Monday, 24 July 2017

Dunkirk & War for the Planet of the Apes

Well this past weekend was pretty awesome one for film. I saw both War for the Planet of the Apes and Dunkirk, and instead of dedicating a post to just one of them, I decided to review both. Read on to find out what I thought. 


I’m a big fan of Nolan but wasn’t overly excited for his latest project, nothing against war films but they don’t usually do it for me unless they have Star in the title. This one blew me away though, a tightly executed film that felt like the third act of a film stretched into an hour and forty minutes from three different perspectives.

As soon as the film starts you know what you’re in for, the great score once again composed by Hans Zimmer moving the action along, creating enormous amounts of tension from the unseen threat and pumping in tonnes of emotion, heart and most importantly hope.

There’s mixture of great characters in here with a vast cast of excellent performers giving it their all. Mark Rylance was the heart of the film, Tom Hardy was the hero and newcomer Fionn Whitehead is the audience’s way in. And being Christopher Nolan the story is cut into a slightly more complex than it should be narrative that transcends time, sometimes distracting from the story as you try to figure where each scene places. A small criticism in a film that is largely incredible.

The sound was booming and there wasn’t a peep in my cinema that brought in a wide variety of audiences young and old, it was something to be admired. I don’t know how it will play in the States but over here in the UK the cinema was packed and it was quite an experience to see it on the big screen. There was one scene in particular, where a boat is sunk after being torpedoed, that made me think instantly of my Great Grandad that died in WW2 in a similar fashion, it was hard to watch but also something that will and has already stayed with me.

I think that’s what this film gets right, although mostly bloodless, the horrors of war are shown in a completely different way and the desperation and psychological elements engage the audience and make you think long and hard about what the soldiers had to go through. The only thing I could think of that was as good as portraying this was Spielberg’s Band of Brother TV series.

Was this Nolan’s best film? No, but it was still another great addition to filmography. It’s an experience that grabs you by throat and never lets you. It may be his most compact film but it’s still trying too hard to be complex, which is strange considering the story alone is legendary enough to behold on the big screen. It is still done in masterful form, incredibly shot, a flawless mix of live action and CGI, an experience to watch on the big screen, go watch it now. I’m rating Dunkirk a 4.5/5.

War for the Planet of the Apes

The reboot Apes films have always been good but then they kind of drop off the ‘pop culture’ radar after each film. It’s weird considering they are so widely beloved but also good because I was not expecting what I just saw…

War of the Planet of the Apes is a masterpiece in blockbuster franchise filmmaking. It’s a grim and dark film that twists and turns, it’s heavily subtitled and deeply political, how did this film get greenlit and how did this film only get a 12A/PG13 rating? Don’t get me wrong I’m glad it did, I didn’t expect what I saw in this film, each trope was subverted and every moment you thought you knew what was happening it would go the opposite way. The moral dynamics that made Dawn so engaging are back but they are done so much better and the fights seems a lot more personal and emotional, something that was lacking from the last one.

The film is so personal to Caesar’s journey and it’s intricately woven with his mirror image antagonist played excellently by Woody Harrelson. War is kind of misleading with its title, there is action and it is cool but the war is more inner turmoil than external and it’s so well realised and beautiful. Even the big ‘war’ scenes are slowed down for the personal fight and moments between one or two characters.

The cinematography and score is excellent and just to top it off the effects are insane. Like actually photo-realistic insane. It’s got to be seen to be believed but I actually felt like I could reach out and touch each character, I’ve never seen anything like it. If it doesn’t win the Oscar for best special effects next year then it will be a crime, this is the best CGI I have ever seen.

This is a fitting possible ‘conclusion’ to the Apes reboot prequel trilogy and this film really is the icing on the cake, if I was to make any criticism it would be the lack of female characters, but that aside War delivers, firing on all cylinders. The Batman is in good hands of director Matt Reeves who has shown with this film he knows how to handle characters, morality and big themes seriously and with depth and emotion. I’m rating this film a 5/5.

Yes, don't shoot me, I enjoyed War over Dunkirk but only just by a little amount...

What did you think of the films, has this been the best month for film in 2017 so far? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Big Spider-Man fan over here, but you guys probably already knew that. I’ve been quiet on my thoughts for the latest Spider-Man reboot, trying to keep my expectations at a minimum and not release a mega Spidey post for a film that could have disappointed. I’ve been cautiously optimistic, I haven’t liked all the decisions made, it was starting to look like Iron Man 4, but Marvel studios have rarely let me down so it was in good hands. Or was it…

I’m kidding, I believe I can safely say that this is a good Spider-Man film, not the best ever (Spider-Man 2 will probably never be beaten) but a solid entry into the character’s history. Read on to find out why.

