Month: October 2017

Bit Review: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

The latest Thor film is simply the best Marvel film I have seen in a long time, perhaps since Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). The last two Thor films, Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013), were less than brilliant. The first film directed by Kenneth Branagh did a great job in introducing the character and led to a surprisingly good movie. Thor: The Dark World was just a huge disappointment, and led a lot of people to be simply confused. Recently with Marvel films, it seems to be full of strategically placed movies that have a formula that makes them work. Thor: Ragnarok subverts all these formulas, and just makes for a fun movie that doesn’t try to take itself too seriously but can be emotional when needed.

Taika Waititi takes over the directing rather Alan Taylor, and adds humour back into the Thor films. The second film was heartless and just didn’t make anyone want to see it again. I already want to see Thor: Ragnarok again, and I have only just seen it. It has an incredibly nostalgic soundtrack, with an 80s vibe, that blends well with the wacky mise-en scene of the neon colours and crazy world of Sakaar. The colours are fantastic, and the cinematography is insanely gorgeous. I’m not going to spoil the story, but the plot is a lot easier to follow than the previous film, and just makes for a fun movie.

Chris Hemsworth is incredible. His humour as Thor had developed, and he is more than just eye-candy for women. Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldblum, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, the list could go on but the talent in this movie is superb. Everyone plays both to comedic and serious, and all look stunning doing it. Even the short cameos are brilliant, watch out for all the surprises. In a nutshell, Thor: Ragnarok stimulates the senses, and gives you what you want. It’s a film that you’d regret missing. If you were a little disappointed with Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017), no fear Thor: Ragnarok fills that void.

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Bit Review: Pet Sematary (1989)

Stephen King is undoubtedly one of the greatest horror writers living today. He has wrote classic horror stories such as The Shining and IT. Many of his books have been made into films, and with the recent release of the IT remake (2017), directed by Andy Muschietti, there seems to be a demand for more King adaptations. With 1922 (2017) and Gerald’s Game (2017) both being moderate successes, Andy Muschietti apparently has his sights set on a Pet Sematary remake. However, it would be ignorant to forget the Pet Sematary (1989) film directed by Mary Lambert, therefore I decided to rewatch one of my favourite King adaptations.

Pet Sematary follows the Creed family, which consists of Louis (Dale Midkiff), his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), and their children Ellie (Blaze Berdahl) and Gage (Miko Hughes). The Creed family move to rural Ludlow, Maine as Louis is offered a better job. Their new house is in a secluded area that features a dangerous highway, a mysterious neighbour Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) and a Pet cemetery which has mystical powers. On Louis’ first day of work, his first patient, Victor Pascow, dies in a car crash but warns Louis of the cemetary and tells him to stay away. Louis doesn’t listen to Pascow and sets of the malevent forces of the cemetary which leads Louis to tragedy after tragedy.

Mary Lambert, who directed the film, previously had done a variety of music videos for Madonna, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston. Pet Sematary was her first big film, having only previously done an indie film called Siesta (1987). The acting in the film is very Soap Opera style, it is over the top at times and almost cringey. However, Fred Gwynne and Miko Hughes, Jud and Gage respectively, are the stand out performances. Hughes who plays Gage is perfect, as he plays both cute and creepy. The film is definitely entertaining despite the acting, and is a great film to watch for halloween. The sequel Pet Sematary II (1992) is cheesier, but will make a great double bill for a viewing if you fancy a movie night. The original song “Pet Sematary” by the rock band Ramones makes the credits seem even more badass. If Pet Sematary is remade, I just hope they keep the track for the film. If you need an entertaining movie, look no further than Pet Sematary. The film is full of shocks and moments that’ll make you gasp.

Bit Review: Goodfellas (1990)

What makes Goodfellas (1990) such a good movie still today after 27 years? The casting of Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci? The excellent soundtrack chronicling the time and the place? The beautiful shots and the mise-en scene? The answer is everything. There is nothing about this movie that I do not love. I watched the film for the first time about 10 years ago, and it was my first Martin Scorsese movie and I’ve been fan since. I found the film recently on Amazon Prime, and it kick-started current addiction with Scorsese leading to a binge of some of his past movies such as The Departed (2006) and Casino (1995) to name a few.

This film tells the story of Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, and his rise and fall in the mob. It is based of a non-fiction book called Wiseguy by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi, who actually co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese himself. Scorsese cast Liotta in the part after he saw him in Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild (1986), in which Liotta plays an ex-convict obsessed with his ex wife. Liotta was fascinated by the book, Wiseguy, and campaigned for the film despite the studio wanting a more famous actor. Liotta obviously got the role, and even listened to FBI tapes of Hill just to get the character perfect. Co-starring in the film is Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci who both play friends of Hill who are in the mob life as well. According to Pesci, he stated that they were allowed to improvise, such as the scene in which Tommy’s mother has painted the image of the beard man with the dogs, therefore showing the skill and talent of the cast. Everyone in this film is beyond outstanding and without them, the film would be nothing.

