X-Men Apocalypse Review (Spoiler Free)

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The latest instalment in the critically acclaimed ‘X-men’ series has at last landed in cinemas and it’s been met with decidedly mixed reviews. There doesn’t truly seem to be critical consensus on the action blockbuster but the general feeling does seem to skew towards the negative. Are people right to be quite so negative towards this film? No, and here’s why.

So the story set out in X-Men Apocalypse sees the heroes that audiences have grown to love, along with a few fresh faces, square off against the ancient En Sabah Nur, brilliantly played by Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron, ‘The Force Awakens’). En Sabah Nur, otherwise known as Apocalypse, is commonly believed to be the first mutant and is one of the most powerful, boasting a fascinating range of powers that are only lightly explored for the majority of this flick. Apocalypse, as his name suggests, is trying to bring about the end of civilisation as it stands today and the X-Men are trying to stop him. So far, so superhero movie. So what is the redeeming quality?

Well, looking exclusively at the story there isn’t much of one. In this respect many of the critics are right, this is a cut and paste superhero film that does little to deviate from the norm that everyone has come to expect. The thing is that there’s nothing wrong with that. X-Men never needed to create some visionary direction for itself and change the tone of films such as these going forwards, it simply needed to provide fans with what they’ve come to expect from the franchise and that’s exactly what it did. The pacing is tight and the story is very well told as each thread is picked up and dropped in a logical, easy to follow manner, with one scene flowing expertly into another without having any jarring effect on the audience. The action is suitably epic with fight scenes, particularly the obligatory end one, featuring shifting momentum and moments of extreme highs and crushing lows for both the heroes and the fans watching in the cinema.

More than all of that though is the humour that seeps out of every pore of this movie. Now, you shouldn’t go in expecting to laugh as much as you did in Deadpool as this is an entirely different creature. You’re not going to get anyone with the same wit or hilariously sociopathic stylings of Wade Wilson, what you will get though is a cast of characters who all offer something that makes you smile at the very least. Be it through a reference for the true comic book fans in the crowd, a pun that breaks some of the tension, or a bit of light slapstick from Nightcrawler, there is something here to amuse everyone in the theatre. What makes this even more pleasing is the way that it is juxtaposed by the high emotion that runs deep within the rest of the film. One such moment comes from a crushing loss suffered by Magneto, once again played by Michael Fassbender, where you can truly feel the enormity of his pain due to superior acting and some poignant script writing.

There is a long running theme in all X-Men media to address civil issues and that is absolutely present here as the public backlash towards mutants, which is mentioned throughout, serves as an allegory for racism and hatred of LGBTQ people around the world. It is not presented in the most powerful manner in this rendition, which does make one wonder why it was mentioned, but it is still nice to see such issues being tackled even if in a tangential manner.

The true reason for this film being as enjoyable as it was has to be attributed to one thing above all others though and that is the superb acting on display. At the top of that pile stands Oscar Isaac who takes a potentially cartoony looking villain and makes him every bit the terrifying threat that he proves to be in the comics. Isaac is unrecognisable in the role and not just because of the outlandish costume, it is because of the grit and gravity that he brings to the character in a successful effort to make Apocalypse seem as sinister as he is supposed to be. It’s a little hard to believe that this is the same man who starred in The Force Awakens and ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ due to the incredible transformation that he undertakes in order to bring this part to life.

Surrounding Isaac is an equally able cast that features such shining debuting stars as Olivia Munn (Herself, ‘Zoolander 2’) who plays Psylocke, Alexandra Shipp (Kimberley Woodruff, ‘Straight Outta Compton’) who plays Storm, and Ben Hardy (Peter Beale, ‘Eastenders’) who plays Angel. Angel and Psylocke receive precious little in the way of development which is a crying shame considering the talent portraying them but Storm is a central figure throughout proceedings and it must be said that Shipp does a fantastic job. She nails her role as a tough street kid, struggling with her fledgling mutant powers and looking for any way out of her squalid situation. Shipp has a natural charisma to her that makes it hard not to be drawn to Storm as a character. Even if you didn’t already know that she eventually turns to the good side as it were you will still likely find yourself routing for her simply due to Shipp.

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Standing at the head of the younger newcomers is a name that most will recognise and that is Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark, ‘Game of Thrones’) who portrays Jean Grey. Sophie said that the dark side to Sansa helped with this role and whilst that is likely true, it is a little difficult to draw parallels between the two. Sansa was always a little annoying in her naiveté and struggled in the role of an assertive figure whereas Jean is a much more confident individual despite being something of an outcast due to her untapped abilities. Essentially Jean is more akin to Arya than she is Sansa. Still, the ability to play the troubled youth so convincingly and endearingly earns Sophie a lot of praise, Jean is believable throughout her journey and the set up for her to take off as a major star of future instalments is a satisfying one.

