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Film Reviews!

A lighter take on reviews by a guy called Cameron.

Film Review: Now You See Me

“The closer you look, the less you’ll see”

This review will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film you may want to skip this review.

‘Is this your card?’ probably not as I’m not holding a card… nor have I shown you one. But the essence of the film: Now You See Me does involve magic and more specifically, magic tricks. To me, the movie itself is magic, providing a refreshing film that leaves you with all sorts of emotions and potentially quite confused (I may be speaking from my experience) The film also includes incredibly great visuals and a star-studded cast to match. Just imagine ‘magicians as criminals’ and that is Now You See Me summed up.

The plot of this film revolves around 4 amateur ‘magicians’ each with their own special technique in magic tricks. Whom are sent a mysterious letter by someone, telling them to meet at a location, when they all meet they realise they are being asked to join a mystical group known as ‘The Eye’. A year passes and the magicians hit the spotlight with a massive show that ends in a bank robbery. Placed on call is a FBI inspector, Dylan Rhodes who is also placed with a new French Detective from Interpol. (and plot cliché… is a woman/) Who are teamed up together to stop the magicians who are now criminals in some people’s eyes. The detectives team up with yet another ex-magician (is this harry potter?) who has a keen taste for exposing other magicians tricks to make money. Together they reveal how ‘The 4 horsemen’ (as the magicians are now known) managed to do their act. Eventually after a lot of failure and near captures (and magic tricks.) The two detectives have the horsemen in their sights and almost capture them all, before they end up ‘disappearing’ into thin air. It is revealed that the 4 horsemen have been doing the magic acts to gain access to the council of ‘The Eye’ and the man behind it all turns out to be… Dylan the F.B.I. Detective. Who helps the 4 horsemen gain access to the elusive club. (Confusing or what?!)

The all-star cast of Now You See Me adds a lot to the high standing of the film, it’s a movie full of very famous and great actors, and even some lesser known but still equally as great ones too.  Mark Ruffalo plays his favourite sort of character in the film, a detective (and without a moustache this time) known as Dylan Rhodes, he plays the typical detective type character perfectly and really captures the impatient temperament and eagerness of his character. Who is obsessed with capturing the 4 horsemen. Another great actor who stood out for me was Dave Franco who can play being an as*hole down to an art. His acting will leave you physically shouting at the screen for him to get stopped or arrested. The rest of the cast fit right into the film perfectly and every actor played their character very well throughout, giving us a film that makes you hate and love the characters with ease.

Mitchell Amundsen and Larry Fong the cinematographers for the film, really capture the bright colours and far off and long shots involved in the film very well. The use of the close-ups helps with the magic tricks the film is based around and the far shots  help provide the audiences reactions or even to show the police surrounding a building. Everything about the cinematography works and the visuals used are at times breathtaking and are too used in moderation so as not to blind us with CGI. The director Louis Leterrier brings his own spin the film too. Known for films such as ‘Transporter’ and ‘The Incredible Hulk’ Now You See Me, takes inspiration from some of those films  and works to create a similar feel, but also adds so much more to it, creating a great visual masterpiece.

Despite my clear love for the film (why don’t you just marry it I hear you cry) it isn’t without its pitfalls, obviously. I haven’t talked about the ending much and despite its confusing greatness, it somehow feels a bit rushed and the mythology behind it feels like an afterthought on the writer’s behalf. Even though the actors in the film are all incredibly great at portraying their characters some of their character’s stories don’t seem fleshed out enough for the film, and not enough backstory is given. Leaving us trying to figure out the characters instead of fully enjoying what is on screen and the actors not achieving the best they could with the characters.

Overall despite its minor flaws just mentioned, I thoroughly enjoy Now You See Me, the film is keeps you on the edge of your seat and is well worth watching multiple times to fully grasp what is going on. And even to see some of the foreshadowing that is mentioned before the said event actually happens, I can’t stop talking about the great cast (who includes the legendary Morgan Freeman instantly making this film a classic.) Who all act to a very high degree, the magic tricks in the film seem believable and it’s even more fun watching them being exposed. Now You See Me is just a good film to sit through and watch and with the sequel already out on DVD (wrongly called Now You See Me 2 and not ‘Now You Don’t’) the excuses to not watch this film are wearing thin: Watch the film. Be amazed. Be confused. And have a great time throughout!

