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A Convoluted, Yet Well-Executed Premise!
After seeing this film at Cannes, it left me with rather mixed emotions, and I continued thinking about it for quite some time after; so after much thought, I decided it was time to write a review of this new French new flick. 'Elle' is a thought-provoking thriller from the hands of Dutch auteur Paul Verhoeven that is definitely not suitable for the younger audiences. Verhoeven has a tendency to venture down more explicit routes (think of 'Showgirls'), but this time took a psychological approach creating a film that will definitely leave you thinking.
Now, the plot can be rather convoluted. The film runs several plot lines alongside each other and at times, you can lose track of certain characters, but if you pay close enough attention, you'll fully appreciate the complex, yet original structure Verhoeven has created. The performances in the film are all fantastic, and the direction is magnificent (Verhoeven actually took to learning French as a new language so he could utilise an entire French crew), the cinematography and soundtrack both make great accompaniments, but I personally think the film's structure was the only downside to the film.
The subject matter is rather grim, revolving around sexual assault and the estranged relationship between the main character and her parents, but there are instances of humour that just give that little hint of lightheartedness to a relatively dark premise. All-in- all I would definitely recommend this film if you're a fan of dark thrillers along the lines of 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' etc, but be prepared for a no-holds brazen thriller. Nonetheless, Verhoeven has made a sincere thriller that kept me thinking well after the credits had finished, so congratulations to him for that, and for undertaking the somewhat "risky" subject matter.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Marvel Outdo Themselves... Again!
I'm going to be honest in saying that over the past few months, I've slowly become bored with the constant superhero releases, the current box office seems rife with them, not that that's a bad thing, it's just a tad repetitive. However 'Civil War' is just something truly different. Taking the same approach as 'Winter Soldier', 'Civil War' goes down the political thriller route, throwing a story of espionage and twists within the superhero context, and of course, bringing in as many superheroes as possible to make it one civil war worth watching! The inclusion of Spider-Man, Ant-Man and Black Panther made for a nice change to the Avengers' typical lineup. 'Civil War' is arguably the most mature and concrete picture to have yet emerged from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is, in my opinion, their strongest film to date, which provides a sheer sense of hope for 'Infinity War' (or whatever they end up calling it).
The Way Way Back (2013)
A Heartwarming Coming-Of-Age Tale
In all honesty, I completely loved this film, it is one of the most heartwarming coming-of-age stories of recent years and blends comedy, drama and emotion perfectly. With top notch performances, most notably from Sam Rockwell as the overzealous-yet-lovable waterpark manager Owen and Steve Carrel as the somewhat unexpectedly despicable Trent, both James and Robb also do wonders as the young duo. The film itself has a nice indie feel to it with a fantastic acoustic score, supported by some fine music choices and a generally satisfying story as a whole. A definite must-watch if you enjoy coming-of-age dramas with that hint of heartwarming humour.
The Revenant (2015)
A Powerfully Bleak & Masterful Film
Take the direction of Alejandro González Iñárritu, combine it with the stunning cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki and toss in Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy for their acting charms and what do you get? An extraordinary and masterful film.
Fresh off of 'Birdman,' Iñárritu moved straight on to 'The Revenant,' a western-epic inspired by the true-life experiences of frontiersman Hugh Glass in the winter-struck landscape of 1820s America. The film gained some notoriety in mid-2015 for its production problems and has thus been regarded one of the most challenging film shoots in the history of cinema. Rightfully so. The film opens with the soothing sound of running water, thrusting the audience into an almost meditative state, and then it strikes, an action-packed sequence ensues with a near single sweeping take. Now this is a spoiler-free review, so I'll leave the pleasure of viewing that scene to you.
This film heavily evokes reactions from the audience and does so well, whether it's staring at the screen in awe or gasping at the visceral violence, if you face this film with the right attitude and expectations, it will be a thrill ride like no other. Lubezki has proved that he is one of the most fantastic cinematographers of modern cinema, and the extensive use of natural lighting over artificial supports that statement even further, the film is beyond stunning. Supporting this is the score from the relatively unknown composers, believe me, when the sudden orchestral boom strikes your eardrums, it's mesmerising.
