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Don't Breathe (2016)
7/10
Is it possible to love yet be thoroughly angered by a film?
11 September 2016
There are people saying that 'Don't Breath' is the best horror in years, and honestly it almost was. However one thing knocked the film down. From all the tension, and smart camera-work, and brilliant directing, one thing angered me so much that I almost walked out of the film three times towards the end of the film.

I did not care for Rocky aka the main protagonist of this story. Now it doesn't matter if your a horror, drama or action film, we need to care about our main character. There are three burglars, and the only likable one, is someone you know from the opening shot, is not going to be alive at the end. I won't spoil how, but from the beginning you know only Rocky will be left at the end.

Granted they give her a valid motivation, but I need more than a text message, and a two minute rushed scene with her daughter, to make me care and accept everything she does. The actress Jane Levy who plays her does a great job, but the way the character and story is written just ruined any care I had by the end of the film. This character goes full 80's Hollywood horror logic, and the selfish attitude, made me root for Stephen Lang's psychotic blind man character by the end, and there's a twist about that character that makes me feel sick knowing I wanted him to win even after the fact. Like Jesus Christ why can't horror characters ever at least knock out a human antagonist in this film. The character was selfish, stupid and not very fleshed out.

That aside. This was a fantastic horror movie. No false scares. Stephen Lang was intimidating as hell. The pacing was nice. The twists were disturbing. There was well built up tension.

That scene that in the trailer when everything's shot in night vision, is one of the most tense things I have ever seen, and was genuinely frightening. Alex played by Dylan Minnette, is the real likable character in this story, he fights, he isn't selfish, he steps up to the plate and is played brilliantly by Dylan. If he was the main character, I would have been on board until the end.

The sound design and cinematography were exactly what we need from a horror. It takes the show whats supposed to be scaring us approach and it works. Instead of a loud sound effect of bit of music making the audience jump every time the blind man suddenly appears, they let the lack of noise, or simply the sound of the door being slammed open when he enters do all the scaring. We see the blind man show up, and we as an audience freeze as soon as the characters do. This is the best sound design in a horror since 'The Babadook' that's how good the sound design is. All these long shots establishing the space and where everything is in the house, should be commended. Its great story telling, Hollywood has finally learned how to make a good horror movie.

This film could easily be a 4.5/5 had it not been for the unlike-able, generically stupid clique lead. Last few years we have seen 'The Conjuring 1 and 2', 'The Babadook' and 'Light's out' all being competent good horror movies, and none angered me because I cared about the characters.Thats why the character of Rocky, while played brilliantly, was just written so a bad that the anger it produced and the lack of care I had for the final 20 minutes, knocks this film down to just above the average just a movie rating

3.5/5 Stars
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War Dogs (2016)
8/10
Solid film, but lacks originality
29 August 2016
This film is definitely worth the watch. Jonah Hill and Myles Teller both shine superbly in this film, and Bradley Cooper has some genuine mystique about him during his performance. However, this is the second film I have seen this year, that seems to try and recapture the brilliance of Martin Scorcese's 'Wolf of wall street'. What I mean by that is both this film and 'The Big Short' take a complex real life event, that not a whole lot of people fully understood, and made a film that took time to make light of the scenarios, and tried to explain them to the audience in a common way.

This film does it well, and beats 'The Big Short' as it was definitely the easier film to follow. However, it does use a lot of comedy aspects from 'Wold of Wall Street'. You compare Jonah Hill's character Efraim to Donnie his character from TWOWS, they are exactly the same for the first half of this movie. Also, this movie makes light of a very serious real life scenario, and felt to safe considering the context. It's to light hearted and the only real drama or tension comes from the two friends.

On it's own this film is highly re-watchable, and that's down to the lightheartedness, but take a second to stop and think about the real life story, it feels to lighthearted. With Wall Street it worked because all the characters were terrible people, so it was funny to see them mess up. Here, Myles Teller plays a very likable character, and with some of the sinister characters, this film needed to feel more threatening.

