A Quiet Place (2018) Review

The Office US star John Krasinki teams up with his supremely talented wife Emily Blunt (i.e the Krunts) in this horror/thriller from last year. I missed the cinematic release but once I saw it on Netflix I immediately put it on the list as I had heard plenty of good things.

From the start of the film you are given everything you need to know about A Quiet Place. This film is intense, the stakes are high and the characters we are following are rarely, if ever, safe. This tension is created with that shocking opening and held perfectly throughout what’s an incredibly well-directed debut for John Krasinki.

He gives his best on-screen performance at the same time as his first directorial showing and does a great job of both. Considering how much I love the office and the countless hours I’ve spent watching Krasinki in that show, to be able to say he disappeared into this role is quite something, although partial credit has to go to the beard.

Emily Blunt plays his wife, who is trying her best to keep the family together and functioning in the hopeless world they inhabit. She brings vulnerability to the film but still has that determination to carry on. There is one particularly horrific situation she ends up in that you will know if you have seen the film, that she is superb in and I was hooked through the entire sequence.

Horror/thriller movies often lose my attention when they are filled with obvious jump scares and grotesque images just there for the sake of grossing the audience out a bit. A Quiet Place uses its clever premise of a world where sound is the enemy to create tension. I found myself not wanting to move or make any noise myself throughout the film because I was so engrossed in the film and that’s one of the biggest compliments you can pay to any film.

If there is a weakness in the film, it’s probably the children. I don’t think the reasons they make some of the decisions they do is fully explained and this led to some eye rolling for me at times. The actors themselves are solid as far as child actors go, just the motivations weren’t there for me.

A Quiet Place is the best horror/thriller I’ve watched in recent years. The excellent premise is intriguing and the small focused lens on a few characters is compelling throughout. It’s a relentless experience, and the use of silence is excellent. I was thoroughly impressed by Krasinki’s directorial debut. He continues the trend of a comedic actor turning into a Horror thriller director, started by Jordan Peele with Get Out, both of them getting me into this genre a lot more than any other films have managed.

Good: The Krunts are both great, the premise is brilliantly utilised and you’ll find yourself sneaking around the house afterwards.

Bad: I personally could have gone for more explanation of what happened in the world, and the children make some dumb movie decisions.

9/10 – A Quiet Place is a film to shout about, but you won’t want to.

The Breakfast Club (1985) Review In Time

It’s shameful, but I had never watched The Breakfast Club before. I know it’s a classic film, and one I would almost certainly enjoy. It was always on the list, but never at the top. Well I finally got round to it, and I was intrigued how it would hold up being viewed in 2019.

The answer is simple, brilliantly. I recently watched the Netflix series Sex Education, and I loved it for its brilliant written, well acted and enticing real characters. The Breakfast Club and Sex Education are, at their core, about the same thing; Growing up and dealing with prejudice. They may be separated by 34 years, but people are still people, and that is what the two are both about.

The Breakfast Club is about a group of teenagers, all attending detention on a saturday because of one reason or another. Each character, at a glance, fits into one of your preconceived stereotypes that you have growing up, and even as adults we have them. Director/writer John Hughes then proceeds to tear down those stereotypes and shows how everyone has their own struggles, regardless of how different the projections we put out into the world are.

I can only imagine what this film and Sixteen Candles/Ferris Bueller did for teenagers and young adults in the 80s and early 90s. The way the characters relationships to each other develop over the course of the ninety minute run time is in itself relatable. I remember being at school, lumped in groups with people I didn’t think I fitted in with, and end up being friends with them, some of them I count as my closest friends. This intense character focused film still allows itself to have a lot of fun, with some good laughs and even if the popular culture references were lost on me, I appreciated that is purely down to my age.

It’s rare for there to be all round good performances in such a young cast, but John Hughes manages to get a good tune out of every member of his band. Films like this often focus on one or two characters, but here everyone has their moment. In the same way I praise Avengers Infinity War for giving so many characters a great hero moment, The Breakfast Club gives all of the characters a real moment. There is a moment with each one where something is shown that makes them intimately relatable, and I can’t explain why that is entertaining, but it really is. Perhaps it’s a satisfaction derived from seeing yourself in the characters on-screen, perhaps it’s just the comfort of being told everyone is just as fucked up as you are.

