Saturday, 27 November 2010

'Unstoppable' Review

'Unstoppable' (dir: Tony Scott, 2010), Cert: 12A

It seems director Tony Scott has become rather fond of trains recently; coming off the back of his poor remake ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’, Scott has continued his prolonged relationship with Denzel Washington for his new high-speed Thriller, ‘Unstoppable’. Based on gripping true events, this movie should bulldoze through its audience and leave them perched on the edge of their seats. So does Scott pack the punches, or is this another over-crowded tube ride?
 Will Colson (Chris Pine) is down on his luck. His marriage is on the rocks; he’s living with his brother and desperately trying to hold down a job. He is a training conductor for a Pennsylvania train company. When he is paired with veteran train engineer Frank Barnes (Washington), it seems to be a typical day of being bossed around by his peers. But across town, a train numbered 777 has been left unattended and left in power mode causing it to runaway without a driver. The train is nearly a mile long and its cargo is incredibly dangerous. It’s more of a missile than a means of transport. Train 777 is heading towards the densely populated Stanton at 70mph which could destroy the town and its citizens. Will and Frank now need to set aside their differences and team up to stop this time-bomb exploding.
 ‘Unstoppable’ is another movie this year to be falsely advertised. The trailer makes it look like a fairly standard Action-Thriller when really it’s actually an incredibly tense and intelligent film that forces the viewer into a headlock for 100 minutes. Sure it has some cheesy moments; you can almost cue the overly dramatic cheers and Denzel’s signature chuckle, but as a film, it’s very solid and provides a whirlwind of entertainment.
 Scott’s direction is some of the best camerawork in 2010. ‘Unstoppable’ is crammed with crafty angles and shaky effects that only force the nauseating atmosphere onto the audience further. In one sequence involving a helicopter dropping a man with a parachute onto the train, Scott whips the camera round in such a quick and unique pan, it almost looks like the screen turns 360°. His brother Ridley may capture more epic landscapes, but Tony knows how to direct Action so well, and this is one of his finest examples.
 I was impressed with how well this film gelled together too. I was excited to see it but I had doubts as to whether they could make a film about a runaway train stay interesting for that period of time but my worries were eliminated after about 15 minutes. The train heads on its chaotic journey in the first 10 but from then on, the audience gasp and wheeze through the remaining 90 as the never-ending peril kicks in.
 Washington and Pine deliver great performances too; they have exceptional screen chemistry that was essential for the movie. Many joked that this film would follow stereotypical traits (White and Black men teaming up/Young and Old as partners), but the pair push these ideas aside and allow room for their relationships as characters to evolve. They share stories of their past which are amusing and saddening too which is a wonderful thing to see in a big-budget Actioner.
 I think many will be pleasantly surprised by this film; it’s definitely not what it says on the tin. The trailer is horribly misleading so take no notice of it. ‘Unstoppable’ is a riot of a movie that uses cool and collective tension to grasp its viewers rather than a tyrant of explosions and pyrotechnics.
Verdict: 4 out of 5 – Miles better than Scott’s last entry. A fast-paced, white-knuckle rollercoaster ride that pushes its audience to the limit. A grand achievement.
By Chris Haydon

Friday, 19 November 2010

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' Review

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' (dir: David Yates, 2010), Cert: 12A

The end has begun. The first part of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s final adventure has arrived.
J.K Rowling’s last novel in the series was a rollercoaster ride of self-discovery, trauma and chaos that had Potter fans like me craving each and every page. Director David Yates, who is now the veteran Potter filmmaker (He has directed 4 of the 8 features), has an incredibly huge burden resting on his shoulders. All the previous Potter films have been brilliant in different ways but the ‘Deathly Hallows’ requires vast knowledge of the text, skill and dedication in order to give our favourite trio the send off they deserve. Seeing as we don’t have to say farewell yet; has Yates managed to create a great film out of the first half of the story and given audiences enough to burst with excitement for part 2 in July?

