Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

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Image is property of Laika and Focus Features

Kubo and the Two Strings – Film Review

Cast: Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes

Director: Travis Knight

Synopsis: After a terrible accident in his past, young Kubo sets off on an adventure to retrieve some valuable items from his past to help defeat a sinister force.

Review: Animation is such a staple of modern Western cinema, largely thanks to the work of animation powerhouses like Disney and Pixar, using computer animation to create magical and exciting adventures for all generations. Yet for animation studios like Laika and Studio Ghibli, in these cases, they use somewhat more unique methods to tell their stories. For the former, the use of stop motion animation is their party piece, and their latest film reinforces their growing reputation as an animation studio that is certainly showing its credentials with each new film they release.

Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy with a magical musical instrument who is looking after his sick mother, who warns him of the perils of being out at night, as Kubo is being hunted by some deeply sinister forces who want to take something from him. Due to these sinister forces, Kubo is sent on a mission to hunt for three valuable artefacts that will enable him to defeat those that are pursuing him. Aiding him on this quest are the appropriately named Monkey (Theron) and Beetle (McConaughey).

Original films are something of a rarity in modern cinema, and this story is a wonderful breath of fresh air, that’s mysterious, magical and exciting all rolled into one. There are elements of Ancient Japanese history without any doubt and maybe a hint of influence from Ghibli, but the screenplay, written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler is rich in detail and boasts some very compelling characters, and an adventure that packs plenty of heart and humour, not to mention some absolutely flawless animation. Kubo is our young hero and Parkinson’s work bringing him to life is so stellar that you just want to root for him and defeat those evil forces who are trying to take something from him.

Along with a compelling lead, the side characters are also extremely compelling and well developed. Monkey is certainly a “take no nonsense” kind of character but she has plenty of heart and compassion for Kubo. Likewise for Beetle, though he comes across as something of a bumbling idiot, he too certainly shows spirit and a fierce desire to aid Kubo on his mission. Likewise with Parkinson, the voice work of Theron and McConaughey is so on point that as an audience, you are on the side of these heroes, and although their voice work is equally stellar, you are most certainly not on the side of Rooney Mara’s Sisters  and neither that of the primary antagonist, Ralph Fiennes’s Moon King.

Despite being an extremely well made and beautiful film to watch, the screenplay isn’t perfect, there are a few points where the film stumbles a bit, and while his voice work is great, when casting such a brilliant actor in Fiennes, who can certainly do bad guys very well, you would hope his character is sinister and terrifying, and while he can be, certain elements of his design did leave something to be desired. Nevertheless though, Kubo is another fine string to add to Laika’s bow of really well made animated storytelling. The studio is certainly on a roll right now, and definitely one to keep an eye on in the years to come.

Beautiful detailed animation, combined with an enthralling story and tremendous characters, Kubo is an animation that will tug at the heartstrings of everyone, no matter how young or old they are.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

Top 10 Films of 2016

Another year passes, and another year of big blockbusters, smaller films and more sequels and reboots than perhaps we want. Yet nevertheless, it has been an interesting year for cinema. While 2016, might be most remembered for the alarming amount of beloved celebs who we lost, it was still an interesting year for cinema goers all around the world. We had superhero squabbles, private detectives in 1977 Los Angeles, the true story of the 2010 BP oil disaster, hiking in the New Zealand wilderness, and some heart-warming musicals. Of course some films on this list did arrive in 2017 in the UK (my humble abode), but I am counting the ones that I have seen as 2016 releases, as per IMDB. With that said, I now give you my picks for the 10 best movies of the year. I should note that for films like Hacksaw Ridge, Lion and Moonlight, that I have not been able to catch these before writing this list. As such, they will instead be eligible for 2017’s list instead as they have yet to reach UK shores.

One thing to bear in mind, is that grades here do not matter, a film may get a higher grade or the perfect grade, it will not necessarily mean that film will be the best film of the year, this is my list of my favourite movies that I had the most fun with or enjoyed the most.  Before I get into the body of my list I do have some honourable mentions, films that were awesome and that didn’t quite make the list with there being 10 spaces, but were still a lot of fun. And first up is…

Moana (review), this was another superb year for Walt Disney Animation Studios, with two absolutely stellar films being released and Moana was just so much fun. You expect gorgeous animation from Disney, but Moana’s animation was just almost on another level, the music is great, the character of Moana is great and it was just a fantastic adventure.

Deadpool (review), superhero films are really popular currently, but we were yet to be treated to be a proper R rated one, until the Merc with a Mouth came along. Hilarious, with a terrific turn from Reynolds, and quite possibly the best opening credits scene EVER, it was a welcome breath of fresh air for the genre, and with its success, it shall be interesting to see if other studios follow suit in making their superhero movies a bit more edgy and violent

Sing Street (review coming soon) movies about music can be terrifying (e.g. Whiplash) but this movie from writer and director John Carney was simply a blast. From start to finish, it was just so much fun to watch as this kid who has his eye on a girl does his best to woo her by forming a band. The acting was great, the music was also so well realised, if you haven’t seen this film, it is on UK Netflix now, do give it a look see, you won’t be disappointed.

Silence (review), Martin Scorsese is unquestionably one of the finest film-makers in history and we’re lucky that he’s still making incredible pieces of cinema. This was a gripping tale of two priests journeying to a country where their religion was totally banned, and the punishments for following it were severe. It’s acted beautifully and the dialogue is extremely well written, and harrowing to watch at times.