My Verdict: 4/5

 

 

Film Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

“Yesterday, a wizard entered New York with a case. A case full of magical creatures. And unfortunately, some have escaped.”

This review will NOT contain spoilers! So you may read ahead if you haven’t seen the film yet.

‘The Wizarding World’ is brought back to life on the big screen with the latest addition to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding franchise; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. And despite me not being the biggest nerd when it comes to the world surrounding Harry Potter, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie! Fantastic Beasts, with its somewhat all-star cast presents itself as a mixture of genres with comedy, action and even mixes of horror taking front seat throughout the film. It provides a great all round family film that leaves a message to the audience and keeps very ingrained to the lore behind ‘The Wizarding World’ whilst still providing enough new content to keeps fans happy and proving itself as a standalone film.

Fantastic Beasts, set in the mid-1920s follows the character of Newt Scamander (whatever happened to normal names like Phil or Dave in these films??) Who ventures to New York with a mission involving a magical creature, Scamander’s speciality. However he misplaces his suitcase full of mythical creatures with that of a similarly identical one owned by a cannery worker, turned future baker (or at least he wants to be) Jacob. Who we learn is a muggle (or No-Maj if you’re an American apparently… Thanks J.K.) After his run in with Jacob, Newt has to work together with his new friend, to help get the mythical beasts back into his case so he can continue his mission at hand. Newt and Jacob’s endeavours eventually lead to them joining up with two sisters, The Goldsteins (also wizards.) Who help to recapture the beasts, all whilst tackling a larger problem of a mysterious beast who is attacking No-Maj’s (muggles.) This beast threatens to reveal wizards to the real world and increases the already large Anti-Wizard/Magic sentiment felt by a small group in New York. This whole ordeal presents many problems for Newt and his crew who must solve them to save New York.

The film itself manages to pack a lot into its just over 2 hours run time and arguably can be considered too much. 2 main plot lines dominate the film and a small third minor one is also brought up. Despite this being a lot for some people to take in watching the film, it does twist and intertwine the plots well and provides a great and charming adventure. The setting of 1920’s New York provides the ideal backdrop for the film. The mise-en-scene and cinematography work together perfectly in the film giving the audience a real insight into old New York. It even shows us the flashy and rich side of New York, compared to the poor worn down areas and even the wizarding locations are visually gorgeous and packed with details. The CGI in the film adds greatly to the wizarding world created for the film the spells, beasts and even 1920’s New York look decent and are created very well, despite the CGI being obvious and unrealistic (in a fictional sense, i do know they’re not supposed to be real…) in some minor cases. The rich diversity of the locations used in New York also runs parallel to the tone of the film in some scenes. The horror parts of the movie are genuinely scary and keep you on edge throughout, this is resembled with the locations and the character’s actions during the scenes. In contrast to this, the comedy the film includes is often visual but does lighten the tone of the film and at times, genuinely made me laugh out loud. The actors do an excellent job at portraying the characters and their emotions and feeling behind it.

Eddie Redmayne stars as Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and he portrays his character very effectively using his naturally awkward charm that he is known for, Redmayne’s character pairs very well with that of the No-Maj Jacob Kowalski played by Dan Folger, Scamander and Kowalski essentially bounce of each other with hilarity as they trail round New York to capture the escaped beasts and it is both hilarious and pleasing to watch played out on the big screen. Other notable actors include Ezra Miller who expertly plays the character of Credence, a quiet and shy man whom we see quite a lot of during the film. And despite the lack of serious dialogue, Miller gives us a terrific performance just using his face and body language, which helps us sympathise with his character very much. Katherine Waterston is another great actress in this film portraying the second main character Tina Goldstein, who is Newt’ ‘unwilling’ partner in crime throughout the film, and Waterson gives us a character Contrast to Scamander who is much less determined than Goldstein is as she is a feisty wizard who just wants to impress, she too bounces off both Scamander and Kowalski as the film progresses providing a very entertaining watch for all.

