Death Note, 2017

Directed by: Adam Wingard

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Lakeith Stanfield, and no one else worthwhile


I normally don’t like to give movies a rating. I feel like it oversimplifies my thoughts on the matter to the audience. A single digit becomes the focal point for the entire review, and unfair comparisons between the films I review result.
I think, however, it’s appropriate to use one in the case of Death Note (2017). My scale is 0 is unwatchable, 10 is among the best films I’ve ever seen and 5 is mediocre.


Far from unwatchable, but not good either.

I commend the film as an adaptation for following common sense (surprisingly rare for adaptations) of not at all trying to follow the same plot as its source material, as Death Note is a pretty convoluted story. Unfortunately, the one they left in wasn’t very interesting.

Taking the film at face value, not comparing it to the anime or the manga (which I haven’t read), the whole thing feels somehow uneventful, the kind of movie that I’ll forget about within a week. I didn’t form a connection to any of the main characters, I didn’t feel any impact when major plot points occurred. It sometimes had interesting cinematography, but it felt like all of those shots were handled by a seperate team, as the film is riddled with the typical shot – reverse shot with standard camera angles. If you had never heard of Death Note, maybe the premise would be good enough to pull you through, but to those people I say: Go watch the anime instead.

As I mentioned above, the film makes little effort to directly translate the source material, and most characters are significantly different. Light turner, for instance, doesn’t even slightly resemble Light Yagami. Light Yagami is outwardly very calm, in control, never giving even an inflection that would give him away and only from his inner monologue do we get any clue of how on edge he is. He’s a master manipulator, and when you truly get to understand him, he’s quite scary. Light Turner is an angsty teenager that will comically flip out over the slightest thing that doesn’t go his way, and we’re told he has a god complex, but he never really shows it. Light Yagami is interesting, Light Turner is not.

The ‘Misa’ equivalent, Mia, is also uninteresting, being demoted from pop-star to cheerleader, and being played by a Kristen Stewart wannabe who never once shows an actual emotion that I bought. The relationship between the two similarly doesn’t really resemble the source material at all, which I want to stress isn’t an inherently bad thing, but it wasn’t interesting.

L and Ryuk, however, were actually translated quite well. Ryuk doesn’t really change at all, but his performance by Willem Dafoe was great. L goes through a bunch of changes, both in the way that he acts and his overall aesthetic and backstory, but keeps enough characteristics that make him true to his original character. Unlike pretty much everyone else in this movie, he is actually interesting.

Strangely enough, I’m going to recommend that only fans of Death Note see this movie. It’s actually pretty fun to see what a poor representation its main characters are, and to laugh at the americanisation of what was a very Japanese thing. For everyone else, I recommend the anime. It’s very interesting and really gripping.


Top 10 Scenes in Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy

So about a year ago, long before the existence of this blog, I made a youtube video outlining what I think are the 10 best scenes in the original Spider-Man trilogy. I was surprised to find that there didn’t already exist such a video, only to find that the same is true for most movies. In the public conscience, moments are prioritised over scenes these days, so I suppose it isn’t really surprising.

I recently had to edit and re-upload the video due to a copyright claim (I basically played an entire scene in the original video), so I thought I’d share it here.


Beauty and the Beast, 2017

Directed by: Bill Condon 

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens 


Beauty and the Beast (2017) is a passable film, but a disappointing remake.
Unlike previous Disney animated-to-live-action remakes, Beauty and the Beast opts to change practically nothing about its narrative or characters. What they opt to change instead, is to add the forgettable songs from the theatrical version, add in approximately one minute of Belle’s back-story and contemporise one character. These changes don’t justify this film’s existence, the animated version is pretty much as perfect an animated fairytale can be, so remaking it comes off as no more than a cash grab. And considering it’s already the highest grossing musical ever, consider the cash grabbed.
The most insulting thing to me about Beauty and the Beast is that it does nothing better than the original. For instance, the musical numbers; in the opening number “Belle”, the townsfolk lack (excuse the pun) animation, they all just sort of stand there and sing their lines a bit awkwardly. Thankfully, this is the only number that does this, but all of the new songs are boring, and are treated as second rate by the film, never really opting for any interesting visuals to accompany them. The big numbers like “Be Our Guest” and “Beauty and the Beast” are pretty great, but still do not eclipse the excellence of the animated version. If you go back and watch the original, you’ll see that the animation really is very impressive.
Despite my thus far heavy criticism, there were things I liked in the film. The casting is spot on, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens both do a fantastic job as the leads, I really liked Ewen McGregor and Ian McKellen as Lumiere and Cogsworth. Emma Thompson was great as Mrs Potts and Luke Evans was perfect as Gaston. And Josh Gad, ever the controversy, was a fan favourite as LeFou, pulling the most laughs out of the audience. The changes they made to his character, however, are pretty skin-deep, never amounting to much more than jokes about how gay he is.
The set design, costuming and special effects were all fantastic as well. I just wish I was seeing a new movie to accompany them. Something I noticed is that during the screening a surprising amount of the audience was talking over the film. I wondered why, until I likened it to how people talk over movies that they’ve already watched a million times before. That’s what Beauty and the Beast (2017) is, a movie you’ve already seen a million times.
Go re-watch the Best Picture Nominated version instead.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, 2016