Star Trek Beyond (review). Justin Lin took the reins from JJ Abrams after he directed the first two films in this reboot of the long running franchise, and continued down the path of excellence that Abrams started. Once again the action is so much fun to watch, but what makes this franchise so great is its characters, Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Bones, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov (RIP Anton Yelchin) and a great new addition in Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah. The franchise is certainly living long and prospering, even with the sad deaths of both Yelchin and the great Leonard Nimoy. And finally…

Spotlight (review), yes I know this is technically a 2015 release but it didn’t reach the UK till late January hence why I am including it here. This true story about the Boston Globe journalists who uncovered the horrendous abuse scandal that went on in the Catholic Church was utterly riveting to watch and acted beautifully particularly from Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo, it’s a story that needed to be told and by the time the credits begin to roll, it will leave you speechless.

Honourable mentions concluded, time for the big guns, the top 10 and we start with…

10. Hell or High Water

My Hell or High Water review

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When you get Chris Pine, Jeff Brides and Ben Foster in a movie, particularly in a Western kind of setting, you’re probably going to be in for some greatness, and that is precisely what Hell or High Water gives you. Hailing from Scotland, David Mackenzie brought a thrilling tale of two brothers who resort to robbing banks as a means to stay afloat financially. Throw Jeff Bridges in as your gruff Texas Ranger in very much Rooster Cogburn mode, and the end result is one thrilling Western heist movie with some of 2016’s best acting from all three of its lead actors, and a damn fine spectacle.

9. Deepwater Horizon

My Deepwater Horizon review

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The 2010 BP Oil Disaster was a terrible disaster that claimed 11 lives, and for director Peter Berg, it must have been quite the challenge to make the film that pays tribute towards those who died whilst telling the true to life story of how the worst ever environmental disasters in US history, in a gripping manner, and my oh my was this film gripping! You know going in that the disaster is lurking around the corner, but when the shit hits the fan and it all goes south, this film really goes up a couple of exciting pegs. With an excellent Mark Wahlberg performance at its core, this film will almost certainly shake you to your core, and leave you wondering how on earth such a monumental disaster was allowed to happen, and how no criminal charges were filed.

8. Rogue One: A Star Wars story

My Rogue One: A Star Wars story review

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Another trip to a galaxy far far away, except this time not focusing on the main saga. The first of three (at least for now) Anthology films focusing on the daring mission executed by the rebels to steal the plans for the Death Star, fitting in just nicely right before A New Hope kicks off. Edwards helmed this film beautifully with some absolutely brilliant action sequences, particularly that third act, and my oh my, that Vader hallway scene, you know the one I am talking about, was just an absolute blast to watch. Sure for some of the new characters, their development was not as much as you would like, but the franchise has another awesome female heroine in Felicity Jones’s Jyn.  The Star Wars renaissance thanks to Disney is blooming, and long may it continue.

7. Hidden Figures

My Hidden Figures review

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The beauty of film is that it can bring to the attention to a substantial audience a story that has really not seen the light of day, such is the case with this true story of the inspirational women who worked behind the scenes at NASA to make the US space missions of the 1960s a reality. The three central women are all beautifully acted by Octavia Spencer, Taraji P Henson and Janelle Monae, and it demonstrated that although because of their skin colour and their gender, that even though pretty much everyone in society looked down on them, they were able to make a real difference to their industry, despite the attempts to put them in their supposed place.

6. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

My Hunt for the Wilderpeople review

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Taika Waititi is a director to certainly keep a close eye on, certainly with Thor: Ragnarok due to be released in cinemas later this year, and this film will have certainly cemented his growing reputation. A film that is so unique, so original and utterly hilarious to watch, yet made very little at the box office (more on that later). It is just pure gold to watch as this troublesome foster kid and his new guardian have themselves a little adventure in the New Zealand wilderness. Sam Neill is brilliant but newcomer Julian Dennison absolutely steals the show. These two as a comedic duo, simply just hilarious to watch as they go on about their wildnerness adventure, all the while being chased by the authorities. Mayhem in the New Zealand forest, and just non stop entertainment.

5. Zootopia (Zootropolis)

My Zootopia/Zootropolis review

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The 1st film to be released by Disney Animation Studios in 2016, and one of the best animated films to emerge from the Mouse House in recent years. In an animal metropolis where animals live and work, seemingly in harmony, but only on the surface. For an animation, this film has a lot of really deep and significant undertones that will really get the adult viewers who watch the film really thinking about what is has to say and the messages it gives off. With some great little easter eggs to some classic movies thrown in for the adults to enjoy, as well as some great jokes, and a really great leading duo, this proves that Disney studios have certainly not lost their magic when it comes to making great entertainment that is a lot of fun for both kids and adults to enjoy, as well as a thumping good tune from Shakira!!

4. Captain America: Civil War

My Captain America: Civil War review

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This was the thirteenth entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe array of movies. Unlucky? Not a chance! This was another truly superb comic book movie that proved Marvel is still leading the way in terms of their extended cinematic universe over DC, by A LOT. When looking at the film’s promo, it certainly seemed as though this wasn’t Captain America 3, but Avengers 2.5. Well without spoiling too much, its most definitely a Captain America film, despite the massive ensemble of heroes which included terrific first appearances by Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa AKA Black Panther, and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. The story is told tremendously well and it does a tremendous job of splitting your loyalties and it’s not a simple case of one being right, and the other being wrong, it is much more complicated than that. And that airport battle was simply put, one of the best superhero battles ever put on the big screen EVER.