Overall fans of Harry Potter and the aforementioned ‘Wizarding World’ will love Fantastic Beasts, it provides plenty of Easter eggs and dialogue for even the most avid of fans, and leaves them salivating over the information and eager for a sequel, with the film itself even teasing the possibility of one towards the end. Fans are not disappointed and even non-fans will still be surprised with a story that is both exciting and enchanting and should leave you wanting more, it certainly did for me.

My Rating: 4/5

Film Review: Marvel’s Doctor Strange

“What if I told you that the reality you know is one of many?”

This review will NOT contain spoilers. So you may read ahead if you have seen the film or you haven’t yet!

The Marvel Cinematic Universe, (MCU) has been with us for 8 years now and has provided us with a plethora of superhero movies. Some excellent and critically acclaimed, others… not so much (*Cough* TheIncredibleHulk *cough*) but Doctor Strange, the latest film in the MCU is quite possibly one of the greatest to date. Its vast array of dazzling visuals, excellent story and character development make for yet another marvelous Marvel hit, but to me there’s more under the hood (or red cloak) than meets the eye.

Despite the often generic plot that Marvel films tend to follow, Doctor Strange manages to provide a similar yet refreshing ‘origin’ story to add to the ever-expanding collection of heroes the MCU provides. The basic plot of the film follows the rich and arrogant but brilliant neurosurgeon Stephen Strange. (Marvel loves their alliterative superhero names!!) Who is involved in a near fatal car crash that leaves him with limited use of his hands, following this, Strange ends up spending his riches searching for a treatment before he stalls upon a mystical temple in Asia that leads to him developing mystical abilities (basically the ability to use magic). The narrative then leads to the Villain of the film and a climatic third-act final battle. For a Marvel fan (Like myself) viewers are not left disappointed when it comes to the Easter eggs in the film. Teases of new characters and the possibility of a sequel that comes with the film. Doctor Strange however does fall short in a few cases, it suffers the same underdeveloped villain that is often the case with many Marvel movies but still manages to make them interesting enough to warrant interest. Overall Marvel manages to pull off a great narrative and entices us back for more of Strange.

Great visuals are a large part of Marvel films and with the case of Doctor Strange the visuals are honestly the centrepiece and great majesty of the film. It’s striking use of CGI helps the ‘magic’ in the film to feel real. Director Scott Derrickson brings his own flair to the film and pumps it with the crazy and mind bending visuals. The ‘Magic’ that the film uses is a key aspect to the film and the visuals are used injunction with the characters effectively. The cinematography in the film is stunning too, the long shots used in action sequences provide us with huge crazy scenes and visuals and the mid and close up shots bring a gritty and personal touch to the characters and the magic they use. Doctor Strange provides a incredibly trippy but mind-blowing set of visuals.

Benedict Cumberbatch, the star of Doctor Strange (as Doctor Stephen Strange) provides the audience with a great and believable portrayal of the character. Strange’s arrogance and ego blends well with his at first disbelief of the reality of magic, but later works well when he takes up the mantle of ‘sorcerer supreme’. The other main characters in the film help fuel Benedict’s Strange, as well as successfully create and pull off their own characters and bring them into the world of Marvel. Tilda Swinton’s character of the Ancient One takes a different twist to the comics where she plays a ‘of Celtic origin’ version of the originally Asian Ancient One. (Which received criticism from quite a number of comic Marvel fans) However the character works well as Strange’s mentor throughout the film and Swinton gives us a quirky, serious but downright great performance as the Ancient one. The other main character of the film, Karl Mordo portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who acts as Strange’s mentor and second only to Swinton’s Ancient One. Ejiofor provides a comic accurate and straight talking Mordo, who by the end of the film has changed in more ways than one and in a sense gives the film gives the character his own origin story which provides Ejiofor with a great presence in the film.

