Kong: Skull Island (2017) – Film Review

Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs his first major film with ‘Kong: Skull Island’, another remake of the classic monster, this time however, with a different time-period and some very impressive visuals. All equaling to a film which is pretty fun overall, despite still being filled with a variety of issues throughout it’s run-time.

Shorty after the Vietnam war in 1973, a team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, soon venturing into the domain of the mighty ‘King Kong’, and must fight their way through an onslaught of dangerous creatures to escape the deadly: ‘Skull Island’.

Just from a quick glance at the film it’s very obvious that the film takes heavy inspiration from the iconic war epic: ‘Apocalypse Now’. Which is by no means a bad thing, as the visuals are definitely one of the better elements of the film, as they really add to the 1970s time-period and enhance the experience of what could’ve been your standard bland monster blockbuster.

The all-star cast of Thomas Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Toby Kebbell and my personal favourite John C. Reilly, are all decent in their roles despite the characters not being given much depth beyond a few short scenes, as due to the huge size of the cast, many characters become simply clichés and not much more. Aside from Samuel L. Jackson and John C. Reilly’s characters, who both play into the theme of going mad after war, which I personally found very interesting and wish the film explored further. Rather than focusing on some of the awful comedic moments the film tries to cram into the story.

The cinematography by Larry Fong is one of the weaker elements of the film, as although there are plenty of attractive shots throughout the story, this is mostly due to the film’s excellent use of it’s ranged colour palette and CGI effects. The original score by Henry Jackman however is one of his better scores in my opinion, as throughout the narrative the soundtrack always adds to the adventurous tone of the film, using tribal drums to add to every encounter with ‘Kong’. The film also uses a variety of songs from the 1970s to further push the time-period, and while this sometimes works effectively, it can also feel very forced at points.

Throughout the film the CGI effect look pretty great (as similar to many of the other films within this new franchise of monster flicks) as ‘Kong’ always feels very imposing and powerful, with every detail from his scars to his hairs looking phenomenal. Despite the film’s use of slow-motion making the film feel very cheesy during some of the action scenes. This also goes for many of the other creatures throughout the film, as ‘Skull Island’ is brimming with a variety of unique monsters, my personal favourite being the sinister: ‘Skullcrawlers’, ‘Kong’s adversaries on the island.

The main issue I took with the last remake of the iconic monster before this one, that being Peter Jackson’s ‘King Kong’ from 2005, was the overly long run-time. As for some reason the film was over three hours long with mostly nothing but constant CGI effects and action scenes throughout it’s run-time. However, ‘Kong: Skull Island’ succeeds here, as the film is much shorter and utilizes quick pacing to always keep the story moving.

Overall, ‘Kong Skull Island’ is pretty enjoyable, as while filled with a variety of problems, mosltly in reagrds to the film’s characterisation and weak story elements, the film still manages to be exciting through it’s great use of CGI effects and some thrilling action scenes, all backed-up by a great original score and an intresting use of the 1970s time-period. A low 7/10 for ‘Kong’, in need of improvement for sure, but you can still get something out of this one.

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Clash of the Titans (2010) – Film Review

In this modern remake of the 1981 classic, ‘Perseus’ takes on a variety of gods and monsters in this somewhat fun, yet still very generic and sometimes even over-the-top recreation of the original story. As this time around, director Louis Leterrier focuses more on action and enormous CGI spectacle than ever before.

When ‘Perseus’ the demi-god son of: ‘Zeus’ finds himself caught in the middle of a war between gods and mortals, in which his mortal family are killed. He gathers a war band to help him conquer the mighty ‘Kraken’, ‘Medusa’ and ‘Hades’, god of the underworld.

Going off the negative reviews from both critics and audiences, I wasn’t expecting much from ‘Clash of the Titans’ on my initial watch. However, I was surprised to find the film is mostly entertaining, as although there isn’t much substance to this remake, I still find it to be a somewhat exciting action flick, having plenty of creatures and adventure throughout it’s run-time despite it’s various flaws. This may also be due to my fondness for Greek mythology however, as I’ve had an interest in this element of fantasy/history since I was young.

