Moonlight Review – An Emotional Masterclass 

Winner of three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Moonlight follows the emotional, visceral journey of Chiron at three stages of his life. There are layers of depth, constantly asking challenging questions of the audience, which keeps on adding to the voice and tone of this film. It is as much a representation of masculine identities so much as it is a representation of human identities and the constructs of social norms. Barry Jenkin’s film provides everything you could ever want in an emotional, dramatic, coming of age narrative, breaking convention and being bold in its presentation. Technically this film is very gifted, as well. Boasting a beautifully harmonic score and gorgeous cinematography throughout, not mentioning the authentically raw, powerful acting particularly from Mahershala Ali, Naomi Harris and all three portrayals of Chiron. Whether you’re looking for your next film to make you cry or a film that actually grasps meaning and detail underneath the surface, this film has it all. It truly is an emotional masterclass of storytelling.

At its very core, Moonlight is a sincere and genuine film that constantly finds new ways to invest its audience, typically through its characterisation and plot. Chiron is a character for the ages to remember as we are thrown into his unstable situation, both domestically and mentally. Whether it be his drug abusive, inattentive mother, his bullying classmates or the socio-economic community he is trying to fit into, this film explores a wide range of scenarios and places you – the viewer – at the heart of his internal pain. It’s emotionally compelling and so beautifully executed, taking you on his discoveries and progression through the narrative. If you’re one for connecting cathartically, be prepared for tears as this is hardhitting, natural characterisation at its optimal state.

Each point in Chiron’s life is filled with intricate and important moments that all culminate in his eventual realisations later in the film. Its pacing was constant throughout, never once feeling like it was unnecessary or irrelevant for what it was trying to set in motion. These pinnacle moments all brought a sense of greater stakes and broader perspectives to the story, but at the same time felt important individually for the overall contrast in his life. Most notably, the transition from his teenage years to his adult years, where he becomes a very typical male in his ethnic community, muscular in stature and wearing a set of gold teeth. This distinct portrayal of masculinity, especially in contrast to The earlier depictions of such, adds to the enigma and general force it holds in The narrative structure. Add all of this to phenomenal acting from all three actors and you have something of pure magnificence, providing tears, laughs, smiles and gaping shocks. 

Chiron, however, isn’t the only character to shine in this story. While it primarily focuses its attention on his journey for identity, Jenkin’s vision also accommodates for an array of rich, emotionally investing characters. Naomi Harris’ depiction of Chiron’s detached mother is as harrowing and frightening as it is powerful and gripping. Her performance is astonishingly human, giving justifications for her behaviourisms and eventually making you sympathise with her situation. Mahershala Ali provides another fantastic addition to the cast, for which he won Best Supporting Actor, that is filled with moral layers and dialogue that flows naturally. He’s troubled, ever so slightly broken, but he’s also committed to helping Chiron. His character isn’t featured for too long, but still plays a pivotal role in Chiron’s development. The minor characters are just as detailed, emotionally riveting and thoroughly convincing as the lead protagonist, reinforcing Jenkin’s ability to craft such compelling and visceral storytelling.

The cinematography is beautifully crafted, a gradient of blue and purple hues maintaining a visually stylistic film and one that continues to please viewers aesthetically. It isn’t the strongest contender for visual presence, but particular shots – including the familiar shot of teenage Chiron lifting his head from an ice cold basin at the mirror, showing his bruised face. It all culminates in this heart wrenching depiction of one boy’s journey for self discovery in a society that never appreciates him. In addition, the score is brilliantly calm and relaxing, offering gentle and subtle vibes to the intense sequences. It allows you to absorb the true messages underneath all the surface level themes and acknowledge the significance of what this film is achieving as a piece of artistic expression. 

To conclude, Moonlight is a cinematic experience unlike many others, telling a story of sincerity and authenticity that bleeds confidence and evocative, visceral expression on the screen. It’s characterisation offers opportunities for powerful and truly gut wrenching moments, making you question the society we have known to accept and adhere to. While there are films that have attempted to tackle these themes in the past, Moonlight executes it near flawlessly in all technical areas to produce something of artistic mastery. This is an experience that will have you discussing for days, weeks, perhaps even months on end because of its significance and relevance to the current climate sociologically. Moonlight, in every sense, is a masterpiece in film history.