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) have left home and Hogwarts and set out alone into the big bad world. Harry is determined to do Dumbledore’s bidding by finding and destroying the remaining Horcruxes which will destroy Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) once and for all. However, the trio’s adventure is becoming harder every minute. Voldermort’s Death Eaters and the Ministry of Magic’s Snatchers are after them and tracking their every move. Everything and everyone in the wizarding world is corrupt leading to a massive surge of dishonesty and paranoia, even Dumbledore’s name is being used in vain after a controversial book on his life by Rita Skeeter is released. Nowhere is safe and nobody can be trusted leaving Harry, Ron and Hermione more vulnerable than they could have ever imagined.
 Firstly, and most importantly; for fans of the book, you will not be disappointed. The screen adaptation of the ‘Deathly Hallows’ is greatly faithful to the novel. Key characters, stories, settings and information are portrayed on screen which is great to see. As for the film in general, it’s utterly brilliant; easily one of the best Potter films to date.
 The main thing that separates this movie from the previous is how cinematic it feels; losing Hogwarts has opened up so many more doors for the characters and the wizarding world in general. Some of the cinematography in this film is awe-inspiring; sweeping fields of lush green grass, thick mist streaming across rock faces and other images look like something from a National Geographic calendar. The movie also sports a gorgeous animated sequence for the telling of the ‘Three Brothers’ tale. The animation has the gothic feel of Tim Burton’s pictures or a Neil Gaiman graphic novel; it’s a warped and incredibly dark piece that slots into the film wonderfully.
 The other majorly different feature between this film and the previous entries is the subject matter. For all those who have read the book, it’s a deeply saddening and twisted story laced with deceit, murder and solitude. This is not kid’s stuff, and the film expresses this greatly. Menace, threat and even a brief scene of Bellatrix LeStrange (Helena Bonham Carter) performing torture circles this film making it at some points an uncomfortable experience. I don’t want to sound boring but I certainly wouldn’t let smaller children see this film; it’s fairly complex and contains images that may be pretty tough on youngsters.
Still from 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' (2010)
 With the absence of Hogwarts, Dumbledore, the Burrow, the Order and anywhere or anyone else safe, this film really feels isolated just like its characters. It’s here we can really see the trio’s relationship grow and tarnish; Harry, Ron and Hermione depend on each other hugely but usually they have others not far away to help them. In this film they must move every day to avoid being caught; they really are alone in a terribly dangerous environment and it’s a pleasure to watch how different their friendship has become.
 This film, like all the others is long, in fact it’s 146 minutes long to be prĂ©cise, which considering it’s only the first part of the story seems like quite a stretch, but actually Yates and his loyal team provide plenty to keep you entertained throughout its mega duration; from its stunning battle sequences to its nerve-shuddering tension, it’s safe to say you probably won’t be checking your watch every 30 minutes. Great film composer Alexandre Desplat provides a compelling and progressive score that haunts each and every scene. From crashing symbols to timid chimes, the music in the film only adds to the eerie atmosphere that surrounds our heroes.  
 The main thing that this picture needed to succeed however was great performances. This story is about the characters and how they interact so our three musketeers needed to deliver, and boy did they. Radcliffe pours his heart and soul into Harry and his passion for the character is continuously apparent throughout the picture. He brings a tear to your eye and shows audiences that behind the scar and the legend, he is a damaged and lonely young man. Grint has dropped the majority of Ron’s clumsy humour and become more adult which is refreshing. He has developed into a fine actor and he packs the punches here. Watson too has blossomed and portrays Hermione’s emotive state brilliantly. She’s torn between two boys, and basically two lives, but she strives for what’s right. The other performances are enjoyable too; Rhys Ifans takes on the important role of Xenophilius Lovegood; editor of The Quibbler, which he nails. He provides all the right madness and desperation the character expresses in the novel. Bill Nighy fills Minister Rufus Scrimgeour’s shoes which may only be for a brief period, but he provides the goods.  
 I will say however, if you haven’t seen the previous Harry Potter films, do not watch this one until you have. This may be a blockbuster movie, but it requires massive amounts of prior knowledge of the series. Newcomers will find themselves perplexed, confused and probably bored.
The ‘Deathly Hallows: Part 1’ is a fabulous film and one of Harry’s best adventures yet. It’s up there with ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’ (2004) and ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ (2007).
Verdict: 5 out of 5 – An utter knockout. A beautiful film that’s made with perfection and excellence, and that’s performed with great skill and passion. July, please hurry up.
By Chris Haydon