3. La La Land

My La La Land review

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Much like with Sing Street, this is another musical picture that was just an absolute bundle of joy to watch, from the opening spontaneous song and dance number on a LA Freeway to the very end. Damien Chazelle is a writer and director who certainly takes great inspiration in musicals as Whiplash and this film demonstrate, and he might just be the best director currently working in this genre. The music does not feel overbearing or annoying, every time a character sings or breaks out and dances, it feels like it’s necessary to the scene, to the development of the characters, and with Stone and Gosling both on outstanding form. Everyone has had a dream at some point in their life, and this film’s message about dreams will undoubtedly resonate with all who watch it.

2. Arrival

My Arrival review

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Sci-Fi movies do like to have big explosions, aliens and a cool battle where the aliens and the humans face off, but there is none of that here in Denis Villeneuve’s latest film. One of the smartest, most inventive pieces of story-telling to emerge in recent years, with a screenplay that really gets the brain working, and will blow your mind. Focusing on 12 alien ships who have arrived on Earth, a linguistics professor is recruited to help understand who these aliens are and their purpose on Earth. Villeuneve,  is fast become one of the hottest properties in Hollywood, and after watching this film, it is easy to see why. At its core is a truly superb performance from Amy Adams,in a role that could land her some Oscar gold at long last. A film to really get the mind working, it’s a very human story with a lot to say for itself, and not to mention some of the  best visual effects in 2016, and some gorgeous cinematography to go with it.

And my #1 favourite film of 2016 is……………………….

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1. The Nice Guys

My The Nice Guys review

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Ryan Gosling is clearly doing something right! So many films this year are continuation of franchises, sequels, reboots and so on. Yet every year, there are plenty of original pieces of work that are brought to the big screen, yet sometimes this new and fresh ideas, despite great critical receptions, absolutely tank at the box office, and no film typifies this more than Shane Black’s The Nice Guys. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as two PIs in 1970s Los Angeles, with a story focused on a missing girl, and the porn industry. I mean how the fuck did more people not go to see this film??? The action is great, the chemistry between Crowe and Gosling is fantastic and there’s a great break out performance from Angourie Rice. This film is hilarious, the dialogue is great and Black is doing what he knows best. It is no wonder studios focus their efforts on properties audiences know and are aware of, because they make more money, and no one chooses to watch new and original content. Yet if you’re reading this, and you have not seen this movie, I implore you to go seek this film out via any legal means you can, rent it, buy it on DVD or Blu Ray because this film is a gem, and more films like this need to get made. It is by far my favourite film of 2016, and although Hollywood these days is dominated by sequels, I would love to see a sequel to this movie.

So there you have it! My top 10 picks for the best films of 2016. But what are your top 10 best films of 2016? Let me know in the comments below. Or you could hit me up on my Twitter and don’t forget to like Through the Silver Screen on Facebook to ensure you never miss another review of mine! Let us hope that we are treated to more cinematic gold on the big screen in 2017, and for the must see movies coming out this year, be sure to give my Top 10 most anticipated films of 2017 a look see!

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Hidden Figures (2016)

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Image is property of Fox 2000 Pictures, Chernin Entertainment, Levantine Films, TSG Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Hidden Figures – Film Review

Cast:  Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons

Director: Theodore Melfi

Synopsis: Telling the true story of three African American women who during the 1960s Space Race made ground-breaking strides to provide NASA with vital data critical to the US Space Program.

Review: In the 1960s, while the Space Race between the United States of America and the USSR was becoming fiercely competitive, it was almost unheard of for a woman to take a front and centre role in the pioneering and creative work that was going on at NASA, never mind an African American woman. Division and segregation was still very strong in these times, there was very little mixing. Which makes the achievements of three women in particular, who worked on NASA’s program in the sixties, so incredibly remarkable and ground-breaking, in every sense of the word.

These three women in question, Katherine G. Johnson (Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Monáe) start out working in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center, and in a divided country, there was never any expectation for them to be in real positions of power, where they could make a real difference. Before long however, due to their extraordinary talents, they begin to make waves. Soon enough, all three make their contributions to the US Space program and thanks to their pioneering work, the missions that followed in the sixties were made that much more attainable thanks to these extraordinary women, and for a long time, they certainly were hidden figures of history.

However, the incredible story of these women is now getting the recognition it absolutely merits thanks to director Theodore Melfi, who co-wrote the screenplay along with Allison Schroeder. The script manages to strike a perfect balance of really serious and dramatic moments, mixed in with plenty of rather brilliant humour. These women do have just about every obstacle thrown in their path that they could, from a society that really frowned upon black people sharing just about anything with white people. There’s no violence and brutality to be found (though that certainly existed) the story merely focuses on the obstacles these women faced, and how they defied the expectations society placed on them.

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The acting from all three leading women is simply tremendous, and all three could very well land Oscar nominations. Their chemistry is excellent and you really feel for each of them whenever their work is restricted or impeded by their mostly white and mostly male colleagues. But by far and away, the leading light is Taraji P Henson’s Katherine who is called up to work as part of an integral mission for NASA, due to her extraordinary mathematical ability. Her story is certainly more of the main focus, but it does not detract from other two ladies, as their story lines weave together, as they strive to not only help NASA, but break the stereotypes that were placed upon women in their position.

