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Movie Reviews

The Shining

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1Reviewer: William McAbee

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall

Released: 1980

Film analysis for me has always been a sincere pleasure for me ever since I was introduced to it the freshmen year of my high school year. The teacher told us that we had to write an essay after watching each movie and this was the first time in my life that I had to reflect and put thoughts on paper about how I felt about movies. I wrote about a lot of movies in that class, everything from Singin’ In The Rain to Days Of Heaven. This opportunity was the beginning of me starting analyze films, looking for the deeper meanings and appreciating cinema’s finest productions ever put on celluloid. I still look for it no matter what movie I’m watching, hell if you didn’t see the ideas of rebirth, death, religion, and grief throughout last week’s Gravity then I do not know what movie you were watching! So why am I talking about film analysis because today I am writing about the film that has been analyzed more than any other film ever made: The Shining. Now why has this movie been obsessed over and studied like some holy text? Well I will tell you soon so keep reading about a movie impactful on its audience that it still is debated, wrote about, and documentaries made about it to this day.

The Shining is Stanley Kubrick’s 11th feature film released in 1980 starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall. Nicholson plays a young writer, father, and husband who decides to take up a job to watch over the Overlook Hotel, a large mountain resort, during the winter months while it is closed. While accepting the job he learns that the previous housekeeper had murdered himself and his family during their stay at the hotel. Jack brushes it off as nothing and decides to bring his wife, Wendy, and young son, Danny, up with him to stay in the hotel for the winter as he tries to write his new novel. Then things slowly start getting weird as Danny starts to see things and Jack begins to lose his grip on reality and his sanity. 

When it comes to The Shining there are few thing that I can say that haven’t been said. For one its certainly a masterpiece that still stands today as one of the scariest horror films today. Modern filmmakers should take note on just about everything Kubrick does throughout the film to improve their own films. Rather then relying on jump scares, Kubrick tries to dig deep into the psyche of the human mind to find out what truly scares us. Luckily for him he has a great source material to work with because he is adapting a Stephen King novel. While the author and director certain had their disagreements, it is without a doubt certain that the film is one of the greatest movies ever made.

To start off Jack Nicholson really nails the role as Jack able to take us from normalcy to insanity. He adds a great depth to the character as the slow fall from reality takes him over and his best stuff comes during the one on one talks with the ghosts. My personal favorite scene is the first time he meets the bartender. The little ways in which he talks, moves his eyebrows and mouth, and his infliction in his voice is just spectacular. Its my personal favorite role from Nicholson and shows off why he is one of the greatest actors to grace the silver screen. Now lots of people like to complain about Duvall’s performance but in my personal opinion she does a decent job here. I certainly believe she is scared out of her mind through the film, whether that was acting or Kubrick scaring her, but she doesn’t do that great towards the first half of the film so there is room for improvement. Young Danny Lloyd does really good for a kid his age and it is another great example of child actors proving they deserve just as much respect as adults.

Though the real star of the show is Kubrick here who add his visual mastery to the horror genre exceptionally well, dominating the film. I love his central framing throughout and he has captured some of the greatest images of the horror genre whether it is the classic”Here’s Johnny” scene or the two girls in the hallway. The visuals have a great rhythm and pace that matches the story perfectly and the last act of the film is where Kubrick pulls of his best work as he amplifies the horror and gets some genuine scares. He combines everything from jumps, to classic horror, to psychotic horror, ghosts, skeletons, decaying women, and even men in bear suits. The other fun part about the movie is all the stuff Kubrick does that you might not even notice your first time watching. Chairs disappearing in the background between shots or the pattern on the floor changing from shot to shot. Now for most movies I would say this is obvious continuity errors but if you know Kubrick, a die hard perfectionist that would drive people crazy, you know that everything in that frame is there for a reason. Kubrick is indeed trying to subliminally mess with your head throughout the journey.

It is also necessary to point out that the movie would not be half as good if it wasn’t for the nightmare score by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind. It uses a variety of instruments and opera voices to create an auditory hell that always to this day freaks me out. It plays perfectly with the movie as it feels like its creeping up your back and it will terrorize you, I know it does for me. The other fun thing to look at with The Shining is the amount of people that are obsessed with studying this movie. Some people this its a movie about the Holocaust, other people think its about the massacre of the Native Americans, while others think its about mythology and the minotaur? Yes I am being serious, in fact so serious that they made a documentary that jut examines people’s different and unique theories on The Shining. 

Alas the overall point of horror films is to scare people so if you ask me about it I tell you honestly that this is one of the scariest movies I have ever seen that still finds ways to scare me every single time I watch it. I highly suggest it and do agree that it is one of the best movies Kubrick has made and will always be one of the greatest films we have ever seen. Since its that great month of horror films, now is a good time to watch The Shining and take a stop at the Overlook Hotel.