Additionally, you also have the returning cast of more familiar actors; Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence etc. They all put in expectedly perfect performances and are given more of a chance to shine due to the self-contained nature of this film. There is no switching between the past and present, aside from the odd flashbacks, so they are relied upon more heavily to deliver in their roles than they perhaps have been in the past.

Another returning face who steals the show at one point is the always enjoyable Evan Peters (Tate Langdon, ‘American Horror Story’) who reprises his role as Quicksilver. It takes very little time for him to reestablish himself as the most reliable source of comedy in the franchise and a high point of the film comes from yet another slowed down scene where he zips through the mansion, entertaining you as he goes. It would not be surprising if the powers that be should look to Peters to become more of a central figure going forwards as it is hard as an audience not to latch onto him.

The negatives were, honestly, not that noteworthy as most of the perceived problems other reviews have spoken of are not inherently bad things. The unwillingness to break the status quo in terms of all of the character directions is a little galling as everyone knows who ends up doing what in the future so it wouldn’t hurt to steer towards those destinies with a little more commitment. There is also a wider problem in these films where you don’t feel a distinct enough level of suspense due to that fact that things almost always work out for the best and, in prequels such as these especially, the heroes are not going to die. That lack of risk makes it easier to switch off at times but that is why there are side characters without preset destinies as such, to keep you asking if one of those lesser mutants will meet their demise.

So, if you were hoping for something entirely different to what’s come before then no, this is not the film for you. If, however, you were looking for a fun superhero film with just enough heart and a wicked sense of humour then you’re going to be in for a treat. X-Men Apocalypse is just a good time that is begging to be enjoyed and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Score: 7.5/10

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X-Men Apocalypse Review (Spoiler Free)

Blade Runner Analysis

Blade Runner

Probably one of the most significant films to be made within the science fiction genre. Its visuals and aesthetic can be seen influencing films 30 years after its release. But then when Blade Runner truly released, was it the theatrical release, was it the first home video release, was it the extended cut, was it the director’s cut or was it the final cut?

Now it is not uncommon for a film to be changed when it is released for home media, or for the director to change his product (yes George Lucas, we are looking at you) but here it is something very unique as each of the cuts changes the meaning of the film. As from start to finish you can see the idea of Deckard being a replicant changing, in each cut of the film. Those of you who have read the book from which it is based, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, will know that he is not a replicant from that, but then this film is a world and a story sculpted by Ridley Scott rather than the exact tale of Phillip K Dick.

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To me and many others, BR is a visual experience. It doesn’t need to say or announce what is happening; we are shown. Now the pedantic ones of you are thinking “well duh, it is a film” to you I say shut up and go away (Editor: No we don’t, please stay). Do we need to be told that Tyrell is playing god? No, we are shown it. In the image above he is closing a window but does he need someone to do it for him, or do we see him do it? No, he speaks it and it happens, not only that but through command alone he is able to block out the sun. What speaks more than this action alone is that he does it not because it is needed but because he can, a demonstration of his power to Deckard. Yet this is but the simplest demonstration of what he can do, as what does he/ his company make, androids but some so sophisticated that they can be almost indistinguishable from real humans (we shall look later at what is a real human). The slogan of the corporation “More human than human” can send a chill down your spine as not only do they believe they can make something better than humans. But what they make is often used in place of humans in war, dangerous jobs or where it would be hazardous for humans to be. So they are making superior beings to be slaves, as humans are no longer worthy of slavehood or just are not simply good enough. And if we look at the NEXUS 6 androids, they are superior in every way other than emotionally but near the end of the film that itself comes up for debate; as they are faster, stronger, smarter than anyone but they live just four short years.

Four short years “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long – and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy. Look at you: you’re the Prodigal Son; you’re quite a prize!” but are they really short years as in that time he has seen things us people would not believe. He may not live the full life span as a human but then he is not human, is he really better than a human? As he could do things no man could ever dream of, go places where man would die but just like man he cannot escape the fate of death. Though we see that Roy has one of the most human traits still built within him, the desire to live longer. This causes him to seek out of his maker, Tyrell, as man has tried to discover theirs of thousands of years, to beg for more life but that is something that not even Tyrell can grant. A man who would play god with life but when it comes to death is just as helpless as anyone else and the life that he created becomes his undoing; his demise. Though right up until the end Tyrell sees Roy as a prize, as a crowning achievement of his mastery of life. He does not have the empathy to consider what Roy is feeling while on the verge of death, what it is like to live in fear. Yet, this four-year life span is one that is built into them as a fundamental flaw, a limiting lifespan; perhaps this is reflective of the fear that these androids instil in the people of both the Blade Runner world and in real life. As they have already been made to be better than us in almost every way conceivable way so it would make sense for us to limit them, not just out of fear but out of necessity. As with the power they have been given if they lived for more than four years, four years as slaves, would it take them long to rebel against those that created them. Another interesting point is that Ray calls Tyrell “father” which could be something that Tyrell programmed into all of his creations but then would he have expected to ever have one seek him out? And that would play into the arrogance of Tyrell accurately as he lives in a 2019 pyramid where people visit when summoned, away from the rest of LA; even his close friend Sebastian has to prove that he is worthy of Tyrell’s time by giving him a chess play. So would such an arrogant man be above making his creations see him as a father? Probably not but sadly that is not the answer this time as in an earlier cut of the film Roy called Tyrell a fucker when asking for more life. So it can be derived that Roy did come to see Tyrell as a father, as a creator, as a bringer of life and then he realised this was all a fantasy when the wish of life could, or would, not be granted.

