Best of 2017

It’s time to celebrate the best of 2017! The best movies, the best tv shows, the best games and the best performances. To qualify, it must have been released in the UK between January 1st and December 31st 2017. So let’s go.

Best Film – La La Land

Runners up

  • The Greatest Showman
  • Dunkirk
  • Logan
  • Get Out

Damien Chazelle’s musical romance won over hearts across the world and it’s hard not to see why. It’s a triumph of filmmaking that is light years ahead of everything else. Catchy music, wonderful acting and gorgeous cinematography help elevate an already extraordinary film to the highest levels.

Best Cult Film – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Runners up

  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Alien: Covenant
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Blade Runner 2049

Rian Johnson’s instalment in the Star Wars saga was thrilling, shocking and everything I wanted and more. It was the perfect tribute to both Carrie Fisher’s legacy and 40 years of the franchise.

Best Actor – Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman

Runners up

  • Ryan Gosling as Sebastian in La La Land
  • Charlie Hunnam as Percy Fawcett in The Lost City of Z
  • Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss in Hacksaw Ridge
  • Daniel Kaluuya as Chris in Get Out

While the film may be historically inaccurate, Hugh Jackman delivered a fantastic performance that blew away the competition in a year in which he had already blown it away in Logan.

Best Actress – Emma Stone as Mia in La La Land

Runners up

  • Michelle Williams as Charity Barnum in The Greatest Showman
  • Jessica Chastain as Elizabeth Sloane in Miss Sloane
  • Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson in Hidden Figures
  • Gemma Arterton as Catrin Cole in Their Finest

Emma Stone’s performance was magical. She fully deserved her Oscar win here.

Best Actor in a Cult Film – Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Runners up

  • Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Thor: Ragnarok
  • Andy Serkis and VFX Team as Ceaser in War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Michael Fassbender as Walter/David in Alien: Covenant
  • Ryan Gosling as “K” in Blade Runner 2049

Mark Hamill’s reprisal of Luke Skywalker was something that had to be seen to be believed. Hamill’s performance was a show stopper.

Best Actress in a Cult Film – Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman in Wonder Woman

Runners up

  • Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok
  • Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh in IT
  • Emma Watson as Belle in Beauty and the Beast

Gal Gadot was perfect casting as Wonder Woman and she blew everyone away by delivering a fantastic performance and emerging as the best performance in the DCEU to date.

Best Supporting Actor – Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier in Logan

  • Bill Nighy as Ambrose Hilliard in Their Finest
  • Zac Efron as Phillip Carlyle in The Greatest Showman
  • Liam Neeson and VFX Team as The Monster in A Monster Calls
  • Hugo Weaving as Tom Doss in Hacksaw Ridge

Patrick Stewart delivering an emotional and tear jerking performance as Xavier in his final time playing the X-Men mentor.

Best Supporting Actress – Sigourney Weaver as Grandma in A Monster Calls

  • Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn in Hidden Figures
  • Rebecca Ferguson as Jenny Lind in The Greatest Showman
  • Catherine Keener as Missy Armitage in Get Out
  • Viola Davis as Rose Maxson in Fences

Sigourney Weaver delivered a beautiful performance as a grandmother trying to control an out of control grandson as her own daughter was dying.

Best Supporting Actor in a Cult Film – Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Runners up

  • Chris Pine as Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman
  • Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Thor: Ragnarok
  • Woody Harrelson as The Colonel in War for the Planet of the Apes

Adam Driver delivered an excellent performance as the conflicted villain, making Kylo one of the most enthrallingStar Wars characters.

Best Supporting Actress in a Cult Film – Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Runners up

  • Cate Blanchett as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok
  • Zendaya as Michelle in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Ana de Armas as Joi in Blade Runner 2049
  • Karen Gillan as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Carrie Fisher’s final performance as Leia before her untimely passing was also her best.

Best Director – Damien Chazelle for La La Land

Runners up

  • James Mangold for Logan
  • Jordan Peele for Get Out
  • Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk
  • Michael Gracey for The Greatest Showman

Damien Chazelle brought his big screen musical to the screen with style and elegance in an utterly gorgeous and well made feature.

Best Director on a Cult Film – Rian Johnson for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Runners up

  • Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2049
  • Matt Reeves for War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Taika Waititi for Thor: Ragnarok
  • Ridley Scott for Alien: Covenant

Rian Johnson’s first entry in the Star Wars universe felt like he’d been there the whole time, yet felt fresh and unique at the same time in what was perhaps one of the best Star Wars films yet.

Best Original Score – Star Wars: The Last Jedi by John Williams

Runners up

  • Beauty and the Beast by Alan Menken
  • La La Land by Justin Hurwitz
  • Dunkirk by Hans Zimmer
  • War for the Planet of the Apes by Michael Giacchino

John Williams delivered yet another fantastic Star Wars Score that emerges as the best of the year.

Best Original Song – “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman

Runners up

  • “Evermore” from Beauty and the Beast
  • “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land
  • “To Be Human” from Wonder Woman
  • “Guardians Inferno” from Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

This is Me was such a infectiously enjoyable song that it’s still on repeat in my head.

Best TV Series – American Gods

Runners up

  • Game of Thrones
  • Doctor Who
  • Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • Sherlock

American Gods blasted onto screens with a stellar first season that left me begging for more.

Best TV Episode – Doctor Who: The Doctor Falls

Runners up

  • Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall
  • American Gods: Git Gon
  • Once Upon A Time: The Song in Your Heart
  • Sherlock: The Final Problem

The Doctor Falls was an epic finale to an epic series and could easily have been a satisfying final ever episode of Doctor Who.

Best TV Actor – Peter Capaldi as the Doctor in Doctor Who

Runners up

  • Kit Harington as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
  • Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon in American Gods
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
  • Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Peter Capaldi’s Final season as the Doctor was one to remember thanks to a fantastic performance by the celebrated actor.

Best TV Actress – Emily Browning as Laura Moon and Essie MacGowan in American Gods

Runners up

  • Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones
  • Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts in Doctor Who
  • Lena Heady as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
  • Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan in Once Upon a Time

Emily Browning was fantastic as both the undead wife of Shadow and an Irish con-Woman

Best Supporting TV Actor – Ian McShane as Mr Wednesday in American Gods

Runners up

  • Matt Lucas as Nardole in Doctor Who
  • Aiden Gillen as Littlefinger in Game of Thrones
  • Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock

Ian McShane stole the show as the mysterious Mr Wednesday in the fantasy drama.