The makeup, the direction, the editing, the visual aesthetics, and of course the performances from a hopefully soon-to-be Oscar winning DiCaprio, 'The Revenant' is a visual treat for those who appreciate cinema and for those who wish to just get absorbed by the immense landscapes and poetic justice Iñárritu has given it. This is, for me, a modern masterpiece.
The Force Has Indeed Awoken
We waited for years, and it's finally here. At 3 o'clock this morning I entered the cinema wide-eyed, full of hope. As was with many people's childhoods, Star Wars was a staple of mine, and to this day the original trilogy still stand as some of my favourite films. J.J. Abrams famously managed to reignite the Star Trek franchise with two fantastic films, so when tasked with doing similar to Star Wars, some people were sceptical, but nonetheless excited. The main questions is: did he deliver? Yes he damn well did!
You know that tight throat feeling you get when you have a sudden urge of adrenaline, for the last hour of the film, I had that feeling, sitting there on the edge of my seat, heart pounding fast. What I was watching was exhilarating to say the least.
Let's look more at the film (don't worry, there will be no spoilers featured). First off, the opening - the classic text followed by the panning shot to a planet (or death star) with a Star Destroyer emerging into the frame, it all features, as does the use of practical effects and puppets / robots over the extensive use of CGI that was utilised in the prequel trilogy, thus giving fans the old school style of Star Wars they wanted oh so much. The film is fast-paced, with stunning action scenes and spectacles, but not rushed, the shots linger and the camera moves gracefully, giving us a spectacular view of the situation at hand.
The prequel trilogy shunted the franchise on a downward spiral, the overuse of CGI and the introduction of some of the most annoying characters in film (a-hem Jar Jar Binks), but Abrams, the finest choice of a director to reignite the franchise, did nothing more than show pure love for the films and has created a sequel that definitely exceeded my expectations. A film that features endless nostalgia with appearances from Ford (who is beyond fantastic), Fisher, Hamill even Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca and constant references to the original trilogy.
The only partial negative aspect is its somewhat lack of originality, it acts more as an homage to 'A New Hope' than an original tale. But if you overthink points like this when viewing it, you won't enjoy it, so just empty your head of that and watch the film for what it is: a space opera that acts as nothing more than a sheer piece of movie magic!
An Action Spectacle Showing The Vulnerability Of 007
If there was anything we learnt from 'Skyfall' it's that Sam Mendes can make a damn good Bond film, veering away from the over-the-top, explosive nature of the franchise, and focusing more on Bond's personal life and his vulnerability. Well what can be said? He did it again.
'Spectre' will definitely appeal more to those who were fans of the early films in the franchise, most notably 'You Only Live Twice' whose inspiration brings back one of the finest villains to ever face Bond. Mendes has since seemed to take a new direction on Craig's series of films and led away from the gritty, thriller aspect that 'Casino Royale' and 'Skyfall' had and instead propelled the film as an action spectacle, full of beautifully orchestrated stunts, stunning cinematography and non-stop explosive action. The locations are stunning, the score is exhilarating and the cinematography from Hoyte Van Hoytema is dazzling.
Christoph Waltz and Dave Bautista, whoever the casting director was on this film, you deserve a huge pat on the back, this film stars two of the most perfect actors to plays villains ever. The much-loved Austrian Waltz whose Colonel Hans Landa has earned him recognition as a fantastic and plausible villain, and ex-wrestler Bautista proving that he is one person not to screw with.
'Spectre' manages to reflect back upon its predecessors in the franchise with references to prior villains, allies and lovers, further drawing upon a story that was in need of a conclusion, a conclusion all fans just couldn't wait for. But... will 'Spectre' be the conclusion we expected? Or will there be more to follow from Daniel Craig and 007?
Obviously you don't have to take my word for it, I'm just a mega- Bond fan, but allow me to shed some light upon it if you are having a hard time deciding whether to see it or not? I went and saw this in IMAX - I was blown away. This is the ultimate British action film and one of the finest instalments!