Perhaps Tyrell is the only man who realises just how bad the world he is living in is. He lives in self-imposed exile, he creates life that he hopes will make life better for those within the world. These creations do the menial jobs that man does not want to do or man cannot do without hazard, this can be viewed as depriving man of his work and purpose. But in fact these creations should allow man to advance, it would give man the chance to ponder our existence to further ourselves. But instead of this we grow to fear these creations as what he has made did make us question what it means to be human and we might not have liked that answer. As we now hunt these creations that made us look for that answer, they are to be snuffed out so we can go back to a blissful life of ignorance. So perhaps he did want to play God but rather than creating his own Eden in which to rule, he tried to change the world of man but never stopped to ask if that was a change man wanted. He saw a tainted world where man was flawed, so he created perfect beings yet the only limitation he imposed on them was the one of life, they could live a better life but doing so would kill them sooner; just like man’s world, the longer we live the sooner we die “It’s a shame she won’t live but then who does”.

Though Blade Runner is not just about who is or is not human, it shows us that it is more a question of degrees of humanity. In a world where androids are indistinguishable from human by nothing but the Voight-Kampff test that measures one’s emotional response to a situation. We see this test done at different points of the film to different people but most importantly it is only done to those who are clearly identified to us as androids. Though Roy and Deckard are ones who never take it which is very intriguing as you could see Roy as the one who is more human than Deckard. The ones we do see take the test are Leon (the first of the androids we see) and Rachel; Leon within a few questions reveals himself to be an android by shooting the questioner. Rachel on the other hand takes many many more questions and the editing suggests that hours pass in the time in which her questioning takes place. Yes, she is an android but one that could fool anyone without the use of the test and even with the use of the test is hard to discover. So emotionally the androids are becoming just as complex as humans, taking on the memories of humans to seem human in their four years, yet people in this world do not mind something that has just as much a right to life dying for those jobs man should not do. But this is also something they fear, androids are banned on Earth as they could become that person next door or a performer of the arts and you would never know.

However, throughout the film Roy grows just as emotionally as a character as anyone else, he is able to become more than he was designed to be; in the face of death he had realised what he had become. He comes to Earth in search of his maker to beg for more life but the way he takes to get there is one of death and murder which could play more into the idea of Tyrell being a god, after seeing his creation sin why would he grant more life, he would surely confine him to death. But that is what he made Roy to be, a killing machine, able to kill men more efficiently than any man could though he does not reward this, only marvel at it. So what Roy does when faced with death is what he has known in life, kill. He kills the only man that could have saved him, perhaps he realised Tyrell was a false god and slayed him for it. Though if Tyrell was God that would make Roy Christ, the son of God, and this works as well; as in the final showdown between Roy and Deckard, Roy puts a nail through his hand to keep himself alive for longer. Before his death he shows mercy towards Deckard and saves him from falling from the roof of a building; a mercy that Deckard would not have shown. In fact, Deckard is the least merciful in the film as he could be seen as a coward for shooting Zhora in her back as she flees his chase. He could have let her escape as she would have died from her ‘natural’ lifespan and she was performing for the people of that future LA; yet he still turned up and killed her for what she was made to be. She was providing a Performance for the people of Los Angeles which was creating joy and happiness, and happiness is a thing rarely seen in the Los Angeles of Blade Runner.  And yet in his hunt for her Deckard creates panic and fear of the people, so can Deckard really be seen as doing good for the people?

