Dunkirk Review

Chris Nolan is a director that knows how to take advantage of the medium of film. From the brilliantly non-linear storytelling of Memento to the wonderfully bizarre sets of Inception, Nolan knows how to emphasize the elements and emotions of his stories through visuals and audio. In The Dark Knight, for example, the Joker’s vicious nature was reflected in his makeup and Hans Zimmer’s discordant theme music.

Nolan’s mastery of the film medium is certainly reflected in his latest, Dunkirk, a film portraying the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II. Now, I can’t really say this film gets into the characters’ heads as much as Nolan’s previous films have, but Dunkirk is more about the event itself than the people involved in it, but does expertly portray what the people involved must have been thinking, how they were feeling. Fear, paranoia and hope are all on display here, and shown exquisitely.

Again Hans Zimmer’s score perfectly reflects the action on screen, though here, the most successful scenes have little music at all; the best score is the ticking of a clock, as if we are listening to the very fear that time may be running out itself. Very little dialogue is used here, which only adds to the tense atmosphere of the piece. It’s a film that truly immerses the viewer in its world, so it’s a film worth seeing in Imax.

I wouldn’t go as far as say Dunkirk is Nolan’s best film, but it is a fantastic showcase of how he uses the qualities of film to their fullest.

Advertisements

Baby Driver Review

Using popular songs in films can be effective in helping to set the scene and reflect the characters’ personalities, but it’s a trope that’s easy to mess up. Done wrong, it can feel like a substitute for creativity and even turn the film into a glorified big-screen music video (see Sucker Punch for an example). An example of this done right can be found in recent release Baby Driver, which writer/director Edgar Wright even described as being “kind of like a musical”.

The titular driver, Baby (Ansel Elgort) was involved in a car accident as a child, which causes a permanent ring throughout his ears. In order to drown out this ringing, he always makes sure to listen to music as he acts as getaway driver for a group of criminals. When he’s listening to a song, the audience listen to it as well; the song gets fainter when he takes one earplug off and stops when both earplugs are removed.

He even listens to the music during the more intense moments of the movie, and the action on screen matches up with the beats of the songs, creating some unique and enjoyable setpieces. This is definitely a film where the music enhances the experience, and even lets us know a bit about our Baby too, as the opening credits see him dancing down the streets mouthing to a song.

There’s plenty of impressive action, including a scene rather reminiscent of this year’s Free Fire, but this is an Edgar Wright film, so there’s plenty of comedy as well. Highlights include a scene where the criminals wear Michael Myers masks, and a quote from, of all things, Monsters Inc.

Baby Driver is a fun and fast-paced films, one that knows how to grab your attention and immerse you in its world. And it’s got good music too.

Spider-Man Homecoming Review

There was plenty to like about Captain America: Civil War, but one of the biggest highlights was Tom Holland’s performance as Spider-Man, even though his role was a small one. Loveably dorky and awkward was he, and it made several viewers want to see him in his own movie. And here we have it.

Spider-Man has been battling street-level crime using the suit Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr)  gave him, but wishes for a greater challenge. That arrives when he comes across a group of bank-robbers using high-tech weapons supplied to them by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton). Assisted by his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), Peter attempts to put an end to Toomes’ operation, even though it might mean Stark losing trust in him.

The film begins with scenes from Civil War, and Stark does play a significant role. He does not, however, dominate the film, and enough is explained that those who haven’t watched previous MCU movies could follow. It’s certainly refreshing to watch after Amazing Spider-Man 2, which seemed only to exist to set up regular movies. There’s no origin shown this time (though mentioned) but this does have all the elements of a good Spider-man film; not only do we have Peter chasing down villains, we have him dealing with teenage angst.

Tom Holland is once again perfectly cast as Spider-Man, making him likeable, funny and sympathetic; possibly the best on-screen Spider-Man yet. The film’s second most memorable performance comes from Michael Keaton, who may not have been as fun as DeFoe’s Green Goblin but is certainly a threatening villain, made even more so by the human elements of his character. A lot is happening in this movie, yet it never feels overpacked or overlong.