Best Supporting TV Actress – Michelle Gomez as Missy in Doctor Who

Runners up

  • Sian Brooke as Eurus Holmes in Sherlock
  • Lana Parrilla as Regina Mills/Roni in Once Upon a Time
  • Gillian Anderson as Medea in American Gods
  • Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones

Michelle Gomez was delightfully evil as Missy and was the perfect antagonist for Peter Capaldi.

Best Video Game – Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Runner up:

  • Prey
  • The Evil Within 2
  • Injustice 2
  • Crash Bandioot: The N. Sane Trilogy

The relaunch of Resident Evil did the unthinkable. It was great, but most importantly it was scary.

Advertisements

Doctor Who “Twice Upon a Time” Review

p05q8mdpAnd so, we have come to the end of two eras. Peter Capaldi departs the role of the Doctor after four years in the role and writer Steven Moffat departs the role of showrunner after seven years. Following the monumental triumph of the two parter World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls, this year’s Christmas Special had to be truly, well, special to live up to it and provide a satisfying conclusion to both the Capaldi and Moffat eras of Doctor Who.

In a unique twist, there isn’t an identifiable “antagonist” within Twice Upon a Time. This makes it stand out from every other regeneration story. Instead it gives us another hour with the Twelfth Doctor, managing to end his era with a bow and a sense of hope. And I feel this is possibly the best decision that could have been made; the Doctor has already fought his final battle in The Doctor Falls and really, what was going to top two Masters and an army of Cybermen?

Instead, the special saw the Doctor encountering his first incarnation (played brilliantly by David Bradley) and attempting to solve the mystery of why a WW1 Captain ended up so far from the battlefield and of Testimony; a mysterious group that harvests the memories of the dead to allow the living to commune with them. This was a rather small-scale adventure that was more focused on the Doctors learning to accept change and that your memories make you who you are; not your body.

p05q8lvz

This message was imparted by one of the Testimony using the form of Bill, trying to explain that even though she may not have technically been Bill (Bill is still travelling with Heather through time and space), she still was debatably Bill as Bill’s memories are the sum of who she is . This tied into the regeneration incredibly well, for as the Doctors began to realise, it didn’t matter if they changed; the next Doctors would still have all their memories and would still be the Doctor. While each Doctor may be slightly different, they still are the same person acting on the same memories.

However, this led to a slight lack of urgency within the episode. With no immediate threat or ticking clock of any kind, it meant the special was slightly oddly paced. But yet, this didn’t negatively impact it. As I said before, this episode didn’t need a threat or urgency.

For this was an episode about performances.

Peter Capaldi delivered one final show stopping performance as the Doctor, reaffirming one last time why he is without a doubt one of the finest actors to ever take the role. Capaldi’s Doctor was a tour de force for the accomplished actor and this episode was no different. Capaldi brought the Doctor to life, delivering a Doctor who was both brand new and instantly familiar at the same time. Capaldi is a massive fan of the show, so to learn he had a hand in the writing of his regeneration speech comes as no surprise. The speech was masterful and a wonderful showcase of Capaldi’s range as an actor. Peter Capaldi was a wonderful addition to the show and he will be sorely missed.

p05q8l9r

The episode marked the return of the First Doctor (last properly seen in 1983’s The Five Doctors played by Richard Hurndall) this time played by David Bradley. Bradley doesn’t try to do a William Hartnell impression however, which was probably the wisest decision he could have made as an actor. Bradley chooses to focus on getting the character of the First Doctor right through his performance, this in turn lets Hartnell begin to slip through. After the initial few scenes, the issue of Bradley not being Hartnell vanishes. Instead, only the First Doctor is on display and Bradley plays the character brilliantly. However, Moffat makes the decision to narrow down the First Doctor to a few traits. While this is common practice for multi-Doctor episodes, it does mean that the character development the First Doctor had throughout his tenure is undone in order to present a First Doctor that most remember – the grouchy old man with 60’s attitudes and sensibilities. While this leads to a lot of the episode’s funniest moments, it is a little bit of a misrepresentation of the Doctor’s first incarnation.

Pearl Mackie returns as Bill for, presumably, her final time on the show. Mackie is once again fantastic as the character and all that can be said is that she remains instantly loveable and delivers more of what we all loved in Series 10. It’s also wonderful to see the Doctor and Bill have “one last ride” so to speak. Capaldi and Mackie have fantastic chemistry and it’s great to see them get to bounce off each other one last time. Perhaps the only sadness is that this isn’t really Bill. While Testimony makes the continued assentation that with all of Bill’s memories their duplicate is Bill, we the audience know that Bill is still alive and travelling the universe with Heather. So, the Doctor’s moral problem of “is this Bill or not” has a definitive answer – it’s not. But it kind of is, but it really isn’t.

p05qc8f3

Mark Gatiss shines in the guest role of Captain Lethbridge-Stewart, the Grandfather of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Gatiss does a fine job, delivering an excellent performance with rather limited screen time. As opposed to his previous three roles on Doctor Who, Gatiss delivers a more restrained performance here that manages to lend the character a sense of dignity and elegance that might not have worked with another actor. Gatiss showcases his great range as an actor and why he’s a treasured Doctor Who talent both in front of and behind the camera.

Twice Upon a Time is marvellously directed by Rachel Talalay, her seventh episode on the show. Talalay is an excellent director for Who, her style instantly at home with the show. Talalay manages to bring the Twelfth Doctor’s final hour to life with some truly beautiful shots and editing. If Chris Chibnall does not invite Talalay back to direct in the future, then he’s missed a trick.

p05q8kr9

With rumours circulating about his departure, it seems fitting that the score for this episode would be a “best of” of Murray Gold’s twelve years on the show with Twice Upon a Time’s score revisiting some of Murray’s most iconic themes such as Doomsday, I am the Doctor, A Good Man, The Doctor’s Theme, Clara’s Theme and of course, the regeneration music being a reprise of the epic Breaking the Wall from Heaven Sent. If the rumours about Gold’s departure are true (his not introducing a theme for the 13th Doctor in the closing moments and instead reusing old music seems to indicate so), he will be a treasured talent from Doctor Who which will be sorely missed.

And as for this being Steven Moffat’s final script on the show, it certainly wasn’t his best. And that’s fine. It was fun, it was witty, it hit all the right beats and I enjoyed it. Moffat had clearly intended The Doctor Falls to be his final episode on the show and, as an extended epilogue to that story, it works. It flows beautifully from that story and ends the Twelfth Doctor’s story on an uplifting note rather than a downbeat one, giving Twelve one last victory before his regeneration – even if it was just something as simple as saving one man’s life. As mentioned before, the regeneration itself was beautifully written. Almost written as a set of instructions of Chibnall’s take on the show, the speech was the Doctor asserting what sort of character the Doctor should always be; never cruel, never cowardly, never hateful and always full of love and kindness. While this may not be the final episode Moffat intended, it was a good one. As a goodbye from Moffat, it is as Danny Pink described his and Clara’s last goodbye in Last Christmas; “This is bonus. This is extra.” And extra Steven Moffat is never anything to turn your nose up at.