Overall Doctor Strange is another classic but great origin story from Marvel Studios, it works very well as it adds much more to the generic origin, by including mind bending visuals and a vast array of new characters, as well as teasing the possibility of a sequel. I love Doctor Strange as a film, it works well as what it is supposed to be, a superhero film and its main audience draw of its trippy visuals is the key to its current success at the box office. The doctor is certainty ‘in’ when it comes to Doctor Strange.

My rating: 4/5

Film Review: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

“Do or do not, There is no try”

This review will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film (which honestly by now if you haven’t seen any Star Wars films i would question your life choices) you may want to miss this review out.

Often when asked about my favourite film of all time, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (or shortened to Empire for this review) may come as no surprise. I love Sci-Fi films and Star Wars is honestly one of the best Science Fiction film universes out there. But to me, what makes The Empire Strikes Back so great is the darker tone the film takes throughout its duration and its use of techniques to achieve this.

The dark tone of the movie is established well throughout Empire, this movie is about the villains (the dreaded Empire) ‘winning’ (somewhat) for once. This darker tone begins by incorporating the main battle sequence (often used at the end of films) in the first act of the film instead. ‘The Battle of Hoth’ is the main action battle sequence and shows immediately the darker style of film by letting the evil empire win the battle and forcing the Rebellion to retreat and to evacuate. By including the large ‘final act battle’ at the start of the movie it allowed Empire to feel darker but also more of a continuation of the Star Wars saga by showing it off as a sequel. Using the battle worked incredibly well in the film and by having the main action sequence at the start of the film it achieved what no other major film at the time had.

A large mixture of techniques helps make Empire so great, the use of cinematography really helps establish the planets and people of the film. Shots such as the landscape of Hoth in the opening sequences help to show the gritty and bleak planet the Rebels (the good guys in case you were wondering) are on, compared to the contrast of the dark greys and metallic cold feel of the Empire’s vehicles. Even when flying towards cloud city (exactly what you think it is) we get a sense of wonder and awe with the city in the sky surrounded by the reds and blues of it. Even in the inside the city we get a contrast of the pristine whites of the rooms are contrasted with the dark greys and blacks of the ‘underbelly‘ of cloud city where the Empire hides to surprise the trio of rebels. On Dagobah the mise en scene shows us close up shots and close in scenes, to show Luke Skywalker’s training with Yoda in a small area of the planet and how he trains to use the force. We also get shown his facial expressions and struggle with grasping how to use the force around him which adds a lot to the scene as we get to see and feel his frustration. The use of shots and camera work is very much at the forefront of Empire and really helps us connect with the film and universe it is set in.

On top of the cinematography, the music of Empire is some of the best of any film ever. (there’s no ABBA but i can let that go) The iconic Star Wars fan fare is at the start of the film and the music that follows really helps set the mood and tone of the film and can capture emotions from the audience, such as panic, sadness, happiness or anything in-between. The score by John Williams really helps to capture the essence of Star Wars through the use of music.

Of course, I cant write this review without mentioning the large reveal at the end of the film where we find out that Darth Vader is… (massive spoilers ahead! seriously, its a big one! You’ve been warned.) …Luke Sky walkers father. This at the time, was one of the biggest plot twists/ reveals of any film to date. Even the cast were kept from the truth until they filmed the scenes during the filming. This reveal helped to progress the plot of the Star Wars trilogy as a whole in a strange and new direction and such a reveal had never been conceived by films before hand. On the topic of plot, Empire helps develop the characters we met in A New Hope even further, bringing in new complications, new characters, new connections and even more characterisation which all adds to the Star Wars universe Empire was apart of.

The beauty of Star Wars as a film saga and the film The Empire Strikes Back is the sense of excitement it gives me watching it. The cinematography and film shots throughout really help to build and establish the universe and it helps to make it feel like I am there on the planets or in the spaceships. The musical score adds to this effect by evoking emotions and bringing different emotions to different scenes, and even the characters and plot are well developed in Empire helping to further my captivation by the film. The Empire Strikes back is honestly one of my favourite films and its use of techniques help me to feel part of the universe rather than just an audience member in a cinema or in front of a TV, that is the beauty of this film.

My rating: 5/5

Film Review: The Martian

“In your face, Neil Armstrong!”