VERDICT – 9.5/10

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Moana Review – Visually Stunning and Beautifully Crafted

Disney has always been known for providing animations beyond what many could ever hope to imagine, and Moana is another example that their creators and animators are just as talented and skilled now as they were many years before. This is a film of impressive, mind-blowing visuals that explode on the screen with colour and depth, adding to the immersion and general visual presence. Beyond that, the score is as lively as previous Disney titles and the plot, while sailing familiar seas, grows from strength to strength as the film progresses. Characters have individuality and flaws that once again emphasise the fact that nobody is truly perfect. There is a lot to appreciate here and respect in the light of very recent animated movies – including the disastrous Emoji Movie and the uninspired Despicable Me 3. If you’re looking for an entertaining animation with plenty of vibrancy, flare and voice, this is definitely one worth watching.

The story follows Moana, a girl hoping to one day venture beyond the reef – her current residence – to restore peace to her village. It’s a fairly familiar tale that has moments taken from older influences, but it is stil a successful narrative for its simplisticity and general understanding of basic plot structure. While there isn’t a strong antagonist to attach to and focus on as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the antagonist they originally set up was actually one of the protagonists. This was interesting to see, especially for an animated film, and it gave a new creative flare to something that had been done before. Moana herself is likeable and easy to empathise with, putting yourself in her position in this daunting voyage. Certain scenes were handled particularly well, especially focussing on her younger years and the ending, but others felt somewhat rushed and unnecessary in terms of overall scale – most notably the ‘Shiny’ crab sequence. Humour in these sequences was handled rather effectively to balance the pacing and never making the film feel too weighty, what with the addition of the coconut tribe and the rooster on the boat. All in all, the narrative was very typical and stuck mostly to safe options, but its execution was brilliant in almost all of the scenes and the characterisation added some innovation and change to maintain its entertainment value.

Thematically, Moana offers a great deal of depth that is unconventional for its genre and style, adding further value to its overall accessibility. The main theme of nature destruction and the negative impacts it may have really are rooted deep into the heart of the story, which compliments the gorgeous, jaw dropping landscapes. It gives the film layers and layers to deconstruct and understand, leaving interpretations for the whole family – younger viewers being able to comprehend the surface level messages, whereas the older viewers being able to look beneath that into more abstract meanings. As Disney have always done, they provide lessons and morals that most animated films in this day and age have difficulty providing and hence why it attracts such a wide ranging audience. 

In regards to the technical side of the film, Moana presents a beautiful and colourful cinematography that is difficult to match. Every scene is filled to the brim with bright, sharp animations and character models that are near unprecedented levels of quality. The voice acting has emotion and humour, especially Dwayne Johnson’s Maui. It is interesting to engage with and see these characters struggle and learn, but also have fun and interact humorously with one another. On top of that, the score is joyful and memorable for the most part – especially with the songs ‘How far I’ll go’ and ‘Where you are’. This all culminates in a typically unforgettable and modern classic Disney style that is easily distinguishable from the rest. 

To conclude, Moana is a film of very impressive standards and a pinnacle of modern animations. It really is incredible to see such beautiful landscapes and character models and to compare that to the original Disney titles – animation has advanced significantly. It’s story has a lot of potential, warranting a few laughs and establishing a solid groundwork for great characterisation and interactions between Maui and Moana. This film offers technical mastery in music composition and art style, but a stronger, tighter narrative with a greater villain or higher stake would have made this film stand out from the rest. Nevertheless, Moana is a must watch for all those interested in animated movies and a true testimont to how far animations have come. 

VERDICT – 8.5/10


Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review – Divisive, Unexpected and Undoubtedly Brave

SPOILER ALERT : This review contains major spoilers, so if you don’t want to know them then please don’t continue beyond this point until you can accept spoilers. Thank you!