However, credit is where credits due, the film did a great job of breaking down how arms dealing works, the same way TWOWS did for stock brokering. and the tone just felt fun, and made it easy to watch. To use wrestling terms, the heel turn seemed a little off, and needed more build, and also just the amount of similarities to TWOWS, from the way they close it out, to Jonah Hill's performance, just the narration by Teller, these films are almost parallel, so that holds this film back from being truly great.

But, the funny thing is, this film works. Hill's performance as both a comedic and dramatic actor is fantastic, he balances the two so well. If you haven't seen TWOWS, your going to love this move a hell of a lot, while the film lacks the risks to make it an instant classic, and is to lighthearted on the seriousness of this real life industry, its still fun and re-watchable, and the script and how this film flows just makes it enjoyable viewing.

I know I have talked long about the lack of originality, but honestly besides that and the lack of tone, or pushing the boundaries, the film does its job well. Hill and Teller have great chemistry, and I could go back and watch this over and over again. The effort to make people aware of this event can not be faulted, and they made arms dealing and the art of war a lot easier to understand that Big Short did for the financial crisis in 08. The sinister tone to end it, was definitely a tonal shift, but I won't spoil it for you here. I'm just going to say, you will have fun, if you're a fan of TWOWS or similar films, or you really enjoy Jonah Hill or Myles Teller, they deliver. I'm giving it a 4/5 stars.

If it pushed the boundaries more, and had more originality I would have given it a 4.5 which I only reserve for great movies. As it is though, it's a re-watchable, fun, well acted, educational film. And you won't even know you're being educated.
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Lights Out (II) (2016)
7/10
Surprisingly Good, but I will still be turning my lights off tonight.
25 August 2016
Watching the trailer for this movie, I almost didn't wanna watch it, as it just seemed to be another jump scare heavy movie.

Granted, it does have those moments, but aside from a group of four girls in the cinema ruining some of the tension and a big moment later on through constant chatter, this film was good.

I like James Wan, who if thoroughly believe is this generations Wes Craven, but he only had a producer role in this movie. It is directed by David Sandberg, who also directed the short film, that inspired this film, and I have to say it is very well directed.

This film is about a family haunted by a girl called Diana, who surprisingly had an interesting backstory. The trailer does spoil a few plot elements, but far from spoils the tone of the movie.

In the early stages, there are obvious jump scares coming and you just have to groan, plus a slight poke at the stereotype of rock and metal fans, was a little annoying. But, this movie turned those predictable jump scares and stereotypes on there heads, as not only are the characters well developed and not shoe horned in just to be there for killing, but the jump scares, while they do happen, do allow you to see whats there to scare you before the loud noise happens, and half of those noises are just amplified screams of someone being attacked, so they are far from the cheep jump scares we have come to hate in horror. When there is a jump scare, it's because there is something to be scared of. There was several times in this film where I was thinking 'oh here comes a cheep jump scare, but alas they don't. So, kudos to this movie for building tension naturally, and making me care for every single character.

The ending did become predictable when a certain thing becomes established, but that doesn't take away from the performances. Maria Bello, who plays the mum, is fantastic in this movie. The lead Rebecca, played by Teresa Palmer does a solid job, and while she does have a couple of far away looks and acts a bit off character for the situation at times, for the most part does great. Alexander DiPersia who plays the boyfriend, is a likable character, and has stuff to do, and act's like a boyfriend should, which is rare for horror movies where usually the main characters other half is just there to be an idiot and/or die. Also the kid actor, Gabriel Bateman, is great. Kid actors get a lot of flack but this kid acts superbly, carrying scene's when its just him and Diana, and while maybe a little to mature as a character, does match up to the fellow actors around him.

Diana has a good back story, and its a very intelligent plot as horror's go. The design is a little clique, and brings nothing new to the table, but her presence is felt even when she isn't there, and the reveal of her, when she's not just a shadow, is very well done, if only the group sat in front of me hadn't talked about the big reveal scare for five minutes after, I may have appreciated it more. Yes the characters do have their 'dumb character' moments, but it isn't on a frustrating level.

