Film Review: Downton Abbey

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Film Review: Downton Abbey

Release date: 13th September 2019

Director: Michael Engler

Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Maggie Smith and many more

Runtime: 120 minutes

Genre: Period drama

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

Downton Abbey is the much awaited return of a very popular series. This time, the characters take to the big screen with a film version of the television programme. Downton Abbey aired between 2010 and 2015 and was very popular, so in many ways it’s no surprise it made it to the big screen. The film sees the family, and servants, at Downton Abbey preparing for a royal visit from the King and Queen.

While I was delighted to once again hear Downton’s wonderful main theme and return to the halls of the grand house, I wonder if the film was a step too far. It was charming and entertaining, but the plot was a little thin. It would have perhaps worked better as a special episode for TV, as that’s basically what I felt like I was watching, rather than a film. It will certainly appeal for fans of the show, but is not the best entrance to the world of Downton Abbey for anyone not familiar with the TV show.

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Film Review: Dunkirk

dunkirk-posterFilm Review: Dunkirk

Release date: 21st July 2017

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Aneurin Barnard

Runtime: 106 minutes

Genre: War, Historical

Watched in: 2D Impact

Rating: 4/5 stars

I was quite stunned to discover that this film was still in cinemas yesterday when a friend suggested we watch a flick. Almost seven weeks since its release date, Dunkirk was not only still on with multiple screenings per day, it was still showing in Empire’s biggest screen at my local cinema – the Impact screen. It was my first time in the big Impact showing, and the screen was absolutely massive, covering the entirety of the front wall of the room. The sound was bogglingly loud, much louder than a normal screen, and unfortunately I’m not good with loud, so the sharp racket of gunfire and bass heavy soundtrack wasn’t enjoyable for me and did spoil the experience a bit. The film itself was great, and I would gladly see it again (in a quieter, though unfortunately smaller, screen or at home where I can change the volume).

The name of the film says it all. It follows the events of the evacuation Dunkirk during the Second World War. While it was a mark of a military defeat, the evacuation of thousands of soldiers was a victory. The film follows several characters closely – a group on the beach trying to get on a ship to take them home, fighter pilots in the air, and the civilian boats coming to rescue the stranded soldiers.

It was in some ways a very strange film. There was no context and no set up. It starts at Dunkirk. Most of the characters the film follows are unnamed, and nothing is known about them. I think this was probably a deliberate artistic choice, which was interesting and different from the norm for historical films. However, it also made me feel disconnected from the characters.

The filming was spectacular. They used minimal CGI, filming on location at Dunkirk beach and with real planes and ships. It was refreshing to know that what I was seeing was mostly real, as so often these days filmmakers rely on CGI when some of what they are filming could be done without it.

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Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean Salazar’s Revenge

 

mv5bmtyymtcxnzc5m15bml5banbnxkftztgwotg2ode2mti-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean Salazar’s Revenge

Release date: 25th May 2017

Director: Joachim Rřnning, Espen Sandberg

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Kaya Scodelario, Brendan Thwaites

Runtime: 129 minutes

Genre: Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is the fifth film in the franchise and an attempt at rebooting the series. Notably, they’ve decided to call it ‘Salazar’s Revenge’ here in the UK instead of ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ for no apparent reason. It would be far less confusing if they just gave films and books the same names. I prefer ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ and since this is a line in the film it fits much better. Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, who once again has an undead seaman seeking revenge upon him. Sound familiar? Javier Bardem plays the undead Spanish captain who wants to destroy all pirates. Jack joins with astronomer Carina and a sailor, Henry, to find the Trident of Poseidon.

The film features some memorable and bizarre scenes that are familiar in style and comedy to fans of the franchise. Geoffrey Rush returns as Barbosa and once again plays a great double-crossing pirate alongside Captain Jack. Kaya Scodelario did an excellent job playing the intelligent Carina, providing a strong female character whose superior knowledge regularly results in confusion from the bumbling pirates. Henry on the other hand, although acted well by Brendan Thwaites, was fairly two-dimensional. His goal is to find the Trident of Poseidon so he can free his father from a curse, but this is about all we know about him. He lacks any defining characteristics and faded into the background compared to other characters.

In many ways it was more of the same, following similar plot lines to previous films in the series, and certainly doesn’t compare to the original film. There is a very odd scene on an island which I think was supposed to provide comedy but just seemed rather silly to me. There’s a scene early on which seems rather unrealistic and excessive, but this is a Pirates film so it’s easy to overlook that and enjoy the spectacle for what it is. In the end, that’s why I gave this film four stars. It wasn’t brilliant, but was thoroughly entertaining and if you just take it for what it is then it’s an enjoyable comedy adventure flick.

The film ties up some loose ends and unfinished stories from previous films, and so would seem an appropriate place to end the franchise. I wouldn’t mind if they didn’t make any more films, as I felt Salazar’s Revenge provided an appropriate ending for the series. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made another one though. So long as they’re still making money they’ll keep making them. I also wouldn’t complain about them making another one, so long as they can actually come up with a good plot for it, and make it a justifiable addition to the franchise.