But enough about the old. What about the new? Well in her first moments on screen, Jodie Whittaker was filled with joy and wonder and breathed new life into those closing seconds. While we have a long wait until we can form a proper opinion, I am loving what I’m seeing of Jodie’s Doctor so far and I cannot wait for her to kick things off properly come Autumn.

p05q8mc3

Twice Upon a Time may not have been the best Christmas special, but it was certainly one of the most magical. Sharply written, brilliantly directed, masterfully scored and beautifully acted; Twice Upon a Time was as fond a farewell to both Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat than you could ask for. As an epilogue to the Steven Moffat era, it was perfect. As the running theme in Moffat’s Christmas specials goes; Every Christmas is last Christmas. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be happy.

8.5/10

 

 

 

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” Review

Directed by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Andy Serkis, Peter Mayhew, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Billie Lourd, Anthony Daniels
Plot: Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance, under the leadership of General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), prepares to do battle with the First Order, led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).

mv5bmje5nza4oduzmf5bml5banbnxkftztgwoti1njy4mzi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777744_al_

Daisy Ridley as Rey. Copyright: Lucasfilm.

“This isn’t going to go the way you think!” shouts Luke Skywalker (Hamill) at Rey (Ridley) during a tense moment. This line of dialogue could almost be directed at the audience themselves, for The Last Jedi is certainly not the film many expected. Instead, writer/director Rian Johnson seems to show a specific inclination to not take the Star Wars story in the direction fans expected in perhaps the most surprising entry in the saga yet.

Taking the Empire Strikes Back approach, the heroes are split up for much of the film; with Rey, Luke, Chewbacca (Mayhew) and R2 on Ahch-To where we left them, Finn (Boyega), new character Rose (Tran) and BB-8 on a critical mission for the Resistance while Leia (Fisher), Poe (Isaac) and 3PO (Daniels) lead the fight against the First Order.  This works as it allows each group to receive significantly more development than they did when everyone was all together as in The Force Awakens. It also allows the film to develop a nice pacing throughout.

mv5bmtgynjg3nzk3nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzm1njy4mzi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777744_al_

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Copyright: Lucasfilm.

By far the strongest of these three segments is Rey’s Jedi training with Luke on Ahch-To. The master/apprentice dynamic between Luke and Rey is perhaps the most interesting seen in the saga so far, with Luke being perhaps the most reluctant teacher in the saga’s history, and certainly the snarkiest. Hamill slides easily back into the role of Skywalker and delivers a fantastic performance that quickly makes him the true star of the film; even though he has tense competition for the role from Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver. Hamill plays the aged Jedi Master with a weariness that feels fittingly true for the character; as if all the losses Luke has suffered over his life have finally caught up with him. Luke has lost all hope and has resigned himself to exile telling a hopeful Rey; “What do you expect? Me to defeat the entire First Order on my own with a laser sword?”. This creates a rather compelling narrative thrust for the first part of the film; Luke is the galaxy’s last hope, but if he has lost hope what chance is there? Rey trying her best to restore Luke’s hope, while he resentfully teaches her to control her growing powers, are the source of many of the film’s strongest moments.

Daisy Ridley, quickly becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest rising stars, does an utterly stellar job as Rey. Sharing the screen with Mark Hamill and managing to almost steal the film from him is no small feat. Ridley shows even more of that irresistible likeability she showcased in The Force Awakens, making Rey one of the most endearing protagonists of the year. Ridley manages to make us care deeply for Rey. We feel sorrow for her failures. We feel elation for her successes. We fear for her when she’s in danger. As this trilogy has been described as Rey’s story, Daisy Ridley proves she is perfect casting by delivering an utterly spellbinding performance.

mv5bmjm0mzi4mzmxmv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzi1njy4mzi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777744_al_

Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa. Copyright: Lucasfilm.

Leia and Poe’s segment of the film is entertaining enough and offers some excellent moments, especially when Poe’s more head-on approach to fighting the First Order clashes with Leia and Admiral Holdo’s (Dern) more pragmatic approaches. This is a slow build and one that sees the Resistance pushed to their darkest hour. Oscar Isaac is once again dashingly enchanting as the Resistance pilot but is able to deliver some complexity to the character; with the film making Poe (and the audience) question if he is the right kind of soldier for this kind of war. The late Carrie Fisher meanwhile delivers a fantastic performance as Leia, with her performance here being a fitting farewell for the character and the actress; even if it feels like the film may be indulging a little too much in the uncertainty of what will become of Leia after Fisher’s death, moments which are of course unintentional due to having been filmed months before Fisher passed away. Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd does a fine job in a supporting role as Lieutenant Connix. Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo is an entertaining, if underdeveloped character. I can’t help but feel several scenes with Dern’s character were relegated to the cutting room floor, but that said, Dern gives a good performance and as a supporting character her underdevelopment is somewhat of a non-issue.

mv5bmtu2ntq2nda3mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdczmjiymzi-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

Kelly Marie Tran as Rose and John Boyega as Finn. Copyright: Lucasfilm.

The third of these segments then, concerning Finn, Rose and BB-8 going on a mission, is perhaps the weakest. Which isn’t to say it isn’t good, it just doesn’t hold up to the quality of the other segments especially with a sequence on a casino planet culminating in an overlong chase sequence feeling like an attempt by Johnson to stretch out the film’s runtime and could easily have been trimmed down by a few minutes. As Finn and Rose’s mission is meant to be time critical, it really does feel they take one diversion and setback too many; almost as if to bring the arbitrary time limit closer to add a sense of urgency. But I can’t fault this too harshly because, as I said, it’s still good fun. Benicio Del Toro is good fun as DJ hacker who joins Finn and Rose on their mission. While DJ’s role in the film is limited, he’s enjoyable whenever he’s on screen and certainly feels like a character we probably haven’t seen the last of. Boyega once again plays Finn with a good sense of fun, being able to inject a little more heroism into the character and managing to make Finn’s character growth feel amazingly brilliant; making us believe Finn has grown from a man who has stopped running away from things and now runs to them. Kelly Marie Tran does a brilliant job as Rose, managing to make what could have been a forgettable side character feel like an essential part of the main cast. Out of The Last Jedi’s new characters, Rose is the one I enjoyed the most and certainly the one I look forward to seeing more of in the third film.

mv5bmja5mdczndu5mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwodczmjiymzi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777744_al_

Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. Copyright: Lucasfilm.