We’ve been talking about Blade Runner for 2000 words now and have yet to really mention the eyes, well don’t worry that is to be fixed now. As everything in Blade Runner is about the eyes as they are the window to the soul which is at the very core of BR. The test to tell between a man and an android is one that measures responses in the eye, looking in to see if there is a soul in that person. And yet as we saw earlier, this is not always a clear cut test so perhaps these windows are not as clean as we would like to believe. When Roy kills Chew and Tyrell he be does it by pushing his thumbs through their eyes, perhaps wanting to damage their soul, to kill their true self and the eyes present the path to get there. Yet a test designed to identify an android can struggle to see if one is one but we can see from the eyes who is. Every android in the film has an eye glint to them obviously identifying them to us as an android but it is likely within the world that is something that is not seen. Though what is interesting about this is, for one scene, we briefly see Deckard with this eye glint. Just one scene and it is unlikely that Scott didn’t do this on purpose, as every aspect of this film is made with meaning on mind. This is not the only thing we see Deckard having just like the androids, another being him collecting photographs of his past. We see him with many of them lined up on his piano, which is a nice reference to DADOES, and this is something that androids are seen to do. As at Leon’s apartment we see he has dozens of them stored in a drawer with it being mentioned that they keep them, to enforce the reality of the implanted memories they have. So with these two traits that he shared with androids, is it beyond reason that he is one too?

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One last comment on the eyes if I may, and I think I will. The famous soliloquy at the end of the rooftop scene “tears in rain” has Roy reflecting what he has seen with his eyes and how these are sights that we wouldn’t believe. And perhaps they are, as the role of Man seems to be defined by what an android is too good to do, so these could be sight’s that man may never see, of sights he wouldn’t live to tell others of. Though did Roy cry? Did he actually shed the tears of his ending life into the rain, so just like his memories, the last thing he gives will be lost and unnoticed? But can Roy cry, would he be built with the ability to shed tears as that ability would in no way enhance him as a warrior he is meant to be.

So after all of this it would be easy to think the message of Blade Runner is a core question of whether Deckard is a replicant. And to a degree that is a question of the film but I think that issue is a sub issue of a greater theme of the film, what does it mean to be human? It shows us that there are degrees of humanity that are not measured by a test but by how one reacts and chooses to exist in this world. We see Deckard is the cold and removed human in the film, remorselessly hunting down those that he has been told could threaten peace, someone who will show no mercy or concern for the safety of others; he is set on his mission and he will complete it. Whereas Roy is a counterpart for this showing some of the most basic human emotions and thoughts, to seek more life, to find his creator and at the end of his life he is the one that shows mercy to Deckard. So perhaps Tyrell was successful in creating something “More human than human” by making an android that was a truer human and in turn making a man become what a machine is seen to be.

This article was contributed to us by Duncan Cushenan. 

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Blade Runner Analysis

Blue Is the Warmest Colour Analysis

I want to say straight away this isn’t a review of the film, it is a look at the film as a piece of cinema and how it differs to other films out there. Also, this analysis won’t be looking at those scenes, if you’ve seen it you know what I mean, if you haven’t I’m sure you can find out.

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So onwards and upwards then, this is a French love film between two women. I say love film as opposed to lesbian love film, as it isn’t the latter, it is a love film that so happens to be between two women, which makes a change to seeing the standard “insert Titanic love story arc here” love. Which fits in more with the directors cannon of work but we shall look at that in more depth later.

The first element to look at in this film is its use of colour, more specifically the colour blue, quite obvious, as we see it throughout the film, which can be correlated to Adele’s development. As we can see it playing a large part in her life as we see her story being told, the first woman she kisses has blue fingernails (yes I am that sad I noticed that), Emma (first person she falls in love with) has the blue hair as well as many other occurrences. For me the best use has to be when she goes out to sea and just floats in the blue ocean, showing how she needs solace and tranquillity from her life which this brief period offers her. As we don’t see anyone else in the ocean with her, she looks like she is the only person in the entire ocean. Yet this can also be seen to have a secondary meaning, as blue is often used to describe depression, so looking at the scene from this light; it can be seen as her trying to keep herself afloat in a depression that is almost drowning her. And that, with all the people around her, she feels that no one can help her. But this idea doesn’t align itself to the rest of the film well, as it would seem that Adele wants to be near depression and is making an active choice to do so, but just for the context of this scene I feel it is relevant. Perhaps a more interesting thought could be a combination of these two ideas that Adele can only find  tranquillity in her life, when she lets everything overlap and overwhelm her.

Another, and possibly most important, use of the colour Blue is in Emma’s hair, as early on it is a vibrant and bright blue but as time passes that begins to fade, until Emma’s hair is no longer blue at all. This occurs when their relationship begins to hit a bump, I wouldn’t say their love for each other fades but they lose something from their connection (ask someone more experienced in love than me for a better answer). And this then results in, what for me, was the most powerful scene in the film; when Emma chucks Adele out of their home. After this the film adopts a great style, as we jump through time without warning or any regularity to these visits as time passes for Adele, which reflects how heart-break can last forever and the healing process blurs together without boundaries. Finally, blue is used in the final sequence of the film, the art gallery, where we see Adele wear a vibrant blue dress to Emma’s show, which I believe is a brilliant use of it. As it shows how now Adele can bring herself the comforts that she once sought from others, she is her own solace now. She does speak to Emma, whose hair is still not blue again; which can show how she has moved on from that past with Adele, before speaking to others, the scene and film then end with Adele walking alone down a street.