Where the story errs a bit is in the telling of the private lives of the women, which although important as it gives them character depth and ensures that the audience is able to understand their characters and bond with them more, does detract from the story a bit. It’s not overbearing, but you might perhaps wish to see more of their work at NASA. Also the movie does try to explain a lot of the mathematics but unless you’re a mathematics genius, it is more than likely to fly straight over your head like a rocket.

The Space Race of the 1960s is an era known to many. Yet the story of these remarkable women is one you probably didn’t know, but you really should, as it sheds light on a very important story that needs to be seen by everyone. Hopefully with this film, these women will no longer be the hidden figures of history that they have arguably been for a great many decades now.

A story with real heart, substance and emotion at its core, anchored by beautiful acting, Hidden Figures tells a vital story that everyone, everywhere should know about.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

La La Land (2016)

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Image is property of Summit Entertainment, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures and Marc Platt Productions

La La Land – Film Review

Cast:  Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis: An actress desperately trying to catch her big break in Hollywood meets a jazz pianist struggling to make ends meet, and the duo begin a blossoming romance.

Review: The art of cinema is one that can have great impact on the human soul whenever we sit down to watch a film for the first time. Cinema has the power to generate so many emotions among its audience, from the most euphoric moments of unrivalled joy to the dark moments of despair. Writer and director Damien Chazelle’s previous directorial outing Whiplash certainly had a mixture of those happy and sad moments, more of the latter than the former mind you. Yet for his new picture, again with a musical theme at its brimming heart, definitely has a lot more of those moments of pure unparalleled joy.

An insane but quite brilliant musical number set on an LA freeway sets you up for the kind of ride Chazelle is about to take you on, as we meet Emma Stone’s Mia, an actress who, despite audition after audition, is just not getting any rewards. By chance she runs into Ryan Gosling’s Seb an aspiring Jazz pianist who also happens to be in something of a rut, this is until he meets Mia, and the two fall head over heels for one another and begin planning a life for themselves together, with both having big aspirations and dreams. It all seems so perfect for them, until their careers threatens to pull them away from one another, and both are presented with a difficult decision. Though this is very much a musical at is heart, its packed with great humour, romance and drama all fused into one glorious picture. right from the aforementioned musical freeway scene, you’ll be hard pressed to not find yourself tapping along with the music.

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With this marking their third collaboration since Crazy, Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, it’s crystal clear at this point that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have brilliant chemistry together, and it is their chemistry along with brilliant performances from them both that help elevate La La Land to a golden standard for musical cinema. As well as the electric performances, the music is also beautiful to listen to. With each note that Stone and Gosling sing, it will find its way to melt your heart and fall in love with these characters, even if a member of the audience is about as emotionless as a Cyberman from Doctor Who, it will lift your spirits and leave you floating on cloud nine. All of us undoubtedly have dreams and aspirations for want we want to do with our lives, and this film has much to say about following your dreams, that will hit home with almost everyone.

Despite those moments of sheer joy, it is not all sunshine and rainbows for our leads, as they encounter some tricky obstacles in both of their lives. Rest assured however, that no one is throwing any chairs at anyone this time, and no psycho music teachers brutally tearing people down. This is nowhere near as intense as Whiplash was, but it’s just as well written and equally tremendously acted, with a glorious cameo appearance from J.K Simmons, this time not in raging jazz teacher mode.

Chazelle, with only his third feature film, seems to have found his spark, when it comes to live action musicals, currently he is the man of the moment, and is certainly proving himself to be a formidable director and one to watch. A recording breaking Golden Globe haul accomplished, with the Oscars in sight, La La Land looks certainly set to sing and dance its way to more awards glory.

With some thumping good tunes, Stone and Gosling on electric form, and a deep, thought provoking story, this is cinema at its heart-warming and magical best.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

A Monster Calls (2016)

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Image is property of Focus Features, River Road Entertainment and Participant Media

A Monster Calls – Film Review

Cast:  Lewis MacDougallFelicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson

Director: J.A. Bayona

Synopsis: A young boy, battling with bullies and his mother’s terminal illness, finds an unlikely companion in a gigantic living tree, who teaches the boy tales about life.

Review: Growing up, no matter who you are, no matter your circumstances, is tough. Of course some may have it easier than others, but all of us as we leave our early years behind us enter a tricky phase in our lives, a period that is not exactly simple to negotiate. Now imagine if you’re in a situation where you’re frequently getting picked on at school, and your life at home is well difficult too, which again is something it is possible many out there have gone through. Yet what if, during these tricky and testing times, you were visited by a giant talking tree monster who came to you when you needed someone to talk to? That’s something certainly no one has ever had to experience, unless you’re the main character in this interesting delve into the fantasy genre, spliced with heartbreaking family drama.

Conor (MacDougall) is the boy in question battling all of these difficult situations in his life. Picked on by bullies, and with his mother (Jones) terminally ill due to cancer, his only solace is the titular “monster” a walking talking tree voiced and mo-capped by Liam Neeson, who in the dead of night, comes to Conor to tell him stories, all the while seeking to make the boy’s life happier. From a screenplay by Patrick Ness who also wrote the novel on which this is based, director J.A. Bayona steers this mesh of fantasy and real life drama and tragedy, into an extremely imaginative tale, that’s visually quite tremendous to watch, and gets some beautiful and emotional performances from its cast.