Editor-in-Chief of Movie Marker. Likes: Scorsese, Spielberg and Tarantino Dislikes: The film 'Open Water' I mean, what was that all about?

Movie Reviews

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again ★★★★

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Released: 20th July 2018

Directed By: Ol Parker

Starring: Lily James, Meryl Streep, Cher, Christine Baranski, Amanda Seyfried, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

The iconic Swedish pop group said ‘Thank You For The Music!’. An overjoyed studio said ‘Thank You For The Box Office!’.

Sure. Pierce Brosnan singing ABBA’s SOS had a hint of the Borat (Sorry Sacha!) about it. But the summer of 2008 bared witness to a cinematic juggernaut in ‘Mamma Mia’, a jubilant jukebox musical whose sense of joy and fun proved irresistible for audiences. Considering life’s too short. Ten years on we return to the sumptuous setting of Kalokairi Greece with ‘Here We Go Again’, as the sequel fleshes out the timeline, remaining keen to create more cinematic memories.

Content with her unorthodox triple father situation in Harry (Colin Firth), Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) and Sam (Pierce Brosnan). Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) fierce determination to honour her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) dream of renovating her surroundings into a lavish hotel, coincides with the severe turbulence she’s enduring in her ongoing relationship with Sky (Dominic Cooper).

Increasingly doubtful of her own capabilities. The dynamo duo of Christine Baranski’s Tanya and Julie Walters’ Rosie look to bolster her confidence by delving into Donna’s past, as Lily James’ enthused younger incarnation of the character guides us through her eventful youth with the dungarees intact, reliving her initial encounters in 1979 with Sophie’s dads (Hugh Skinner/Jeremy Irvine/Josh Dylan).

Previously unapologetic in its ramshackle charm and high camp. Director Ol Parker to much relief resists applying restraint to its energetic, big-hearted song and dance numbers, whilst technically and narratively tightening up the deficiencies that perhaps plagued its 2008 counterpart for the purists, with a sharper focus on emotional engagement. As a result, it may not be as quick to overwhelm us with its blindingly sunny disposition like its predecessor, occasionally labouring in its first half with its time-hopping.

Yet when those glorious highs arrive like a new take on ‘Dancing Queen’ and Cher’s stellar firework-heavy rendition of ‘Fernando’, whose cameo evoked hearty cheers in the screening i was in. They are now armed with a poignant and reflective slant, reinforcing the ingenuity in how these timeless songs are integrated into the framework, in order to offer fresh interpretations.

Lighting up the screen as a young Donna Sheridan. Lily James captures the carefree spirit and mannerisms of the character superbly, proving a solid counterpart to Meryl Streep’s original performance and Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie in the singing stakes. Speaking of Streep, much has been made about her (lack of?) involvement in this follow-up. Without slipping into spoiler territory, her gorgeous screen moments this time around epitomise why many fans deemed her an instant hit in the first film. Elsewhere, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters continue to provide fantastic farce, stealing much of the script’s zingy dialogue whilst Andy Garcia’s enigmatic hotel manager is a disarming and dashing addition.

It may not have been a sequel we were warming up the vocal chords for. Yet in striking a killer balance between emotive and euphoric. ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is a truly wonderful follow-up that brims with sincerity and show-stopping splendour.

Dig out the spandex and unleash your inner ‘Super Trouper’…

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Featured Review

Hotel Artemis ★★★

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Released: 20th July 2018

Directed By: Drew Pearce

Starring: Jodie Foster, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella

Reviewed By: Van Connor

Iron Man 3 alum Drew Pearce makes his feature directorial debut with this slick future-set actioner – evoking the neon-tinged hyperbolic aesthetic of John Wick and applying it to a more stripped-down set-up akin to Joe Carnahan’s strangely forgotten Smoking Aces. Hotel Artemis sees the eponymous underworld hospital of the future come under siege by forces both outside and in, with a who’s-who of “hey – it’s….!” figures to bring its gleefully vitriolic war well and truly to life.

On Pearce’s part, Hotel Artemis knows its own playbook pretty well – tense action beats are played with coherence but don’t skimp on imagination, and the staging of it all is first rate. Jodie Foster, meanwhile, leads an engaging cast that includes a wonderfully sleazy Charlie Day, the brilliantly deadpan Sterling K. Brown, and an amusingly in-her-comfort-zone Sofia Boutella. It’s best to keep as much of its casting a surprise as possible, but there’s tons of fun to be had via mere cast reveals to keep proceedings engaging.

