Film Review: Rogue One

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Film Review: Rogue One

Release date: 15th December 2016

Director: Gareth Edwards

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Jiang Wen

Runtime: 134 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a standalone film set before the original Star Wars film – Episode IV: A New Hope. It’s about a band of rebels who plan to steal the Death Star plans from the Empire. The film fills in what was thought by many as an annoying plot hole in the original trilogy. What was good about this film is that it has a different plot. As much as I love The Force Awakens, it was basically a rehash of plots from the original trilogy.

Unsurprisingly, the visuals are stunning. We see several different worlds in the film, each of which is unique and detailed. What is amazing is how they can now create characters digitally. For example Tarkin features (he was in the original films), although the actor who originally played him passed away. A similar looking actor played the part and then they used digital effects to make him look like Peter Cushing’s Tarkin.

The acting is good. There are some typically cheesy Star Wars lines of course. But then it wouldn’t be Star Wars without them. All of the actors made me like their characters and they all interacted well together. There are some intense scenes, with a long end battle. Despite all the action the actors developed their characters well.

I really liked the ending. I don’t want to spoil anything so can’t explain why I liked it. Also it tied well to the start of A New Hope.

As we’re not getting Episode VIII until December it was cool to still get to see a Star Wars film in 2016. Coming in 2018 is another Star Wars Story about a young Han Solo. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that one yet. Rogue One is relevant to the other films and leads up to Episode IV so I can see why they made it. The young Han Solo films however, will have to be good for me to agree that they’re worthwhile making.

Film Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Film Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Release date: 30th September 2016

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Allison Janney, Judi Dench, Chris O’Dowd

Runtime: 127 minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Science-Fiction

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is based on the novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs. I only read the book a few weeks ago (you can see my review here) so went in with the conscious effort in mind that I should sit and enjoy it and not make comparisons to the book the whole way through.

After his grandfather’s horrific death, Jake travels to an island off the coast of Wales which is home to the children’s home his grandfather stayed in for a time during the war. Unexpectedly, he finds Miss Peregrine and the children with ‘peculiar’ powers still there, but monsters are looking for them and Jake’s ‘peculiarity’ is key to keeping them alive.

Although I wasn’t surprised to find that Tim Burton directing the film (the book is, well, a tad peculiar) I was a little apprehensive. However, I was glad to find that it wasn’t too Tim Burton-esque and kept with the tone of the book (although there was a tad more humour in the film). As far as adaptation goes, it kept relatively well to the story with only a large chunk at the end being completely added in.

What irritated me, and which I just don’t understand, is why they messed with Emma’s character. She’s the main female character (besides Miss Peregrine), and in the book her peculiarity is controlling fire, and she has a rather fiery personality to match it. In the film however, Emma’s peculiarity is levitation/air, which is Olive’s peculiarity in the book, and Olive has control over fire. I understand that when adapting books there will always be changes in terms of plot, in order to adapt it to the screen, but I just really don’t get why they did this. It seems a completely unnecessary massive change to make.

Overall I enjoyed the film and it was a good adaptation. It had the same quirky feel as the book, which is what I liked about it. It’s a shame they messed with the characters.       

Film Review: Love and Friendship

Film Review: Love and Friendship

Release date: 27th May 2016

Director: Whit Stillman

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevingy, Xavier Samuel, Tom Bennett, Morfydd Clark, Emma Greenwell

Runtime: 94 minutes

Genre: Period Drama, Romance

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Love and Friendship is based on Jane Austen’s epistolary novel Lady Susan which wasn’t published until after her death. There is also an epistolary book called Love and Friendship, but the film takes the plot of Lady Susan with the title of Love and Friendship. I know, confusing. Why not just call it Lady Susan? Why take the title of another Jane Austen work and confuse everyone?

Lady Susan is a tactical widow who sets her eyes on finding a suitable husband for her daughter, with the help of an American friend, also aiming to bag herself a man in the process. I enjoyed the plot and it was certainly humorous at times, most of the laughs coming from Lady Susan’s scandalous and outrageous lines. Kate Beckinsale definitely stood above the rest as Lady Susan, delivering her lines so well. The obliviously stupid Sir James is also a great character who provides a lot of humour. In many ways it is different to other stories by Jane Austen with a somewhat unlikeable, scheming protagonist who is somehow at the same time captivating.