In what is only his second film role, MacDougall has much of the film riding on his shoulders, and for a young actor he rises to the challenge and does a tremendous job. He really conveys the unimaginable pain that someone in his position would be going through superbly well. Though his performance does wobble in parts, his emotion and rage against his circumstances ensure you feel for his character. Felicity Jones, on the back of Rogue One, gives also a very wounded and powerful performance as Conor’s mother. Though she is battling a terrible illness, she does her best to be positive and upbeat for her son’s benefit, and Jones could just potentially be a dark horse in this awards season race for best supporting actress. Signourney Weaver and Toby Kebbell do shine as Conor’s stern Grandmother and somewhat absentee Father respectively, but its Jones and MacDougall who are the leading lights, and they take home the acting plaudits.

There’s also the not so small matter of Neeson’s Tree Monster, a sort of Groot XL who can say a lot more than “I am Groot.” Through his booming voice and motion capture work, he brings the character to life brilliantly. Neeson has shown in the past he has quite the deep, powerful voice that has lent itself to the deity like figures of Zeus and Aslan, and as a tree like being, his voice and its deep tone is quite effective. It gives the tales that the Monster tells Conor really weight and ensures that they have the impact on the audience that undoubtedly the film makers wanted it to have. The tales themselves are told in a very intriguing manner, and doubt that it is extremely effective, at tugging at the audience heartstrings, and Bayona adapts the story beautifully, so much so that you might find it hard to fight back the tears once the credits begin to roll.

Visually breath-taking, combined with an emotional story that is not afraid to go in some dark and troubling places, that will hit home for anyone who has had a family member battling cancer, or experienced some rough years at school.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Silence (2016)

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Image is property of Paramount Pictures and IM Global

Silence – Film Review

Cast:  Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson

Director: Martin Scorsese

Synopsis: In seventeenth century Japan, two Jesuit priests set out on a mission to seek out their mentor, all the while trying to teach their faith, in a country that vehemently opposes Christianity.

Review: Religion is a subject that even to this day remains quite controversial. In certain areas of the world, people who practice other religions are frowned upon, and some even face extreme violence and persecution for their beliefs, with certain events in history demonstrating how people who are of certain faiths received brutal and fatal treatment because of their religion. It is then quite remarkable that a tale set in the seventeenth century, has certain elements that ring true in the 21st century. Therefore for Martin Scorsese, a man born and raised in a Catholic environment, it certainly takes a fair bit of courage to make a film that tackles such difficult subjects and religious persecution, and for that he certainly deserves plaudits.

Adapted from the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō, the story focuses on Fathers Rodrigues (Garfield) and Garrpe (Driver) who travel to Japan seeking to find Father Ferreira (Neeson) who they believed might have renounced their religion, due to the extreme hostilities that Christians faced at that time. Undeterred by the daunting mission facing them, they travel to the country and try to locate their lost mentor, and to teach their religion. Scorsese is a man who is arguably most well known for his gangster flicks, but this is his passion project, nearly 25 years in the making, and he tells the story in brutal and unflinching manner. With a screenplay co-written by Scorsese and Jay Cocks, there is no shying away from the horrific and painful treatment that Christians received for their beliefs, and if they didn’t renounce their religion, it usually would not end well. The film is very dialogue driven, but the writing is of a very high standard, and certainly poses questions that will certainly leave the audience with plenty to ponder as they watch.

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The performances are riveting to watch, particularly from the three main men, but the spotlight focuses primarily on Garfield. and he certainly gives one of the performances of his career. His belief in his faith is unwavering, even in the face of great suffering and pain, and the attempts made by the locals to renounce his religion. After shooting to stardom thanks to his work with Star Wars, Driver is also equally terrific in his work, giving a harrowing performance, and both men could certainly get award nominations for their performances.

The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is both beautiful and haunting at the same time. It is crystal clear that with each frame of this film, that great care and precision has gone into their creation. Nothing is rushed, as such the slow pace might jar with some, whilst also explaining the film’s 161 minute running time. There are plenty of visual images to get the minds of the audience deep in thought, and while some will almost certainly have viewers numb with the brutality that these Hidden Christians faced. “A picture tells a thousand words” is quite a popular phrase, and in this instance, that certainly rings true. Having spent so long on this story, Scorsese’s passion for the story absolutely comes to the fore, and makes it all the more gripping to watch, so much so that even if you’re not religious,or practise a religion that is not Christianity, you’ll find it difficult not to be moved by some of the events on screen.

Indeed, the title of “Silence” is quite appropriate, given that for the Jesuit priests and all those in Japan at the time who practised Christianity, they had to practise their faith in silence, and despite their suffering, their prayers were met with silence. And there will be moments of silent reflection for the audience once the credits begin to roll, as it’s pretty inescapable that although these are ficitonalised events of the past, they will still carry a significant weight to them given how in different corners of the globe, people of certain religions continue to endure strong hostility, to this day.