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

'Skyline' Review

'Skyline' (dir: The Brothers Strause, 2010), Cert: 15

Alien invasion films are hardly a new phenomenon; in fact, creatures and robots from other worlds have lived in cinema practically since its installation. However, nowadays, it’s all about the money and the CGI to make a convincing alien picture, and they don’t come cheap. From Steven Spielberg’s ‘War of the Worlds’ ($132 Million) to James Cameron’s alien planet movie ‘Avatar’ ($237 Million), it’s clear Hollywood throw big bucks at these movies. So you’d guess that 2010s alien adventure would cost a similar price too right? Wrong. In fact, the Brothers Strause’s latest ‘Skyline’ cost a measly $10 Million and it’s a CGI festival; so it begs the question, can you still make a decent alien film with some spare change?
 ‘Skyline’ is set in Los Angeles and follows a group of friends who have just had a huge party. They are woken during the early hours of the morning to an incredibly bright blue light. The light is appearing all across the area and it is coming from space ships floating in the skyline. The beams cause human skin to cripple and burn, and it causes a blindness which controls your body, forcing you into abduction. The group now have to protect one another and find a way out of Los Angeles, or stay in hiding and hope they can survive the alien threat.
 Firstly, the good news; considering this film was made for next to no money, the CGI is just incredible. The space ships, the aliens and the mayhem that goes with them is brilliantly made and executed. It makes you wonder why so many other movies spend 10 or 15 times as much as this movie on their effects when really, in the right hands, a little can go a long way.   
 Unfortunately, the good news ends there. In fact, everything else about ‘Skyline’ is utterly terrible. The script is tedious, repetitive and sour, the performances are excruciatingly bad (it stars Donald Faison, more commonly known as Turk from ‘Scrubs’) and considering the film only lasts 92 minutes, it feels like 4 hours long. This film is being called a mixture of ‘Independence Day’, ‘Cloverfield’ and ‘War of the Worlds’, if you have seen any of these three films, you’ve already seen a 10 times better movie than this.
 ‘Skyline’ doesn’t want to break the mould; it just wants to be a stagnant film in an already dying genre. There are two points in the film when I thought something new and original would come along but it didn’t, it stayed exactly the same throughout. It also leads its audience to believe it’s going to end, but then another 35 minutes of film continue, and that feels more like another 2 hours. This film doesn’t make you feel annoyed or angry; it’s actually quite laughable at how awful it is. I just thought it might try and bring something new to this kind of filmmaking; a breath of fresh air, but all I saw was a cheap and poor imitation of ‘Independence Day’.
 So no, I don’t think you can make a decent alien film on such a small budget; not because of the issues regarding the CGI but because you need the money to cast far better actors and hire miles better writers and producers.
 I think cinema goers actually needed ‘Skyline’ however, because it proves the point that no matter how beautiful and spectacular a film may look, if it lacks a decent narrative and a collection of characters that you actually care for, you will never make a successful feature.
‘Skyline’ is a real shame of a movie that tries to cover up the tragedy that it is with some exquisite computer imagery.
Verdict: 1 out of 5 – It make look incredible on the outside, but ultimately, this movie is rotting on the inside. Totally awful.
By Chris Haydon

Harry's Here On Friday!

Potter's Back on the Big Screen!

