Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017) (Another Dodgy Remake of a Japanese Classic?)

“It’s okay, just breathe”

Within a month or two, we’ve had two live action remakes of classic animations. The first was ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ which recreated the original faithfully but felt wholly unnecessary. Now, we have ‘Ghost in the Shell,’ a remake of the beloved 1995 Japanese anime. Yes, there were concerns about ‘whitewashing.’ Why cast Scarlett Johannsen as the main character? Why not a Japanese actress? But the whitewashing is one of the many problems that one encounters whilst watching ‘Ghost in the Shell.’ A lame script, an irritating Westernisation of the original’s plot and endless shots of the (admittedly impressive) futuristic city are among the other big problems. Continue reading

Mass Effect And The Rebirth of Optimistic Science Fiction Part 2

Click here for Part I

Cinematic Science Fiction In the 1990s

Towards the end of the 1980s there was a trend for science fiction to return to emphasising the present with the aid of futuristic settings. ‘Robocop’ is one example. ‘The Running Man’ is another. A nation controlled by the mass media that has very few morals? Hmmm, familiar. This trend ran into the 1990s, a decade in which science fiction films were smothered with sequels and CGI. The Alien series should have been killed off with ‘Alien: Resurrection.’ The Robocop franchise should have been killed off after the first one. Independence Day was for the destruction fetishist. ‘Star Wars: Episode I’ erased all happy memories of the initial trilogy. ‘Doctor Who,’ that true testament to the future (before it became London-centric), almost died with the terrible 1996 film. Continue reading

Mass Effect And The Rebirth of Optimistic Science Fiction Part 1

Mass Effect: Andromeda is released tomorrow. Unfortunately, due to the lack of an Xbox One, I won’t be able to play it. However, it doesn’t seem like that long ago that I bought ‘Mass Effect,’ the game that started the science fiction franchise. And what a game I picked up. I’ve recently played the original game (for at least the fourth time), and each time reinforces the brilliance of it. Not only is a great game in and of itself, but it’s also a different kind of science fiction that we’re used to today. It’s not post-apocalyptic or a dystopia, but a science fiction universe thriving with enthusiasm and glory. It’s a refreshing change from the grey, dull and depressing science fiction that we see all too often in video games and films of the modern age. Continue reading

This Is Your Film: Part Two 2002-2017

There’s recently been a Twitter hashtag called #Thisisyourfilm. It’s another list hashtag. For this list you have to name your favourite film for each year of your life. Of course, the older you are, the more films you have to consider. I threw my list into the vast Twitter ring. Here, I thought I’d elaborate on my choices in a blog of two parts.

Here’s Part Two, which covers 1985 to 2001…

There’s recently been a Twitter hashtag called #Thisisyourfilm. It’s another list hashtag. For this list you have to name your favourite film for each year of your life. Of course, the older you are, the more films you have to consider. I threw my list into the vast Twitter ring. Here, I thought I’d elaborate on my choices in a blog of two parts.Here’s Part One, which covers 1985 to 2001…

2002: Spider-Man

Along with ‘Gladiator,’ this is one of my favourite films of all time. Repeated viewings have dulled my affection for it, but the first time I saw it I was blown away. To see my favourite superhero in live action was breathtaking. I remember holding my breath for a scene as simple as the one where Peter Parker experiences his “Spider sense” in high school. Yes, the Green Goblin costume may look silly, and it touches every base of a typical superhero origin film, but simply for the feeling I received on my first viewing of the film it stands high on my list of favourite films.

2003: X-Men 2

As far as superhero sequels go, X-Men 2 can stand proudly alongside ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Spider-Man 2.’ It doesn’t have to introduce as many characters as ‘X-Men’ did, so can plunge right into a gripping story. Heroes and villains combining to defeat a greater threat is something you rarely see in superhero films, and that’s exactly what we get here. It adds extra intrigue into a story that deviates from the typical superhero sequel. There was ‘Oldboy’ to consider, but ‘X-Men 2’ stands as an example to all superhero sequels, and sequels in general.

2004: Shaun of the Dead

Edgar Wright’s directoral cinematic debut is the greatest horror comedy ever. It’s a rival to ‘Trainspotting’ for the Best British film ever. ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ is brilliant, as is ‘Spider-Man 2,’ but ‘Shaun of the Dead’ stands tall as a masterpiece. The jokes never miss, the quick cuts are exemplary, and the gore is heavy duty stuff. The filmic peak of Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s collaboration.

2005: Sin City

‘Batman Begins’ and ‘A History Of Violence’ sprung to mind for 2005 (both based on comics/graphic novels), but it was ‘Sin City’ I couldn’t help but name as my film of 2005. Buckets of style and a film noir that fit perfectly with the black and white visuals, ‘Sin City’ was an R-Rated comic book film in a sea of PG-13 ones. It stood apart not just for that reason, but the fact that there was just enough substance behind the style to deliver a great film.