This is a shorter review, but it’s only because I don’t want to over hype the film to the point where people find it disappointing when they watch it for the first time. I think its important to understand this films relevance in cinematic history and the impacts it has had on so many of our favourite shows, even right up to last month’s Sex Education. The style and references may have changed (although the 80s are slowly creeping back), but this film has a timeless quality that I don’t think it will ever lose.

Good: All of it.

Bad: None of it.

10/10 – Don’t worry, We won’t forget about this.

Alita: Battle Angel Review

Alita Battle Angel is the latest manga adaptation brought to western cinema. With a talent packed cast and James Cameron attached as a producer overseeing Sin City director Robert Rodriguez, I had every reason to be excited for this film. The trailers hadn’t intrigued me much into the premise, but I was keen to see what this impressive talent pool could produce.

First things first, huge shout out to Weta Digital, who have outdone themselves with the special effects work on this film. Alita herself is incredibly detailed, fully animated and absolutely flawless from start to finish. There is a hefty load on the special effects team in this film, with so many cyborg/mech suited people in close proximity and fighting together it could easily begin to look like a well polished video game cut scene. It never does, and the work they’ve done here is simply magical stuff. Each action scene is shot well, and director Robert Rodriguez deserves credit for combining the effects and action so well.

Alita, being the title character, is very much the driving force in the film, and huge credit goes to Rosa Salazar for her performance. It is fully motion capture, and she gives a performance the legendary Andy Serkis would be very proud of. Her performance may be brought to life by the magicians at Weta, but she still has to bring her A game to make this work and she does just that. Backing her up, and the next best in the movie for me, is Christoph Waltz, who has a voice that is so distinctive I think I’d enjoy him reading a dictionary. His characters relationship with Alita was the most endearing part of the film to me, with their dynamic playing out like a typical Father/Teenager at times.

The rest of the cast is certainly not bad, but nobody is remarkable. Keean Johnson is a newcomer to me, and plays love interest Hugo. He is fine, but the connection between them felt a little rushed and even if it did at times surprise me with where it went, I think this could have been handled better and would have added more emotion to the final act of the film. This films biggest crime for me is the use of talents Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali. The former is very much a side character, who does have an air of intrigue and a decent arc, but not one I felt any connection or investment in. It happened, but I didn’t care either what the outcome of her arc was.

As for Mahershala Ali, he is one of my favourite actors right now, and he is criminally under utilised as the antagonist of the film. We saw in the first season of Luke Cage how intense a performance he can bring to a villainous character, but here he isn’t given the licence to own the screen like he can. He is good in the film, but he isn’t given enough. There are several minutes of the 2 hour run time that we spend with Alita going from place to place, developing the love story element of the film that didn’t really work for me. I would have much rather spent this time understanding Ali’s motivations and what he sees as his role in this enticing world.

That brings me onto my favourite part of Alita, the world building and lore we are given. I often find this type of setting, with one city raised (both literally and socially in this case) above the doldrums, to be a bit cliché and boring. Think Hunger Games, but with more intrigue around the upper class world. The fact this is set 500 hundred years into the future allows for as much creative licence as you could want with regards to production design, and I found the restraint when it comes to the humans costume designs contrasted really well with the cyberpunk designs of the cyborgs and mech suits we see. The technology of the world is futuristic but lived in, and it works really well in my opinion. All this on top of the intrigue around Alita’s past makes me very keen to see more from the world this franchise has introduced.

Alita is a really entertaining film to watch, and if you get your head round the lore and find yourself hooked in by the world you will really enjoy the film. The antagonist is under developed, and the sequel baiting is obvious from about half hour into the film, but I think there is a lot to enjoy about Alita Battle Angel.

Good: Amazing special effects, brilliant world building, great main character, even if she has a superman like problem by the end.

Bad: Love interest didn’t work for me (may well for you) and an underused special weapon in Mahershala Ali.

7/10 – Solid start for the franchise, I hope we get to see more.

Assassins Creed (2016) Review in time

Having adored the last Assassins Creed video game, when I saw the movie on a streaming service I decided to jump in and see how the film turned out. I hadn’t heard good things from when the film was released and I never got round to seeing it in cinema’s, but I always hope for a film to be good. 

I loved the director and actor combo of Justin Kurzel and Michael Fassbender (as well as Marion Cotillard) work on 2015’s Macbeth. A film that was true to the Shakespeare story but with some really stylish action that promised much for this more action heavy film. I will go in-depth on my thoughts of the action later, but I was expecting some great action at the very least from Assassins Creed.