For all you Harry Potter fans, the wait is nearly over! 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' is being released on Friday 19th November!

If you're a huge Potter fan like me, get on the blog and let me know your thoughts! If you didn't know already, the first part isn't going to be released in 3D due to Warner Bros. running out of time with the release dates and requirements but the second part should be in 3D (Personally, I don't see the point of it but oh well!)

The review for the movie will be up ASAP so I want plenty of comments and your feedback on Harry's latest adventure!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

'Let Me In' Review

'Let Me In' (dir: Matt Reeves, 2010), Cert: 15

About a year ago when I first read that there was going to be an American remake of Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish masterpiece, ‘Let the Right One In’, I felt the cool hand of sadness grasp my shoulder. American remakes are usually poor, and it seems that Horror movies always come off worst. I adored ‘Let the Right One In’ and I have been praying to like its dollar-bursting brother. After seeing promising stills, trailers and being incredibly pleased by the casting, it seems to be on the right track, but has ‘Let Me In’ won my heart liked its European sibling?
 The film is set in New Mexico, 1983. 12 year-old Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a social outcast who drifts through day to day life trying to avoid any obstacle that heads his way. Living in the blistering coldness of Los Alamos, he is surrounded by a snow-soaked and empty world. As a regular victim of vicious bullying; Owen finds comfort in solitude and expresses his anger and emotion at home alone. When a mysterious girl named Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz) moves in next door, he aims to become friends with her. Abby herself too is socially isolated, but for a far different reason than Owen can imagine. Abby’s behaviour is impeccably odd; she doesn’t wear shoes, she doesn’t attend school and the aggressive arguments that ensue in her home are for the whole neighbourhood to hear. As time goes on and various reports of murders and attacks swarm the town, Owen’s new found relationship with Abby is about to take a strange turn when he finds out that she is actually a vampire.
‘Let the Right One In’ showed audiences across the globe how beautiful and accessible Horror can be when it’s mixed with a perfect romance and a story about childhood and innocence, and ‘Let Me In’ does exactly the same too. This is a perfect remake, probably one of the best I’ve ever seen, and here’s why.
‘Let Me In’ shares a lot of similarities with its original, but surprisingly, a large quantity of it is rather different. The story is basically the same, apart from a few scenes which uncover more about Abby’s father. As well as the story, director Matt Reeves has almost created a shot-by-shot remake of the 2008 picture, but the similarities end there. For starters, this film is far more violent than the original. One of the studios behind the remake is Hammer Horror so the extra gloop and gore was inevitable, however this is not a criticism; it’s actually praise. Violence is one of Horror’s defining features and it’s used sensibly and brilliantly in this movie; the images of the thick red blood draining across the town’s snow quilt is something of rare cinematic beauty. Rather than being like a typical Hollywood Horror that throws blood and brains all over the place, the violence supports key areas of the narrative allowing it to be portrayed properly. Reeves clearly knows the core of this movie is its story, and he does nothing to take the audience away from this. Some scenes are also quite distressing; especially the bullying sequences which made my heart sink. They are executed and performed wonderfully which makes them so effective.
Still from 'Let Me In' (dir: Matt Reeves, 2010)
 The film also sports some beautiful cinematography; sweeping images of bent trees, snow-covered climbing frames and slightly lit passageways only add to the ever-growing tense atmosphere that surrounds our characters and their world. It also has a gorgeous and haunting score that is a really great addition to this already stunning picture. Film and TV composing legend Michael Giacchino supplies the goods and this is his best work since his score for Pixar’s masterpiece ‘Up’ and his grand work on the television show ‘Lost’.
 The real heart of ‘Let Me In’ however lies with the utterly brilliant casting. Smit-McPhee is an utter delight to watch. He was incredible in ‘The Road’ and he gives an outstanding and moving performance here. His character provides plenty to make you shed a tear. But for me, the star of the show is Moretz. She was the best thing about the fantastic ‘Kick-Ass’ earlier this year and she’s knocked the ball so far out of the park with this performance. Abby is an intriguing, wonderful and equally horrifying creature, and Moretz nails her so well. She swallows the screen and every scene she’s in. She’s rapidly becoming one of my new favourite actresses and I can’t wait for her next picture.
 So, in answer to my earlier question, yes, ‘Let Me In’ won my heart and it’s refusing to let go. My top 10 of 2010 is going to be so hard to write, but one thing’s for sure, this movie will be in there.
Verdict: 5 out of 5 – Easily the best Horror movie this year; ‘Let Me In’ is a clever, cool and incredibly beautiful film that’s layered with fantastic performances, cinematography, music and prĂ©cised direction. I absolutely loved it.
By Chris Haydon