2006: Children of Men

‘The Departed’, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, ‘Apocalypto’, ‘Rocky Balboa’, ‘Borat,’ ‘Casino Royale’…all great films, all released in 2006. I almost chose ‘The Departed’ for 2006, even though it’s an inferior imitation of ‘Infernal Affairs,’ it’s still one of Scorsese’s best films of modern times. ‘Rocky Balboa’ was a return to form for the Rocky franchise, as was ‘Casino Royale’ for the Bond franchise. ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ had imagination and creativity to spare. But it’s ‘Children of Men’ that sticks in my mind, and seems a more likely future than many science fiction scenarios out there. An unwaveringly bleak vision of a future broken Britain, it’s becoming more and more relevant every day. Fears about immigration and right wing governments run right through ‘Children of Men.’ A science fiction film that tells us more about our society than most other films.

2007: No Country For Old Men

The Coens’ greatest ever film? In my eyes, yes. It takes the essence of the novel it is based upon and pours it through the film, from the characters to the cinematography. It’s a modern Western with one of the most intimidating villains of cinema in the guise of Javier Bordem as Chigurh. It represents the Coens at the peak of their cinematic creativity and brilliance. It maybe too laconic for some, but for me the mood was just right. There was ‘Eastern Promises’ and ‘There Will Be Blood,’ but ‘No Country For Old Men’ outdoes them every time.

2008: Wall-E

‘Wall-E’ is Pixar’s greatest film. ‘The Dark Knight’ was more than deserving to be my choice for 2008, but I always find myself picking at little things with each repeated viewing. It’s Wall-E that never fails to impress, with an almost dialogue free first act that is refreshing, to say the least. It shows a level of mastery over story, characters and emotions that seemed to display Pixar’s last great film (until ‘Inside Out’ came along). I adored ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ It pains me greatly to miss out ‘The Wrestler.’ But ‘Wall-E’ cannot be missed out!

2009: Moon

Apart from ‘Watchmen,’ there wasn’t much else that piqued my interest in 2009. ‘A Serious Man’ was a decent Coen brothers’ film, but not much more than that. I never much liked ‘Avator’ or ‘District 9.’ So, Moon was a breath of fresh air. Sam Rockwell carries a film that is technically and visually outstanding. It mixes all kind of science fiction tropes, but the melting pot is delicious. Duncan Jones’ directoral debut is still his best film.

2010: Black Swan

It physically hurt me not to name ‘The Wrestler’ as my film of 2008, but Darren Aronofsky’s next film, ‘Black Swan,’ cannot be ignored. It’s his masterpiece, in all aspects of cinema. Natalie Portman gives the performance of a lifetime, and rightfully won Best Actress at the Acadamy Awards for her performance as ballet dancer Nina, who’s chosen to play as both the White Swan and the Black Swan in a production of Swan Lake. Part-horror, part psychological thriller, nothing came close to ‘Black Swan’ in 2010. ‘The Social Network’ is a distant second, and I’ll always have a soft spot for ‘Tron: Legacy,’ but ‘Black Swan’ takes the top spot without a doubt.

2011: Drive

‘The Artist’ was sublime. The first two acts of ‘Super 8’ were a delightful throwback to 80s science fiction films. ‘Source Code’ was another impressive film by Duncan Jones. But it’s ‘Drive’ that remains one of my all-time favourite films. It’s an exercise in pure cinema, where the visuals and the music tell the story as much as the dialogue does. Ryan Gosling’s laconic Driver is a superb anti-hero. The soundtrack is incredible. The car chase scenes feel and look real, rather than splurges of CGI. It’s one of the great films of the 21st century.

Click here for my review!

2012: The Avengers

‘The Avengers’ represented the culmination of Marvel Studios’ ambitious task to build up the superheroes that they owned (in terms of film rights) and put them all in one film. They may not have had Spider-Man or the X-Men or the Fantastic Four, but their B-level superheroes gave us one of the most fun and memorable superhero films ever. Seeing the superheroes all in one frame still gives me chills up my spine! Joss Whedon keeps the action and the quips coming thick and fast, with a villain that is worthy of taking on a group of superheroes in Loki (surely the second best on-screen superhero villain behind Heath Ledger’s Joker?). A wonder to watch. ‘Life of Pi’ and ‘Django Unchained’ were contenders, but both suffered from a over-long running time.

Click here for my review!

2013: Prisoners

I almost chose ‘Gravity’ for my choice of 2013, but it seems ever so smaller each time I watch it. It’s a film that’s meant to be watched on the big screen in 3D. ‘Prisoners,’ however, is a harsh and uncompromising film. But it’s a film that demands to be watched. Hugh Jackman’s performance as Keller Dover is outstanding. He deserved an Academy Award for it. The story of a father who’s looking for his kidnapped daughter will always grab attention, but Denis Villeneuve makes it so much more than that. It may be a hard watch, but it’s a watch that stays with me.