Directed by: David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol


Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them filled me with a wild eyed childish wonder that I wasn’t quite expecting it to. It reminds of the first few Harry Potter films before they got overly dark and broody, only I liked this one even better.

Those close to me would have likely heard my vocality on adaptations and medium many times, but to everyone else; a story is always going to be best told when it is told in the medium it was written for. This is why the Harry Potter books are revered as better than the movies that followed. The practice of cramming a story meant to be read over days into a two hour time slot isn’t practical, and hurts the quality of the overall product. To be fair, the Harry Potter films did make quite a few changes in order to fit the medium better (I recommend the series “What’s the Difference?” by Cinefix on Youtube for some examples), but I see them as merely half measures. Fantastic beasts gives us an entirely new story written for film and it flows much much more naturally and pleasingly, in my humble opinion. HP is notorious for its die hard fans, so I don’t expect everyone to agree, but I truly enjoyed Fantastic Beasts more, and think it is a better story for the film medium. It isn’t perfect, some story beats are a tad predictable, but my opinion stands nonetheless.

Anyway, with that rant out of the way; Fantastic Beasts was really fun. Lighthearted funny moments spread all the way through, shared with memorable and really likeable characters. It also very pleasingly allows us to slowly explore the wizarding world of New York, in addition to being somewhat of a period piece, being set in prohibition. The creature designs are really terrific and I liked their implementation. My biggest critique of the film lies in the visual effects, unfortunately. The film relies on CGI very heavily, and a lot of it is simply quite unconvincing. The worst was this goblin acting as entertainment in an underground bar, which I didn’t believe for a second. Golem was animated in 2002, CGI is better than this now. I would plead to the producers to up the animation budget for the sequels, or employ more practical effects. Preferably both.

Doctor Strange, 2016

Directed by: Scott Derrickson

Starring:  Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams


Doctor Strange is a real treat. It follows closely in the footsteps of Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man in the tradition of taking a lesser known, more strange (forgive the pun) property and transforming it into a super fun time, with great creativity, meanwhile not taking itself too seriously. The action scenes are wildly creative and there are some great performances. I highly recommend it, not only to marvel fans, but all moviegoers. I had a big grin on my face very often while watching.

I’m going to go a little more in depth than usual on this one. I won’t be spoiling the story, but beware reading on if you want to go in with a clean slate for some of the specifics.

The world-bending action scenes seen in the trailers are more than a gimmick, they allow for some of the most breathtaking and exciting action scenes I can think of. The fight choreography, the planning around the shifting environments, the camerawork, all brilliant. I never ever got tired of them. I want more.

The tone was perfect for this kind of story; silly enough to get us to buy the whole sorcery thing, and serious enough to make it look really really cool. This tone is embodied fantastically by the smart-ass, egotistical performance by Cumberbatch. He was great. He was funny, compelling and relatable (as a fellow smart-ass myself). He also pulled off the accent well, which I was a little dubious of at first.

The Ancient One played by Tilda Swinton was amazing. I recall initial backlash that the character would not be played by a Tibetan actor, which I feel is a much more complicated issue, but honestly, after seeing it: no complaints here. Cool, intriguing, bad-ass and complex, I loved every second of screen-time she had. She also hosts probably my favourite scene of the movie, where she shows Steven Strange the world of magic. The entire sequence plays like the most fully realised and intense acid-trip ever put to screen. My jaw literally dropped for the entire scene.

Unfortunately, the film did have it’s share of weaknesses, and unfortunately they were all about what you would expect of a modern Marvel movie. The story was sub-par for me. Despite my usual distaste for origin stories, it was necessary here, as we needed to be introduced to this world step by step along with the protagonist. That said, it was fairly predictable and employed too many storytelling cliches.