As a fan of the games, I know the lore and long running story behind this film, and that did help me to understand some parts of the film. It did make me think that someone watching this with no prior knowledge may think it’s a bit over complicated and there may be a lot of unexplained plot points and information that would be really useful to the viewer. The film has several easter eggs and hints at the franchise’s gaming heritage, but it never commits fully to that lore and there are no name drops for franchise icons Ezio or Altair. They are hinted at, in one particularly odd scene specifically, but it feels like this film is set in the world as well as separate from it, as no game has mentioned any of the events that take place here as far as I am aware.

Fassbender is in the lead role, and is fine. Which I think is a good word for every performance in this picture. Nobody stands out, everyone is just playing the part they’re given and doing what they can with some questionable dialogue. Nobody feels fully invested in their role and that disappointed me a little, as I felt there was a lot of potential with the cast they put together for this one. Cotillard and Jeremy Irons have an interesting dynamic that is touched on but then falls into the generic roles of the sympathetic villains daughter and the irredeemable evil man.

The lack of meaningful character development we do get with the main character, Fassbender’s Cal Lynch, doesn’t seem to go anywhere and then magically something clicks and he’s a new man. I know video games have had some ropey character development in them over the years, but this script doesn’t give anyone enough to really go on an arc that is worth watching.

The other side of Fassbender’s role, as Spanish assassin Aguilar, is intriguing, but that is it. We don’t learn anything about him, why he does what he does, except from a cursory line thrown in to explain why he is who he is. From then he has action scene after action scene, with no explanation or motivations given for why he is doing what he is doing. For me this films divided and broken by the jumps between time, even with action scenes cutting between the two.

The biggest departure from the lore of the AC games is the way the Animus is shown. Every incarnation to date has been a headset or a table you lay on and essentially view through the eyes of your ancestor, with no physical interaction in the current day. For some reason, the film makers behind this film decided to scrap that, and put Michael Fassbender on a giant arm that flings him about as he is living through the eyes of his ancestor Aguilar. The decision to cut between this and the historic time just did not work at all for me.

The action scenes, and there are plenty, are all well shot and in particular the hand to hand, blade to blade combat in ancient spain is brilliant. however we rarely get an entire sequence of action without being shown that Cal is doing it on the giant arm at the same time. The film constantly reminds you there are no stakes here, it’s just a video essentially. That, combined with the complete lack of character development for our ancient assassin make every action scene feel hollow, no matter how cool it looks.

Assassins Creed is a brilliant premise, one ripe for the picking of any film maker to produce gold with. But for god sake, commit to it. We have 100s of hours of games and stories, all set in ancient history. Over the years the modern-day side of AC has largely become a side plot, with 99% of the games being set in the chosen historic setting. For three games we learnt about Ezio, and was hooked on his story, all whilst there was some side stuff happening with Desmond that nobody really cared for. This film should have learnt from the AC games, and whilst it’s clearly inspired by them, I can’t help but feel they missed the mark this time round. There is so much potential here, but I am not sure any studio will attempt it after this mess.

Good: Some cool action, Excellent landscape shots, and PARKOUR!

Bad: Throwing away a premise with so much potential should be enough to put the script writers and directors in movie making prison.

3/10 – One of the most disappointing films of the 2010s.

 

Polar Review

Polar is the latest movie Netflix have put out on their service. Starring Mads Mikkelsen and Vanessa Hudgens, it certainly has enough talent in the cast to deliver a good film. Directed by Jonas Akerlund I wasn’t sure what to expect, but a quick glance at his IMDB page shows a career made directing several different music videos and documentaries until last years Lords of Chaos, which i didn’t see, so this is the first time i have seen anything from the swedish director. 

The premise of Polar is relatively simple, Mads Mikkelsen plays Duncan, the best assassin in the world, and he is on the verge of retirement. To get out of paying his pension fund, his employer wants him dead before his 50th birthday. That’s the core of it, and it does function well to give everyone motivations to do what they’re doing. In addition to this, the dynamic between Mikkelsen and Vanessa Hudgens’ Camille is by far the best dynamic between any 2 characters in the film, and those actors are the best thing in this movie.

Mikkelsen is a man tired of the life he has led and glad to retire. This can seem at times like he is sleep walking through the film with no expression, but in small moments you do get the hint that it’s all part of the character of Duncan. Hudgens’ plays a character with a past that I didn’t see coming, and I found her the most compelling character in the film.

