempting to pull off, it just simply just doesn’t work. Perhaps if this was a single film I could believe it, but going off what we’ve seen before this, it’s just  too big of a jump to me that ‘Woody’ would abandon his owner and friends of years for freedom.

Now I do feel this story for ‘Woody’ could definitely work, and I do like the idea of the two best friends ‘Woody’ and ‘Buzz’ going their separate ways. But I just don’t feel this was the way to do, perhaps if this character arc was built up for ‘Woody’ in previous films it would’ve worked better. In regards to previous films, ‘Bo Peep’ returning again in this film was a smart move on the writers. As this character is far more developed than she was previously, and I can see her being used to convince ‘Woody’ down a different life-path over some random new toy introduced purely for that reason. Overall, it seems like there were trying to do something a little ‘different’ from previous films, and I think that’s great. But I feel this way mostly conflicts with what was set up previously in this series. It’s not that this film is ‘bad’ per-say, it’s just disappointing to me.

Of course, the film does have many merits. The animation is phenomenal (being almost photo-realistic at points) along with some great voice acting, an interesting/unique villain and a decent original score once again by Randy Newman. But personally, I find the story, characters and overall themes of ‘Toy Story 4’ a little messy. The film has been described by many as an ‘epilogue’ to the ‘Toy Story’ franchise, almost like a little additional bit of story after the main narrative. Giving ‘Woody’ a conclusion alongside his old owner: ‘Andy’. But for me personally, the film doesn’t quite land on it’s feet. Feeling more than an additional adventure with the iconic toy cowboy rather than anything truly impactful or conclusive of note, and for me, the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy will always be the true animated classic, with this film serving as a decent side-adventure. But clearly I’m in the minority on this, as it seems most people adore ‘Toy Story 4’, so it at least the franchise can still appease most.

toy_story_ver2_xxlgtoy_story_four_ver8_xlg

 

 

What Happened to Pixar Animation? – Film Discussion

What ever happened to the beloved classic Pixar Animation?

Pixar Animation used to make some phenomenal animated adventures that the entire family could enjoy together. Regardless of their age. Mixing brilliant storytelling with beautiful animation and incredibly memorable characters. Each film never failed to stand-out amongst the rest. Some of the films such as: ‘Monster’s Inc.’ or ‘Wall.E’ for example (my personal favourite Pixar films), really got creative with their own narratives and flushing out their individual worlds. However, in recent years, I’ve noticed a serve downgrade in quality from their films. As it seems ever since the release of ‘Toy Story 3’ back in 2010, Pixar has had a real reliance on sequels, prequels and spin-offs over original films. While still mostly enjoyable, I have noticed the storytelling, character arcs and world building all seems to be lacking when compared to their earlier films.

In recent years films such as: ‘The Good Dinosaur’, ‘Monster’s University’, ‘Brave’, ‘Finding Dory’, ‘Cars’ 2 and 3 and of course the upcoming ‘Toy Story 4’. Have all ranged from sub-par through to simply awful, the ‘Cars’ series of course being the best example of this. As this series has always been Pixar’s black sheep. Never truly having the magic that makes Pixar special, always feeling like more of a cash-grab than anything else. ‘Cars 2’ being the easiest example of this, as this film is Pixar’s only rotten film to date. The ‘Cars’ series has always felt very immature to me, although I didn’t hate the original film, it’s definitely no one’s favourite. In regards to Pixar’s other sequels: ‘Finding Dory’ and ‘Toy Story 4’, ‘Finding Dory’ is nothing more than a reskinned ‘Finding Nemo’. With the exception of a few amusing characters, the film has nothing more really to offer. Despite having fantastic reviews from critics for some reason, the film was never anything other than a massive nostalgia slap for me. As of now ‘Toy Story 4’ hasn’t been released yet, but I feel when it does it’ll be another film with great reviews, but with nothing truly memorable about it. As I personally believe the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy was ended so well, I don’t truly don’t understand why they feel the need to continue that story other than profit.