Adam Driver delivers a tour de force performance as Kylo Ren. As with every other character, we get to see a bit more complexity with Ren this time around and Driver handles this perfectly. After murdering his father Han Solo in the previous film, Kylo is torn and the deed is clearly eating away at him on the inside. Driver manages to make every piece of conflict Ren is feeling clear and perfect. During scenes shared with another major character, Driver shows brilliant natural chemistry and manage to invest audiences in a friendship (of sorts) that might not necessarily be something audiences would have expected to be invested in. It’s a testament then to the amazing casting in the film that it’s a very close race between Hamill, Ridley and Driver as the best actor in the film.

Andy Serkis is having the time of his life as Supreme Leader Snoke, the mysterious leader of the First Order. While Serkis doesn’t get to do too much with the character (much about Snoke is still left unanswered for now) he manages to make a much more lasting impression than he did in the last film. Snoke’s role in The Last Jedi is only brief, but it’s significant and Serkis manages to bring some much needed life to the antagonist. Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux and Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma on the other hand don’t get as much to do, but offer some memorable moments.

supreme-leader-snoke-star-wars-the-last-jedi-py-2560x1440

Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke. Copyright: Lucasfilm.

Juggling all these different characters and plotlines is where any other movie would fall apart, yet Rian Johnson manages to do it masterfully. All the storylines converge towards the end of the second act in a surprising and thrilling way. Despite this being Johnson’s first Star Wars film, he manages to craft something utterly unique yet also feels like it belongs in the universe. It’s strange in a way. The Last Jedi is totally unlike any Star Wars film to date, but yet is perhaps one of the most Star Wars-like films in the entire franchise. It’s old and new at the same time. Familiar and utterly brand new. If this is the intent for Star Wars going forward then I’m fully behind it.

Johnson also manages to add a sense of mystery and magic back to the Force itself, making it more in line with what we learn in the Original Trilogy rather than the Prequels. Fans will be relieved to learn that Midichlorians are never mentioned.

mv5botk5njawodc5mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzg5mdiwmji-_v1_sx1777_cr001777744_al_

Copyright: Lucasfilm.

Visually the film is gorgeous, with amazing cinematography throughout showing off the beautiful sets and framing all the on-screen action perfectly. If Blade Runner 2049 didn’t exist, I’d argue this was the most beautiful looking Sci-Fi movie of 2017. All of this is peppered with some fantastic action sequences throughout the film with the climatic battle on the mining planet of Crait being one of the best in the franchise along with a tense duel between two of our leads and Snoke’s personal guard. All of this is accompanied by a fantastic score from John Williams who develops many of the themes introduced in The Force Awakens, along with some familiar ones from the Original Trilogy, to create a fantastic listening experience both in and out of the film.

Now, onto the big issue. This is going to be a controversial film. If you’ve made any sort of theory about The Last Jedi in the last two years, prepare to throw it away. When I said Luke’s line of “This isn’t going to go the way you think!” could almost be directed at the audience, I wasn’t lying. Johnson manages to do the unthinkable and make a completely surprising Star Wars movie that goes in directions that were impossible to see coming. Certain decisions are made that some fans may balk at, but I found these decisions, upon reflection, to be the right decisions for the story and the characters. By the end of The last Jedi, the direction Lucasfilm intends to take this trilogy is clear. It may not be the direction many expected, but it’s a direction I feel is the right one.

mv5bmtuymdu0ody3nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnti1njy4mzi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777744_al_

Copyright: Lucasfilm.

It’s hard to describe how narratively and emotionally engaging The Last Jedi is. I found myself on the edge of my seat, glued to the screen, reacting to every twist and turn. In essence, I was hooked from start to finish. The Last Jedi is everything you could want from a Star Wars film and a sequel in general. It enhances and improves on it’s predecessor, it takes the story in a new and refreshing direction, it develops the characters and is ultimately a more entertaining chapter overall. Peter Jackson once said that the middle film in a trilogy is the most difficult to get right. Thankfully The Last Jedi does not fall prey to this. Setting the stage for a big and grand conclusion, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a must see adventure that will surely go on to be remembered as one of the boldest, and possibly one of the best, sequels of all time in not just the perfect tribute to forty years of Star Wars, but to the dearly departed Carrie Fisher as well.

9.5/10

“Justice League” Review

img01Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Ciarán Hinds
Plot: After his heroic sacrifice, the world mourns the loss of Superman (Cavill). Crime begins to run rampant as mysterious monsters prey on the fearful. Knowing an attack of epic proportions is coming, Batman (Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gadot) gather a team of super-powered individuals to combat the coming threat. The threat comes in the form of Steppenwolf (Hinds), an all-powerful being from another world. As Steppenwolf searches for powerful artefacts that will allow him to end the world, Batman fears that his new team might not be enough to save it. They need help, but more importantly, they need hope.

mv5bmdewytzkyjytzwyxyi00njk3lwjlotutyzg1mge3njrhntmyl2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndu5mje2mdc-_v1_sx1777_cr001777999_al_

Note: Mild spoilers follow in this review; but one of them was so obvious that I don’t think it even qualifies as a spoiler

It takes a special kind of talent (or lack of talent) to mess up a film that should be so easy to get right like Justice League. But yet, the team at DC managed to do just that.

Justice League is not a good film. That much is easy to explain. Despite starting incredibly well with an opening title sequence set to Sigrid’s Everybody Knows showing how the world has changed in the wake of Superman’s death, Justice League drops the ball incredibly quickly. The film starts incredibly rough, with the film jumping from scene to scene without any real rhyme, reason or sense of continuity. Scenes feel cut short, never feeling like they actually end. It feels like there’s someone with a stopwatch standing just off camera shouting “Too long! Next scene!” at different intervals. The film rushes to its next “big” moment with little thought for character or story. At first, I thought this was just going to be a rough opening half hour and the film would find its stride, but this was not to be. This is how the film is from beginning to end. I can’t recall ever seeing a film that was ever this desperate to reach its own credits as quickly as this one.

mv5bmteyode4mji1mzbeqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mdewnjqwmtqz-_v1_sx1777_cr001777993_al_

While many may blame this on the studio mandated two hour running time, the problem can in fact be traced back to Zack Snyder’s own storytelling style. Snyder has always prioritised “moments” over storytelling and character. Justice League is then the ultimate version of this approach to filmmaking. The film is so concerned with reaching the next moment, that the story and characters get left behind. This problem was present in Sucker Punch, Legend of the Guardians, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman and it’s also present here. Ultimately all of the problems with Justice League can be traced back to this approach Zack Snyder takes to filmmaking.