I was surprised by 'Lights out' and I hope to see the actors and director got on to bigger and better things. This is a good horror movie. 2016 seems to be the year Hollywood is getting it's s*it together, and treating horrors seriously. However, we still have 'Don't Breath', 'Rings', and the new 'Blair Witch' to come so we shall see. All in all 'Light's Out' is decent, with a few cliques, predictable jump scares and ending, but has a good plot, great character development, and does build the tension well. All in all a solid 3.5/5 from me.
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The Shallows (2016)
8/10
Best Shark Movie Since Jaws, which really doesn't say much
16 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Don't let the headline fool you, I loved this film.

Its been over 40 years since Steven Spielberg brought us the original summer blockbuster Jaws, and made millions of people terrified of sharks. Since then, film hasn't been kind on the shark genre, which even Jaws had its disasters. My top three Shark movies going into this were as follows: Jaws, Jaws 2, and Deep Blue Sea. When the thirds a dumb guilty pleasure, it really shows how sub par shark films have become since the first Jaws burst onto the scene.

As such 'The Shallows' has instantly jumped into a solid second place on my personal preference. This film was great. Two things that have let this genre down is the fact the plots are to over the top and about the sharks, and characters have been to vanilla for us to care about.

This film rectify's both these missteps in glorious fashion. Firstly, the main character, played brilliantly Blake Lively, is someone you can get behind, and believe in her capabilities, actually caring for in the process through just a couple of simple scenes. Minor character development spoilers here. Film making 101 is you have to make a character fit the story. This film needs a surfer who can survive by herself when injured and can think on her feet. They establish in two quick scenes (in the truck and during a phone call) that she is thinking of dropping out of medical school cause her mum died of cancer and she has lost belief in it, and the father establishes her mum was a fighter. Thats it, immediately you believe she's capable of guerrilla treating herself once attacked, you see her family and get the relationship straight away, making her a believable protagonist we can root for. She just felt like a real person.

The second point makes this plot simple, like a shark movie should be, a surfer accidentally stumbles into a sharks hunting ground, (thats right the shark is actually attacking for a reason other than just because), and is stranded adrift a reef within that hunting ground. Thats it. It's a simple suspense film, and my god does this film do that well. There are no real cheep jump scares, as they let the visuals do the talking, and you watch this person struggle internally to survive on this rock with her little companion Steven the Seagull, who at times made the film amusing, but that was more than welcome in the tension that drives the film, as you can't have your audience tense the entire time. The suspense is done very well in this film and while I am taken out of the film occasionally, it keeps pulling me back in.

The Shallows does something every shark film seems to fail in. Less shark. You hardly see the shark at all, there is a beautifully shot scene where you see its silhouette in the wave before the first attack, and when we do see the shark for the most part it looks good, apart from one of its kills. You only ever see the shark kill once person on screen and that works to the films credit. It know's when to show the shark and when not to, brilliantly replicating the atmosphere of the original Jaws movie. The cinematography, lighting and soundtrack build the tension, and when the shark does show it is earned. The cinematography is beautiful in this film, it is so good to look at, and the shot mentioned earlier to the surfing montages are a highlight.

That being said the film had short comings. There is an obvious shark bate character clearly their to enforce the threat, i can be repetitive at times, and like I said the seagull did take me out of it occasionally, but I loved that seagull all the same. Also, a couple of characters do approach the situation a little to stupidly.

If you like simple films, in only a couple locations and also are a suspense junkie then this film will definitely satisfy. Think 127 Hours but instead of a boulder its a shark. The finally alone is worth giving the film a watch. Definitely check it out cause in this mediocre summer blockbuster season, this film is a breath of fresh air, and deserves more recognition. 4/5
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Suicide Squad (2016)
7/10
Perfect Characters In A Untidy Plot
7 August 2016
It's been a while since I have written a review, and with the split between fans and critics for this recently released film, I feel I should throw my two cents in. My experience with Suicide Squad comes from the animated film 'Assault on Arkham' and reading the first few volumes of the New 52 series. When this film was first announced, I was of course excited to see this movie.