The Martian (2015)
Thrilling Sci-Fi Survival Adaptation
I generally don't give out ten stars lightly when it comes to rating films, but my God, 'The Martian' more than deserves this. The science fiction survival genre has become a big hit recently with 2013's 'Gravity' and last years 'Interstellar', and now the Mars-set tale 'The Martian'. From the hands of sci-fi connoisseur Ridley Scott, the mastermind behind 'Alien' and 'Blade Runner' comes the thrilling screen adaptation of Andy Weir's novel. Within the first few minutes, the audience are already on the edge of their seats as Matt Damon fights for survival in an Oscar-worthy performance. Playing an astronaut abandoned on the desolate surface of Mars after being presumed dead, Damon must do all he can to endure the martian environment, supported by some stunning cinematography and fantastic visual effects, 'The Martian' is able to blend humour and emotion within it's dramatic plot of survival. Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, just a few big names that support Damon wonderfully. If you are a fan of 'Interstellar' or any other science fiction survival tale or even some of Scott's previous sci-fi adventures, then this is one to definitely add to your watch list. Best viewed on the big screen!
A Stunning And Savage Epic Drama
Fantastic adaptation of Shakespeare's iconic tragedy, Justin Kurzel's drama is a stunning and well-crafted epic, featuring some unforgettable performances from Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris and of course, Michael Fassbender in the role of the savage tyrant, Macbeth. Joining the other great Shakespearean masters such as Olivier and Branagh, Kurzel has created a brutal and ambitious depiction, caught by the awe-inspiring cinematography of Adam Arkapaw. Featuring glorious locations across the bleak and wintery Highlands of Scotland, 'Macbeth' is a film adaptation that even the great playwright himself would be proud of.
Jurassic World (2015)
Worthy Sequel To One Of The Greatest Films Ever Made
Let's start this by stating how much of a die hard fan I am of 'Jurassic Park', I love that film, always have, always will. 'The Lost World' is a worthy followup, but at the same time lost the panache the first one had, as for the third entry, I'll overlook it because it just got too silly for my liking... anyway, on to 'Jurassic World'. First of all, the positives outweigh the negatives by far, so to start I shall begin with the flaws. 'Jurassic World' near enough scraps the use of animatronics that made the original films so realistic in comparison and instead overuses CGI, but that aside the visual effects are stunning. And the story, well, it's a little too far-fetched to say the least, but not to the point where it's completely ridiculous, just enough for you to have a laugh but still enjoy it nonetheless. Trevorrow's direction, Pratt's acting and Giacchino's score are all superb, and these combined make the film a worthy watch. The film perfectly blends drama, emotion and action, and when I say action, I mean full-on awe- inspiring action. The closing battle is just rife with intensity, to the extent that I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat in the cinema, it was perfectly choreographed (if maybe a tad predictable) but my heart was racing, I hadn't felt that excited with a film's conclusion for a long time. All-in-all, it's a well- executed and beautifully-crafted sequel, but will never outdo the original, the best 'Jurassic Park', but a second spot grab? I think so.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Oh, What A Day! What A Lovely Day!
An action essential through and through, it's plain and simple! Since the days of 'Die Hard' and 'Terminator', the action genre has turned into a repetitive, over-the-top array of films trying too hard to create entertaining sequences that instead look too cheesy due to bad composition or an overuse of CGI, of course along the way we have had some fine exceptions in the style of 'Casino Royale' and 'The Dark Knight', but certain directors *cough* Michael Bay... don't seem to be able to use their knowledge of an action sequence to its full potential and instead have constant fiery explosions and over-the-top shaky camera-work among other things... oh but then there's 'Mad Max: Fury Road', talk about epic action pieces. It has been 30 years since the release of 'Beyond Thunderdome' back in 1985, and George Miller decided to return to the directorial chair for a Mad Max reboot, and my God, he truly is a mastermind of action. After creating the epic scale of an action film in the form of 'Mad Max: The Road Warrior' it was going to be hard to live up to the previous films in the franchise, but Miller didn't just do that, he excelled at it and instead beat his previous films. With Tom Hardy as the new face of Max and Namibia as the new backdrop for post- apocalyptic Australia, 'Fury Road' is an exhilarating action fest that goes beyond its boundaries in creating what might just be one of the greatest action films ever made. Hearing that nearly 90% of the stunts and effects were practical literally blew me away, the sequences are extravagant and complex with frequent fireballs and car crashes filling the screen. George Miller's 2015 vigorous tale blends emotion and brutality with drama and action to reignite Australia's greatest film franchise and create the epitome of the action genre.