A major casualty of this is the film’s villain; Steppenwolf (Hinds). Perhaps the worst comic book movie villain seen in a while, Steppenwolf is poorly written and poorly presented. Not least because Steppenwolf is a purely CGI creation who doesn’t blend very well with the live-action elements. Steppenwolf barely has any screen time yet we are supposed to accept he’s the most dangerous threat the DC Universe has ever seen. DC Films have had a problem with their antagonists so far and Steppenwolf is the worst of the bunch. Yes, even worse than Suicide Squad’s poor excuse of a villain in Enchantress. Hinds tries his best in a purely voice role (with some facial motion capture) but it never quite comes together. Steppenwolf’s dialogue is mostly generic dialogue we’ve heard every clichéd supervillain spout before. While Ares from Wonder Woman was also guilty of the same, he had the benefit of a rather excellent performance from David Thewlis who shared excellent chemistry on screen with Gal Gadot when threatening her. When a similar scene occurs in Justice League, there’s no sense of menace or threat. It’s hard to feel threatened when what looks like a reject from a Lord of the Rings video game spouts such plainly clichéd dialogue. Moments where Steppenwolf should be a threat fall painfully flat such as a scene when Steppenwolf growls at Wonder Woman, “You have the blood of the Old Gods in you! The Old Gods died!”. There’s no sense of threat or menace during this moment. When we’ve already been treated to some great villains in comic book movies this year such as Kurt Russell as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, Michael Keaton as the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, there’s no excuse for delivering a villain as clichéd and unmemorable as this.

hkg3qkvy2u6-l-0

Moving onto our heroes, more problems begin to emerge.

Ben Affleck seems utterly bored and looks like he’d rather be anywhere else and doing anything else. As Batman is meant to be our protagonist, this is a big problem. With rumours circulating throughout the year that Affleck was on the verge of quitting the DCEU, his performance here leads credence to those rumours. Has Affleck grown bored of playing the Caped Crusader after just one film? Did the negative reception to Batman v Superman burn him out that badly? Regardless, Affleck’s almost entirely disinterested performance does not lend the film any favours. How are we supposed to care about a Batman who is played by an actor that doesn’t seem to care?

On the other end of the scale however is Henry Cavill as Superman. While his role in this film is relatively brief for obvious reasons, Cavill is finally allowed to smile and embrace the charm and wonder of the character for the first time in the franchise. Superman finally feels like Superman. So, it’s baffling that the character is barely in the film. It quickly becomes clear that Superman’s death in Batman v Superman was not meant to fulfil any specific role in the story and was instead simply orchestrated for the shock value of killing the iconic character (another one of Snyder’s “moments”). If Cavill had been allowed to portray the character in this way from the very beginning, we’d be looking at a very different, and likely much better, Justice League. Instead one of its best aspects, a proper Superman at last, becomes a strike against it. Simply because he’s not utilised as much as he should be.

mv5bmji4odi2ntiwmv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdy2ndaxndm-_v1_sx1777_cr001777955_al_

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is once again the shining star. Gadot was clearly born to play the part and utterly smashes it for a third time. It’s a shame Gadot is caught up in such a disappointing film. Hopefully Wonder Woman 2’s 2019 release date won’t feel too far away.

As for the rest of the League, herein lies the rub. None of them ae given enough time to properly develop. Ezra Miller’s Flash is just a wisecrack machine. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is presented as a typical “Surfer bro” who is just angry at everyone all the time while Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is about as interesting as watching paint dry. None of this is a fault of the actors. They all do a fine job with what they have. All of this can be traced back to the editing and writing of the film. In an ideal world, the movie would slow down and let us get to know these characters just a little bit more rather than the briefest of development they are given. This may ultimately have been the problem with rushing the DCEU; by not giving any of these characters their own movies, we don’t have reason to care and a crossover ensemble movie with at least eleven principal characters just isn’t the place to introduce and develop new characters. Or at least in a movie that runs towards its climax faster than the Flash himself.

mv5bmtk0mdcymjgznv5bml5banbnxkftztgwnti2ndaxndm-_v1_sy1000_cr0013171000_al_

The action meanwhile struggles to be entertaining. This is nothing to do with how the movie is shot, as Snyder certainly knows how to frame a scene. But while the cinematography looks fine, its ultimately all for naught as it all manages to be incredibly bland and uninteresting to watch. Snyder, again, prioritises moments within these action sequences but forgets to make the action itself interesting. As the heroes run around fighting Steppenwolf’s armies in a big kerfuffle of CGI, the one thought that kept running through my mind was “this action scene should not be this uninteresting”. But that’s ultimately what extends to all the action in the film. It’s bland. It’s slathered in CGI. And it’s ultimately incredibly dull to watch.

The sound in the movie is also worth criticising. Sound effects are mixed too loudly, making action scenes not just difficult on the eyes but on the ears as well. Sound mixing is all over the place; dialogue is at times hard to hear and big triumphant moments in the score are lost in the mix. The hyped return of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme for instance is almost lost as explosions and booms bury the score in the mix, making a heroic moment for Batman lose its impact.

mv5bote5yjuxm2ytnjmwni00mjdjlwi4mtetndrknmvmnjyxodc3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndqxnjcxnq-_v1_

As for the story, the comparisons to the plot of Avengers Assemble are hard to miss; a villain from another world searches the Earth for a cube shaped McGuffin to unleash his army and destroy the world if a team of superheroes can’t stop him. Narratively, the film tries to hit the exact same beats; the first act assembling the team while the villain goes around collecting items necessary for their plan then a second act sees the heroes divided on a key issue before they all come together for an epic battle. But the film doesn’t seem to quite land them in the same way. It’s as if Snyder and writer Chris Terrio didn’t quite understand the magic that made Avengers Assemble work, eventually bringing on Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon to write new scenes (and eventually direct the reshoots in Zack’s absence) to do it for them… and failing. Narratively the film is a mess. There’s no emotional connection to events that occur, several key story elements are left unexplained, the heroes act like complete idiots when the plot demands they must do and so on. Justice League is the type of film where a convenience is created to move the story along to the next beat, instead of letting the story flow and develop naturally. There are many moments in the film where something narratively convenient will happen to advance the so-called plot. A moment in the second act where the heroes leave a key item abandoned in a car park where Steppenwolf can conveniently steal it left me scratching my head in confusion. When Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective, is part of the team, these types of heroic blunders are inexcusable.

mv5bmtywmjmwmtgwmf5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjq2ndaxndm-_v1_sx1777_cr001777958_al_

Justice League is a mess; a collection of Zack Snyder moments strung together by a paper-thin plot and incredibly poor character work as well as perhaps the worst villain ever seen in a major superhero film. If more films like this are on the cards, then DC need to seriously rethink their superhero universe. There’s a moment in the film where Batman quips that his working as part of a team “may be temporary”, and honestly, I feel that might be for the best. It takes a special kind of incompetence to make a bad Justice League movie and it’s here in spades. Justice League is not the superhero crossover we need, nor the one we deserve. It’s sort of like that person you’ll always give another chance to impress you, but instantly regret as they only find new, bigger ways of disappointing you.