Quite a long time in the making, but certainly worth the wait. Scorsese’s passion for the story shines through, and it helps to deliver a tense emotional journey for all, with themes that continue to have great significance to this day

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

Ranking 2016 Superhero movies

There’s no question that right now, superhero films are REALLY popular. Lots of people flock to the cinemas to see them, and they take home big cash at the box office. This year combined, the 6 superhero offerings grossed a combined total of around 4.75 BILLION dollars. So although some are complaining about potential superhero fatigue, these films are clearly still very popular despite a lot of them coming out, and 2017 promises even more to come. Anywho with that said, it is fair to say that not all of these films have been received well by everyone and so it is time to rank these movies from worst to first, starting with…………………………………………

6. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman V Superman review

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After 2013’s Man of Steel, hope and expectations were riding on this film to really set the DCEU universe on its path to try and challenge the formidable machine that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it is safe to say, that this didn’t quite happen. Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot certainly covered themselves in glory with their debut performances as Batman and Wonder Woman respectively, but that’s kind of where the good things about this film end. The plot was a bit all over the place, and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was just so badly miscast, and the film just became a very effects driven mess, with some shocking CGI in parts (*cough* Doomsday *cough*) and some of the writing was just ridiculous, with so many plotlines blurred into one and one of the most ridiculous lines of 2016 with the whole, having mothers of the same name, being a reason to stop fighting one another, just no. Snyder so far is just all style and not a great deal of substance, let us hope he changes that up for Justice League.

5. X-Men Apocalypse

X-Men Apocalypse review

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After delivering what some could argue was the best X Men movie yet in 2014’s Days of Future Past, hopes were high for Bryan Singer to go back to this world to deliver another great X-Men film, but sadly those hopes were dashed with what was a bit of a disappointment. There were some great new additions to the cast, especially Sophie Turner’s young Jean Grey, and there were undeniably some great action sequences, and another brilliant Quicksilver scene, but something about this just felt off. The motivation for Apocalypse himself, and his four horseman (with the exception of Magneto) was extremely thin on the ground, and the stakes were not nearly as high as they were in Days of Future Past, despite Apocalypse threatening to bring about global destruction, and the end result was just a bit underwhelming.

4. Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad review

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This was my #1 most anticipated film of 2016, and upon release, I did not think it deserved the critical mauling it got from critics, and I enjoyed the movie for what it was. That being said this film is not without its problems, the script was a bit weak, which is unsurprising given how director David Ayer was only given 6 weeks to write it, and although some characters were great, other characters were not so great. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn was excellent, and likewise with Will Smith as Deadshot. Jared Leto as the Joker looked promising but he was barely given any screen time at all, hopefully this is not the last we see of him in the role. Finally, the film just did not live up to those incredible trailers that promised a really exciting and fun film. The action was a bit choppy and it is possible that those reported reshoots didn’t do the film any favours.

3. Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange review

Marvel's DOCTOR STRANGE..Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)..Photo Credit: Film Frame ..©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

In all of its previous thirteen entries, the MCU has rarely dabbled in the world of magic. You could make the case for Thor but with the arrival of Doctor Steven Strange and his introductory film, that has now all changed. The Cumberbatch himself was an excellent choice to play Strange and the visuals that this film offered were visually just absolutely incredible with some very exciting action sequences to watch. However, once again the real letdown was the villain. Mads Mikkelsen is a supremely talented actor, but there just wasn’t enough backstory given for his character to make him a compelling a villain when compared to Loki. Yet Dr Strange does remain a very intriguing new player in the MCU picture, and one we will almost certainly see somewhere further down the Phase 3 line.

2. Deadpool

Deadpool review

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In this era of superhero dominance, there hasn’t been a comic book film that has quite pushed the boundary when it comes to extreme violence and expletives aplenty, this is until the Merc with a Mouth made his glorious debut onto the big screen good and proper. Ryan Reynolds was absolutely perfect in the titular character, the humour was great, and the action was a lot of fun to watch. This movie knew exactly what it was and it played to its strengths superbly well. Sure the story was a bit formulaic and the love story was a bit by the numbers, but in a year that was filled with some not so super superhero flicks, this was a delightful surprise and it is of no surprise that a sequel has been green lit, fans will undoubtedly be very excited to see Wade Wilson again on the big screen, in all of his red spandex glory.

1. Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War review

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No debate here. By far and away, the best superhero film of 2016 was Captain America’s third solo film. After the brilliant The Winter Soldier, the Russo brothers pulled it out of the bag once again with this absolutely brilliant flick. Before hand you may have decided which team had your loyalties but the film does a sterling job of making you flit between the sides. Ultimately you understood the mindset of both Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, and it made for a terrific watch watching these two, who have clashed many times in the MCU, bring their clash to an explosive battle. That airport scene is one of, if not the best MCU action scene maybe ever, and arguably even one of the best in any superhero film ever. The brilliant introductions to Black Panther and Spider Man, just made it so much fun to watch, and with the Russos set to return for Infinity War, those films are in very safe and capable hands.

That is my ranking of 2016’s superhero films, a mixed bag for sure, but with more coming in 2017, hopefully there will be a few more gems from next year. Despite DC’s efforts, Marvel is still reigning supreme right now, but will 2017 see a change in the terrain? I am sure your list is not the same as mine, so please comment below and let me know how you would rank these films. Be sure to follow Through the Silver Screen on Twitter and like Through the Silver Screen on Facebook as well!