This review will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film (which I highly suggest you do!) you may want to miss this review out.

For some, the simple idea of Matt Damon being stranded on Mars would be enough for them to want to see the movie itself. For me however (and I hope many others) ‘The Martian’ a film adaptation of the best selling book by author Andy Weir, contains a strong and engaging story that keeps you in suspense throughout. On top of this the film also manages to ‘juggle’ and maintain a strong sense of comedy even in the rather derelict and dire situations that the main character of the film is often in.
Adapting from a book can often spell disaster for some films as they can often be forced to leave out much of the detail from the books, to keep the film length down. even, in some cases splitting the single book into two or even three films. (I’m looking at you The Hobbit) But in all honesty i believe that, the director of The Martian, Ridely Scott (yes that one) manages to encapsulate and achieve a well regarded adaptation of the book, keeping in the humour and scientific detail it is well known for and bring it all to the big screen skillfully.

In short the plot of The Martian revolves around the central character to the film, Mark Watney. (as portrayed by Matt Damon) Whom is left stranded on Mars after a routine mission is cut short by a large dust storm that forces Mark and his crew to evacuate Mars. However as is a recurring theme in the film, bad luck is on Watney’s side as he is struck by a satellite dish and is presumed dead by his crew mates. The rest of the crew all make it back to the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) that launches them upto the Hermes, a large spaceship that orbits Mars. The film then splits into 3 different sub plots as we find Watney is alive (but not well) on Mars and manages to survive by quote on quote “science(ing) the sh*t out of this.” The Hermes crew are left distraught after Watney’s ‘death’ and  begin the journey back to earth, later to find out he is alive and then defy orders from NASA and end up turning around to return to Mars and rescue Watney. Meanwhile on earth, NASA begins a large mission to essentially bring Mark home, but are faced by many problems, delays and suspense along the way. It ends with them eventually rescuing Watney, and the director even includes a little epilogue with Mark Watney back on Earth.

A great part of Ridely Scott’s work on The Martian is how he creates the different shots and settings in the movie and how he can successfully utilise the camera to help show effectively the different backdrops and settings. the camera work helps to distinguish and show how the settings changes from the NASA headquarters to the barren outlook of Mars and even the emptiness of space and the Hermes craft effectively and it helps us to differentiate the characters whilst they are all still connected with one another. Ridely Scott also provides us with great cinematography and really captures the sense of scale of mars and just how lonely and isolated Watney is throughout most of the film, the use of locations such as the middle eastern desert in Jordan really helps capture the look and feel of Mars as a baron derelict place dotted with man-made structures. The main structure known as the Hab (this is where all the astronauts were based originally and) is Mark Watney’s main base of operations with it throughout the film being where he feels most at home, Scott uses this to great effect emphasising its otherworldly place on Mars and how it makes Watney connect with humanity. Keeping with Watney’s humanity Comedy is used to great effect in the Martian and is one o the many reasons why i love the film. From the use of tacky jokes to subtle nudges to other films (like the use of project Elrond in the film) and even some disco classics that are used on the soundtrack (ABBA in a sci-fi film? sign me up!) the comedy helps to keep the film upbeat despite the knockbacks the characters face and increased my love for the film even more.

Despite being classed as a Science Fiction movie, The Martian covers real world science and real world media and issues. The use of science from several of the characters in the film is explained clearly enough for even the most casual viewer to understand and can actually help with understanding space travel and is yet another reason why i love the film. In addition to this the real world matters such as NASA and the media are portrayed realistically in the film with such events as a ‘Mark Watney’ report is covered by the news in the film. The Martian almost perfectly summaries and gives an insight into the ‘behind the scenes’ of a NASA space mission but also a rescue mission that the world is watching.

Overall, I love The Martian. (have i mentioned that?) the book was great and to me the film is even greater. Ridley Scott uses camera work, the soundtrack, the script and the actors in the film to expert use and it all works out very well. The film is a great example of how a book adaption can work and work well and i will continue to watch the film for years to come. If you like science fiction then this film is most definitely for you.

My Rating: 4/5

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