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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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, which mostly aims 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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Rise of the Guardians (2012) – Film Review

Truly a very underrated DreamWorks flick in my opinion, ‘Rise of the Guardians’ is a very comedic and action-packed animated adventure. Feeling almost like an: ‘Avengers’ film aimed towards a younger audience at points, filled with plenty of heart and a wonderful score by Alexandre Desplat, the film is a hidden animated gem to me.

When the evil spirit ‘Pitch’ launches a dark assault on Earth, the ‘Immortal Guardians’ of various different holidays and imagination team up to protect the innocence of children all around the world.

Combing legends and iconic figures such as: ‘Jack Frost’, ‘Santa Clause’, ‘The Easter Bunny’, ‘The Tooth Fairy’ and ‘The Sandman’ alongside a dark sinister villain. The film takes a lot of inspiration from the book series: ‘The Guardians of Childhood’ by William Joyce. As the film has a lot of fun with it’s plot, playing into the over-the-top ideas of it’s story resulting in many interesting locations or various little jokes between the characters.

Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman and Isla Fisher, are all fantastic as their various characters. Each giving their character a likable and amusing but not overly irritating personality, I particularly enjoyed Hugh Jackman and Alec Baldwin as: ‘The Easter Bunny’ and ‘Santa Clause’, as I feel these characters were definitely given many of the best jokes and moments throughout the story, with the actors behind them clearly having a lot of fun of portraying them.

The animated cinematography throughout the film is decent, while by no means anything exceptional. The film does make use of many different moving shots, usually having the camera tracking or spinning around the characters/locations to make the film feel like a true ‘spectacle’. The original score by Alexandre Desplat is easily one of my favourite elements of the film however, as while this composer has worked on many other brilliant soundtracks in his past (The Imitation Game, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Shape of Water) to name a few. I feel this has to be one of his most underrated scores similar to the film itself, as the tone captures all the elements of wonder, amazement and excitement perfectly.

The animation within the film is stunning throughout, everything from the hairs on top of the characters heads, to the sand effects for many of: ‘Sandman’s abilities, alongside ‘Jack Frost’s snow/ice effects all look phenomenal. The film is always very beautiful to look at and has a very diverse colour palette, ranging from light blues, to greens to blacks, making every shot look very different from the last.

My main issues with the film mostly revolves around it’s cheesiness, as while the film isn’t only aimed at children and does manage to reach an adult audience most of the time. The film never quite catches the older audience like a Pixar film would for example. There is also a small group of child characters in the film who play a role in the narrative helping the guardians, unfortunately I found these characters quite irritating, as I felt the film played into their ‘childlike nature’ a little too much, luckily though these characters don’t get too much screen-time.

Rise of the Guardians’ is one of those great family films that can entertain most children and a fair few adults, while by no means is it one of the best animated films. It’s certainly up there with some of DreamWorks’ other classics such as: ‘Shrek’, ‘Kung Fu Panda’, ‘Megamind’ and ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ for me. As although the film may not be winning best animated picture anytime soon, I feel it’s still a great watch around Christmas, Easter, or maybe even just your standard family weekend. Overall, a decent 7/10.

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The Woman in Black (2012) – Film Review

Fresh off the success of the final ‘Harry Potter’ installment, Daniel Radcliffe now takes on a paranormal horror story in this adaption of the classic British gothic horror novel: ‘The Woman in Black’ by Susan Hill. Yet sadly, the film ends up being a pretty lackluster experience overall.

In the early 20th century, a young solicitor travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals and stealing their children. Obviously this type of plot is nothing new for the horror genre, but the film does attempt to experiment a little to engage it’s audience more through mystery and tension. This is especially clear in the eerie opening stinger, which is probably my favourite scene in the film, but I still personally feel the film doesn’t have quite enough experimentation to stand-out that much.

Although I initially hoped the film would be something more than the usual modern-day horror, mostly due to it’s distinct British roots and original narrative based on a successful novel. The film is mostly bland, having an over-reliance on jump-scares (many of them completely false scares, such as: birds, screams, doors slamming and so on) with a mostly weak atmosphere and many boring scenes with generic filmmaking. The film does have a few creepy visuals, but it simply isn’t enough to make the film that memorable.

Daniel Radcliffe portrays his character: ‘Arthur Kipps’, very similar to how he has portrayed many of his other characters in the past. Coming off as a mostly likeable protagonist with a little bit of development but nothing really major, this is also an issue with the majority of the characters however. Which leads me onto the mostly awful writing throughout the film, as the film always talks directly to the audience, usually  leaving no room for subtlety and coming as very cliché and cheesy throughout. The rest of the cast such as: Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer, Liz White also do a decent job, but again nothing amazing of note.

The cinematography by Tim Maurice-Jones is mostly fine throughout the film, having the occasional attractive shot, but never really anything overly interesting. Although I did like many of the transitions between shots, as many of them really utilized the environment they set in very well. The film’s original score by Marco Beltrami is sadly also very mediocre, never really becoming any super memorable other than the occasional scene where the music is overly loud and irritating.

One element of the film I did enjoy however is the production design, although the film definitely doesn’t deliver on a eerie atmosphere or interesting characters. The film does truly feel like it is set in the 20th century, every location/set, prop and costume all feel real and accurate to the time period. It’s honestly a shame the narrative around them couldn’t have been better. I’m also personally not an enormous fan of the actual design of the title character‘The Woman in Black’, as even though this may be more of an issue with the novel rather than the film, I find her design simply very boring and pretty standard for a paranormal story.

In conclusion, ‘The Woman in Black’ didn’t really impress me. While not completely awful, it felt very similar to: ‘Winchester’ to me. As the film does have some successful elements, yet gets completely bogged down with a dull atmosphere alongside a bland narrative and characters (although this is more of an issue with the film’s source material). A true bit of wasted protentional for a classic British horror I feel, I’m gonna give this one a low 4/10 overall.

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Man of Steel (2013) – Film Review

Being one of the most iconic and beloved superheroes of all-time, it was inventible that ‘Superman’ would come 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’ very well, as the entire film is extremely bleak, dull and even somewhat dark. 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.

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 villainous incarnation of: ‘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.

Amir Mokri‘s cinematography throughout the film is mostly 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 soaring 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.

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

‘Man of Steel’ is a bit of a mess for 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 superhero flick and a low 4/10 overall.

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