‘Monster’s University’ is probably my favourite of Pixar’s recent continuations of their old stories, although I don’t think the film reaches the heights of ‘Monster’s Inc.’ Purley due to less originality and dark themes. I do still think the film is very funny, and it does explore the monster world further. It’s one of the few films I can say where it feels there was true thought put into it, as it doesn’t just lean on the legacy of the previous film. Finally we come to Pixar’s original films. This being ‘The Good Dinosaur’ and ‘Brave’, now whilst I don’t think these films are awful per-say. They simply just aren’t that memorable. ‘Brave’ having a few funny moments and an interesting setting, but falls more into classic 2D animated story at points. As for ‘The Good Dinosaur’, it’s simply a returning home story, with nothing of note at all other than the nice animation. It seems most people agree with me on this one too, considering it’s very low box office return.

Now of course there are some recent exceptions, Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’, ‘Coco’ and last year’s ‘Incredibles 2’ I did enjoy very much. These films proved to me that Pixar still does have some great stories in them, although these films aren’t perfect and I wouldn’t rank them as high as the classic Pixar films personally, they definitely show potential. I would love to see more original animated films like this from Pixar. Considering how much money ‘Coco’ made when it was released, it’s clear they still make money just from the Pixar name alone. So why do they feel the need to rely on sequels? Many people would point to Disney pulling their leg, and although I could believe that. I also think it’s due to Pixar simply becoming uninterested, they now think of themselves as the animation giants the audience believes they are. This means they no longer take risks, and are comfortable simply gaining profit of their previous franchises.

This could also be due to a lack of original ideas of course, Pixar simply feeling more comfortable returning to their previous stories. But considering some of their big competitors such as: DreamWorks Animation, Blue Sky Animation, Warner Bros. Animation and Illumination Animation are all still pumping out original films (granted not all quite to the Pixar standard). Films such as: ‘Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie’, ‘Ferdinand’, ‘The Lego Movie’ and ‘Despicable Me’ are all still a very enjoyable watch. Some of these films even making a pretty big box office return. With the ‘Despicable Me’ spin-off: ‘Minions’ even becoming one of the highest grossing animated films ever earning over £900 million. Even the company teamed up with them: Disney. Are beating them recently when it comes to original animated flicks. With Disney’s ‘Zootropolis’ being one of my favourite films of 2016 when it was originally released.

In conclusion, what happened to Pixar Animation is very clear to me. They simply got lazy, focusing far more on wanting to make large profit rather than give their audience new exciting stories. The company isn’t completely dead, films like ‘Coco’ and ‘Inside Out’ clearly proving there is still talent there. But with the older writers and creators now backing down from the company with newer faces arising. I’m concerned that Disney and Pixar executives may continue to push for more sequels, prequels and spin-offs with the knowledge that the films will always make money regardless of their quality. This is mostly why I fear for ‘Toy Story 4’, as even though I really hope the film is great, I currently have a lot of doubts in my mind about it. Pixar however, have also recently brought out a trailer for their next film following on from ‘Toy Story 4’ titled: ‘Onward’, which does appear to be a completely original story focusing on elements of fantasy and adventure, so perhaps not all is lost for the iconic animation company just yet. But only time will tell I suppose.

cars-3-2017-08the-good-dinosaur-7.jpg

 

What’s Wrong With Modern-Horror? – Film Discussion

What’s wrong with the majority of modern-horror films?

In my opinion, there’s many different issues modern-horrors/thrillers, although there is a few films that manage to avoid these problems. Such as: ‘It Follows’, ‘The Descent’, ‘A Quiet Place’, ‘Don’t Breathe’ and ‘The Void’ to name a few. The majority of modern-horrors follow a very similar formula, a group of stereotypical teenagers do something they shouldn’t e.g. find a certain object (Ouija board, cursed book, dead friend/relative’s photo). Or a family moves into a new home only for it to be haunted by ghosts/spirits. These two plotlines are the go-to for most of the new releases now-a-days. But they are unbelievably drawn-out by this point.