The music is something I adore, as a good soundtrack is always needed. He only wanted music that would be heard during that time, which he does successfully as the music adds to the atmosphere and makes it more immersive. Scorsese is a master of his craft, and Goodfellas is a prime example of his talent. This film shows him at his best, and displays his traits such as the long use of tracking shots, freeze-frames, New York as more than a setting and his character driven stories. I must admit, some of his more recent films have perhaps not have been my favourites, as the last film I watched of his that I really loved was The Departed. His next project is called The Irishman and will be starring De Niro, Pesci, Harvey Keitel and Al Pacino so I am beyond excited for this, and this could be another masterpiece for him.

The ending of Goodfellas just perfectly sums up the whole mob life, as it’s a reference to The Great Train Robbery (1903) directed by Edwin S. Porter and basically says that violence will always be there no matter what, and it is just as true back in 1903 then it was in 1990 with Goodfellas. Hill is always going to have the life of crime behind him and will always be looking behind him as someone will find him. The film gets better every time you watch it.

Classic Bit Review: Seven Samurai (1954)

Seven Samurai (1954), which is one of Kurosawa’s most recognisable films, and was a success in Japan and the West too as Seven Samurai made more money than any other film that year and won a Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Kurosawa could finally make jidaigeki films with no barriers, and he began to have more freedom to make a variety of genre films that he couldn’t during the War and during the Occupation. The film follows seven rōnin as they defend a poor village from a group of bandits. His post-Occupation films no longer had direct American influence, as he went back to samurai films that reflected Japanese’s past whilst still making a critical statement about the present. Ironically, his films that he made during this time which reflect a modern, and a past version of Japan, were remade in America. The most noticeable examples were The Magnificent Seven (1960) and A Fistful of Dollars (1964), which were a remake of Seven Samurai and Yojimbo (1961) respectively. The relationship between Japan and the US were strained post-Occupation, as the relationship between the US and Japan during the Occupation seemed to be equal but comments made after the events highlighted how accurate this was. Kurosawa’s films, after the Occupation and until 1965, were Japanese based and chronicled problems in Japanese society and social inequality.

The film of course stars two of Kurosawa’s favourite actors, both Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura as part of the group of rōnin samurais. Ironically, the group of samurai were originally six, but Kurosawa found that the group were boring and needed a wildcard. Therefore, Mifune was recast as Kikuchiyo and was given the freedom to improvise his lines. The raw emotion of the villagers and the pure talent of the cast is admirable. The cast are a brilliant ensemble, but Mifune outshines everyone per usual with both his enigmatic and boyish ways. The film became Japan’s third highest-grossing film of 1954, and the film had stiff competition with films such as Godzilla being released during this time. The charm of the characters, and the brilliance of Kurosawa made the film an event and a landmark in cinema telling the story of a rambunctious group of men who band together to save a village despite the lack of reward.

The Seven Samurai was one of the first films to use the narrative of recruiting a group of heroes to defeat a common goal. Character traits featured in the film were modern, as they featured the reluctant hero in the form of Mifune and the romance between the young local girl and the youngest hero. The score is of course perfect. The lone beat of a drum during tense and decisive moments, such as deciding on what to do about the bandits, and the lone chord of the shamisen emphasises the anxiousness and tense moments. Composed by Fumio Hayasaka, a friend of Kurosawa who passed away during his film I Live in Fear (1955), and the score adds to this work of art. The hopeful music when the villagers are looking for their samurais, and the triumphant encouraging music of brass when the samurai are making their journey.

The sets are a force themselves. Kurosawa refused to shoot at the Toho Studios for most of the exterior scenes, and had a set constructed despite protests. He did this to make the film seem more authentic, and greatly so. The costumes, the acting and the set come together to make it credible and convincing. Kurosawa is the master of editing, he did the editing himself and sometimes even late at night during shooting. What else can I say about this masterpiece that hasn’t already been said. I unfortunately haven’t had the pleasure to see this film in the cinema or on any screen bigger than forty inches, but even with those limitations I am certain it is one of the greatest films ever made. Sure, The Seven Samurai isn’t my favourite film, or favourite Kurosawa film, but I know a masterpiece when I see one and it is a must see for humans in general. If you have never seen the film, you definitely need to educate yourself and sit down to watch this absolute classic.