Also, like most Marvel movies, the villain was weak. We never really got a great opportunity to know, despise or even potentially sympathise with him. He’s basically Ronan from Guardians again. A shame. There’s also a romantic sub-plot, like in most solo Marvel movies, and it was completely unnecessary and uninteresting. I believe her character could have been genuinely more interesting had she not been the romantic lead. In fact, most of the supporting cast was poorly utilised, despite strong performances.

Despite its weaknesses though, Doctor Strange is so good. I’m obviously very excited about it, and I think you should go see it. In my top 5 Marvel movies for sure.

Kubo and the Two Strings, 2016

Directed by: Travis Knight

Starring:  Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey


Kubo and the Two Strings was amazing. It took full advantage of the stop-motion medium, creating some of the most breathtaking shots I’ve ever seen, in terms of both scope and beauty. The story is rich, it has wonderful characters and it left me with a grin on my face from start to finish. I highly recommend it, if you can find it still playing anywhere.

Suicide Squad, 2016

Directed by: David Ayer

Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie


Suicide Squad was a bad movie. I did enjoy it though.

To be perfectly honest, I’m quite surprised at the depth of it’s shit-ness. The editing and directing were straight up bad, normally in bad super-hero films I don’t notice that kind of thing, but here the flow through the various moments is just rough. The writing too was sub-par; despite good performances by Will Smith and Margot Robbie, their lines often didn’t match their characters. Also, despite there being a little too much exposition, I often didn’t really know what the characters were doing or why.

There were things I liked, however. The universe building was actually pretty good, with cameos from certain DC characters used effectively to give the world a sense of personality and depth. Margot Robbie was a pretty spot-on Harley Quinn, and Will Smith as Deadshot had by far the best action sequences and the strongest personality. There were laughs to be had as well, mostly emanating from the stronger personalities in the film. The soundtrack was pretty fun, BUT amazingly it was very poorly used (another editing problem).

But here’s the big one, the bit everyone wanted to know about: The Joker was straight up bad, I didn’t like him at all. I can’t think of a single characteristic that makes the Joker great that takes form in this rendition. They missed the key point: The Joker isn’t insane, he is in full control, he acts the way he does because he believes “It’s all a joke! Everything anybody ever valued or struggled for… it’s all a monstrous, demented gag”. The Jared Leto rendition is just some insane dude. I really tried to give it the benefit of the doubt, accept the change and judge it on it’s own merit, but unfortunately even then the performance was just unenjoyable.

I have many more things to say about it, but this review has become long enough.

When it comes down to it, if you like comic book movies I’m fairly certain you’ll enjoy Suicide Squad, but I would advise everyone else to not bother.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 2015

Directed by : J.J. Abrams

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac


So I want to preface this review with the fact that I wasn’t brought up a star wars fan. I only actually watched the originals very recently, but it’s hard to deny their charm and the craft behind them. I enjoyed them, but I don’t feel as passionate about them as many others do, which is why this review is a week late. It may also give context to some of my opinions.

I was really impressed by The Force Awakens. Sequels too often mimic the previous films to recreate the feel that attracted the original audience or differ so much that they lose the feel entirely. In my opinion, the feel for the universe that star wars created was largely responsible for its success. So, the success of the new film would depend on the recreation of that feel without just remaking the originals. They did it.

I feared that Kylo Ren would rip off Vader. Nope. He was fresh, intimidating in a very different way to Vader and worked very well. Great villain.

I feared that there would be too much fan service over the old films. Nope. This is very much the story of the new characters, who don’t aim to replace the roles of the original cast but instead give new perspectives on the universe. Not the most original characters ever but definitely new in this context. I look forward to revisiting them.

I feared that the movie would try to achieve too much (much like Avengers 2). Nope. It basically came out as a perfect squeaky clean franchise film. That’s what I was impressed by, the meticulous thought behind it. Pretty much every decision was very well thought through to meet everyone’s outrageous expectations, and to not have a repeat of the prequels.

It failed to really break much new ground outside the effects (I had trouble discerning what was cgi and what was practical, which is very impressive) but it succeeded in being a brand new Star Wars movie. In perfect honesty I enjoyed it more than the originals. Feel free to blame that on special editions or the fact that I didn’t watch them in theaters, but it’s the truth.

I would recommend it, but you’ve already seen it.