2017 has certainly proved itself to be a good year for superhero flicks. Spider-Man: Homecoming is not as funny as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or as engaging as Wonder Woman, but is still a tonne of fun.

 

Wonder Woman Review

I enjoyed Batman v Superman, but I had to admit at times it did seem like a big fat trailer for DC’s later films. In one way, it did its job; one of the highlights of the film was Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, which made one want to see her star in her own film. Lo and behold, we now have that film, and it’s a pretty damn good one too.

Wonder Woman was born Princess Diana and raised on the idyllic isle of Themyscira, where she trained in combat against her mother’s wishes. One day, a pilot called Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes near Themyscira; he’s fighting in World War I, which Diana believes is the fault of the evil God of War Ares. She joins Steve in his voyage to London to aid in the war and hopefully defeat Ares, and she not only learns about the world outside her island, but some secrets about herself as well.

The film may begin with Diana getting a delivery from Bruce Wayne, but you don’t need to have seen the previous DC films to enjoy this one. The connection to a larger universe is more a bonus here, as this is very much a stand-alone film; an appropriate big-screen debut for the character (if you don’t count her appearances in the Lego movies).

Indeed it is a film worth seeing on the big screen, for it’s certainly the most visually impressive DCEU film so far. Earlier films in the series have been mocked for their murkiness but here murkiness actually works in this film’s favour, creating a contrast between grimy London and majestically-realised Themyscira, and highlighting the horrors of war Diana encounters.

Once again Gal Gadot shines as Wonder Woman, realising a character who is both tough and naïve, and gets some good interactions with Chris Pine. Another good performance comes from secondary villain Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) who I would have liked to see more of, and the main villain, not to spoil anything, is effectively threatening.

Wonder Woman has fantastic visuals and great performances, makes its runtime whizz by, and actually makes viewers curious about what else this universe has to offer.

Beauty and the Beast Review

Spoilers may follow

One interesting thing to note about Disney’s 2017 remake of their Beauty and the Beast is how it addresses the issues people noted about its 1991 predecessor. Everyone has joked and commented on how when the Beast was cursed for his selfish ways, his servants were cursed as well although it was only the Beast who did wrong. That gets a surprisingly dark explanation when it’s revealed the Beast (Dan Stevens) as a child was abused by his father and the servants did nothing about it. We’ve also joked about how the witch is the real villain of the film for apparently cursing an eleven year old, yet here the Beast was an adult when he was cursed, and even laughed at the witch (Hattie Morahan) for wanting shelter, which does make it a little more difficult to feel sorry for him.

That said, though, this film doesn’t feel as unnecessary as some thought it would be, and is actually fairly enjoyable. It’s worth watching for the visuals alone, with the castle looking suitable foreboding yet intriguing and some interesting ways to redesign the furniture; Madame de Garderobe the wardrobe (Audra McDonald) has eyes and teeth made of theatre curtains and Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) is not only a talking candelabra, but what looks a candelabra-human hybrid. Everyone’s favourite songs from the original are back and are staged and sung very well, especially the “Gaston” number. There are a couple of new songs in there, but they aren’t that hummable.

Emma Watson, better known as Hermione in Harry Potter, is well-cast as Belle, honouring the original character while adding her own touch, and Dan Stevens manages to balance scariness and sympathy as the Beast. Luke Evans is a fine Gaston, but not as bombastically and enjoyably egotistical as the original character in the 1991 film. The best performance comes from Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, who gets a few amusing scenes.

Beauty and the Beast is unlikely to erase the original from memory, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a watch.

Kong: Skull Island Review

Kong: Skull Island certainly lives up to its title. There’s no skyscraper-climbing in this Kong, as most of the action takes place on the titular isle (which, indeed, does have a lot of skulls). What’s more, it actually does feel worthy of the name Kong, and it doesn’t feel like the King has been needlessly shoved into an original story that needed his star power, as it were.