Sunday, 7 November 2010

'Saw 3D' Review

'Saw 3D' (dir: Kevin Greutert, 2010), Cert: 18

I don’t think it comes as any surprise that a new ‘Saw’ instalment has been released, and as always, the movie comes out over Halloween. Jigsaw has been torturing people since 2004 and 6 years later, we get to see his handy work in 3D. So is this just another mindless picture to add to this franchises’ reign, or is it actually a decent Horror picture?
 The film picks up where the previous (‘Saw VI’) left off, but in all honestly that doesn’t really matter that much. Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery) is a self-help public speaker who preaches his story of surviving one of Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) demonic traps. He brings hope into the lives of people who have been affected by Jigsaw. However, his words of wisdom might not be all that they seem and soon enough Bobby has to tackle Jigsaw’s hideous maze of mania and murder once more.
 Well firstly, like many people, I’m really tired of the ‘Saw’ franchise now. The first film was a fantastic Horror that had a solid plot, great performances and a head-spinning twist; it was a breath of fresh air for American Horror, and when you’re a big Horror fan like me, this was a wonderful treat. Since then however, it’s seemed to have gone downhill; the later films have had larger budgets, obvious storylines and traps which became more ridiculous than terrifying. ‘Saw’ looked and felt gritty; like salt in a wound, whilst its baby brothers are more airbrushed and preppy. To be perfectly honest, I was expecting to hate ‘Saw 3D’, but thankfully I didn’t.
 Firstly the good news; the traps are much better than the last few films; they are still dancing on the stupidity line, but they are inventive enough for you to enjoy. It’s also incredibly violent, much more than ‘Saw VI’ in my opinion. One scene in particular involving Chester Bennington from Linkin Park is a parade of guts and gore that will have you sniggering rather than feeling queasy.
But then there’s the bad news; the 3D is very average and adds little to the film, the performances are dull and it tries to incorporate characters from the original movies which makes the on-going storyline become filled with giant plot-holes and it ends up being a right ugly mess.
 The thing that astounds me about the ‘Saw’ franchise is that even though every film gets butchered by critics and fans alike; they always top the box-office in the US and the UK. I for one can admit that I have seen every ‘Saw’ film even though I stopped enjoying them after the third; so what is it that keeps audiences coming back to such mediocre Horror movies when far superior ones fall short and slip under the radar? Matt Reeves’ vampire remake ‘Let Me In’ (out now) looks like a cool and suspenseful Horror that’s faithful enough to its masterful original, but gory and chilling enough to please all audiences, so why isn’t ‘Saw’ like this?  I suppose I’m actually asking more questions than reviewing a film so I’ll leave that for you to decide.
 ‘Saw 3D’ is not the worst film in the franchise, far from it, but don’t be expecting the ‘Mind Blowing 3D’ the poster boasts about or an epic conclusion to this over-drawn franchise, expect a fairly average splat-fest with a lot more style than substance. It’s worth seeing just for a few scenes and the traps but ultimately, ‘Saw’ has lost its sting.
Verdict: 3 out of 5 – Its better, bloodier and racier than the last, but ‘Saw 3D’ is hardly anything to get excited over.
By Chris Haydon