Two years after the release of The Force Awakens, the eighth instalment in the mainline Star Wars franchise delivers an enjoyable, particularly unexpected and experimental narrative that will be sure to have fans and critics divided for many years to come. It had a plentitude of significant moments, those moments where you sit and just contemplate the thematic approach and stylistic choices, but there were also those less significant moments that weighed the story down – most notably in the Canto Bight sequence – no matter how necessary they were for the overall “payoffs” that this film provided so satisfyingly. It brought a lot of viewers into an experience they’d never really had with a Star Wars film, questioning their ability to accept change and subversion from convention. Whether you decide to love or hate The Last Jedi, there is no denying that it breaks away from typical narrative structure and tries to reinvent the formula – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

The primary theme, presented in many varying approaches, is that the boundaries between hero and villain are becoming blurred. Mark Hamill’s depiction of Luke Skywalker is powerful in addressing this very fact, his haunted presence trying to come to terms with his wrongdoings. It gave the viewer that crucial development they needed here; this is set thirty years after the events of the original trilogy, so there’s bound to be many different intricacies and complexities that have happened since then. We’ve always known the Jedi to be the morally acceptable, but Johnson’s approach seeks to change that and provide these greater blends of character. This is reinforced with Kylo Ren, who is conflicted with his weak allegiance alongside Snoke and his beliefs to abolish the Jedi and the Sith. Adam Driver layered his character beautifully well, positioning the audience in Kylo’s turmoil and giving him that much needed leverage for the eventual conclusion to this trilogy.  His acts in this film were uncontrollable, but all the while explainable and genuinely evocative. 

A majorly divisive point of the film was Snoke’s death and for very good reason. It was a moment of pure awe, shock and disbelief before that little hint of disappointment hit. He was constructed as a Supreme Leader with very little backstory, so it was underwhelming at first glance when he died. We learnt next to nothing about him, other than him being a powerful, scarred person. That being said, he was used to develop Kylo’s conflict and highlight his growing desire for identity. This was followed with a beautifully choreographed duel that provided intensity, colour and visual pieces of mastery. As a choice for the film, this was particularly brave and experimental and that’s why it is so powerfully striking. We, as viewers, had expected Snoak to be the trilogy’s lead antagonist and to find that he was simply a placeholder for Kylo was incredibly satisfying and shocking, all culminating in a battle sequence of epic proportions. While the cause of his death is definitely questionable, it was the power and gravity that twist held that broke convention and completely subverted our expectations. 

Rian Johnson’s directorial influence in this film bleeds confidence and oozes style, showing many thematic choices that layer deeper meanings underneath the surface. It might not be as visually impressive in the field of special effects as The Force Awakens, but the cinematography itself is gorgeously woven together and boasts artistic expression. One of the most striking scenes, namely the splitting of the First Order ship close to the end, was filled to the brim with style and creativity even though the appreciation for such expression may not have been realised. It was awe inspiring, thrilling, unexpected and intense to a pin drop as the whole audience was silenced to the pure beauty of that scene. And this could be said of The Last Jedi in general; it was an unexpected journey that featured some very compelling and memorable moments.

There were definitely unnecessary plots created, or at least subplots that felt weighty and irrelevant at the heart of the narrative. Finn and the newly established Resistance fighter, Rose, set on their quest to help disable the First Order’s tracking device. This leads to an introduction of a casino like area, known as Canto Bight. It’s particularly similar to reality, other than the creatures wandering around, and that’s what took away from the fantastical elements. There were some really interesting messages alluded to within this scene, particularly regarding animal cruelty and how the First Order isn’t the sole threat in this world. As a whole, this sequence was spread across the entirety of the film so it wasn’t overly distracting, but upon reflection it becomes quite apparent that this could have been condensed or changed to a different plot to work around this whole situation. Yes, it gave Finn a purpose of some sort because they didn’t have anything else for him to actually achieve, but it never felt like it was needed for any reason. Surely they could have found another way around disabling a device. Despite all of this, it was the culmination of the ending, which was particularly significant for the broader horizons of the trilogy and franchise as a whole. If the Canto Bight sequence was removed, we would erase the scene of the young boy using abilities of the Force and wearing a Resistance ring. That’s such a significant and pinnacle point for the trilogy as it symbolises the catalyst of hope for the Resistance and shows that no matter how much the odds are stacked against you, there is still a possibility. Rian Johnson’s choice is interesting and understandable, but one has to question the necessity of such excess when other parts of the narrative could have been lifted further, i.e. Rey’s training with Luke.