This film also excels in other area’s and not just on the cinematic level, as it can be seen as a piece of self-reflective cinema, this being a film that reflects either itself or film making within it. We can see this through Emma and her art primarily, as she says “I paint what I want to paint. I won’t paint what the current fad demands me to”, or words to that effect, I couldn’t find the exact quote. I feel this brilliantly represents and mirrors the film, as the film wants to tell the love story we see, and not be just another love film that we have come to expect. It reflects how the painter, or in this case the director, wants to create something unique and hasn’t been seen before, as well as challenging what the rules of cinema or art are. As we have come to expect a happy Hollywood ending from films, where the couple come together, which infects and changes the endings of so many films. Films like Shawshank Redemption, which had the beach scene added due to responses from preview screenings, show this can work but does it always satisfy the story. Would Casablanca be as resounding if Isla and Rick stayed together rather than her getting on the plane; no, as the message of the film was to make the sacrifice for the good of the war not each other. As it is here, if Adele ended up back with Emma it would have been against the message of the film, it would have been contradictory to the development of Adele from a young girl into a woman, she experiences through the relationship to break up. If she has got back with Emma she would have undone everything we see her learn in the last act of the film.

Moreover, if we look at the director in this light, of self-reflective cinema, we can see another side to the film; as he can be seen as the auteur of this film. That being the “author” of the film, which stems from a French film theory called, quite rightly, Auteur Theory; which operates on the premise that the director uses the camera as an author does a pen. Which we can see all too well in this film, as the director Abdellatif Kechiche is known for making observational cinema, he films what we see in life. He doesn’t use extravagant or showy cinematic techniques, he places a camera and films the scene, then cuts to another; which is how we see life, and we go from one moment to the next. Which could be why this film seems so real, as powerful as it seems as if we are actually watching a romance blossom and evolve then, sadly, fall apart rather than a film about it.

So, Blue is the Warmest Colour (if you’re still reading) is a brilliant film, in all respects of the word. It is its own film, with its own way of advancing and tackling issues (which may be an article for another day) that make itself unique from other films out there. And if you are now wondering should I watch it, yes you should, I cannot say a bad word about it myself.

So thank you for reading and I do hope that you go on and watch the film, if you have to buy it, it is worth every penny and you won’t regret it.

This article comes courtesy of Duncan Cushenan. 

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Blue Is the Warmest Colour Analysis

Citizen Kane 75th Anniversary Retro Review

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For decades it has been proclaimed as being ‘the best film ever made’ and 75 years later it still has a claim to that title. Though back in 2012 Hitchcock’s ’Vertigo’ was voted to the top spot, for me Kane still holds the spot for one simple reason, “rosebud.”

Perhaps one of the most powerful and resounding words in all of cinema yet it is never one we see on a list of best movie quotes as that isn’t what it is. People remember “we’re going to need a bigger boat” and “you’ll regret it…” off the top of their heads, as they are catchy quotes and can be slipped into a chat with anyone. But “rosebud” has a meaning behind it, an idea, an emotion to which every person can connect, but is that emotion the same for everyone?

No, as just like the film itself it is completely subjective but it works for everyone’s morals and experiences. While I saw a story of lost childhood and a tale of a boy being forced to grow up and shed that innocence children have. My friend, Tom, saw a boy who was taken from his home, grew up without a family and just pined to have grown up with a mother and a father. Now, you could certainly argue that our views while different are along the same lines and you would be right, but what if someone says something different? What if a certain Presidential candidate says the key is Kane’s rise to power and wealth? Is Mr. Trump wrong? No but in a sense he is as the film doesn’t celebrate Kane’s rise, as Trump believes, but in fact celebrates his downfall.

Okay, maybe “celebrate” is the wrong word but the film is certainly about Kane’s downfall; you can have the wealth to build your own kingdom, to buy every statue you want but he still could not obtain his rosebud. At his height he championed the rights of the workers, he built an opera house for his wife to perform but they just made him isolated from them. Was he a man who had something to say or a man who wanted to be heard?

While the former is true I think the latter is the truer as he never once says “rosebud” to anyone, he is heard on his deathbed saying it but that is coincidental. The only person who ever hears him say it, is us, the viewer. For all his work for the little man he was never able to impart the wisdom that stayed with him throughout his life. Not to his best friend and not to those closest to him, while they might have heard him say rosebud, they most certainly never found out what it meant.

