film review

REVIEW: Bushwick (2017)

When Lucy (Brittany Snow) returns home to Bushwick, a neighbourhood in Brooklyn, from college she soon discovers an unknown military force has taken over the neighbourhood. She meets war veteran Stupe (Dave Bautista) and together they fight to make it one block at a time to safety.

The way Bushwick is filmed is really engaging and different to the usual action, shoot-’em-up type of film it is. Bushwick is mostly made up of a sequence of long, tracking shots that follow the main characters. Most of these happen on the streets and this adds to the sense of panic and insecurity as you as the viewer can only see as much as the characters, and sometimes even less than what they see. It increases the tension as gunfire can come from all directions, and it’s difficult to tell who is friendly and who is not.

Because Lucy and Stupe are almost constantly on the move, running across streets and taking shelter in buildings, the film never really lets up. It moves from one action, gun-filled sequence to the next, barely letting you or the characters have time to breathe. There are a couple of moments where Lucy and Stupe have a chance to actually talk to one another, one of which gives Bautista a great monologue.

When you learn more about the invading military force that’s terrorising the streets, it becomes clear Bushwick is a film for these times. It’s about a country that is in some ways divided, but in others is stronger together. There’s a great moment when you learn the invading force thought the neighbourhood would be an easy target because it is made up of a diverse group of people, but they underestimated them and these people who have different backgrounds are instead fighting side by side.

Bushwick is a fast-paced and thrilling action film. It offers some interesting commentary on modern day America which might be a bit on the nose, but the performances are generally good and the action is relentless. 4/5.

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REVIEW: Thor (2011)

After Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) reckless behaviour, his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him from their home in Asgard, to live amongst humans on Earth. There he must learn to be a better man and face his jealous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Thor combines the action and adventure of superhero films with royal family feuds. Thor is a Prince and so is his brother Loki, but Loki has forever been in Thor’s shadow and wants to be seen as his brothers equal in their father’s eyes. Loki is a fascinating character and is one of the best villains in the MCU. His jealousy over his brother is justified from what you see and when its revealed how his father has been lying to him all his life, his actions are somewhat understandable, although very misguided.

On Earth, Thor meets scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her friends and colleagues Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). They attempt to show him how things are on Earth which allows for many fish out of water scenarios for Thor which are played brilliantly by Hemsworth. Thor is a more serious film, but its humour comes from its characters in a really honest and unforced way.

Thor’s fantastical elements come from the idea that science and magic are one and the same. The scene where Thor explains how he see’s the universe to Jane helps to fully ground Thor and his people in the everyday world Jane, and us as the viewers, inhabits.

Asgard is a beautiful place. The camera work along with the tech wizards who brought Asgard to life, show off this world in all its glory. The score helps with that too. Composed by Patrick Doyle the score is as magical and epic as it should be, and is worthy for the story of a God. Thor is directed by Kenneth Branagh and he handles the grandeur of this royal family in conflict brilliantly. By focussing on the family dynamics between Thor, his brother, and their father, it makes them all seem more human and relatable while still being incredibly powerful Gods.

Thor is a sweeping drama with battles, humour and romance. It’s a solid first outing for the character, setting up his world and people near-perfectly, and gives us a star performance in Hemsworth and one of the most interesting characters in the MCU in Loki. 4/5.

REVIEW: Waterworld (1995)

In a future where the polar ice-caps have melted, and the Earth appears to be entirely submerged underwater, a mariner (Kevin Costner) struggles to survive and fight off outlaws as he reluctantly agrees to help a woman (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and girl (Tina Majorino) try and find dry land.

The world of Waterworld is fascinating and that is mainly because of the amazing sets and practical effects. This is a film that was clearly filmed on the open ocean, and the boats various characters have all feel lived in and an extension of the characters themselves. Especially the mariners boat, it’s an interesting ship and is clearly something he has adapted and maintained over many years. It’s made up from a motely assortment of materials and the stuff inside it is a mixture of stuff from the old world and equipment he’s made.

Because of how the ships and characters clothes are all patched up, Waterworld almost feels timeless. The action set pieces still look good and that’s due to the practical effects, there’s fire and explosions everywhere and you believe the characters are right in the thick of it. The action is entertaining and it’s easy to follow, with there being so many wide shots so you can see jet skis jumping over walls, or the mariner dashing around his boat, to take out the bad guys.

While the sets, costumes and the production design are all very good and help set this dystopian scene, the story and characters aren’t so great. The acting isn’t particularly good, Costner says so many of his lines in a monotone, that while the mariner is supposed to be a reclusive character, there’s not much to him that makes him compelling. Dennis Hopper plays Deacon, the villain of the piece and he spends most of his time shouting and is more like a pantomime villain than a real threat.

The story itself is predictable but the scope of Waterworld has to be admired. 3/5.

REVIEW: Coco (2017)

Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is an aspiring musician but due to his family’s belief that music is a curse, he’s forbidden to follow his dream. When he attempts to play in his towns talent show, he ends up in the Land of the Dead where he meets his ancestors and goes on a quest to find his musical idol and great great grandfather Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).

Coco is Pixar’s latest film and they have once again upped their animation skills. Coco is a beautiful looking film. The Land of the Dead is one of the most alive places I’ve seen on screen for a long time. The colours are bright and glowing and the whole place looks and feels magical.