2014: The Lego Movie

Everything is awesome…especially ‘The Lego Movie!’ I expected very little from this film, but received so much in return. From comedy to social satire, ‘The Lego Movie’ has most bases covered. It could have been a lazy take on the Lego toy, but it gave us a reflection of our own society, obsessed with reality TV shows like ‘Honey, Where Are My Pants?’ while conglomerates own almost everything around us. It’s clever dissection of “The Special One” character trope is also to be commended. ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ was a close second, a Shakespearian tragedy with apes instead of kings and queens. ‘Nightcrawler’ (showcasing Jake Gyllenhaal’s best performance), ‘Birdman,’ and ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ (a great, but overlooked, science fiction film) were a close third.

2015: Mad Max: Fury Road

‘Inside Out’ was a massive return to form for Pixar, examining our minds from a very mature perspective. ‘Straight Outta Compton’ had me gripped for the first two acts in a way most thrillers don’t. ‘Creed’ moved me to tears more than most tearjerkers. But the fourth entry in the Mad Max franchise blew everything else away. Fears that it would be a poor greatest hits of the franchise evaporated merely minutes into the film. It’s a two hour car chase, but the car chase is more exhilarating than probably anything else I’ve watched in the past decade. It’s insane, creative, and creatively insane.

Click here for my review!

2016: The Neon Demon

‘Zootropolis,’ ‘High-Rise,’ ‘Arrival,’ ‘I, Daniel Blake,’ ‘Captain America: Civil War’…all five films were worthy of this spot. But another Nicolas Winding Refn again takes another spot on this list. ‘The Neon Demon’ mesmerised me from start to finish when I watched it at the cinema, and it continues to do so every time I watch it. For a film about beauty, ‘The Neon Demon’ is jam-packed full of beautiful (if sometimes horrific) images. It represents a director at the peak of his visual storytelling abilities. I couldn’t take my eyes of the screen from the moment the BBFC screen came on, and I couldn’t say that about any other film in 2016. It’s style over substance, but the style is exemplary.

Click here for my review!

2017: Logan (so far)

It’s a little soon to choose my favourite film of 2017, but there will have to something mind-blowing to beat Logan. A bleak, mature superhero film that rescinds most superhero tropes until the third act, ‘Logan’ is the Wolverine film we’ve always wanted but were denied. If it’s Hugh Jackman’s swan song as the characters, it’s a brutal, bloody and brilliant way to end his tenure as The Wolverine.

Click here for my review!

Click here for This Is Your Film: Part One 1985-2001

This Is Your Film: Part One 1985-2001

There’s recently been a Twitter hashtag called #Thisisyourfilm. It’s another list hashtag. For this list you have to name your favourite film for each year of your life. Of course, the older you are, the more films you have to consider. I threw my list into the vast Twitter ring. Here, I thought I’d elaborate on my choices in a blog of two parts.

Here’s Part One, which covers 1985 to 2001… Continue reading

Review: Logan (2017) (A Great Comic Book Film? Or Just A Great Film?)

“I’m a fan, by the way”

Since ‘Logan’ was released last week, there’s been a vast amount of praise for it. Some have proclaimed it to be the greatest comic book film ever. Of course, I watched it as soon as it came out, but wanted time for the hype to die down and for my own thoughts to percolate through the critical acclaim. Often, when a film is given endless praise, it sets alarm bells off in my head. I always think: “can it be that good?” The hype train soon runs off course and the critically acclaimed film enters a phase of harsh criticism (the latest example I can think of is ‘La La Land’). However, after a week of thinking long and hard about ‘Logan,’ I can almost agree that it’s one of the greatest comic book films ever (whether or not it’s the greatest one is something I’ll have to think about further). It’s dark, gritty and reaches a level of maturity that few comic book films have done. Continue reading

Review: La La Land (2016) (Worthy of Oscar For Best Picture?)


“How did the audition go?”

Is ‘La La Land’ worthy of the Best Picture award at the Oscars? It’s a heavy favourite to win, that’s for sure. But why is that, exactly? Is it due to the quality of the film itself? Or is it the nostalgic, glossy view of Hollywood it presents? Hollywood loves a good puff piece that promotes its intrinsic values. ‘La La Land’ does just that, showing that dreams do come true in the rolling hills and picture perfect vistas of Hollywood. But does it do more than that? Is it more than just a puff piece? Is it a ‘Best Picture,’ or just Hollywood’s idea of a ‘Best Picture?’ Continue reading

Review: 2012 (2009) (Appetite For Destruction?)

2012“We’re going to need a bigger plane.”

President Donald Trump has been the most powerful man in the world for over a month. Yet the world is still in one piece. To prepare myself for disaster, I re-watched a film I hated at the cinema, ‘2012.’ I left the cinema less than impressed after ‘Deepwater Horizon,’ a smaller scale disaster film than Emmerich’s usual globe spanning adventures (read my review of that film here). Would ‘2012’ satisfy my appetite for destruction? No matter how many national monuments he digitally destroys, Emmerich finds it difficult to direct a decent film. Each of his disaster films are bloated, over-reliant on CGI, poorly scripted, illogically plotted, etc (just check out Independence Day: Resurgence for proof, and read my review here). And they are populated with good actors, giving them a veneer of respect.  Continue reading