Though was it ever Kane’s intention to tell them or anyone else about rosebud as throughout the film he is spoken as a man who starts several things but never finishes any. And the one time that he does finish something it is a review that his best friend starts but he finishes in the style his friend would have done, mocking his wife’s performance at the opera. Though this is an important insight into the man, as he embraces this opportunity to say what he thinks of his wife in this cover as another writer. He made his wife continue to perform an opera that she didn’t want to, so that he would not be ridiculed for a wasted venture, even one he does not believe is any good. As he was told what he wanted and had that life forced on him which is now leading him to do the same. Even though he knows that it will not bring joy to the person, perhaps that is what he wishes.

Joy, it is a state we don’t often see Kane in during the film. I would say we only see him in that state 3 times during the film; when he is a boy in the snow, when he sets out his promises for his paper, and when he meets she who becomes his second wife. Now this is not to say for the rest of the film he is always sad or not happy, he is obviously happy at other points. But these are the counterpoints that match the falls of his life and are part of his integral rise.

And that counterpoint of events if what makes this film feel so human and personal, as it goes up and down, as life does but it seems to go down deeper than the ups ever rise. But when we get to the end of the film we begin to realise what was seen as his rise was in actual fact his very downfall. Something that he spent his entire life trying to escape from, getting recognition from others rather than from within.

One thing I find very interesting is that at the end of the film we see that rosebud was in his possession the whole time. And I’m not quite sure what to make of that, did he know about it? If so he chose to leave that part of his life behind and not go back to it, which might seem counterintuitive to all he has done in the film. But it makes a kind of morbid sense as to go back would be to lose all he had gained and make what he had achieved in his life redundant. But if he did not know about rosebud being in his possession, he collected so much that he never had the time to find it, to appreciate what he had, so his own greed that was instilled in him once again tore him from the life he once had.

So I implore you to watch Citizen Kane if you get the chance, as 75 years later it is still one of the best films ever made.

This article was kindly contributed to us by Duncan Cushenan.

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Citizen Kane 75th Anniversary Retro Review

10 Cloverfield Lane Review

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I think it is important to say right off the bat that this is not a sequel to Cloverfield or a follow up film, it is best thought of as a blood relative. It is set in the same world but that is all we know, we don’t know if it happens simultaneously, before or after though it is quite likely that it happens at the same time or slightly after.

This is one of its many advantages, it weaves an intricate tapestry from seemingly unrelated or incidental threads. When you try to see how they measure with the original or how they fit in with it, you end up with a confusing picture of what is really going on. I don’t want to fully explain why this is as it would need spoilers to do so and one spoiler can ruin this film; so I will just focus on how it felt and what is in the trailer or what won’t ruin the film.

So from the trailer what do we know? That Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has been taken into Howard’s (John Goodman (or should it be Badman)) bunker without her knowing as when she wakes up in it she is handcuffed to the wall. So straight away there is tension, there are hidden motives, there is paranoia about why he brought her. Is he delusional, is he trying to save her or does he just not want to spend eternity alone? Though what would you do, knowing you could be locked in a bunker for years to come, would you want to be alone?

Well, as in the trailer when asked what he will do to her, he says “I’m going to keep you alive” yet that sounds so menacing and almost like a death sentence. So if you are in her position, in a bunker, awaken to find yourself handcuffed and locked in a cell; do you believe what he tells you? Do you trust him or do you try and escape even knowing what is outside the safety of that concrete tomb?

This is a film made from paranoia, where every little detail changes the way you think of the characters. As from Howard’s point of view he has saved her and she should be grateful and yet she tries to escape which could endanger him. So is he being selfish in keeping her trapped down in the bunker or is he trying to save her from what lies above?

Just what does lie above is done very interestingly in this film, while Howard tells Michelle that there has been an attack there is only speculation on what kind. As spectators of the original we assume it is the same attack or a different one by the same monsters at the same time. Which plays interestingly with the end of Cloverfield as we never found out if the monster was defeated, as Howard speculates if the attack could be nuclear or chemical making the air toxic. Which leads us to think that we had to possibly drop nukes to stop the creature but by doing so caused more and wider damage. For me this was one of the strongest aspects of the film as it made me begin to doubt whether this was an alien attack but perhaps the Soviets ending the alien incursion by nuking America.

Many an interesting internet theory has evolved around this as Cloverfield starts with a CIA title screen, which means that is being watched in retrospect as the CIA found and catalogued the footage. So is this a second wave of attack? As you can tell time has passed simply by looking at the phones as Cloverfield has old fashioned flip phones but, here a brand new Iphone 6 is what Michelle is using. Which does lend credence to the theory that this is a second wave attack and knowing JJ and the secrecy and the subtle workings of Cloverfield, this could be an intentional detail to add more mystery to the film.

Though some of you may be thinking why I am yet to mention Emmett (John Gallagher Jr) who is the third character in the film. That is because he is like the final piece of a jigsaw, he helps it all fall into place and you can see the finished picture for what it is.