 

3/10

“Thor: Ragnarok” Review

Directed by: Takia Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Hopkins
Plot: Imprisoned, the almighty Thor (Hemsworth) finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk (Ruffalo), his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilisation. 

mv5bmty1nda1mjc3mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwntexmjgwndi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777744_al_The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a big year. After two massive successes with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming, the franchise surely couldn’t hit a home run and have three great films in one year? Yet that’s exactly what it did. Thor: Ragnarok is big, bold and thrilling, emerging as one of the franchise’s best.

For the third Thor film, Marvel could have played things incredibly safe with a fairly atypical superhero entry. Yet, they went for the risky choice. Hiring Taika Waititi, known more for quirky comedies than action movies, was a risk that paid off. For Thor: Ragnarok is not just the best Thor film, but one of the best in the Marvel Universe. The film takes a drastic tone change for the franchise, opting for a big action-packed space comedy rather than fantasy. And yet, this stylistic change works. From an opening sequence where Thor fights the forces of Surtur to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, things instantly feel fresh and unique. If Marvel has been trying to refine their “formula”, then Thor: Ragnarok is the ultimate refinement. There’s little that doesn’t work within the film.

Much of this is due to director Taika Waititi. Waititi brings his own unique style to the film, giving it a unique style and flavour not found within other superhero films. The quirky comedy and the embracing of the inherent silliness of the entire thing was perhaps the best decision that could have been made in regard to this film. Waititi gets that watching a guy in long hair wave around a magic hammer is, ultimately, a very silly idea, so he has fun with it. And this leads to some of the best comedy ever seen within the Marvel Universe.

mv5bnzbizme2mjetndhkmi00ngu4lwi1m2etmdzjmta2mmi1nji1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndqxnjcxnq-_v1_sx1777_cr001777744_al_

But yet this added comedy does not stop the film from having an impact. In fact, this comedic tone helps the darker and more emotional beats of the film hit even harder than usual. In fact, it’s just surprising exactly how much this film is able to get away with. People have been crying out for superhero movies to have more consequences and they don’t get much bigger than this. The emotional beats hit harder than they ever have before. In fact, in terms of emotional impact, some of the moments here have greater impact than Captain America: Civil War.

All of this is helped along by an absolutely stellar cast. Chris Hemsworth has shown before that he has strong comedic chops both in the MCU and out of it and here he gets to run wild with them. Out of Hemsworth’s five appearances in the Marvel Universe so far, this is by far his best. Much like the film itself, Hemsworth shines with the comedy but really excels with the emotional beats. Hemsworth’s Thor manages to really come into his own here.

Likewise, Tom Hiddleston shines as Loki once again being a scene stealer. Hiddleston has always been a fan favourite and here he absolutely proves his worth yet again, giving Loki a depth and dimensionality that most other characters in superhero films lack. Hiddleston also provides some of the film’s most memorable comedic beats showcasing brilliant comedic timing.

Mark Ruffalo is also excellent as Bruce Banner/Hulk. Hulk is at his most complex here, with Ruffalo and producer Kevin Feige explaining this film is the first of three telling a new story for the Hulk (with the other two being the two upcoming Avengers sequels) and this works across well. While Hulk’s character arc is not resolved within this film, it doesn’t need to be. Seeing Banner awaken from two years of being the Hulk and worrying that transforming into the Hulk again will be a permanent transformation leads to some excellent character moments with Banner. Ruffalo handles these moments excellently as well as delivering some hilarious dialogue. Ruffalo’s Hulk is also on fine form with the character being able to speak properly now leading to some excellent moments. Hulk is also the source of some of the film’s best humour with one hilarious moment being an unexpected call-back to Avengers: Age of Ultron.

mv5by2iyzdm5mzgtnjjmzi00ytfhlwi3zgmtymvmmmi1yju5mta4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndqxnjcxnq-_v1_

But the real dazzlers of the cast are the new additions. Tessa Thompson is fantastic as Valkyrie; a drunk, washed up Asgardian warrior in self-imposed exile. Thompson manages to instantly fit in with the group of Hemsworth, Hiddleston and Ruffalo and carves out a place of her own within the film. Thompson’s Valkyrie is one of the highlights of the film in humour, action and character with Valkyrie having one of the more defined character arcs in the film. Thompson is a blast on screen and I hope she sticks around for future Thor sequels as she’s quickly become an essential part of the series, being a more than adequate replacement for Natalie Portman; who did not return for this film.

Jeff Goldblum meanwhile manages to steal every scene he’s in as the Grandmaster. Goldblum is clearly having a lot of fun with the role and it quickly becomes very infectious with the film brightening up every time he’s on screen. He is certainly one of the more unusual Marvel villains but is certainly one of the most memorable and one I certainly hope to see return in future films.

mv5bmjq5otk4njiynf5bml5banbnxkftztgwotaxmjgwndi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777744_al_

And then we have Cate Blanchett as Hela. Blanchett does a fantastic job with what she’s given, managing to make Hela an effective and memorable antagonist. The only problem is that Blanchett is not given enough time to really play with the character. The decision to have most of the middle act set away from Asgard creates the problem of Hela being sat around doing nothing for much of this time. Indeed, the film has to create a narrative convenience just to delay Hela’s plans until the third act, with a key item needed for her plot conveniently going missing at the end of the first act. But despite this, Hela still manages to make an impact. An early scene of Hela invading Asgard and being able to take out its warriors all by herself is a thrilling scene to watch and Blanchett is clearly having a blast in the role. It’s just a shame she doesn’t have enough screen time to truly become an iconic villain.