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Rogue One: A Star Wars story (2016)

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Image is property of Lucasfilm Ltd and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rogue One: A Star Wars story – Film Review

Cast:  Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmad, Alan Tudyk, Forest Whittaker

Director: Gareth Edwards

Synopsis: Telling the tale of the brave rebels who upon hearing about the Empire’s construction of a deadly weapon capable of destroying entire planets, set out on a brave mission to find and steal the weapon’s plans.

Review: “There will be no episode 7” the words of one George Lucas back in 2005, and for a long time that looked as though Lucas’s stance would not change. This is of course until Disney came calling to the tune of 4 billion dollars, and last year Episode 7 did arrive courtesy of JJ Abrams and Disney. Of course Disney had no plans to stop at Episode 7, with as well as two films to complete the new trilogy, there would be as of right now, three anthology films to come as well, giving Star Wars fans across the galaxy one new film every year until 2020.

Of course, as Lucas himself found out, making a prequel or three can be a risky endeavour, so the new creative faces behind the resurgence of Star Wars decided to pitch a story that would not touch the existing saga, but one that would sit nicely between say a couple. In the case of Rogue One, it sits between Episodes III and IV, the focus is on a rag-tag group of rebels led by Jyn Erso (Jones) who make a daring move for the plans to the lethal Death Star weapon. The franchise has boasted plenty of great action down the years, but rarely have they ever felt like it was truly Star WARS. Well enter director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy who really put the war in Star Wars and then some!

Edwards proved he could handle action well like he did in 2014’s Godzilla reboot, and here he demonstrates his considerable talents once again. The action particularly in the third act is utterly compelling and just brilliant to watch in all of its glory. It’s almost like Saving Private Ryan, but in Space! Much like what Abrams did with Awakens, the world Edwards has also created just looks and feels like Star Wars, with a few familiar faces in there brought incredibly to life by the wonder that is CGI but of course some new characters, all of whom are compelling to watch, but some are more developed than others. The cinematography too is tremendous, and much like Awakens, there is a great emphasis on the use of practical sets, and not relying on Green Screen, bonus points if you can spot the use of a London Underground station as an Imperial base!

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Image is property of Disney.

Jones is excellent as Jyn Erso, a character who has had a difficult past, but after a big discovery becomes personally connected with the story, she’s the lead and the most well developed, because she is a key part of the Imperial’s plans for reasons that will not be disclosed here, but there are others who absolutely shine as well. Cassian Andor (Luna) is excellent as the main support for Jyn, with Donnie Yen as a blind Rebel warrior at one with the force, and an absolute badass! Comic relief characters often come in droid shaped sizes, and this void is filled excellently by newbie K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk. Beyond these guys, the rest of the crew are a little bit light on character development, but the aforementioned trio certainly aren’t. On the flip side there’s one key new villain in Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic, almost your typical pantomime villain, who sneers at just about everyone and anything. Of course one Darth Vader makes his presence known once again, largely thanks to James Earl Jones’s booming voice and it’s an absolute joy to see one of cinema’s best ever villains back on the big screen.

Many took aim at Awakens  for being too similar to A New Hope. For sure there are some obvious visual nods and throwbacks, to please the fans, but ultimately given the poor reception of the prequels it was the safe route to have taken to launch the new trilogy. Of course Rogue One does do something similar with neat little visual nods to certain characters but by the time the enthralling third act arrives, gone are the Star Wars familiarities, it’s all out war in every sense of the word, with reminiscent shots of World War II and epic battles occurring on the beaches of this planet, and the CGI remains at a very high standard, with Michael Giacchino stepping in as a late replacement for Alexandre Desplat, delivering another superb score, the first not composed by John Williams.

For Disney, their colossal investment to take control of this franchise is certainly looking to be a wise decision, and one that is looking set to pay off big time. The studio raked in the cash following the release of Force Awakens. Although it’s unlikely that Rogue One will make the 2 billion The Force Awakens made, there’s every chance that Rogue One will make some serious cash. Right now, The Force is strong with this franchise, and the all powerful Disney machine in many ways resembles the Galactic Empire in terms of its sheer power, but Disney certainly doesn’t seem to have any plans to build a giant planet killing weapon!

This is everything the prequels should have been but really weren’t. It manages to strike a great balance between everything you know and love about this franchise, whilst also going in some exciting new directions.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Moana (2016)

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Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Moana – Film Review

Cast: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk

Directors: Ron Clements and John Musker

Synopsis:  Moana, the daughter of the ruler of an Ancient Polynesian tribe, sets out on a journey to find the demi-god Maui whose actions have threatened to wreak havoc on their way of life.

Review: Is there a movie studio out there that seems as though with each passing film that they release is a massive hit and rakes in the cash at the Box Office? One could make the argument for Marvel Studios, but certainly one studio that seems to be on an unstoppable run at the minute would be Walt Disney Animation Studios. Their first 2016 release Zootopia/Zootropolis raked in over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office, and was a smash hit with just about everyone who saw it. Their latest effort proves that the studio is still bringing home the bacon, and in some style too.

The story focuses on our titular character who after being brought up by her father to be the future leader of their clan, is determined to break from the role her parents want her to be, and become the person she wants to be. Their situation becomes somewhat desperate when the demi-god Maui who without spoiling too much, has made some decisions that are threatening their island and way of life with dire consequences. As such, with typical Disney Princess determination and courage, she sets sail in order to save her people. Disney has certainly forged a reputation for telling Princess stories and telling them with beautiful animation, rich and diverse characters, some singing and a really fun and exciting adventure, and Moana is no exception to this trend.