Back in the capable hands of Marvel Studios, Spider-Man: Homecoming catches up with Peter Parker post-Civil War, trying his best to impress ‘Mr Stark’ for a place on The Avengers, dealing with the dilemmas of High School life whist attempting to stop an underground arms dealership that’s being run by the deadly Vulture. Tom Holland is back as Spider-Man and now being supported by Michael Keaton as The Vulture, Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds, Laura Harrier as Liz and Zendaya as Michelle. Jon Watts is now in the directing chair, he proved himself as a capable director with the small indie film Cop Car and has transitioned well into blockbusters because he got a Spider-Man reboot right, not an easy thing to do!

What this film got right that the previous reboot did not is that it is completely different to what has come before. I was worried about a Spider-Man who was younger than me but it works, mainly because the cast is so young as well, so they look the part, but also because this feels like a high school drama mixed with a superhero film. It’s jarring but it works because it highlights the struggle Peter Parker has to go through constantly. It also helps that the soap opera ‘John Hughes’ High School drama is handled very well. We also get a different Spider-Man to what we’ve seen before, not only is he young but he’s also hasn’t got a handle on his superpowers, constantly making mistakes and learning the ropes throughout the entire film. He’s definitely a very ‘friendly neighbourhood’ Spider-Man because apart from one set piece in Washington, he pretty much sticks to Queens, so don’t expect Spidey swinging around skyscrapers just yet. It leaves you excited to see them develop his character in future films.

With every hero must come a villain and The Vulture I’m happy to report is great. Michael Keaton kills it as Adrian Toomes and has a great physical presence in the film, in and out of the costume. The design of Vulture looks awesome on film and with his wingspan being pretty huge he’s a scary and intimidating threat when he comes across the wall crawler. He’s not just another punch bag, he has depth, motivation and a little bit of sympathy as a working man adapting to the world around him to make ends meet. Easily one of Marvel’s better villains and on a smaller more grounded scale, something I hope they keep for new villains in the next instalment.

Tony Stark was another worry of mine, I didn’t like him being so integral to Spider-Man, making his suit or having too much of a leading role in his film. Thankfully though he doesn’t outstay his welcome, this is still very much Peter’s film and he’s still learning about ‘great responsibility’ without Stark. The gadget filled suit looks great but Stark’s involvement isn’t to my taste still, although there are some great sequences throughout the film with him testing the suits abilities that come close to redeeming that. Instead of world building, the film is more interested in placing Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so I have to throw away some of my ‘comic book accuracy nerd annoyance’ and accept that this version is going to be shaped by a world with super powered beings already inhabiting it and being very present in his home town. Though any time Spidey needs saving from Iron Man will always hit a sore spot with me!

Back to the tone of this film, it’s very funny! This is something we’ve come to expect from Marvel films now but it feels more at home with Spider-Man. He’s an awkward kid and it comes across and there are a lot of jokes at his expense. Not all of them land, there’s a lot of emphasis on Aunt May being hot which came across as little bit creepy rather than funny. There’s a good ratio of action to down time, and when the action scenes roll out they are all well done, but there are occasions when Spider-Man looks more like a cartoon character than something ‘real’ in the scene. The light-hearted nature of the film is helped along by a good score from Michael Giacchino, it’s not iconic but it’s different, more playful than other entries in the MCU and differentiates itself from other heroes, something I hope future MCU films continue.  

There are some decisions made in the film that still make me cringe a bit but revealing them could be considered spoilers so I’ll stay clear for now. Some of the smaller characters don’t get a lot of development and Zendaya’s Michelle is very under used to the point where I’m not sure why she’s such a big part of the marketing. Depending on your age and fondness of high school dramas, some of the scenes may not be as easily relatable, but for me it was nice to see a younger perspective in the MCU. Is Tom Holland my Spider-Man? No (or at least not yet), his character may have been easier to relate to because of my age but I wasn’t as emotionally invested as I have been before and this feeling was made apparent near the end of the film, as a ‘classic’ spidey moment plays out and I wasn’t quite sure if the film had earnt it yet.

The more I talk/write about this film though, the more I like it. It’s not my favourite Spider-Man film but it’s a solid entry and a refreshing take on the character that differentiates itself from the films before. We haven’t seen a fully developed Spider-Man in the MCU but he is a teenager and has a lot more developing to do, so it’s actually quite exciting to see where they go with the character next. Who knows, this could be our best Spider-Man yet, only time will tell. I’m rating Spider-Man: Homecoming a 4/5.

What did you think of the latest (and hopefully last reboot of the character for some time!) Spider-Man film? Hit the mark or too much Stark? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!