On the antagonist side of things, unfortunately things aren’t so stellar. I love Matt Lucas’ comedy, but for me his portrayal of the main villain Blut was way too over the top and at times silly. The character would fit in perfectly in a little britain sketch version of this premise, but the rest of the film just doesn’t fit with his odd behaviour. The other antagonists are okay at best, with the only real notable character being Vivian, played by Katheryn Winnick. She isn’t as over the top as the rest of the people on her side, and her character seems to have more depth to her than the rest of the cast aside from Duncan and Camille.

Being a film featuring an assassin, there is of course a healthy serving of action. At times the action is thrilling, a mix of John Wick and Tarantino that really pops and entertains. At other times, the action is hard to decipher, as there are way too many cuts to different angles to make sense of what is happening. The praise heaped on scenes like that hallway scene in daredevil should really be noted by action directors, as cutting 100 times just confuses and blurs the action, meaning it becomes visual noise that doesn’t really do much for the viewer. There is even a scene where Duncan is just pouring a drink, and taking a sip, before relaxing in his chair. A perfectly normal scene that sets him up for his future life that he views himself leading. I counted seven cuts to different angles, really not adding anything to the scene and just keeping your eyes moving.

This cut heavy style, along with a lot of the choices made in the wardrobe department, strike me as habits a director has picked up from making so many music videos. Music is all about the beat, cutting and making the flow of the pictures fit the music is what you are looking for. In a movie, and especially in action scenes, this style just doesn’t work for me.

Polar is an interesting film to watch, and I can really see what the film makers were   aiming for. It’s like John Wick without the action expertise, and Tarantino without the expertly written dialogue. There are some great moments, and two really solid performances. Unfortunately those grievances I have, and the 20-30 minutes of unnecessary ass and tiddies that can be cut straight out of the film, make Polar a slight let down for me.

Good: Hudgens is good, Mikkelsen with an Eye Patch doing his Solid Snake audition, and an interesting twist.

Bad: Antagonist’s are poor and some of the decisions made in the editing room/directors chair didn’t work for me.

4/10 – Decent Idea, Poor execution. 

Welcome to ScreenBunka

I’ve been blogging about movies, TV shows and video games for a couple of years now, and it’s about time I start making it look a little more serious than just my ramblings. It still will be the same ramblings I posted before, but now I have a proper website and a name with a clever meaning. Well it’s not that clever, but I will leave that for you to figure out. 

La La Land Review

Director Damien Chazelle follows up my favourite film of 2014 Whiplash with La La Land. Considering how much I loved the directors previous effort, and the addition of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone I was very excited to see this movie. La La Land is a love letter to old Hollywood musicals, and it is simply fantastic. 

Inspired by the likes of Grease and Singing In The Rain, this movie brings the magic of those movies into the modern day. It has been a long long time since i can remember having this much fun with an original musical and a huge part of that is director Damien Chazelle. The transitions into and out of musical numbers is seamlessly done, and I never found any of the songs jarring like they often can be in musicals. The lighting, something you rarely notice in films, is used brilliantly at times like a stage play and it really does enhance the music.

Now he has made 2 of the best films in recent times he will likely be courted for some bigger budget projects, but i personally hope he continues to produce these remarkable original movies. He does a magnificent job here, and I would be shocked if Chazelle isn’t nominated for Best director, and would not be surprised at all if he takes the prize (although i am yet to see every contender yet).

Astaire and Rogers, meet Gosling and Stone

I often wonder what it would’ve been like to witness Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers at the time they was around. Luckily in the modern day we have Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The two have mesmerising chemistry, and the way they play off each other completely hooks you in their romance.

Emma Stone shows again she is an unbelievably talented actress, and I had no idea she could sing and dance so well. She plays a young actress struggling in the tough world of Hollywood, and completely sells the role in one of the most rounded performances of the year. She’s funny and bright when needed, and then spins on a dime and makes you care when things don’t go exactly how they was supposed to.

As for the lead man, Ryan Gosling is brilliant. This man is too good looking and talented. He’s funny, he can act, sing, play all kinds of musical instruments and he can dance. So much talent in all these areas means we have to assume he is absolutely terrible in bed, as no man can have everything. Jokes aside, he matches Emma Stone stride for stride in this film and both of them deserve some awards recognition on top of what they already have.

Verdict

Damien Chazelle had a tough act to follow in Whiplash, but somehow he has not only matched it with La La Land, he has surpassed it. This is one of the best films in recent times and unless you have an unhealthy hate of musicals and films, this is a delightful film for everyone.

10/10 – La La Land is one of my favourite films.