If is somewhat odd that it is a U-rated film, but which is most definitely about scandal and affairs. It’s odd but somehow works.

The acting was good at times but in places it was stilted and like they were reading off a script. There was nothing striking about the scenery and imagery, and the music wasn’t anything special and felt oddly out of place for some reason. Actually, what was most odd was the costumes. I’m no expert on period fashions but the dresses didn’t look at all right for the time period.

It was thoroughly entertaining, charming, and passed some time, but there were some elements that were just…off. The production let down a story with potential to make a great film. I don’t have much to say about this one. An average but enjoyable film.

Film Review: Me Before You

Film Review: Me Before You

Release date: 3rd June 2016

Director: Thea Sharrock

Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Matthew Lewis, Jenna Coleman

Runtime: 110 minutes

Genre: Drama, Romance

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

Me Before You, adapted from Jojo Moyes bestselling novel, follows Louisa ‘Lou’ Clark as, desperate for a job, she takes on the role of carer for the paraplegic Will. It’s a romantic drama, with some comedic moments and some teary-eyed-tissue-grabbing moments. I haven’t read the book, but the script was adapted from the book by Jojo herself and would suggest the film is similar to the book (but not necessarily). There has been some controversy over the representation of disability and assisted suicide in the film. I’m not going to dwell on this too much and focus on what I thought of the film and don’t want to spoil what happens through talking about it, but it is a very important discussion. I do feel it could have dealt with the issue with disability better, having a more balanced view about disabled life and assisted suicide, which may have given the film more depth and substance. I can understand why many people are angry with how it is portrayed in the film.

It was an okay film. That really is the perfect word to describe it, and why I gave it a three star rating. It wasn’t exactly bad, but it wasn’t great either. To start it was quite slow and afterwards looking back at it, not much happened really.

The acting was great. There wasn’t a weak performance from any of the main cast. Emilia was excellent as the bubbly and eccentric Lou and I found the character incredibly likeable. They did a very good job with what they had to work with. This could have been a really great film if what they’d had to work with had been better.

There were plenty of people laughing and crying during the film. I found myself genuinely laughing at some very amusing moments, and also crying a little at the end (but I cry at lots of films so that’s not much of an indicator of its tear-inducing capabilities). There is some issue with bringing a serious and sensitive topic like this and putting it into the setting of a rom-com.

I will return to the word I used earlier: okay. I’m glad I went to see it, but I won’t be rushing out to buy the DVD. It has been surrounded by controversy about its representations of disability, but perhaps this will mean people will be more aware about the sensitivities of the topic and the importance of how these topics are portrayed.

Film Review: X-Men Apocalypse

Film Review: X-Men Apocalypse

Release date: 18th May 2016

Director: Bryan Singer

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner

Runtime: 144 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

The latest instalment in the X-Men film series pits mutants against mutants as Apocalypse rises again to find his world changed from when he was conscious before in Ancient Egypt. He seeks to wipe the Earth clean and start again and gathers four mutants to be his four horsemen of the apocalypse. Professor X and his friends and students must defeat this enemy and ‘save the world’.

From watching the trailer I was highly anticipating seeing this film. In this one, we finally get to see the origins of Jean, Cyclops and Storm. Part of what made this film for me was that it included some of my favourite characters from the original film trilogy and the new film trilogy – Jean, Cyclops, Storm, Kurt, Quicksilver and Hank among others (and unsurprisingly a cameo from a certain mutant). There were also some new characters such as Psylocke who seemed pretty cool, although we didn’t get to see much of her character. The acting overall was really good. I once again ended up having my heart torn out for poor Eric/Magneto, whose life always seems to get ruined (I can hardly blame him for hating humans after all that has happened to him).

I think they could have done more with Apocalypse, he ended up coming across as a pretty generic villain which seemed to be more to do with the scripting as Oscar Isaac is a good actor. They have a super powerful mutant who emerges from a thousands of years sleep to find his world ruined. There is conflict/motivation with his character but they don’t really utilise it. They had an opportunity to have a really developed three-dimensional villain but ended up with a pretty two-dimensional I-want-to-destroy-the-world antagonist.