Another point of criticism is the amount of humour in this film. While its target audience is varied and therefore has to cater towards a mass consumer base, the whole film was building towards a much darker tone that the previous entries in the franchise. This was an opportunity to take that element and maintain it, but instead the ‘Disney humour’ took away from the overall experience. There were scenes that really relished the humorous overtone, especially with Luke and Yoda, but it still felt distracting and ever so slightly contradictory to what they were trying to achieve. If they had wanted a light hearted film, they should have stuck with that decision and been consistent throughout. Poe and Hoax’s initial conflict and comedic lines were unwarranted, Luke throwing the lightsaber away dragged from his doubt and overall harrowing figure and the introduction of Porgs just felt completely unnecessary and a strained attempt of building a greater sense of the environment. Humour can work to keep a clear divide between those hardhitting moments and the light hearted ones, but extracted that out in some cases would have been more beneficial for maintaining a consistent atmosphere and not confusing the aims of the film.

In conclusion, The Last Jedi is a fantastic entry to the Star Wars franchise that gladly welcomes change and embraces subversion, which is an appealing notion as a viewer. It was completely unexpected and brought fresh concepts to the lore, while also being thematic and artistic in its cinematography. The acting was top notch for the most part, particularly Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver, and the character typologies are a variety very unique and different to what we have seen before. If you’re nostalgic about Star Wars and hope for it to continue to tell a repeated narrative with rather simple divisions between good and evil, you may not appreciate what The Last Jedi has set out to accomplish. While it definitely has an excess of subplotting and unnecessary humour that weighs the film down, it ultimately culminates in a film trying to break away from convention and experimenting with boundaries. It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not, this film takes risks and it is respected for that. 

VERDICT – 8.5/10

2018 Update – A New Beginning

2018 is now officially upon us and you know what that means: a barrage of expectations, resolutions and predictions. It is the perfect opportunity to turn a new page, to begin writing that new chapter, to become an embodiment of hard work and dedication until your mind can’t handle the constant weight of deadlines and writing efficiency. Maybe it is a good time to put that controller down and release ourselves from the embrace of the couch, or perhaps a time to get those creative ideas from your brain and onto the page. We develop and grow at the start of anew year, whether that be emotionally, figuratively, mentally or physically. Though, specifically to those attempting to master a craft, this is a pinnacle moment in a creator’s adaptation and translation to the medium for which they try to create. This is their realisation of dreams and wonders. And so, without further ado, here is mine.

As a reviewer, I hope to produce a consistent stream of material and content everyday that will open some minds and give an analytical approach that might interest those with a keen eye for deconstructing film, television, games and novels. This blog will have daily updates, providing an array of topics – including engaging reviews, analysis ‘essays’, trailer reactions and the latest news in varying mediums.

This blog will also cater to providing some of my own personal creative writing creations, such as novel excerpts and film scripts. These are still under the processes of editing and rewriting, but hopefully they will inspire those wanting to write themselves or just seeking a form of catharsis through narrative. Any and all feedback will be greatly appreciated, especially helpful, polite and constructive feedback.

As the blog progresses and continues, the structure and groundwork may be experimented with to optimise the enjoyment and overall accessibility, but the content will stay genuine and true to what it originally set out to achieve: giving an insight into television dramas, films, games and novels whilst evaluating narrative techniques and cinematic constructions. There will be times where some days are filled to the brim with articles, while other days may be rather sparse. This should hope to lessen the excess of material and keep a high quality control, allowing for accessible and thorough writing that warrants more. 

This is the new beginning. The new chapter. It might not be much, merely words on a virtual page, but it’s an acknowledgement for change and adaptation to improve my craft and general experience in writing for all different formats. There’s still plenty to do, but this is the motivator – the catalyst – for something new. 

Now, onto writing these articles. A long journey lies ahead – but first, let me savour these few moments on the couch. 