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It is something of a cliche at this point to say that the animation is great because with Disney, you wouldn’t expect anything less, but in this instance the animation is truly something to behold, the sheer amount of detail that has clearly gone into the creation of everything you see on screen is absolutely crystal clear. Directors Ron Clements and Rich Musker, having worked on gems such as Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, certainly bring their strong experience to the table. Of course superb animation would be pretty rubbish if the story with it was no good, but no chance of that here, as the screenplay by Jared Bush, with a little help from one Taika Waititi, is excellent. The gorgeous animation is aided by, as is so often the case with Disney and in particular Disney princess stories, great music and great songs that could very well give Let it Go a strong run for its money, and just maybe an Oscar nod for Original Song.

Disney so often creates multi-dimensional characters that audiences can gravitate to, particularly in the case of Moana, in a similar vein to Frozen’s Elsa is a strong-willed and fierce female protagonist who is not dependent on a man to tell her what or what not she needs to do. Opposite her is of course Dwayne Johnson’s Maui who at first is a bit rude and dismissive of Moana but over the course of the film grows to respect her. The pair make a solid duo and you cannot help but get excited as they go on their adventure, all the while being accompanied by a rather hilarious and somewhat dim chicken named Hei Hei, who certainly tries his hardest to steal the show, and in some cases succeeds.

There are times when the story, although it is very well done, is not sailing any new seas. You would be forgiven for thinking you have been here before, but with the excellent characters that you become invested in, you want to go on this adventure and marvel at the joyous animation on screen. Between this and Zootopia alone, Disney has had one superb year, and if you include Pixar and well Marvel and Star Wars, then the wind is certainly in Disney’s sails alright! Furthermore between Disney’s offerings, Finding Dory and the many other animated films to have graced the silver screen this year, the race for that Animated gong in this year’s Awards season could be a very interesting one indeed.

With every film they make, Disney just keeps making hit after hit, and with breathtaking animation and well developed characters, Moana is another fine piece of work that has all the ingredients to become a future classic.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

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Image is property of Warner Bros studios and Heyday Films

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Film Review

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Colin Farrell

Director: David Yates

Synopsis:  Magical Zoologist Newt Scamander (Redmayne) travels to New York to continue his work of caring for magical creatures, but runs into trouble when one of his creatures is let loose in New York City.

Review: When the last adventure to feature our favourite boy wizard graced the big screen in 2011, fans of the Harry Potter universe must have wondered, if this truly was the last time all the magic and mystery of this incredible world that came from the pen of one J.K. Rowling would ever return to the big screen? The answer to that is well yes, and no, because for now Harry Potter’s story has been told. What hasn’t been told however, is the adventures of Newt Scamander, a magical zookeeper with a great interest in magical animals unsurprisingly. However, with his adventures occurring in 20th century America, this is a very different direction for this magical franchise to go in, and don’t expect to see Harry and his friends here!

As you might expect, almost everything in this new chapter is, well new. New characters (for the most part), new location but that magic that ensured anyone who fell in love with the Potter franchise very much remains. Fresh off the boat from across the pond, Scamander arrives in the quest for more knowledge on magical creatures in the USA when Jacob Kowalksi, (Fogler) an unfortunate No-Maj or muggle as they’re more commonly known, encounters one of Scamander’s magical creatures, and we soon find ourselves delving deep into a mystery that is plaguing the wizarding community in America.

Director David Yates, who helmed the Potter franchise to its grand conclusion is back behind the camera, with Rowling herself on screenplay duties, marking her first foray in screenplay writing. Of course with this being a brand new entry in the franchise, there is much that needs to be set up and introduced to us, resulting in some very exposition heavy dialogue, which while can be, and is interesting to observe, can drag the movie down in places. Unfortunately that does occur, as the screenplay is a bit uneven in terms of pacing. However, seeing all these incredible magical creatures is fascinating to watch, even if you do struggle to remember all of the creatures names. Yates showed he could bring tremendous visuals to the world of Harry Potter, and here he does so again in fine magical style too, with some excellent action scenes being brought to the fore.

Scamander as our hero is a very different sort of hero when compared to Harry Potter, but Redmayne does a tremendous job. He might seem a bit irksome, but Redmayne works hard to make sure that you end up on his side. Katherine Waterston is also on fine form as Porpentina Goldstein, there is great chemistry between these two characters but there is too much focus placed on the relationship between Fogler’s No Maj and Tina’s sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) which does detract from the story that you signed up to see. Ezra Miller is haunting as a young man with a disturbed past while Colin Farrell completes the core cast, all of who deliver solid performances.

After five years, it is undoubtedly great to be back in this magical world that everyone first fell in love with all those years ago. However, for all its wonder and all the magical creatures, the screenplay could have been just that bit sharper and more focused. Nevertheless, the interest in this franchise, not that it ever went away really, has been truly reignited and with a further four films expected, fans of this universe will undoubtedly be grabbing their wands with excitement and keen to delve deeper into this new aspect of this magical franchise.

It’s undeniably brilliant to be back in this magical world, and Rowling does her best to bring it from page to screen in an enthralling way, but one would hope for a much more focused story next time around.

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