As they changed the timeline with Days of Future Past it’s interesting to see what direction the story and characters take (though I don’t want to say too much and spoil anything). It was definitely good watching it having seen all the previous X-Men films, as there were some references to the previous films in there. The action scenes were good and gripping with the final battle being particularly good. I enjoyed the story overall, although it was a little slow to start. I mean, obviously it was the typical superhero-we-have-to-save-the-world plot but that was expected so wasn’t really a problem for me. Although it has some flaws, I couldn’t help but absolutely enjoy watching it.

Film Review: Allegiant

Film Review: Allegiant (Divergent Series #3)

Release date: 10th March 2016

Director: Robert Schwentke

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz

Runtime: 121 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Dystopia, Action

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Allegiant is the third film in the Divergent series. Allegiant is the third and final book in the series put as per the popular move at the moment it is being split into two films, the first titled Allegiant and the second titled Ascendant (slightly different to calling them Part One and Part Two I suppose). At the end of the previous film the people of Chicago received a message from the outside world inviting them to go beyond the wall. Former leader of the Factionless Evelyn has essentially taken over and stops people from going over the wall. Tris, Four, Christina, Peter, Caleb and Tori get past Evelyn’s defences and go over the wall to find what is left of the rest of the world.

The book was undoubtedly my least favourite in the series. I felt it went massively downhill in quality from the first two books and was quite disappointed by it. So, unusually, I was happy for them to make changes to the film in the hopes of making it better. The film was fairly similar to the book, though with some changes obviously.

One of the best aspects of the film was the set designs. The design of the future world outside the wall was amazing and really imaginative. Unfortunately though it felt like a step down from the previous film, which itself wasn’t quite as good as the first film. I can’t quite place my finger on why it wasn’t as good. Perhaps it was the acting that wasn’t quite as sharp in this one. And obviously they had a flawed novel to work from, although I think they took a lot of the better aspects from the book to use in the film.

My confusion lies in where they are going with the fourth film, Ascendant. The third film was pretty similar to the book in terms of the plot arc, concluding in a kind of similar yet also different way to the book. So I’m not entirely sure where they are going with the fourth film. It will have to contain new material, as they have used up almost all of the book.

Overall I enjoyed the film but it wasn’t spectacular. It could have been better and although I really liked some of the things they added I felt they also left some important ideas out. I’m most intrigued to see what they will do with the last film, and to look back on this film once the last film has been released in terms of their adaption of the final book in the series.

Film Review: Goosebumps

Film Review: Goosebumps

Release date: 5th February 2016

Director: Rob Letterman

Starring: Jack Black, Amy Ryan, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush

Runtime: 103 minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Comedy

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goosebumps is based on the Goosebumps books by R. L. Stine in which Jack Black plays the author. After a new neighbour, Zach, visits the house the monsters trapped inside the Goosebumps books are released into the town causing chaos. It’s up to Stine, Zach, Stine’s daughter and their friend to trap the monsters back inside the books. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously and plays on a lot of clichés and tropes. It’s one of those films you go to see just for a bit of fun.

There are a lot of different monsters released from the books including the Abominable Snowman, a werewolf, and a giant stick insect thing. The main villain is Sappy, but I’m not going to say too much about that as they don’t give it away in the trailers, but he was a really creepy villain (also played by Jack Black).

The acting wasn’t spectacular though not exactly bad, but this isn’t the kind of film you watch for amazing acting, it’s the kind of film you watch to be entertained and I was entertained. It was funny to see Jack Black play a serious character whose humour comes from his seriousness.

There was plenty of action and a few twists that worked well and although the beginning was a little cliché and predictable, later on the twists managed to surprise me.

Overall it was an entertaining film. Would highly recommend if you want to watch something that’s just a bit of fun.

Film Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens

Film Review: Star Wars – The Force Awakens

Release date: 17th December 2015

Director: J. J. Abrams

Starring: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher,

Runtime: 135 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

I had so much anticipation for this film and was so excited to be able to see it in the cinema. I was still too young to see the prequels in the cinema so this was my first time seeing a Star Wars film on the big screen. My mum introduced me to Star Wars around seven or eight years ago and I watched the originals first and then the prequels. I could never understand why some people hated the prequels quite so much. I’ve always rather liked them. No, they weren’t perfect. In places the acting was terrible. But the originals weren’t exactly perfect either.