On the action front, though, it is strange that Hotel Artemis feels as subdued as it does as regards its own sense of internal rage. Whilst far from a bloodless PG-13, Pearce’s film never quite embeds itself as much in the hyperviolence of its world as you’d expect, or, rather, hope. It’s certainly no John Wick in that sense, and, though there is a decent share of world-building to kick things off, it’s quickly evident that this element of restraint is self-imposed by Pearce’s writing, rather than a by-product of now requisite franchise-creation. Hotel Artemis, incidentally, could easily garner itself a cheap and cheerful sequel or two, were there somehow a demand.

On the back of this pretty solid ninety minute actioner, that’s absolutely a consideration. The world it builds is fleshed out enough to intrigue, the cast are game for an intriguing balance of quirk and creepiness, and Pearce steps up to the director’s chair with unbroken confidence and a comic book sensibility that takes him deftly to the finish line. Stoker cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung astonishes as ever, and, while not his showiest work to date, Cliff Martinez’s score fleshes out the bonkers world of Hotel Artemis nicely.

Best aimed at those looking for another round of Smoking Aces-grade action – though, without quite the same singular ferocity – Hotel Artemis is a nice bit of bullet-laden fun with a lively cast and some slick visuals. It’ll never be one of the iconic points on the timeline of action cinema, but it’s a worthy stop-off on the way between the ones that are.

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Movie Reviews

Skyscraper ★★★★

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Released: 12th July 2018

Directed By: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell

Reviewed By: Van Connor

Be honest. Sooner or later, you knew The Rock was going to make Die Hard. It was inevitable. As he ascends higher and higher thought the upper echelons of the – increasingly spartan – Hollywood star system, this was always going to be coming. The only question really, was going to be whether or not it was going to be either any good, or even welcome in a world in which even a bonafide Die Hardsequel now typically ranks among the worst of whichever year it’s released in.

Alas, Dwayne Johnson is no Bruce Willis, and that quality control barrier could not be any clearer as Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno – with a dash of The Fugitive – for Skyscraper. Rawson Marshall Thurber’s adrenaline-fuelled ride takes DJ to China as amputee and former FBI tactical agent Will Sawyer, an American tasked with signing off on the security of The Pearl – the tallest building in the world. When terrorists seize The Pearl, however, Sawyer finds himself the subject of a Chinese manhunt and forced to find a way back into the building in order to save his wife and children from not only the terrorists seeking to fulfil their own agenda, but also to the out-of-control blaze that threatens to consume them all.

Johnson’s played in the sort of arena on more than a few occasions now, with Skyscraper arguably skewing closest to San Andreas as regards the sort of tone and polished spectacle you’re in for. There are some offhand nods to more classical genre archetypes – hell, it makes more Die Hard references than Jake Peralta – and there’s the requisite degree of fistbumping and utilisation of the term “brother”, but those still unsure of what to expect can rest easy on the promise of what’s essentially an Irwin Allen movie with a Neal Moritz sensibility. It ain’t clever, it doesn’t want to be, it just wants you to sit on the edge of your seat and then cheer afterwards. Which you will. A lot.

Neve Campbell brings an impressive amount to what’s an already impressively sketched out female supporting character in Sawyer’s wife (take notes, Bedelia – that’s how you handle hostage takers), and Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black) continues to make for an engaging added value element. Roland Møller, meanwhile, makes for a decent enough villain, but lacks the charisma needed to really sell the ludicrously named Kores Botha as much of an evil mastermind. Sure, he was never going to rival Hans Gruber on the scale of action movie villains, but Botha’s so thinly devised as a villain that he’s not up to the grade of Tommy Lee Jones’ Under Siege villain either. And that’s a real detriment when your action hero lead is someone as genuinely charismatic as Dwayne Johnson. Both Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Joe Manganiello took the wrong Rock movie, would be a decent takeaway.

In lieu of a captivating villain, Thurber nonetheless ensures value for money is had with a barrage of spectacle-fuelled set-pieces the likes of which will have you squirming in your seat biting your fist for dear life – IMAX could well inspire a sense of vertigo with this one. It’s a glossy-looking actioner – thanks to some smooth production design and slick visuals from cinematographer and Mission: Impossible alum Robert Elswit – and fight choreographer Allan Poppleton goes above and beyond to stage Johnson’s antics not as the all-powerful action commando, but a credible fighter dwarfed by the spectacle of what’s up against him.

It’s a good time for all. Sure, it’s in no way destined to become an enduring classic of the action genre – though, the spoilerific marketing campaign does well and truly show off what will become one of this summer’s more memorable movie moments – but it’s Die Hard on fire. With The Rock. In 2018. And if there’s an easier sell for a good time at the movies than that, it just means Dwayne Johnson has another movie out. In which case, still see Skyscraper first.

 

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