In the Land of the Dead, Miguel meets Héctor (Gael García Bernal) a kind of scoundrel but a guy who says he’ll help Miguel out. As the film progresses you learn there’s much more to Héctor than meets the eye and it makes him one of the most interesting characters. That being said, all of the characters are interesting, and you can understand where they’re coming from – even the members of Miguel’s family who are so against music. This is a family who was hurt in the past and fear being hurt again, even if that means stopping one of their loved one from doing what they want to do.

The themes in Coco are incredibly important and relatable, and are shown in a story that’s relevant to everyone. While Coco is about a Mexican family and features a lot of Mexican culture, especially Dia de Muertos (the Day of the Dead), at it’s heart it’s a story about family, following your dreams, and of life and death. There’s some heavy stuff in Coco about death and remembering loved ones when they’ve gone but it’s all handled very well.

Coco features some lovely songs too. While none of them are the kind of songs that get stuck in your head, the songs and the score, composed by Michael Giacchino, are beautiful and fits the tone of the film perfectly. That’s the thing with Coco, nothing about it seems rushed. Yes, there’s action and humour but it really feels like your just following this boy on his journey and it goes at a pace where you can take in all the magical sights and the emotions it gives you along the way.

Coco is a wonderful film. There is a very good chance it will make you cry, but it won’t be due to sentimentality, and that’s the best kind of tears over a film. 5/5.

REVIEW: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Seven months after the murder of her daughter, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) challenges the local authorities, who have not caught the culprit, by promoting the injustice on three billboards on the road to her hometown.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is from writer and director Martin McDonagh. This is the man behind In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, so if you have seen them, you’ll now at least a little of what to expect from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – which is black comedy, drama and violence.

Frances McDormand is brilliant as the vengeful and hurting Mildred. She’s a woman in pain who wants justice and is not afraid to cause pain and distress in order to get it. Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is trying to be understanding with what Mildred is going through, and does his best to explain that there just isn’t the evidence to catch her daughters killer, while struggling with his own demons and an unruly police force. Dixon (Sam Rockwell) is a racist and violent cop and is no way a good guy and the film doesn’t paint him like one. He’s the main antagonist of this story, hurting anyone close to Mildred in order to get to her.

That’s the thing about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, none of the characters are particularly likeable and all of them are very angry and mean. While you understand Mildred’s frustration it doesn’t mean she’s doing the right thing, and while Dixon does evolve as a person, he’s never completely changed or “good”, he’s still the disgusting and dangerous person he always was, just changed slightly.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is funny but it’s also super dark – the script manages to balance these two elements really well. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is tough to watch at times, remembering a scene at a dentist still makes me shudder, but the incredible performances pull you into the story and gives you a memorable film. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

As scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) tries to stay one step ahead of the U.S. Government, he searches for a cure for the monster he turns into, whenever he gets angry.

The Incredible Hulk starts off as more of an action thriller than a typical superhero film. Banner is on the run from the US Government led by General Ross (William Hurt), a man who is single-minded in his determination to capture Banner and cares very little about who may get caught in the crossfire. The scenes where Banner is hiding out in Brazil are a highlight, especially the foot chase through the favela and when you catch your first glimpse of the Hulk.

It’s a pity the film doesn’t keep up that same momentum throughout its runtime. There are some good action set pieces, the confrontation between the Hulk and the Army on a University campus is especially good, but the final battle is not. It’s dull and typical and offers little in terms of character.

The Incredible Hulk’s main problem is that it has a simple yet weak story. Bruce wants to find a cure for the monster inside him, but as anyone who knows this character knows it’s futile. While it’s nice to have a more small-scale journey for the reluctant hero, Banner feels like a cardboard cut out of a character as the Bruce Banner/Hulk story is one that is so well-known it is as if whoever wrote the script didn’t feel they had to try that hard. Actors like Liv Tyler as Dr. Betty Ross are underutilised, and Tim Roth is a weird choice to portray Emil Blonsky and he never really feels as if he settles into the role.

The Incredible Hulk is not a memorable film. This is in part because besides the first act, it never gets that exciting. The Incredible Hulk is a more broody action film, and as Norton isn’t a particularly dynamic lead, it can feel more dull than entertaining. 2/5.

REVIEW: The 5th Wave (2016)

The world is being invaded by aliens causing increasingly deadly attacks and those left alive don’t know who to trust. When Cassie (Chloë Grace Moretz) is separated from her little brother Sam (Zackary Arthur), she’ll do anything to get him back.

The 5th Wave is the big screen adaptation of the YA book of the same name by Rick Yancey. I read the book a few years ago and really enjoyed it, though I wasn’t a fan of the sequel and I have yet to get around to reading the final book in the trilogy, so I was interested in seeing this adaptation.

Chloë Grace Moretz is brilliant at Cassie. She has to carry pretty much the majority of the film and she does a great job, especially the scenes with Zackary Arthur, they really sell their sibling relationship. Cassie is an interesting character because she’s had to grow up a lot but she’s still a teenager whose whole world has completely changed. When she meets Evan (Alex Roe) she’s in need of help but that doesn’t mean she wants to accept it.

There is naturally a romance angle in The 5th Wave, it’s not terrible but there’s not exactly sparkling chemistry between Cassie and her love interest.

The film is a bit disjointed when it stops solely following Cassie and then introduces Ben (Nick Robinson) as a main character. Ben’s brought into the army led by Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber) and there he, along with hundreds of other kids, is trained to kill the aliens, or as they call them the Others. His side of the story is interesting though a little predictable, even if you haven’t read the book.

The 5th Wave is a decent adaptation while still being an interesting and sometimes exciting sci-fi film. It does drag at times and is a little cheesy, but the fights and shootouts are generally quite good. 3/5.