The film is helped along by some truly stunning visuals. If an award was made for the most visually stunning superhero film, Thor: Ragnarok would win it. A true visual feast for the eyes with amazing CGI and excellent cinematography and art direction. The film also benefits from a fantastic score by Mark Mothersbaugh, which even manages to revisit Patrick Doyle’s brilliant theme from the first film.

mv5bmgiwmzu5nzatmgnlni00odg0lweyywitzdvjztljmwm0njdmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndqxnjcxnq-_v1_sx1777_cr001777935_al_

To summarise; Thor: Ragnarok is not just a fantastic entry in the Marvel Universe, it’s also perhaps one of the strongest superhero films in recent years and one of the best blockbusters of the year. Marvel have struck gold and delivered the biggest, best and most thrilling Thor film yet. “What are you the god of again?” Hela asks Thor during a key moment. The God of all superhero movies would be a suitable answer.

9.5/10

“Hellboy” Reboot pictures emerge and why I’m excited

The first pictures from the upcoming Hellboy reboot have emerged showing actor David Harbour in costume as the title character and it looks fantastic.

Another Hellboy movie has been a long time coming. After Hellboy II: The Golden Army underperformed at the box office, it seemed that the future of the Hellboy franchise was in jeopardy. And indeed, Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy III quickly entered development hell. And as time went on it seemed the movie would never get made. Del Toro was always too busy. No one wanted to invest. So it came as no surprise that the project was quietly cancelled.

But what did come as a surprise was the announcement of a reboot.

With Neil Marshall in the director’s chair, the Hellboy reboot sees David Harbour of Stranger Things fame take over from Ron Perlman and also casts Ian McShane playing Hellboy’s adopted father Professor Broom and Milla Jovovich as the villain; the Blood Queen.

I was a huge fan of Del Toro’s first two Hellboy movies and have grown to love the character outside the movies via the comics. But my excitement for the movie also stems from a wider, more general perspective.

Hollywood is in a rut right now. There is no denying. Disney rules the day and while every studio may have the odd Wonder Woman or Jurassic World, no one else can seem to find a foothold. And the big problem here is that every major movie is beginning to look the same or just aren’t good.

For instance, the latest The Mummy reboot aped Marvel’s style so much that it forgot to find its own voice along the way, making it an ultimately lifeless venture. Warcraft struggled to figure out who it was for. Batman v Superman massively misunderstood why it’s two title characters are so appealing.

A Hellboy reboot, if done right, could provide the kick that Hollywood needs. It’s a great character and comic to adapt and it’s a weird property. But that’s good. With everyone else beginning to look so bland and lifeless, maybe Hollywood needs a little bit of weird. Something different. The huge success of IT should prove that audiences are craving something a little different and Hellboy could deliver on that.

If the movie doesn’t try to “Marvelise” itself and can forge out its own identity, it could be a massive success.

It has a talented director at the helm, a great cast, the support and writing talents of the characters creator Mike Mingola and has every reason to succeed.

Add in that Harbour looks perfect as the character and Hellboy has quickly shot up my list of most anticipated films of 2018. I just hope it’s able to deliver on the promise.

“IT” Review

mv5bmjizndg2mdy2m15bml5banbnxkftztgwnji1nzmzmzi-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

“Time to float!”. Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) prepares to lunge. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott
Plot: When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, a group of young kids are faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise (Skarsgård), whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries. 

IT is the film adaptation of author Stephen King’s 1,138 page 1986 novel, helmed by Andy Muschietti, director of 2013’s Mama. IT had already been adapted to great success in a two-part 1990 miniseries starring Tim Curry in the title role. While the miniseries itself doesn’t hold up and is spotty in quality at best (with Curry being the miniseries’ only redeeming feature), it holds a fond place in the hearts of those who grew up watching it giving Muschietti’s new take on the story big shoes to fill.

Instead of condensing King’s lengthy tome to one movie, IT (titled as IT: Chapter One in the movie itself) decides to only focus on the segments of the story portraying the Loser’s Club’s encounters with IT as children, with the adult segment of the story being saved for the sequel due in 2019 (however Muschietti has made it clear he intends to release a four to five hour director’s cut merging both films into one). This works in the film’s favour. Not only is the childhood segment the strongest part of the original novel, it allows the film to remain more focused instead of jumping around between multiple time periods.

mv5bodzhnjdhmjqtn2jjmc00yzqyltgxnjetytljytdlztyzodkxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjewntm2mzc-_v1_sx1777_cr001777732_al_

Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) encounters “IT”, otherwise known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures.

The film also brings the events of the story forward from 1958 to 1988. While this allows IT: Chapter Two to be set in the present, it also manages to serve the movie brilliantly. By having the movie set in the late 80’s, it manages to make the movie a love letter to Hollywood around that time; with the film ending up as a wonderful mix of The Goonies, Poltergeist and A Nightmare on Elm Street. In effect, IT becomes a genre throwback to the coming of age adventure movie and the supernatural horror movie. And it’s a mix that works. Muschietti manages to blend the two genres deftly and manages to create a truly unique horror picture with the end result; an excellent coming of age picture that just so happens to also be a film about a child-eating monster disguised as a clown.

IT strikes gold however with its cast. The seven children who make up the Loser’s Club are all wonderful young actors who will have a long future ahead of them is they chose to stay in the business. Each of them delivers a fantastic performance. The standout of the group however is Sophia Lillis as Beverly. Lillis, looking eerily like a young Jessica Chastain (potential casting for IT: Chapter Two maybe?), delivers perhaps the most rounded and strongest performance of the film. Beverly is perhaps the character that faces the most emotional strife during the film (apart from Bill). With an emotionally abusive (and implied to be sexually abusive) father at home, along with vicious rumours being spread about her by girls from school, Beverly has a lot to deal with without Pennywise coming into play. Lillis manages to make Beverly a truly engaging character, managing to make Beverly the most sympathetic and identifiable member of the Losers. Lillis’s performance shows she has great talent and will have a long and promising career ahead of her.

mv5bmji5mtexmzuwof5bml5banbnxkftztgwodm1nzmzmzi-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

Beverly (Sophia Lillis) hides from her tormentors. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures. 

Also a young actor of note is Jaeden Lieberher as Bill. As with Lillis with Beverly, Lieberher has the more meaty material to work with out of the other kids. Bill spends most of the movie searching for his younger brother, Georgie (kidnapped by Pennywise in the movie’s opening scene) and being in denial of the fact it’s incredibly likely Georgie is already dead. Lieberher deals with this material incredibly well, showing a lot of talent. It’s not easy to carry a film at 14, but Lieberher handles it with ease, showcasing himself to be an actor of talent.

mv5bmje2mtg2otm0nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwntm1nzmzmzi-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) hunts for the missing Georgie. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures. 