He helps to make us/ Michelle believe Howard by telling her what he saw of the attack and that Howard has saved the both of them by letting them into his bunker. So you would think that he and Howard get along but this is not necessarily the case as there is a great amount of tension between him and Howard which Michelle prays on. As she also makes him think about escaping which in turn makes us doubt more about the attack, as if it is really as bad as said why would he also want to escape?

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Look at this image from the trailer, who is Howard angry with, Emmett not Michelle. And just look at him, he certainly does look unstable, we see him in the trailer going from playing board games with them to then wrestling with anger and exploding at the dinner table. Which creates some of the best onscreen fear I have seen, what is the bigger threat staying in a contained and sealed underground bunker or leaving to go up into a work possibly in conflict with aliens?

The filming of this bunker adds extraordinarily to this effect, as it takes place in all of 4 rooms giving a sense of claustrophobia to the entire film. Cloverfield made the entire city of New York seem dangerous and there was no way to escape it, here every room is dangerous and there is no guarantee that outside is any safer.

So should you see this film, yes!

Do you have to have seen Cloverfield, no but it helps.

Will it make you shudder in your seat, yes!

Can you guess how it ends, no!

 

A big thanks to Duncan Cushenan for authoring this review. 

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10 Cloverfield Lane Review

Deadpool Movie Review

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As of late Deadpool has hit something of a boom period with countless comics, a video game, and now a movie. The quality has been anything but consistent through these various ventures but hopes were high for the film to deliver in a big way, could it ever live up to the hype?

Oh yes it could.

From the opening credits it was clear that this was not going to be your typical superhero flick. Not to say that Marvel and DC’s usual offerings aren’t good, they largely are, but they all follow a very familiar format with little deviation. Deadpool dared to buck the trend and injected its unique brand of humour from the off with the aforementioned opening credits being the funniest in recent film history and setting the tone for the rest of this wickedly funny, fourth wall breaking, blood splattered triumph.

Despite being an origins story Deadpool managed to avoid the various pitfalls that most of these types of movies have stumbled into countless times. The tendency is to go from point A to point B in a very linear fashion that leaves vast swathes of the story feeling bland and overly time consuming whilst you wait for the hero to finally suit up and get down to business. That isn’t so in this picture as it begins with an already established character in a death defying freeway chase full of creative violence and laugh a minute dialogue and visuals. From there the tale of how Wade Wilson became the titular anti-hero is made clear whilst this co-story that has already been set up is dropped back into from time to time until the two narratives meet up in natural manner.

The actual origin portion of this film is handled pretty much perfectly. Wade is every bit the loud mouthed but oddly endearing figure that he needs to be. This is where Ryan Reynolds’ boyish charm comes in handy as he portrays the Merc with a little edge whilst retaining that cheeky smile that makes it so hard to hold anything against him, even the odd murder or two.

The dynamic between Wade and Vanessa (brilliantly brought to life by Morena Baccarin) makes for some of the best romance scenes to be found in this type of movie. The chemistry between the pair is unmistakable and the blossoming love they share is portrayed via a light hearted trip through all the holidays where they engage in various seasonally themed sexual exploits. It isn’t all sex though as the relationship is shown to move from lust to love with tender moments that bring out a side in Wade that hadn’t been glimpsed before in the film, the bravado was gone if only for a moment.

Of course there can be no great story without tragedy which meant Wade had to develop a horrendously aggressive cancer, sealing his imminent demise. The revelation of his condition was treated in a shockingly sincere manner an d provided a welcome though eye wetting break from the otherwise action packed film. From here is where the story kicked into high gear as a mysterious organisation approached Wade and offered him not just a cure but the ticket to become a superhero.

The rest of the story centres around the consequences of his decision to take them up on that offer and his quest to return some normalcy to his life… and face.

The action from there on out is intense when it needs to be intense and hilarious when it needs to be hilarious. It seems the film’s writers, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, had studied the world of ‘Pool in great detail before devoting themselves to this project as he is a perfect representation of the classic comic book loudmouth. The decision to only have Deadpool break the forth wall and not regular Wade Wilson turned out to be tremendously effective as it served to differentiate the two personalities and allow for some more appropriate nods and winks to the audience, which made up some of the funniest scenes in the entire movie.

One slight grievance is that the villain of the movie, Ajax (of Francis, if you’d prefer) is not as well rounded or memorable as those from other Marvel movies. Loki, Ultron, and The Winter Soldier are all better developed, their actions all have more reasoning and explanation behind them which leads to the audience taking to them in a way that hasn’t been achieved with this particular rogue. If it weren’t for the jokes about his name, he wouldn’t have gotten the internet notoriety that is developing around him nor would he be on anyone’s mind after more than a day of having watched the movie. Sure he is nasty and nefarious but that alone is not enough to make a memorable bad guy, and it’s not like Marvel are short on villains to place in their films.