Unlike a few people I had few problems with the casting choices. Viola Davis I trusted would play a good Amanda Waller as I had previously seen her in the series 'How To Get Away With Murder' and she is effectively playing a character similar to Waller in that show. Margot Robbie's scene in 'Wolf Of Wall Street' where she teases Leo DiCaprio instantly sold me on the idea of her playing Harley Quinn and Jay Hernandez for me was ideal for Diablo having seen him performing as this unlike-able character that you grow to rout for when he's against worse people. This film ironically so was Hostel. My favourite character from the comic books is El Diablo, so I was determined to see his character done justice the most. My only gripe with casting was Will Smith as Deadshot. I knew from 'Pursuit of Happiness' he could do a good relationship with children, but Deadshot in the comics is, to put it nicely, a bit of a douche bag. I felt that Will Smith would make the character way to likable, and lack the ability to play this smooth, yet terrible person. Spoilers for a new 52 comic story Deadshot straight up kills another member of the squad for expressing their desire to kill Waller, because he wanted to be the one that kills her.

But enough about my original views on cast and my connection to the franchise. Its time to talk about what I thought of the film. To put it honestly, as a fan of the comics, I enjoyed it. However, as a film, this one in particular left a lot to be desired.

Getting my positives out the way first, the cast absolutely nailed their characters, and those that were barely in it, were interesting enough to want more of. Diablo,Waller, Quinn, and even Captain Boomerang were played fantastically, with each actor matching the personality's of their comic counterpart. Even Will Smith proved me wrong as Deadshot. Yes, there is a fair amount of Will Smith playing Will Smith, but he got Deadshot's bluntness, and passive aggressive nature down to a T. Some scenes in the trailers seemed to be Will Smith doing classic Will Smith lines, but in the context of these scenes these moments fit Deadshot's mannerisms perfectly. Kitana and Killer Croc were both side characters who were interesting enough, that I want to see more off them. That aside, the rest of the performances were everything from bland to shockingly bad. Cara Delevingne and Joel Kinnaman were absurdly bad in this, and alongside Smith, Robbie's and Davis performances, they stood out as the worst.

The soundtrack, was fantastic. However, it didn't always work. I would buy the soundtrack in a heartbeat, but the opening changes songs repeatedly with no real sound transitions in between, and it just feels like they are trying to capitalise on the success of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. The following will be my only comparison to the Marvel Universe. There is a difference between a good soundtrack, and one that works with the film. Guardians soundtrack worked, because each song had a vital part to play for the tone when it was used. I will never forget how they opened that film with a depressing death seen and then follows with a moody dramatic scene of Star Lord landing on this planet, with dramatic, serious music, and for a second you think this will just be a generic marvel movie. Then Star Lord presses play and 'Come and Get Your Love' starts. Instantly the tone shifts and you know this will not be just another generic movie. With Suicide Squad, they just seem to throw these big songs in there for the sake of it. Sometimes the music choices work, but with the others it just feels like they are throwing as many widely known songs as possible.

It doesn't help that the soundtrack is also marred with very choppy editing, clear scenes thrown in from re shoots to brighten the atmosphere, a plot that goes all over the place, and some jumps in character development that come out of nowhere. I could talk about the bland villain, who I will not be spoiling in this review, but its not like that other big universe has the best villains, so I give the bland villain story a pass.

Also, I haven't talked about Jared Leto's performance as the Joker. All in all, I was pleased with what I saw. This isn't Ledger's Joker or Nicholson's; this Joker is more of a crime boss/wild card. He's not in this much, and while lot's of reviews complain about that, I never expected to see him much. You needed him to help introduce Harley Quinn and while the film could have done more to embrace their seriously messed up relationship, I enjoyed their dynamic together, and Leto even gave me a stand out thing to remember which I will not spoil, but it involve's a flashback. Oh yeah, there are a LOT of flashbacks! and the opening while doing well to introduce the characters, may as well have been a ring announcer for MMA or Boxing, coming out and introducing each member, as that's what the start felt like for me.

The reason it gets such a OK score from me is despite its problems, this is a fun summer movie, that comic fans will enjoy, flaws and all. 3 1/2 stars
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