Film Review: Passengers

passengers_ver2Film Review: Passengers

Release Date: 21st December 2016

Director: Morten Tyldum

Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen

Runtime: 116 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Romance, Drama

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

 

On a long journey to another planet, everyone on board is in stasis. Jim and Aurora wake up 90 years early, without the ability to contact anyone for help or return to sleep. They’re stuck with nowhere to go and only each other for company – besides the android barman played by Michael Sheen.

It wasn’t what I was expecting. Not in the good way as in it surprised me. As in, it was advertised in a way that made it seem like a different kind of film to what it actually was. The trailer and description makes it sound like a sci-fi action thriller flick with romance. When in fact it’s a romantic drama in a science-fiction setting, with a dash of action at the end. I liked the concept – two passengers wake up 90 years too early on a spaceship destined for a new planet. This is the base of the film and has a lot of potential as an idea. However, I wasn’t sure about the direction in which they took the film.

The digital effects are great with a creative design for the ship. Although the story is limited to this one space, and there were very few characters. The acting was good and Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence gel really well together. I liked that the film dealt with the psychological effects of being isolated on the ship, especially in the beginning of the film.

I went in expecting an action science-fiction thriller, which isn’t what I got. So it was disappointing from that point of view because I spent a lot of the film confused about how it could have been advertised as being so different to what it was. As a romantic drama set in space, it was good. There were some twists and turns. It was good and I enjoyed it but it had a lot of potential to be better. It’s a film that doesn’t know what it’s trying to be – it’s stuck between being a thought-provoking drama about serious moral issues, a romance, and a science-fiction action film.

Film Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Film Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Release date: 18th November 2016

Director: David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell

Runtime: 133 minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the latest spin-off from the Harry Potter series. The script, penned by J. K. Rowling, follows magizoologist Newt Scamander on a trip to America. Trouble inevitably follows when some creatures escape from his suitcase. Meanwhile, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald is causing disturbances in the wizarding world.

I was excited to dive back into Rowling’s world and wasn’t disappointed. Visually, it’s as stunning as Harry Potter. There is incredible detail and such imagination in all of the sets, making it an immersive experience you can just get lost in.

Other reviews I’ve seen have found Newt flat in comparison to his friends Tina, Queenie and Kowalski. However I found his character quietly charming. It makes a change for a main character and he’s certainly different from Harry. I loved his interactions with his creatures and the bond he clearly has with many of them. The aforementioned characters also all gelled well together. The acting was very good all round.

At first I was kind of wondering where the plot was going. There wasn’t anything to connect the various events going on in the film. But when things started to come together it made a lot more sense. It was quite unpredictable in many places. I was often surprised. There was a strange mix of humour and darkness. Newt and Kowalski’s escapades with the escaped creatures are very humorous, but there are also a lot of dark goings-on. There are also political undertones to the film as it looks at prejudices and restrictions (wizards and No-Maj/Muggles aren’t allowed to interact or marry), and child abuse.          

There are to be a total of five films in the franchise. At this point I’m really not sure why five films are necessary. I loved this first one, but how can they stretch this plot into five? It seems a little excessive. But I’m not exactly complaining. I’m happy for the magical journey to continue. So long as they don’t ruin it by stretching the plot too thin.

July Mini Film Reviews: Star Trek Beyond and Jason Bourne

Film Review: Star Trek Beyond

Release date: 22nd July 2016

Director: Justin Lin

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Anton Yelchin, Sofia Boutella

Runtime: 122 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Action

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Star Trek Beyond is the third film in the rebooted Star Trek series. When the Enterprise is attacked by villain Krall, played by Idris Elba, the crew are split up and must survive and reunite to defeat this new enemy. Although I haven’t seen any of the original Star Trek TV series and films, I loved the first two in this reboot and the third didn’t disappoint.

The film’s plot was fresh enough to stop the series becoming stale, which I was afraid would happen with repetitive themes. It continues the story arcs of Kirk and Spock, who both have doubts about their positions in Star Fleet, so I’m glad they didn’t sacrifice character development for action. There was plenty of action, with some excellent sequences with great visuals and tension.

The characters are all there and the actors just work so well together to show the dynamics between the characters. This time they are accompanied by Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella, who did a great job of bringing in the new character.

Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable film, with plenty of action and some laughs along the way.

 

Film Review: Jason Bourne  

Release date: 27th July 2016

Director: Paul Greengrass

Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander

Runtime: 123 minutes

Genre: Action

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

 

Bourne is back in Jason Bourne, the fourth film featuring Matt Damon as Bourne, and the fifth in the Bourne film franchise. Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) brings new information to Jason Bourne about his past, bringing out of the shadows and back into the thick of it, with the CIA immediately tracking him down once again.

I was more than a little worried that this would be a repeat of the previous films and wondered what they were going to do with the plot, but they made enough of a story for the extra film to be worthwhile. It carried on in the same vein of the previous films, which is a style I like, but it also meant they didn’t bring anything particularly new to the table. The action sequences were good and I really enjoyed the film, but I guess it was just more of the same in the end.

The acting was good, with Alicia Vikander playing a new character in the CIA. I felt she could have been fleshed out more. At one point there are quite heavy suggestions about something significant in her past which is relevant to her motivations in the plot, but it is never explained. I don’t want to say too much and give away spoilers. Perhaps they’re planning on a sequel and didn’t want to give everything away in this film.

It was a good film with plenty of twists and turns that kept me wanting to know what would happen next. Worth watching, but nothing new.