An expedition into Skull Island organised by Bill Randa (John Goodman) also includes military Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L Jackson) and tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston). What’s more, the island has some very nasty surprises in store for the expedition, from giant insects to gigantic versions of the Jersey Devil from The Wolf Among Us called “skullwalkers” or “those lizard things”.

Who calls them those names? Hank Marlow (John C Reilly), who has been stranded on this island for nearly thirty years, and knows every dangerous nook and cranny like the back of his hand. He is definitely the most likeable of the human characters, and Reilly seems to be having a blast with this eccentric character, bringing a lot of the film’s humour. The other human characters aren’t as interesting; Hiddleston’s performance is fine and somewhat reminiscent of his turn in The Night Manager, but nothing really memorable about his character.

This is a King Kong movie, however, and King Kong is presented how he should be. He not only looks good, but still exhibits the elements of humanity that endured audiences to him decades ago. He is not truly a monster, but a protector against them. Speaking of which, this is pretty much a big fat B-Movie where the human characters are stalked by monsters like a more extreme version of The Grey, and the monsters here look fantastic with interesting designs. Not only do the skullwalkers look threatening, but there’s also a nice upgraded stick insect.

If you’re in the mood for a fun time at the cinema with big beasties, be sure to catch Kong.

Logan Review

cuaiczwueaaid_w-jpg-large

Spoilers may follow

There have been tonnes of superhero movies coming our way recently, but they’ve at least shown some variety in tone, stories and characters. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought us political dramas (Captain America), heist films (Ant-Man) and of course, a film with a talking racoon and a tree-man. Say what you will about Suicide Squad, at least it tried to be distinct from Batman v Superman despite taking place in the same universe. Logan isn’t exactly what you’d expect a superhero film to be like, but that’s what makes it so special.

Logan is intended to be the final appearance of Hugh Jackman in the iconic role of Wolverine, and it is such a fitting end. Here we find an aged Logan in the year 2029, in hiding and taking care of Professor X (Patrick Stewart, fine in the role as usual). Adventure, as it is, comes calling again when Logan is asked to take a young girl called Laura (Dafne Keen) to a place called “Eden” where she can be safe. There is, of course, more to Laura than meets the eye, and she and Wolverine are pursued by the sinister “Reavers”.

We’ve all joked about how overexposed and overused Wolverine is, but here, he is a character one really wants to see more of, one who makes two hours and a half fly by. Jackman believably plays a character who’s seen a lot and been through a lot, and yet still grows throughout the movie. He has several conversations and interactions with Professor X and Laura and all of them are well-performed.

Wolverine may be the main focus of this film, but the other characters are also played exceedingly well. As mentioned before, Patrick Stewart turns in another exceptional performance as Professor X, even adding small touches of levity here and there. Laura has very few lines in the film, but Keen still creates an intriguing and likable character.

Logan is not exactly a kid-friendly film (even though it does acknowledge that children do indeed love Wolverine). The first sentence in the film contains the F-Bomb, and there’s plenty of blood, impaling and decapitations. Despite its tone being the polar opposite of that of Deadpool, they are at the same level when it comes to profanity and violence. The profanity and violence, however, don’t feel too gratuitous; they emphasise the horror of the situation, and the state of the title character. The film doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard like a lot of post-The Dark Knight comic flicks, the darkness seems to come naturally.

Wolverine doesn’t go out with a bang, but it feels appropriate that he doesn’t. The final battle is satisfying but not spectacular, fitting for the grizzled Wolverine. This is supposed to be his final story, and it feels it. Tribute is even paid to the history of the Wolverine character itself through the actual appearance of an X-Men comic book factoring into the plot, which is done much better than one would expect it to. With all that, Logan is definitely the finale the character deserves.