Moana || Review

10/10

Moana packed a much bigger emotional whallop than I ever imagined it would when I walked into the cinema. There were not twenty consecutive minutes that went by in which I wasn’t crying at some point. That’s not to say that this is a sad movie: it’s simply a powerful movie. Joy, loss, adventure, sorrow – every feeling that is expressed feels concentrated and heightened.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays the demi-god, Maui, and with that kind of star-power you might just expect him to be the biggest draw in the film. Whilst his famous charisma definitely translates with just his voice – although a few of his jokes fell flat – the character of Moana was by far the star of the movie. Duh, her name’s kind of in the title.

Everybody is fond of describing the new Disney heroes as ‘not your typical princess’ but you could say that of any of the protagonists since Aladdin‘s Jasmine in 1992 – and arguments could be made for before even then. Disney are producing complex, relatable, an extraordinary female characters and Moana is a prime example of that. That’s not to say that they don’t sing and have animal sidekicks – they haven’t gone mad.

Speaking of singing, the songs in this film are sublime. It’s the sort of music that you leave the cinema singing – I say that, because as I write this, How Far I’ll Go is playing on repeat in my head. With a mixture of songs in English and Tokelauan, the music creates this beautiful atmosphere where everything seems possible and it fully embraces its Polynesian roots.

Ultimately, Moana is a film that will make you feel good. More than that, it’s a film with a strong message about family, following your heart, and believing in yourself. I implore you to watch it (but take tissues).

Have you seen Moana yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them || Review

9/10

Real magic never really dies and that’s exactly what J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding world is. From the familiar Hedwig’s Theme during the title sequence which transformed into its own song, this film took the nostalgia of the Harry Potter movies and applied it to a new but equally excellent story.

Those familiar with the Harry Potter books will find plenty of references that will delight but this movie is accessible to everybody. There’s no way to fully separate it from the previous franchise but it begins with a black slate so that even those unacquainted with the Wizarding world are able to enjoy it.

The film takes place in 1920s New York which in and of itself is a beautiful backdrop but pales in comparison to the Wizarding world locations that are showcased. A particular favourite of mine is the US version of the Ministry of Magic that stretches into the clouds.

Whilst the film’s title indicates a focus on a menagerie of magical creatures, the most fantastic creature of all is surely Newt Scamander, played masterfully by Eddie Redmayne. Newt is the hero that we rarely see but so desperately need: he is pure of heart and driven by a desire to educate and protect. He’s the poster-boy for Hufflepuff-ness.

Friendship is a key theme throughout this movie and as such, the friends that Newt makes along the way are also wonderful characters, played by great actors. In the spirit of not spoiling anything, I won’t say too much about the villains except that I was surprised by the ending. Delighted, but surprised.

I entered this movie expecting to love it and I wasn’t disappointed.

Have you seen Fantastic Beasts? What did you think? Are you less biased than me and have actual criticisms? Let me know in the comments.

Doctor Strange || Review

9/10

As far as MCU films go, Doctor Strange has been the one that I was least excited for. Maybe that was because of a lack of advertising; the fact that I didn’t have much prior knowledge of the character; or because it had the incredibly daunting task of following on from Captain America: Civil War. Regardless, I didn’t have that same sense of anticipation that normally accompanies a new Marvel release. Unsurprisingly I now realise that I should have more faith in Marvel.

My biggest worry with this movie was the director, Scott Derrickson – whose previous body of work is almost entirely of the horror genre. Knowing that he fought for the chance to direct this film (completing 8 separate interviews with Marvel) I was sure that he was passionate about the project but passion doesn’t always translate to a good piece of work.

In this case Derrickson produced one of the most cinematically beautiful films in the Marvel catalogue. An obscenely large budget and beautiful sets helped but that doesn’t take away from how perfectly crafted each shot of this film came across.

The cast was fantastic but with actors like Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams and Tilda Swinton, that was always a given. The real star of this movie was the visual effects which were astounding. There were moments where I jumped in my seat because the dimension-bending visual was so realistic.

I struggle to find any fault in this film: it is a truly immersive piece of work (although its musical score’s similarity to the new Star Trek theme was slightly unnerving). However, I will say that it left a lot unexplored and there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered. Fortunately, this was just an origin story and we can look forward to seeing plenty more of Doctor Stephen Strange in the future.

Have you seen Doctor Strange yet? How would rank it compared to its Marvel predecessors? Let me know in the comments.

The Girl on the Train || Review

7/10

The Girl on the Train is a perfect example of the middle-class, suburban thriller. Unfortunately, that means that it does not bring very much to the table that hadn’t been seen before.

The story centres around three different women whose lives are connected and it is this very connection that makes what should be a simple murder case, so complicated.

One of the positive attributes of this film is that it actually passes the Bechdel test (although some critics say that the perceived normalisation of violence against women negates that) and does so with some amazing female actors. You may not like Emily Blunt’s character but she is a character that you never see in film: intrinsically flawed, unstable, and pathetic.

Danny Elfman’s musical score created an edge-of-the seat tension but unfortunately the action on the screen didn’t match up.

Whilst The Girl on the Train has all of the right elements for the genre, it fell flat. There were plenty of interesting ideas and sub-plots which added to the story but it just failed to draw you in. The use of flashbacks was helpful but at times it was simply characters recounting their stories rather than living them.