And so we come to Episode VII, The Force Awakens. I didn’t know what to expect as they’d managed to be so secretive about the plot. The music and action scenes were great and I really enjoyed the film. They went quite heavily on nostalgia, a bit too heavily in my opinion, and borrowed too many plot elements from the originals. I would have preferred them to do something different. Part of it felt a bit repetitive (if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I’m referring to but I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet). This is probably in part due to the backlash the prequels got. Not wanting to make the same mistake after the venomous reaction to the prequels from many fans, they went too far the other way, relying too much on nostalgia rather than making something new and different with a sprinkling of nostalgia.

I loved the new characters. Rey was a really great character, I think she’s probably my favourite character of the new generation. Finn was also great. I would have liked to have seen more of Poe, but maybe he’ll come into the next films more. I thought the villain, Kylo Ren, was very good. Can’t say too much about that without spoiling things, but I liked that he was different to Darth Vader as I was a little concerned at first that he was going to be really similar. I liked what they did with his character.

So overall I thoroughly enjoyed it and am really looking forward to the next ones. I feel like this was a bit of a tentative start to the trilogy, relying on ideas from the originals to not get backlash from fans like with the prequels. Hopefully they’ll expand their horizons for the plots of VIII and IX. They’ve got a great set of characters to work with.

Film Review: The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2

Release date: 20th November 2015

Director: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks

Runtime: 137 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Dystopia, Action, Thriller

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Mockingjay Part 2 is the final instalment of the series and the second part of the final book. My expectations were high for this one, as the previous films had been so good and so well adapted from the books. I went in not really being able to remember much of the book as it was a while ago since I read it. So it was nice to be able to sit and watch without waiting for what I knew was going to happen the whole way through (like sometimes happens when watching book to film adaptions).

I’m not sure how well splitting Mockingjay into two parts worked. I think it would be much more impactful watching them together. I like that it meant all the major things that happened in the book got to go into the films. A lot happens and if it were one film it might have felt a bit butchered. Yet somehow I think the plot progression would be more effective over one film. Although it would have had to be a very long film to fit everything in, so maybe two films was the right path.

This film reminded me why I love this series so much. There are so many twists and turns which are so unexpected so that the first time you read the books or watch the films (having not read the books) you’re on the edge of your seat. I like that there is no binary of good and evil. You realise that’s a model which isn’t really realistic.

The acting was top notch once again and the costumes and effects were brilliant. I’m going to have to watch it again though as I didn’t take in much of the first fifteen minutes as the kids in the row in front of me were talking so much.

A great end to the series, though I’m sad it’s the last time I’ll see a Hunger Games film in the cinema.

Film Review: Spectre

Release date: 26th October 2015

Director: Sam Mendes

Starring: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomi Harris

Runtime: 148 minutes

Genre: Action

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

Usually at the beginning of my film reviews I provide a quick synopsis of what the film is about. In this case, I’m not really sure what to say. It’s your typical Bond affair really.

For all the hype surrounding this film I found it disappointing. The opening sequence in Mexico was the best bit, but it went downhill from there. I was expecting the tension/suspense and excitement to build but the whole thing just stayed very flat. I’m not saying this was a bad film, it was good, but I didn’t exactly come out saying ‘oh wow that was great!’.

I’m not a fan of the theme for this film – Sam Smith’s ‘Writings on the Wall’. It lacked the same oomph and impact a James Bond theme usually does. It wasn’t exactly a stand out tune and not at all memorable.

The plot was okay but nothing new, just the same old stuff really. The one thing I did very much like about the plot is how they tied it to the previous Daniel Craig films, linking them all together. I thought that was clever and liked that aspect of it. There were a lot of allusions and nods to older Bond films which was a nice touch. There were also moments of greatness glimmering through and moments of humour that were good.

Some of the acting was better than others. Ben Whishaw as Q was great and Lea Seydoux was also quite good. I’ve not been the biggest fan of Daniel Craig as James Bond so maybe that didn’t help my impressions of the film. The writing wasn’t as strong as it could be. It felt like the script needed more work before they started filming.

Overall for me it just fell short and I’m not sure why. It just didn’t have the same ‘wow’ factor or impact that Skyfall had. It’s almost like they were trying too hard to make it better than Skyfall and it didn’t come off as well, at least in my opinion anyway. I didn’t feel excited, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat. This one just didn’t come together for me I’m afraid.