Similar to how every horror plot in the 80s was to have a group of teenagers visit a cabin in the woods only to get slaughtered one-by-one at the hands of a serial killer. Sticking to stories that we have become so familiar to means that there is little surprise left for the audience, and the narrative soon becomes very predictable. Another issue with the majority of the stories that are told is the weak characters, nearly every modern-horror has such bland characters it’s difficult to get invested in the story at all. Just because these characters may be killed off doesn’t mean you don’t have to write for them, having some likeable or interesting characters actually makes the audience care whether they live or die, therefore increasing the tension. Of course hiring unknown actors who aren’t the most amazing at their craft also doesn’t help.

Another thing that’s always bothered me in regards to the characters in modern-horrors, is the characters extreme stupidity. The film actually falls less out of reality due to the characters being so unbelievably oblivious to everything around them. It’s understandable the characters would have some doubts the first time one of their friends die. But after two or three, it’s ridiculous the characters still haven’t figured out what the audience has half an hour ago. Even if their curious but not concerned, it’s nothing but frustrating and less-believable. This unbelievability also applies to the attractiveness of the cast, as although I think some attractive cast members is perfectly fine, casting nothing but models takes the audience straight out of the story. A film particularly guilty of both of these things is the Blumhouse production: ‘Truth or Dare’ This film is a perfect example of the problems I have with modern horrors, both in regards to their characters, actors and scripts.

However, it isn’t just the script or actors that’s an issue when it comes to modern horrors, the overall filmmaking of the picture is usually extremely bland. Again, due to the genre, some people may believe the filmmaking isn’t important. This isn’t true. The filmmaking can still be impressive while building tension and fear. ‘It Follows’ is a great example of this, the beautiful lighting, cinematography and original score all give the film style without taking anything away from the eerie atmosphere. Horror soundtracks are a huge issue for me when it comes to most of the films, as it is possible to create a great memorable score without making it just sound eerie. E.g. ‘Halloween’ or ‘The Shining’.

Finally we get to the biggest problem with modern-horror: the classic jump-scare. Jump-scares only really came around in the early 2000s, but since then they have completely invaded the film industry. Not only appearing in horror but everything from action to sci-fi to even superhero films, they’ve now become almost a staple of modern filmmaking. I don’t believe they are an entirely awful idea, they can be used correctly every so often to shock the viewer, and give them a quick rush before the next scene. However, most modern-horrors now essentially rely on jump-scares (most James Wan films being particularly guilty of this in my opinion), and I believe this is incredibly lazy. Horror should be about creating an eerie atmosphere, having creepy visuals and giving the audience some likeable characters to fear for. Almost placing the audience in that situation themselves (Pyewacket being a great example of this). Drawing out shots and using dark lighting/shadows etc. can all help build fear in the audience. Not just throwing ‘spooky’ faces and loud noises on the screen and seeing what sticks.

The main reason all these bad decisions are made when it comes to the horror/thriller genre is mostly due to money, no matter how awful the majority of these horrors are, the reality is that they make money. As these films can be made on a very small budget as they utilize mostly unknown actors and very little CGI or make-up effects. With a target audience consisting of teenagers or horror fanatics who will pay to see the film, no matter how terrible the trailers look. For example the first ‘Paranormal Activity’ had a budget of only £11,800 and grossed over £151 million. The film only having an hour and twenty-minute run-time along with very little actual ‘ghosts’ in it. ‘The Bye Bye Man’ also being another example. Having a small budget of £6 million with a gross of £21 million. Despite awful reviews from both critics and audiences.

In conclusion, modern-horror films are suffering due to both a lack of creativity and a heavy focus on profit. I’m of course aware that film is a business, but in my opinion, creativity is the most important aspect, as without creativity film doesn’t exist. Horror is a fantastic genre that isn’t reaching it’s full potential a majority of the time due to production companies/directors not caring. There’s a reason a lot of indie horrors are praised, as they don’t set out to only make money, may of them are extremely creative and make amazing use of their micro-budgets. Although horror also wasn’t perfect in the past, I definitely preferred it. At least back in the 80s/90s we still had some creative concepts, from killer’s invading their victim’s dreams, to murderous children’s dolls to a hand-held documentary on teenagers finding an ancient evil witch in a forest. The possibilities were, and still are, truly endless. Hopefully soon filmmakers and producers alike will look past the profit and truly see this.

insidious-poster1ouija-movie-poster