The story picked up in the final act but even in the end there was no real feeling of anything: vindication, sadness, relief… nothing.

Overall, this is a decent film but it lacks depth.

Have you seen the movie? Does it live up to the book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children || Review

9/10

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is one of my favourite books: it was the first book that ever scared me and not many have joined that rank since then. Naturally, when I heard that a film was being made, I was wary. When I heard that Tim Burton was making the film, I was even more wary. A film that Burton directs is “a Tim Burton film” whereas Miss Peregrine is utterly unique. Fortunately the film respected that.

After getting over Asa Butterfield’s occasionally shaky American accent, I found myself completely immersed in the world that had been created.

The film tells the story of Jacob, a Floridian boy, who seeks out a group of children with peculiar abilities after his grandfather is killed. His grandfather was once one of those children and was murdered by a monster whose kind hunts peculiar children. Jacob goes to learn the truth about his grandfather and ends up being drawn into their world and also their problems.

My protective instinct in regards to this story had me scrutinising the casting choices right from the trailer but I take back any negative thought that crossed my mind. Every single character in this movie was wonderful: with a mixture of big names (Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench) and newcomers (Ella Purnell, Finlay MacMillan), there is a very real sense of chemistry and they make the unbelievable seem real.

Not to give all of the credit to the actors, the special effects in this film were also first class. Whilst they weren’t necessarily hyper-realistic, they had that Tim Burton feel about them. They felt magic – like childhood. A particular favourite of mine was a scene in which a skeleton army wages war on Blackpool pier.

Going back to the book, this film deviates from the plot in a lot of ways but in no way that really matters. It was smart for them to gloss over the fact that the protagonist’s love interest used to date his grandfather and the new ending was beautiful.

The book is the first in a trilogy but I hope that this is a stand-alone film: not because it wasn’t fantastic, but because it’s fantastic on it’s own. The ending works perfectly well as a finishing point but it also has the potential of opening up new stories – only time will tell.

Have you seen Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children? What did you think? What did you love? What did you hate? Let me know in the comments.

Central Intelligence – Review

The Rock and Kevin Hart: what isn’t there to like? Hmm, maybe the rest of the film.

The problem with comedies nowadays is that they seem to just choose one or two funny actors and then push them together in a vaguely ridiculous scenario, essentially creating a very genre-focused sitcom.

Central Intelligence sees Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart thrown into a shady CIA operation that I struggle to remember the exact details of. The Rock plays a high-school-loser-turned-CIA-heavyweight whilst Hart is… an accountant.

The story plays out predictably and even the twist ending can be seen coming from the first half hour of the movie.

The characters aren’t particularly interesting but it’s the chemistry between the two main actors that makes this film watchable. Unlike Hart’s recent venture, Get Hard (Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell), it is actually fun to see these two actors together. Even watching their bloopers after the film ended, it was clear that they enjoyed making the movie and that joy was contagious.

Most of the jokes landed well but Ryan Hansen’s sex-obsessed character was the single most irritating thing to cross the screen. Small cameos from Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy are fun but only serve to balance out Amy Ryan’s wooden CIA agent.

Film fans will enjoy the countless movie references made throughout, although they could be boring and a waste of time for those that aren’t so well-acquainted with 80’s cinema.

The action sequences – and there are a lot of action sequences – were wonderfully choreographed and it certainly helped to have The Rock on board in that respect.

Overall, Central Intelligence doesn’t bring anything new to the world of film but it will make you smile and that’s the main criteria for a comedy, right?

Have you seen Central Intelligence? What do you think of The Rock and Kevin Hart? Let me know in the comments. 

Warcraft – Review

And the curse of the video-game film adaptation continues.

Warcraft, based on the popular MMORPG – World of Warcraft, failed to turn the universe that so many fans have enjoyed for years into a visual spectacle that outsiders could enjoy (and according to a lot of fans of the game, not even insiders enjoyed it).

Whilst the film definitely had its lulls, it also had some brilliantly captivating moments but the inconsistency made it feel at least twenty minutes too long.

Without ruining the story, Warcraft focuses on a battle between humans and orcs but saying that, there is a very long wait before we actually see this fight between the two species. Despite a running time of 2 hours and 3 minutes, this movie feels like it is purely exposition. With that said, there is a lot of potential for a follow-up and the world that has been set up desperately needs to be further explored.

At times it may be difficult to follow the narrative of the story on account of the fact that you can’t actually hear what the orcs are saying. Apparently giant tusks don’t lend to elocution. Nonetheless, Paula Patton (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) puts forward a good performance as half-orc, half-human (don’t particularly want to think about how that happened) and Travis Fimmel (Vikings) and his ice blue stare bring an interesting intensity to everything.

The strength of the actors’ performances is only made more impressive by the fact that they had to deal with so much CGI. The concept art for this film is beautiful and that definitely comes across but the CGI feels clunky at points and no more so than in the final battle in which you can see how much hits don’t line up.

Warcraft didn’t deliver a great movie but it set up a world and a situation that could result in a great movie.

Have you seen Warcraft? What did you think of the film? Would you like to see more of Azeroth? Let me know in the comments.