The rest of the Loser’s Club are made up of fine young actors, even if none of them quite get the amount of material and range that Lillis and Lieberher get. All of them deliver great performances and manage to round out the supporting cast incredibly well. Of particular note is Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame who plays Richie. Wolfhard shows fantastic comedic timing and delivers most of the best lines in the film, with nearly all of them being incredibly hilarious. As for the rest of the group, everyone gets at least a few moments to shine with only Chosen Jacobs getting the short straw as Mike. After a few scenes near the start, Mike is absent until near the end of the second act which makes it difficult for Mike to make much of an impression, enough to make you wonder if several scenes with Mike were left on the cutting room floor. But despite this all of the kids do a fantastic job and you can’t help but wish there was a bit more time spent with them; perhaps this could be incentive for Warner Bros to invest in an extended cut of Chapter One, prior to the merged cut?

mv5bmtu5njq0mjq1nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwoda5ntkxmzi-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

The Loser’s Club. From left to right: Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Bill, Mike (Chosen Jacobs), Stan (Wyatt Oleff), Beverly, Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Richie (Finn Wolfhard). Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures.

But of course, the reason everyone wants to see this movie is for IT itself; Pennywise. Bill Skarsgård takes the role of the murderous clown and manages to do an excellent job. Skarsgård’s Pennywise is a completely different beast to Tim Curry’s. Portraying the character as more ravenous, more beastly (Pennywise even drools hungrily when talking with Georgie) and ultimately feels more inhuman. Skarsgård doesn’t feel like a man dressed as a clown, he feels like an inhuman monster which is perfect for an interdimensional shape shifter (however IT’s origins are only implied in this movie, presumably being saved for the sequel). There’s just something eerily off-putting about Pennywise and Skarsgård’s movements and performance help create a horror villain that is truly unsettling. A moment where Pennywise uncurls himself from inside a fridge is truly disturbing to watch, especially since only minimal CGI was used meaning that most of it is actually Skarsgård. Pennywise isn’t just creepy though, he also has some humour to him which makes him even more unsettling. I’d rather not describe Pennywise’s sense of humour, if only to preserve some of the film’s more surprising and unsettling moments, but safe to say it’s as twisted as the character itself. Skarsgård is truly unhinged in the role, with this being one of those rare villain performances where the actor is completely unrecognisable. If Skarsgård’s Pennywise is better than Tim Curry’s is down to personal taste. In my opinion, Skarsgård’s is superior due to being more unsettling and closer to Pennywise as he was in the original novel along with a truly unhinged performance by Skarsgård but Curry’s Pennywise was also great. It ultimately depends on what you expect from the character, but for my tastes, Skarsgård’s won out and I can’t wait to see more of him.

It_08312016_Day 46_11374.dng

Pennywise on the prowl. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures.

IT is an absolutely gorgeous film to watch. Muschietti clearly has a wonderful directorial eye and it’s showcased magnificently here. The film just comes alive on the screen. From beautiful shots of the town of Derry, to dark and enveloping sewer tunnels, the film has a great vision and look. Muschietti really knows how to direct a horror film. Sets come alive with his directing, Pennywise’s presence envelops the film even when he isn’t present. From darkness and shadows giving the impression he could be anywhere along with the general feeling that something is watching and waiting. Indeed, the only times this feeling isn’t there are when the Losers are together and having fun, but even then there’s a hint of menace; as the kids play in a river, you’re just waiting for something to reach up and grab them. It’s also remarkable how unsettling even the people who aren’t Pennywise feel, with authority figures all feeling unnatural or, to some, worse than Pennywise. It’s this, along with the directing, that aid an air of dread to the entire film; making us really feel that there’s no one these kids can turn to.

What should be mentioned is how surprisingly funny the film is. While the film isn’t exactly a comedy, there’s plenty of humour scattered throughout. But none of it ever feels unnatural, in fact it goes hand in hand with the scares. It really manages to capture the spirit of King’s novel.

mv5bmja2otg0ntm2nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwotm1nzmzmzi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777753_al_

“You’ll float too.” Pennywise stalks his next victim. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures.

But what’s a horror film without its scares? Well I’m glad to report that IT is incredibly scary. Muschietti manages to deliver the scares in a big way, using a mixture of traditional jump scares with more unique moments; playing with audiences expectations as well as managing not to overuse Pennywise, only using him when it’s called for. An excellent touch is how Muschietti drags out the tension; you know the scare is coming, but you’re not quite sure when, or what, is actually going to occur. As a balloon slowly drifts towards one soon to be victim of Pennywise, you’re on edge, waiting. The film’s opening, which shows Pennywise luring in and making off with Georgie, is incredibly disturbing to watch. We the audience know what Pennywise is going to do. What makes this scene so impactful is how he does it and indeed, how much the film is actually able to do in this sequence. It’s impactful, shocking, scary and memorable and really sets the tone for the entire film. But the film’s scariest moment has to come from the projector scene. As the Losers examine slides of old Derry maps, the projector gets a life of its own and images of Pennywise begin to appear. What follows is an incredibly tense sequence of waiting as the film plays with your expectations as what you expect to occur doesn’t quite occur in the way you expect, leading to the film’s most terrifying moment.  That said however, a few too many of the film’s jump scares seem to rely on Pennywise running at the camera and screaming which can get old after a while. Regardless though, IT is a terrifyingly scary experience.

mv5bztrlndrjndgtogqzyi00yjvmlwjhmtgtzwziota5zdi2zmjhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynji0nta3mzc-_v1_sx1777_cr001777999_al_

Pennywise lurks in the darkness. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Another are where IT excels is its score. Benjamin Wallfisch takes scoring duties here and does a magnificent job. Alongside the more traditional Insidious-esque score for the scary parts, Wallfisch delivers an almost John Williams style score for some parts of the score. This is also blended with perhaps the creepiest version of “Oranges and Lemons” you’ll ever hear, serving as Pennywise’s theme. All together this creates an excellent soundtrack, emerging as one of the more memorable in the horror genre in quite a while. With many identifiable themes at play, I hope Wallfisch is able to return for the sequel to further develop them.

mv5bztu0ywzjowetmjk1mi00njiylwfiywitzwywotljytk4y2vhxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzmwnjg4mzg-_v1_sx1777_cr001777739_al_

Pennywise advances on the Losers. Copyright: Warner Bros. Pictures.

IT is a stellar adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, Muschietti has managed to craft a stellar horror film that manages to be true to the spirit of King’s text while putting his own identifiable spin on it. Bolstered by excellent performances from its child cast and an utterly unhinged performance by Bill Skarsgård along with fantastic visuals, some truly chilling scares and some surprisingly hilarious humour; IT is a must see horror film that emerges as not just the best horror of 2017, but perhaps the best horror film in years. Utterly terrifying, this film needs to be seen.

9/10