The good guys are a lot better written though as Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (yes, really) both bring something vastly different to the film and leave it a better place for having been there. These are another two characters who are not only hilarious but have an actual purpose and motivations, something that is often missing in side characters. That’s not to say that the movie wouldn’t have been as good without them, it probably would have, but it definitely didn’t hurt to have them in there.

Again though there is a problem with the writing of one of the characters you are supposed to be routing for and that is Vanessa. In the beginning she is shown to be a strong woman who doesn’t need rescuing and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself but by the end she is just another damsel in distress, incapable of fighting for herself. Yes, the script called for something to be hanging in the balance during the final act but it just made for such a weird shift that it was off putting. Add to this the fact that Angel Dust is simply a henchwoman for Ajax and as such offers nothing unique to the story and it does make you wonder what went wrong in the crafting of these female characters. They deserved to be treated with more consistency and given more to do.

Despite those few flaws this still manages to be one of the best superhero movies of the bunch. It will have a lot of competition this year from the likes of Suicide Squad and X-Men Apocalypse but you shouldn’t be surprised to see Deadpool reign supreme when all is said and done. With a sequel already in the works the mind can’t help but turn to what is next for this off the wall anti-hero. Here’s hoping it involves plenty of Chimichangas and maybe an appearance from Madcap.

Score: 8.9 out of 10.

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Deadpool Movie Review

Spotlight Movie Review

Spotlight

Spotlight.

There are so many films that I wish I could unwatch and this is one of them. Not because it is bad but because it is so good, I want to walk in and be shocked and awestruck by it again.

It follows the investigation of ‘The Boston Globe’ that started as looking into claims of members of the Catholic Church molesting children. The film handles this topic like plutonium but while it treads carefully it does not lack the truth and punch that the original expose by the Globe had. As while the end credit titles appear on screen, which show the true scope of how large this disaster was, I felt like I had been hit with a cricket bat.

Instantly it will remind you of ‘All The Presidents Men’ and I would say that it stands up to it. Though it lacks the cinematic flare that ‘ATPM’ has, it becomes an advantage for ‘Spotlight’ as it will allow it to transcend the different mediums without suffering. As first and foremost, this is a film about people and the impact of breaking this story on them. So a smaller scale works for this, as it makes the film feel more personal, you can feel like you are alongside them, in the Spotlight office during the investigation but once they publish the story, you feel like you are at home reading it for the first time. So where ‘ATPM’ shows how the Watergate scandal will affect a nation, ‘Spotlight’ brings the world into Boston and by showing us how it affects the people; we can see through them how it rocked the foundations of people’s beliefs across the world.

I do feel that it handles this personal conflict and turmoil in a measured and considered way. We don’t see overdramatised reactions which would undermine the earlier acts of the film that laid the foundations for the last act. Instead we have a gradual realisation by the team and how it affects them, and as we see at the end of the film, how it affects those around them. One of these is the stand out performance of Brian d’Arcy James (Matt Carroll) where he becomes increasingly distraught knowing that one of the suspected priests lives near him, in a family neighbourhood. He knows that if he warns anyone, that priest may be caught but countless others may get away and the cycle starts again in another city. Mark Ruffalo (Mike Rezendes) is the one to voice this in the office, in a moment of nail biting tension “they knew and they let it happen”. This is a credit to the craft that Ruffalo has, as during this when he is pushed to the edge and snaps, we never think, will he “hulk” out; he keeps us in the film and in the moment.

It would be easy to say that ‘Spotlight’ is a film being critical of the Catholic Church and takes the high moral ground, and that is true to an extent. But it is about a community, a town which became complacent in an unspeakable crime “It takes a town to raise a child, it takes a town to abuse one” laments Stanley Tucci’s character. And ‘Spotlight’ spreads the share of that blame around but it does not neglect the Boston Globe itself, who were equally complacent in the crime. Though it doesn’t take this path right away, it creates a trail of breadcrumbs that seem suspicious but not overly relevant at the time. But they all start to add up, to the overall question, why wasn’t this published years ago? So something must have changed and that is Liev Schreiber as the “unmarried out of town Jew who hates baseball” Marty Baron, the new Editor in Chief of the Globe. Which does lead to a very interesting thought, how much are people willing to ignore, to put a blind eye to, until someone comes in and directs us to it?

So, ‘Spotlight’, it it worth seeing? Yes, 10/10 I would recommend this film to you, as it is a story that everyone should be acquainted with; not just the goings on of the Catholic Church but how it is easy for people to become complicit without realising it.

 

This article was contributed to us by a guest writer, Duncan Cushenan. 

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Spotlight Movie Review