Although there aren’t any particular stand-outs when it comes to the cast, Gemma Arterton, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Mads Mikkelsen and Jason Flemyng all do a decent job throughout the film. However, Sam Worthington who portrays the protagonist: ‘Perseus’ I personally found to be one of the weakest elements of the film, as despite him having a number of a large roles in huge blockbusters such as: ‘Avatar’, ‘Terminator: Salvation’ and ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ in the past, he has always seemed extremely bland to me, never really coming off as anything other than a generic action hero with little charisma, and ‘Clash of the Titans’ is unfortunately no exception to this. 

The cinematography by Peter Menzies Jr. is also quite bland, as although I do appreciate the lack of incredibly shaky hand-held camera shots during many of the action scenes. Many of the shots throughout the film are usually very standard, as the cinematography never really attempts to enhance the visuals or make use of the story’s impressive and unique locations (aside from the occasional wide shot).

One very bizarre element of the film is definitely the original score by Ramin Djawadi, as although some tracks sound perfect for a fantasy epic such as this one. Other tracks almost sound as if they’ve been performed be a rock band, making them feel incredibly out-of-place within the film’s time-period. The soundtrack actually does work quite well in my personal favourite scene of the film however, as the scene set within ‘Medusa’s lair uses the score to build tension and atmosphere surprisingly well.

The CGI effects throughout ‘Clash of the Titans’ are definitely one of the film’s better aspects, as regardless of whether it’s being used for creatures, gods or locations, the visual effects always look great. However, this is also partially due to the designs of many of the creatures within the film, as the designs manage to perfectly blend the appearance of modern-day monsters mixed with classic Greek mythology. This also lends itself effectively to many of the various action scenes throughout the film (this obviously being the film’s main draw) as the action throughout the narrative is mostly pretty solid, making great use of the various different creatures abilities and always placing ‘Perseus’ in different dangerous scenarios.

Overall, I found ‘Clash of the Titans’ decently entertaining for what it was, which is essentially is nothing more than your usual action blockbuster with some Greek mythology thrown-in for good measure. As while the film is successful for what it sets out to do, the film does fall flat in many other areas, from Sam Worthington’s dull performance, to some of the weak writing and unusual original score, I feel only people truly interested in Greek mythology could get something out of this one. But with all that in mind, ‘Clash of the Titans’ still isn’t the worst remake I’ve ever seen, and is most likely a low 5/10.

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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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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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Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) – Film Review

Serving as a sequel to the 2014 American ‘Godzilla’ remake, as well as standing as another chapter in this new franchise of monster films by Legendary Pictures. ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ delivers more on of the exciting monster action and amazing visuals that the first film sometimes lacked. However, the film does cut down on many other aspects to make this possible.

The story focuses on the crypto-zoological agency: ‘Monarch’ as they face off against a roster of god-sized monsters, including the mighty: ‘Godzilla’, who collides with: ‘Mothra’, ‘Rodan’, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed: ‘King Ghidorah’. The narrative does go a little deeper as the film goes on, but I personally felt the plot gets a little absurd as it continues, becoming almost too layered at points for a simple monster flick.

Of course, it can probably go without saying, every action scene with the creatures in the film is phenomenal. As each monster is always given it’s own unique way to combat the others, and the film always finds time to give each creature at least one memorable scene. The film also features a lot more action than the previous one, due to the film’s very quick pace and as it jumps from location to location constantly, always trying to increase the spectacle each time.

The three main members of the cast, that being Kyle M. Chandler, Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown. All portray a broken family, forced apart by various responsibilities as well as the loss of one of their children in the past, and while their performances are decent throughout the film. I was disappointed by the lack of any further development for their characters, as I found the set-up for their story very interesting and wish the film went more in depth with this idea rather than indulging in one more fight scene, this same issue unfortunately also applies to Charles Dance’s villain (Alan Jonah) within the film.

The cinematography by Lawrence Sher is decent overall, while their are many beautiful and simply awesome shots with the monsters, many of the shots with human characters are rather bland as there is definitely an over-reliance on standard hand-held shots everytime ‘Godzilla’ or one of his counterparts isn’t on screen, despite the lighting throughout the film being very effective. Bear McCreary is the composer for the film, creating an original score which captures the enormous size of the monsters and their chaotic nature very well, with the soundtrack even going to the extent of giving each creature their own unique theme.