Spiderman: Homecoming Review – A Fun, Light-hearted, Web-Slinging Film

This review contains mild plot spoilers.

Ever since the initial appearance of Tom Holland’s humorous and refreshing Spiderman in Captain America: Civil War, the prospect of a solitary film was always an appealing and attractive one. Despite the many depictions of Peter Parker over the years cinematically, from Tobey Maguire’s original Spiderman to Andrew Garfield’s Amazing Spiderman, the web-slinging hero in this film felt particularly different and original from the predecessors. Homecoming blossomed in the aspect of Peter Parker’s school life and his growing relationship with school friend, Ned, not to mention the aspirational aspect of him idoling Tony Stark. While this movie sometimes relied heavily on Downey Jr’s Stark and his influence towards igniting the fuel in the main villain’s motivational fire, it did add a nice connection to the Marvel Universe. As a debut for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this was a particularly strong and enjoyable contender that warrants a second viewing. 

A particular speciality and brilliance with this film was how it managed to balance the humour, both for younger and older audiences, the action sequences and character development elements. It truly felt like the Spiderman from the comics! They were able to execute the perspective of Peter Parker to a great standard, showing his life at school and his longing for identity as Spiderman. His growing friendship with Ned and his interest in Liz Allen made this film a really different and unique take on what we have come to know of the cinematic web-slinger. It emphasises the perspective of youth and how, at this current time, Peter is in a state of inexperience and blindness towards the wider world and society. He wants to be the hero and wants to prove himself, but this is in the face of youth and premature decisions. This was a particularly refreshing perspective and gave Spiderman a great connection to the cinematic universe. 

Michael Keaton’s depiction of Vulture was very compelling and respectable. Not only did he depict a family man with a daughter and wife – once again making for a sympathetic narrative – that he had to support, but also a lower to middle class citizen that had worked in labour and industry for a large part of his life. His motivation of the movie, that being to seek revenge on those of higher affluence and influence within New York (most notably Tony Stark), once again reinforced the connection to the Marvel Universe. However, the biggest issue with this was that it felt as though Stark was taking a little too much limelight away from the focus of the movie that it detracted from the experience ever so slightly. We’ve seen more than enough of Stark in various other films, so this felt like a cameo appearance that went a little too far. That being said, the Vulture did have a few surprises that won’t be mentioned here for the sake of spoilers. If you’re expecting a very climatic concluding battle, don’t get overly excited because it wasn’t all that present but there were still times where he proved to be a tough for to defeat.

This leads onto my next point: the sense of danger and threat. It appeared to be limited in this movie, to say the least. Only until you get to the finale do you actually believe something may actually happen to Peter, but none of his friends are put in drastic danger to a point where you think they’re going to lose their lives. It all felt rather inconsequential, mainly because this film was trying so hard to nail the character development and relationships early. Whilst I thought the general message of Peter having to find who he truly is in order to become the Spiderman, it would have been quite a nice addition if he was actually having to save someone he cared for (similarly to how all the previous films have). This once again reinforces just how different a film it is from its counter parts, both for better and for worse. 

Something very unestimated and almost unanticipated was the humour in this film. Not only did it broaden the audience and make it a very enjoyable watch for adults and children alike, but it also gave the film a sense that it wasn’t taking itself too seriously. It knew exactly what it wanted to be and executed it almost perfectly. For example, the moment Spiderman tries to sling a web and can’t because of a building not being in sight. It was simple, comedic humour that servd the purpose well of trying to lighten the mood a light and not get weighed down in self-seriousness, especially when mixed with the dramatic and action sequences towards the second act. 

In conclusion, this films a very unique and creative perspective while keeping refreshing and humorous. It’s a great relief to finally have a Spiderman that feels, behaves and looks like he should. If you’re looking for a fun, exciting, character driven, family friendly film, this one is most certainly for you. Whilst it could have had some more consequential sequences and some greater significance with its reveals, this film really does blossom with individuality and character. The action sequences were entertaining, although could have been improved upon, and the overall plot of the film was solid. It’s going to be interesting to see how significant a role Spiderman plays in Infinity War and what will come in the near future.

Spiderman: Homecoming scores: