Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) – Film Review

Based on the romantic novels by E. L. James, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ was the first instalment of the now enormous franchise, and despite me definitely not being the film’s target audience, the film itself is a near complete disaster in regards to both it’s writing, and it’s filmmaking. As unless your looking for a weak romantic story with bland acting, uninteresting characters and one of Danny Elfman’s weakest original scores to date. This is not the film for you.

When literature student: ‘Anastasia Steele’ goes to interview billionaire: ‘Christian Grey’, she discovers an attractive yet troubled man, soon leading her to discover more of herself, as she later desires to be with him, despite his stalker-like tendencies.

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is one of those few films that turned itself into a successful series purely though pulling in it’s specific type of audience. As the film doesn’t really have much to offer besides the occasional sex scene or romantic moment, which really left me wondering what many viewers actually got out of the overall experience, as take those elements away, and the film truly has very little left, and I can’t really say I feel the need to continue on through the franchise after watching this first instalment.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan portray the main couple of the film: ‘Anastasia Steele’ and ‘Christian Grey’, with the supporting cast of Eloise Mumford, Jennifer Ehle and Victor Rasuk. All of which give very dull performances throughout the film, especially with the lack of characterisation between them other than ‘Christian’s (overly dramatic) backstory. This is also where one of my biggest issues with the film comes into play, as Jamie Dornan as: ‘Christian Grey’ could easily be seen as a dangerous psychopath throughout the film, as his performance genuinely gave me a feeling of unease whenever he is on-screen. Unfortunately however, I don’t feel this is what the filmmakers intended, and I couldn’t help but think of the huge shift in tone if ‘Christian Grey’ was older and less attractive.

Seamus McGarvey handles the cinematography throughout the film, which despite not being anything incredibly impressive, the film does have the occasional pleasing shot throughout it’s run-time, this also applies to the lighting throughout the film. However, this doesn’t improve the film much overall, as the writing within: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is without a doubt one of it’s worst aspects. Resulting in many scenes becoming unintentionally hilarious or extremely cheesy, especially when the film is attempting to catch the viewer off-guard with it’s dialogue.

Despite being a composer I usually adore, the original score by Danny Elfman is also very bland, as the score throughout the film always feels out-of-place and isn’t memorable in the slightest. The film also uses a variety of songs throughout it’s story, many of which being remixes of modern pop-songs, which again, usually don’t fit the tone of the film even remotely.

Although only a small element, one slightly redeeming aspect of the film I actually did enjoy is the film’s colour palette, as throughout the narrative a variety of locations are given grey walls and floors, with ‘Christen Grey ‘ also wearing grey clothes alongside some other grey-coloured furniture within his apartment. All of which play into the theme of: ‘Christian Grey’ being in constant control. But going by the rest of the film, this was more than likely accidental.

In conclusion, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a film that will only appeal to the audience that has most likely already seen the entire trilogy, as the dull performances, awful writing and forgettable original score all leave the film with very little to offer. As the intense sex scenes and decent cinematography/lighting simply isn’t enough to carry the film through, resulting in a film that doesn’t really even understand what it’s purpose was to begin with. Overall, a 2/10. Definitely give this one a miss, as this boring experience simply isn’t worth it’s run-time.

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Hacksaw Ridge (2016) – Film Review

Serving as both an intense war film as well as the real-life biography of Desmon T. Dos, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is an Oscar nominated film which deserves much of the praise it receives. As a stand-out performance by Andrew Garfield alongside the attractive cinematography by Simon Duggan, the film truly creates an amazing and very emotional experience for any viewer.

Based on the real-life story of World War II American Army Medic, Desmon T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa. Who (despite push-back from his superiors) refused to kill, and soon became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a single shot on the battlefield.

Directed by Mel Gibson, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is most effective for displaying war at it’s most brutal, never turning away from the graphic violence and horrific destruction World War II inflicted on many people’s lives, and while the film can sometimes go a little too far when it comes to it’s gore (feeling a little tasteless and over-the-top at points). I did find ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ more engaging than many other similar films within the war genre, and the grim atmosphere the film presents is sure to keep any audience member on the edge of their seat.

The main cast of Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths and Luke Bracey are all phenomenal, with Andrew Garfield in particular giving a fantastic performance as Desmon T. Dos, never failing to portray him as a likeable and brave man thrown into the dark side of war. However, the film also features some extremely odd choices when it comes to the supporting cast, as Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington both portray strict war-camp generals. Which despite them both being fairly decent in their roles, their characters could’ve definitely been better cast.

Although the cinematography by Simon Duggan isn’t incredible throughout the film’s run-time, the film does have a variety of pleasing shots, in addition to the film using hand-held camera techniques to increase the feel of the violent chaos of war. Unfortunately however, despite not being used very heavily throughout the film, the shots involving CGI that we do see throughout the narrative could definitely do with some improvement. As the CGI effects for the film’s battleships and fiery explosions can look a little unusual when compared to the time-period accurate battlefront.

The original score by Rupert Gregson-Williams is one of the stronger elements of the film however, as the soundtrack helps to build tension and atmosphere throughout the story, in addition to being surprisingly memorable for a war film. Personally though I felt the score never quite managed to build tension as well as the score for: ‘Dunkirk’ from 2017, or had the huge emotional impact as the original score from the iconic: ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Which stopped the soundtrack from reaching the heights it truly could for me.

One area of the film I feel is very underappreciated is the make-up and costume design, as every horrific injury seen throughout the film always look very realistic and extremely painful, whilst every costume always feels very accurate to the film’s time-period, almost making the film feel as if the production took place during World War II itself. These elements also help make-up for some of the weak writing early-on in the film, as whilst the film’s writing isn’t awful by any means, a large amount of the dialogue could be seen as a little cheesy when it comes to developing the film’s characters.

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ overall is one of those films that might not be perfect in it’s execution, mostly as due to it’s variety of small issues within the writing, gory violence and supporting cast. But all of these problems are mostly minor when compared to the remainder of the film. As the film’s tense war-torn atmosphere on-top of the memorable and charismatic performance by Andrew Garfield, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is a film I feel many should see at least once, an is a solid 8/10 for me.

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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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The Christmas Chronicles (2018) – Film Review

From director Clay Kaytis (The Angry Birds Movie) and producer Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) comes another Christmas family adventure with ‘The Christmas Chronicles’, and while the film may be nowhere near as memorable as many other festive classics. I can still see the film being a mostly entertaining ride for families and younger viewers alike.

When brother and sister: ‘Teddy’ and ‘Kate Pierce’, are left alone on Christmas Eve, they devise a plan to catch ‘Santa Claus’ on camera, which soon turns into an unexpected journey that most children could only dream of. As they manage to hop aboard ‘Santa’s sleigh and join him on his task of delivering presents all over the world.

Although the two films do differ from each other in many ways, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this film and ‘The Santa Clause’ from 1994. As both Christmas flicks focus on characters going on a magical adventure with ‘Santa Clause’, with them usually having strong themes of family and belief throughout. However, ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ also does seem to focus more on exciting action set pieces.

While Judah Lewis and Darby Camp portray the siblings decently well throughout the film (aside from the occasional line of dialogue) Kurt Russell is without a doubt the stand-out of the cast, as he brings his usual charisma and talent to create a fresh and memorable portrayal of Saint Nick himself. This is dragged down by the film’s characterisation however, as both of the siblings are pretty bland and dull from start-to-finish.

The cinematography by Don Burgess is also mostly generic throughout the film, usually serving it’s purpose without drawing the audience’s attention away from the action on-screen. Speaking of which, the action scenes throughout the film are handled surprisingly well. From the fast car chase through the streets of Chicago, to ‘Santa’s sleigh soaring through the night sky. The weak CGI throughout the film can detract from some these scenes however, with ‘Santa’s elves in particular having some very distracting visual effects at points.

The original score by Christophe Beck is decent overall, as while not incredibly memorable, and many could see it as slightly weaker when compared to many of his other soundtracks such as: ‘The Muppets’, ‘Frozen’ or ‘Ant-Man’, the score does have a festive and pretty up-beat tone throughout the film’s run-time.

My main issue with the film is the film’s overall cheesiness, as although the film does avoid the occasional Christmas film cliché. The film is still brimming with cheesy lines and scenes throughout the film’s narrative. However, I found this to be a problem mostly around ‘Santa’s elves, as not only did these characters have an awful new redesign, but they seemed to be purely used for the sake of being cute. I also couldn’t help but think the film could’ve been improved if directed by Chris Columbus, as although director Clay Kaytis doesn’t do an terrible job by any means, I feel the director of: ‘Home Alone’ (a true classic for many) could’ve definitely made the film better for what it was.

Overall, ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ is a mostly fun adventure for a film night on Christmas Eve, as while the story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Kurt Russell’s memorable performance mixed with some entertaining action scenes and a very festive atmosphere all result in the film being a decent watch, as well as a low 7/10 all together.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – Film Review

Many years after the original: ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise ended, the series was rebooted in it’s entirety with a new ‘Planet of the Apes’ trilogy, with these films almost serving as prequels to the original films despite being set within their own timeline. ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ was the first of this new series, and surprised many people on it’s initial release.

When a substance designed to help the brain repair itself and cure Alzheimers gives advanced intelligence to a chimpanzee named: ‘Caesar’, he soon begins to enhance other apes in order to lead an ape uprising through the city of San Francisco.

Although I was never an enormous fan of the original: ‘Planet of the Apes’ film, as I was always familiar with the sci-fi classic purely through it’s iconic plot twist near the end of it’s narrative, I personally feel that director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist, The Gambler, Captive State) did a pretty great job overall. As despite the film having plenty of sci-fi elements throughout it’s story, the film is mostly grounded in reality, focusing more on being a tense thriller with small elements of science fiction scattered throughout.

Andy Serkis takes on the difficult role of portraying the completely CGI protagonist: ‘Caesar’, and does a superb job of it. As he manages to capture the movements and mannerisms of an ape perfectly through motion-capture (which is even more impressive when considering that the film was one of the earliest to use a motion-capture set-up on location) all whilst insuring the audience sympathises with: ‘Caesar’. In addition to Andy Serkis, the rest of the cast of James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow and Brian Cox are all decent in their roles, despite the film having the occasional cliché line of dialogue for most characters.

The cinematography by Andrew Lesnie is visually pleasing for the most part, having a variety of attractive shots as well as having plenty of movement especially when following the apes sprinting or climbing. The way many of the shots are also framed further feeds into the theme of man controlling nature (which is present throughout the film). Many of the scenes set within the ape sanctuary also link back to this theme, including my personal favourite scene of the film: ‘Caesar Speaks’, which is executed perfectly.

Despite the later films in the trilogy being composed by the fantastic Michael Giacchino, the original score by Patrick Doyle is decent throughout the film. As while it definitely doesn’t have a variety of memorable tracks, the soundtrack does back-up many of the action scenes and more emotional moments quite well. I also thought the sound design throughout the film helped add to the film’s realism, mostly through the enormous amount of ape roars, squeaks and grunts.

The CGI effects throughout the film still hold-up surprisingly well, as although the visual effects have definitely aged since the film’s initial release in 2011, and the CGI visuals are for sure the weakest when it comes to the entire trilogy. The visuals effects are still heavily detailed and feel very real when placed into their locations, which is lucky, as if not, I do feel the weak CGI effects could’ve possibly derailed some of the excellent performances from the cast. Aside from the flaws already mentioned with the visual effects however, the action scenes throughout the film are handled pretty well, as many would probably know this film mostly for it’s action set piece on San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ may not be the best film within the new trilogy, but it defeintly is a very solid start. As although the visual effects are lacking at points, the great cinematography, decent original score and brilliant motion-capture backing-up Andy Serkis’ outstanding performance, all leads this initial entry to be a solid 8/10 in my opinion.

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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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We’re the Millers (2013) – Film Review

Even with a mostly standard plot for a comedy flick, I ended-up enjoying ‘We’re the Millers” more than I initially expected. As the entire cast (especially Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston) have excellent chemistry with each other, resulting in the majority of the humour throughout the story working quite well, despite the film having a few noticeable flaws throughout it’s run-time.

When a middle-aged pot dealer is tasked with moving a huge shipment of weed into the United States from Mexico for a large pay packet, he puts together a fake family of various people he knows from his flat in an attempt to make it over the border.

Comedy as a genre has always been very opinionated, as everyone obviously has their own taste when it comes to what they find amusing. But for the most part, I would say enjoyed the humour throughout the film, as aside from a few moments where the joke was simply one character saying something disgusting or incredibly stupid out loud to another group of characters (as I personally find this kind of comedy a little lazy) I do think most of the jokes land. However, I also feel a few more jokes hidden within the background of shots would’ve also added to the film in more ways than one.

Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts and Will Poulter all portray random people thrown together in the hope of creating this false family, and I would say they work well together throughout the film. Always coming off as a very dysfunctional yet still likeable group, with all of the cast portraying very different personalities without losing any comedic timing.

While the film does have the occasional appealing shot, the cinematography by Barry Peterson isn’t anything spectacular, as the film has mostly generic cinematography for a comedy. However, the original score by Ludwig Göransson and Theodore Shapiro is definitely one of the better elements of the film, as the soundtrack fits the tone of the film perfectly, and always manages to feel interesting enough to be somewhat memorable. Considering the first composer has worked on films such as: ‘Creed’ and ‘Black Panther’ in the past however, this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

My main criticism of the film is the overall lack of jokes or comedy set pieces based around the idea of the characters being a fake family, as although there is a few jokes throughout the narrative based around this idea, I never quite felt the film made full use of this concept, and usually just fell back onto your usual comedy writing. I also personally felt the film’s pacing is far too quick, as the film almost rushes through scenes within the story in order to quickly get to another gag, rather than having them happen alongside each other. In addition to this, I also felt more focus on some of the more emotional or serious scenes could’ve really helped build-up tension and make the story more engaging.

In conclusion, ‘We’re the Millers’ is pretty decent overall, as while I don’t think the film is fantastic by any means. I enjoyed myself with this simple comedy for what it attempted to be, as although I still think the cinematography and some of humour could be improved, I found the film to be a mostly entertaining ride and a pretty easy watch due to it’s fun story and brilliant cast, and more than likely the film is probably a 6/10.

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