One element of the film that is always constant is the creature designs, as each one is always creatively designed, and is given many unique features to fit with it’s abilities and make it stand out from the rest of the monsters. Of course, the CGI and visual effects throughout the film are also all fantastic, although the film can sometimes be barded with far too many things happening on the screen at once (becoming a little overwhelming at points), everything we see however is usually incredibly well detailed and doesn’t fell out-of-place.

One element I felt didn’t reach the level of the film from 2014, was how the film captured the true scale of the creatures. As while director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘t Treat, Krampus) clearly puts his all into pleasing fans and creating a fun experience (with even having the classic theme for ‘Godzilla’ make a welcomed return). The film simply doesn’t capture the same feeling of being in a world with this massive creatures quite like Gareth Edwards’ film did.

Overall, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ is the definition of a mixed-bag for me, even with it’s explosive monster fights, some amazing visuals and a great original score. It’s over-the-top story and weak characterisation just can’t be ignored. Along with it’s extremely quick pacing, I’d say the film is a 5/10 overall. Even with some serious flaws, the film does have some elements of enjoyment to be had, check this one out if your a fan of the iconic monster.

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Attack the Block (2011) – Film Review

From producer Edgar Wright and director Joe Cornish (The Kid Who Would Be King) comes a violent, thrilling and exciting sci-fi spectacle. Despite a smaller budget, the film manages to create an incredibly entertaining film with a variety of brilliant effects. All equalling to a super enjoyable British thrill-ride.

The story focuses on a teenage gang in South London as they defend their block of flats from a deadly alien invasion after they fall from the sky in large meteorites. With a plot as inane and unusual as this, it’s fair to go into the film with ‘different’ expectations.

Despite being a simple science fiction thriller, the script is not only tense at points, but it can also be funny and even thought-provoking at times. Having themes of racism, crime and abandonment. Most of the action in the film is also very well done, not being overly edited, or shot with too much hand-held camera (unlike many action films or thrillers today). The film also manages to keep a really fast pace throughout, only ever having small breaks in between action scenes to develop the characters and give the audience a quick breather.

The main gang of teenagers are portrayed by John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones and Simon Howard. Who I think all do a great job acting like a rebellious group of London teens, having many comedic moments playing London ‘chavs’, without taking their portrayals a little too far. Jodie Whittaker (Black Mirror, Doctor Who) also appears in the film, as young woman who gets mugged by the group, and while she is less interesting, I still felt she really helped give the audience more of a perspective throughout the story. Even Nick Frost gets a small appearance as ‘Ron’, a drug supplier who has many hilarious moments.

On a rewatch, I also noticed the cinematography by Thomas Townend is surprisingly well-done, while I wasn’t expecting to be terrible by any means. It isn’t nearly as bland as I remembered it being, utilizing many different shots in both the action and non-action scenes. The cinematography also benefits many of the various effects in the film, both practical and CGI. The film’s effects still hold up today and work very well within the narrative, even many of the gore effects for various character’s death scenes are still impressive, and remain shocking to me even now.

The original score by Steven Price is another element of the film I really enjoy, combining a decent sci-fi soundtrack alongside a almost hip-hop like beat works really well with the idea of the inner London city clashing with outer-space. I personally believe this to be one of his most underrated scores right to next his original scores for both: ‘Fury’ and ‘Gravity’.

Personally, I think the only really weak element of the film aside from a few slightly cheesy scenes here and there, is the film’s sound design. As although I really like the various noises of the alien creatures themselves (as I believe it goes along with their amazing designs extremely well) there are a variety of other sounds I simply don’t feel fit with their placement in the film. Whether that’s because they feel out-of-place or simply come off as a little cringy at points.

‘Attack the Block’ is simply awesome, it remains a very exciting film from start-to-finish. Knowing exactly what it is whilst not afraid to push itself ever so slightly further to elevate above other films within it’s genre. While I don’t think the film is perfect by any means, and I don’t believe the sound design could be improved. ‘Attack the Block’ is still a solid sci-fi thriller. A high 8/10, definitely give this underrated film a chance if your interested.

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